Report: Going to Conny-Land to meet the Crazy Professor

Crazy Professor
Exterior of the Crazy Professor

Tower rides might not be the first ride type that comes to mind when thinking of dark rides, but Walt Disney Imagineering showed us with Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that they should not be overlooked. This is no different with Conny-Land’s (Lipperswil – Switzerland) Crazy Professor. The vertical dark ride with drop tower tells an immersive story that will keep riders on the edge of their seats. Literally. Team DRdb travelled to Switzerland to try out Conny-Land’s newest attraction.

Dolphin fountains at the park’s entrance

During the middle of the 20th century, Konrad ‘Conny’ Gasser and his fiancé Gerda formed a successful circus act at the Circus Royal in Switzerland, called The Tongas. They quit the circus in 1969 to create their own travelling dolphin and sea lion show, called Conny’s Flippershow. The couple performed this show all over the world. After more then a decade of travelling, the couple decided to open a permanent location for their dolphin show. The location was found in Lipperswil, a small village in Switzerland, about 10 kilometres away from the Bodensee and the German border. This is where the Gassers were able to open Conny-Land in 1982.

Throughout the years, the park mainly revolved around its dolphinarium (Europe’s largest at the time of opening) and the sea lion show. In 2002 the park expanded the dolphin habitat with a 13.000 m³ lagoon on the northeast corner of the park. Over the years, rides were added to the park, creating a mixture between sea animal habitats and an amusement park.

The Gasser family was involved in more enterprises besides Conny-Land: they were the founders of Circus Conelli, the oldest holiday-circus of Switzerland, and their children Roby and Nadja also travelled the world with their own sea lion acts. Conny and Gerda eventually passed away in 2007 and 2008 respectively, with their son Roby taking over the family business together with his fiance Cindy.

Today, Conny-Land has evolved from a park with dolphin and sea lion shows into a modern theme park. The park features many attractions such as the infamous Cobra rollercoaster, dark ride Lost World – Dino Attrack and simulator 5D Flugsimulator. The park was forced to say goodbye to their dolphins in 2013, when the Swiss government approved a law against the captivity of dolphins. The dolphinarium was turned into an indoor play area. The lagoon remained unused for years.

The Dolphin-Laguna in 2020

While it must have been hard for the park to say goodbye to their dolphins, which were the star attraction since the opening of the park, the forced change did have an upside. Over the past two years, Conny-Land has removed the lagoon, clearing a large space for new attractions. The first attraction on this plot of land has recently been opened to the public.

A vertical dark ride

The attraction was initially announced on the Euro Attractions Show (nowadays known as IAAPA Expo Europe) 2018 in Amsterdam. The attraction was scheduled to open for the 2020 season and would consist of an immersive indoor tower attraction of 20 meters in height. Due to unknown circumstances, the construction of the attraction was delayed and could only begin after the demolishing of the lagoon in 2021. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caused more delays for the project, but ultimately it was opened on 31 March of this year. A couple weeks later, Team DRdb was able to travel to Conny-Land to experience the attraction and have a conversation with Conny-Land’s CEO and owner Roby Gasser.

Crazy Professor
Entrance of the Crazy Professor

After entering the steampunk-styled building, we enter the workshop. It is a very extensively decorated room that serves as the queue for the attraction. The workshop contains several tools and equipment, such as a lathe, saw and robotic arms on one side, and a working desk and cupboards on the other.

Crazy Professor
The view on the lathe while entering the queue
Crazy Professor
Indoor queue-area
Crazy Professor
The professor’s desk in the queue line

We pass a tourniquet at the end of the queue line and enter a small room. While the tourniquet is probably meant to let 10 people through at the time, it was not functioning on the day of our visit. The next room is a staging area. Groups of 10 people have to wait here until the doors open to the next room.

Crazy Professor
The staging area where the professor is experimenting with Newton’s third law.
Crazy Professor
Advertisements for gravity free travels, a harbinger of things to come

Once the doors open, guests can enter this room which contains a pre-show. The pre-show (in German) shows two professor characters. Both remain unnamed, though one of them is clearly the titular character ‘Crazy Professor’. The one in the front explain to us their latest invention.

Crazy Professor
The pre-show with the Crazy Professor on the right

The two professors are experimenting with their new invention. It is a machine that can transport people through time and into another dimension. The presentation is interrupted by a phone call, which makes clear that the machine, located in another room, needs more power. The Crazy Professor takes over the conversation, assures the person on the other end of the line that he will handle it, and runs off screen. The other professor continues with a short safety spiel, before sending us into the next room too. A cabinet in the room slides to the side, revealing a secret doorway to the machine.

