Thought I'd try and start a definitive Flume future topic, like the Black Hole one, as it's getting a bit muddled up with replacement threads and re-themes :)
I think (and hope) the Flume will be within the next three rides to be changed in someway, possibly the next. It seems a natural evolution for me in the development of Mutiny Bay, with the area being created with a new flagship attraction in the first year, a secondary "alternative" attraction (as in not a ride, but an experience) in the second, and a re-theme of The Flume in the third or possibly fourth.
Could we be seeing a re-theme of The Flume next year? Yes, I think it wouldn't be outside the realms of possibility to expect this. It has been done before in 1994, when Toyland Tours was created along with Nemesis, even though that was easily the most substantial investment ever made at the park at the time, they still had the money for something extra. Air was built the same year as a quiet Adventure Land refresh. Also, has anyone considered that if they did re-theme The Flume, Alton might NOT
want publicity for it? Firstly, the general public are not thick, and if it were being marketed as the attraction for 2011 would realise it's the second time in 5 years they have been sold an old ride "as new". Secondly, if they re-themed it on it's own in 2011 it would draw attention to what a clashing theme it was before. In a way, AT might wanna use SW6 as cover to "sneak in" a Flume retheme.What could we get from a retheme?
I think The Flume could be a really immersive experience, and possibly was during the 1980's. In this photo, courtesy of ATA, it certainly looks totally alien to how it does now, but it has an isolated, romantic, classic-theme-park quality to it. Because Katanga had not been built yet there is no path up the side, and when you were on the ride it must have felt like you had traveled away from modern life and the theme park, which is surely the aim of any immersive attraction. In it's current guise, no attempt is made at any sort of serious theme, with people and paths and queuelines and maintance building visible almost everywhere. It's almost an "anti-theme", themed around the idea that genre themeing is lame and since everyone knows it's an old ride we might as well have a laugh with it.
The first change I would make in a re-theme, is to re-direct the queue line differently from how it is now, so it doesn't curl round the lake and under the first drop. Although keeping it would be good if they replaced the power showers with water canons like on Battle Galleons in the queue, appropriately themed of course.
A full-scale Pirate theme seems the obvious route to go down. For me the model ride in this catagory to base it on is another Merlin ride: Pirate Falls
Just because a ride has a story, doesn't mean it has to be a necessarily complicated one. Most of these type of water rides seem to follow the "you've been sent out to work on the loggery but oh no! something's gone wrong involving a monkey and gunpower and now theres a big drop!" variety. They already have the advantage of having an indoor building section that is criminally underused with just the giant duck! You could have a whole scene in there, involving cutting edge animatronics combined with holograms. I don't know what could be done with the meandering section in the woods, possibly a few characters scattered about that "warn you" about the danger ahead when you pass. I think the final drop should also be partially enclosed, as the Legoland one is above with a little scene as you go up the lift hill. And of course, new boats with snazzy theming that don't take on as much water when theres heavy people in them! The Flume could centre around new original characters, which could then be used to strengthen the theme throughout the area (but not the current Carribean
rip-offs in the show).
Finally, I would move The Blade onto the lake that The Flume's final drop lands in, and seriously beef up the theming on it, with custom music (similar to Marauder's) and big geyser eruption effects on the lake. That would really complete Mutiny Bay for me and turn it into the premier area of the park, especially for families.
So, what do we all see the future holding for The Flume? :)