Every year, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (often abbreviated as IAAPA) hosts a series of expos around the world where amusement park professionals can showcase their products. One of these is the IAAPA Expo Europe, the premier event of the leisure industry for the EMEA-region (Europe, Middle East and Africa). This expo is held every September in a major city in Europe. This year, it settled down in the Messe Wien Exhibition Congress Center in Vienna, Austria. Team DRdb visited the expo floor to meet up with our partner companies and to report on news in the dark ride industry.
The yearly IAAPA Expo Europe consists of multiple elements: the most important one is the trade show, which is open for 3 consecutive days. An education program is combined with the trade show, which consists of presentations and panel discussions about various topics. Apart from that, IAAPA members can join excursions and meetings throughout the host city and surrounding attractions. This time, excursions were made easy to any IAAPA Expo visitor, as the trade show floor was located just a few hundred meters away from Wiener Prater, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world.
The expo took good notice of their location in Vienna, not only by events hosted at Prater, but also for example by the overall theme of the grand opening ceremony. This year, the ceremony was hosted by an opera singer, accompanied by some ballroom dancers who gave a show in a baroque setting. After the grand entrance by way of dance of Jim Pattison Jr. (Chair of the 2023 IAAPA Board of Directors) and Peter van der Schans (Executive Director and Vice President of IAAPA EMEA), the official part of the ceremony took place, culminating in the official opening of this year’s IAAPA Expo Europe.
The main draw of IAAPA is the show floor where companies from all around the globe (but especially from Europe) get to showcase their products. Team DRdb crisscrossed the show floor, which consisted of 3 large halls, during all 3 expo days and talked with suppliers that work on dark rides and show rides, to ask what news they have in store.
Alterface, from Belgium, mainly manufactures interactive systems for dark rides and theatres. Last year, their systems were used for Treasure Hunt, and they opened a second installation with their Popcorn IP: Popcorn Panic. For next year, Alterface could not disclose any new projects, though they recently announced to be working on a travelling interactive theatre concept called Moviemax. The first installation of these will be travelling France next year, and will be making a stop at Azur Park (an amusement park in Saint-Tropez, France) during the summer season.
German ride manufacturer ART Engineering celebrated the opening of Primordial, a semi-dark ride / interactive roller coaster at Lagoon (UT, USA), last month. Primordial marks the second collaboration between Triotech and ART Engineering for an interactive roller coaster, and it is the world’s first coaster with alternative endings. For the coming years, ART Engineering is working on multiple new installations of Ninjago the Ride in upcoming Legoland parks, but other dark ride news could not be disclosed.
Attractions Factory is an East-European manufacturer of ghost trains. For the IAAPA Expo, they brought a demo ghost house with a bunch of creepy animatronics inside to show off. They mentioned that, apart from their work in Eastern Europe, they recently sold a travelling ghost train to a German showman.
Last year marked an exciting year for Attraktion!, as they opened the first installation of the Dome Ride Theatre, Hypersphere360 at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) which was constructed together with Intamin. At this moment, Attraktion! is working on a revolving theatre opening in the German town Bad Harzburg next winter. At their booth, they showed a compact installation of their flyXD flying theatre, which was equipped with VR goggles to give test riders the experience of a true flying theatre. Other than that Attaktion! is also finishing a new dinosaur experience in the centre of Vienna, called Jurassic – The Immersive Experience. In this experience visitors are taken on a 60 minute tour through the prehistoric era using several interactive and immersive elements. Highlights are the Explorer 5D and VR ride which are part of the conclusion of this experience.
Belgian ride designer BoldMove Nation, celebrated the opening of their very first dark ride last year: Champi’Folies at Le Pal, an installation of their Smash&Reload concept. Just before the Expo, BoldMove promoted their new FUSION ride concept. FUSION is a significantly larger ride than Smash&Reload, creating more opportunities for an immersive, interactive yet compact midway dark ride. However, the company could not yet disclose any upcoming installations of their dark rides. More news regarding BoldMove Nation is a new strategic alliance they formed with Eye-Opener and Polymorph: the Immersive Theming & Media Group. By joining forces, the 3 partners offer a unique turnkey approach for themed rides and attractions, fully integrating media, design and production.
Brogent Technologies, a Taiwanese manufacturer, well-known for their flying theatres and as an IAAPA sponsor, gave a presentation on flying theatres. During this presentation, the company showed the first images of their new film “It’s Africa”. As the name indicates, it takes riders for a flight over the African continent. What’s special however, is that the film is available in 10K resolution, allowing Brogent to deliver a higher quality of immersion through their quality of video. Brogent also announced a new product to their line-up just before the start of the expo, the O-ride. This turnkey Flying Theatre can easily be setup or moved around and may be a real game changer for the portable rides market.
