- The Washington Times - Friday, June 11, 2004

DOSWELL, Va. — Paramount’s Kings Dominion has paid tribute to cartoon legends through a variety of rides and attractions since its opening in 1975. Character-based areas ranging from the rich Hanna-Barbera universe in Kidzville to an ode to Nickelodeon’s cast of characters show the continuing popular culture impact of animated properties in the theme-park world.

The company’s latest ode to a cartoon — which has been humorously terrifying youngsters since 1969 — empowers families to join with the ranks of the Mystery Inc. gang to battle ghosts and familiar fiends in the interactive adventure Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Mansion.

Brave guests take part in an episode of the Hanna-Barbera creation by assisting the Great Dane and his companion Norville “Shaggy” Rogers as they stop the Green Ghost, a classic villain from the 1970 episode “A Night of Fright Is No Delight,” from absconding with bags of cash.

The adventure begins as guests wait in line to enter the Ghastly Mansion, which features a 19th-century Victorian design with windows highlighting the shadows of ghouls and investigators. A queue forms around two cemeteries and a swamp decorated with mist, gravestones, slithering snakes, a crocodile wiggling its tail and a full-sized Mystery Machine stuck in some muck as its wheels occasionally spin.

Guests bored with waiting can enjoy classic episodes from the DVD “Scooby Doo’s Original Mysteries” (Warner Home Video, $14.99), which includes the series pilot “What a Night for a Knight,” and “Hassle in the Castle.” The episodes are shown on four 50-inch plasma screens strategically positioned outside the lines.

Upon entering the mansion, visitors become privy to some ghoulish sounds and large illustrations of their favorite investigators. There are also succinct biographies of the Mystery Inc. gang, revealing such innocuous trivia as Daphne Blake’s dreams of being a great mystery writer and Fred Jones’ passion for invention.

The real fun then takes place aboard a four-seat mini-Mystery Machine equipped with Fright Light ghost blasters. The ghost blasters travel through a video game environment as riders shoot targets along creepy corridors to zap ghosts, blast secret passages and collect points.

The object of the challenge is to hit up to 95 lighted targets worth 40 points each and best other riders in the van whose totals are all tallied in front of them on LED screens. Investigators should pay close attention to boxes of Scooby Snacks found along the 392-foot-long interactive ride — hitting one will cause the petrified pooch to pop out of such locations as a bed, a fireplace and from behind a painting.

Veteran theme-park visitors will consider the almost-three-minute experience better than Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom but nowhere near as intense as the Men in Black: Alien Attack shooting attraction at Universal Studios Florida.

Other cartoon-themed attractions at Kings Dominion worth a visit:

• The classic wooden Scooby-Doo’s Ghoster Coaster in Kidzville, which will even give adults a scream

• Rugrats Toonpike, located in Nickelodeon Central, which allows children to drive by themselves through the cartoony neighborhood of Pickles, Dill, and in a go-kart-like setting

• SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D, a tribute to the popular porous porifera as he hunts down a rogue pickle to top off a delicious Crabby Patty while unraveling a conspiracy involving his arch-enemy Plankton.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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