Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Dark Rides 2009

Tried, tested and up there with the classics, dark rides are an essential ingredient at most amusement parks and, arguably, a severe oversight at those without one. Capable of entertaining large numbers of guests in most age ranges, it’s not hard to see why they are loved by operators and park visitors alike. Here’s Park World’s pick of new projects from this season – interactive and otherwise.

Tréfás Dzsungel Vasút

Located close to the city’s zoo, Vidám Park in Budapest is something of an institution in the Hungarian capital. Such is the park’s history, however, that its Ghost Train was beginning to show its age until very recently.

The ride has now been fully rethemed by Heimo Animated Attractions from Germany and offers young guests and their families an altogether more friendly experience.

The ride now has a new name, Tréfás Dzsungel Vasút (Funny Jungle Train), and has been integrated into a newly renovated area of the park called Dzsungel Mese Park. Heimo carried out additional theming here including a new interactive playground and surrounding attractions.

The dark ride, meanwhile, features a variety of animated cartoon characters and all-new special effects spread across approximately 2,500 square metres. The transport system uses standard two-seater Ghost Train cars.

Laser Raiders

Open since the start of the season at Legoland Windsor near London, Laser Raiders is an interactive, black light adventure from Sally Corporation set inside an ancient temple. Featured across 10 scenes are popular Lego characters including Johnny Thunder, Miss Pippin Reed, Dr Kilroy and Sir Sam Sinister.

Riders must stop Sam stealing the treasures of the temple, and rescue Miss Reed from various predicaments along the way. They do this using laser guns and shooting at interactive targets. If they are lucky they might strike a bonus target that automatically awards 7,007 points.

Scores from each rider printed on top of Lego bricks are available on ride photos available at the exit, using technology by Picsolve. The transport system, meanwhile, was provided by Bertazzon.

The ride is a duplicate of Sally’s Lost Kingdom Adventure at Legoland California, however park management in England felt the name Laser Raiders had more appeal for its demographic. See footage of both rides on Sally’s YouTube channel.

Ramses: Il Risveglio

An “out-of-this-world” experience awaits passengers on Gardaland’s former Valley of the Kings dark ride. Ramses: Il Risveglio (The Awakening) has been dubbed “the greatest laser battle in Europe” and takes riders on a mysterious journey through an Egyptian temple inhabited by aliens.

A taste of what lurks inside is signalled on the ride’s façade, which features typical Egyptian theming with one small but significant difference – one of the statues is mutating into a robot!

On their eight-minute trip through the temple, riders shoot at over 180 illuminated targets in an attempt to stop the alien forces coming back to life. Scene by scene, the energy builds, but do the riders have enough skill to stop Ramses and his army putting the entire human race in danger?

Spread over 15 scenes and 273-metres of track are stern statues, chilling tombstones, evil aliens, creepy cobras, mechanical beetles and of course Ramses himself. Visitors trigger up to 48 special effects including lights, lasers, strobe flashes, fog, robotic voices and other sounds.

Using a total of 49 four-seater vehicles, Ramses: Il Risveglio can accommodate an impressive 1,600 riders per hour. The transport system was originally supplied by Pinfari, but it was interactive shooting technology from the Dutch company Lagotronics that was responsible for bringing Ramses to life, together with in-house theming by Gardaland and Merlin Studios.

In fact, the attraction includes the largest LagoTRIG installation ever completed by Lagotronics and represents the perfect integration between animation, movement, sound and video. Using wireless technology, rider’s scores are displayed instantly every time a target is hit. A total of 50 processing units, linked to a central server, control the game. Status messages are monitored on a single screen and also relayed to Lagotronics’ engineering department in Holland, meaning that in the event of a system failure the company can provide direct technical support over the internet.

While the combination of ancient civilisations and extra-terrestrial creatures provides a great theme for Ramses: Il Risveglio, it has also attracted considerable debate from historians and students over the years. As such, Gardaland has decided to mount a photographic exhibition this season to complement the new ride.

Motor Mania

Although the Ring Racer coaster (see page 8) has caught the lion’s share of attention up until now, there are several other attraction awaiting guests at the new Ring°Werk motorsport adventure park in Nürburg, Germany.

Believed to be the first dark ride in the world with such a theme, Motor Mania invites Ring°Werk guests to assemble their dream racing car. They do this by aiming a petrol nozzle at targets scattered throughout the ride. But beware; there are distractions and surprises around every corner! At the end of the ride, passengers see the vehicle they have created – however simple or elaborate – on a screen in front of them together with their scores.

The attraction is based on a concept from Bill Gorgenson and was realised by a team of Dutch suppliers including P&P Projects (design/theming), ETF (ride system) and Lagotronics (interactive shooting technology).

Ring°Werk is located at the Nürburgring Formula 1 racetrack, and still undergoing teething troubles. Full profile coming soon in Park World.

