For many of us who attended movies in the mid-90s and early aughts, the journey to the feature presentation was only half over after finding a seat. After the trivia slideshows and trailers, we had to take a ride on a roller coaster through a zero-gravity fantasy land filled with floating film reels, IMAX-sized concessions, and (my personal favorite) a belt of enormous popping corn kernels.
John McLaughlin, the animator who created that essential piece of my youth, died this month at the age of 46. His obituary, published in The Oregonian, called the Regal roller coaster one of his “favorite personal projects.” It continued:
John worked on such films as Shark Tale, Kung Fu Panda, Over the Hedge, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rise of the Guardians and most recently Kung Fu Panda 3...[He] was a master chef, BBQ extraordinaire, avid movie-goer, obsessive reader and deep thinker. “Call John, he will know the answer,” was frequently heard throughout the McLaughlin family households when questions arose that nobody knew the answer to. John was truly a student of everything, with a brilliant sense of humor and a wicked gift of sarcasm. He was everyone’s favorite conversationalist.
Though McLaughlin’s original version of the Regal roller coaster was retired in 2004, the company released a entirely revamped 3D version in 2015. It doesn’t compare to the original.