The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) organises multiple events throughout the year to bring people from the industry together. The biggest European event is the IAAPA Expo Europe, where manufacturers and vendors can present themselves and their projects to potential clients. It is the premier event in Europe for the leisure industry, and this 2022 edition was held at the ExCel Convention Centre in London. Team DRdb travelled to London to speak with all companies involved in the production of dark rides and to report on any news presented at the expo.
2021 was a slow year for many manufacturers. When we visited the Expo last year, most companies were working on a couple of projects, but they would have hoped for more. Covid-19 took its toll in the business and many theme parks have postponed large investments. Most manufacturers were able to make it through this tough time, but now new issues have arisen. With the rising costs of both materials and energy, the construction of new rides becomes much more costly by the minute. We spoke with a lot of manufacturers that were glad to tell us that, in spite of these supply problems, they had new projects in progress. Most of the details of these projects are unfortunately to be announced later, but we nevertheless obtained some news that we would like to present in this article. In this report, we will go through all the relevant information in alphabetical order of the companies that we spoke to.
Before we begin, we would like to thank both Jora Vision and Alterface for sponsoring our tickets to the IAAPA Expo Europe 2022.
Alterface, the Belgian company specialised in interactive systems, had multiple projects over the last year. Together with Sally Dark Rides they worked on the award-winning dark ride Volkanu: Quest of the Golden Idol (Lost Island Theme Park, WI, USA) and on the upcoming dark ride Treasure Hunt (Cannery Row, CA, USA). Apart from these, Alterface also delivered a new Imagination Express at Lego Discovery Centre Brussels (Belgium) and they helped out Fantasy Island (UK) with their new dark ride Harrington Flint’s Island Adventure. The ride system, including Alterface’s interactive system, was acquired from Hub-Zero (UAE) where it operated as Resident Evil: Bio Terror. The park created a new experience with the help of both ETF Ride Systems and Alterface.
At this year’s Expo Alterface showcased their Action League concept again. This small interactive ride (that could be considered either a dark ride or show ride) was presented at expos in previous years. This year, Alterface could tell us that they were in talks with possible clients for this new ride, but couldn’t disclose any more information than that. They could mention however that they are working on a new turnkey-delivered dark ride to the Novaland Resort in Vietnam. The resort will expand with an FEC, in which this new dark ride is to be constructed. More details on the contents or theme of the ride could not be given at this time.
Attraktion! from Austria was a relatively unknown company to the Dark Ride Database, but has produced many show rides (mostly 3D theatres) already. Last year, they made the news because of their collaboration with Intamin on developing the Dome Ride Theater. The first installation of this ride has been sold and is supposed to open in 2023. A previous announcement made by Intamin stated that the ride would debut somewhere in Asia. The company was also showcasing a scale model of an interactive museum-like experience that has the potential to contain simulator vehicles at a given point within the layout design.
German ride system manufacturer ART Engineering is most famous for the ride vehicles they supplied for the Ninjago rides at Legoland parks around the world. They opened the eighth installation of this ride earlier this year at Legoland Korea. Apart from that, a new dark ride with ART vehicles recently opened in VinWonders – Phú Quốc (Vietnam), called Dragon Spell. For the upcoming years, CEO Georg Behringer could confirm that they are collaborating with Triotech again on a new project, but was unable to tell us any specific details.
While Italian rides company Bertazzon is currently not working on a permanent dark ride, they were able to tell us that they worked on three mobile dark rides this year. The first has already been delivered to a client in Poland and the second will have the same destination. The third one is destined for Cyprus. Although the Dark Ride Database does not keep track of travelling dark rides, it is still good to hear that new rides of this kind are being developed and that the manufacturer is generating business.
Over the last years, Brogent Technologies has been selling many flying theatres. At the moment, competition in the market is getting stronger and stronger. Now that many companies are introducing their take on this ride system, Brogent Technologies is continuing to be innovative. After the i-Ride and m-Ride, they are now working on a third version of their ride system, which is supposed to be introduced shortly.
Belgian company BoldMove is still a new name in the dark ride business, but rising quickly. The company has been promoting their interactive dark ride ‘Smash & Reload’ for some time and with succes: the first installation will open in 2023 in Le Pal (France). Starting last summer, the company began promoting new versions of the ride, most notably one that features the Daltons (the criminal brothers from the Lucky Luke comics). Spokeswomen Anja d’Hont was able to tell us that the company is in talks with different possible clients about more installations of the ride, but could not confirm any of them at this time.
