From the ’90s to now: Behind the scenes at Movie Park Germany’s Time Riders

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Façade of Time Riders

Simulators have been around since the 1970s. They come in many forms, some are simple fair attractions, others feature an elaborate storyline and immersive theming. One of the very few immersive cabin-based simulators left in the world can be found in Movie Park Germany and is called Time Riders. Together with Manuel Prossotowicz, Director of Marketing, Sales and Brand Development at Movie Park Germany, we were able to take a look behind the scenes of Time Riders to get a glimpse of how this elaborate attraction works. 

Simulators have been a common amusement park attraction since the debut of the Astroliner in the 1970s. It became a popular attraction, but the ride type really took off when Disneyland (Anaheim, CA – U.S.A.) opened Star Tours in 1987. This Star Wars-themed simulator contained cutting edge technology and an extensively themed queue line. From the moment guests enter the building, they are fully immersed into the galaxy of Star Wars, far, far away. 

Star Tours created a spark throughout the industry and many parks and companies started to work on similar simulator attractions. Soon, other major parks would add one to their attraction line-up. Star Tours is a cabin-based simulator, where guests board a cabin (or capsule if you will) for the main show. The cabin contains a video projection and is mounted on top of a motion system which will move the complete cabin during the ride. 

Today, these fully immersive cabin-based simulators are slowly becoming extinct. Recent simulators use different solutions to create immersive experiences. However, Star Tours still exists and even received a major update with ‘The Adventures Continue’ in 2011, as well as continuing to receive additional possible combinations of media every few years. One of the very few other cabin simulators left outside of Disney, is Time Riders in Movie Park Germany.  

Coming from a land down under 

Warner Bros. Movie World in Gold Coast – Australia (© Village Roadshow Theme Parks) 

Time Riders has a long backstory, starting in the early ‘90s. On the opposite side of the world in Gold Coast, Australia is a theme park that opened in 1991: Warner Bros. Movie World. This park has, as the name suggests, rides and attractions based on the characters and movies from Warner Bros. The park was conceived by Village Roadshow, a movie production company that worked closely together with Warner Bros. The two companies agreed on licences for Village Roadshow to build a theme park with Warner Bros.’ intellectual property (IP). 

The park opened in the middle of a golden age for Warner Bros. Many movie franchises, like Lethal Weapon and Police Academy were a huge hit for the studio. With the release of the Tim Burton directed ‘Batman’ movie in 1989, the title character and comic book hero became one of the most popular IP’s of Warner Bros. and the movie would soon expand into a franchise with its first sequel ‘Batman Returns’ hitting the theaters in 1992. 

It was only a matter of time before Batman would receive his debut in Warner Bros. Movie World and as a matter of fact, it would be the first attraction to be added after the initial park opening in 1991. Batman Adventure – The Ride opened on December 23, 1992. 

Commercial for Batman Adventure – The Ride 

Batman Adventure was perhaps the most elaborate simulator attraction out there after Star Tours, telling an extensive story set in Gotham City (the fictional city in which Batman fights crime). The story of the attraction was told through various pre-shows, before riders would eventually enter the simulator itself. 

Guests would enter Wayne Manor where they were greeted by one of Bruce Wayne’s (alias Batman) butlers, played by a ride attendant. Suddenly Batman calls out for help and the butler would guide the guests into the Batcave. In this second pre-show, guests would be introduced to the characters of the Penguin and Red Triangle Gang who are on the loose in the city. They have kidnapped all children in Gotham City, who need to be saved. Batman would insist guests board special ‘tracking modules’. These modules are programmed to follow Batman in his Batmobile through the streets of Gotham City. 

The attraction was a perfect tie-in with the recently released film Batman Returns. The attraction was designed with the same gothic/fantasy style as the two movies by Burton. The 4-minute main show featured many recognisable characters and scenes from Batman Returns, such as the Red Triangle Gang, trying to attack the module (in the movie, they attack the Batmobile in a similar way) and the appearance of the Penguin in his duck vehicle. 

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Promotional poster for Batman Adventure – The Ride (© Village Roadshow Theme Parks)

The attraction was built for a cost of US$ 9 million. It contained six simulator vehicles that were built by McFadden Systems (California – U.S.A.). The ride was praised for its visual effects upon opening, quickly becoming one of the most popular rides at the park, giving away over 10.500 rides in its first year.  

