Save My Park: A Kentucky Kingdom Documentary

“Opened 1987. Closed 1987. Opened 1990. Closed 2009. Opened 2014. Once the fastest growing park in the world, Kentucky Kingdom became nothing more than an abandoned shell of its former self within just a short few years. What makes the park’s roller coaster of a history so fascinating is through its uphill battle, the park continues to get better and better with each iteration. Now, in 2014, thanks to the efforts of a select group of individuals, the park is back and better than ever.”

So the description reads for Coaster Studios’ latest documentary. We were immediately intrigued and watched the entire 40 minute video right away. We recommend you do the same. The video is embedded below.

After watching Save My Park, we just had to know more about how the documentary was created. Thanks to Taylor Bybee, whom you may remember from our interview with him back in April 2018, for taking time to answer some questions.

C101: Where’d the idea come from?

Taylor: After I completed Kings Dominion: A Lifetime of Memories last October, the response was overwhelmingly positive and people were wondering which park I was doing next. Of course, at the time, I didn’t have any parks in mind at all. A lot of people just assumed I’d do Busch Gardens Williamsburg, since its my ‘other’ home park next to Kings Dominion. I didn’t have any ideas at first, but as the winter months rolled around, I decided I wanted my next documentary to be more history based. The KD doc was more about the people of the park, and unique memories they had, so this time I wanted to find a park with an interesting history. Of course, the park had to be accessible where I knew I could make lots of trips out there to film everything. The park that came to mind was Kentucky Kingdom. I have lots of friends in Louisville, so I knew I could spend some time there no problem, and also knew some of the management team who I knew would be on board. It just seemed like the logical choice.

C101: What was the creation process like?

Taylor: I went in with the idea that the doc would be titled ‘The Hart and Soul of Kentucky Kingdom.’ Kind of a play on words, of course referencing how Ed Hart brought the park back to life after it was left for dead. I figured the documentary would be about him and how he was the savior of the park and is the only reason it’s still around today. Of course, I was completely wrong, and the final product didn’t turn out anything like that! The first interview I shot was a discussion between Ed Hart and John Mulcahy, as they sat at a table and shared memories together. They kept bringing up this thing called Save My Park, which I had never heard of, and didn’t think much of. But as I filmed more interviews it kept getting brought up more and more, and I eventually realized that this is the story right here! A group of individuals who didn’t want to see their park bulldozed to the ground, who band together and help save the park. From there I changed my tactics in how I interviewed and edited and shot with that story in mind.

C101: What were some of the challenges?

Taylor: Because I’m from Virginia and not Kentucky, I had to map out exactly what I was gonna shoot and when. I planned for 5 days in Louisville to film everything I needed. This was right before I left for a big European tour, so I had a limited time, but figured it should be enough. When I left the park on that last day, and thought to myself “that’s a wrap!”, deep down, I didn’t feel too great about it. I knew I got good stuff, but it just didn’t feel complete. I initially discarded it and thought “I’ll fix it in post, it’ll be fine!” It wasn’t. After I got back from Europe, I started transcribing my interviews and knew this wasn’t going to work. I called up Rob House, my main man at Kentucky Kingdom who played a huge part in coordinating, scheduling, and planning, and I told him my dilemma and asked him if he knew of anyone else I could interview. We spit balled some names around, and eventually settled on 4 guys who were members of Save My Park who I had not previously spoken with. I bluntly asked him if it was worth my time to make plans to go back to Louisville just to shoot these 4 interviews. Without hesitating, he said yes. So I hung up the phone, called up my friend in Louisville, and said I’m coming back! I don’t know how yet or when, but I am! And I did. And Rob was absolutely right, because without those 4 additional interviews, the documentary would’ve been a mess.

C101: What did you learn about Kentucky Kingdom that you didn’t know before?

Taylor: I had only been to Kentucky Kingdom twice before I decided to make the documentary, but I felt like I knew enough to make it happen. In retrospect, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know the park closed after the first season it opened! I didn’t know the Save My Park group existed, and definitely didn’t know how big of a role they played! A lot of that went under the radar for me. It wasn’t something you could find on Wikipedia. And that’s what made it so great- this was an opportunity for me to tell an incredible story that the majority of people never knew even happened!

C101: It must have been challenging working on a project where there’s not that much information available. At any point, did you ever feel like quitting?

Taylor: I wouldn’t say I ever felt like just forgetting the whole thing and moving on, but there were definitely moments of frustration. I was stressed about not having enough interviews, not making the deadline, not making the documentary interesting enough, etc. At one point I lost a huge chunk of the rough edit I had done, where I just wanted to crawl up into a ball and cry because I had essentially done all that work for nothing. The thing is that when I have a project in mind, and I feel strongly about it, I will not stop until I get it done, no matter what it takes. I’m very much a problem solver and a perseverer, so I took every challenge I was given and worked through it the best I could.

C101: Save My Park features an original soundtrack with a live orchestra. How did that happen?

Taylor: What was crazy was after I released the first trailer for SMP, I was contacted by at least 4 different people who were interested in doing the music for it, which was insane to me! I was just planning on finding copyright free music to insert, and had never even thought to work with original music! I got to talking with a guy named John Pasternak, who seriously is like a music guru, and happens to also be a high school orchestra teacher. He pitched me a few concepts he came up with, which were absolutely amazing, so we partnered together and worked closely to match music exactly to what was happening on screen, and then record it live with students at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, who really did a fantastic job, and I can’t thank them enough.

C101: That’s so awesome that a live orchestra was used to record original music! So, I have to ask, what documentary is next? Anything planned?

Taylor: I honestly have no idea. I didn’t figure out I was doing Kentucky Kingdom until a few months after I finished the Kings Dominion documentary, so I imagine I won’t know what I’ll be doing for at least a little while longer. I have a few projects that long term I’d really like to do, but have no idea how practical they are, so we’ll just have to wait and see I guess! One things for sure though, this will not be the last documentary I’ll be making.

Thanks again to Taylor for giving us some insight on how his great documentary came together. We can’t wait to see more in the future!

Let us know what you think of Taylor’s documentary and what you learned from it in the comments below! What park should he cover next?


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1 Response

  1. Kevin Motto says:

    That was a fantastic documentary. The end of the documentary he said he doesn’t know of any other park with a unique story. There is many parks and one of those parks are in my backyard Oklahoma City and that park is Frontier City. You can say it was the 3rd true theme park and blazed the trail for Six Flags and Cedar Fair. The little park that had made a huge impact on the modern day theme park.

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