1. The Music: There was something magical about walking into the park as it opened and hearing the suite from Marc Shaiman's Addams Family score.
2. The Outer Limits: Flight of Fear: While the queue video hasn't aged well, the theming perfectly encapsulated the 90s UFO/X-Files/Outer Limits vibe.
3. The Props/Posters: I really loved seeing the Top Gun props, movie posters, and even Wayne's World's Mirthmobile throughout the park.
4. Green Slime Zone: This area was a lifesaver on hot humid days. Being able to walk right through a sprinkler system without really having to wait through line? They should've kept this.
5. Top Gun: Sure, technically it wasn't initially planned as such, but Top Gun was (is) a great ride. Not only that, but the film was a great selection as it was a popular film that had both brand recognition and with a story about fighter pilots training to be the best, it had ride potential. The theming of the queue line, before it was bypassed, was incredible, arguably immersive. When you finally bucked yourself in, it really felt like you were about to head right into the Danger Zone.
6. Tomb Raider: I never rode the ride as anything but The Crypt, which was underwhelming, but the more I hear about the ride's original theming, the more I wish I did.
1. Getting Rid of Great Rides: R.I.P Kenton's Cove
2. Not the Best Movies for Rides: While Top Gun, Flight of Fear, the short-lived Tomb Raider, and arguably The Italian Job were great with the theming, others felt lazy. Drop Zone and Face/Off were both bargain bin titles when they were christened as rides. Drop Zone was a downright, godawful movie with an enjoyable Hans Zimmer score (later used for The Mask of Zorro and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl trailers) and one incredible, heroic moment that doesn't involve the film's star, Wesley Snipes, but a secondary, daredevil character named Swoop. Snipes feels sidelined, non-participatory throughout the majority of the film. Face/Off is notorious for its cheese factor with its two hammy leads doing impressions of each other and admittedly, it is a guilty pleasure for me. But it's obvious they just picked films that sound like ride titles, placed them on appropriate rides, and never bothered with the actual theming.
Meanwhile, brands such as Mission: Impossible, Jack Ryan, and Star Trek were left in the dust.
3. The Theming: They could've done more, a lot more. Sure, there are a few decent examples, but the point of a movie studio buying/making a park is the immersive experience that comes from riding the movies. But a lot of times, it was just movie titles slapped on rides. They even re-named Amazon Falls after Congo, but never bothered to justify it with additional theming.
4. The Theming, Part II: This is arguably the root of the problem with Paramount Parks. As Disney and Universal have shown, there's a lot of value in the "riding the movies" concept. However, as Paramount Parks prove, it's better that a studio build and tailor-make a park for its own purpose than to purchase another park and slap branding all over it. The risk is, even if they go all out, which you want them to go all out, when the branding has to go, so does the value of the rides.
Tomb Raider is the most unfortunate example of this. It was arguably the most immersive Paramount ride, but when they took out the theming, it killed the ride.
5. The Placement of Rides: Paramount Parks sure had a knack for picking the worst spots for a future defunct ride to rot in plain sight. The biggest culprits are Italian Job and Tomb Raider, both of which belong in Action Zone. But another one is Action Theater, an ugly, barely used building that sits smack in the middle of The Racer. It's just one of the weirdest spots to put a ride.
6. Son of Beast: All I will say is the more I learn about this ride, the more I'm amazed there weren't more accidents on it.
7. They Didn't Have Enough Fun With It: There was so much more that could've been done had they been more persistent with it. Imagine a ride based off the hilarious main title scenes from The Naked Gun films, where you're placed in a vehicle with a siren and taken from one strange environment to the next. Or why not a ride based on the Airplane films?
Had Viacom not purchased Paramount a year after they purchased the parks, things might've been different. Viacom didn't really have much of an interest in the parks beyond using them to springboard brand recognition and, on occasion, using them to advertise upcoming movies. They never seemed to have fun with the concept of owning amusement parks. And it showed.