MAY 12, 1981
VAUGHAN, ONTARIO — If you are one of Disney’s devotees, the scene seems slightly out of kilter. Nowhere in sight are Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy. At Canada’s Wonderland, you find a host of Hanna-Barbera characters instead. Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone , and his pal, Barney, and Scooby Doo will greet you here.But you will have just as good a time.
Canada’s Wonderland, due to open its doors to the public at the end of this month, is an amusement park a la Disney’s and others in the US; it has rides and foods and music and sights built around various themes.
For instance, there is the “Grande World Exposition of 1890,” with buildings, amusements, and decor of the period. There is a Crystal Palace games arcade, and outside, Samurai warriors, a unicyclist, a flamenco guitar player will entertain beneath the flags of the world as it was in the late 19th century.
“Medieval Faire” transports you back even further, to the days of knights. One, dressed in shining armor, will regale you with Pelinorean tales to the accompaniment of a flute. There is a castle here and court jesters and the Canterbury Theater — a 1,100 seat, fully equipped proscenium theater, where 20 singers and dancers will present a musical extravaganza called, “Those Magnificent Movies.”
“The Happyland of Hanna-Barbera” is for childred: This is where the cartoon characters can be found. They appear “in personand their likenesses appear on the rides — a merry-go-round, for instance, where kids can sit on Boo Boo or Scooby Doo. Too, kids can buy Barney Burgers in this area.Instead of at tables, they sit in little cars to eat, “so they get the feeling of being in a drive-in, ” says Mike Filey, manager of public relations for Canada’s Wonderland. A brick walkway leads from there to the Bedrock Aquarium, where dolphins and sea lions perform in the Salt-Water Circus.
The Happyland of Hanna-Barbera has a lot more to offer: trained cockatoos, parrots, and macaws perform in the Woodland Theater. Yogi and Boo Boo and Ranger Smith perform in animated dioramas in Yogi’s Cave. (When you visit the cave, beware of the topsy-turvy, a bumbling carpenter at best, built for the Ranger. “It’s obvious Yogi won’t be getting a union card any time soon,” says Mr. Filey.)
On International Stret you can shop in boutiques and sample the foods of many countries. It’s a bright, colorful street with an architectural mix of Mediterranean, Scandinavian, Alpine, and Mexican.
Just beyond it is the International Festival with a ride-intensive area and a large, 3,500-seat Greek amphitheater, where “Singing to the World” will be performed. It’s a 30-minute pop and country music revue. International Festival is dominated by a mountain and its cascading waterfall.
It’s the mountain you see first when you enter Canada’s Wonderland. For that matter, you see it long before you get here; it stands tall against the backdrop of these flat lands just 20 miles northwest of Toronto.
The mountain is man-made; it is 150-feet high, covers 2 1/2 acres at the base , and was built at a cost of over $5 million. Over 1,100 tons of structural steel were used in the framework, which was constructed along the lines of a parking garage, to which peaks covered with wire mesh were fastened and shaped to give the appearance of ridges and valleys. Concrete was sprayed on the mesh, creating a “skin” two inches thick.
A ramp leads up the mountain’s flank to a 90-foot plateau, so visitors can have a panoramic view of the park.
Canada’s Wonderland is the first theme park in Canada. Taft Broadcasting Company, an organization responsible for creating such parks in Cincinnati, Ohio , and Richmond, Va., and which owns a third one in Charlotte, NC., first proposed the idea here. The company owns this park in partnership with Great-West Life Assurance Company of Canada.
That Canadian connection is particularly important. All of the companies doing the design and engineering projects, the construction workers, and landscapers were Canadian. Even the director of project design for Kings Productions, the division of Taft responsible for its amusement parks, Bruce Robinson, was born in Toronto. He feels the park reflects, particularly, themes pertinent to Canadians and their past and that “all rides and buildings have been designed to compliment each other in the various theme areas.”
Too, the park has been designed with conservation in mind
“Up to this point Canada’s Wonderland is the most thoroughly integrated of any park in North America,” Mr. Robinson says. “The entire area is surrounded by trees that have not been destroyed by the construction, the natural rain pattern will be enhanced with the creation of a lake. . . .”
Near the children’s rides, the shrubbery is child size; in other areas, there are maples, evergreens, and ash, fully grown and shady. There is an area for picnicking and some 2 1/2 miles of benches throughout the park for resting.
The waterfall, which cascades from the mountainside from about the 60-foot level, has entertainment value — Acapulco-style cliff divers put on shows, diving from the top into a 13-foot-deep pool — but it has a conservation aspect , too. The 30,000 gallons of water per minute which flow along its 100-foots width run through the park’s air-conditioning system.
Of course, much of the park won’t need that kind of air-conditioning. It gets the sort created when you drop 90 feet in a roller coaster at a speed of something over 60 miles per hour, as you do on the Mighty Canadian Mine Buster. On the Wilde Beast, another wooden roller-coaster-type ride, the drop is 78 feet at approximately 54 m.p.h.
The rides are computer operated for “state of the art safety,” says Jim Wilson, director of rides/ground services. The computer is a solid-state programmable unit designed to monitor the speed and position of every car on each of the coaster rides. “There is a minimum human element involved,” according to Mr. Wilson. “The operators are really back-ups, not required to make critical reactions or judgments.”
There will be 2,500 to 3,000 seasonal employees at Canada’s Wonderland, some doing the entertaining, others operating rides, serving in restaurants and concession stands and stores, and cleaning up after the parkhs visitors.
The park is easily accessible from Toronto, which gives it a large “base” population of Canadians and even Americans to draw from, since Toronto is less than an hour’s drive from the Buffalo, N.Y., area and only four hour’s drive from Detroit.
“Some 2 million guests are expected to visit Canada’s Wonderland in the first year,” says Mr. Filey. “There are ‘lost parents’ services, strollers and wheelchairs, kennel services, and parking for 12,000 vehicles. Too, there is bus service from terminals at Yorkdale and York Mills subway stations.”
In 1981 Canada’s Wonderland will be open May 23 and 24, May 30 to September 7 , and weekends in September. Tickets will be on the coupon-book system: 12 attractions for $11.95; 16 attractions, $13.95; unlimited passport, $17.95.