The Art of Attractions | A Super Development for Arrow
The log flume ride. The mine train coaster. The boat ride system for “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The legendary Arrow Development team had a hand in designing and building these and many other landmark attractions.
The company’s most noteworthy innovation, “Matterhorn Bobsleds,” introduced the concept of tubular steel coasters that utterly revolutionized roller coasters. It was developed as part of a long partnership with Walt Disney and the Imagineers who helped create Disneyland. Behind the scenes, Arrow built the ride systems for such classic attractions as “Dumbo the Flying Elephant,” “Haunted Mansion,” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
Arrow continued to innovate, introducing more breakthroughs such as looping coasters and “X,” the 4th Dimension coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Then, in 2001, the company closed.
After seeing the wonderful American Coaster Enthusiasts’ documentary, “The Legacy of Arrow Development,” Brent Young, co-founder and president of media production and attraction design company Super 78, contacted the film’s director, Nicholas Laschkewitsch, to find out what happened to the Arrow brand. Young discovered that it had passed through a number of hands and was eventually abandoned. So Young secured it.
“We wanted to do something to keep the name alive,” Young says. The company now features Arrow Development, complete with the original logo, as a division of Super 78. “By honoring the past, not letting Arrow disappear, hopefully it inspires people today,” he adds.
It’s something of a passion project for Young, whose love for theme parks began with childhood visits to Six Flags Over Mid-America (now Six Flags St. Louis). It was years later that he realized the “River King Mine Train,” the Huck Finn-themed boat ride, and other attractions at the park were Arrow creations.
An industry historian, Young, along with his wife and Super 78 co-founder and CEO, Dina Benadon, purchased and restored The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago. As one of the hosts of “The Season Pass Podcast,” he has interviewed many of the industry’s pioneers, including Arrow’s Dana Morgan, to chronicle and preserve their stories.
But reestablishing Arrow is more than just nostalgia and honoring history. “We want to take some of our technology, engineering, and creativity, present it under the Arrow brand, continue the legacy, and keep it relevant,” notes Young.
While Super 78 has not been in the hardware business, Young says it is possible that the new Arrow might develop ride systems and original concepts for attractions. “Coasters could absolutely be in our future,” he adds, noting that they might integrate themes, media, and effects.
Long live Arrow Development! And here’s hoping that others in the industry (maybe you?) will heed Super 78’s example by treasuring our storied past and using it as a springboard for great, new things.
I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one giggling aboard “Dumbo the Flying Elephant” and giving thanks to the trailblazers who made elephants fly.
A lifelong park fanatic, Arthur Levine has been writing newspaper and magazine travel features about the industry he loves since 1992. He’s been the Theme Parks Expert at TripSavvy.com (formerly About.com) since 2002, and is a regular contributor for USA Today.