Imagine most of the important ride manufacturers, theme park boards and others involved in the leisure industry gathering in one place every year. This is what the yearly IAAPA Expos are all about, and among those is the expo in Europe which is generally held in September. After one year of absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the IAAPA Expo Europe was hosted again from 28-30 September 2021. Team DRdb traveled to the Spanish city of Barcelona to meet with industry professionals and gather the most important news regarding dark rides and show rides. Join us in our tour around the expo floor and see what is in store for the upcoming years.
The numbers of the IAAPA Expo Europe are big, with no less than 439 exhibiting companies showing their products to a total of more then 8500 registered visitors. Apart from that, a conference programme allows visitors to join in presentations and sessions covering various trends across the leisure industry. During our tour around the Expo we joined a special session on dark rides, and visited the booths of many companies that had some news to tell. In this article, we will discuss them one by one and see what thrilling ideas and rides are coming up in the future.
The Ultimate Dark Ride Session
The moment at the IAAPA Expo that every dark ride enthusiast was waiting for was ‘The Ultimate Dark Ride Session’. This session combined the presentation of research on dark ride experience with a panel discussion on a couple of famous dark rides in European theme parks. The panel consisted of Andreas Andersen (CEO of Liseberg), David Garcia (Managing Director at Port Aventura World) and Michael Mack (Managing Partner at Europa-Park and Mack Rides), whose discussion was moderated by Owen Ralph (Writer at Blooloop) and Karen Staley (Sales VP at Sally Dark Rides). The panel discussed the experiences on their own dark rides with the audience, such as Underlandet, Sesame Street: Street Mission and Piraten in Batavia.
This discussion was complemented by the presentation of the combined research by Pieter Cornelis and Wim Strijbosch. Using the data offered by Dark Ride Database, they studied three elements of dark rides: the financial impact of a dark ride for a theme park, the conceptualization of a dark ride and the experience of visitors throughout a ride on a dark ride. The presentation contained the first outcomes of the research and more details on the impact of dark rides are to be published later.
After visiting The Ultimate Dark Ride Session, Team DRdb took a look at the exhibition floor and passed by many booths of dark ride manufacturers. Below, you can find all the exciting news they presented at the trade show related to dark rides and show rides.
Leisure Expert Group & Zierer
Dutch design company Leisure Expert Group is known for the theming of various rides and areas, most notably in 2021 the design of Movie Park Studios Tour (see our report). At the IAAPA Expo Europe 2021 they presented a series of dark ride concepts together with the German manufacturer Zierer. All rides are based on Zierer’s dark ride system, which was developed in 2017 for Ghostbusters 5D in Heide-Park. Together, Leisure Expert Group and Zierer developed a series of dark ride concepts showing the possibilities of this ride system.
The design concepts are made in three different sizes, to suit parks with different visitor numbers and different budgets. Each size, S, M or L, has two different themes which are focused on either younger or older audiences. Each of the rides includes a combination of multimedia screens and real sets, and some of them are interactive. Where the M and L-versions are regular sized dark rides, the S-version stands out since this ride has more or less the scale of an immersive tunnel simulator, although the rotating vehicle and sets cleverly placed on a turntable allow for a much more immersive experience. At the booth of Leisure Expert Group, a scale model of the medium-sized Dino Scan dark ride concept was shown. The company ensured that different themes are also interchangeable with the various ride sizes, allowing the customer to choose the combination of size and theme that suits their park best.
The company BoldMove Nation is rather new to the amusement industry, and consists mainly of former Alterface employees. BoldMove strongly focus on ride concepts with a high level of interactivity. Concepts include, amongst others, worlds in Augmented Reality that can enhance the visitor experience in theme parks.
A couple of months ago, BoldMove presented their newest concept for a compact interactive dark ride. Of this ride, called Smash & Reload, a scale model was shown at the IAAPA Expo. The ride follows a circular ride path, surrounding the central projection area. When the ride vehicles face inward, riders can shoot at one of the four projection screens. After shooting, the vehicles continues and faces outward to a reload sequence, where riders push a button to reload their guns. From here, the ride continues to the next projection screen for a round of shooting, and so the ride continues.
“Smash & Reload is smart in technology and in gameplay, it can stand alone as an eye-catching ride and can also be integrated in a themed area,” as Benoit Cornet (CEO and founder of BoldMove) says. BoldMove’s goal with the ride is to bring the interactive dark ride back to its very essence, only using interactive screens and not spending any investment on other decorations. With its compact floorplan, the ride is targeted at smaller amusement parks with a small budget. The ride is developed in collaboration with Polymorph, who provided the Too Mush IP which is used for the media. Other collaborators on the project are Gosetto (ride system), Triotech (show control and interactivity) and Painting with Light (lighting).
Sally Dark Rides
Our good friends from Sally Dark Rides presented a couple of ride concepts they developed together with animation studio Aardman. The first of them, Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon, is based on the latest movie from Aardman’s existing IP of Shaun the Sheep. Another is based on a new IP which can be internalised by the park, enabling a park to develop its own IP. This ride concept is called Adventure through Time, revolving around a girl that can’t resist touching a mythical artifact in a museum and as a result is suddenly transported through time.
German ride manufacturer Mack Rides is a major player on the attraction market and always has a lot of things going on. New at their booth is the name Tacumeon Rides, which the company uses to brand new rides that involve a combination of Mack Rides, MackMedia and other sister companies.
