The Joker Twists, Turns, Makes Me Laugh Like a Child
The Joker Media Day Festivities
After watching the Joker, the new RMC conversion at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, construction progress over the past 9 months, it was incredibly exciting to see the finished product at the media day for the ride this week. The first thing you notice walking up to the ride is the beautifully designed new entrance and ride plaza area. The fun house design is so bright and fresh, the props look good, and the new painted area in front of the ride breaks up the bland pavement in a subtle but impactful way.
The nearby souvenir building and Joker/DC related game were still having work done on them, but they also add nicely to the theming of the area. The expanded queue area for the ride that we saw partially installed during our last construction tour also was nicely painted, and included what will be a much needed shade structure (a rarity at this, and many, Six Flags).
Along with all the new finishing touches on the Joker, a new theming to the neighboring “Tsunami Soaker” was revealed. It’s not The Penguin Ride, turning the corner of the park into a fully DC/WB themed area (except the Go Karts, although it’s possible those are also getting a rethemed based on some subtle hints from staff). The new Penguin theme is not 100% complete, but a large penguin logo and penguin sign are up, and Nancy Chan, communications manager for the park, told me that umbrellas would soon be replacing the seagulls on the ride. Expect the Penguin re-theming to be done before the park opens Memorial Day weekend.
Special guests were on hand to officially open the ride that morning, including a group of Bay Area comics who would be the first riders on the new coaster (get it, comics, Jokers), and some of the Jokers fellow villains, a pair of the parks (adorable) penguins (also opening The Penguin Ride). The group was headlined by veteran Bay Area comedian Michael Pritchard, who gave a brief speech to open the ride, mostly related to how important it is to have fun, even as an adult (he knew his audience).
After a few words from Kirk Smith, Director of Marketing for the park, Don McCoy, park President, and Pritchard, the REAL special guest made his appearance. Yes, back again after the last construction tour, the Joker was on hand for the opening of his new ride. After asking some questions of the audience and some back and forth with McCoy, they officially cut the ribbon.
The first official ride was taken by the group of comics, although Discovery Kingdom spokesman Captain Lee Munroe had been taking private rides all morning as part of live satellite TV feeds. He told me later that morning that he was up to about 21 rides so far that day. He was feeling tired.
After the comics got their first ride, and seemed to enjoy themselves, the rest of media and guests in attendance were allowed to line up.
Laughing All the Way
So, before I dive into my thoughts on the Joker, if you want to follow along Discovery Kingdom released a full PoV of the ride onto Youtube that can find below. You can easily track all the twists and turns of the ride.
The first thing I noticed even while watching the other trains go was how quickly the train comes out of the station. It’s impressively fast for a regular start, and it makes the pre-lift section surprisingly fun. There’s quite a nice little pop of air on the first pre-lift hill, and it made it one of my favorite pre-lifts on any ride (definitely more fun than Twisted Colossus’ which looks better than it rides).
The hill also climbs at an impressive speed, you can tell it’s a brand new lift. Probably partly thanks to the faster chain, and partly due to being further from the station, the lift hill seems a lot taller than the old Roar lift despite only a 6 foot difference in height. Whatever the reason it’s an exciting climb as you crest the top, and builds a nice amount of tension before the drop.
The steep, twisted drop is as great as expected, with some intense positive gs at the bottom of the hill. The step-up under flip coming out of the drop is smooth, although I’m not sure it felt like anything particularly crazy (or maybe just not as crazy as my expectations based on how it looks). However, the top-gun stall that comes after it is fantastic. The stall on Twisted Colossus is great, but because of the distance between the two tracks, unless you’re actually racing the “head chopper” effect is limited. Since there’s only one track on The Joker, the effect is magnified as you skim over wooden boards, seemingly inches from outstretched fingers.
Out of the stall, the coaster flies into the twisted breaking wave turn. Although the reverse twist going into the turn was less “extreme” than I expected, it’s still a fun sensation as the car banked back and forth slightly whipping riders. The best part though is the air that comes from the small humps going over the lift hill and then parallel to the stall under the Asian Camelback (which again provides some fantastic head chopper moments).
Maybe my favorite part of the breaking wave turn is actually the decoration on the side of the coaster. Giant “Ha Ha-s” hang from the side of the wooden structure, adding some extra pop to the design (some added theming rarely seen on a lot of Six Flags coasters).
After the nice airtime on the bump under the large camelback the Joker turns into a big sweeping 270ish degree turn before heading into the camelback. This is one of the few moments where the ride felt like it lost a lot of speed going through the turn. Most in attendance seemed to think this is probably the kind of thing where if the ride were broken in (and had been running more frequently that day) it would warm up and keep it’s speed better through the turn, but it was a little bit of a drag on this morning. However, the double “asian” camelback after the turn was probably my favorite element of the whole ride. The air time, particularly towards the back of the train, through the second hump of the camelback was amazing. I was lifted out of my seat pretty much from the start of the little hump (around 1:17 in the above video) through the turn, a solid few seconds of complete air time.
My second favorite element was probably the barrel roll that comes after the big turn out of the camelback. The coaster has slowed it’s pace a bit by then, and the inversion is deceptively long, so riders hang from their seats for a noticeable amount of time through the roll. Combing that with the headchopper effect of skimming the ground made it a wonderful thrill. I love that Discovery Kingdom has two rolls with such excellent “hang” time (the other being the super slow barrel roll on Superman). Another hump provides a nice pop of air before the train returns to the station.
General consensus from fellow riders (including our friend Sean over at CA Coaster Kings) was that it seemed the back cars provided a more enjoyable experience with more air, but we didn’t have a chance to ride in the very front because of the reverse PoV cameras set up, so it’s hard to say for sure. Overall it was an excellent ride, up to Rocky Mountains standards. The few spots that felt like they dragged a little bit will probably go away after a few months of running and a warmer day (similar issues existed with Twisted Colossus). It maybe isn’t perfect ride yet, but it most definitely didn’t disappoint and is an excellent addition to the park, and it adds to the excellent coaster roster of Discovery Kingdom (and makes the park a definite worthwhile visit for anyone living in or visiting California).
If you want to ride it yourself and let us know what you think, the Joker opens to season pass holders Friday and Saturday (May 28 and 29th), and opens to the general public on May 29th. You can check the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom website for full hours info on tickets. Tell us if you agree or disagree on it!
In the meantime, thanks to the generosity of Discovery Kingdom, we’ve now got some great Joker and Roar related goodies that we would love to give away to you guys. So, if you want to win some RMC (and some non-RMC) related prizes, follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, or join the new Coaster101 Readers Group on Facebook, and then tweet/post what your favorite RMC conversion is, or what converted coaster you miss the most, with the hashtag #Coaster101RMC before midnight Pacific Time on June 3 and we’ll pick a few lucky winners.