As technology advances, attraction experiences evolve as well. The perfection of digital video and improvement of display capabilities mean today’s simulator attractions incorporate projection screen tech much more often.
Compiled below, 7 selections of favored fun featuring projected action as part of the experience. Not all are digital in nature, but the concept is relatively the same.
Old School Simulation
Before the advent of laser discs, DVDs and digital files, cellulose film filled the need for simulated action. A precursor to the modern make-believe motion mega rides, mechanical projectors would provide an attraction’s focus. Often times guests could even hear the projectors during the experience.
Large format film, eventually replaced by digital data, projected recorded scenic adventures on an odd number of oversized screens (allowing projectors to be placed between the screens to cast their image across the room). The first Circle-Vision auditorium opened at Disneyland in 1955. Today, the concept is still in use at attractions within the Canadian and Chinese pavilions at Epcot.
Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars
Flight to the Moon, Disney’s journey to outer space, featured projection screens at the center of the top and bottom of the “rocket ship.” Timed with subtly moving seats mimicking changes in g-force, this stellar send-up served simulated trips to the moon and eventually Mars.
Found in Tomorrowland at Disneyland (CA) and the Magic Kingdom (FL), this early Tomorrowland excursion entertained guests from 1975 – 1992 (CA) and 1975 – 1993 (FL). In Florida, at the Magic Kingdom, the attraction transformed into ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (1995 – 2003) and is currently home Stitch’s Great Escape.
While these attractions may move, shake and rumble, guests never leave the location where they are first seated during the experience.
“The Simpsons” Ride
Taking override vehicles and massive, shared experience screens from Back to the Future: The Ride in 2008, “The Simpsons” attraction seats guests in a collection of motion simulating, but stationary Krustyfield Classic Rollercoaster car ride “vehicles.” Similar to an auditorium style IMAX theater, “riders” enjoy an adventure through and around Springfield as their 8-passenger car (24 cars in total) moves in sync to the 3D animated action.
Fictional space tourism company, Star Tours, began offering passage to various destinations within the “Star Wars” galaxy in 1986 (Disneyland); similar attractions arrived at other Disney theme parks (Tokyo and Hollywood Studios/1989; Paris/2016). An enclosed “Star Speeder 3000” flight simulator allowed up to 40 fans to sit, fully immersed in the cabin as action on screen was matched by the motion of the entire cabin. Light and sound effects added to the illusion of interstellar travel.
In 2011 (Hollywood Studios & Disneyland), R2-D2 and C-3PO assumed piloting responsibilities from RX-24 when Star Tours –The Adventures Continue brought an update to the attraction (2013/Tokyo, 2017/Paris). Featuring higher quality video and randomized sequences set throughout the “Star Wars” universe and timeline, this update made it easier to add new content to the ride as new movies and adventures were released.
Simulation in Motion
The following experiences mix movement of ride vehicles with static sets, animatronics and on-screen action.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Marvel Super Hero Island (Islands of Adventure, FL) debuted a new kind of thrill ride when the park opened in 1999 (Japan/2004): The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Entering through offices of the Daily Planet, guests are recruited to help cover the chaos underway as villains vex Manhattan. Traveling in special news gathering “SCOOP” ride vehicles, which are actually motion simulators traveling along the ride path, guests encounter Electro, Scream, Doctor Octopus, Hydro-Man, and Hobgoblin. Falling victim to the anti-gravity cannon, riders fly (and plummet) through the air; ride vehicle matching action by lurching, angling and pointing riders toward action unfolding across various screens (themselves within comic book stylized sets) during the adventure. Of course, Spider-Man saves the day, more than once, in this epic 3D adventure.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Wizarding World wonders wow muggles as they tour Hogwarts onboard enchanted benches. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first cast its spell in Islands of Adventure in 2010 by taking over a large portion of the Lost Continent and transforming it into Hogsmeade Village. The attraction joined similar themed areas at parks in Japan (2014) and Hollywood (2016).
Using robot arm, roller coaster simulators attached to a four-seat “enchanted bench,” guests are whipped around the various sets and animatronics in sync with the on-screen action. Spiders, Dragons, and Dementors from the famous franchise feed fear as they interrupt the impromptu tour.
High Tech Simulation Wizardry
Finally, this example of modern magic from China showcases just how far the technology of using projection screens has evolved. Towering digital displays blend seamlessly to create an adrenaline pumping, intense, immersive adventure.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure (Shanghai Disneyland)
Raising the bar of “E-ticket” experience by bending big screens, foreground sets, highly articulated animatronics, and dazzling special effects, Disney Imagineers cleverly crafted nothing short of magic. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, guests are guided along a motion picture-based boat ride of high seas, swashbuckling adventure.
These seven simulator sensations serve as examples of how the use of projected action augments attractions and how technology has advanced over the years. They are but a small sampling of the various adventures awaiting guests at theme parks, shopping malls, and arcades. Additional attractions including Sorin’ (Disney), Shrek 3D (Universal), Transformers 3D (Universal), Hogwarts Express (Universal), Avatar Flight of Passage (Disney), Toy Story Midway Mania! (Disney), Kong Skull Island (Universal), Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon (Universal) and “Despicable Me” Minion Mayhem (Universal) continue to thrill guests in theme parks today.
Do you have a favorite projection based/simulator adventure? Please project your thoughts into the comments below.
Source and images: Wikipedia, ITM Archives