New Rides & Attractions - Glowing in the Dark - August 2018


A starry nighttime parade and enchanted dark rides are among this year’s new family favorites

by Scott Fais and Juliana Gilling


Battle for Eire

Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Virginia

Tucked away behind the stately stone façade of a castle in Ireland awaits a fierce battle. There are no swords or armor here, rather high-tech helmets and virtual fairies.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s new “Battle for Eire” is an advancement on the emersion that virtual reality (VR) can create.

“It’s kind of a mission for us,” says Larry Giles, vice president of engineering and maintenance. “Only six to seven percent of the population have ever seen VR.”

The ride places 59 riders aboard a motion-based platform, who once seated, click into place a VR headset.

After a check of the safety belts, guests join a fairy guardian named “Addie” as she fights the evil “Balor” in her quest to return peace to Ireland.

“When you put [the VR headset] on, you’re in their world. Your brain melts right in,” says Giles.

The 30-minute experience starts in the queue, when riders put on what Busch Gardens calls an “adjustable head mount” from CAVU Designwerks. While waiting to enter the preshow presentation, riders can use the extra time to tighten the green plastic head mount to their liking. Later, upon sitting down on the motion platform, riders will snap a tethered virtual reality headset (already waiting in their seat) to their head mount. Three strong magnets seal the two pieces together. The plastic “hardhat” helps expedite the boarding process. After the ride, each head mount is then cleaned.

“This installation at Busch Gardens Williamsburg has one of the easiest-to-use headsets that we’ve seen in the industry,” says Erik Baeumlisberger, project manager. “We’ve arrived on a best-in-class, very novel solution for how riders wear the headset.” 

In addition to using the headset, a traditional movie screen is positioned at the front of the ride simulator for riders who wish to enjoy the film, without wearing the head mount.

“Battle for Eire” is the fifth attraction to use the same motion-based platform that Busch Gardens Williamsburg first added in 1990 with the addition of “Questor.” The platform still provides what Giles calls “six degrees of motion” powered by hydraulics. Yet, the ride’s new technology is state of the art. 

“There are a few moments when the visual is right in your face,” says Kevin Lembke, Busch Gardens Williamsburg president. “It feels like you can reach out and grab it.” 

The secret rests beneath each rider’s feet, where an i7 processor computer is at work, capable of producing 60 frames per second of digital video. Meantime, the headsets have a capability of showing 90 frames per second, should an upgrade ever be in store.

“We have readouts on how all of the headsets are doing, giving feedback, making sure there is no glitching,” Giles adds.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment partnered with Falcon’s Creative Group, CAVU Designwerks, and DreamCraft Attractions to craft the theming, preshow, story, sound, and media needed to bring the experience to life.

Lembke says he enjoys watching guest reaction to the film from the control bay, where their screams and yells can be heard.

“If we’re listening to that level of reaction, we have something good going on here,” he concludes.


Bazyliszek (Basilisk)

Chorzów, Poland

Inspired by Polish legend, Legendia’s “Bazyliszek” (Basilisk) ride invites visitors on a hunt through enchanted forests for a mythical monster. “Bazyliszek” is Poland’s first interactive dark ride on such a grand scale, signaling Legendia’s ambition to become the country’s “best and biggest theme park,” says Paweł Cebula, director of Legendia. 

After the debut of Legendia’s “Lech” coaster last year, Cebula wanted to introduce a themed dark ride with advanced technologies, where families could have fun together and compete with each other. Crucially, “Bazyliszek” is an indoor ride, allowing for year-round, weatherproof operation. 

The park invested 5.5 million euros in the overall project, including 3.5 million euros for the ride, making “Bazyliszek” an affordable, yet “very high quality attraction,” says Cebula. The toughest challenge was to create a family ride that still appealed to adult and teenage audiences. The mixed-media, interactive attraction succeeds in providing all guests with “a magical ride with unforgettable experiences,” he believes.

Guests are admitted into the Monster Hunters Guild Headquarters (HQ) before boarding their carriages to help the villagers of Kurkowo, who are besieged by beasts. Most ferocious is the Bazyliszek, a giant reptilian rooster hybrid that turns people to stone with its gaze. During a dazzling showdown, the monster hunters save the day. 

Jora Vision, Alterface, and ETF Ride Systems combined forces with Legendia to bring “Bazyliszek” to life in just over a year. Alterface oversaw the total ride experience as the attraction’s main contractor, applying its expertise in video mapping, gameplay, show control, and shooting devices. Jora Vision handled theming design and production for the ride and queue areas, having previously developed a master plan for the park. ETF’s Multi Mover trackless ride system features 10 customized vehicles, each seating six riders. “Bazyliszek” spans 1,000 square meters and features seven scenes, with the experience lasting over 3.5 minutes.

