Not all of the best dark rides are found in large amusement parks. Some regional parks have put a lot of effort into creating an outstanding dark ride that can compete with the major parks. One of these parks is Legendia, located in Chorzów (Poland), a suburb of major city Katowice. Their one and only dark ride ‘Bazyliszek’ became critically acclaimed and even won a Thea Award in 2019. Recently, we were able to take a ride ourselves and Legendia was kind enough to give us a backstage tour. Time to turn on the lights in this dark ride and see how this thing works!
Legendia originally opened in 1959 as ‘Śląskie Wesołe Miasteczko’ (Silesian Amusement Park). It is located in Chorzów, just outside the city of Katowice in Poland and it is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country. It consisted mostly of fun fair attractions that were manufactured in East-Germany, Italy or Czech Republic. One of the signature rides of the park is a 45 meter tall plane carousel that was constructed by a Polish manufacturer in 1958 (one year prior to the park’s opening). It is still in operation and currently called ‘Dream Flight Airlines’.
The park, which was owned by the local authorities, started a modernisation campaign in the early 2010s. The park bought in many second hand rides from European parks like Heide Park (Germany) and Sommerland Syd (Denmark). During this campaign, the park was approached by a new investor in 2015, the Slovak company Tatry Mountain Resorts. This new operator decided to make further investments in the park and to give it a complete transformation.
The park brought in Dutch design company Jora Vision to create a new masterplan and to develop a rebranding of the park. The new masterplan divided the park into five themed zones. Old rides were rethemed, relocated or replaced and new pathways were constructed to improve the overall look of the park. The masterplan included the addition of new rides for the upcoming years.
2017 was the major turning point for the park: this is when the park changed its name to “Legendia” to have a more international sounding name (although its official name is “Legendia Śląskie Wesołe Miasteczko”). As the name of the park already might indicate, the overall theme of the park will be based on Polish legends and fairy tales. The park constructed a new entrance and main street, creating a new warm welcome for visitors of the park. The most known addition that year was however the brand new Lech Coaster, a major rollercoaster by Vekoma. In total, approximately €45 million was invested in the park over the last decade.
The biggest legend yet
Another new ride which was proposed in the masterplan was Bazyliszek, an interactive dark ride. The ride was designed by Jora Vision and revolves around a dangerous mythological creature, called the Basilisk (Bazyliszek in Polish), which has appeared in many European myths and stories over the centuries.
In the Polish version of the story, the basilisk is a half-reptile, half-bird creature. Whoever looks a basilisk in the eyes will be turned into stone. On top of that, a basilisk can turn plants and trees into vicious creatures. A basilisk is attracted by shiny objects, which it tends to collect collect in its lair. Only very few animals are capable of fighting off a basilisk. However, a basilisk is scared of roosters and won’t get close to one, which makes a rooster suitable for protection against a basilisk. Another weakness of the basilisk is that it dies when it sees its own reflection. When the basilisk is killed, the petrified victims will turn back to normal.
We can enter the ride through the Jama Bazyliszka (Basilisk’s Cave), a building that houses an indoor play area, coffee corner, gift shop and of course the ride. The building is located in the west corner of the park, which allows for a winter opening when only the Jama Bazyliszka is open and accessible via a special entrance at the side of the park. This was one of the ideas of Jora Vision’s masterplan, allowing for year-round income for the park. The regular entrance to the building from the rest of the park features a façade of tree trunks that was created by Universal Rocks. A sharp right after entering the building leads towards the beginning of the queue line.
Bazyliszek features an extensive queue, which seems a bit long for the presumed queue length. However, the queue area is well-themed and lays the foundation of the story of the ride. We start in the lobby, where we are introduced to the Monster Hunter’s Guild by means of a welcome message in an open book that reads:
‘Welcome to the Monster Hunter Guild, founded to protect the Magic Forest from wild beasts and monsters. Let the brave women and men who save us every day inspire you.
Founder of the Monster Hunter Guild’
As we move forward, we learn that Bartłomiej’s guild has been fighting devilish creatures for many years. The guild consists of six heroes that are all represented with a painting in the ‘hall of fame’. Of course, Bartłomiej’s painting stands out in the center, but every hero has his or her own portrait.
Next is the research-room, where we can see how the guild carries out their work in defeating monsters of all kinds. The results of the research are shown on large posters, hanging on the walls, each depicting another monstrous creature. These include well-known monsters such as the vampire and the werewolf, but also lesser-known creatures like the Obra (a Polish mythical sea-creature) and the Likho (an embodiment of evil fate). The queue leads further into the weapons-room. This is where various weapons that the guild members use are stored.
The final room of the queue line contains a pre-show video. It shows Flora, one of the guild’s members. She tells us she has received a letter from a friend in the nearby town of Kurkowo. The town is under attack from a basilisk and needs the help of the guild. The basilisk is petrifying the town’s people and converting plants into evil creatures. As the other guild members are already away, hunting for other monsters, Flora asks us to join the guild. We are to board the Monster Hunter’s vehicles and travel to Kurkowo to defeat the basilisk.
We enter the ride station to board the vehicles. The ride system was built by ETF Ride Systems and consists of 10 trackless vehicles of their Multi Mover model, though generally not all vehicles are operational simultaneously. The six-seater vehicles are armed with six guns, which we can use to defeat the basilisk. The interactive system for the ride was supplied by Alterface. The animations for the attraction were created by Bon Art Studio, a frequent collaborator of Alterface.
