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MAN-ATEE AND WOMAN-TARAY: UPSTART SUPERHEROES, OR DIABOLICAL VILLAINS?

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Meet the Sea Dragons of OZ and the Yeti Crab
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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monsters, M.I.A.: Six Flags Over Georgia's Monster Mansion And The Big Monster On Campus


Buzby and his friends at the Monster Mansion have been inviting humans to their picnic at Six Flags Over Georgia ever since Gary Goddard Productions created their attraction in 1981 (then known as "The Monster Plantation").  Some of the monsters that were invited got kicked out, or wandered outside to mingle with Six Flags visitors, or never showed up at all (like the creepy crew on this t-shirt promoting the 2009 opening of the Mansion).

It's time for a fun day at Six Flags, so grab a refreshing Coca-Cola and let's go watch the Dolphin Show (their pool is not far from the Mansion).  Then we'll take to the sky on the Great Six Flags Air Racer.  Wait, those attractions have been gone for years.  Luckily, we can still ride The Great American Scream Machine, Thunder River, The Mind Bender and The Log Flume.


We can still get threatened by the Gengenbogger, the scary creature that shouts "HUMANS!" when we don't stay out of the Monster Marsh.

Buzby used to enjoy The Great Gasp parachute drop, because it was in the Mansion's backyard (now you can find the Goliath roller coaster there).  The Dolphin Show was replaced by a Diving Show starring humans captured by the monsters.  The Great Six Flags Air Racer was replaced by Acrophobia.  Though she is pictured here, Madonna no longer performs at Six Flags.


I can still remember how Devo's song "Whip It" was used in the commercials for Z-Force (the lyrics were changed a bit).  Z-Force later became "Flashback" at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California (not far from where the Monster Plantation/Monster Mansion characters were created).

In the early 1980s, I wrote to Six Flags Over Georgia and they sent me some publicity photos of the Gengenbogger, Mizzy Scarlett and the Lagoon Goons (the Monster Band).


The robotic monsters in the ride were built by AVG Productions in Valencia, California.

I am thrilled to have Guest Contributors for a truly Monster-sized story.  Disney artist Larry Nikolai worked on the original "The Monster Plantation" and he is an incredibly talented, generous guy (and an amazing resource for information).  Taylor Jeffs (Creative Director for "The Monster Mansion") and the wonderful folks at the Goddard Group have provided some amazing artwork.  I also want to thank Tim Hollis (author and theme park historian), Christopher Merritt (artist, author and theme park historian) and Reed Randolph (monster and haunted attraction expert, and upcoming artist).

Before Mizzy Scarlett was a scary purple monster lady, she was going to be a scary bird lady.


In this early concept art, we see that in addition to her monster dog (Tatty-Too) she had another pet that did not make it to the ride.

The Lagoon Goon band used to have another member.  The Harmonica Monster was never built.  I've never seen him anywhere except for a website interview that artist/theme park historian Christopher Merritt had with Monster Plantation model maker Larry Nikolai years ago.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation (Christopher Merritt Collection)
You won't even find this character at the Monstore's monster museum at Six Flags.

The monsters were designed by an amazing artist named Phil Mendez.




Phil Mendez also designed the new monsters for The Monster Mansion.

The first part of the ride features friendly monsters, like the Nanny Monster.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
This part of the ride is meant to be something out of a dream.

As the ride progresses, the monsters get a bit more sinister.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
It gets darker when we meet Flasher (called "Flash" in early materials).

Despite warnings from friendly monsters, our boat enters the forbidden Monster Marsh.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
This part of the ride is meant to be a nightmare come to life.

The gruesome creatures in the Marsh were also designed by Phil Mendez.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
The hissing Swamp Serpent is one of the scarier monsters in the ride.

An early promotional video for AVG Productions shows off some incredible characters they've built, including many of the Monster Plantation creatures in action.



The Boat Eater (the last monster in the ride) is especially animated in this video.

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book had its own Monster mascot (I don't know his name).  When I was in the fourth grade, I was thrilled when my classmate, Rachel Puckett, brought the book to school.  She doesn't have it any more (I recently asked her).

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)
The "Ring the Bell" scene is still at the Monster Mansion, but the little monster that hits the bell lost his legs years ago, and never got new ones.

Before moving to Georgia, the Tennis Monster was an actor in Hollywood.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
I think the Tennis Monster played one of the crows that danced with Michael Jackson (as the Scarecrow) in the 1978 movie "The Wiz."

