A deeper look into the ‘Advanced Dark Ride’ concepts

Concept art for the Advanced Dark Ride ‘Merlin’s Quest’ (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)

The recent IAAPA Expo Europe is a great place to show new rides or concepts, as we discussed in our report of the expo. One of the new dark ride concepts presented at the trade show was the Advanced Dark Ride, coming in three different sizes and various themes. The concepts were developed by German ride manufacturer Zierer and Dutch design company Leisure Expert Group. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into these six concepts.

It all started when Zierer developed a new ride system for Ghostbusters 5D – Die Ultimative Geisterjagt in Heide-Park Resort (Soltau – Germany). The Advanced Dark Ride system features motion-based cars that can move with five degrees of freedom. With 8 seats per car, it is a high capacity ride vehicle.They can accelerate quickly and move at a high speed. Now, a couple years later, Zierer co-operated with Leisure Expert Group to create a series of dark ride concepts, utilizing the same ride system. The six concepts come in 3 layouts: Small, Medium and Large, which enables parks to choose the size that suits their park best. Each layout has two different themes: a family-friendly one and a versions that targets an older audience. The companies ensure that each of the themes can also be adapted to another lay-out of the ride.

Advanced Dark Ride
Promotional image of the Advanced Dark Ride vehicle (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)


Six concepts for the Advanced Dark Ride, in three different sizes (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)

The most notable design concept is the small layout. This lay-out does not make a complete loop, but functions in a similar way as an immersive tunnel simulator. After boarding, riders are moved forward into the only darkride scene, which encompasses a large screen on one side and a real set at the far end of the room. This set is built on a rotating platform, which can be used to change the scene when riders face the screen, creating a surprise for the riders. The ride duration of the small layout is approximately 4 minutes and has a capacity of 100 riders per hour.

The family friendly version of the Small layout is set in a farm-theme and is called Farmfrenzy. It is an interactive ride in a colorful cartoony style. in which riders are asked to help the farmer to protect his chickens from foxes that try to steal them. The other version is called Cretar and features a dinosaur theme, without interactivity. In Cretar, riders will visit a Jurassic Park-like resort where they get caught up in a tropical storm. During the storm, the dinosaurs are capable of escaping, causing riders to be chased by the dinosaurs, resulting in a thrilling experience.

The Farmfrenzy ride concept (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)
The Cretar ride concept (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)

The medium layout consists of a small loop through the building. 4 vehicles take riders on a journey along 5 scenes with interactive screens. With a track length of 65 meters and ride duration of approximately 3,5 minutes, the concepts will have a capacity of 400 people per hour.

Both concepts for the medium ride lay-out use an interactive system. The first medium layout features another dino theme and is called Dino Scan. Riders meet Jura, a young paleontologist asks them for help to bring back a baby dinosaur to his mom. While riders are on their way of doing that, they can collect data on the dinosaur population by using the so called dino-scanner. Riders will be able to learn something from these friendly dinosaurs. The other concept is called Music Festival and features a different kind of interactivity. Riders will visit scenes that revolve around various music genres. Riders will be able to hit various notes with a baton. Riders can score points by hitting the right notes in the right rhythm.

The Dino Scan ride concept (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)
The Music Festival ride concept (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)

Finally the large layout features even more rooms, bends and corners. The track of the ride will be 180 meters long, along 9 scenes with (interactive) screens. The concepts have a theoretical capacity of 960 persons per hour.

In the first interactive concept, Merlin’s Quest, riders are tested by wizard Merlin to see if they can become his apprentice. However, something goes wrong and Merlin’s pet, a large Griffin, escapes. It’s up to the riders to bring her home. The ride features more physical scenes between the 9 interactive multimedia scenes. A ride will take approximately 3 minutes and will have seven cars on the track. Ragnarok has a different approach and does not feature interactive elements. The ride is based on Norwegian viking mythology. Ragnarök itself is a series of events that leads to both the end of our current world and the beginning of a new one. In the ride, we are asked to help Odin, King of the Gods. He sends us to in between the realms, as time is running out. Ragnarok will have a slower pacing as the ride will take 4 minutes, but does allow for 9 cars to run on the track in return.

The Merlin’s Quest ride concept (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)
The Ragnarok ride concept (© Leisure Expert Group / Zierer)

The presented ‘Advanced Dark Ride’ concepts by Zierer and Leisure Expert Group are designed to feature more generic or timeless themes. By doing this, they will be appealing to a broad group of visitors and thus interesting for many theme parks, family entertainment centres or even a potential stand-alone attraction. Now, we will have to wait for the first ride installation to be announced and opened.

Scale model of the Dino Scan ride concept, presented at IAAPA Expo Europe (© Dark Ride Database)