Wild mouse style coasters have been popular attractions at theme parks, amusement parks and fairs for decades, offering a thrilling ride in a small area. These compact coasters are ideal for enclosing in a building and once enclosed thematic elements can be added to create a unique experience.

Looking to create an exciting new attraction, Six Flags developed The Dark Knight Coaster, a blending of a family style thrill ride with intense theme elements. The coaster was designed to coincide with the release of The Dark Knight, and included many references to the action in the film.

Plans were made to install these coasters in three of the Six Flags parks, Six Flags Great America, Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags New England. Both Great America and Great Adventure built the rides in the 2007-2008 off season, with Six Flags New England running into difficulties with the local planning board in getting construction approved. Eventually the ride parts were shipped south of the border where The Dark Knight Coaster found a home at Six Flags Mexico in 2009. Plans originally had additional Dark Knight Coasters to be installed in additional Six Flags parks but they never materialized after the rides were greeted with mixed success.

The ride system for the Dark Knight Coaster is a common Mack Wild Mouse, but featuring custom designed ride vehicles resembling subway cars. The coaster was housed in a simple steel building. Theme elements were placed along the course of the track with Batman and the forces of the Joker battling in Gotham City as guests ride in the subway cars.    
At the end of the 2007 season, the Dark Knight Coaster was announced for Six Flags Great Adventure, and promotional signs were posted in the park. The new ride was to take the place of the Movietown Water Effect (originally known as Splashwater Falls). 

Along with the signs for the new ride, surveyors markings began appearing in the area as preparations for construction were underway.  Just after the park closed for the season, the old water ride was removed and work on the new ride began.
Over the winter the building took shape and the coaster inside as well. The majority of the building was completed first, with the parts of the coaster going in through the doors at the rear of the building. By design wild mouse style coasters are simple and fast to assemble, since they are designed for portability.

Once the building was complete the theme elements began installation. The theme elements were attached to the structure of the building, ether mounted to the walls or suspended from the ceiling girders.

At the front of the building the section that would house the preshow was constructed with additional framing for the facade. The preshow area was designed to look like part of the Gotham City skyline, with additional two dimensional buildings planned for the front of the show building.
As the weeks passed and the ride parts kept arriving from Europe, the ride took shape in preparation for the spring opening.

When opening day of the 2008 season arrived The Dark Knight Coaster's show building was complete on the exterior while work continued inside and out.

As the weeks went on, the facade was completed with the Gotham City Rail building. The ride's photo booth was constructed quickly, and the entrance sign was added to the queue.  The winding queue was landscaped with trees and bushes along the paths. Lockers were installed in preparation for the ride opening.

Just before the opening of the ride the plain, gray building was painted with blue sky and clouds. The tromp l'oeil sky was supposed to become the background to the skyscrapers of Gotham City, though the panels were never installed.

A large sun shade structure was added over the main section of the ride queue. The final touches were all in place and the opening day was set.
The theme elements of the ride followed the Dark Knight movie, with a dark edge. The media day invitations played on the same theme with Joker cards. The marketing for the ride had a similar dark tone. 

The movie had a great deal of buzz around it after the death of Heath Ledger earlier in the year. His performance and the movie itself were garnering critical praise.  The film was given a PG-13 rating, and really pushed the limits of that rating with its violence and dark images.  

The Dark Knight Coaster opened
 May 15, 2008 with a press event hosted by the park's then Director of Public Relations, Angel Aristone and then Park President, Mark Kane.

The Dark Knight Coaster
Grand Opening News Segment

The pre-show of the Dark Knight coaster featured video from a press conference by Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart. The preshow film was produced specifically for the Dark Knight Coasters. As the press conference continues, the Joker interrupts things and the guests are evacuated to the Gotham City subway.

The thematic details throughout the queue area were quite extensive with lots of attention to details.  Joker playing cards were scattered throughout the ride, though they would disappear over the following weeks as guests took them as souvenirs.
One of the unique features of the queue was a video screen that was equipped with a camera and facial recognition software.  As guests walked up the ramp toward the loading area, their faces were changed to Joker masks. 

Inside, the unique ride vehicles pulled into the station to take passengers through the chaos of Gotham City as the Joker and his men try to take over and Batman fights back. 

The Dark Knight Coaster
Television Commercial

The new ride opened with long lines, but with mixed reactions. The marketing designed for the ride and the movie itself were aimed at adults, but the ride itself was much more of a family ride.  Many guests expecting a thrilling coaster were disappointed and upset at having waited in long lines for a themed wild mouse coaster. Families sometimes avoided the ride because of the movie's dark theme and violence, and the preshow tended to scare younger children.

The ride's theme elements were generally effective. Almost one year after the ride opened, an additional element was added near the end of the ride, though the skyline that was supposed to have been applied to the facade has not been installed.

The Dark Knight Coaster has become part of Great Adventure's great lineup of coasters for all ages and thrill levels, offering a family ride that most guests enjoy as part of their day at the park.   

Construction Log Photos from
Six Flags Great Adventure's Web Page

(All images below courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure.
Clicking on the images below will not result in a larger image.)