Athletes are as popular in the monster world as they are in the human world.  Two of the biggest monster athletes are The Big Monster on Campus (you can still find him at the Mansion) and the Tennis Monster (who was transformed into a Gardener for 2009).

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)
The Tennis Monster has a name.  It is Thurston Dinwiddie III.

The Big Monster on Campus and the Tennis Monster used to regularly wander out of the Mansion.


Thanks to Tim Hollis (author of "Images of America: Six Flags Over Georgia") we now know what the Tennis Monster looks like without his sunglasses.

The Big Monster on Campus enjoys mingling with his screaming human fans.


The BMOC's favorite movie is Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

The Big Monster On Campus is also very popular with the Monster Cheerleaders (there are two of them, and they are still at the Mansion).  I wonder what University these Monsters attend?

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)
The male monster watching the cheerleader and the irritated girlfriend did not make it to the ride.

There have been monsters going up, up and away with their beautiful balloons at Six Flags for many years.  They are just different from what was originally planned.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
There was an early concept for Infant Monsters floating with balloons and dancing around a maypole.

I'm guessing this would have been difficult to bring to life.

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)

There were also a couple of older monster kids with a balloon.  These characters do appear on The Monster Plantation attraction poster.

As with most of the monster children in the ride, they look like dinosaurs with fur.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
The Balloon Monsters that were actually made are small and hold a "Welcome" banner early on during the ride.

The Croquet Monsters never made it to the ride.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
This concept artwork can be found at the Monstore at Six Flags.

It would have been fun to see the little monster creature rolling around.

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)
The coloring book illustrations were done by an artist named Dennis Jones.  He also did a great Monster Plantation Postcard book (you can find it here at Dizmentia).

The Monster Bird's reign of terror in the Marsh did not last long.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
Early visitors to the Monster Plantation may remember this creature attacking boats from above.

The monster got very close to the boats.  Probably too close.

Installed Monster Bird in Marsh (Larry Nikolai Collection)
I heard that some people might have tried to fight back against this Marsh monster.  I'm pretty sure the Monster Bird was removed by 1984.

Swing your partner!  Square dancing monsters partied for years at Six Flags.
Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
These elephant/anteater type creatures spent many summers promenading their achy-breaky mechanical hearts out.

Eventually, they danced off into the sunset.

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)
I don't know when the dancers were removed.  I wonder if they are now sitting in someone's living room.

The Butterfly Monster is one of the most famous of the missing monsters.
Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
The character is not totally gone.  This concept artwork decorates the outside of the Monster Mansion, and can also be found inside the Monstore near the ride.

By the time Larry Nikolai sculpted the figures for the Monster Plantation ride model, the characters became Scouts.

The Monster Plantation Ride Model Figures (Larry Nikolai Collection)
Some of the Monsters that Larry Nikolai sculpted can be found on display at the Monstore at Six Flags.

Larry Nikolai is very familiar with monsters.  He later went on to work on the "Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek" attraction at Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.

The Monster Plantation Installed Figures (Larry Nikolai Collection)
The monster holding the net was moved a few feet to another scene, and he now holds the net over the naughty orange monster (named Stotz) seen in the background.

The Butterfly Monster was auctioned off for charity when The Monster Plantation closed in 2008.

The Monster Plantation Coloring Book Art (Larry Nikolai Collection)
Another missing monster is the Monster Pigeon.

This bird sat on a statue near the Lagoon Goon musicians.

Concept Art for The Monster Plantation
The statue was moved to the Graveyard scene.  The bird was transformed into Nestor, the bird that holds the camera at the start of "The Monster Mansion."

For years, rumors were swirling that all of The Monster Plantation's characters could face eviction.  It seems their biggest threat was probably Hanna Barbera's Scooby Doo.  In 2001, Six Flags St. Louis opened an interactive dark boat ride called "Scooby Doo and the Mystery of the Scary Swamp."

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
Six Flags Over Georgia would have to pay licensing fees to use Scooby Doo.  Luckily, the monsters proved to be popular enough to keep their home and get an upgrade.

A new "Open House" and "Family Reunion" concept were developed for the Monster Mansion, with all sorts of brand new characters mixed with old favorites.


I've been having dreams about The Monster Plantation for decades, and they always involve totally different versions of the ride with brand new characters.

These are some of the great new characters Phil Mendez created for Monster Mansion.


