Ferris Wheels are found in many amusement and theme parks throughout the United States. Manufacturers build these wheels in varying sizes, offering varieties of thrills and views which parks can choose to suit their needs.
When Great Adventure opened in July of 1974, it was an immediate hit but
found that the public wanted more rides. One of the most popular rides
at Great Adventure was the Giant Wheel which was in many ways the
centerpiece of the park.
For the 1975 season, a huge new area of rides was added to the park, increasing the number of rides by 50% for the sophomore year. One of the rides introduced in the new Fun Fair section of the park was a second Ferris Wheel, this one smaller, but unique in its own way.
The Panorama Wheel, while shorter by more than 50 feet, was much more delicate looking with its lattice framework and minimal cars. The cars were very open with low side walls and canvas tops. The bases of the cars were molded fiberglass with a flower design beneath them. The cars had openings on both sides for guests to enter and exit, and molded benches that wrapped around. The doors were "closed" with a simple chain across the opening.
|Initially, the cars on the Panorama Wheel were designed to turn, much like that of a "teacup" car, with a center handle allowing the guests to spin the car while the wheel was in motion, adding an extra thrill. This was a short-lived feature, with the cars being welded in place within a year, centering the openings on the outside for easier loading and unloading.|
PANORAMA WHEEL NAMES
THROUGH THE YEARS
1975 Panorama Wheel
1976-1978 Panarama Wheel
1979-1992 Little (Lil') Wheel
1993-1996 Phileas Fogg's
Another short-lived feature of the Panorama Wheel was the original
lighting package. The wheel was fitted with curved sections of lights to
make it match the floral design of the Giant Wheel. The Giant Wheel
lighting was originally designed for the Holland Tulip Festival. When it
was purchased and moved to Great Adventure, the floral lighting
remained, fitting the fantasy and nature themes of the Enchanted Forest
When the Panorama Wheel was built, the lights were added, but seem to have been removed after a short period of time at the end of the 1977 season. In their place, a series of spotlights were added to the supporting framework to shine up onto the wheel above as well as the loading area below.
|In the late 1980's the park looked to upgrade the safety systems on many rides, and the Lil' Wheel was one of the ones that saw the most dramatic change. The once open cars were fitted with large aluminum cages. These cages were quite bulky, and had a set of locking doors that would slide into place and latch with a foot pedal that the operator would activate on the outside of the car. Gone was the minimalistic open feel of the ride aboard a floral bottomed gondola, replaced instead with a hefty all-encompassing cage.|
The additional weight of the safety features on the wheel made it much
more difficult for the ride attendants to operate, having to balance out
the weight of the riders and the heavy cars. The cages also increased
the time required to unload/load it.
The ride went through another major change with the retheming of the surrounding area to Movie Town. Like all the attractions in this revamped area, the Lil' Wheel would take on updated look and a new name.
|In 1993, the wheel would be rechristened the Phileas Fogg's Balloon Ride. The new name was a tie in to the classic Warner Brothers film Around the World in Eighty Days. Along with the other rides of the former Fun Fair area, Movie Town saw cosmetic changes, new signs, and fresh paint to match the new Hollywood themed section. The wheel received an updated queue area with new fencing and its original dual queue bar set up was reduced to a single wait line.|
After the 1996 season, Phileas Fogg's Balloon Ride was dismantled to
make way for the construction of Batman & Robin: The Chiller for the
1997 season. The ride was moved in pieces to the bone yard and
eventually was sold for scrap. It was felt that this second Ferris
Wheel was no longer needed in the park since guests wanted more thrills
Today, the Ice Works stand located near the Chiller's old observatory marks the site of the once popular wheel that lifted guests' spirits for more than two decades.