MonStars of Rock

Freestyle Music Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this season unveiled a new-look dark ride. MonStars of Rock replaces the former Hard Rock Park’s Moody Blues-themed Nights in White Satin attraction and provides guests with a front row seat at a “monsterific” reunion concert.

The transformation was carried out in record time by ITEC Entertainment of Orlando, including 14 all-new scenes, complemented by an onboard soundtrack synchronised to each scene. Using an existing ETF ride system, ITEC devised a new theme, storyline, characters, all scenic elements, animation, lighting, audio, original music and new show systems.

“Rides of this scope typically would be conceived and built in a year or more, but at the park’s request we pulled off the entire project in under 90 days!” reveals ITEC president Bill Coan. “Freestyle Music Park wanted a new dark ride that would be family-friendly, providing an exciting experience for children and yet entertaining for teens and adults. Music had to play a big role, in keeping with the park’s overall theme.”

Lead by senior designer Eric Gorden, ITEC’s creative team drew on TV shows such as the Addams Family, The Munsters, Scooby Doo and various monster-themed movies for inspiration.

In the queue line, the music is classic pop with a ghoulish twist (think Monster Mash), giving way to a slightly scarier rock vibe throughout the ride, morphing into a hard-hitting, yet still scary, rock song near the finale. As they wait to ride, guests are informed they are going to a “Fright Festival” where monsters come back from the dead for a reunion rock concert. Where? The city cemetery on Friday 13th, of course.

Over the next few scenes, the band members are introduced, as they get ready for the gig. Skins, the drummer, is reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster; Dee Frib, the lead singer, is a fashionable yet frightening female zombie; Rox, on bass guitar, is a headless horseman with a Jack-o-Lantern for a head; Riff (the Ripper) is a mummified lead guitarist; while Dex, the phantom keyboard player, has a look that could kill.

Bill Coan talks us through the rest of the ride: ”The scenes that follow show the MonStars’ vehicle – a hulking hearse that gets piled ridiculously high with the band’s equipment as they each join the ride to the concert. Spooky, embarrassing and comical moments are all woven together in order to build excitement while keeping the scare factor at hand. The final scenes happen in a haunted graveyard and show the Fright Festival’s wild opening number. The feel of a live rock concert is created with a laser light show, electrifying, heart -pounding music, vocals and other special effects including smoke, lasers and spits of water.”

ITEC already has several high profile dark rides under its belt, including projects such as Men In Black – Alien Attack, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Cat In the Hat for Universal – all using tried and tested characters. Right now it is producing the third generation of the Revenge of the Mummy attraction for Universal Studios in Singapore.

But how did the company get on when it came to creating an original theme and set of characters for Freestyle Music Park? “Because Mon-Stars’ characters are drawn from familiar monsters found in books, plays and movies, guests quickly relate to them,” reveals Coan. “They also enjoy finding out how the characters are unique. Each is funny, creepy and unpredictable all at the same time.”

Coming in 2010…Opening next summer at an unnamed park in Asia, EcoQuest has an interactive and educational element to it. Based on the science of geo-engineering, which is used to control weather conditions, the concept was conceived by Attraction Design Services (ADS) of Florida.

The ride will feature large panoramic vistas, life-like moving animals and thrilling weather effects as riders travel back in time to correct man’s environmental mistakes and save the planet. A unique sideways riding vehicle with on-board surround sound and special effects will enhance the action and keep riders on the edge of their seats. A touch screen mounted in front of passengers in each car will present instructions for each task.

The year is 2060 and the earth is in trouble, so the story goes. While the devastating Fujiwhara storm forms outside, scientists of the EcoQuest institute are asking for volunteers to board special transport vehicles to go back in time and correct the conditions that have led to drastic and destructive climatic changes on Earth.

During the ride passengers will visit an Arabian Desert where they will encounter snakes that slither inside the vehicle, feel bats’ wings flutter around them in a cave, voyage deep into the sea and travel to the Rocky Mountains where snow will fall around them. The ride’s finale will simulate a flight out from the ocean, into the clouds and culminating in outer space where guests can appreciate Earth from a quiet and inspiring perspective.

ADS is responsible for all design work, with fabrication (including the ride vehicles) carried out locally in Asia. The US company already has a number of dark rides under its belt, including The Exterminator at Kennywood and Nights in White Satin at Hard Rock Park.

Meanwhile in California, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is moving forward with plans for a new Haunted Castle ride, scheduled to open in June 2010. The park’s existing Haunted Castle, which has operated since 1973, closed in late August.

The replacement ride is being designed by R&R Creative Amusement Designs of Anaheim in collaboration with Boardwalk technical and facilities staff and will utilise 10,000 sq ft of basement space below the Boardwalk.

The location has been home to a number of dark rides over the years, starting with Dante’s Inferno in 1935, followed by Laff-Land, Treasure Island, Pirates Cove and the Haunted House.

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