Retroville: The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera

Today Retroville visits a theme park attraction filled with rides and shows, populated by famous cartoon mascots.

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“When you wish upon a star/Makes no difference who you are…as long as you fly our airlines, save up for Disney Fun Bucks, stay at the Grand Floridian, visit all of our attractions and buy all of our stuff!”

No, not that one.

hbland

THIS one.

Today’s Retroville is all about the now defunct Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera, which was located in Kings Island amusement park, formerly Kings Dominion, in Virginia.

-Did you know that the Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera was originally going to be called the Happy Kingdom of Hanna-Barbera? Well, now you do.

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“There’s only room for one kingdom on this planet, folks. Trust me, our lawyers aren’t so enchanted!”

First, a little history: In 1966, Taft Broadcasting acquired Hanna-Barbera Productions for $12 million and they were looking for ways to capitalize. So when Gary Wachs (VP Cincinnati’s Coney Island) approached them, it became apparent to Taft Executives that this would be a highly successful way to cross-promote the licensing. Taft agreed to partner and build Kings Island with the intent of using HB theming throughout the park. Once the purchase of Coney Island was secured in 1969, Taft immediately added costumed HB characters to the Coney Island midway (the “Banana Splits” even filmed their second season montage at Coney Island) and enlisted their team of designers (many of which had come from Disney’s Animation Studios) to help design a themed kids area for the new park.

Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera

The entrance to it is arced by a rainbow, and I like rainbows, so that’s kind of cool. Plus, dig that hippy-dippy font.

When “The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera” (the final name selected) opened with Kings Island in 1972, it featured several rides transferred from Coney Island, plus new rides themed to HB. The original rides included “Gulliver’s Rub-a-Dub” (a slow scenic boat ride), “Motormouse” (a revolving car ride), “Autocat” (a revolving motorcycle and car ride), “Kikky Kangaroo” (a revolving helicopter ride), “Funky Phantom” (a child-sized whip ride), “Winsome Witch’s Cauldrons” (a spinning teacup ride), “Marathon Turnpike” (a dual-track self-propelled car ride), “Squiddly Diddly” (a children’s sized turtle ride), a loading station for the Von Roll Swiss Skyride, the “Scooby Doo” (a family sized wooden coaster) and “The Enchanted Voyage” (a dark ride journey through the world of HB cartoons). In addition, the park featured HB characters in advertising, literature and most memorably as the icons for the park’s parking lot signs.

HB Land Mascots

The mascots are coming, hooray-hooray, the mascots are coming, hooray-hooray…

HB Land Mascots 2

They’re hot, they’re moist and they’re spoiling for a hug. Have fun.

For the park’s second season, more theming elements and re-paints to rides help spiff up the area a bit. Props designed and created by HB studios – such as fiberglass characters and an animated snail in front of the “Enchanted Voyage” – helped improve upon the theming from the opening season. Following 1973, “The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera” actually remained relatively untouched for a decade with the exceptions being cosmetic changes to the façade of the “Enchanted Voyage”, the addition of “Boulder Bumpers” (a Flintstones-themed bumper car attraction added in 1978) and the re-theming of the “Scooby Doo” coaster to “The Beastie.”

Gullivers Galley

Come to Gulliver’s Galley and play the wondrous game, Stomp-A-Lilliputian.

In 1982, (the 25th anniversary of Hanna-Barbera Studios and the 10th anniversary of Kings Island) the park spent $2.1 million to remodel and update. Re-branded “Hanna-Barbera Land”, the themed section increased its land space by 50 percent adding 20 new rides and participatory attractions. Among the new features were: “Shaggy’s Silly Sticks (an elaborate climbing structure), “Fools House” (a walk-through fun house), “The Hanna Barbera Carousel (a merry-go-round featuring HB icons) and “Scooby Choo” (a miniature railroad).

Courtly_Jester_is_here!

“Yay, puns!”

In addition, a brand-new interactive blue elephant fountain and “The Puppet Tree” (a marionette/puppet theater) were added. Finally, the station for the Von Roll Swiss Skyride (which had been removed two years prior) was converted to the “Hanna-Barbera Shop.” Both William Hanna and Joseph Barbera attended the opening festivities of the “new” land on April 19, 1982 along with over 100 elementary-aged kids.

HB Land Entrance 2

“Grade-schoolers. Now that’s good eatin’! Just kidding, we don’t eat ’em, we just put ’em to work in our Happiness Mines.”

