One of the main ingredients in the creation of Kings Island was the theming opportunities offered by Hanna-Barbera.
Taft Broadcasting (owners of Hanna-Barbera Studios and financial backers of Kings Island) knew they wanted to heavily showcase their characters in the new park. The Cincinnati Coney Island executives knew that successful parks had highly popular indoor dark rides. So, together they decided that Kings Island would have an elaborate dark ride that would feature a Hanna-Barbera cast. In fact, when it premiered with the park in 1972, “The Enchanted Voyage” was Kings Island’s most expensive attraction at $2 million.
Gary Wachs (Coney Island’s vice-president) had previously hired theatrical scenic designer Richard Harsley as “Design and Special Effects Director” for Coney. Harsley had designed many of the elaborately themed windows at H&S Pogue’s Department Store in downtown Cincinnati. He was then enlisted to re-imagine several of Coney’s themed attractions, which he did to great success.
When the development of Kings Island began, Harsley was asked to work closely with animators at Hanna-Barbera Studios to create and design the new dark ride. Twenty-nine story-board drawings were produced which became the basis for the attraction. Utilizing a conveyance system provided by Arrow Development, guests would first board nine-passenger boats via a turntable outside a huge show building designed to look like a large television. Passengers would then float along a water-filled trough into the colorful world of HB’s characters. The indoor voyage would feature six vignettes during it’s nearly five-minute journey including: a colorful cave, a wedding in the land of Little People, a hillbilly-esque hoedown, an elaborate water world, a spooky haunted house and an over-the-top circus finale.
Among the interior scenes, the ride featured over 100 animated Hanna-Barbera characters (built and shipped from Japan), tens of thousands of twinkling lights, and a $5,000 ghost-projector. Sixteen sequentially timed surround-sound systems relayed a theme song recorded at the famed Glen Glenn Sound in North Hollywood. The song was orchestrated by famed Hanna-Barbera music producer Paul De Korte. (De Korte was responsible for the music in many HB cartoons– including “Superfriends” and “The Smurfs.”) William Hanna personally helped write the song’s lyrics with Coney executive Dennis Speigel. Thousands of guests from 1972 until 1984 who rode the attraction left humming or singing the highly-catchy lyrics:
Cartoon friends with funny faces,
Jinx and those little meece he chases,
Ant Hill Mob, the Wacky Racers,
live in my TV!
I'm friends, with Fred who yells out: Yabba Dabba Dabba Doo!
bosom Buddy Barney too,
and Scooby Dooby where are you?
I love, that mumblin' bear. I laugh at him until I hurt
and when its, Banana Splits
you don't eat them for dessert!
Bristle Hound is not a stranger,
he saves Lambsy when in danger.
Yogi Bear outsmarts the ranger
all in my TV.
Those happy friends who live in my TV!
For Kings Islands second season, the park added a new character to the exterior of the attraction – a snail – that greeted incoming guests and wished outgoing guests a nice day.
Unfortunately, by 1983, the attraction had become outdated and updates to the animatronics were needed. That season, Kings Island purchased the rights to feature the immensely successful “Smurfs” (also produced by Hanna-Barbera – but its later inception was not included in the original HB licensing) and decided to incorporate the characters in Hanna-Barbera Land which just two years earlier had been completely overhauled. In 1984, “The Smurfs” arrived at Kings Island and now inhabited the refurbished and aptly re-named “Smurf’s Enchanted Voyage.”
Park designer Brad Kain was placed in charge of the “Smurfy” new design and storyline. It retained the same boat conveyance system, but the voyage would now feature four seasonally-themed vignettes filled with the loveable blue characters. Guests first saw a spring morning in Smurf Village, then a Summer Smurf Picnic, followed by a spooky Fall/Halloween scene with villain Gargamel attempting to capture them, and ending with an elaborate winter holiday finale. Of course, it goes without saying that the entire experience incorporated the infamous “La, la, la, la, la, la” theme song.
“Smurf’s Enchanted Voyage” would delight guests for eight seasons before the entire theme and boat conveyance device was removed and replaced with “Phantom Theater” in 1992. “Phantom Theater” would last until 2003, and be replaced with “Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle” an interactive dark ride. “Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle” would last until 2010 when it was re-themed to “Boo Blasters on Boo Hill” (the building’s current inhabitant.) It seems only fitting that the building originally built to showcase Hanna-Barbera characters would be the last one at Kings Island to feature any HB theming at all. By the time the “Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle” licensing was removed in 2010, it had outlasted Hanna-Barbera Land by four seasons.
With new generations come new interests. With new interests come new attractions. However, although it disappeared over 30 years ago, “The Enchanted Voyage” remains one of the most recollected and revered retired attractions in Kings Island’s history. To this very day it is etched in the hearts and minds of millions of guests that were fortunate to become “enchanted” by all those happy friends that lived there.
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