Pirates of the Deep Sea attraction opens at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Dark ride rethemed and reimagined

AT: Tim Baldwin

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — As Auld Lang Syne blared from the speakers and fireworks crackled in the sky, Six Flags Fiesta Texas debuted the year’s first new ride at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Pirates of the Deep Sea is a completely reimagined version of a Sally Corp. dark ride installed at the park in 2002. Originally built as Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters, the popular dark ride resonated with families, particularly those with young children. Over the past decade, the San Antonio theme park eventually became the sole Six Flags property to use the cartoon IP, and it made logical business sense to let go of the licensing at the close of the 2016 season.

This provided Fiesta Texas a valuable opportunity. Determined not to just shutter an attraction, park management had grander plans. Indoor attractions in the Texas climate are of high importance, and the park now had a clean slate from which to work. Focus groups of park guests indicated the theme of pirates was the way to go.

Removing all prior IP elements from the dark ride, an entirely new overlay involving new sets, animatronics and an upgraded sound system immerse guests into the role of buccaneers trying to outsmart plundering pirates trying to hornswoggle stolen bounty.

“This new, interactive ride is packed with so many amazing special effects that guests will really feel they are caught in the middle of a raging pirate battle,” said Park President Jeffrey Siebert

The vehicles are now completely rethemed. Guests board a weathered pirate ship armed with personal muskets to sail through raging storms of the Bermuda Triangle. Targets along the journey help integrate the storyline of an angry mob of pirates portside.

Initially, Fiesta Texas had planned to reintroduce the new ride as the summer season was ending. But with Halloween and Christmas festivals already on the horizon to spur attendance, the park made a sound decision to do the attraction up right. Continuing to work on the ride throughout the fall, Pirates of the Deep Sea became a labor of love with various departments becoming involved including operations, maintenance and entertainment. The choice was made to open it as the first new ride of 2019.

Six Flags had worked with Magic in the Sky before on fireworks shows and haunted attractions and turned to them for the thematic makeover. This was the company’s first foray into retheming dark rides. 

“We’re a theme park services company,” said Jacob Dell, president. “This [project] has taken an existing ride and turned it into something totally new. We created or rehabbed all the scenery inside the ride. We also built the entire queue line experience. I think Fiesta Texas is moving toward where the experience is not just getting on the ride but building the environment. It’s more of a world-class experience. I think Fiesta Texas is moving forward with that. The queue isn’t just a place to wait.”

The story begins outside of the attraction as riders gaze over murals of treasure maps and the journey on which they are about to embark. Once inside, longtime park fans will notice an immediate reworking of the station as pathways now wind through a village, past waterfalls and an encounter with a new animatronic that helps set the stage.

“We work with Creative Engineering out of Orlando,” said Dell. “They rehab and update animatronics into completely new characters. It’s very realistic. It has 28 different movements. It just helps bring this new attraction to a broader audience. It’s a little darker and has a spooky feel to it, but it is still family friendly. I think it speaks to the audience that Six Flags is wanting to draw.”

Throughout the ride, swashbucklers travel through 18 different zones featuring new three-dimensional sets. Dramatic audio broadcast from a total of 39 speakers follows the individual galleons. In one scene cannon fire is sure to make passengers jump. The Fiesta Texas team has added three sets of bump doors to help separate certain scenes. Siebert commented to park fans at a preview that he is a big advocate of the old-school nature of bump doors and was excited to have them added.

As a way to provide value, special previews were given to membership and passholders Jan. 1–6. The grand opening of Pirates of the Deep Sea took place on Jan. 12 as the park entered its year-round weekend operation for the first time.

This article appears in the FEBRUARY 2019 issue of Amusement Today.

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