A look into the works of ride manufacturer Gosetto

A dark ride in the making at Gosetto s.r.l. (Planeta Winx, now Gattobaleno Time Machine, at MagicLand, Italy)

Italy might actually be the country with the most ride manufacturers in Europe. Among them is Gosetto s.r.l. The company, based in Mosnigo di Moriago (North Italy) was founded in 1977 and mostly produced kiddie and family rides. The company started to expand their ride catalogue in the 2000’s and added also several dark ride systems to their production line. We spoke with Sergio Parolin, technical director of Gosetto, about the work of Gosetto and how the company approaches their projects.

Sergio Parolin with one of the vehicles of Liseberg’s Underlandet.

Name: Sergio Parolin
Company: Gosetto s.r.l.
Since: 2011
Favourite (semi-) dark ride: Well, it’s not a classical dark ride, but I think The Mummy in Universal Studios Orlando (U.S.A.). It starts like a dark ride and then arrives in this room with fire flames and after that is starts like a coaster. I was not expecting that and I felt the heat of the flames, it was really something special.
Favourite show ride: It’s hard to choose, I don’t visit theme parks that often. But I remember the Michael Jackson one (Captain EO) in EPCOT, I remember it was really nice. Maybe that film is something for older people like me. Orlando is really like a Wonderland actually, all these parks and all these exceptional rides.

The history of Gosetto

The history of Gosetto started in the 1950’s. Elio Gosetto, around the age of 13, started working for an Italian ride manufacturer. In 1977 he decided to build up his own business with his brother Valentino, working for the amusement ride industry, but also releasing some steel component for houses.

Gosetto started to produce bumper car buildings and go kart tracks. First for the Italian market, but they soon expanded to Germany and the rest of Europe. In later years more fairground rides were developed such as merry-go-rounds and convoy-car tracks, along with fixed park models. Today, Gosetto rides can be found all around the world, and the bumper car buildings are still one of the main products of the company, together with dark rides and fun houses. Nowadays, the company is owned by Elio’s son and daughter Luca and Lisa. Elio Gosetto is still present at the company every morning and proud of his company.

One of many Bumper Car rides that Gosetto has designed.

Gosetto currently has approximately 50 employees, a 6.000 square meters facility and is able to do everything in the process of the development of a new ride with their own designers, engineers and certified welders. “Starting from the experience of making bumper car buildings, we are mostly a carpentry,” says Sergio. But the company also has its own technical department. “I can say that we design everything in here and we produce all the components here by ourselves,” adds Sergio.  Gosetto can make concept ideas, turn those in both mechanical and electrical designs and write the needed software. But the company does more than just the engineering and development of the rides: “Also services are carried out by us: maintenance, service reports and so on,” tells Sergio. The only thing that Gosetto does not do themselves are the stress-analysis calculations. “By outsourcing this we are 100% transparent and we can guarantee to our customers that all calculations are perfectly done and checked by a third engineer,” adds Sergio.

All rides of Gosetto are built and tested inside the factory of the company, before being shipped out to the customer. They are in close contact with their customers, announcing testing days in advance so they or the inspection body can be present during these tests. The company works on the highest safety standard, based on regulations of TÜV (the German Technical Inspection Association, that is responsible for almost all European theme park attractions).

Gosetto s.r.l. even has a sister company, called ‘Evocompositi’, that specializes in composite materials such as fiberglass and carbon fibre. Parts like the body of the ride vehicles are produced out of glass fiber by Evocompositi.

Sergio is the technical director in the middle of this process of ride engineering. Before landing on this job at Gosetto, he worked in machinery and water treatment installations for years. “I arrived here at Gosetto nine years ago. I am the technical head of the Gosetto Company. I tend to say that I am more than a designer, but I am the glue between all the designers here at Gosetto.” Sergio leads the technical department of 7 people that design and produce everything internally.

Gosetto’s history with dark rides

In the 2000’s, the company wanted to expand their catalogue. Meanwhile, Dutch showmen Johan Hinzen and Ferdi Gigengack were looking for a new dark ride to travel with on the Dutch and German fair circuit. They wanted a huge ghost train, bigger and different from the other ghost train rides on the circuit. “The problem was that he needed to find a manufacturer who could deliver a transportable ride, which is completely different from a fixed park installation,” tells Sergio, “I actually think Gosetto started with the most complicated one.” The company developed the Haunted Mansion for Hinzen, a suspended dark ride with two floors, rotating cars and an impressive facade. It is one of the largest traveling dark rides in the world.