Just like last year, Turkish simulator manufacturer DOF Robotics stole the show with an immense VR simulator. This time, they brought one of their Hurricane 360 VR simulators, which is capable of a wide range of movements, including turning guests upside down. DOF Robotics is not as well-known as some other ride manufacturers, even though they completed over 400 installations including some themed simulators like flying theatres. They have many projects coming up, though many of these include unthemed VR simulators in family entertainment centres.
A new promising ride concept of theirs is the Nautilus. Guests board a vehicle shaped like a submarine, which lowers down as if it dives under water where it is surrounded by a large projection screen. It is like an immersive tunnel, but vertically oriented.
ETF Ride Systems
Dutch ride system manufacturer ETF Ride Systems is well-known for their trackless ride vehicles used on many rides around the globe. At the moment, they are mostly working on installations for Legoland parks and Lego Discovery Centers, where ETF delivers ride systems for the Imagination Express and Lego Factory Tour dark rides. Another ETF dark ride to open soon is Spongebob’s Crazy Carnival Ride, coming this winter to Adventuredome in Las Vegas (USA).
Gosetto, Italian ride manufacturer, had a busy year in terms of dark rides. They delivered the ride systems for Carnival Chaos, Treasure Hunt and Champi’Folies. Last summer, they also delivered a brand-new travelling ghost train to a Mexican fun fair operator. However, they could not tell anything about rides coming up for next year.
Ride manufacturer Intamin has been delving more and more into the show ride market over the last years. This summer, they opened their very first Dome Ride Theatre at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. For next year, they are the supplier of Danse Macabre, a custom show ride coming to Efteling (Netherlands). They have more promising concepts in store, though these cannot yet be officially announced.
Spanish theme park and ride design company Immersive Planet is currently working together with Lagotronics and Petro Art Production on the creation of a new dark ride at Pradera Islands, in the Philippines. They are also working on other ride concepts for major parks and brands, but unfortunately none of that could be mentioned in more detail.
Dutch ride designer and theming manufacturer Jora Vision, gave a press conference announcing their participation in the expansion of the Irish Emerald Park (formerly Tayto Park), which is constructing 2 new roller coasters for next year. In terms of dark rides, rumour has it that Jora Vision is currently working on a project in the Middle East. Other projects regarding dark rides or show rides could not yet be announced.
KCC Entertainment of Belgium designed their first dark ride last year, namely the retheme Terra Magma at Bobbejaanland (Belgium), which opened last May. They are currently working on another dark ride in Asia, though the current status of it is unknown.
Kraftwerk, a German company, did not attend previous editions of IAAPA, but they made their way to Vienna this year. Kraftwerk is known for complex A/V-systems and show control systems. In their booth, the showed a scale model of a planetarium dome ride which they installed in Heilbronn (Germany), as well as a demo panel of their perforated LED-screen which can be installed in show rides.
Lagotronics Projects is a well known Dutch manufacturer of interactive systems, show control and a designer of dark ride concepts. At the moment, they are working on the new dark ride at Pradera Islands (Philippines), together with Immersive Planet and Petro Art Production.
Leisure Expert Group
Dutch ride designer Leisure Expert Group was the main designer of Red Bandits Adventure, the retheme of former Wild West Adventure at Attractiepark Slagharen (Netherlands). For next year, no dark ride related projects have been announced.
German manufacturer Mack Rides celebrated the inauguration of their first Airific flying theatre this year. The installation opened in Vietnam and more are set to be coming, also to the Western world. Mack could not give any other dark ride related news, though their booth included large posters of Voltron, the new roller coaster at Europa-Park (Germany) for 2024 which is rumoured to have a dark ride section.
Italian simulator manufacturer Moviemex3D currently has a strong focus on solutions for virtual reality experiences, promoting a VR walkthrough game and a VR flight simulator in which one visits the 7 wonders of the modern world. Apart from these rides, which are not included in the Dark Ride Database, the company also keeps working on traditional simulators and simulator films, as they have their own in-house media production branch.
Petro Art Production
German concrete designer and manufacturer Petro Art Production is doing quite well, with many projects being underway for Europe and Asia. One of these is the creation of a large volcano to house a dark ride at Pradera Islands (Philippines). Other dark ride projects could not be announced.
