Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Busch Gardens - The Dark Continent 1983

What is this today, the Busch Gardens Tampa show? Well it just so happens that I selected this brochure days ago, so I guess that makes me psychic. As long as we're looking toward this park's future, we may as well revisit part of its past as well.

Through the years, the Busch parks have come to adopt a familiar, unified look and feel for their brochures. Now that you've conjured up an image of one of these marketing masterpieces in your mind, fugetaboutit! This 1983 gem predates all iterations of said "format". It remains, however, a masterpiece of brochuredom in my humble opinion.

Always a poster child for themed entertainment, Busch Gardens - The Dark Continent featured seven themed lands in 1983. Pictured on the left panel are Scorpion and Congo River Rapids, two of the park's newest rides back then. The right panel goes on to introduce the first themed area on our paper tour, The Congo. In addition to Python (which, sadly, went to that big steel graveyard in the sky a few years back), one of this land's key selling points was its two extremely rare white tigers, which were brought to the park in 1982.

The animal extravaganza continues in the next three lands on our tour. Stanleyville may have been better known for its log flume, but it still featured animal shows. In Nairobi, you could find everything from a petting zoo to a nocturnal exhibit showcasing creatures of the night. Children were even given the opportunity to take an elephant ride.

And as for The Serengeti Plain...Well, if I need to tell you which of the animals on this safari is my personal favorite, you obviously haven't been reading SBS for very long. (Or following us on Twitter.) I guess lions, hippos, and zebras are okay too, but they are nothing with out the giraffes. NOTHING!!

Birds have been a staple at Busch Gardens Tampa from the very beginning, and in 1983 they welcomed "Dwarf Village" to their gardens. This children's area--the precursor of Land of the Dragons and today's Sesame Street Safari of Fun--was described as a "junior jungle" featuring everything from tree houses to a canoe ride.

Next on our tour is Timbuktu, home of the classic Schwarzkopf Scorpion and...Das Festhaus? The only thing stranger than having a German restaurant with a German name located in a themed area called Timbuktu is the fact that this restaurant was "inspired by early African trading posts". I guess I'm not the only one scratching my head over that decision, because the Festhaus has since been rethemed and renamed.

A bit truer to its name, Marrakech featured a Moroccan-themed show and authentic native craftsmen.

There was no such thing as an "off-season" at The Dark Continent in 1983, and there still isn't. The park boasted only 17 rides back then, but I think we can all agree that rides are not everything at a Busch park.

For instance, there is also entertainment! The shows of 1983 incorporated mystic sheiks, amazing animals, and a German oompah band. (And again...a list which just begs us to skip ahead to the Sesame Street years and sing a rousing chorus of, "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...")

Finally, we have the customary plug for Busch Gardens Tampa's sister water park, Adventure Island. Just a few years old at the time, the park was already treating families to plenty of wet and wild fun. New in 1983 was the Gulf Scream, a speed slide which plummets riders into the water at 40mph.

Whatever Busch Gardens Tampa has up its sleeve for 2011 (or beyond), you can bet that it will be yet another fully immersive experience. Judging from this brochure, I'd say they have a pretty solid foundation to build upon!