Posts Tagged ‘theme parks’

Mysic Manor Courtesy of DAPSMAGIC.com

The future is here and it is unrestricted. Since the dawn of the dark ride and amusement park history the thrill of a ride has always been restricted to a metal rail, the ageless relative of the railroad track, that has long served as the backbone of both the ancient and modern thrill ride. Those days may be over…and it may be the single best thing that has ever happened to the themed entertainment industry.

Recall for a moment your favorite theme park attraction, how it felt to experience it for the first time, the thrill, the uniqueness, the sheer excitement of turning that corner out of the load station for the first time…

Now, imagine that same experience without any restrictions, no guidance rail that spoils the direction you’re headed, nothing binding you to the center of a track enabling completely free movement through a space. Now that’s easily said, but take a moment and really think about what that means…the Haunted Mansion with wood floors, simulated staircases, actual hills you descend down in the graveyard, no glaringly obvious track, no fixed viewing points and the ability to visit completely different areas of the house than you did before. Now take this and multiply it by every dark ride you have experienced and you begin to see the scope of this advancement. Now obviously, this is just an example, but the possibilities are breathtaking. The technology improves every aspect of the experience from immersion to reliability now that there is no track to be bound to and by extension no wheels and train components to have to replace/repair. Reduced down time, exponentially more ride experience variations, interactivity between vehicles, scenes that use the floor as a thrill point/scene itself, we really are only seeing the birthing stage of the trackless ride system and while current examples still bear many of the design restrictions of a standard track system, you can indeed see that Imagineers and ride designers are starting to realize the possibilities.

Point-in-case, Hong Kong Disneyland’s brand new ride Mystic Manor, a trackless first for the Walt Disney Company that clearly is the best example of what this technology can do. No on-board attractions host is needed and the ride floats effortlessly around corners and through the doorways of Mystic Manor, following the misadventure of the mischievous monkey Albert as he opens an ancient music box that brings inanimate objects to life throughout the antiquity-filled mansion. This ride has two tracks and is a seamless 360 ride experience, meaning no blank walls, no restricted viewing, nothing to ruin the illusion. In fact, the ride path even crosses over itself in the whirlwind finale that has to be seen to be believed, something that never would have been possible with track systems. Don’t believe it? See it in action for yourself.

Sea World’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins is another excellent example of how the ride can work. Sea World took a better approach when thinking of the ride track and

Antarctica, Courtesy of Attractions Magazine

really played with the mechanics of no longer have fixed cars, weaving the cars in and out of each other’s paths, facing other pods as they enter and exit spaces, using the exposure to the other riders as an enhancement rather than distraction, etc. Sea World’s ride itself may have a few issues with quality and general story, but the execution of technology is the true star in this attraction and it really seems Sea World wanted to show off the new system as the centerpiece of the entire experience and indeed, it is almost more entertaining to watch the other cars move and glide than it is to pay attention to the actual show (which is a huge problem in actuality, but hey, we’re having fun here.)

The story revolves around a penguin who you meet in the queue as an infant and follows his story as he learns about life for the penguins as well as his beautiful and dangerous home, Antarctica. Seals chase you under the sea, you emerge into luminescent caverns of glacial ice, sea water flows and falls around you as you glide through the caverns with your trusted friend on his journey, culminating in an unbelievable (to the point where it has already caused problems) finale where you are face to face with the penguins themselves, all while freezing at an authentic 0 to 1 degrees Celsius throughout the experience.

We are not there yet with this technology, we have only begun to tap the surface of trackless ride systems and the innovative possibilities they hold that are just waiting for the taking. It will take an entire paradigm shift, a completely new way of thinking and creating to use this technology to its fullest. The dark ride rule book is about to be rewritten and I will be on board for the ride, will you?


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Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (The Queue…YES, it DOES require an ENTIRE blog of its own…)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey begins as you enter the gates of Hogwarts, greeted by winged hogs standing atop fiber optic pillars beautifully displaying the name of the coming experience. Upon entering into the castle itself that is soaring overhead, you emerge into a dark corridor as an attendant greets you and gives you some instructions.