Hollywood in Germany 

The success of Warner Bros. Movie World made Time Warner (now called WarnerMedia, parent company of Warner Bros. Pictures) look into expanding on their themed entertainment endeavours. At the time, Time Warner had a large stake in Six Flags Inc. and some Six Flags parks already featured some of Warner Bros. IPs. They however did not have a park that was completely devoted to their brand, as the park in Gold Coast was owned by Village Roadshow. 

This led Time Warner to buy the grounds of another movie- themed park near the town of Bottrop, in the west of Germany: Bavaria Film Park. This rideless theme park featured mainly shows and walkthroughs that were themed to films that were produced by the Bavaria Film Studios in Munich. Coincidentally, this was also a film studio that had worked closely together with Warner Bros. before. 

Warner took its time and almost completely demolished Bavaria Film Park so that they could build their own park from the ground up. The park opened in 1996 as Warner Bros. Movie World Germany and closely resembled its Australian counterpart. It had an identical main street, leading towards a large stunt show, the right side of the park was devoted to the Looney Tunes and other themed areas, such as the western town, were located to the left. Many attraction designs from Gold Coast were copied, such as Looney Tunes Adventure, Gremlin’s Invasion and of course Batman Adventure – The Ride. This time, the Batman-simulator would be located in its own ‘Gotham City’ themed area. 

Batman Abenteuer at Warner Bros. Movie World Germany (© Screammachine) 

Batman Abenteuer (Abenteuer being German for Adventure) followed the same storyline, featured the same main show and was almost entirely an exact copy of the attraction in Australia. Small alterations included two additional simulator vehicles (making a total of eight instead of six, once again built by McFadden Systems) and a slightly different design for the building (probably to accommodate more people in one ride cycle). This time, the entire attraction was dubbed in German instead of the English original.  

From bats to Brits

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Promotional poster for Time Riders with John Cleese (© Movie Park Germany)

During the construction period, Time Warner bought more stakes in Six Flag Corp. and would eventually come to own them completely by 1993. However, not much later Time Warner found itself in debt and decided to sell their stakes in both Six Flags and Warner Bros. Movie World in 1998. Both were sold to Premier Parks, a rapidly expanding chain of theme parks, that would rename itself into Six Flags Inc. after the acquisition.  

Premier Parks ownership of the German park did not last long either. Just like Time Warner, Six Flags Inc. got into financial troubles and decided halfway through 2004 to sell their European parks. British investment group Palamon Capitol Partners became the new owners and the days of Warner Bros. Movie World Germany as guests had come to know and love it, were numbered. 

This is because when Premier Parks bought the park from Time Warner, they took licenses for Warner Bros.’ IP’s, which allowed the park to operate like it did before. They even added new rides containing new Warner Bros. IP’s for the park. However, new owner Palamon did not renew these licences. They instead decided to rebrand the entire park in just one off-season and reopened it in 2005 as Movie Park Germany. 

Because of this,almost all of the park’s attractions had to be modified in a short amount of time. While many generic themes like Hollywood and Wild West remained, most attractions no longer had IP’s. 

Obviously, Batman Abenteuer was one of the attractions to be rethemed. All references to Batman and other related characters had to be removed. Movie Park chose to create a new experience without a movie IP. The subject of time travel was selected, a cinematic theme that is used in many science-fiction films. 

The park called in Jon Corfino and his company Attraction Media & Entertainment Inc. from California (U.S.A.) to redesign the attraction. With only the request from the park being for a time travel theme, the designers came up with the concept for Time Riders. The building was cleverly transformed from Wayne Manor into the mansion of inventor Horace Garrison Wells (a nod to science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, known for novels like The Time Machine and more). 

A large challenge for the park and AM&E was working with the limited budget that was made available to them. Both parties needed to take a critical look at where to spend it on. Manuel Prossotowicz recalls the decision making during this period: “We, as a park, wanted to keep the immersive themed library”. The pre-show room in Wayne Manor contained high quality theming and it would be a waste to remove it. Many other parts of the interior of the mansion and cave were repurposed with a new storyline that was written around them.  

