astroworld

Filmmaker Johnatan Baker brings the old theme park back to life with AstroWorld: A Cyclone Of Thrills

Admit it, that large patch of field on the left of 610 is rather ridiculous. Converted rodeo and special event parking? Sure, that’s nice. But you know what that space used to be. What adventures and fun you used to have walking on that particular field. More than a decade ago, various buildings and rollercoasters were propped up on that field. It was Astroworld. It was a proving ground to conquer your teenage fears of heights, of the opposite sex and more. And now, it’s nothing more than an empty green field of nothingness.

Thanks to filmmaker Jonathan Baker, you can walk down memory lane into the lives of many a Houstonian or visitor. His latest theme-park related epic, Astroworld: A Cyclone Of Thrills is a two-part, near 30-minute look through the lens of one of the city’s biggest attractions. Through historical photos and clips, AstroWorld is brought back to life, even if there’s a sepia tone that dances through your mind.

Baker’s journey through the life and times of the theme park start from the moment Judge Roy Hofheinz cut the ribbon on the park in 1968 to the final ride of the Texas Cyclone. For the most part, AstroWorld: A Cyclone Of Thrills covers all of the different innovations and additions that took place at the theme park. The Dungeon Drop, Sky Screamer, so many different rides that got their start and were tested at the park. I always wondered how often Baker heard about the Mayan Mind Bender and guessed, “Yep, somebody got their first kiss in there.”

Through historical photos and clips, AstroWorld is brought back to life, even if there’s a sepia tone that dances through your mind.

There are a bit of faults to the film, however. As Baker’s true passion happens to be roller coasters, there’s very little mentioned in regards to the culture that made AstroWorld special. Fright Fest every October, the Christmas Days where you could ride coasters amongst bright lights. The water works or the various concerts that took place there? Not a single mention. Except for the dolphin shows which only get a brief piece of screen time. At least Marvel McFey got a little bit of shine.

All isn’t lost though. The closing frames of the film are dedicated to the sale of the park and reveals that the rich land that is now that empty patch of green didn’t yield much of a profit for investors. Several coasters themselves got new addresses or worse, demolished flat out. There is a bit of hope. Remember, we’re supposed to get AstroWorld’s replacement, Grand Texas when it (supposedly) opens in 2019.

There was some dirt and gloom to AstroWorld at times. Rides were temporarily closed or occasionally got stuck. But it’s the kind of dirt and gloom that had charm to it. It’s where I spent more than a couple of summers learning that Greased Lightning was a quick 15-second thrill ride. Those memories conjure up powerful emotions, especially if your teenage years and early adulthood were spent between the gates. Baker gave Houston something to look back on. Watch the film below.

About The Author

Brandon Caldwell is the founder & editor-in-chief of Day & A Dream. His work has appeared in VIBE, Complex, EBONY, the Village Voice, the Houston Press, Houston Style Magazine, DJBooth, The Sports Fans Journal, and more. Follow him on Twitter: @_brandoc

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