Special ‘Magical’ Rant: If you have any carry-on items of ANY kind, be aware they WILL have to be put into a locker that is located in a separate corridor just off to the right as soon as you enter Hogwarts. Don’t fight the attendant and for the love of humanity, do not think you know better than he/she does, because once you get on this ride, you’ll quickly realize exactly why those carry-ons are not permitted. The lockers are free too, so just shut up and do it. If you can’t tell, Universal was having problems with belligerent guests who think they know better trying to take their stuff with them only to be stopped later on and faced with the decision of putting their items in a PAY locker just off to the side, or forfeiting their place in line and returning to the entrance to stow their belongings and wait all over again. It was annoying to listen to, it held up the line and the guests almost always become mad and demanding when they are **gasp** stopped before entering the ride after being warned by: A. Video B. Signage C. The attendant at the entrance to the Castle and D. The attendant inside the castle. That’s four layers of warning! Take the hint, just don’t do it. And if you plan on trying to, know this: Universal has a zero tolerance policy about violating this rule (as well they should), so you can scream, cuss, fuss, fling insults and call everyone and their house elf a “Floppy-wanded dementor-bogart”, but you’re still going to put that stuff in a locker if you want to ride. PERIOD. ¬†Just saying. ūüôā

Okay, where were we…ah yes… this attendant will direct you to one of two paths (she’s a Divination major no doubt):

1. The regular queue: Go here if you: A. Don’t want to be split up as a group B. Wish to experience the entire castle and/or story C.If you have small children who are easily scared (note the height requirement though! A lot parents make the mistake of thinking that their child can ride anything as long as they come along, do not make this mistake! It will only end in tears for your child and frustration for you and everyone else in your party because if your child does not meet the height requirement of 48 inches that is posted throughout the entrance, queue, in the park maps and at information kiosks, they WILL NOT RIDE. Again, do your worst, they’re still not getting on, and you’ll just end up looking like a hot, tired, defeated jerk. Plus, you’ll hold up the line, which Universal, nor the people who actually DID follow the instructions, appreciate. Again, JUST DON’T DO IT.)

I recommend using the “stand-by”¬†line for your first-ever trip on the Forbidden Journey. It establishes the story, allows you to see the castle in all of its wonder and properly builds the anticipation of what is to come. The “single rider” line on the other hand is for repeat rides on the Forbidden Journey, featuring a VERY abbreviated tour of Hogwarts and effectively dumping you directly into the Room of Requirement loading dock where you’ll board the flying benches, which is perfect for quick “flights” through Hogwarts.

Proceeding through the stand-by entrance, you’ll emerge outdoors in a conifer garden. As a landscaping lover, I was really thrilled and a bit bewildered by the fact that Universal was able to bring typically cold-weather conifers to Orlando and plant them around the grounds both there in the queue and around Hogsmeade. I was not able to get close enough to determine if they were real or not (I am assuming they’re real, because if they’re fake, then somebody should get an award for fake-tree-awesomeness), but the effect was enchanting nonetheless. Proceeding through this garden area you emerge into the greenhouses of Hogwarts. I can see what Universal was trying to do here with the greenhouse queue, but it just falls flat on every level. They should have had animatronic Mandrake roots that pop up and scream at guests periodically, plants that playfully snap at guests or spit water at them, etc. This greenhouse had the ability to be a truly wondrous, interactive queue that would have added exponentially to the magic of Hogwarts. Instead, it is nothing more than a glass-topped outdoor space with an uphill queue that turns into Hogwarts.

Don’t fret though, for this turn into Hogwarts is where the magic really begins…

Entering into a vaulted-ceiling hallway complete with cathedral windows glowing with the looming twilight outside, you pass tall bronze statues of the famous Hogwarts’ foes: Salazaar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor, flanking the astonishingly beautiful bronze, glass and gem-filled Point counter for the houses. Proceeding forward, you reach the Phoenix statue entrance to Headmaster Dumbledore’s office. Hanging a left past it, you emerge into the Headmaster’s office. This is truly a spectacular room, at the back, the room is filled with all of Dumbledore’s favorite mechanical and magical tch0chkes (sp?) including the coveted Pensieve. Opposite of these items is the main event of the room, Dumbledore’s desk, complete with tall vaulted ceilings, hanging armillary sphere and even Dumbledore himself.

Yes, I meant that last bit. Dumbledore really does appear on the balcony overlooking his office, using the same projection technology Universal first employed on DISASTER! , ¬†the famed wizard greets the guests of Hogwarts welcoming the first tour of ‘muggles’ (potter-talk for non-magical folk) into the castle. He tells you that you will be heading into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom for a ‘rousing’ 4 hour lecture on the history of Hogwarts. Okay, so…I gotta break for a minute to tell you about this projection of Dumbledore. While infinitely better than a simple video shown on a TV or screen, this effect is presented multiple times throughout the experience and I simply have to say that it is just not done that well. Although, again, a huge improvement over the norm, the projection is very obvious even to the casual eye and in some places even the ¬†refracting glass was visible (eek!). However, the biggest problem with this arose when you ventured beyond this room and into the classroom, at which point the queue design allowed for you, the viewer, to realize the 2-dimensional nature of the projection which ran in a continuous loop. ¬†I don’t know what they did differently between this and DISASTER! but the disaster effect is dazzling and neat, this version….not so much.

