Six Flags has never been a stranger to controversy.
Arlington’s Six Flags Over Texas, the chain's first park, came under fire in 2017 following the death of a Charlottesville, Virginia, protester by a white nationalist. The amusement park was widely criticized for continuing to fly a Confederate flag on park grounds.
The family-friendly attraction responded by removing its titular “six flags” (one American, one Confederate, one Spanish, one French, one Mexican, one Republic of Texas) and replacing them with six homogenous American flags. This allowed park visitors to enjoy their trip to Bugs Bunny Boomtown guilt-free, even if the Looney Toons cartoons that inspired it have their own problematic history.
The park will celebrate its 60th anniversary in August, but whether festivities will be had in the coming months will depend on just how much risk-seeking attendees are willing to risk coming in contact with crowds. Disney World has struggled to find an option to emulate a normal amusement park experience in a COVID world, as has Six Flags. “Is it safe?” is now more than a question for anyone bringing loose items on the Texas Giant or boarding The Titan after an extra helping of funnel cake.
Six Flags Over Texas has remained open on weekends and will open for a full week in mid-March for spring break. Here are six of the weirdest rides in the park’s history.
Pandemonium (aka Tony Hawk’s Big Spin)
One of the most popular Six Flags rides, Pandemonium seats riders in a revolving cart that propels them to a more traditional roller coaster track. Of course, any weight imbalances in the cart should keep riders spinning the whole time.
This was a popular ride model at other Six Flags locations, but when it first launched in Arlington the attraction was dubbed “Tony Hawk’s Big Spin” in honor of the celebrity skater. Hawk was as much a part of the Six Flags brand as the characters from DC Comics and Looney Toons, but a disputed licensing agreement and Six Flags’ own bankruptcy caused the park to change gears and revert to the name “Pandemonium” in 2011.
Mr. Freeze, Launched at a Chilly Time for Batman movies
The partnership with DC Comics has led to some of the best features at Six Flags, with many Batman-related rides and events centered on Gotham City. Attractions that featured Batman rogues such as the Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler and Harley Quinn all opened within the past few years, but they are all in the shadow of the towering Mr. Freeze ride.
Mr. Freeze launched in 1998, conceived as a tie-in to the 1997 film Batman & Robin. Although planning had taken several years, no one at Six Flags could have predicted the unprecedentedly vitriolic reaction to the film (regarded as the worst comic book movie ever made) and in particular Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Razzie-nominated role as the icy supervillain. A retooled marketing campaign scrubbed most references to the bombed movie.
Justice League: Battle For Metropolis Is Just … Weird
Remember when 4D blaster rides were a thing? Disney World saw a lot of popularity with its Toy Story Mania experience and Universal is renowned for its interactive Harry Potter attractions, so it's not surprising that Six Flags gave it a try. Justice League: Battle for Metropolis invites riders to face off against Lex Luthor and the Joker as they embark on an action-packed adventure with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern.
“Action-packed” is a loose description of the slow-moving ride, which features laughably dated animation. What was conceived as an immersive 4D experience resembles something closer to playing an antiquated arcade game at a laborious speed. Justice League: Battle for Metropolis is about as boring as the actual Justice League movie.
The Aptly Titled Aquaman Splashdown Got Flooded
After a long day of walking in the Texas summer heat, anyone would be happy to cool off for a bit before diving back into a hot, sweaty rollercoaster. It’s this desire that was serviced by the Aquaman Splashdown (originally named “Splash Down Re-Entry Test Simulation”), which is essentially a big drop into icy water from a relatively short height.
Not the most exciting ride, but Aquaman Splashdown at least provided park-goers a break from baking in their own sweat. Unfortunately, a 2019 flood took the ride out of commission. Isn’t that exactly what Aquaman should have stopped from happening? Nevertheless, a relaunched “Aquaman: Power Wave” ride is set to debut in 2022.
The Texas Chute Out Was Literally Shot Out
One of the oldest rides in the park, the Texas Chute Out was a skyscraping parachute ride that was originally launched in 1976. The unique nature of the ride led to some interesting features, with Christmas lights adorning it during the holiday season, but high winds led to frequent closures. Riders seeking a big drop were more interested in the Superman Tower of Power ride anyway, and in 2012, the Texas Chute Out was officially closed and replaced with the Texas Skyscreamer.
Of course, this being Texas, a simple deconstruction wouldn’t suffice. The former coaster came crashing down in spectacular fashion after being part of Six Flags history for over 35 years. A fitting end, to say the least.
The Judge Roy Scream Is Based on a Historical Fib
The oldest and creakiest ride at Six Flags Over Texas is appropriately named after an old and creaky real guy. The wooden Judge Roy Scream is weirdly isolated from the rest of the park’s rides, situated on its own separate path. Built in 1980 as the first wooden roller coaster at the Arlington location, Judge Roy Scream is named for the infamous lawman Judge Roy Bean.
Self-proclaimed as "The Only Law West of the Pecos," Roy Bean has been a popular figure within Western films, television, comic books and serials for almost 100 years. Walter Brennan won an Academy Award for playing Bean in the 1940 film The Westerner; other actors who have portrayed Bean include Paul Newman, Andy Griffith, Ned Beatty, Brad Sullivan and Tom Skerritt.
Often depicted as a ruthless justice seeker, the real Judge Roy Bean wasn’t nearly as interesting. Historical records only cite two men ever sentenced to death by Bean, one of whom escaped. “Shaky” doesn’t just describe the experience of riding the Judge Roy Scream, but the legitimacy of the ride’s namesake.
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