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The Haunted Mansion suspended dark ride for Hinzen/Gigengack. 

“Now the ride is owned by Hinzen, and he for sure is a great showman,” says Sergio, “It depends for a manufacturer which customer you have to deal with. There are a lot kind of parks and showmen you can work for and if you have a really competent person, a person who loves the ride like a child, things are getting different. It is important to have a customer who knows what he wants, who knows how to care about his ride, how to maintain it. He is keeping the ride as new.”

Haunted Mansion debuted in july 2005 on the fair in Best (The Netherlands), with great succes. Since then, Gosetto manufactured more traveling dark rides, but already two years later, the first park based dark ride opened: Devil’s Mine Hotel in PowerPark (Finland), an interactive ground based ride system with again rotating cars. The dark ride production really took off after 2010. For the last 10 years, Gosetto has been building an average of 2 or more dark rides each year for several parks such as Linnanmäki (Finland), Gröna Lund (Sweden), Adventureland (NY, USA), Studio City Macau (China) and Global Village (UAE).

We started talking with Sergio about the process of creating a dark ride. A dark ride is rarely designed by just one party. Usually there is a designer (or group of designers), a ride manufacturer, a theming company, a party that takes care of the building and a customer. Sometimes one of these parties does more than just one job. In the case of Gosetto, they are able to do all of these things (except being their own customer). However, in most cases, they are one of many parties in the development of a dark ride and Gosetto has collaborated with many other companies in the field.

“In dark rides, these collaborations are rather special,” tells Sergio. “I can honestly say that dark rides are the most complicated theme park rides to realize. By definition, a dark ride is a unique ride. Park to park, showman to showman, all dark rides are different. Every park wants to tell a different story and wants to have a 100%-customized experience. It’s like a tailored suit – I like to say that we are more than engineers or welders, we are tailors.”

The idea for a dark ride usually comes from the customer, in our cases: the parks. “Dark rides always start with a lot of ideas. ‘I want to show this and that’, and we have to put that all together and try to give it a shape. That is why many people are involved in the creation process of a dark ride. It’s not like, let’s say, a tower drop: this is the ride, we can paint it green, black, yellow, we can do 20 or 30 seats, and that’s it. No, a dark ride is really different,” tells Sergio.

The development of Liseberg’s Underlandet

We asked Sergio about the process of a couple specific rides that Gosetto helped developing. Starting of course with the highly anticipated new ride for Liseberg (Sweden): Underlandet. Obviously, we are not going to spoil anything on the ride itself, but Sergio gave a nice insight on how the project was handled.

Promotional photo of Underlandet

About two and a half years ago, Gosetto was contacted by David Schofield from Quarry Fold Studio. Quarry Fold Studio is a design studio that has been working for Liseberg for years. They have designed the childrens area ‘Kaninlandet’ (Rabbit Wonderland), where the new dark ride will be located. Quarry Fold Studio is the designer for Liseberg’s new dark ride. Gosetto started to brainstorm together with Quarry Fold and Liseberg about the ride: “In the beginning, they started thinking about the building, the area, the available surface. They asked us to come up with a pathshape that would fit inside that building. We proposed a couple of lay-outs for them, as they changed the available surface throughout the process,” tells Sergio. “That is typical in such a process, ideas constantly change.”

In all these discussions about the shape of the new ride, there was also room for a discussion about the ride system itself. Gosetto is able to produce ground based ride systems with a monorail or dual-rail track, a suspended dark ride system and even a trackless version. But even this far into the concept making, Gosetto was still not officially hired to build the ride system. Eventually Liseberg narrowed down their options and Gosetto is really honored to be the manufacturer of the ride.

But at the point of hiring the designers and manufacturers, the design phase was not done yet. The engineers from Gosetto were brought in for a meeting. “I remember there was a meeting in October 2018 in Gothenburg, we were all together there. They put all suppliers together inside a theatre and said that we should meet each other as from now on, we were all in the same boat.” They met with theming manufacturer P&P Projects, the electrical company the company for the show control of the ride.

Underlandet is located in an existing building. That has upsides and and downsides. The upside is that you do not need to build a whole new building for your ride. The downside is that you need to make adjustments to the existing building. “A lot of work was necessary inside the building: it was an old building which needed modifications. It was also a building with historical value so they could not do everything they wanted on the exterior.” With all sorts of changes being made, the ride system had to change too. “Some parts of the building are added to the ride or it is decided that there should be a restaurant in one part of the building instead and the surface for the dark ride changes,” adds Sergio.

