Busch Gardens Tampa unleashes Cobra’s Curse on the public this summer, and the experience will be immense. We attended the media preview on 17 February, and immediately cleared our calendars so that we don’t miss the debut of what is sure to be a massive thrill-ride hit—with a brilliant story to go with it.
Who can tell the back-story better than Brian Morrow, Vice-President Theme Park Experience Design for SeaWorld parks? “In terms of the story, Montu, next to Cobra’s Curse, was excavated before 2000 and this is the next dig site in the Egypt area. It was the legendary home of a snake king that we knew nothing about at first. What the dig team is finding is this huge icon of the site, over 85 feet tall and 400 feet long, but it’s missing its head. Unknowingly, the team built their crane on top of the snake king’s ceremonial plaza, and are using the elevator lift to put the head back on the statue of the snake. It’s then that we find out just what the curse of the cobra is.
“The company doing the dig is VISE, or Viper International Survey and Excavation, and the entry to the ride is through their Living Quarters. Here, visitors find out about the snakes the team found inside as they went deeper into the temple, and they gradually unravel the story for the king to come back to life. Snakes are attracted to the legendary power of the temple. Next, visitors enter Chamber 1, which has been partially restored and the snakes found here are attracted to icons of the snake king. In reality, it is an opportunity for us to show why snakes are important in the wild, and why they are really cool animals.
“Chamber 2, which is where the problems start to show up, has a moody feel using lighting, sound, wind and projection effects to make it come alive, with three different shows about the snake king and his followers, who eventually turned on him and cut off his head to take away his power. It brings all the hieroglyphics to life.
“The boarding station is the Ceremonial Plaza and, as you set off, you pass through the Snake Crematorium, where all the mummified remains are. This has been done re-using the old Tut’s Tomb building, rebuilding it by changing the pathways and elevations. There are also 15 different videos compiled by the VISE excavation team here. But guests only figure out the mystery of the curse as they are strapped into the ride!”
With the back-story firmly in mind, Jeff Hornick, Director of Design & Engineering, filled in the details about the ‘reality’ of the ride experience: “Once guests get on the ride train, the first thing they experience is the vertical lift taking them 70 feet in the air. It works like an outdoor elevator, two vehicles at a time, counter-balanced on the lift. Then they come face to fang, as we like to say, with our snake icon. As we lift the ride vehicle forward, we propel it towards the snake, then it takes an outward bank turn towards the snake’s mouth—the head is massive and it is going to be amazing.
“The drop then goes north towards the veldt; then there is a bank turn to the left and a spiral into the first brake that will spin riders backward and rotate into a backwards position. Then they go up the incline lift backwards and, as they leave the incline, that’s when the crazy part starts. The vehicle becomes free-spinning, and riders drop out of the incline lift into the first of three trenches, spinning up over of the path into the second trench, over the top of and then underneath the Serengeti Safari’s train track, with a serpentine curve into the grand finale, getting more and more relentless as it goes.”
With the popularity of nearby Cheetah Chase, and the long wait-times that go with it, designers put a great deal of thought into speeding up the boarding process for Cobra’s Curse. The ride will accommodate 8 riders per train, with up to 8 trains on the track at any given time, giving it a capacity of 1,000 riders per hour. In best thrill-ride style, the only restraints will be lap bars, leaving rider’s upper bodies free to experience all the movement.
And with forward, backward, and spinning elements, there is sure to be plenty of movement! Busch Gardens’ President Jim Dean explained: “Every ride will be different, according to the load in each vehicle. If you have a slightly unbalanced load – like a linebacker in one seat and smaller-sized people in the other three – you will get more of a crazy spinning motion. If you have an even load, it will be more of a sliding motion.”
When viewed from above, the track looks like a snake as it curves around the area, winding through the existing architecture of Egypt. And that’s part of what will make it a great ride, as its proximity to those structures (and mega-coaster Montu) creates near-misses that will make it feel even more extreme.
The height restriction for Cobra’s Curse is 42inches, while riders 42-48 inches must be accompanied by an adult. It will reach a maximum height of 100 feet and, travelling at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, the total ride-time will be three and a half minutes. And, in a fabulously Florida-friendly move, designers created the queue so that it would be fully air-conditioned. Major bonus!
Mark Rose, vice-president of design and engineering put the final emphasis on what a beastly—though still family-friendly—ride it will be, saying, “This is the next evolution of the mine-train ride experience, but you only figure out the mystery of the curse at the same time as you are strapped into the ride.”
We’re ready to climb on board! What could possibly go wrong?
Join us for more conversation about Cobra’s Curse on the Attraction Tickets Direct discussion forums.
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