One of the major eye-catchers at the Expo floor was the booth of DOF Robotics, a Türkish company manufacturing simulators. They showcased their new Monster Jam Grave Digger, a large simulator vehicle shaped like a monster truck. Riders were equipped with VR goggles to get the total experience. Visitors of the ride however mentioned that the experience was rather bumpy.
USA-based manufacturer Dynamic Attractions is known for their high-end simulator rides. This year they were proud to have participated in the creation of award-winning Chasseurs de Tornades, the new ride at Futuroscope (France). This is the first installation of the Motion Theatre, which was introduced in 2016. Apart from that, Dynamic Attractions is still working on installation and fine-tuning of their two SFX-coasters (in Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Genting Skyworlds) and they have good hopes that these rides will open in the upcoming months.
Emiliana Luna Park
Emiliana Luna Park is a relatively small Italian company selling various types of rides. Among these is a small madhouse, of which they recently sold the very first installation to a client in Brazil. The company also creates ghost trains and recently delivered an installation in Türkiye.
ETF Ride Systems
Dutch company ETF Ride Systems delivered the ride systems for four new dark rides this year. Two dark rides featured their new Xperience Movers motion-based vehicles: Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol at Lost Island Theme Park and the Lego Factory Adventure Ride at Legoland Korea. One was another installation of the Imagination Express at Lego Discovery Centre Brussels. Finally, they manufactured a dark ride with 44 vehicles for Cosquer Méditerranée, a new record for the company.
Just like Alterface, the company was involved with the relocated ride system of the Resident Evil: Bio Terror-dark ride of Hub Zero to Fantasy Island (UK), where it was used for the ‘Harrington Flint’s Island Adventure’-dark ride. After the Film-Musik-Fahrt of Bavaria Filmstadt was closed somewhere last year, the ride system was moved to RitterRost – Magic Park Verden where it will be used in a new dark ride, called Drachen Magic. ETF Ride Systems is once again helping with the relocation.
ETF Ride Systems did not present anything new at the Expo. They will be manufacturing the ride system for another new Imagination Express at Lego Discovery Center near Washington, DC, but were also able to confirm that several new rides will be opening in Asia in 2023 and 2024. One of the rides is the Pirate Mania concept they had previously presented as a collaboration with Jora Vision. They could not disclose in which country the ride will debut at this time.
Last year, this Türkish theming manufacturer and subsidiary of the Polin Group put themselves in the spotlight regarding dark ride manufacturing, as they produced the theming for the new dark ride Jumanji – The Adventure in Gardaland. The company is now working on another dark ride, but details will be announced later.
Garmendale is a UK based company that creates ride systems for several rides. This year they presented various ride vehicles at their booth, but none of these were dark ride-related. A spokesperson for Garmendale could confirm that they have a new major project in the works, but again could not elaborate on any details at this time.
Italian rides manufacturer Gosetto has worked on three new dark rides since we spoke to them last year. They delivered the ride systems for Triotech’s Hyper Ride at La Tête dans les Nuages (France) and Clifton Hill (ON, Canada). Besides that, they worked on the ride system for Treasure Hunt at Cannery Row (CA, USA). For the upcoming year, they will deliver the ride system for BoldMove’s Smash & Reload at Le Pal (France). They could not tell us if they are working on any other dark ride projects at this time.
The British company Holovis specialises in multimedia and interactive systems for various attractions. In the past year, they opened another installation of the Lego Factory Adventure Ride in Legoland Korea. Unfortunately, they were not able to tell us anything about their upcoming projects at this time.
German manufacturer Huss offers two types of show rides: a Flying Theatre attraction (Movie Base) and a unique observation tower system combined with multimedia screens (Explorer). One of each of these rides was sold to Russia and China over the last few years, but both projects have been delayed or cancelled due to circumstances beyond the control of the company.
Swiss attraction manufacturer Intamin has come up with multiple concepts for show rides over the last years, most recently the new Motion Tower. Coming next year is the debut of one of these concepts, the Dome Ride Theater (a project together with Attraktion!), which will be opening somewhere in Asia. Intamin was not able to confirm any other upcoming dark ride-related projects at this time.
