When a theme park shutters its gates for good, it’s usually marked with a small sigh from the local news or, if the park was big enough, a what-went-wrong exposé from the national press. Decades later, they’re rusted-over playgrounds for teens who want to spook their dates.
One YouTuber, who runs the channel Defunctland, is working to make sure that the legacies of big-ticket entertainment ventures aren’t lost to time.
Defunctland is a burgeoning YouTube channel documenting what happened to starry-eyed attractions from Disney, Nickelodeon, and their ilk. Now that we’re adults, the nitty-gritty financials and corporate drama underpinning the expensive attractions of our youth—the Nickelodeon Hotel, Disney indoor theme park Disney Quest, Six Flags Astroworld—are, in many cases, more interesting than actually strapping yourself into a roller coaster.
“I have always had a fascination with extinct amusement parks and rides,” creator Kevin Perjurer told Kotaku via email. “After diving into it, I found that the reasons behind the closures are typically fascinating and require a lot of context to understand, which gives me plenty of material to tackle.”
One of his most popular videos is a history of Action Park, an infamously dangerous water park for thrill-seekers that closed after six people reportedly died as a result of its rides, including a particularly poorly-designed water slide with an upside-down loop.
Perjurer, who keeps a low online profile, and wouldn’t tell Kotaku about his day job, is as thorough as a historian can be. His most recent video archives the failure of DisneyQuest, Disney’s over-ambitious science fiction indoor entertainment facility with a make-your-own roller coaster ride, “4-D” rides like Virtual Jungle Cruise, early VR attractions like Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride and a Buzz Lightyear-themed take on bumper cars-slash-dodgeball.
What makes Defunctland so easy to love is Perjurer’s painstakingly detailed approach to chronicling the birth and demise of kids’ most coveted destinations for fun—and the gnarly financial tolls adults suffered as a consequence.
“The idea that a place designed for joy and excitement is now empty and gone is extremely powerful,” he said.