Just two years later, in 1984, the park entered into a $1 million licensing deal to bring the immensely popular “Smurfs” to the park. (The Smurfs aren’t original creations of Hanna-Barbera, but H-B produced the Smurfs Saturday morning TV series, so there ya go.) Papa Smurf, Brainy Smurf and Smurfette began roaming the midway and the “Enchanted Voyage” was re-themed to “Smurf’s Enchanted Voyage.”

Smurfs Enchanted Village

When the Smurfs performed their own rendition of “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65, I cried…mainly because they locked the door to the exit.

However, the most significant Smurf-themed addition to Kings Island was not a ride at all. It was actually the renowned “Smurf” blue ice cream – a tasty blueberry flavored sweet that has become a staple of the park. It was a runaway hit and remains, to this very day, Kings Island’s most popular treat (although now simply called Blue Ice Cream).

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“Don’t get too excited, it’s not made with ground-up Smurf guts. What a letdown!”

The Smurfs called Kings Island home through the 1991 season, but when their popularity dipped they were phased out. It was also at this time that the ever-popular “Enchanted Voyage” (still themed to Smurfs) bid farewell to Kings Island. A beloved original staple of the park, the ride was in desperate need of updating. Upon its closure, the attraction was modernized and converted to “Phantom Theater.” The park utilized part of the original “Voyage” show building and land to create the “Hanna-Barbera Theater” and install the “Scooby Zoom” coaster (currently named “Great Pumpkin Coaster”). “Dick Dastardly’s BiPlanes were also added and, after 20 years of service, Winnie Witch’s Cauldrons were retired and replaced with “Pixie and Dixie’s Swingset”.

In 1998, Hanna-Barbera Land received its final facelift. The park bid farewell to the familiar rainbow entrance arch which had existed in various forms since the opening season…

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“NOT THE RAINBOW!!!!!!!!”

…And they repainted, relocated or re-named virtually every existing HB ride. Three new rides were added including “Yogi’s Sky Tours”, “Atom Ant Skyway” and “Scooby’s Ghoster Coaster.” A first of its kind, “Scooby’s Ghoster Coaster” was a suspended single-rail coaster which featured an elevator lift that took bat-shaped cars (holding one adult and one child) on a flight over the area!

ScoobyDoo

“Zoomy-zoomy-zoom!”

In 1995 a “Nickelodeon Splat City” themed area had been introduced at the park and took the location of the former HB Marathon (Sunshine) Turnpike ride. This infiltration of immensely popular, and current television cartoon characters would eventually outshine the dated HB theme. Yogi, Fred Flintstone and Huckleberry Hound, still ingrained into adults who had grown up with them, were now seen as outdated and unpopular with new generations. In 2001, a Nickelodeon expansion would prompt more loss to the HB theming, and by 2006 the Hanna-Barbera theming would be discontinued and removed from the park altogether. Even the “Beastie” coaster would receive Nickelodeon branding.

Spongebob Meh

This signified a definitive end of an era for the park, Hanna-Barbera, and the guests that had enjoyed the kids’ area for 32 years.

The Nickelodeon theming would only last for another four years. In 2010, the entire kids’ area was re-imagined with the wholesome, and long popular Peanuts characters. All kid’s area rides and attractions would receive new themes with names based on Charles Schulz’s characters Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and more.

Planet Snoopy

Peanuts? Really? I get that those characters are popular, but Charlie Brown and company are such a weird choice to build a theme park around. Have you ever read Peanuts? It’s one of the talkiest, moodiest and most borderline depressing comics strips ever written. Those kids are never happy; they spend most of their time parading their neuroses around…constant failure, battling one’s inner demons and unrequited love don’t exactly scream ‘fun times at the park’.

Peanuts Gang

Don’t let this ‘Happy Dance’ pic fool you…that’s just a PR thing.

The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera lasted from 1972 to 2005. Hanna-Barbera isn’t everybody’s cup of tea: they tended to recycle a lot of their concepts, premises and characters, also they pioneered the art of ‘limited animation’, but who says that only Disney can have their own designated amusement nation?

Mickey Mouse

“Hail to the King, baby!”

My family and I actually visited the Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera back in the ancient 1970’s, back when Kings Island was still called Kings Dominion, and we got our picture taken with Drooper of the Banana Splits. (He’s no Bingo, but he’s still a Banana Split, dangit!) after Huckleberry Hound ran away from us. Some mascots are just touchy about blowtorches, I guess. I’ve always been more of a Looney Tunes fan, but I’ve enjoyed some of H-B’s output, and I’m OK with lands full of colorful characters which manufacture happiness, so hats off to the Happy Land!

HB Land Entrance

Mmm, now that’s good rainbow!