To make Time Riders even more of a cinematic experience, Corfino’s team managed to cast British actor John Cleese to play the main character Dr. Wells. Hiring such a famous actor was great, but also came with a price and meant there had to be compromising. “It was a challenge to integrate the old Wayne Manor façade into the theming because the main budget was allocated to the interior and media content of the ride,” says Prossotowicz, “We needed to decide if we wanted to go with a real movie celebrity or if we wanted to theme the exterior façade of the ride. Due to the rebranding and non-IP related theme we decided to go for John Cleese.” 

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Façade of Time Riders 

Pipes, a steam machine and a big cogwheel run clock now give the building a somewhat steampunk vibe. Every ride cycle, a lab assistant (ride attendant), dressed in a white lab coat, welcomes a new group of people into the building. The amount of people is depending on the number of simulators that are in operation at that moment (20 people for eight vehicles, so 160 people maximum). After entering the mansion guests are faced with (a wall filled with gadgets and next to it) a big photograph of Wells, meeting with Albert Einstein. This clever photo-manipulation is intended to make us familiar with Wells and his status.

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The first hall of the building with the famous Einstein photograph.

In the entry hall, you can find two large Anubis statues, left over from one of the park’s late Halloween attractions, called Stadt der Verdammten. The hall towards the library is now decorated with blueprints of Well’s incredible time machine. Pipes follow guests through the hall into the library, which hasn’t been altered that drastically since it was part of Wayne Manor. 

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The hallway leading up to the library with the Anubis statues at the front. 

A screen, disguised as a chalkboard, is now situated in the library, surrounded by all kinds of inventions. The lab assistant takes place on a ladder and establishes a video call with Dr. Wells. He tells the guests about his invention: the Time Rider. To prove to the guests that his machine is real, he shows a dinosaur egg, that he retrieved from the Jurassic period. After the call has ended, the lab assistant will open a secret passage behind a bookshelf. The passage leads towards a cave, where the laboratory of Dr. Wells is located. 

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Interior of the library, the first pre-show. 
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Details in the library.
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John Cleese as Dr. H.G. Wells during the first pre-show

Before entering the laboratory, the people are divided into several groups in a cave setting. These groups will share a vehicle together later on. When the doors open, all guests will enter the laboratory and take place on a seat on a stand to watch the second pre-show. 

The laboratory is what used to be the Batcave. Found centrally in this room, instead of the former animatronic of Batman, is a large fuelling station of some sort. Professor Wells appears on screens on either side of the apparatus. This second pre-show sees Wells explaining about his time machines, with something clearly going wrong in the background. This culminates into an emergency evacuation protocol and the guests being escorted to exit the cave.  

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The fuelling machine in Well’s laboratory. 
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Seats for the visitors

The infrastructure of the building leads every group towards one of eight simulator vehicles. Guests take their place in the vehicle and buckle their seatbelts. After a ride operator has performed all safety checks, the doors can be closed, and the ride can begin. 

The journey starts in a hangar where all other Time Riders are visible too, and a screen with Wells telling riders to hold on to their seat as he starts up the machine, which pops up. This is followed by a countdown, after which the Time Rider makes its first jump through time.

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Exterior of the Time Rider-vehicles 
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Interior of the vehicles 
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Final scene of John Cleese as dr. H.G. Wells 

The journey takes riders through space and time. Scenes range from encounters with dinosaurs in prehistoric times, getting caught in the middle of a sea battle between pirates, taking part in a medieval siege until finally going into the future. An endeavour with the futuristic Spaceship Earth ends in a rescue mission when a worm hole tries to suck in one of the other time riders. 

After saving our friends, we return to the present, where professor Wells exclaims that the journey did not go as smoothly as planned and he still needs to work on the machine. Guests are asked to ‘evacuate’ and exit the simulators on the other side of the vehicle and after walking through a door, they are back outside at the rear of the building. 

If you want to see what the complete experience looks like, you can watch the video we published earlier this year: 

Full experience of Time Riders

Time travel technology 

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Two Time Rider vehicles, waiting for the next departure

Ever since the first time we rode Batman Abenteuer, we have been impressed with the attraction and are glad that it still exists in the form of Time Riders. We have been wondering for a very long time how the attraction actually works and what it looks like from behind the scenes. Luckily, Movie Park Germany was glad to provide us a tour so we can show you the magic behind Time Riders. 