But it’s not just the building plans that can change the path of the ride system, also elements of the ride itself can cause modifications: “If one of the props, some character, needs to be bigger to improve the ride experience, that could come into the safety envelope (or loading gauge) of the ride. Vehicles and then the rails need to be changed, and so on,” tells Sergio. “A lot of suppliers, a lot of elements and a lot of props obviously means a lot of problems as well. Some of the problems can be solved by one supplier by himself, but sometimes we need to work together to solve them.”

Eventually, all problems were settled, a design was made and Gosetto could start with the manufacturing of the ride system. Gosetto has a large facility, where they usually can build and test an entire ride before they ship it out to the customer. “We want to do that to avoid problems on installation as much as we can. You always encounter problems, also on installation, but doing a test here inside our factory already solves a lot of issues. The TÜV also prefers to see a test ride in the factory before having it tested on-site. It makes their work easier as well, to do all safety checks and so on,” tells Sergio.

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Artwork of the ride vehicles for Underlandet

However, Underlandet is a lot bigger than their previous rides and did not fit inside their factory. “We build a fake path including about 50% of the rails which touched upon all elements that we needed to check. We tested all the vehicles as well.” These tests were also convenient for the integrations. “We had people from Liseberg and of the electrical partners visiting us here to show the progress and to make arrangements on some final technical details. The ride for Liseberg is really complicated in its safety functions and it has to communicate with the show control system, so there is a lot of automatization and a lot of details to agree on.” says Sergio.

After the factory tests were finshed, it was time for the final step of Gosetto’s process for Liseberg’s dark ride: “In the beginning of this year we realized the installation of the transportation system in the park. The installation was also a big challenge, as we had a lot of different people from a lot of different companies working on a lot of activities and tasks together.” All parties need to work around the same time to realize the new ride. “For example, when Gosetto needed to fix the rails in one room, there should be no one working on the painting or so in that same room. So we needed to make a calendar together, a sequence of working activities, which all parties together agreed on.”

But since all parties had the same goal, they all worked together to create a schedule to finish the ride in time for the big opening. “The ride is practically working. We are only missing the opening of the park. But the ride is ready to open.” tells Sergio us. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Swedish government has announced that the theme parks in Sweden are not allowed to open in the summer of 2020. Therefore, it is unknown when Underlandet can finally open to the public.

Working as the main manufacturer

So in the case of Underlandet, Gosetto was hired just to develop the ride system. Quarry Fold Studio was always in the lead on the artistic part of the design: “They showed us the storyboard, they showed us the first renderings to make us understand what was required and what the experience would look like.” Gosetto developed a new dark ride for the 2019/2020 season of Dubai’s Global Village (UAE), called Transylvania Towers. It is a suspended haunted house with two floors of horror scenes. The process was completely different this time. Global Village had a rectangular space and was looking for a dark ride. They asked Gosetto to deliver the full package: building, transport system and theming.

Gosetto designed all scenes but did not create a complete storyboard like Quarry Fold Studio did for Underlandet. Global Village wanted a classic scary ghost train type of ride. “In ghost trains the storyboard is generally not so much developed,” tells Sergio. “We looked for the free spaces inside the building, we thought of some scary things we could do in there and arranged a sequence of them throughout the ride.” The animatronics were made by different companies.

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Transylvania Towers on its location in Global Village, UAE

Just like the other rides, Gosetto built Transylvania Towers in their own factory first before shipping it to the customer. More than 20 full containers of theming, building and ride parts were shipped from Italy to Dubai, where the construction of the ride took from August to October, after which the ride was Tüv Süd approved.

Building different designs

So in the case of Liseberg, the park really knew what they wanted and found collaborating companies to realize the ride. In the case of Global Village, they gave the creative lead to Gosetto. In both cases, it was the park that choose to collaborate with Gosetto. In other cases, there was a company in the middle. The design company usually has a contract with the park and Gosetto a contract with the design company.

Gosetto created three dark rides together with Triotech: Zombi in Funlab Cevahir, Istanbul (Turkey, 2014), Hypercade in Studio City Macau (China, 2015) and one that hasn’t opened yet in Hainan Ocean Paradise (China, 2020). In these cases, Triotech designs the rides and Gosetto manufactures the ride system. “Generally Triotech arrives with their own idea of the ride’s path, from their idea of the ride’s experience. They already know how many screens they want along the ride, and where. And they ask us whether we can realize that pathshape. They also ask us what we think about it as they know we have experience with making ride systems, so it is really a dialogue – we have a very good relation with Triotech. Generally we don’t see any particular problem and we agree on the pathshape, and then we build the ride. We also build the vehicles according to their specifications, with their interactive gun system on board. And then we ship them to the customer and install the ride together with Triotech.”

