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Wilderness Theater

Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:12 pm
by jimmy gimbels
Why is there nothing on this site about the Wilderness Theater!!?? For you newbies, the theater is still there but the dolphin tank was filled with cement ages ago. At Gurnee, the theater is behind Camp Cartoon. You can still see the sign, totem pools and main gate sticking up above the Flintstone decorations. Six Flags will use the area once in a blue moon.

Am I the only person who remembers the Animal Show (1976, 1977)? Dolphins. Roller skating birds. Dumb dog tricks. I was the audience member who always "volunteered" to go on stage and help. Always ended up in the tank. Such hijinks. I spent an entire season wet and damp. First the show was 45 minutes, then was shortened to 30 minutes. The show only lasted a few seasons because it was sooooooooo expensive to maintain the animals. It also didn't please the PETA crowd. Taped soundtrack always sounded a bit odd...sometimes very slow.

Our cast members (well, the three of us) were usually snubbed by the Grand Music Hall crowd who thought of themsleves as "very special." Many thought a big Hollywood director would discover him/her and become a big star. How did that work out for you guys? The folks at Bugs Bunny's Magic World were fun.

By the way, the dogs would nip at you all the time. The birds hated to perform in the afternoon. And the dolphins were a bit mean. Since the theater was outdoors...people would not come to show if it was raining, foggy or too sunny. Lots of days spent backstage doing homework since no one came to the show.

Re: Wilderness Theater

Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 1:24 pm
by MGA1
I remember the animal show at Wilderness Theater in Gurnee in '76, '77, '78. I'm not exactly sure when the animals went away. After the animals show left, there was a Yukon-theme stunt show...all I remember was there were lumberjacks who climbed a really tall pole on the stage and log rollers in the pool (where the dolphins used to be). In the early 1990's, Six Flags brought in the "Great American High Diving Team" which was a semi-comedy show featuring high dive performers. In 2000 & 2001, the pool had already been filled in and Wilderness Theater had a Character Show which was just a huge 30 minute ad for GM cars (which sponsored the show).

The Santa Clara park still had an animal show through 1990. But it was only 2 dolphins and a couple trained birds by then. After the 1990 season, the Wilderness Theater was closed and only used for special events like church group outings. It was finally demolished when Santa Clara built the water park in that area.

The only trivia I know about Wilderness Theater is that in Gurnee, the dolphins were sent to the Brookfield Zoo (inside tanks) for the winter months because of the cold climate. In Santa Clara, the dolphins stayed in the tank at Great America throughout the winter. The trainers and vet worked with the dolphins throughout the winter when the park was closed.

Re: Wilderness Theater

Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 10:42 pm
by Angry_Gumball
I totally remember this. I found this photo several months ago when looking for some photos of my aunt who had passed on. Not sure when this was shot (my parents frequently did Santa Clara's GA) was taken. I believe the stadium/amphitheater is still there, but would have never known that it was the "Enchanted Island" it once was as the pool's been filled in, and a stage covering was constructed. The stage area is now/was now used for one of the Nickelodeon shows I believe.

Re: Wilderness Theater

Posted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 4:06 pm
by jimmy gimbels
You can see it again!
In several of the videos showing progress on Goliath, you can clearly see the remains of the Wilderness Theater. I believe the new coaster cuts through one corner of the theater. I think it is only used for cheerleading competitions. The former main entrance to the area is behind the kiddie ferris wheel (Boulder Roller?) in the former cartoon network area.

We had some meetings and training sessions in the older Wilderness Theater. It pretty much has been left to rot has the theater in the Southwest Territory. I wonder why SFGA never put an attraction in either of the underused theaters. I think they both would have made better locations for the go kart track.