They did not make it to the ride, but a couple of them can be found elsewhere at Six Flags.

A new Red Carpet tongue monster would have greeted visitors.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
Mizzy Scarlett is still the wacky hostess.

Tatty-Too, Mizzy Scarlett's monster-dog, is now mentioned by name on the ride (and warns us to stay out of the marsh).

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
When The Monster Plantation debuted in 1981, there was a show called "Fantasy Island" with a sidekick character named "Tattoo."

Some new musical monsters would have joined Mizzy Scarlett.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
You don't want to see that Piano Monster when he gets keyed up.

This Piano Player seems like a friendly fellow.



Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
I'm going to call him "Tex."  He reminds me a bit of the characters the Goddard Group created for the Six Flags AstroWorld show "The Great Texas Longhorn Revue" in 1982.

These monsters know how to party.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
The Water Monster Lady should be named "Marsha."

The Water Gun Monsters showed up in publicity materials for the Monster Mansion.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
These interactive characters were also mentioned on TV.

They did not end up getting built.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
I rode Monster Mansion shortly after it opened, and I did hear people asking where these characters were.

These new monsters got OSHA training.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
Stay seated, or this monster will bite you.

One of the new monsters is quite the Casanova.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
He's hitting on someone.  Who is it?

She is "pretty."

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
I bet she has a great personality.

This is one wild and crazy guy.
Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
This fellow can be found on a "Make Your Best Monster Face" poster in the line for the Monster Mansion.

Lots of fun and goofy new faces.


Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
These characters certainly look friendly.

Now they're getting a bit scarier.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
This guy looks like trouble.

We're now entering the Monster Construction Zone.

Concept Art for the Monster Mansion
Or the Monster Destruction Zone.

I don't think these guys want to have a picnic with us.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
Or maybe they want us to be their picnic.

These Goons want to start some trouble.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
After so many years, you'd think Six Flags could keep the boats out of the Marsh.

Some new effects for the Marsh were teased on a promotional Six Flags video, including glowing eyes in the dark.


Some gruesome new monsters would have lunged out at the boats.

This freaky creature wants us to smile.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
You can find artwork of this guy at the Monstore.

More monsters want to take our picture.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
Ultimately, the monster camera man job went to a green monster named "Papa Razzi" (a name chosen through a contest held by Six Flags).

The Fishing Monster still exists at the end of the Monster Mansion.  The new "bridge monster" did not make it to the ride.

Concept Art for The Monster Mansion
You can find these characters on a mural at the Monstore.

When the Monster Mansion opened in 2009, most of the original Monster Plantation characters returned.  The attraction got some great new lighting and interactive effects, and the monsters got new fur and features.

My buddy Reed Randolph spends a great deal of time hanging around monsters (he also happens to be an extremely talented artist).  You can often find him lurking (and working) at haunted attractions.  He filmed one of his trips through the Monster Mansion.



Reed gives us a good look of the Marsh Monsters, including the Swamp Serpent!

The Monster Mansion added a few new characters, including Monster Frogs, three little geyser monsters,  Papa Razzi (the photographer) and Nestor the Bird.


The nostalgic side of me is happy that nearly all of the old favorite monsters survived, but I think I really would have liked the brand new "Blue Sky" Monster Mansion that wast pitched, too.

It turns out that Buzby, Mizzy Scarlett and their Monster Mansion friends have some cousins in Asia.

Underland Concept Art
Lotte World in South Korea will begin hosting a land of ogres called "Underland" in 2013.

So if you are in Atlanta, Georgia or in Seoul, South Korea, play it safe and make sure you stay out of the Marsh!

4 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of this before. Reed's video was very interesting. The ride sorta feels like a combo of the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Small World, and the Country Bears all mixed together. The Marsh has a nice feel to it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Snow White Archive! Yes, that is a good description of the Monster Mansion! The Marsh got a dramatic upgrade with the transformation from Monster Plantation to Monster Mansion (especially the new character that "welcomes" the boats to the scary section with his "Yes, yes, right this way!" greeting).

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  3. Thank you for sharing these. I'm still looking for the amazing concept art that is in the monstore, it wraps around the desk where you purchase pictures and looks like original art under the glass. It resembles the mural behind the loading area at the original journey to your imagination at epcot, big sprawling and interconnected. It was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Vagabond Artist! Yes, that concept art your are referencing is amazing! I took a bunch of pictures in the Monstore and have more Monster Mansion/Plantation posts here.

    ReplyDelete