Yesterday marked a special day for Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden, a regional amusement park in Northern Germany. Not only did it mean the start of the park’s winter opening, but the day also celebrated the official opening of Drachen Magic. This ride, which translates as Dragon Magic in English, is their very first dark ride and biggest investment in 20 years. Team DRdb visited Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden on this cold 3rd of December to experience the new ride for ourselves.
All guests who had braved the cold of this winter’s day were invited to join a small ceremony in front of Drachen Magic at noon. “It is not the most typical theme park day,” as Bastian Lampe, CEO of Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden starts his speech. The day however marks the start of Magic Park’s winter season, an event that was first organised the previous winter. In an interview with Dark Ride Database, Lampe added that it is no coincidence that the park opens its first dark ride during winter: “We started the winter season last year, and we thought to support the winter season, we must have something indoor.”
During the opening ceremony, Lampe takes some time to thank the people that worked on Drachen Magic, “especially since this project is developed for about 95% from inside our park.” The park’s own craftsmen built almost everything of the ride themselves, using authentic materials as much as they could. By creating most of the ride in-house, the park managed to keep the investment at only € 250.000. After Lampe’s short speech and a video introducing the ride’s storyline, the time had come to open the ride itself. With the help of one of the youngest park visitors, the rope was cut and a large explosion of confetti celebrated the official opening of the ride.
The story of Drachen Magic
In the video that introduces the storyline, we follow the park’s mascot magician Fabulus as he wanders through the forest, where he finds a giant egg. Fascinated by the question of what kind of creature could lay such an egg, he decides to take the egg to his barn. Over time, the magician find more eggs, gathers them in his barn, and they eventually hatch as dragons. Now, after many months, Fabulus has decided to open his barn for the people to see the dragons for themselves. He bewitched a couple of sofas, enabling them to fly guests through the barn and past the dragons. From today onwards, anyone can take a flight on the magic sofa to witness the dragons.
Now it is time for us to enter Drachen Magic and try one of these magic sofas for ourselves. We walk into the mysterious barn, which we enter in groups of 4 people. In a small pre-show room we are welcomed by Gloria von Eulenstein, an animatronic owl who already resided in the park before the ride was built. She gives us some safety instructions before we enter the small boarding platform where we step aboard our own floating sofa.
The flight through Fabulus’ barn
Once we took our seats, a curtain lifts and we are off on our ride through the barn. The park chose to keep the wooden structure of the building’s roof in plain sight, adding to the atmosphere of riding through the barn. Moreover, we notice that the ride is really cramped into the tight space. Vehicles sometimes seem to hit the scenery elements, and riders could easily touch some of the objects if they wanted to. It creates a cute and cosy atmosphere, which gives a special feeling to Drachen Magic.
The ride is narrated with on-board sound, where we hear Gloria von Eulenstein introducing the different dragons. At the moment, the narration is only available in German, but Bastian Lampe confirmed that the park wants to provide narration in English and in Plattdeutsch (the local dialect) as well. Narration in local dialect is especially encouraged by the Verden county, who wishes to promote such local heritage.
“I can’t really say a favorite part of the ride,” Bastian Lampe says. “Since we built almost the whole ride in-house, so the ideas, the story, everything is done by the park. That’s why I like all of it. Though I think the strongest scene is the Dragon Disco, the finale, the people like that very much. But surprisingly, it is one of the cheapest parts of the ride, since it does not include a dragon.” Lampe also adds a famous wisdom in the theme park world, which is that a dark ride is never done. “We are planning to add more inside. So we are open for new surprises.”
Speaking to Bastian Lampe, more details of the ride are explained. “We really put a lot of details and references in the ride. Take the first scene for example, with the mice. When you count, you will notice 21 mice holes in that scene. That symbolizes the 21 people who worked on the ride. We want to decorate each of the holes to one of the co-workers. That’s one of many things that we still want to improve.”
“You’ll find another reference when you study the names of the dragons. They’re called Werner, Franz and Anton for example. All names of people from the German theme park industry that are included in the IAAPA Hall of Fame.”
