What happens when you let a bunch of mad rabbits loose inside a museum? The result is the dark ride experience La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps (The Time Machine), now entertaining guests at the French film and technology park Futuroscope.
Featuring characters from the computer game and animated kids’ TV series Les Lapins Crétins (“Idiot Rabbits”), the new attraction officially opened on 21 December and replaces the augmented reality (AR) experience Les Animaux du Futur, which opened at the park in Poitou-Charentes just five years ago. The curse of having the latest technology, of course, is that it’s out of date almost as soon as it’s launched and so, in an age when AR is now deployed commonly on smartphones and in other common applications, it was deemed no longer to represent the future for Futuroscope.
Housed inside a building designed, like most others at the park, by architect Denis Laming, La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps incorporates the same custom-built ETF ride system as Les Animaux du Futur, but pretty much everything else is new. Responsible for the rabbit-themed refurbishment was the Dutch design firm Jora Vision, working alongside Les Lapins Crétins rights holder Ubisoft. Jora’s previous credits at the park includes attractions such as Les Petit Prince, Le 8ème Continent and the top-rated Arthur, L’Aventure 4D.
Famous for their cheeky “bwaaah!” greeting, the boggle-eyed rabbits known outside France as the Raving Rabbids (sic), cause mischief wherever they go. Created in 2006, originally as part of the computer game Rayman, they went on to become stars of their own series of games, TV shows, commercials, parody videos and comic books, and are credited as influencing the Minion characters in the hit movie Despicable Me. To date over 65 million Les Lapins Crétins videos have been watched on YouTube, over 14 console and app games played, while their official Facebook page has over 1.3 million fans. Given the introduction of the 3D attraction Despicable Me Minion Mayhem in 2012 at Universal Studios in Orlando and its upcoming launch this year at the sister park in Hollywood, it seems only fitting that a French venue should choose to introduce the mischievous rabbits to its guests. The resulting attraction is packed full of gags that everyone can enjoy and is perhaps one of the most colourful, fun and unashamedly theme park style experiences now offered as part of the Futuroscope line-up.
“Since time immemorial, time travel has been a great human dream,” observes park president Dominique Hummel. “Although many researchers are still trying, the invention of a time machine is technically impossible. That is why we decided to treat time travel in a humorous way. Also, against the disenchantment of a society in crisis, people are looking for experiences that offer an element of escape and laughter. Our collaboration with Ubisoft has allowed us once again to showcase French artistic and technological expertise whilst providing a really fun and engaging experience for our guests.”
“Futuroscope was looking for an attraction with humour,” adds Jora Vision CEO Jan Maarten de Rad, “with the Lapin Crétins the park has definitely found that. Thanks to their daredevil attitude, their crazy ‘bwaaah’ yell and their sense of humour, the little creatures have developed a wide fan base. This project was a special one for Jora Vision.”
The six-minute-long Machine à Voyager dans le Temps experience begins as a television newsflash reports on the rabbit invasion of Futuroscope. An entertaining queue line features such diversions as a hall of famous classical paintings defaced by the crazy creatures, leading into a room of artefacts and curiosities, all with a little added Lapins Crétins flavour. A nice touch in the outdoor queuing area is a door that that purports to give direct access to the attraction, yet those opening the door in hope of a queue jump are simply teased by a rabbit “bwaaahing” back at them (as seen above). Why not employ a similar trick at your park to add a bit of humour for those waiting in line?
On boarding the ride’s three-car/15-seat trains, rethemed by Jora Vision as public conveniences, passengers are requested to don 3D glasses, rather than the augmented reality viewers that were previously provided on Les Animaux du Futur. Then they are taken on a “bwaaayge” into time, played out across five high definition 3D animated scenes, linked by vortex light effects that appear to make the train change speed. Thanks to this and various effects such as vibrating floors, moving seats, leg ticklers, wind blasts and even collapsing toilet seats, Futuroscope is marketing the attraction as a “5D” experience.
In keeping with the light-hearted nature of the ride, the time machine is in fact a washing machine. The first period passengers are teleported back to is Ancient Greece, witnessing the birth of the Olympics followed by the American West, where they discover how smoke signals are made and experience a rain dance complete with water effects. Towards the end of the journey, the train travels into a “decrétinisation” zone, where guests are returned to the present day via X-ray.
The retail store featured at the exit of the attraction features such wacky merchandise as Lapin Crétins branded lavatory seats, toilet brush microphones and miniature washing machines. Visitors can also post a postcard featuring one of defaced paintings from earlier in the attraction, buy their own attraction photo or take part in a green screen video adventure featuring the mad rabbits.
Developed over an 18-month period, key members on the 100-strong Machine à Voyager dans le Temps team included Futuroscope artistic director Olivier Héral, project manager Jean-Pierre Joyaux and film director Samuel Tourneux. Jora Vision took responsibility for all of the ride’s design and theming, working alongside subsidiaries Jora Entertainment, Jora Graphics and local companies such as Poitier-based SECOM to deliver various special effects and murals. Media content, including pre-show elements, were handled by the Paris studio Circus.
If you fancy a visit to an museum fused with a bit of toilet humour and an encounter with multiple shrieking mad rabbits, you know where to go.
Operated by Compagnie des Alpes since 2011, the publicly-owned Futuroscope is currently in the midst of a bold renewal strategy that calls for the rennovation or replacement of 50% of its attractions every two years. Earlier in 2013 it rebooted its Robocoaster attraction Danse avec les Robots by integrating music from French superstar DJ Martin Solveig, as well as opening the world’s first Aerobar by Aerophile. Due to the park’s year-round operating schedule, it uses winter to launch many of its new attractions, and so now La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps will see it through the first half of 2014. Hopefully this and the new 3D IMAX experience Mission Hubble (pictured below), launching later this year, will help reverse the results last season, when attendance is believed to have dipped below the 1.7 million guests recorded in 2012