1202012125303logo1-jpgWhen the VES nominees were announced this year, I wasn’t too particularly excited about two of the three attractions nominated.  Sure, ILM did a fantastic job on the animation of Transformers the Ride (the winner) and Star Tours:  The Adventures Continue, but story-wise there’s nothing unique about these attractions.  In fact, I’ve gotten quite bored with simulator attractions.  Once a concept’s been tried, it’s used over and over again to the point where the technology of the attraction is no longer carrying the story and the story becomes nothing more than an excuse to use new technology and increase visitation.

Something is stolen or goes wrong, a chase ensues, and all is well in an exciting confundle of an ending.  Granted, sometimes there are original applications where pure imagination is the heart of the story, such as Peter Gabriel’s Mindbender (directed by Brett Leonard) and Midland Productions’ Funhouse Express.   In the mid-1990’s, filmed attraction veterans Charlotte Huggins and Ray Spencer came up with the following formula, which is still followed to this day:  The genre is split into six plot categories: 1) Rollercoaster/Track, 2) Flying, 3) Underwater, 4) Racetrack/One Plane, 5) Object/Person point-of-view and 6) Dark Ride. Within those plots, the following devices are most common: A) Sister Ship, B) Molecular Shrink, C) Time Machine, D) Crisis Landing, E) Something’s Wrong With Our Ship, F) Save the Planet, G) Oops! Wrong direction, H) Time Clock, I) Encounter an Evil Creature, J) Camera point-and-shoot and K) On-camera “host.”*  So…using the formula, Back to the Future: the Ride comes across as 2ACDEFGHIK.

Beyond that, key plot points are simply only given a new varnish when integrated into newer attractions.  The stolen allspark on Transformers is no different than the stolen Statue of Liberty on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man (does anyone even remember this is about the stolen Statue of Liberty, a fact that became even more confusing after that portion of the preshow was excised post-9/11?), the stolen DeLorean time machine on Back to the Future: The Ride, the stolen pickle on Spongebob Squarepants, or even the wickedly attractive kidnapped archeologist on Doug Trumbull’s Search for the Obelisk.  Likewise, having a rebel spy on board your starcruiser is the same as having an ancestor of Jean Luc Picard pushed forward in time to board the Enterprise.  It’s nothing more than a plot tool.

At Resorts World Sentosa, Super 78 Studios took a much different approach when creating Typhoon 360, the third VES attraction nominee, for the Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium.  The show links a maritime museum on the top floor with an aquarium below.  The technology and techniques are nothing new.  In-theater experiential effects (or 4D) have been in existence since before the days of motion pictures.  Expanding screens are a byproduct of such films as Abel Gance’s 1927 Napoleon and Merian Cooper’s 1952 This is Cinerama.  And integrating a descending floor as part of the show harkens to numerous world’s fair exhibits and Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

But in this case, unlike the other two attraction nominees for the VES Award, Typhoon uses the technology as a tool to tell the story.  In Transformers and Star Tours, a faux emotional connection is contrived through a combination of adrenaline and familiarity with storyline and characters.  On Typhoon, the emotional reaction is real.  It is a connection to the actual live actors on screen and their predicament, the ending of which segues into the aquarium portion of the building not as an introduction so much as a the culmination of a journey.

In order to maintain cohesiveness in themed environments, there is what I like to call the “bridge.”  A bridge can be as subtle as a shared roofline in two adjoining themed lands, or as complex as shared themes across multiple attractions.  At the Las Vegas Hilton, had the entrance to Star Trek: The Experience been built directly onto the main casino floor, the juxtaposition between the two adjacent areas would be difficult for the brain to accept.  Hilton, however, built the Space Quest casino as a bridge between the two, taking elements from both the casino on one end and the science fiction attraction on the other.

Typhoon 360 acts as a bridge between the maritime museum and the aquarium.  It tells a story linking two different exhibition areas and does it in such a well thematically designed manner so that one feels he or she has truly taken a journey from a seaport to the bottom of the ocean.

And when you shed tears, it’s a real emotion.

Bridge the gap in your knowledge and visit www.super78.com to learn more about Super 78 Studios’ projects.

*Special thanks to Judy Rubin for documenting the formula.