Theme Park Advent Calendar

December 2, 2017, 6:40 PM ·

Recently, I've found myself quietly grumbling a lot as I scroll through theme park news. I'm growing weary of the blockbuster action IP + high-tech ride system formula.

Not that I won't be in line for that Stormtrooper Battle Escape ride as soon as I can - but I've honestly found myself more hyped for the left-field choices of late. Europa Park floating the idea of a Moulin Rouge ride. Alton Towers building a family coaster themed (honest-to-God, here) to The Wicker Man. An entire theme park in tribute to Tayto, Ireland's most popular potato chip brand.

So rather than just tut and moan, I've decided to commit to 25 days of coming up with unexpected ideas that I would find genuinely delightful. Not just for rides, but parks, hotels, operations… whatever inspires. And thought I would post here a) so I can't just forget about it, and b) in case others fancy joining in.

I'm not necessarily attempting to keep to the laws of physics, economics or intellectual property. But nothing truly fantastical. My only two rules are:

1. It must be something I would genuinely want to experience, rather than a pun or joke of an idea. (One-liners a la "The Trump Train" or whatever aren't the point here.)

2. It must be expressed succinctly - approximately the length of a tweet or less. (Definitely no TPA-length explanations!)

In advent calendar convention, it'll be one-a-day until Christmas. (I'm writing this on Dec 2nd, so will start with my first choice here, and a second straightaway in the comments below.) So I hope to see you in the comments below if you're similarly inspired! Apologies for spamming the discussion forum for the next month if not.


December 1st:
The Grand Budapest Hotel dark ride. Ideally created with creaky, old-school track tech (Mr Toad!) and animatronics.

Replies (35)

December 2, 2017, 6:46 PM ·

Oh, and h/t to theatre director Chloe Mashiter who does something along these lines every year, and who I've shamelessly nicked the format from. Worth a follow for the month if you're interested in the wider arts.

Edited: December 2, 2017, 7:10 PM ·

December 2nd:
A next-gen motion base dark ride about trying to escape a theme park, created by Michel Gondry. (Seriously, watch the videos for Let Forever Be and The Denial Twist and tell me you're not all-in on this one.)

Edited: December 3, 2017, 3:09 PM ·

December 3rd
A Halloween Horror Nights maze based on the nightmarish children's anthology Der Struwwelpeter.

December 4, 2017, 11:46 AM ·

December 4th:
A Pirates of Caribbean style musical dark ride based on Les Miserables.

December 4, 2017, 2:10 PM ·

Nice one David. Combine it with some kind of cathedral rooftop experience for Hunchback, and there's a legit Hugo land there.

December 4th:
"Creative Director's commentaries" - pre-recorded insights into attractions delivered via custom headsets.

December 5, 2017, 11:06 AM ·

December 5th:
Le Visionarium (or heck, any extinct Circle-Vision attraction) as a VR experience that I can download to my Google Cardboard and watch at home.

(FYI Disney, I'd pay good, real money for this one right now.)

December 6, 2017, 12:20 PM ·

December 6th - Cinnamon Sugar flavored cotton candy with a Churro as the stick.

December 6, 2017, 2:58 PM ·

A tame boat ride inspired by "The Little Prince"/"Le Petit Prince", the classic French children's book. Netflix distributed a beautifully-animated version of story a while ago (it's still available). I originally thought it would work great in the France pavilion at Epcot but that's pretty obviously not a possibility. I think it's great material for a children's ride of some type in some park somewhere.

Edited: December 6, 2017, 5:42 PM ·

Ryan - I've thought the same thing before! And I think it falls into the public domain next year actually (in Europe at least) so fingers crossed.

Rob - that is THE BEST idea. I will happily pitch in to a crowdfunder for that. And keeping on the subject of concession stands...

December 6th:
Sugar-free Butterbeer, so I can feel slightly less guilty about my third cup of the day.

December 7, 2017, 6:02 PM ·

December 7th:
Some kind of Splatoon game using AR technology, but taking place across a whole theme park. One for USF now they've got the Nintendo licence, I guess.

(No idea how this works, but we're talking blue sky concept here, right?)

December 8, 2017, 4:21 PM ·

December 8th:
A trackless dark ride that begins in Munich's riotous Oktoberfest celebrations, before stumbling out for an inebriated adventure through the streets of the city. Perfect technology for simulating the motions of swaying, staggering and hiccuping.

(I know, I know, there's no way Disney et al are going anywhere near this, no matter how good a fit it'd be for Epcot. But, umm... Mack brothers? You know where to find me.)

Edited: December 9, 2017, 6:11 PM ·

Honestly not a fan of Jimmy Fallon, so today I propose the natural replacement...

December 9th:
Race Through New York Starring Billy Eichner

Edited: December 10, 2017, 4:27 PM ·

December 10th:
An revision to Disney's grim March of the First Order where, rather than celebrate violent tyranny as it parades down the streets of a theme park, we instead get to be rebels and fight back. Possibly via rotten vegetables sold at a heavy mark-up by street vendors. (If an easy dollar is the way to get them on board with this, fine with me.)

Maybe the interactive element of Galaxy's Edge will offer something in this vein, and this'll be the one advent calendar door that actually comes true.

Edited: December 11, 2017, 8:17 AM ·

A Grimm Brothers dark ride in Germany at Epcot. Title it "Gruselmärchen" translated Scary Fairytales in German, A slightly scary attraction intended for mature audiences. No screens,just animatronics. You could include some classic Disney characters such as The Evil Queen/Witch. She was rather scary in Snow White's Scary Adventures. However, so many good stories to combine; Snow White, Hansel and Grettle, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, The Ugly Duckling, etc. The last two might be a stretch to make scary but its a start.

