California & the West
National park tips: This New Mexico monument has the best guest register in the West

In a twist, Six Flags opts for dark rides over roller coasters

Dark rides with strong storytelling elements & special effects have long been the domain of Disney & Universal

Renowned for its towering steel coasters, Six Flags will add two interactive dark rides in 2015 by a ride-maker that has long worked in the shadows of industry leaders Disney and Universal.

Designed by Florida-based Sally Corp. in collaboration with a number of partners, the Justice League: Battle For Metropolis 3-D dark ride will debut this summer at Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis.

Themed to the crime-fighting team of DC Comics superheroes, the new dark rides will feature motion-platform vehicles, animatronic figures and laser-gun gameplay inside twin 15,000-square-foot buildings.

The new ride’s back story finds Lex Luthor and the Joker teaming up to kidnap the Justice League superheroes and unleash a sinister laughing gas on the unsuspecting citizens of Metropolis.

After hacking into a computer, the super villains uncover weaknesses in the Justice League’s defenses and kidnap Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern and Supergirl.

The mission: Rescue the Justice League and save Metropolis from mass destruction. Along the way, visitors will encounter plenty of gunfire, cannon blasts and explosions as well as a pair of chase scenes.

Indoor dark rides with strong storytelling elements and special effects have long been the domain of Disney and Universal Studios theme parks. Disney’s best known dark rides include Indiana Jones Adventure, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Toy Story Midway Mania. Universal has pioneered the use of motion-platform vehicles in its dark rides, including the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Transformers 3-D. Both Disney and Universal regularly work with outside partners on dark ride projects but keep their identities secret, to preserve the illusion the attractions are created by in-house creative teams.

Six Flags has never been known for its dark ride collection. Six Flags Fiesta Texas features a Scooby-Doo interactive dark ride built by Sally Corp. while Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags Over Texas each have water dark rides dating from the 1960s.

The new Justice League attraction at Six Flags St. Louis will replace a Scooby-Doo water dark ride while the new Six Flags Over Texas ride will take over the former Adventure Theater location.

Sally Corp. -- which is designing the new Six Flags projects as well as creating animatronics for the attractions -- plans to team up with a number of partners for the Justice League dark rides.

Oceaneering’s Advanced Technologies will supply motion-platform vehicles that tilt forward, backward and side-to-side based on the action inside the ride. The Maryland-based company has built ride systems for Universal’s Transformers and Spider-Man attractions as well as the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin trackless vehicles at SeaWorld Orlando.

Belgium-based Alterface will handle interactive gaming elements and show controls for the new attraction. Riders wearing 3-D glasses and armed with laser guns will be able to watch as projectiles fly through the air and into video screens at virtual targets. Alterface worked on the similar Maus au Chocolat shoot-em-up dark ride at Germany’s Phantasialand.

Pasadena-based Wyatt Design Group -- which has worked with Universal Studios, Legoland and Busch Gardens in the past -- has been tasked with storyboarding each of the scenes in the rides which Los Angeles-based Lexington Design will bring to life with dimensional sets and scenery.

Through the years, Sally Corp. has developed dark rides for Legoland parks (Lost Kingdom Adventure), Cedar Fair parks (Boo Blasters on Boo Hill), Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark (Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge), Indiana’s Holiday World (Gobbler Getaway) and Universal Studios Florida (E.T. Adventure).

Back in 2012, Sally Corp. built the $9-million Justice League: Alien Invasion 3-D dark ride at Australia’s Warner Bros. Movie World, which featured a story line involving extraterrestrial invaders rather than super villains.

It will be interesting to see if any other Six Flags parks eventually receive clones of the Justice League attraction or if Sally Corp. develops dark-ride concepts based on Looney Tunes cartoons or any other Warner Bros. franchises for the amusement park chain.

The bar is fairly low on this one for Six Flags, which typically steers away from themes and generally disappoints when it tries them.

Expectations are higher for Sally Corp., which usually pales in comparison to the eight-figure efforts of Disney and Universal, in part due to budgetary constraints.

Justice League looks like a fairly modest bet for both parties, allowing Six Flags to go after the family demographic it largely ignores but clearly covets and for Sally Corp. to show the dark ride magic it can conjure up with fairly limited funds.

> Follow the Los Angeles Times Funland theme park blog on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times