UK-based manufacturer Interlink is generally known for their various types of boat rides. Their recent co-operation with Simworx on Jurassic Island at Trans Studio Cibubur (Indonesia) put Interlink to the foreground in terms of manufacturing dark boat rides. At the moment, Interlink is working on a dark ride in Vietnam together with Jora Vision, a dark ride in Qatar together with Sarner and a third one of which no specifics can be given yet.
Design and theming company Jora Vision has a wide range of themed experiences that they have been working on. CEO Jan Maarten de Raad was very excited about the new Quake Lisbon Earthquake Experience in Lisbon. This walkthrough takes visitors to historic Lisbon before, during and after a large earthquake. On the subject of dark rides, Jora Vision has been working on a large boat ride for VinWonders Nha Trang in Vietnam. Together with Interlink, they will soon open a 4.500 m² dark ride called “Tata World”. Concept art for the ride was on display at Jora Vision’s booth at the expo. In addition, Jora Vision will work on the earlier mentioned Pirate Mania ride of ETF Ride Systems.
Lagotronics Projects was not able to tell us about any new dark ride-related projects, apart from the Secret of Arayat at Pradera Island in the Philippines that was announced earlier this year. Construction of the park started earlier this year and works on the dark ride are in progress.
They did however display an impressive working scale model of their Game Changer-ride. This interactive revolving theatre has been installed a few times already.
Leisure Expert Group
At the previous IAAPA Expo 2021, Leisure Expert Group presented six new concepts for dark rides in a collaboration with Zierer. A model of one of these concepts was on display again this year. The companies are in contact with clients, but no sale of a ride could be confirmed yet. A spokesperson for Leisure Expert Group could however tell us that they are working on a retheme of a dark ride, but was not able to confirm which one at this time.
Although Mack didn’t talk about any new projects in the running, they were showcasing their take on the Flying Theatre, Airific. Announced last year, Mack uses a central pole to connect all vehicles to (which can range from 4 to 12 visitors per vehicle). All vehicles are connected back-to-back, so loading can take place while the other vehicle is going through the ride cycle.
Airific offers a four degrees of freedom system, creating heave, pitch, roll and yaw. These are the four degrees needed to generate the best flight experience, according to Mack Rides. A small installation of the Airific was on display at the Expo, hosting four riders which were equipped with VR-goggles showing the film known from Voletarium. Several visitors of the Expo commented on the Airific demo they displayed on the show floor, stating that the experience was about on par with the flying theatres found in multiple locations worldwide.
Last year at the IAAPA Expo Europe, German ride system manufacturer presented a new dark ride vehicle. This year they could tell us that they sold the vehicle for a ride in Asia. Moreover, similar vehicles will be used on a new ride in Europe which will be announced later.
The booth of Dutch theming company P&P Projects showcased multiple scale models of their recent projects, as well as a highly detailed tree trunk which looked incredibly realistic. The company has worked on many dark rides over the last few years, though they are unable to mention any of them. Their star project for last year was the Jurassic World Adventure dark ride for Universal Studios Beijing, for which some of the theming was produced by P&P Projects. Apart from that, the company works together with Grupo Vidanta in developing a new theme park resort in Mexico. P&P Projects has many more upcoming dark ride projects, but none of them can be announced yet.
Petro Art Production
Petro Art Production specialises in shotcrete. The company worked on a couple of dark ride projects last year, including Huyze Pelle at De Waarbeek (Netherlands). The company has many non-dark ride related projects underway at the moment and they are also working on the Secret of Arayat at Pradera Island in the Philippines, for which they had released some design sketches earlier this year.
Ride Engineers Switzerland
At the moment, Ride Engineers Switzerland (RES) is working on the new Crazy Professor-ride in collaboration with Swiss theme park Conny-Land. The ride was supposed to open this year, but has been delayed to open in 2023. RES confirmed that the new indoor drop ride will include a large projection screen, rising as tall as the tower itself, which will be around 20m high.
Sally Dark Rides
American dark ride design company Sally Dark Rides worked on two new projects over the last year. The first of these was the award-winning Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol at Lost Island Theme Park (Wisconsin, USA). The other is Treasure Hunt for Cannery Row (California, USA), which they are still hoping to open this year. Sally’s CEO John Wood could tell us that they are currently working on a couple of new projects that will include one or more rides in Europe. More details could unfortunately not yet be given.