Ride Engineers Switzerland
Swiss manufacturer RES not only celebrated the opening of their vertical dark ride Crazy Professor at Conny-Land (Switzerland) this year, but also won an European Star Award for this vertical dark ride. Though they hope to install more installation of this type of ride soon, none could yet be announced.
Sally Dark Rides
American dark ride designer Sally Dark Rides had a busy year, with 3 new dark rides that opened to the public: Treasure Hunt, Uncharted and Haunted Hotel. Another Sally dark ride is scheduled to open in 2023 still: Spongebob’s Crazy Carnival Ride at Adventuredome (Las Vegas, USA). No more details on this ride could be given yet, but we’ll keep an eye out for possible updates around the IAAPA Expo in Orlando coming later this year in November.
Seasonal Group of Britain came to the trade show with a VR Simulator. The simulator was themed as a Christmas sleigh ride, following the theme of their overall booth which featured a range of singing Christmas animatronics. Nonetheless did the VR simulator offer the possibility for 7 different movies, of which 3 with Christmas themed, 2 Halloween themed and 2 featuring a tropical/pirate theme. Seasonal Group worked on all aspects of the simulator (vehicle and motion, VR system, and media) by themselves, and according to us, they did a pretty nice job in creating a convincing 360 degrees environment.
German simulator manufacturer Simtec, recently announced the opening of one of their flying theaters in Malta, coming this fall or winter. The company is also working on something really big which is coming for 2025. In fact, it will be so big, it required Simtec to move to a brand-new facility last summer, as their old warehouse was not large enough to produce this new ride.
British simulator manufacturer and turn-key ride deliverer Simworx stole the show last year with a huge prototype of their AGV Dark Ride vehicle. This time, no prototype was to be seen in their booth, but Simworx still had some news to share. First and foremost was the presentation of their new Metro Mover ride concept, a simulator ride with an elongated vehicle in the style of a metro train. A first installation of their Pegasus Flying Theatre, which was also presented last year, has been sold to an Asian park. Other news is hopefully announced soon.
Triotech, a Canadian designer and manufacturer of dark rides, show rides and interactive systems, had a rather busy year in 2023. They opened 3 rides for which they were in the lead of overall design: Primordial, Battleground World Agent (based on the PUBG franchise) and Dragon’s Spell. For all 3 of these rides, Triotech had design booklets available to show at their booth. Apart from that, Triotech opened a couple of interactive theatres, Carnival Chaos and Champi’Folies over the course of 2023. Looking towards the future, Triotech is involved in upcoming Ninjago rides in Legoland parks, and they have a major dark ride planned for a non-disclosed park.
Upside Down House
The British company Upside Down House so far focused on creating walkthrough experiences in fixed houses that were built upside down, which are seen often as midway attractions. Lately, they decided to expand their business with the Spinning House, and they brought one of their very first installations to the Expo. The house measures just 5 x 5 meters and has one bench inside for 4 or 5 people. With guests seated inside, the house proceeds to turn around them. The experience is similar to the classic haunted swing, though smaller and lacking the swinging of the bench. Nonetheless, it offers a fun experience.
Dutch ride system manufacturer Vekoma, recently announced their new suspended dark ride system, which will soon have a first installation in Asia. On this matter, no more information was revealed at the Expo. Vekoma did participate in a press conference with Jora Vision on Emerald Park’s extension, though that includes only roller coasters.
Just before the Expo, German machinery manufacturer Wittenstein got the news out they developed a new driving system for dark ride vehicles. This system is very suitable for trackless ride systems and gives cars the ability to rotate while standing still on one spot. Wittenstein will not be developing their own ride systems but remain a component supplier to ride system manufacturers, as they have been in the industry for many years.
Wrap-up: IAAPA Expo Europe 2023
In previous years, we started our wrap-up by mentioning that the industry was slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the 2023 trade show being the largest IAAPA Expo Europe ever, hosting over 12,000 attendees, we can now surely say that these times lay behind us. For the first time since 2019, a large number of Chinese companies was present showcasing their works, generally animatronics, and the amount of booths and games was larger than ever.
The companies themselves also seem to be very busy, though projects for coming years remain undisclosed, except for just a few examples. We are looking forward to seeing all newly revealed rides and concepts coming to fruition, and are also looking forward to attending next year’s edition of IAAPA Expo Europe.
© 2023 Dark Ride Database
Article written by Luc
Pictures by Dark Ride Database, unless indicated otherwise