What is a Darkride?
(Please note that DAFE will be using darkride as one word to indicate rides of this genre.)
That question seems to come up quite often. Of course everyone knows what one is, but not everyone agrees. Asking this question in the amusement industry will bring about a myriad of answers. Opinions range from "any ride that is in the dark, is a dark ride" to "only the traditional Pretzel or Tracy type rides are true darkrides".
A half century ago William F. Mangels had this to say about them: "Greatly popular at some resorts are the attractions known as Dark Rides. In these, passenger-carrying vehicles, which may be boats, cars, or small trains, pass through dark tunnels or closed-in passages at a very slow speed. Along the way, surprise scenes such as mechanical ghosts, flirting devils, and similar devices pop up to scare or amuse the slowly passing riders. These devices bear various names. The well-known Tunnel of Love is typical."
While that description may have sufficed when Mangels wrote his book THE OUTDOOR AMUSEMENT INDUSTRY in 1952, things are not quite that simple now.
Today's rides combine elements of many traditional ride types and blur the line that once clearly defined what attractions are.
DAFE considers the following as important elements that all darkrides share.
A darkride requires an enclosed structure. It may have open areas, but the majority of the ride remains in the building. In general, the interior is dark or dimly lit. The lighting that is used could be spotlights triggered by the passing ride vehicle, black light effects, or low-level general illumination.
The ride system uses a passenger-carrying vehicle that is guided by a track, waterway, or other method that follows a seemingly random path.
The darkride depends mainly on scenery to produce the ride experience. Scenery can include simple pop up or boxed "gags" or "tricks", stationary or animated figures, paintings, complex animatronic scenes, and special effects.
Sound effects also play an important role in most darkrides. These may range from simple horns and buzzers triggered by the passing ride vehicle, to isolated sound bites for each gag, or to a complex musical score complete with narration.
Note that simply enclosing a roller coaster, Scrambler, Tilt-A-Whirl, or other common ride in a dark building would not generally create what DAFE considers a darkride.