At a time when movie theaters pre-screening presentations are rife with previews, previews of previews, and an engorged miscellany of advertising that nearly rivals the actual feature’s length and scope, it’s easy to forget what used to be. Like the “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” musical number that played during intermission at Regal Cinemas throughout the ’50s. Or in the case of the late John McLaughlin, a visual-effects animator from Portland, Oregon, the “Regal Roller Coaster” policy trailer that played before all viewings throughout the ’90s and early 2000s. McLaughlin, who died at the age of 46, created the iconic sequence for the theater chain.
No cause of death was provided in McLaughlin’s obituary in The Oregonian. However, according to what the short account told of his life, he was a “favorite conversationalist,” as well as an “avid moviegoer, obsessive reader and deep thinker.” After attending the Disney-created California Institute of the Arts (or CalArts) in Los Angeles, McLaughlin worked for LucasArts Entertainment, Tippet Studio, and DreamWorks Animation Studio. His resumé is impressive, though it’s his work on the “Regal Roller Coaster” trailer that made him the proudest:
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. One of John’s favorite personal projects that he created was the Regal Cinemas preview trailer featuring a roller coaster in space speeding between soda, candy and popcorn that played before each and every movie.
The original version of the trailer above ran from the early ’90s until the fall of 2004, when Regal Cinemas discontinued its use and replaced it with other introductory materials. Six years later, the company revived the famous roller coaster ride with a brand new policy trailer. The audio and music tracks were almost identical, though the ride effects and visuals were mostly updated with modern CGI.
In 2015, Regal Cinemas updated the roller coaster trailer again with a brand new crop of CGI images and sound effects.
Little of what McLaughlin did in the early ’90s remains in the current iteration of the policy video. However, the original concept — and the nostalgia it almost always induces in those who grew up going to the movies 20 years ago — is still there for all to see.