Animatronic manufacturer and dark ride company Heimotion closes its doors

Heimotion website and logo (© Heimotion)
Heimotion website and logo (© Heimotion)

The German company Heimotion has been designing dark rides and supplying animatronics for almost 80 years. Sadly however, nothing lasts forever. The well-known manufacturer has announced on its website that operations will be shut down by the end of July. The company got in financial troubles during 2021, during which they already closed their Polish subdivision. Now the curtain has fallen for the entirety of Heimotion.

Screenshot Heimotion website, saying: “Dear clients and business partners! We have closed our operations since 31 July 2022. We thank you for your loyalty and for the good co-operation throughout all the years! Your Heimotion-team” (© Heimotion)

It all began with Anneliese Mordelt in 1944, who started selling dolls to feed her children during World War II. Her husband Heinz Mordelt returned from the war in 1945 and together they officially started the company Heimo. The name was formed by taking the first syllable of Heinz Mordelt’s first and last name. The earliest animatronics, or more so mechanically moved puppets designed for shopping windows, were created in 1951. ”Where something moves, people will stand still,” claimed Mordelt.

In 1959, the company (grown to 20 employees) moved from Berlin to Jagsthausen, where a small fairy tale forest was created in 1961 to show their various animatronic characters. Noise complaints from neighbours caused the Heimo Märchengarten to close in 1982, but the animatronics proved to be popular products for owners of other amusement parks.

Some of Heimo's early fairy tale animatronics (© Heimotion)
Some of Heimo’s early fairy tale animatronics (© Heimotion)

By this time, Heinz had taken a step back and his son Karl-Heinz, with the help of his fiance Doris, took the company into the future. Inspired by the American Disney parks, Heimo started offering animatronic shows and complete (semi)-dark rides packages, based on themes like pirates and travelling the world. Haunted houses would become their speciality for quite some time. During the 70s and 80s, the first big orders started to come in from large parks. Examples of these early projects include the Piraten-Grotte, part of the Finnische Floßfahrt at Europa-Park in 1977 and Geister Rikscha at Phantasialand in 1981.

Scene of Geister Rikscha (© Phantasialand)
Scene of Geister Rikscha (© Phantasialand)

A record was broken in 1987 with Giganto, the largest mobile animatronic in the world. During the 90s and beyond, Heimo would continue to develop itself further as a turnkey supplier and designer of many dark rides and expanded their reach to beyond Europe. During this time, they supplied Discovery Club at Avonturenpark Hellendoorn in 1999, Wild West Adventure at Attractiepark Slagharen in 2000, and Perang Bintang at Dunia Fantasi in 2005 to name a few. Later, Karl-Heinz would co-run the company with his son Olaf.

Heimo first got in financial trouble during 2010, due to a lack of orders but also a large client dropping out last minute. Karl-Heinz had left a few years before and also Olaf would now leave Heimo behind him, in order to focus on their new company One World Group. One of the employees, Michael Friedrich, who had been with Heimo for multiple years, tried to continue the business together with his fiance Britta. With the help of two investors, they managed to revive it under the name Heimotion. The plan was to focus on many smaller projects at once, to prevent a similar scenario from happening again.

Heimotion continued to work with various theme parks and even on some dark rides like Europa-Park’s Arthur in 2014. The final dark ride they supplied for was Hotel Transylvania at Dream Island in 2021.

Promotional video for Hotel Transylvania (© Heimotion)

It is safe to say that because of Covid, again orders slowed down during 2020 and 2021, which caused another bankruptcy for the once thriving manufacturer. Their Polish subdivision, who had mainly been selling leftover and refurbished animatronics, already closed its doors last summer. It is not known as of yet what is going to happen next, but it does not seem likely that another restart is in the cards. That means that we should sadly say goodbye to a well-known manufacturer of animatronics and dark rides.