“Bazyliszek” is a “top-notch dark ride” that “will put Legendia firmly on the map in Poland and Europe,” says Benoit Cornet, founder and CEO of Alterface. Cebula plans to build more original rides like “Bazyliszek” to attract guests in Poland’s growing parks market: “Poland has two big parks, Legendia and Energylandia, and some smaller parks,” he explains. He expects to see three to five new parks emerging in the next few years because Poland has a population of 38 million, and more people “love to spend time in these kind of places.”



Furuvik, Sweden

In “Spökjakten,” guests help Professor Finkelstein blast the “wicked Boocifer and his spirited minions back to where they belong,” says Drew Hunter, the haunted dark ride’s lead designer and vice president of creative design at Sally Corporation.

“We are delighted to work with our friends at Parks and Resorts Scandinavia to bring the first interactive dark ride to Sweden,” says Sally Corporation CEO John Wood. 

“Spökjakten” replaces Furuvik’s popular “Spökborgen” (Ghost Castle) attraction, which was in need of an update, according to the park. Costing more than SEK 25 million, the ride is part of a series of investments by Furuvik’s owners, Parks and Resorts Scandinavia.

“Sally Corporation had previously worked with our sister park, Gröna Lund, on ‘House of Nightmares,’ which was a big success. Our experience of working with Sally was equally great,” says Furuvik spokesperson Sara Ängfors. 

“We know how to bring new light to an old dark ride,” says Sally’s marketing director Lauren Weaver. Based on Sally’s classic “Ghost Blasters” concept, “Spökjakten” is designed with the whole family in mind: “It’s creepy, but it isn’t too scary for the little ones,” explains Hunter. 

Guests enter through a castellated facade, crafted by Jora Vision. Inside, they meet Professor Finkelstein, a lifelike animatronic figure, before boarding ride vehicles designed by Sally and built by Bertazzon. Rendered in ultraviolet paint, the attraction’s scenery and spooks pop with color. The ride has “a real sense of macabre whimsy” and is “a beautiful show to behold,” says Hunter. Four riders per car can compete against each other to best the ghouls using blasters or aim to beat their own scores. The ride lasts almost three minutes and features around 90 interactive targets, together with four animated figures and 72 animated props along the 110-meter track. 

“Spökjakten” opened to record-breaking crowds in May with guests immediately getting “back into the queue to experience the ride time and time again,” says Wood. Furuvik’s team is hoping it will attract more visitors to the park who will spread the news about the ride and ensure it becomes a new “favorite among our guests,” says Ängfors.


Universal Spectacle Night Parade

Universal Studios Japan
Osaka, Japan

Universal Studios Japan’s “Universal Spectacle Night Parade: The Best of Hollywood” lives up to its name. The nighttime parade weaves together four blockbuster intellectual properties (IPs): “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” “Transformers,” “Jurassic World,” and “Minions,” in a complex tapestry of entertainment. “Blending all these powerful movie IPs into one connected experience is what makes me feel most proud,” says Mike Davis, senior vice president and executive producer – International Entertainment, Universal Parks and Resorts.

Synchronized projection mapping paints the 13 illuminated floats and surrounding architecture in perfect harmony. Original imagery for each popular IP is triggered along the parade route, matching the dynamic floats as they pass by. The constantly-changing display envelops the audience in a multimedia landscape designed to make them feel as if they are immersed in their favorite movies. 

Spectators can spot students on the Hogwarts Express, see Bumblebee and Megatron in action, watch dinosaurs roar past, and dance with the Minions. “All of those are enormously well-known and iconic images,” says Davis. Theatrical lighting, a sweeping cinematic score, and around 100 live performers with custom props and costumes entertain the crowds. 

Universal Creative’s specially developed “Show Orchestration” system coordinates the “next-generation parade,” which is on a huge scale and “technologically far in advance of anything that anyone else has ever done,” says Davis. A 6-meter-tall Optimus Prime, for example, “transforms using state-of-the-art robotics within 32 seconds.” The project team also designed and installed a new audio package, giving it individual control of every speaker on the route: “It allows you to play the different music from these four different IPs and not have an audio collision” says Davis. Four years in the making, the challenging project combined the talents of around 1,000 people from 25 different countries. 

“Universal Spectacle Night Parade” steps up Universal Studios Japan’s offerings for sophisticated Japanese audiences who love live entertainment. Positive reviews prove Davis’ mantra that “a reward is a risk realized.”