Brass Ring Bonanza

EMEA parks produce award-winning performances

by Juliana Gilling

Funworld’s January issue featured a full list of the 2015 IAAPA Brass Ring Award winners as part of our cover of IAAPA Attractions Expo 2015. EMEA members performed strongly in the awards; Europa-Park in Germany, Kolmården Wildlife Park in Sweden, and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi were among the attractions recognised for their achievements in live entertainment.

Ferrari World’s ‘Mission Ferrari’ Steps It Up a Gear

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi’s (FWAD) “Mission Ferrari” production won Best Sports Show Performance Act. Audiences saw the Italian secret agent Cavallino battling to stop the latest Ferrari spy car from falling into the clutches of two villains.

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“Mission Ferrari” offered wall-to-wall action—literally. The live performance combined actors’ movements with projections, all set against a vertical wall (18 metres high by 8 metres wide, and weighing more than 18 tons). The gravity-defying display brought together aerial acrobatics, martial arts, special effects, mechanical feats, and 4-D projection mapping to showcase the Ferrari brand.

“We worked hard to create a unique show that would entertain guests and have a special Ferrari twist,” says Jesse Vargas, general manager at FWAD. “An entertaining, engaging story was the most important starting point. ‘Mission Ferrari’s’ storyline struck the perfect balance between family fun, Ferrari heritage, and innovation.”

The eight-minute show ran four times a day and six days a week for five months (October 2014 to March 2015). The idea was to build excitement around the park’s upcoming “Mission Ferrari” roller coaster. 

It took nine months to bring the spectacular street show to life at FWAD, the world’s largest indoor theme park. Its team worked with London-based Drive Productions, as well as local suppliers to create the experience. “Successful live entertainment will always appeal to audiences of all ages and backgrounds,” concludes Vargas.

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Win-Win Situation for Europa-Park

Europa-Park scooped two Brass Ring Awards for “Spook Me! The Europa-Park Musical” (Best Overall Production: $200,001–$400,000) and “Surpr’ice with the Gods of Greece” (Best Overall Production: $100,001–$200,000).

SpookMe | Europa-Park

“Spook Me!” was a labour of love for Europa-Park’s Thomas Mack, an accomplished musician, and his choreographer wife, Katja. Mack brought together a talented team that included composer Hendrik Schwarzer and scriptwriter Jan Lepold to create a haunting “cultural musical” with striking set designs and a cast of more than 24 singers and dancers. The show has made “an immense impression on guests,” says Ian Jenkins, Europa-Park’s director of entertainment.

More than two years in the making, the 45-minute show features music recorded by an orchestra of 70-plus musicians. The production takes place in the Variety Theatre, one of the park’s oldest venues.

SpookMe | Europa-Park

Europa-Park’s ice shows have won Brass Ring Awards for three consecutive years. “Surpr’ice with the Gods of Greece” was designed to fit into the Greek-themed area of the park. It took six months to plan and produce the 35-minute show, which accommodates 1,600 spectators.

“It’s important not to produce long shows. Guests should have time to enjoy the other wonderful highlights of Europa-Park,” says Jenkins. The park’s show department is one of the largest in the world and “for 40 years Europa-Park guests have grown accustomed to show productions of the highest quality,” says Jenkins. “You need more than seven hours to enjoy all the shows that we give freely to park guests in one day.”

Creating successful live entertainment takes “passion, dedication, patience and a good sense of humour,” explains Jenkins. The aim is to create trend-setting shows that keep pace with current fashions, without losing sight of guests’ nostalgic memories of the park.

“We’re on an eternal quest to enrich people’s lives with a show that lets people dream with us for a moment. The most rewarding part of the process is hearing the audience’s reaction when they feel enthralled in the story, just as we’d hoped,” says Jenkins. “We have huge respect for all the people around the world that share the same dedication to our business.”

