4D highlights new attraction package
Flamingo Land theme park and zoo in England is adding no fewer than six new attractions this season, plus a new entrance. Park World dropped by during the run-up to opening.
The 2008 season witnesses the introduction of 4D entertainment for the first time at this popular park in the village of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire. Adjoining the atrium building introduced last season, Flamingo Land has added a 72-seat 4D effects theatre courtesy of UK supplier Simworx.
The idea to add such an attraction was planted as far back as 2003, when a team from the park visited Orlando during IAAPA. “We did a straw poll each night back at the hotel,” recalls Flamingo Land chief executive Gordon Gibb (pictured above left with Terry Monkton from Simworx), “and the thing that impressed us at every one of the parks was 4D.”
The 4D Cinema that Flamingo Land has introduced uses 4 DOF (degrees of freedom) motion theatre seats equipped with a new control system and all new 4D effects including water jets, leg ticklers, lightning flashes and creeping fog. Simworx’ operations director Andy Roberts programmed the effects to coincide with the action on screen and describes the process as “great fun.” The 3D hardware includes high definition Christie projectors, Dolby 5.1 surround sound and a huge 13 x 7.3 metre screen of IMAX quality. Flamingo Land erected its own building for the cinema, which also includes a small pre-show area.
The choice of film – Haunted Lighthouse – was a “no-brainer” for Gibb because the cinema is located next to the park’s Seaside Adventure zone. “Having a Hollywood star like Christopher Lloyd in the film also helps us terrifically with our marketing,” he says.
Adding the 4D Cinema in the same season as so many other attractions has been a costly but manageable exercise for Flamingo Land. “The total cost for a new effects theatre is pretty high,” says Gibb, “but what Simworx has been able to do is break it down into small components and make it an attractive proposition at a price that we were able to afford.”
The cinema will also help the park increase its offering to guests at the Flamingo Land Resort holiday village. Already the atrium, a kind of mini FEC, is available after the park closes to those guests staying on site and now they will be able to enjoy 4D as part of the experience. According to Gibb, “hoidaymakers now are getting more sophisticated,” and this year he will also provide them with refurbished gym and spa facilities.
The bumper cars that appeared in the atrium last year have now been given their own dedicated pavilion outside and in their place comes a new three-storey soft play feature. The Soft Brick Company was responsible for this installation, which is themed as a galleon ship.
The arrival of the 4D Cinema, meanwhile, brings the curtain down on the park’s old Cinema 180. A popular feature back in its day, the projection and sound equipment inside such attractions is too primitive now for most audiences and Flamingo Land retired its version five years back. However, good use of the building’s dome-shaped frame has been achieved by cladding it with netting and converting it into an aviary. “Hopefully this will give inspiration to other operators,” says Gibb, “as there are old Cinema 180s sitting in parks all over the country doing nothing!”
Guests can also see a variety of animals from above by taking a stroll along the 250-metre long Tree Top Walk. In recent years Flamingo Land has implemented several imaginative ways to present its animal exhibits and this new wood-decked feature provides a relaxing way for families to take time out.
The Fabbri Three
Due to open in time for Easter, but still being completed at the time of our visit, were a trio of rides by the Fabbri Group including a 7-metre diameter Jungle Carousel, Helitoys tower ride and Flip Flop, a 30-seater Frisbee-style attraction. The latter has been sited in the Splish Splosh zone, near Splash Battle, and in keeping with its surroundings includes a number of water features.
The park’s Maurer Söhne Wild Mouse gets a new colour scheme this season and some reshaped cars with rodent-like faces. One ride that is missing, however, is the Circulator (a Fabbri Evolution), which has been moved to sister park Pleasure Island on the East Coast in Cleethorpes .
Greeting Flamingo Land guests as they make their way over from the car park is a new entrance area featuring thatched-roof ticket booths. Those visitors that plan ahead, however, can this bypass bottleneck by taking advantage of Flamingo Land’s new print-at-home ticket system. Tickets can be bought online via lastminute.com or the park’s own website and all guests need to do when they arrive is scan the printed barcode at the turnstile.
Inside the park, guests can buy a wristband for £5 and take advantage of the Q-Buster system to pre-book places on seven key attractions, including the 4D Cinema. A mobile phone text message tells them when it’s time to ride and they scan the wristband at the entrance to gain priority access. Although the system was free when it was trialed at the park in 2007 by Monkwood Technologies, Gibb is confident enough guests will be willing to pay to sample the extended version this season: “We try and keep queues as manageable as possible anyway by having lots of rides,” he says, “but I do think we will see some people hedging their bets and then buying a wristband later when we are busy.”
There were several busy days for Flamingo Land last season, despite horrendous summer weather. “We got off to a good start over Easter and looked in line do even better than 2005, which I think many people still use as a benchmark,” concludes Gibb. “July and August was weather for frogs, but unlike some parts of the country September was fine up here and we were flying for the rest of the season.”
Fingers crossed for ’08!
The 4D Cinema at Flamingo Land is one of three special effects theatres currently being installed in the UK by Simworx. At the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth a 30-seat 4D theatre will show the film A Turtle’s Adventure, while visitors to The Deep in Hull will be able to see Sharks 3D with added effects as an integral part of the main exhibition.
At the start of next season, a major UK park will also introduce 4D as part of its line-up, and Simworx is providing both the theatre and film. The park in question will be one of the first to show the new Curse of Skullrock production (pictured), one of several films from Red Star Studio distributed exclusively by Simworx.
In the 12-minute animated adventure, audiences are taken on a swashbuckling adventure aboard a pirate ship as plucky cabin girl Jill Hopkins fights against the tyrannical Captain Scabb in pursuit of the legendary lost treasure of Skull Rock.
“We’re really pleased that 4D is taking off with UK audiences,” says Simworx managing director Terry Monkton. “Special effects theatres provide a unique way to present 3D film content. The element of surprise provided by the 4D effects combined with seat movements provides an incredible wow factor with park guests.”