Sometimes the closure of a major attraction for unexpected maintenance provides an ideal opportunity to make exciting enhancements. Such is the case with “Colossos” at Merlin Entertainments’ Heide Park Resort in Soltau, Lower Saxony, Germany, which had to be closed in 2016 due to essential repairs.
This closure allowed for many theming enrichments, which were apparent when the ride reopened in April as “Colossos – Kampf der Giganten” (“Colossos – Battle of the Giants”).
Integral to these changes was the ride’s new backstory, which says that years ago, a giant tree was trapped under the old “Colossos” but has now broken free and taken over the ride, and the two “giants” battling it out are the tree and fire. A huge tree-like monster provided by Universal Rocks of Ronfe, Guimarães, Portugal, with flames shooting out of its head, appears to be grabbing the tracks. A rethemed entrance gate, hanging liana vines, train station windows covered with burned boards and fabric, extensive “burning” fiberglass lianas covering the station, and other theming embellishments were all created by MK Themed Attractions of Ringsted, Denmark.
“The retheming we have produced starts at the entrance gate, where you see a burning ‘Colossos’ sign that leads you toward the ride,” says Lars Nielsen, themed attraction manager for MK Themed Attractions. “The theming at the queue area builds up the story/experience by a broken, old ‘Colossos’ sign and lianas hanging everywhere, so it seems like the ‘Colossos’ creature has truly taken over the ride.”
Nielsen notes that with a brand-new ride, the theme or the ride’s design can be more easily changed when needed. But he says perhaps the biggest challenge with retheming is making it fit within the framework of an existing ride. “With a project like ‘Colossos,’ you have a given structure that the theme needs to fit within, so all screws, threads, etc., need to fit together with the existing skeleton of the ride,” Nielsen says. “In short, retheming requires more precision.”
As for the value of great theming to a roller coaster, or any ride, Nielsen says it supports the ride’s storyline and builds the overall excitement and experience of the ride itself. “A theme usually creates a different ‘universe’ than what is outside the ride,” he explains, “which lets visitors remember the ride better, especially when telling friends and families about the ride. [Great theming] also eases the wait for a ride, and by combining the right elements—lights, effects, props, etc.—it can bring out certain feelings to create a desired mood for the guests so they’re ready for the ride ahead.”