Friday, May 27, 2016

Danny the Dragon's Legacy

Danny the Dragon at Storytown
Danny the Dragon may not be Arrow's most famous ride system but he may be the best loved. Created for Freedomland, Danny was probably the first amusement park use of guide-by-wire technology, which has since become commonplace in factory automation, but when C. L. Paulus et al filed the patent (2,339,291) in April of  1940. It stated the purpose and subject of the invention as

...a method and apparatus for controlling the movement of mobile bodies and more particularly to an electrically operated signal and automatic steering mechanism for mobile bodies... according to a prearranged course.

The illustrations reveal a system with two magnetic coil pickups and a cable carrying a varying electrical current.

In Paulus' implementation the electrical and mechanical functions are coordinated to allow one or more vehicles to traverse one or more paths automatically without human intervention. Danny did this by following the pulsating electromagnetic field emitted by the buried wire.

There were at least two Danny the Dragon rides. One opened in June 1960 at Freedomland.  He was bought by Great Escape in Lake George, when Freedomland closed. At the end of 1996, Danny was taken out of service and parked in the maintenance area. San Jose's Happy Hollow Danny opened in March of 1961.

Happy Hollow Danny
Freedomland/Storytown/Great Escape Danny

In May of 2010, as part a $72 million park transformation, Happy Hollow Danny went really green - swapping his gasoline engine for an electric motor and a new guidance system.

The concept of following an electromagnetic trail has been used in many other environments and is still being updated. For example, in April of 1997 Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced a heavy-duty automated guided vehicle (AGV) system capable of transporting 25 ton coils of sheet metal. It used autonomous navigation on a logically-defined route map and a grid calibration system based on the detection of transponders (RFID tags) rather than wire guided system. Other systems follow a string of pearls magnet path or navigate in a two dimensional magnet grid.

Closer to our hearts and era is the new Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters attraction in Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure;

On an interesting side note, Christopher Merrit reports on Facebook that Both Bob Gurr and Marc Davis were working on a version of this in late '72 - early '73. Apparently the artwork for Marc's version was very similar to Danny the Dragon and appears to have been trackless. The Bob Gurr version was on a sort of monorail beam.

With Rio Grande Industries having purchased Arrow in May of 1971, and Danny never having been a high production volume system, there may not have been a lot of motivation to pursue AGV technology further until The Great Movie Ride, which opened in 1989.

Disneyworld's Great Movie Ride

BTW - although not related to Arrow directly, the Hollywood Tower of Terror also has a guide by wire AGV element which is discussed in a clip from Modern Marvels;

1 comment:

  1. WED technology has always fascinated me, whether it's sophisticated simplicity as in Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters or the terrifying Hollywood Tower of Terror.