7 Hilarious U.S. Rip-Offs at England's Drayton Manor Theme Park

Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 6:00 am

4. Not-Finding Nemo.

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I didn't go to see this. Why would I? Disneyland actually has a Finding Nemo ride, and it isn't even all that good. Unless there's a weird twist like the sharks eating everybody this time, I think it's a safe one to skip.

5. Beer Barrels > Teacups.

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Okay, here's where Drayton actually one-ups Disney and Universal, for the first and only time. England doesn't feel the same need we do to make everything completely kid-friendly, so to make their teacup ride better, they added beer and boobage. Which actually is a more accurate lesson for kids in the end, because drinking tea doesn't make you dizzy, but staring at cleavage and downing booze by the cask absolutely will.

For some reason the wife had no interest in this one.

6. Ben 10 Ultimate Mission.

Aside from the Thomas stuff, Ben 10 is the only ride in the park to be legally and officially based on an outside license. So it's not a rip-off in that sense.

What it is, though, is a cut-rate version of the kinds of superhero roller coasters you see at parks like Six Flags, with a walk-through section that's supposedly telling you an incomprehensible story to explain why you need to get on a roller coaster to save Ben or whatever it is you're supposed to do.

The ride itself is just about my speed, as a coaster-wuss. You go backwards up a steep slope, then release, go through a couple turns, and up a steep slope at the opposite end. At that point, you're released backwards to where you began. I don't know how that saves Ben, but I do know that somebody needs to save the attached gift shop. Billed as the only Cartoon Network store in the UK, you soon find out why - most of the pegs are empty save for about fifty Bandai Mumm-Ra figures from the Thundercats reboot.

Drayton Manor doesn't really understand merchandising - much of what the stores sell is unrelated plush toys, rather than T-shirts advertising the specific rides, which you'd think would be Theme Park Marketing 101.

7. Not-Haunted Mansion/Not-Ghostbusters.

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At first, you think you know which Disneyland ride they're ripping off. And then you see this:

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Inside, you are given an orientation video narrated by "Doctor X," who shows you supposedly the last transmission from a team sent inside the haunted vicarage to check it out. I kid you not - think Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" video, but with Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson impersonators toting fake proton packs that are quite blatantly toys. They see a bright light. The transmission ends.

You're then guided inside to a room where a painting hangs on the wall. Via rear lighting, said painting becomes transparent and a wooden "vampire" head behind it starts talking, yammering on about stuff you can't quite make out because the audio is terrible. This continues for two minutes.

Finally, you're led into the room where the ride, such as it is, is to happen. It's set up like a crypt, and a bar goes over your lap, leading one to suspect it might be a free-fall kind of deal. Nope.

Instead, it's one of those funhouse rooms where the whole room spins around you, to fool your eyes and trick your brain into thinking you're spinning head over heels when in fact it's the outer wall that's rotating. For an example of how the effect can be done well, this Metallica video demonstrates:

About halfway through, the lights dim even further and runes appear on the walls under blacklight. When the swinging stops, the coffin in the middle of the room opens and rubber bat heads pop up. The lights go out, the familiar blasts of air that simulate critters rushing past you happens, and the experience is over.

But don't take my word for all this...

There's a charm to this kind of thing, but it's a limited charm, especially since the Excali-Bar was closed. I'm glad I went, but unless they decide to try their hand at Not-Transformers and Not-Minions, it might be a while before I'm back.

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Call it Nots-Buried Farm.

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