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Parks with the most and least (intentionally) dark themes?

Matt N

Strata Poster
Hi guys. Often, theme parks theme their rides with a mix of darker themes and less dark themes, but some parks tend to gravitate more towards one end of the dark themes spectrum or the other. So my question to you today is; which parks have the darkest themes and which parks have the least dark themes, on average?

I’ll get the ball rolling with my personal choices for each. Both my choices are parks I’ve been to, so I’d say I have a fair idea of the type of themes on offer at each of these parks. I should point out that I love the themes at both of these parks to some degree, but they are definitely at very different ends of the darkness spectrum to one another!

For most dark themes, I’d have to go with Alton Towers. While Alton certainly has some very bright, happy sections, many of the rides and areas, and all of the coasters bar Galactica and the family coasters have quite… torturous themes to some degree. All of them seem to focus on the rider facing death or harm of some description, to an extent. Let’s break it down:
  • Nemesis: Themed to battling a deadly alien monster.
  • Oblivion: Themed to being experimented upon by a secret organisation, and disappearing into “the void”.
  • Thirteen: Themed to exploring a living, breathing forest and getting attacked by its residents (the wraiths).
  • Rita: Escaping the aforementioned forest in a beaten up old dragster.
  • The Smiler: Although this isn’t too on the nose in terms of being a dark theme, it is still themed around being tortured and forced into smiling by the Ministry of Joy through various means.
  • Wicker Man: Themed to being burned alive as a sacrifice to a wicker deity.
Many of Alton’s filler rides also have quite dark, creepy themes (The Alton Towers Dungeon for one, and I’d also class Hex as dark to a degree. I guess you could class Duel as dark, too, and Nemesis Sub Terra was certainly very dark when it operated). Many non-enthusiasts I know even think that Alton Towers is a horror/Halloween themed park because of the prevalence of horror themes. So with that in mind, I’d say that Alton Towers is my winner for most dark themes.

In terms of least dark themes, I’d personally go for Magic Kingdom. This could apply to all Disney castle parks, but Magic Kingdom is the one I’ve personally visited, so I can have a more in-depth take on it. Let me tell you; the land where dreams come true certainly has some of the brightest, happiest themes you’ll ever find in a theme park! From the “heigh ho” of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to the “zip-a-dee-doo-dah” of Splash Mountain, not to mention the infamous It’s a Small World, Magic Kingdom has loads of happy themes, and these often have an equally happy, catchy jingle to accompany them that you’ll have stuck in your head for days! While some of the themes are a bit darker (Haunted Mansion, for instance), these are in the minority, and the park as a whole is mostly a very bright, happy place theming wise; it’s known as “the place where dreams come true” for a reason!

But what parks do you feel have the most and least dark themes? Do you agree with my choices?
 

CrashCoaster

Strata Poster
You have ridden It's a Small World, right? That thing is nightmare-inducing.

Smiler and Wicker Man have genuinely quite disturbing themes/stories though, I think that can be universally agreed upon.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
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For least dark parks, I think it'd take some effort to beat Kongeparken. Its whole theme is all about frolicking teddy bears. As far as I can remember, the theme is consistent for every ride in the park apart from the scenic tractor ride, themed to a TV series for children below the age of five.
 

Benenen

Hyper Poster
Has to be the rapey dark ride at Holiday Park, Germany. No contest!
Ah man that ride is a grim 4 minutes. On top of the torture, rape and dungeon stuff I seem to remember there's either no music or a very quiet soundtrack leading to a cold and eerie vibe. When I went last Summer the animatronic of the guy pulling down the women's top was broken so she was in a constant state of tits out. Really odd ride, you'd think it being medieval themed there'd be a sense of whimsy but there's not.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
To back up my previous answer of Alton Towers, as well as to possibly throw Thorpe Park into the ring as well; last Halloween, Airtime Thrills made a countdown of the top 13 creepiest roller coasters in the world, and 7 of the 13 coasters in it were at either Alton Towers or Thorpe Park, with Heide Park’s Colossos: Kampf der Giganten also making the list, making for 8 Merlin coasters in total:
The presenter even says at the end of the video:
So what can we learn from this list? Well for one, the UK is pretty sick and twisted, with its two major parks focusing on the horror theme.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
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I have a pet theory that Merlin is very fond of horror themes because dilapidation and decay is a major element in many horror settings. In other words, lack of maintenance can be excused as a feature. Corrosion, flaking paint, graffiti, litter, and various wear and tear only enhance the theme. They can get away with shoddy lighting, raw concrete, pooling water, rotting leaves, and all sorts of stuff that would ruin other themes. It's literally dirt cheap.

"It's not falling apart - or, well, it is, but it's supposed to be like that!"
 

gavin

Administrator
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I have a pet theory that Merlin is very fond of horror themes because dilapidation and decay is a major element in many horror settings. In other words, lack of maintenance can be excused as a feature. Corrosion, flaking paint, graffiti, litter, and various wear and tear only enhance the theme. They can get away with shoddy lighting, raw concrete, pooling water, rotting leaves, and all sorts of stuff that would ruin other themes. It's literally dirt cheap.

"It's not falling apart - or, well, it is, but it's supposed to be like that!"
Bring on the shipping containers!
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
I have a pet theory that Merlin is very fond of horror themes because dilapidation and decay is a major element in many horror settings. In other words, lack of maintenance can be excused as a feature. Corrosion, flaking paint, graffiti, litter, and various wear and tear only enhance the theme. They can get away with shoddy lighting, raw concrete, pooling water, rotting leaves, and all sorts of stuff that would ruin other themes. It's literally dirt cheap.

"It's not falling apart - or, well, it is, but it's supposed to be like that!"
That might be true for some of Merlin’s horror themes, but I can’t imagine dilapidation fitting in with some of them; for instance, I can’t imagine Smiler, Wicker Man, or Colossos: Kampf der Giganten lending themselves to dilapidation.
 
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