Retroville: Beastly Kingdom

Have you ever actually looked at the logo for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, man?

disney-animal-kingdom-logo

Wild!

You’ve probably noticed that one of the animal silhouettes is a dragon.

Animal Kingdom Dragon

But why is that when there aren’t any dragons in Animal Kingdom? Well, at one time there actually were going to be dragons. Thus the subject of today’s Retroville, Beastly Kingdom, the Disney World attraction that never was.

Beastly Kingdom

“The rides are OVER! It’s about to get real…real ZOOLOGICAL up in this mug!”

Beastly Kingdom was a section that was to be built in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom’s original dedication plaque read like this:

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The Animal Kingdom park was initially supposed to “pay tribute to  all the animals that ever were, and those that never were…” in other words, it focuses on three types of animals:

Today’s existing animals…

Animal Jam Animals

…Extinct animals…

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“Don’t say the ‘E’ word!”

…And animals that don’t exist.

Fleur de Lis

“I don’t exist, eh? Then I’m guessing I’m not here to glare angrily at you!”

The latter has not been featured in the park (with the exception of Expedition Everest), but plans for a section of their own were made during the creation of the park. The area was to feature such animals as dragons, unicorns and sea monsters.

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Beastly Kingdom 2

The section was to feature realms surrounding “good” and “evil” creatures. (I personally find the ‘good and evil’ tropes to be kind of cliched and boring, but whatever.) The good realm would have been home to an attraction called Quest of the Unicorn, which would have been a mythological maze leading to the grotto where the unicorn lived.

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The Unicorn would have been spotted hanging out at, surprise, surprise! Unicorn Lagoon.

The good realm would also have featured Fantasia Gardens, an attraction based on the movie Fantasia, that would have been a musical boat ride that takes you the animal scenes of the movie. The idea, similar to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, would have featured hippos and crocodiles from “Dance of the Hours” along with pegasi, fauns, and centaurs from “Pastoral”.

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Fantasia Pegasi

Whimsy. We’re full of it.

Beastly Kingdom Dragon

On the evil side would be feature an attraction called Dragon’s Tower ruled by a greedy fire-breathing dragon that housed a treasure in the tower’s chamber.

Dulcy

“Gah, this stereotype again? We dragons aren’t menaces, OK? I only leveled a village once! I sneezed really hard and then I stubbed my toe!”

The attraction would also involve a group of bats threatening to take the dragon’s throne and riches. The bats would enlist the guests help and take them on a wild roller coaster to do so. The climax, similar to other Disney rides, would involve an encounter with the dragon himself, resulting in a near-charred train of guests.

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“S-S-S-S-Smokin!”

The section never came to fruition mostly due to budget cuts.

Nerdy-Accountant

“You know how much, glitter, rainbows, thrones, grottoes and dungeons cost?!”

It was soon replaced by Camp Minnie-Mickey, a section mostly filled with character meet-and-greet areas.

Mickey Mouse

“Ya shake a few hands, do the laugh, get your picture taken with the drooling  little thumb-suckers, whatever. I should charge for my photo ops, but it’s good PR, and it keeps the rabble in line. What, are the cameras rolling? I mean, uh…OH, BOY! I sure do love those tourists!”

Remnants of the never-made land can still be found in the park. Though, as with Hidden Mickeys, you have to look close. For example, there is a section in the parking lot labeled “Unicorn”.

Unicorn Crossing

As previously stated, the Animal Kingdom logo also features a silhouette of a dragon. Inside the park, a dragon-shaped stone fountain can be found in Camp Minnie-Mickey.

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A detailed dragon head statue is found atop one of the ticket booths at the park’s entrance. By far, the biggest examples of Remnants would be a cave in Camp Minnie-Mickey that exhorts blasts of fire. Guests are often told that a fire-breathing dragon lives there. Outside the cave, suits of armor are displayed.

Dulcy

“Unfair portrayal by the media strikes again!”

Also, the Happy Meal toys which came out at the time of Animal Kingdom’s launch featured a dragon, a reference to the never made Beastly Kingdom.

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Dulcy

“Hey, he’s kinda cute! I’m suddenly digging the color purple!”

Spyro

“Yup, I like purple too!”

The section that would’ve been Beastly Kingdom was later designated for the upcoming Pandora: The World of Avatar.

So let me get this straight: we could’ve gotten a cool fantasy land full of unicorns, dragons and stuff, but we can’t have that ’cause it’s not in the budget…yet it IS in the budget to throw away millions on an entire land based on a movie which no one’s talked about for years?

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-Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Nerdy-Accountant

“Well, we don’t own the Smurfs, so….”