Proceeding through another stone archway/corridor, you enter into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. If you need a reference point as to what this looks like, watch either the Chamber of Secrets or the Prisoner of Azkaban, both of which feature this room prominently, because this part of the queue is quite literally a PERFECT replica of that room. Truly. If you are at all familiar with that space, you will be astounded. And, like the previous room, there is another use of the projection effect on the balcony overlooking the classroom, only this time, it’s the infamous trio of Ron, Harry and Hermoine. (The effect is just a poorly done here as well, but I’ll leave it be.) They inform you, rather comically, that they have a better idea for the muggle visitors than sitting around and listening to a four hour lecture. Their idea? Go to a Quidditch match! ¬†As they have planned it, Hermoine will use a rather unique spell she discovered (after all, and as the ride states over and over again, she IS the brightest witch of her age), to enchant regular, everyday Hogwarts benches, turning them into magical, flying benches for you to join in the fun!

Hint: If you would like, and are okay with letting people proceed before you in line, you should know that there are actually several versions of this speech the trio give, all with slightly different interactions and a different spell that Hermoine casts over the heads of the muggle guests in the queue. It’s kind of fun to see all of the different effects and interactions, if you are willing to wait!

From here, you turn out of the classroom and into a narrow corridor. It is here that you meet the Fat Lady, guardian of the entrance to Gryffindor tower. Her part, played by the always wonderful Dawn French, is perfect. Complete with the classic ‘breaking the glass’ bit from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It is truly one of the most fun bits of the queue and because of the same mind-blowing technique used to bring the moving-portraits to life in the stairwell, she seems to be completely painted onto the entrance way (I call it that, because technically that is what it is, even though in the queue it is, disappointingly, nothing more than a prop standing off to the side) with many guests not realizing that she is watching them as they pass until, suddenly, she awakens and ushers you into the Gryffindor common room in between bouts of ghastly opera that she believes she is entertaining you with. It was probably one of my favorite parts of the entire queue and was definitely the funniest with multiple guests laughing as they passed.

It is at this point that you enter a disappointing space in the queue: the Gryffindor common room. I don’t know if the designers had to make sacrifices due to space or if someone just wasn’t thinking things through that day in the design meeting, but this room is a failure on multiple levels. Entering the common room, you emerged into a tall, open space with an archway in front of you that is covered n three different moving portraits and through which you are able to clearly see the rest of the queue which here becomes just a long, straight line to the Room of Requirement. As you look around the room and more specifically in the right hand corner, the aesthetic of the Gryffindor common roombecomes far more evident with the recognizable tapestries, radio, fireplace and steps leading to the dormitories visible from the queue. Sadly, opposite this display, the room is quite literally a blank, stone, wall. This is where the immersion of the rest of the castle falls apart a bit and for the first time in the queue you are able to recognize that you are about to board a ride. ¬†However, all is not lost, as the moving portraits here, once again, are the saving grace. They consist of three different, former wizards, a lady, a student and an older gentleman, who inform you about the restrictions of the ride, how to board the ride vehicle, what is and what is not permitted on the ride, and exactly what these ‘flying benches’ will be doing. They are funny, creative and surprisingly informative with their speeches sparking some questions and concerns from the guests who later asked the attendant standing underneath these portraits/the archway before proceeding through the rest of the line.

Warning: It is at this point that anyone the attendants might suspect of being “of unusual body proportions” to sit down in a test-seat of the moving benches and make sure they are able to ride. Now, don’t assume anything! Because, although you may fight into the seat itself, the attendants MUST be able to lower the shoulder harness and ‘click it down’ 3 TIMES. If it clicks down only once or twice, despite their best efforts to make you fit, you WILL be asked to forfeit your place in line. Sound unfair? Well, in a way, it is…and Universal understands that it is…which is why they ask EVERYONE to test the seats at the entrance to the ride FIRST before getting in line. ¬†Ultimately, if the attendant cannot get the bar down 3 clicks, you are not going to ride. End of story. Again, cuss, fuss, sling mud, cast charms, do your worst, you’re not getting on and you’d be surprised how many people get insanely agitated by this despite Universal’s continued warnings and opportunities to test the seat. My advice? Know thyself. If you’re a fatty, really tall or really buff, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get away with it. Avoid the wait, avoid the embarrassment and just test the seat to make sure (remember! 3 clicks!). ¬†Now, some good news: Universal is actively working with KUKA, the makers of the ride vehicle, to ‘fix’ the seats so that, in the future, only one click is needed, effectively allowing pretty much anyone who wants to ride the ability to do so. BUT, that is WAY in the future (at least a year from now. AT LEAST. So plan your trip accordingly if you think your size might be a problem).

