What is the future of theme park rides?

April 12, 2015, 8:53 AM

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts for the first time. I had heard a lot about the incredible details and effects, as well as the shortcomings, of this attraction for a year, and I was ready to judge for myself. I came away feeling that if I had never experienced anything like Gringotts, I would have been incredibly impressed. But after riding Spiderman, Transformers, Mummy, and Forbidden Journey on that same day, I felt pretty fatigued from screen-based attractions.

This raised an interesting question for me. What is going to be the future of theme park attractions as technology gets better and better? Just as with Hollywood, audiences are growing wary of CGI effects and crave at least a partial return to practical sets and effects. I believe the same thing is happening in the them park industry. The implementation of screens has most definitely added to the theme park attraction experience, but how much is too much? I believe that many would say that Gringotts has provided an answer, as the roller coaster-based attraction could have very easily used the same ride model as Spiderman or Transformers and relied on screens even more than those attractions. Universal seems to be responding with a King Kong attraction that incorporates more old-school animatronics and effects, but is this the answer in our increasingly tech-powered world? Are practical effects enough to get riders excited any more?

So, I want to know what others think. What is going to be the next big thing, even beyond ever-improving giant 360-degree screens? Is it going to be:

-A swing back on the pendulum to a more balanced screen and practical sets give-and-take?
-An increasing use of interaction/engagement to find ways to make each ride unique to the rider, i.e. Toy Story Mania or Men in Black: Alien Attack?
-A more modern take on practical effects, i.e. Seven Dwarves and their articulate faces?
-All of the above?
-Something I haven't listed or thought of?

I'm thinking beyond recent development like trackless rides or 3D vs regular; what is the next big revolution in them park attractions going to be??

Replies (9)

Edited: April 12, 2015, 10:48 AM

All of the above and which ever gives the most REALISTIC experience for the guests. Just look at the approach JJ Abrams is taking in shooting the new Star Wars movie-more practical effects/less CGI. Realism is the key. Realism AND immersion. The idea behind the ride experience maybe fantastic, but whatever technology can provide to accomplish the best of these two ideas is what the future of movies and video games and theme park rides will be.

Edited: April 12, 2015, 2:42 PM

If it is ever finessed, then holograms could have a big improvement for some rides or even mixing it for shows to have live action and holograms where viewers have to wear glasses?

April 12, 2015, 2:40 PM

I agree that realism is what theme park rides should aim to create. The question is, beyond what technologies are currently being used in attractions, what can create an even greater sense of realism? Is the combination of screens and practical sets the height of immersion, or is there something more on the horizon?

Holograms are an interesting idea. They've been used in Universal attractions kind of as a gimmick, I wonder if they can cross the line from interesting idea to compelling addition.

April 13, 2015, 12:28 AM

Honestly, I don't like the way Universal is going with almost all their rides being screen-based because nothing can replace a good animatronic imo. If I had to chose one attraction to support the future of theme park attractions it would be Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride ust has the perfect amount of thrill and detail so that everyone can enjoy it and it uses both screens and animatronics with themed sets that really immerse you in the action.

April 13, 2015, 7:34 AM

I personally wonder about the future of animatronics. How much more realistic can they get? If the goal is realism, how much more can animatronics, standing on their own, create a sense of realism that adults and children can both give into? I don't disagree that animatronics can be compelling, but I think they have to be combined with other modern effects, i.e. 7DMT, to create an even more compelling illusion.

Interestingly, I think that Spiderman holds up incredibly well, with a good balance of screens and practical sets even after many years of operation. I wonder what will really top it. Transformers is a more modern version, with an even greater emphasis on screens, and I don't think it still quite matches the effectiveness of that ride.

April 13, 2015, 8:18 AM

All of the above plus whatever we haven't thought of before.

We have to wait until Avatar opens at Animal Kingdom to find out what future is.

Only Disney and Universal is capable of pushing the next level of theme park rides. Other theme parks get the scraps.

April 13, 2015, 9:42 AM

I agree that Disney and Universal will continue to push the envelope, but in what way? What direction are we headed in for theme park attractions in the near future?

Edited: April 14, 2015, 8:05 PM

What's happening with Kong is part of the answer. It will be both indoors & outdoors,have huge AA's, screens, sets, and a huge trackless vehicle that also will include effects of some sort. That's about everything that's available short of coaster track.....A lot of these thrilling fast paced effects cannot be accomplished without screens or projections so I think we'll be seeing screens on at least part of a ride for a while. Even Disney is becoming more screen oriented. Avatar, for one, is a screen based attraction, as are many of their more recent attractions (screen or projection). The days of slow moving omnimovers with basic AA's is probably in the past since audiences have become expectant of higher degree thrill & action.

April 14, 2015, 6:53 PM

Take a look at Mack's newest Ride: Arthur - a mix!

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