At their booth, Mack Rides presented a new type of interactive dark ride which they call the Gameplay Theater. This dark ride takes riders two laps through a circular building. Cars will be back to back and facing either outwards or inwards with scenes on both sides. Cars will spin after each scene, showing alternatively the scenes facing outward or inward. In this manner, riders pass through the loading station (with loading vehicles back-to-back with the riders) and are taken two laps around the theater, now facing the scenes opposite of those seen in the first lap. The ride will operate similar to an omnimover system.
Mack also joined the group of Flying Theatre manufacturers by presenting their own version. To increase capacity of the Flying Theatre, the version of Mack Rides will consist of multiple gondolas, that are again placed back to back with each other. One gondola will be in motion during the ride, the other gondola will be loading new guests. Mack Rides was inspired for this ride during their experience of operating Voletarium in Europa-Park, which was built by Brogent Technologies.
Our friends from Gosetto were surprised this year with the European Star Award for best new dark ride of 2021 with Underlandet (Liseberg – Sweden). The Italian company built the ride system for this ride which was designed by Quarry Fold Studio and features theming by P&P Projects, which all three received the award.
Currently, the company is working together with the new concepts of Triotech and BoldMove and they just opened a new dark ride system in the Aéroville Mall, north of Paris (France). They also were able to tell us they will be presenting a new ride vehicle during the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, later this year.
Taiwanese manufacturer Brogent Technologies, best known for their flying theaters, had a very busy year with around 10 ride installations opening throughout the world. Most of them have been reported on our website, such as the series of flying theaters for Legoland parks. New projects are coming up, though nothing is officially announced yet.
Metalbau Emmeln from Germany have already supplied several ride systems for dark rides. The company presented a new car ride vehicle with spinning gondolas. While the vehicle on the Expo was decorated in a post-apocalypse/Mad Max-esque style, the company told us they already sold a mine cart-styled version to a park in China. The car on display has not been sold (yet).
The big news from our friends at Jora Vision this year was their design for a complete theme park in Peru, called Inka Park. We have covered Inka Park in greater detail through a separate news article on this site. We furthermore would like to thank Jora Vision for sponsoring our visit to the Expo.
British simulator builder Simworx opened a couple of new rides in 2021, among them the Hyperakselerator in Hunderfossen Park (Norway). At their booth they presented a new flying theatre concept, which is meant to be rather compact to enable smaller parks to build such a ride.
The German company ART Engineering has been growing quickly over the last few years. In the dark ride world, they are best known for the ride system of the Ninjago rides, found in Legoland parks all over the world. The company’s CEO Georg Behringer told us that ART is now also able to produce motion-based vehicles, though we do not know of any upcoming installation yet.
We heard that our friends of Alterface are working on several projects. However, they could not enclose any information about these projects. We’ll have to wait for official announcements.
Canadian company Triotech presented the next step in motion based vehicles: the Hyper Ride. The company presented a working scaled model of the ride, that consists of multiple interactive multimedia screens. The difference with other motion-based vehicles is that the Hyper Ride won’t feature a motion platform, but will instead have motion-seats installed on the cars. This will create the same kind of experience for a smaller budget. Moreover, by removing the front of the car, riders will have the experience of being close to the action. According to Christian Martin of Triotech, they originally had a different name for the ride, but a prototype had proven so thrilling they had to rename it to Hyper Ride. More details on the ride are to be revealed at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando in November.
Dutch ride designer Lagotronics Projects have a couple of exciting new rides coming up next year. One of them is a new dark ride planned for Madeira Verde park in the Philippines. Even more exciting is the development of an extensive experience for the Chinese Kaisa Group, which will include a VR motor simulator. This new ride, opening in the new Golden Beach Resort, includes an immersive experience on three levels that revolves around a motor expedition on Mars. At the first level, riders are welcomed to a control room where they can steer the motor vehicles from a distance. Moving towards the next level, riders arrive at a section where they are asked to shoot on blockages, clearing the way for the motorcycles. The climax of the experience is located on the third level, where riders board a motorcycle simulator and through a VR-experience have the feeling of driving the motors themselves.
ETF Ride Systems
The Dutch company ETF Ride Systems is well-known for its dark ride systems, especially their trackless vehicles. At the IAAPA Expo Europe 2021, ETF Ride Systems also presented a new ride concept which allows them to literally set sail for new ride system frontiers. “We regularly got the question whether our people movers are also available for water applications,” said CEO Ruud Koppens in a press release. “From now on we can say wholeheartedly ‘yes’ thanks to our new ETF Aqua Mover.” This new ride system functions in a similar way as the existing trackless ride systems, featuring the same possibilities such as sudden turns and on-the-spot rotations. It follows an embedded wire in the floor, below the water, so visitors will not be distracted by a track.
The new ride system can be used for indoor and outdoor water rides and obviously for water dark rides. However, to show the full potential of the Aqua Mover, ETF Ride Systems incorporated it in their new turn-key ride concept Tiki Splash Roulette. This concept, especially meant for water parks, uses the ride system for a splash battle-type of ride. Unique for this ride is that vehicles can compete with each other, allowing for the ride to decide which vehicle scores best and gets soaked – or stays dry. The concept for this ride was made in collaboration with Lagotronics.
Other news from ETF Ride Systems came from Marseille, where they are currently working on a dark ride which is to be built inside a reconstruction of a flooded coastal cave.
And on that ride we end our tour around the IAAPA exhibition floor. We tried to find as many dark ride news as we could, though we might have missed some news on the large show floor. We are looking forward to see these ride concepts develop and hopefully be built in the near future and, as always, we will keep you posted on all developments.
Visit by Luc and Erik
Article written by Luc and Erik
Pictures by Luc