Under normal circumstances, visitors of the attraction don’t actually get to see the real exterior of the simulator cabins. After the second pre-show, visitors will end in a large hall in which the eight simulators are located. Each group will be led to a separate boarding area in which two diagonally placed simulators are located. The simulators are placed behind a fake wall, covering its exterior. Walking through one of the doorways will get riders directly on one of the cabins. 

The workings of a ‘Hexopod’’ (©

The cabins are standing on a hexopod (or ‘Stewart Platform’). The hexopod consists of six (hydraulic) cylinders, holding up the motion platform. The cylinders give the platform all six degrees of freedom: forwards & backwards (1), sidewards (2), up & down (3), pitch (4), roll (5) and yaw (6). The hexopod was developed for training simulators and first adapted into a theme park attraction for Star Tours. 

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The real exterior of simulator 2.
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The Hexopod of one of the simulators

The hexopod creates the vehicle’s motion, but there is one obstacle to overcome. The vehicles are placed between two walls, and these prevent the simulators from having the clearance needed for their motion. Time Riders is equipped with a clever system to gain this clearance. 

The boarding areas including its fake walls are actually movable platforms. Riders will access these by walking over a bridge (disguised as a tunnel). The platform can retract from the simulators, giving them the needed clearance. Similar moving platforms are located on the exit side of the simulators, although it is worth mentioning that since the simulators are placed diagonally, guests leave the attraction at the opposite side and thus the exit platforms are shared with a different simulator.  

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One of the movable platforms.
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The view from the control room shows the bridges towards the boarding areas.

The ride is controlled from a control room on the second floor. This control room gives a fantastic view over the vehicles. Visitors of the attraction are closely monitored during the experience, to make sure everything is safe. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos of this impressive control panel, but we can show however that it was featured in one of the multimedia scenes of Area 51. 

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The control room of Time Riders was the set for a media scene of Area 51.
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The view on the simulators, seen from the control room.
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The control room, seen from one of the boarding areas.

Each simulator can theoretically operate on its own as long as the platforms on both sides are retracted. However, since each group boards their vehicle at the same time, each simulator in operation, will be started at roughly the same time. While boarding or seated, you can hear the announcement from the control room when one of the vehicles starts its ride cycle. 

Photos show a lot, but nothing can capture the workings of an attraction like Time Riders like a video. We were allowed to film the ride sequences a couple times, making us able to show you more of Time Riders from behind the scenes. 

Time Riders’ own future 

For some time now, Movie Park Germany has hinted at the fact that Time Riders is on their list for attractions that will possibly receive a replacement soon. This was confirmed by Manuel Prossotowicz during our visit. However, the park has not figured out yet what to do with the attraction. Until that time comes, Time Riders will keep operating. When asked what to expect from the replacement, Prossotowicz told us that the simulators will be kept as part of the new attraction: “The vehicles are very reliable and almost never cause breakdowns. When the attraction breaks down, it is usually something in the pre-shows.” 

Next to the Time Rider simulators, McFadden Systems manufactured another simulator vehicle for Movie Park Germany. The now defunct Movie Magic show (which has been replaced by Lost Temple) featured a vehicle that was used to simulate movements of a U-boat set in the show. Parts of this simulator are exchangeable with those in Time Riders, providing Movie Park with spare parts. Besides that, the attraction has been operating with a maximum of only six of the original eight vehicles for a long time now, resulting in the park not having to worry about spare parts at all. 

As it stands, it seems that Time Rides will continue to operate in its current form until at least 2024, so we highly recommend going for a ride yourself. But we are curious to see what Prossotowicz and his team can create with this unique attraction in the future and will be closely following the news coming from Bottrop. For now, we would like to thank Manuel Prossotowicz for the fantastic backstage tour, Ann-Katrin for arranging it and the whole operating team of Time Riders for running the attraction over and over for us. 

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The Time Rider-vehicles, as seen in the first pre-show

© Dark Ride Database 

Visit by Erik, Jim and Quintus 
Photos by Erik and Jim 
Article by Erik and Quintus