Sarner is a British company designing theme parks and rides, and constructing theming. Regarding dark rides, Sarner is currently working on a project for the large waterpark that is constructed in Qatar, known by the name Aquatar. This is likely the same new ride that was also mentioned by the Interlink team.
SimEx-Iwerks is an American company, specialised in both the production of show ride systems and the production and distribution of ride films. The company could not name any new installations, though they mentioned their newest flying theatre film ‘Dino Island: Frostbite’. Rather than most flying films, which let riders soar over a landscape, this film tries to tell a full story, obviously starring dinosaurs.
One of the eye-catchers on the Expo concerning dark rides was the Simworx booth, where the UK-based ride system manufacturer showcased their new AGV Dark Ride vehicle. This new 8-seater motion based dark ride vehicle was recently described in our news article. Apart from the presentation of the AGV vehicle, Simworx also teased their new Pegasus Flying Theatre. This flying theatre uses single seats which are shaped like motorseats, offering an experience which is similar to that of Avatar Flight of Passage. However, an installation of this type of ride has so far not been sold.
Themics Philippines is a company working closely together with Petro Art Production, but Themics specialises in fibreglass theming rather than shotcrete. Themics Philippines has many non-dark ride related projects at the moment. The only dark ride project that the company is currently working on is Secret of Arayat at Pradera Island in the Philippines.
Last year Canadian company Triotech announced the Hyper Ride, a new motion based dark ride that was developed with Italian company Gosetto. The prototype of this ride opened at the end of 2021 at La Tete Dans les Nuages Aeroville (north of Paris, France), and the first official version is scheduled to open soon at Clifton Hill (Ontario, Canada). Together with ART Engineering, Triotech also opened the eighth installation of the Ninjago The Ride interactive dark ride at Legoland Korea.
The biggest announced this year was a brand new collaboration with Puy du Fou. This French theme park group (that also expanded to Spain), is known for parks that consist of many shows and walkthroughs instead of rides. Puy du Fou will open a new experience in Shanghai, that will include a train simulator that is supplied by Triotech.
Triotech had a prototype of stand-up simulators at their booth. The prototype at the expo was capable of showing four different movies. The ride was quite popular among the visitors of the expo.
On the second day of the expo, the company released another press release, announcing new interactive theatres for new locations of the La Tete dans les Nuages-arcades in France.
Furthermore, both Triotech and ART Engineering could announce a new collaboration for a dark ride, without the ability to say anything more at this time.
TheJuice is a so far relatively unknown company to the Dark Ride Database who displayed a simulator vehicle called VipeR, that could be used for a VR experience. According to a spokeswoman for the company, The Juice used to be a company that handled content for multimedia attractions. The new simulator vehicle was developed during covid-times when the company had more time to spend on such a project. The vehicle fits 6 passengers and could be surrounded by multimedia screens for a more traditional simulator experience instead of VR. We were also told that these vehicles could be fitted on a ride system (by a third party vendor) to be used as a motion based ride vehicle.
For the first time since 2019, Vekoma is working on new Madhouses. Earlier this year, it became known that the first installation will come to Legoland California. Vekoma was not allowed to name any other location. The new Madhouses come from a line that Vekoma calls ‘Madhouse 2.0’. The 2.0 is a completely upgraded version with better (show) control and smoother programming options. The first and only Madhouse 2.0 that exists so far is Haunted House Monster Party at Legoland Windsor (UK).
Just like Leisure Expert Group, German manufacturer Zierer presented the six dark ride concepts again. The company could say that they had a few interested clients, but could not confirm that they had sold any ride.
Wrap-up: IAAPA Expo Europe 2022
Although all companies showcasing at the IAAPA Expo have had hard times over the last years, and new problems are occurring for the future, the large amount of new rides that are being worked on shows that the theme park industry appears to be returning to previous levels. Although we hardly heard any specific details on new rides, it is clear that many companies have exciting news coming up in the not too distant future. One particularly striking trend at this Expo was the large amount of projects that are taking place in Vietnam, such as the upcoming ride by Jora Vision and Interlink. Announcements on new rides in Europe or Arabia, which are the main focus areas for this Expo, are unfortunately not yet concrete, but we are looking forward to hearing more about the many promising projects that were hinted at during our visit.