Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Blast Off on the Astro Liner

Forget Star Tours or the Back to the Future Ride, or even the old Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas...the granddaddy of all those motion simulator rides is the Astro-Liner. This is one of my all-time favorite rides! I was in love with this ride when I was kid, and rode it several times at the beach and whenever we would find it at a carnival or fair. You don't see this classic ride around too often anymore, but luckily it's still alive and kicking at Dutch Wonderland.

I'll explain the ride in geeky detail by taking a quote from The Art of Stop Motion Animation: Wisdom Manufacturing, Inc. in Sterling, Colorado, first introduced the 40 passenger Astro-Liner in 1977. There are two designs, one a NASA two-stage rocket and the other a vessel that would be right at home in the pages of a Jules Verne novel.

The Astro-Liner is a hydraulically controlled ride whose moves are synchronized to a film that the passengers view from inside the rocket. The film is projected from behind a rear projection screen, which serves as the cockpit window. The film, combined with the hydraulic movements of the vessel create the feeling of truly travelling through space.

Filmed in 35mm, the film was then printed down to Super-8, which used to be the projection system for the Astro-Liner until video came along. Now the ride uses a video projection system.

To put it simply, riders enter the spaceship shaped tubular theatre , grab a seat, and watch a movie as the ship raises up at an angle and then tilts from side to side. There's no seatbelts or safety bar, so you really do have to hold on as the spaceship rocks slowly but to about a 60 degree angle. The screen used to look like a cockpit and the front window of the spaceship. Over the years, Dutch Wonderland has kept up maintenance on the ride and recently installed a large screen High Def monitor to show the same old 8mm film, but now stored digitally. The screen is a bit smaller than the original version, and a wee bit of the effect is lost because of it...but you take what you can get.

Here's a shot of the interior of the ship...
The movie is very similar to Disney's Star Tours rides. Your ship breaks free from a loading dock and then proceeds on a crazy out of control voyage through several different parts of the galaxy.

They used to have one of these rides at Ocean City, MD. I remember the film on that version ended with the ship making a free-fall decent into an amusement park. Supposedly, the park you were riding the ride in...but It didn't really match up with the layout of the rides at the boardwalk.

At Dutch Wonderland, across from the Astro-Liner they added a newer ride VR VOYAGER. The ride is a souped-up 2000's version of the Astro-Liner. Honestly, I don't think it's near as fun as the original 1970's classic but it's very cool of DW to house both rides across from each other. They even have a sign that explains the significance of the two rides...

Dutch Wonderland has several spots where they pay homage to the parks heritage and that's a swell touch!

My boys and I after a voyage on the Astro-Liner. June, 2010

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