December 11, 2017, 10:57 AM ·

Inspired by these solid traditional dark ride concepts...

December 11th:
Imagineering Club: In small groups, meet once a week with a working ride designer to learn about how dark rides are conceived. By the end of the semester, the group will design something that's actually created using a (very basic) ride system and pre-made scenic elements from the Disney (or whoever) workshops.

The cost would undoubtedly be huge. But it feels like the demand would be, too.

December 12, 2017, 4:02 PM ·

December 12th:
A hypercoaster designed and narrated by Werner Herzog.

December 12, 2017, 4:53 PM ·

Ben - can the last car of each train on the Werner Herzog coaster be the figure of a giant chicken? The chicken should have its head slightly cocked so it seems to be staring coldly at the entire train ahead of it. It's beak should be ever so slightly opened and there out to be what appears to be blood smeared across one side of its face and on its talons. I'd also like it if the tail of the chicken is made of huge ostrage feathers that will flutter in the wind as the train makes its way around the track. These feathers will need to be replaced frequently, but that is a small price to pay for that visual.

December 13, 2017, 10:53 AM ·

Rob, you've got the job. And the back of the train is Herzog's face, locked in a perpetual staring match.

December 13, 2017, 10:59 AM ·

Given Universal's Cinematic Spectacular has played for the last time, I propose the following as a replacement...

December 13th:
Frank Kincaid Presents DISASTER!: A Major Motion Picture Spectacular

Edited: December 14, 2017, 7:30 AM ·

December 14th:
A high-tech - but artistically faithful - reimagining of A Trip to the Moon.

Could work almost anywhere, but would be an incredible fit for Toyko DisneySea's American Waterfront.

Edited: December 14, 2017, 9:27 AM ·

Dear Disney. You now own the rights to make December 1st happen. GO.

December 15, 2017, 3:38 PM ·

December 15th:
An adults-only Sesame Street Halloween maze at SeaWorld, with genuinely scary versions of the iconic characters.

So many great options for demonic interpretations here, although Zombie Elmo might be a highlight. Or The Count as a legit vampire.

December 16, 2017, 3:08 PM ·

December 16th:
Beasts of the Southern Wild "Beast It!" dining experience.

December 17, 2017, 4:20 PM ·

December 17th:
A Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote launching coaster/dark ride.

December 17, 2017, 4:23 PM ·

I can't say I've been able to get on board with many of these, but that one I can.

December 18, 2017, 9:54 AM ·

In the spirit of "I have no idea how this would work, but it'd be cool if it did..."

December 18th:
A ride where you're trying to escape from a villain's trap. You stay in one vehicle, but that vehicle gets "passed" from one flat ride system to another, through a whole sequence. (I guess a little like a real-life Minion Mayhem?)

Can't decide whether it should be all inside for the theming/storytelling possibilities, or exposed to make it a real spectator opportunity.

December 19, 2017, 8:55 AM ·

December 19th:
A Tron-style part indoor, part outdoor Color Run roller coaster.

December 20, 2017, 12:09 PM ·

A bit of a conventional one today, but one I'd so love to happen that I'm willing to give it a pass...

December 20th:
A Moana ride using the Shanghai Pirates technology.

It's hard to get a sense from POV videos just how different the ride system here feels compared to other Pirates rides. Rather than simply cruising downstream, it really feels like you're being manipulated by an element with a mind of its own - and so would fit beautifully with the world of Moana.

December 21, 2017, 1:07 PM ·

December 21st:
A Mary Poppins "the umbrella chooses you" experience, hosted by MP herself. Beginning with her magically gliding down the banister - and ending with the chance to purchase your own enchanted umbrella, of course.

(I know, it's a pinch from Potter. But would work undeniably well.)

December 22, 2017, 1:01 PM ·

December 22nd:
The Blue Bird Motel: a Back to the Future hotel, with rooms built around a replica 1955-dated Courthouse Square. Complete with Lou's Cafe, wandering characters, and a nightly re-enactment of the movie's climactic moment with Doc on the clock. And an Enchantment Under the Sea dance every Saturday, of course.

December 23, 2017, 6:19 PM ·

December 23rd:
A Future World takeover helmed by David Mitchell. (Anne Washburn gets the Spaceship Earth rewrite, though.)

December 24, 2017, 5:17 PM ·

December 24th:
Elaborate secret mazes in Disney's castles, full of tricks, puzzles and set pieces. Like a mix of Shanghai's Once Upon a Time Adventure, Poseidon's Fury and an escape room.

I've said Disney because the castles (or Mount Prometheus... or the Tree of Life...) make them the obvious candidate. But the Pharos Lighthouse at IoA would work. Or any company with an epic weenie willing to give it a well-funded go. (Deep in the belly of the Ocean Park headland could be pretty cool.)

Edited: December 25, 2017, 5:28 PM ·

December 25th:
Everything, everywhere goes back into the public domain. So all the ideas above - and an infinite amount of unimagined ones - can be brought to life by anyone willing to invest in a vision. And not just the obvious switches (Rohde does Jurassic Park! Efteling does E. Nesbit! Holiday World does Die Hard!) but all the unexpected crossovers and radical reinvention that would come from that. What an incredible, revitalised industry that would make for, eh?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

December 26, 2017, 6:30 PM ·

Thanks for your great share!
Great post!

December 27, 2017, 5:09 PM ·

Thank you Ben for this wonderful thread! Merry Christmas and happy new year to all.

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