Gods of Greece | Europa-Park

Kolmården Keeps Marine Life in the Spotlight

“Life” began at Kolmården Wildlife Park when its owners, Parks & Resorts Scandinavia, commissioned a new, “world-class” dolphin show in 2012. The show breathed new life into the park’s dolphinarium, which dates back to 1969. The production premiered on May 1, 2013 and went on to win a Brass Ring Award (Best Overall Production: $700,0001-$1 million) in 2015, the park’s 50th anniversary year.

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Shows had always been an effective way for Kolmården, Scandinavia’s leading zoo, to reach out to guests. The park attracts around 600,000 annual visitors.

Pernilla Mosesson, Kolmården’s operations manager—show productions and animal behaviour management, was curator for the team that created “Life.” She worked alongside Kolmården’s entertainment director, Kenny Mattson (producer), Vello Hermann from Pixelfield (technical supervisor), Andreas Skärberg (visual producer), Simon Lundin (sound and light manager), and Patrik Nystrand (light designer).

Kolmården stages between one to five performances of “Life” daily, depending on the season. Around 2,000 people can enjoy the 20-minute show: “It’s a great opportunity to influence a lot of people,” says Mosesson.

Kolmarden

What’s the story of “Life”?

Pernilla Mosesson: Research, conservation, and education are the cornerstones of our work—a mission that keeps growing in importance as the exploitation of our planet continues. The idea behind the new show was to illustrate how mankind’s overuse of environmental resources affects the oceans and all marine life. The dolphins could deliver this message with great power and credibility.

“Life” takes the audience on a journey from outer space to planet Earth. We fall through the atmosphere and crash into the ocean, where we meet the dolphins. It becomes clear that something is going terribly wrong. When darkness prevails (illustrated in the show by oil spills, pollution, and global warming), the dolphins take the lead in saving the planet, showing us that anything is possible as long as we cooperate and take action.

It was essential that the audience should not feel accused. A bit frightened—yes—and definitely troubled, but above all we wanted to inspire them. Therefore, darkness turns into light and the show’s finale is filled with hope and joy.

The name “Life” felt like a natural choice, as the oceans are the origin of all life. The show’s components—the story, music, state-of-the-art screen and projections, sound, and lighting—were designed to correspond with the dolphins’ every move.

The aim was to create immersive settings and sceneries that would support the story. A 33-metre-wide screen, which covers an entire wall, brings images to life using three Barco 2K projectors (the first fixed install of HDQ-2K40 projectors worldwide).

Musicians from the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra recorded instrumental versions of 15 classical works from feature films. Lighting also played an important part, as we were able to enhance the sceneries onscreen, convey emotions, and direct the audience’s attention to the action.

Smoke and burning oil drums are used in parts of the show that illustrate the catastrophic consequences of pollution. Additional effects include a 30-metre-wide waterfall that runs along the pool and water parabolas that the dolphins jump over and through. Lighting is used to make the water of the parabolas look poisonous and polluted during the show.

Kolmarden

What do you believe are the ingredients for successful live entertainment?

Mosesson: Entertainment needs to be made from the heart, with themes you can learn from. Guests need to be touched and inspired. Powerful technology can reinforce our message. We must never be afraid to try new things in every production.

When it comes to live entertainment with animals, it’s important to keep the focus on the animals—their welfare comes first. The lovely, warm connection between the animals and their trainers enhances the overall impression.

What were the hardest, and most pleasing, aspects of this project?

Mosesson: Combining an uncomfortable, emotionally strong, environmental message with great entertainment in a tight and speedy show proved to be our biggest challenge. The show succeeds in doing that. Inspiring people to change their behaviour, to decrease their negative impact on the environment, has been the most pleasing aspect.

The time spent producing “Life” was very challenging and great fun. I truly missed it the moment it was “ready.”

Look for the “Winners’ Circle” series in the May issue of Funworld. One of the success stories featured is another European IAAPA Brass Ring Award winner—the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.

Juliana Gilling is a contributing editor for IAAPA’s Funworld magazine, covering the EMEA attractions industry. Contact her at julianagilling@gmail.com.