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The cars for Zombi, a collaboration project with Triotech in Funlab Cevahir (Turkey)

Sticking to the storyboard

Another completely different experience that Gosetto encountered during the creation of a dark ride, was The School for Etnaland (Italy). The park has received a major upgrade in the last decade. Dutch designer Hester Kloosterboer was responsible for most of the new themed rides, including the design for a dark ride.. “The park contacted us to make an offer for the ride system and the park already had an idea about the ride path and the concept and storyboard were delivered by Hester. The park asked us to realize the theming as well, following the storyboard.” So this time, part o Gosetto assignment was to realize the theming exactly like the storyboard. Gosetto hired local artists to help with the theming and, as usual, built the ride in their facility first.

The test setup for The School at Gosetto’s facility

The School is an interactive dark ride. However, it does not contain any guns or targets to shoot at. Instead, you will be schooled. The vehicles shaped like school benches and geared with an answering system. During the ride, you will receive multiple questions. The following scene is played differently with each answer. “It is about a couple of boys telling a story and asking some question about the history of Italy, very complicated questions actually. I think that idea is really great as it is somewhat educational. It is quite funny actually.”

Custom ride vehicles

Almost every ride dark ride that Gosetto has created, has its own ride vehicles. Cars receive their own glass fiber body, turning a basic design vehicle into something custom. Whether they consist out of a large flower, like the Planeta Winx ride, or the school benches for Etnaland, Gosetto can manufacture the cars in anyway the customer wants.

A ride vehicle that follows an old time memory is the Blå Tåget in Gröna Lund (Sweden). The four seater cars are shaped like a bright blue train locomotive. However, Gosetto managed to some special tricks in these cars: there are effects on the train, such as vibrating seats, a touch on the back side and airblows.

It is always a challenge to build custom vehicles. That also became clear during the design of the cars for the ride for Hainan Ocean Paradise ride: “They asked us to make a vehicle for six riders and later they presented us a wonderful and well done rendering of the vehicle shape which they had made, but we faced a problem: it was too big to fit inside a container so we would not be able to transport it.” The design consisted out of a large fish. Gosetto had to discuss with the designer how they could reduce the size of the cars so they could fit in a container and be shipped to China.

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The giant cars that Gosetto created for Hainan Ocean Paradise

Some rides that Gosetto manufactured, already received new theming. One of them is the Planeta Winx ride that they made for Rainbow MagicLand in 2011. Planeta Winx was a suspended dark ride with highly customized cars with a fiberglass body that’s shaped like a flower. The ride contains a path with different up- and downward hills. This winter, the park dropped the IP of cartoon production company Rainbow and rethemed all rides with IP, including Planeta Winx. The ride now operates as a VR dark ride called Gattobaleno Time Machine

The highlights of your work

Sergio has been working for Gosetto for nine years. He has been involved with all dark ride projects ever since, so we asked him what rides he was most proud of or most challenging. Sergio: “The one for Liseberg is definitely one of the biggest and most complicated one, it had a lot of challenges. But I can say that a father always likes the youngest child best,” indicating that perhaps his favorite ride has not been developed yet. “I am also proud of the suspended dark rides we made, including the building, in Dubai, Bangkok and New York (Adventureland, NY). That was really funny for us, making three suspended dark rides, three buildings, in three years time. That was a lot of work but I am really proud that we did almost everything for these rides, in all three cases.”

“The one we built for Ankara (Ankara Luna Park, Turkey) was also a great experience. It was a three-level dark ride, grounded vehicle. It was really a ghost train with horror scenes, the customer asked us to build the entire ride including the building. That was the first time we designed a dark ride that big, including the building. It was a great challenge but we made it. You have to imagine we build a new building, out of steel, inside our own building here. We had to find out how to assemble is, dismantle, transport, reassemble on site.”

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Treno Fantasma at Ankara Lunapark, Turkey.

And with that, our interview comes to an end. Sergio gave us a lot of insights in the work of Gosetto and the different aspects that are involved in dark ride design, both carried out by Gosetto or by other companies. We would like to thank Sergio for his time, stories and the insight he could give us in the company. We also would like to thank Frank Gigengack for introducing us to Gosetto and arranging this interview. We are looking forward to see more dark rides from Gosetto, especially the opening of Underlandet.

© 2020 Dark Ride Database
Interview by Erik and Luc
Article by Erik
Images provided by Gosetto s.r.l.