Area 51 – Before the Secrets

This article was solely based on internet research and does not contain involvement of the parks mentioned in the article.

Movie Park Germany refurbished one of their oldest rides for the 2019 season. A popular semi-dark ride got a major upgrade and was renamed Area 51 – Top Secret. Before this renovation, the ride was known as Bermuda Dreieck or Bermuda Triangle, with sometimes a subtitle Alien Encounter. Now that we can all enjoy the new version of the ride, it would be interesting to have a look back into the original version of this DRDB entry. This article is a documentation of the Bermuda Dreieck ride, from it’s opening in 1996 until the upgrade in 2019.

A short history of Movie Park Germany

Movie Park Germany has a remarkable history. 1967 marked the opening year for a theme park on the grounds of the current park. For ten years it was the location for the fairy tale-inspired “Kirchhellener Märchenwald”. The park was sold in 1976 and the new owners reopened the park as “Traumlandpark”. Traumlandpark went bankrupt in 1985, after which two former employees bought the park and reopened it as “Neue Traumland” a year later. The new owners decided to sell the park in the early ‘90s to a German film production company. They turned it into “Bavaria Filmpark Bottrop”. The park did not contain any large attractions, but was mostly based on film related expositions, shows and entertainment. Unfortunately, the park did not become very popular and had to close in 1993.

Warner Brothers purchased the park in 1994 and spend two years on the construction of Warner Bros. Movie World Germany. When the park opened in 1996, it contained some large attractions such as Lethal Weapon Persuit, Looney Tunes Adventure, Gremlins Invasion and the Bermuda Dreieck. This last ride was remarkable, because it was not based on a famous movie by Warner Brothers.

The Legend

Bermuda is a tropical island in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1.700 km (1.050 miles) northeast from Miami (Florida, U.S.A.). Together with Miami and the island of Puerto Rico, the island forms the corners of the Bermuda Triangle. It is a notorious part of the ocean, famous for the many ships and airplanes that have disappeared in the area. One of the most notable stories, is the one of Flight 19, where five American fighter planes disappeared in the triangle. A rescue plane, sent out to search for Flight 19, also never returned from its mission.

The Bermuda Triangle (Image made with Google Maps)


Science has not found any particular explanation for the many disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. However, fiction authors have played with many explanations, spreading from paranormal activity to alien life forms. The second possibility formed the basis of the story for the ‘Bermuda Dreieck’ ride.

The origin of the ride

For the origin of the ride, we have to travel over 16.000 kilometers to the other side of the world: Surfer’s Paradise, Australia (near Gold Coast, the Orlando of Australia). This is where Sea World (not to be confused with the American SeaWorld parks) can be found, a theme park with shows and attractions, mostly based on the marine life around Australia. The park opened a new spectacular ride in 1988: Lassiter’s Lost Mine. In this attraction, the riders would take place on large boats (suited for 16 people) and entered an old gold mine. The mine was slowly flooding and the boat would take rides through various scenes of mineworkers that are trying to escape the rising waters. The ride was a combination of a splash-boat ride and a dark ride. The station was located outside of the show building and the ride would enter and leave the building through a splash.

The building cost of the ride was 3 million Australian dollars and immediately became the most technologically  advanced ride of Australia. Even employees of Disney were said to be impressed with the ride and its relatively small budget.

Sources tell that the ride was built inhouse by Sea World. It is not clear whether this means the complete ride, including ride system, or only the scenes and decoration. It would however not be surprising if the ride system was developed inhouse. Back in 1978, the park already designed their own version of the Log Flume ride: “Viking’s Revenge Flume Ride”. It is possible that Sea World developed the ride system themselves with the help of local contractors.

Lassiter’s Lost Mine closed in 1993. Images of Lassiter’s Lost Mine are nowhere to be found, however this promotion video of Sea World from 1990 has a couple clear shots from the ride.

Watch at 2:21 for Lassiter’s Lost Mine


Sea World opened a new experience in 1994: the Bermuda Triangle. The attraction used the very same ride system and show building as Lassiter’s Lost Mine, but was completely rethemed. Bermuda Triangle was soon to become a very popular ride. You can see the introduction of the Bermuda Triangle in another promotion video of Sea World from 1994.

Bermuda Triangle is mentioned at 4:43


The story of the ride obviously revolved around the famous triangle in the Atlantic Ocean, but also took inspiration from the Mexican-Italian movie production ‘The Bermuda Triangle’. However, the references to the storyline of the movie were so little, that no contract for the use of intellectual property was necessary. Fans of the ride who take a look at the trailer might see some familiar elements though.