From this testing area, the queue makes its final leg up to the Sorting Hat, which is an insanely cool and fun animatronic that rhymes to you the requirements to ride once again, just for good measure. Guests were going crazy about this thing and for good reason! It is truly one of the most believable and spectacular animatronics I have ever seen (and that is including Obama/Jack Sparrow from Magic Kingdom). Turning past him, you are sorted into groups of 4 and ushered into the Room of Requirement which is a really neat space featuring the candle ceiling effect seen on the Dragon Challenge and walls of glass mirrors, just like in the films. The entire rooms functions as a giant optical effect to hid the immense ride system through theming, and, if I may say so, it is done PERFECTLY. From here, things move quickly so stay alert, as you are immediately ushered onto a moving conveyor belt and assigned to a bench where you sit down and the attendants close the harnesses for you. It all happens very quickly and once you’re on the belt, if you get scared or no longer want to ride, then tough luck, because at this point, there’s only one way out…

What happens on the ride itself? Come back this Saturday to find out as I post the final review of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: The Forbidden Journey!

WWoHP: Review Part I

WWoHP: Review Part II

WWoHP: Review Part IV

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BioShock is the propety of 2K Games.

Hello intrepid thrill-seekers! Part II of my conceptualization for the new ride proposal BIOSHOCK: RETURN TO RAPTURE is available in the IMAGINEERING section! PART II features a brand new set of storyboards that illustrate the first 30 secs to 60 secs of the ride itself along with some of the script written into the captions! Go check it out and leave me a comment telling me what you think!: BIOSHOCK: RETURN TO RAPTURE

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BioShock is the property of 2K Marin

I’ve just posted the first two of MANY images (hopefully significantly improving as I advance) of my concept for BioShock: Return to Rapture, a ride proposal for Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. Overall, the concept is that this will be the start of a new undetermined land that could possible replace Marvel Superhero Island (seeing as Universal no longer owns the rights to the Marvel Franchise once their contract expires). These aren’t great, but I hope you guys enjoy them! More importantly, pay attention to the description before the photos as to what will be occurring during this part of the Queue! That, for me, is the truly cool part (and not something I can really render effectively on paper…I’m just not that good yet with idea translation. I do believe, though, that my concepts are groundbreaking…hey, you got to know your strengths and weaknesses, right?)

I hope you enjoy and leave me some comments telling me what your thoughts are!

Go to the Imagineering page to check it out: BioShock: Return to Rapture

UPDATE : I have posted the successful Fontaine Futuristics queue house rendering. Let me know what you think!

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It is just a little less than two months until Universal Orlando unveils the drooled over and dreamed about Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Now, I have been following this attraction literally since day one, long before an official announcement was ever made and my excitement grew to such a dorkishly palpable level that for this Christmas I asked for money to go the grand opening (No, not an iPod, blu-ray player or ¬†TV, I asked for Harry Potter world…I apologize for nothing…). So far, the progress has been incredible. Hogwarts? In-FREAKING-credible. ¬†Hogsmeade? HOLY CRAP. Aesthetics? WORLD CLASS (considering that one of the main designers was Production Designer Stuart Craig, the original production designer on the films, I am not surprised). What could possibly be wrong then? In short: A LOT.

Now, (I seem to like that word today) I should note that this information is not confirmed and I am completely speculating with what I am about to rip to shreds, ¬†and dear God, please, please let me be wrong…but if the footage released by Universal today is in fact the on-ride footage fromHarry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, then Universal needs to take a heaping dose of Veritaserum, because the truth is that what they have created looks like a cheap DVD menu…NOT a multi-million dollar world class attraction.

Don’t believe me? See it for yourself:

Okay, so let’s state the obvious: A) I have not experienced the attraction (as far as I know no one has beyond Universal/Warner Brothers Executives, creative teams, etc.) B) The footage pictured may be purely promotional and have nothing to do with the ride itself C) The footage may not have yet been finished D) The appearance of the film could be changed drastically by atmosphere and special effects. ¬†I must concede these points for the sake of being fair. Plus, I should give credit where it is deserved and very, very rarely has Universal sunk so much money into a project only to have it fail (although the Hollywood Rockit! is still pretty much a disaster).

However, I still have an Ellen Ripley-esque bad feeling about the¬†Forbidden Journey, for the rest of the Wizarding World I am almost 100% confident of ¬†“Magic” being created, but if my gut is right and Universal somehow manages to screw up the flagship ride of the island it could prove catastrophic for Universal’s reputation and bottom line. For a park, Islands of Adventure, that has not added a new attraction almost since its opening in 1999, this is an attraction that could finally solidify Universal Orlando as the ultimate competitor to the Walt Disney World Resort behemoth just 20 mins. away, but as it stands now, if the footage we are seeing IS indeed from the¬†Forbidden Journey, then Universal may be headed to a “Whomping Willow” of trouble.

Let us pray “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”, doesn’t become “The-ride-that-must-not-be-named”.

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