Instead of a traditional station where all cars are lined up next to the platform, Bazyliszek was designed with two dead-end platforms. After departure, the cars move backwards to pull away from the platform and start the ride. A nice touch that cleverly uses the possibilities of the ride system, making the ride look even more impressive. We board one of the vehicles, pick up our weapons, and are ready for the journey to begin.
Soon we arrive in Kurkowo, where we meet Flora’s friend, Antek. The boy appears to be the only person in town who is not petrified. Since he is accompanied by his rooster, the basilisk cannot get close to him. Together with his rooster, he guides us towards the basilisk’s lair to slay the creature.
What follows is a journey through the magic forest, where we encounter several vicious plant creatures, created by the basilisk. We eventually find Antek in the ruins of an old castle, where we also pass through his treasure room. After battling the basilisk and his spawning creatures, we are able to trick it into looking into a mirror. The basilisk turns itself to stone and is killed, and all petrified creatures come back to life.
Check out our on-ride video of Bazyliszek to get a better look at the visual aspects of the storytelling:
Taking a walk through Kurkowo
After we took our first ride on Bazyliszek, the working lights of the ride were turned on and Paweł Cebula, Legendia’s general manager, gave us a walking tour of the ride. Paweł has been with the park since 2012 and seen its major expansion in the last ten years.
We begin our tour with a look at the operating booth of the ride. A large panel allows the personnel of the ride to both control the ride and to keep track of the location of each car. The control panel features a computer screen that shows the layout of the ride and indicates the location of the cars. Only four out of ten cars were on the track this morning. They are all indicated to be standing still in the station.
The scenes are indicated on the map, with the forest on the bottom right side, the ruins on top and the Basilisk Liar on the left. Noticeable on the map is the dead-end track in the ‘dark cave’-scene. Cars will drive up to the end of the track and reverse whenever the scene is finished. It is another good example of the versatility of the ride system.
Also visible on the map are a switch to the maintenance area that we would visit later. After a look at the operator booth, we began to walk the streets of Kurkowo.
Riders are tracking the basilisk through the magic forest. Footprints of the creature are visible on a few occasions throughout the ride. These tracks were created by using blacklight. The lighting of the ride, including the blacklight effects, were supplied by Painting With Light from Belgium, who also collaborated with Alterface and Jora Vision on Popcorn Revenge (Walibi Belgium).
The forest scene is also where the on-ride photo of the riders is taken. Most people may be used to seeing more advanced photo equipment that would be utilized on a rollercoaster. However, in Bazyliszek the photo is taken during a moment when the car is standing still. Also the fact that it is an indoor ride creates the opportunity to use something much simpler. Bazyliszek uses a quite common DSLR camera that is located in one of the trees.
Even though Bazyliszek has a trackless ride system, there are markings visible on the ground. The line in the middle contains a wire. A sensor inside the ride vehicle follows that wire and steers the cars into the right direction. This track also contains certain codes at various points. Whenever a sensor reads out a code, it can perform a certain action, such as the rotation of the car or a speed increase/decrease, but it can also send a signal to the ‘show control’ of the ride. The show control can start a special effect or interactive screen. A lot of the communication of the ride is handled by the vehicles.
Paweł explained that Bazyliszek uses three different kinds of interactive targets. Most notable are the multimedia screens, but there are also physical targets spread throughout the ride. The third type of targets were created with projection mapping. These targets were not visible during the walkthrough of the ride, as the projectors were not active. According to Paweł, Bazyliszek was the first ride to have this combination of three different targets.
The combination of interactivity and the earlier mentioned use of blacklight was not easy to achieve. “We tried to project scenes on blacklight. That is already experimental and we eventually made it work, but in hindsight we could have used a different projector. Because projecting on a black screen makes the projection more grey. Now we know that for a next project,” said Simeon van Tellingen of Jora Vision in a previous interview with the Dark Ride Database.
As seen on the layout in the operator booth, Bazyliszek’s layout has a switch right before the final scene. This switch leads into the storage room, which can also be used as a workshop. The cars are brought to the storage room to load their batteries, for maintenance or when they are simply not in use on days with low attendance.
There are no track marks in the storage anymore, so the cars are not able to drive automatically to a spot. Instead, the cars can be pushed into a spot. Alternatively and perhaps more desirably, they can be controlled with a remote, just like you would use for a remote controlled car. This way, the vehicles can be moved anywhere; in fact, Paweł told us that Legendia, as a promotional stunt for the ride, drove one of the cars through the city during an expo that was held in town.
About €6 million was invested for Bazyliszek, with about half of that for the ride itself and the other half for the building, gastronomy and shop. According to Paweł, the technologies behind interactive dark rides, such as servers, projectors and ride vehicles, have become less expensive over the years. With more design companies, such as Jora Vision, that can create dark rides, it is much easier for a regional park to afford a high quality dark ride. €6 million is still a lot of money, but a ride like Bazyliszek would have been much more expensive in the past.
After an interesting walkthrough of the ride, a look into the storage and the insights given by Paweł, we concluded our tour of Bazyliszek. Together with Jora Vision, Alterface, Painting With Light and ETF Ride Systems, the park has created a high quality, memorable ride that did not go unnoticed by the industry. The ride received the 2019 Thea Award for the outstanding achievement of an attraction with a limited budget. We would very much like to thank Paweł Cebula, Izabela Kieliś, Joanna Kravjar-Ciesielska and the whole team of Legendia for making this article possible.
© Dark Ride Database
Visit by: Erik & Luc
Article by: Erik
Photos by: Erik & Luc