The storyline of the ride was conceived keeping the core of the park, based around fairytales and the magician Fabulus, close in mind. “We initially thought to theme the ride around fairy tales, but then we came to the dragon-theme and we decided to stick with that. From there, it was a small step to also include Fabulus, our magician. We deliberate choose not to include Ritter Rost, the IP linked to our park, since such an IP is not forever. If you invest in a dark ride like Drachen Magic, that is a long-term investment. So we decided to stick to Fabulus, who is timeless, and so are the dragons.”
Lampe adds: “To be honest, after a few months, I realised that our ride would be a bit equal to Madame Freudenreich in Europa-Park, but that was not the approach. We approached it independantly from other rides, and we hope no-one will say that it was ‘stolen’ from Europa-Park.”
An immersive ride in Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden
Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden was originally a fairytale forest which opened in 1971 under the name Märchenpark Verden. The park was rebranded as Magic Park from 2002, creating a local theme park revolving around fairytales. From 2019, the park has been named Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden, relating to a series of children’s fantasy books also by the name of Ritter Rost.
Since 2020, the park is lead by CEO Bastian Lampe, who had experience working as senior engineering manager at Heide-Park Resort. Under Lampe, the park seeks to create more immersive experiences for its public. “Last year we did a new fairy tale, the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town Musicians of Bremen), as a first step. I think we set a new standard for the park there. Now we have Drachen Magic, and we will continue on this path,” as Bastian Lampe said.
Drachen Magic marks the first immersive ride of the park, after the outdoor fairy tale that opened one year prior. One of the starting points for the development of Drachen Magic was to use an existing building and create an indoor ride to support the winter opening, Bastian Lampe says: “We already had this building, which already had a nice look. We didn’t change the building, we did some painting, but all the woodwork was already there. The building is more than 30 years old, it used to be a storage and a warehouse.”
A ride system to fit building and budget
The type of ride to fit inside the building however was not directly chosen, Lampe continues. “A good connection from my side brought the offer to acquire a second-hand dark ride system from Bavaria Filmstadt, for not such a high price. We now had a building and ride system that could fit inside the building. If we would have a track-based system, we couldn’t do such a long journey inside the building, as you can’t do the turns and tricks that a trackless system can do. So with the trackless system, you can make a longer ride on a smaller footprint. That was essential as the building was given, and we must work with the building.”
The ride system used for Drachen Magic was acquired from Bavaria Filmstadt, a theme park is located on the site of the Bavaria Film Studios in Munich. In that park, guests are taken along sets and scenery of famous films en series produced by the studios, such as Das Boot, The NeverEnding Story and Tatort.
In May 2011, Bavaria Filmstadt opened the exposition Bullyversum, which contained a dark ride with a trackless ride system by ETF Ride Systems. The exhibition hall was redeveloped after 2018 in order to host the new exposition ‘Filmstadt Atelier’, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bavaria Film Studios, which opened on 2 March 2019. The dark ride was rethemed as well, now called Film-Musik-Fahrt. The ride passed through scenes depicting famous productions by the studios, accompanied by their well-known soundtracks. Because Filmstadt Atelier was meant as anniversary exposition, it closed after two seasons on 2 November 2020, and this time, the dark ride was closed for good.
Conclusion on Drachen Magic
When we ask Bastian Lampe how he feels about opening Drachen Magic, he is especially proud of the work that was done by his employees to create the ride. “We did the most of the work on this ride in-house, only the dragons are bought from an external company. Even track is made by ourselves. Only the employee from ETF Ride Systems came over to do the vehicle programming after we installed the whole track. So it is a 100%-Magic Park project, together with all the craftsmen working here, and I am really proud of this ride.”
In our opinion, Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden made a big step in creating immersive experiences with the opening of Drachen Magic. The ride system has been cleverly chosen to create a ride experience of sufficient length inside a rather small building. Moreover, the park really took advantage of the possibilities of the ride system, creating dead ends and crossings. By using a second-hand ride system and creating most of the ride in-house, they managed to build a cute dark ride within its tight budget. We are impressed by the sophisication that went into Drachen Magic, and we are curious to see where the vision of creating immersive rides is going to lead Ritter Rost – Magic Park Verden in the future.
If you want to see more of the ride and the opening ceremony, or watch the complete interview with Bastian Lampe, check out te video below: