By Markus Beyr
While rollercoasters and other hard rides remain mainstay attractions for theme parks and amusement parks around the world, another type of guest experience has emerged to take the park and midway attraction world by storm: the MBA, or media based attraction.
MBAs rely on a ride or theatre setting combined with a cinematic presentation. These attractions are highly versatile because of the cinema element: the media content can address any kind of topic and provoke a range of emotions for the visitors, and best of all, can be exchanged easily. When it comes time to refresh the attraction, the investment is contained: just the replacement of content and some additional new theming if there is enough budget to go around.
4D Theatre leading the way
Seminal versions of MBAs include numerous Disney shows, such as Michael Jackson’s Captain Eo, Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D attraction or, what I consider the first genuine 4D attraction, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (first introduced at Epcot in 1994). This launched the global phenomenon of 4D theatres, which are increasingly popular in a variety of entertainment and education venues. 4D attractions, combining 3D film or video presentation with special effects and animated seats to immerse the audience in the experience, were a natural next step from 3D film exhibition, which in the mid-1990s was not yet widespread in multiplex theatres but was readily found in major theme parks around the world.
4D theatres are at the forefront of the media based attractions genre today, with some of the top experiences combining ride systems with immersive cinema in a dome or 3D setting. An early example is Universal’s Back to the Future: The Ride (1991) which was upgraded in 2008 to The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood. Another outstanding example from Universal is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, found at Universal Studios parks in the US and Japan. Spider-Man is still a leader in terms of the “Wow” factor in the media based attractions genre, as a hybrid ride combining special roving motion vehicles with 3D projection, elaborate physical sets, and both practical and tactile effects. Our company, Kraftwerk Living Technologies, has realized several rides of this genre including the Aviation Pavilion for Shanghai Expo 2010.
What’s next in media based attractions?
Gradually another variety of MBA is entering the global field – the flying theater concept, which simulates a gliding/soaring flight and was first introduced at Disneyland California. The attraction named Soarin’ takes 87 guests at a time on a simulated hang glider tour of California. The vehicle consists of three rows of seats under a wing-like canopy. After guests have been safely restrained, the canopy descends and a cantilever system lifts the chairs forward and into the air with the guests' feet dangling free. The vehicle is lifted forward so that guests look into a large, concave movie screen onto which the film is projected. Since the vehicle is moved forward into the dome, the effect is such that guests can only see the images projected on the screen and are given the sensation of flight.
Successors to Soarin’ are coming to ground in the Middle East and Asia. Right now as many as four companies claim to have ride systems to provide similar attractions: Huss from Germany, Brogent from Taiwan, Dynamic Structures from the US and Ride Trade/Intamin from Liechtenstein/Switzerland.
Although Dynamic Structures worked on the original installation at Disneyland, there is no similar project outside Disney yet installed. Disney holds the patent for the Soarin’ installation and the direct offered solution from Dynamic Structures is in our opinion far different from the original experience.
Brogent from Taiwan has introduced the very interesting I-Ride solution with complex 6-dof motion and a single 4K projector, where the first installation is in very successful operation at EDA world in Taiwan. The worldwide distribution is done by renowned rollercoaster company Vekoma of Belgium.
Huss has already sold three installatons of their flying ride system, called Movie Base, with a high-profile installation at the very high profile new theme park, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Another Movie Base is in operation at OCT Shenzhen’s Window of the World and a second installation in Shanghai Happy Valley will open soon.
Rebranding at the touch of a button
The future of MBAs is always under development and limited only by the creative human imagination. Actual projects like the world’s biggest digital dome projected show in Macau, Dragons Treasure at City of Dreams (a Kraftwerk Living Technologies project) opened in June 2009 and was honored with a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement. Our company also recently realized a new 360-degree 3D attraction in Shenzhen, China.
But MBAs are not only for theme parks – 4D theatres and their ilk will be found more and more at any kind of venue where people go to be entertained or educated. The first installations at shopping malls and museums have been appearing in recent years, and custom developments have been announced recently for more.
As the flexible use of film content available for any screen format opens the opportunity to rebrand attractions practically at the touch of a button, and the first iterations of MBAs around the world have been very successful, we are confident that this type of attraction will become essential for updating theme park projects, visitor centers, museums, world expos and other visitor attractions around the world.
Markus Beyr is Managing Director of Kraftwerk Living Technologies, and co-owner at Science Center Wels Betriebs GmbH, C2 Turnkey Solutions GmbH and FTT Digital Cinema GmbH and several others. With 15 years of experience in the Exhibition, Museum and Leisure industries, he has guided several hundred projects into successful operations and is a leading figure in the creation of innovative 4D, 5D and media based attractions in Asia, Europe and around the world.