Movie trailer for ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ (1978)


The decorations of the Bermuda Triangle were produced by the Sanderson Group. Sea World spend 10 million Australian dollars on the overhaul from a mine to the volcanic island.

October 18th, 2010 marked the first day of a maintenance period for the ride. The ride was supposed to reopen in December of that year, but Sea World eventually decided to close the ride permanently, marking October 17th of 2010 as the last day the ride operated. Sea World started demolishing the ride in August 2012, after which a new ride, the Storm Coaster, opened up in December 2013 on the site of the former semi-dark ride.

Bermuda Triangle in Bottrop

The Bermuda Dreieck in Movie Park Germany that opened in 1996, is a replica of the ride in Sea World. The way it ended up in Germany is rather complicated. Back in 1989, Sea World was in the lead to merge three amusement parks into one company: Sea World, Wet’n’Wild Water World and a new park in development: Warner Bros Movie World. Two other companies were involved in the merge: AOL Time Warner (parent company of Warner Brothers) and Village Roadshow Limited (an Australian movie production company that already had ties with Warner Bros.). The new company, Village Roadshow Theme Parks received the rights to use intellectual property of Warner Brothers to develop the new theme park.

Warner Bros. Movie World Gold Coast opened in 1991 (located next to the Wet’n’Wild Water World and the newly opened Village Roadshow Studios). During the development of the park, Time Warner already started focusing on a second theme park in another part of the world. This led into the purchase of the Bavaria Filmpark Bottrop. In two years’ time, the park was transformed into Warner Bros. Movie World Germany. During the development of the park, many of the designs of the Australian park were copied for the park in Germany. Most notably and still visible is the internal infrastructure of the park: an entrance square with fountain, a small bent into the Main Street. At the end of the Main Street the Police Academy Stunt Show. Take a right for Looney Tunes Land or a left for the other areas, such as the Western village. The German park was not part of the Village Roadshow chain. It is unclear who actually ran the park in the early years, but it seems to be a standalone subsidiary of AOL Time Warner.

The popularity of the Australian Bermuda Triangle ride became a reason for Time Warner to build a replica of Sea World’s unique ride in Bottrop. This decision was probably made to add a large ride to the park, without having the expensive development costs. Many rides in the German park were replicas of rides in Australia (such as Gremlins Invasion and Looney Tunes Adventure).

The ride system for Bermuda Dreieck was built by Intamin AG. It is not clear wetter Intamin AG copied the and reproduced the exact design from Sea World or if any changes to the ride system were made. Decorations were mostly done by the park themselves or local constructors. The animatronics of the ride were produced by Garner Holt.

The American theme park chain Premier Parks (not much later called ‘Six Flags Inc.) started expending in the late ’90, by buying several theme parks in Europe. This included Warner Bros. Movie World Germany. Six Flags already owned IP-rights for the use of DC Comics and the Looney Tunes (Time Warner on their turn owned 5% of the shares of Six Flags Inc.). They set up a contract with Warner Brothers to keep the Warner IP for all the rides in Warner Bros. Movie World and even to open up a new Warner Bros. theme park in Spain. When the American parent company of Six Flags fell into financial problems, they were forced to sell their European division. Movie Park Germany was bought in 2004 by the British investment company Palamon Capital Partners, who started operating the park under their StarParks division. Palamon decided not to set up a new contract with Warner Bros. and renamed the park Movie Park Germany. All rides with intellectual property of Warner Bros. needed to be modified for the 2005 season. The Bermuda Triangle was an exception to this major overhaul, since the ride did not contain any Warner IP. The ride stayed the nearly the same for almost 15 years until it was refurbished for the 2019 season as Area 51 – Top Secret.

The story of the Bermuda Dreieck

Many people who rode this for the first time in the later years, probably did not understand the complete story. The version in Bottrop has been translated to German, not every visitor of the park speaks that language. Besides that, a lot of the audiovisual media did not work properly. Most speech recordings during the ride were unintelligible, even for people who speak German. On top of that the pre-show was mostly skipped, resulting in an incoherent story. The complete story to the ride was as follows:

The loading dock. The ‘Research Probes’ are waiting for you


The Coast Guard has been searching for a long time for the lost ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle. They are heavily understaffed and ask us to take part in the search mission. Contact with mission control is established and two officers brief you about the dangerous mission. Of course they will give examples of mysteriously lost vessels in the triangle, such as Flight 19. They tell us however that something remarkable has happened in the ocean. A giant volcano rose from the waters, creating a new island. The volcano produces so much heat, that it is expected that the earths magnetism is affected. This may be the cause of all the disappearances. The beautiful officer Clark interrupts the speculations of her colleagues and tells us that our vessels will set sail for the Bermuda Triangle, in search of the cause of the mystery. The Research Probes are equipped with a high-tech communications system, that allows them to communicate with us and see what we see from a distance. The vessels are ready…

The pre-show with on the left officer Clark

The ride towards the volcano


Soon after departure we find out that all control over the Research Probe is lost. Someone is leading us into a cave in the mysterious volcano. The only way is up towards the top of the mountain. From there, the boats splash down into the waters of the underground channels. Communication with mission control is restored and soon we meet whoever took control of our vessel: the aliens. These aliens have been active for decades, because all lost planes and rockets can be found in the cave. They seem to be dismantling them.

Your first encounter at the entrance of their base

One of retrieved airplanes

A long lost rocket is being dismantled by the aliens


Officer Clark explains on the radio that the volcano is about the erupt. All planes are being dismantled to save them from their demise. When Clark is being asked how she knows all this, she reveals that she is in fact an alien herself. When she is confronted with her statement, you can hear through the radio contact that she has vanished from mission control.

The aliens reveal to have more than just the planes. The next room contains displays of abducted humans. Some of them wear clothing from ancient Egypt to mediaeval times. These aliens have been abducting people for centuries. We meet officer Clark again on one of the video screens we pass, confirming that she is part of the alien civilization.

The collection of humans

The aliens also need to save themselves. They don’t always have to fly though


The further we go, the more we can see of the demise of the volcanic island. Water and lava starts flowing from all directions of the cave. The aliens will lead us backwards out of the cave. During this short emergency evacuation, we can see that the water level rises rapidly and the cave starts collapsing. They lead us up one of the mountains again. Fire rises at the top of the mountain, right before we descent with great speed and splash into the waters outside. Now you know the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle!

The splash ending


Watch video 4 for the complete Australian version (including pre-show) of the ride. The video shows the complete story the Bermuda Dreieck in English.

Bermuda Triangle (Sea World) on ride

Area 51 – Top Secret

Over the years, many effects of the Bermuda Dreieck started to decay. Most problems that Movie Park Germany encountered with the ride, were caused by the Australian design. The park has stated that most mechanical and electrical parts of the ride were based on the Australian standard and not the German or European. This made it very difficult for the maintenance crew to work or to order spare parts. Also, the volcanos were made from a material that does not withstand the west-European climate as good as it would with the Australian climate. The animatronics were said to still be working on a DOS-computer system. All these factors added up to difficult and costly maintenance and after 23 years of operation, it took its toll.

Luckily for us, Movie Park Germany decided not to close and demolish the Bermuda Dreieck. Instead, for the 2019 season, the ride got a complete renovation. The ride got a new story, but the dark ride scenes inside the show building stayed nearly the same. Original Australian components were replaced by parts that are common on the German market. Many effects were restored in full glory, some of them had not been working for years. Unrestorable components were scrapped. New video screens were added in some scenes to accommodate the new story.

Scenic changes were made on the outside of the show building. The new story takes place on the mysterious Area 51 U.S. Air Force base. The Coast Guard mission control was transformed into the air force base. Windows on the bride building above the station, were replaced by video screens, showing animations of military planes and U.F.O.’s.

Over the years, many Dark Ride Database notable rides have been closed in the park in Bottrop. We are very glad that Movie Park Germany has decided to give this signature ride a second life. With the new story being told and the new technics of the effects, Movie Park Germany has made it possible for the new generation theme park fans to enjoy this classic ride.

References:

This special is extention and English translation of ‘Special: The Bermuda Triangle’, written by Erik. Published on March 29th, 2019 on http://www.themepark.nl/ and http://www.pretpark.club/

Images / video’s:

  • Photos by Erik
  • Video 1: Sea World (souvenir video), uploaded by JozParks.
  • Video 2: Sea World (souvenir video), uploaded by JozParks.
  • Video 3: The Bermuda Triangle (trailer), uploaded by man Jamaica.
  • Video 4: Filmed and uploaded by Sjaak van Horne.

A short history of Movie Park Germany:

The Legend:

De origin of the ride:

Area 51 – Top Secret

©2020 Dark Ride Database
Written by: Erik

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