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GH – Organisations like Disney and to a certain extent Universal understand that animatronics are not simple, drop-in devices; they require substantial investment in a compressed air or hydraulic infrastructure of pumps and plumbing, as well as a sophisticated control interface behind the scenes. Sculpting of characters, creating moulds, fabricating mechanisms, creating costumes and adding paint, plus show controllers for every function of every figure, is an expensive undertaking. By the same token, investment in the maintenance of animatronics is key, and certainly many organisations do not consider this adequately.

How do you demonstrate the return on investment with animatronics? JW – It is difficult in a pay-one-price park environment. The same could be said for landscaping, fresh paint and cleanliness. You know the patrons expect these things in parks and the fact that dark rides remain popular with all ages year after year, decade after decade is certainly proof of their ability to continue to be entertained in that manner. Michael Mack – We really challenge ourselves to be magical at Europa-Park, and so do our guests. Although we

Arthur in the

Minimoys Kingdom Described as the most intricate indoor attraction in the history of the famous German Park, Arthur – In the Minimoys Kingdom at Europa-Park is half dark ride, half coaster. In the dark ride section, guests are transported through an oversized underground universe – as pictured below – and animatronics play an important part in bringing this world to life. “Arthur is based on the famous movie director Luc Besson’s Arthur trilogy,” Europa-

Park executive board member Michael Mack reminds us. “Our goal was to tell the story of Arthur with film segments, sensory experiences, a race through a real forest and animatronics where appropriate. My favourite character is definitely Mogoth [pictured above]. He is a very large animatronic and the guests experience many different motions while he is chasing them out of a scene. He is our biggest animatronic on this ride and he just makes you feel very small!” In the event, more than 50 animatronics were used throughout the ride, built by vendors including Life Formations, Heimotion and P&P Projects. Additional effects include large scale video projections, onboard dynamic sound, seat shakers and more, not to mention the suspended Mack ride system.

are a very big park, we are also family-owned and operated, so while we still follow the rules of investment and return we will go the extra length to deliver to our guests an amazing visit. If that means investing in animatronics as part of the experience, we will do it – as we did last season with Arthur in the Minimoys Kingdom. GH – For certain types of attraction, figures are a major part of their appeal, like Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Universal’s Revenge of the Mummy. They add thematic interest but are not essential to their success – the thrill of the coaster should do that. On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion isn’t a thrilling ride, per se. Instead, it is entirely reliant on figures and theme to sell itself – no animatronics, the ride’s a dud.

Does the use of CGI/media content in dark rides and attractions make animatronics more or less relevant today? ER – I think there will always be a place for Audio- Animatronics technology, just like there is still room for stop-motion and hand-drawn animation. It's really a stylistic question. When I was designing the characters for Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor, we wanted it to look like a stop-

This Cyborg figure from Sally Corp will greet guests on the new Justice League Battle for Metropolis dark rides opening this season at Six Flags St Louis and Six Flags Over Texas


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