Crazy Professor
The next group, waiting for the secret doorway

We enter the main room of the building, located in the tower, where of course the ride is located. On one side of the room is the gondola that can hold up to 10 riders. The operator cabin is located on the opposite side. The rest of the tower above us, remains shrouded in darkness.

Crazy Professor
The gondola of the machine
Crazy Professor
The control room on the opposite side of the machine

Once everyone is seated and secured, the machine starts to move upwards. About one floor up, we meet the Crazy Professor. We continue moving up and the professor follows us in our way to the top, using an experimental anti-gravity device. However, his device breaks down at the second floor, meaning that he will have to take the stairs from now. As we get higher in the tower, more problems start to occur. A colony of disturbed bats, electric shocks and rats running around are making it impossible for the machine to work. Suspense builds at the top, until finally it all breaks down and we drop down back into the darkness.

We recorded the complete experience from queue line to main show:

Onride POV of Crazy Professor

Building the machine

Crazy Professor was an idea that was conceived by Farmer Attraction Development for Conny-Land. Farmer has been developing attractions for theme parks for two decades. Their portfolio includes multiple dark rides, including Trollfallet, another drop tower dark ride in Hunderfossen. The ride system of the attraction was manufactured by Ride Engineers Switzerland. RES is a relatively new company, founded in 2016. They have manufactured several attractions and roller coasters. Crazy Professor is their first attraction found on Dark Ride Database.

Crazy Professor
A chalkboard in the pre-show room shows the machine with the ride system

The attraction was mostly designed by Farmer Attraction Development, but the team of Conny-Land also had their hand in the design. While Farmer was focused on everything story wise, from the pre-show (including the rooms) and of course the main show, the extensively themed queue line was made in-house by the park. The media for the attraction was filmed in London over a period of 2 days. The park managed to get famous Swiss clown and actor Gaston Häni to appear in the attraction as the titular character.

Naturally, as the main show progresses, suspense builds. The ride system has a couple tricks upon its sleeve to surprise and scare the guests. The gondola can (and will) tilt forward, creating a sudden and unexpected moment. When the professor is hit by an electric shock, riders get a small poke in the back as a jump scare. The infestation of rats is simulated by the well known air-tubes underneath the seats. The final trick is of course the drop back down, which spans approximately 20 meters.

After experiencing the attraction, we got together with Roby Gasser and asked him a couple questions about Crazy Professor. You can watch the interview below:

Interview with Roby Gasser

After meeting the professor

Conny-Land is a small park and small parks usually have small budgets. According to Gasser, Crazy Professor has been the most expensive attraction for Conny-Land to this date and we understand why. It is truly a fun experience for the whole family. The attraction is suspenseful and contains a couple of nice tricks that are sure to surprise all (new) visitors.

The look and performance of Häni’s Crazy Professor strikes a resemblance with Dr. Emmet ‘Doc’ Brown of the Back to the Future movie franchise. This works well as it makes the character easily recognisable as well as relatable. The use of a well-known actor has often proven to be another successful element for these type of media based attractions.

Crazy Professor
Bust of the Crazy Professor to Gaston Häni’s likeness

The technical aspects of the attraction have been very well implemented. Ride Engineers Switzerland did a great job with the ride system and its tricks. The drop comes as a surprise for most people, and with its height of just 20 meters, it makes for a great family ride.

The media too is well executed. The sets were convincingly dressed and special effects in the main show have been nicely implemented. It was only during the editing of our onride video, when we noticed a visible transition between 2 of the projected scenes. These however should not be very noticeable to the naked eye.

Crazy Professor
Exterior of the show building

Crazy Professor is a great family attraction and a great addition for Conny-Land. It is the most immersive attraction at the park and is bound to keep riders on the edge of their seats. The actual ride time of 1.5 minutes may seem a bit short, but combined with the pre-show and extensively themed queue line, the complete experience will be extended to almost 5 minutes.

Naturally, we asked Gasser if we could expect more similar experiences coming to Conny-Land in the future. He answered that they are currently working on a new roller coaster (the Rollerball, also by RES) and are not planning any dark rides or other immersive attractions at the moment. However, judging by the success of Crazy Professor, we are certain that sometime in the future we will see some new interesting attraction coming to Conny-Land.

Crazy Professor
The ‘Crazy’ professor

© Dark Ride Database
Visit and text by Erik
Pictures by Luc (2020 pictures) & Erik