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Thought leaders: Benoit Cornet on how BoldMove is developing the total dark ride package | Planet Attractions
     

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Thought leaders: Benoit Cornet on how BoldMove is developing the total dark ride package

Benoit Cornet shares a fascinating insight into the world of dark rides and the emergence of his new company - BoldMove Nation






The dark ride is a concept that dates back to the late 19th century, with the ride through offering a popular choice at theme parks and other attractions ever since.

In its most traditional form, guests will board some form of vehicle before being taken through several rooms that use elements such as animation, sound, music, special effects and props to create a compelling experience to tell a story.

In the years since the first ‘scenic railways’ appeared, the dark ride has significantly evolved, with much of that innovation arguably taking place in the last five to ten years. As technology and thinking evolves, creativity continues to be sparked and new offerings from operations big and small wow guests in locations all over the world.

The modern dark ride of course varies wildly in terms of what it can be. A smaller scale ride will feature simple animation and props, while a large-scale offering can cost tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, with complex special effects, trackless options, and more. On top of this, more often than not, a dark ride will also feature some form of interactivity in its offering.



BoldMove Nation is a company born in 2021 that offers more than 25 years worth of experience from a mind synonymous with dark rides and creative thinking.

The former founder and CEO of Alterface, Benoit Cornet set up BoldMove as a company that designs and builds compact and affordable action-based rides with custom theming that’s adaptable to seasonal activities and infrastructure. Rather than using a certain technology or company to realise his projects, Cornet and BoldMove look into the market for exactly the right products, delivering something bespoke in their creation.

“The strength of BoldMove actually lies in the fact that we can do virtually any type of dark ride regardless of if the ride is tech heavy or to the contrary more old school, or - preferably - a combination of both,” Cornet tells Planet Attractions.

“What we see is that people are, more than ever, looking for a themed experience in a dark ride. More and more, especially when talking about broad demographics - such as family dark rides - we see many people wanting to enjoy the experience rather than actively participate. So they are watching the show, enjoying it and looking for the details. We are focussed on the combination between technology, action and decoration.This is really, I believe, what makes us different.”

Cornet has enjoyed multiple successes with interactive dark rides through his career, including working on multiple projects for Legoland Discovery Centres, and award-winning rides such as Maus au Chocolat at Phantasialand in Germany, and Walibi’s Popcorn Revenge in Belgium. Overall, Cornet has led multiple teams to build interactive dark rides globally, earning a reputation as one of the world’s utmost authorities on development of such attractions, also pioneering several approaches to different styles of dark ride.



It was in 2020 that Cornet partnered with Anja D’Hondt to found BoldMove, which has already made waves with its Smash & Reload dark ride and accompanying Too Mush IP - an affordable option able to fit into a compact space to great effect, as seen recently following its debut at French theme park and zoo, Le Pal. As well as receiving a number of nominations at a number of industry awards for best family ride, best use of theming and product innovation, Smash & Reload concluded its debut season at Le Pal with 257,967 visitors in total. According to Le Pal, the ride has “truly found it’s place in the park”.

The company, however, has offerings beyond Smash & Reload, the latest being Fusion - a themed dark ride concept that blends the gameplay of a midway style attraction with immersive theming. Using the latest technologies in interactivity, gameplay and AV, the ride’s distinctive back-to-back seating offers a unique experience while boasting a throughput of 900 people per hour, having also been optimised to remain under 1,000sq m (10,800sq ft). Fusion is designed to act as an ideal solution for a midway attraction, with the dark ride able to host players of all ages and skill levels. The dark ride also comes with a themed pre show and F&B options, as well as related merchandising and playgrounds, expanding the experience beyond purely the dark ride itself.

“I spend every minute of my life thinking about crazy ideas for dark ride concepts, thinking about what could be fun and then scribbling those ideas down on a piece of paper,” says Cornet.

“The ride is at the heart of everything. But then around that you have to pre-show the post-show and merchandising. With Fusion, our intention is to expand our theming experience around the dark ride to make it a fuller experience for the visitors. Our first IP revolves around a candy factory with fluffy creatures going sugar-crazy.”

When it comes to dark ride concept and storytelling, Cornet uses the silver screen approach: “We spend a lot of time designing characters that are relatable and likeable. There are also these moments where visitors can look at the theming before getting back into the action, but a bit more relaxed and also ready to go for the last fight. Our concepts are all like a good Hollywood movie. There is always a soft moment before the very last action, that's what we try to do.

“We now also extend our creative thinking and dark ride expertise to enhance the visitor experience with preshows, shop, F&B and even themed complementary attractions and playgrounds. Our TooMush IP is ideally suited for this and we are working on new and fun family characters and themes.”



In addition to Fusion and Smash & Reload, BoldMove has already launched a number of different concepts and is working on others at the moment. “We have a beautiful concept called Double Down, a ‘multiverse’ dark ride approach that combines a walk-through and a dark ride,” explains Cornet. “It's two rides in one if you look at it, so we're working around this concept and looking for the right customer to start with.”

When coming up with the concepts, one of BoldMove’s stand out capabilities, says the company, is to build a product that caters to the attraction rather than the attraction having to accommodate to the product. Everything it produces is bespoke and adaptable, meaning it can cater to different budgets and sizes.

“We just recently announced a new strategic alliance between BoldMove, Polymorph and Eye-Opener as ‘Immersive Theming and Media Group’,” says Cornet. “We’ve successfully worked together on design, theming and media/gameplay for Champi’Folies and it's a powerful combination.”

By joining forces, the three partners offer a unique turnkey approach for themed rides and attractions, fully integrating media, design and production. For theme park and leisure venue owners this means a more streamlined process, saving time and cost without compromising on creativity. Currently the team is working on the queue line of Le Pal’s new flume ride.

“Media, IP and theming are at the heart of the experience and require design capabilities that are integrating them at the early stage of the creative process,” says Cornet. “Next, we identify the best partners on project basis for more technology dependent components such as ride system, interactivity and projection or show control. This new alliance allows us to deliver any kind of location-based immersive experiences, blending media and theming into happy worlds for our customers and ultimately their visitors with friends and family.

“We know exactly what is on the market and how it works and we can honestly go to a customer and tell them exactly what is right for them. We want to create more choices in the market and offer more capability.”

In addition to this, to offer the total package, BoldMove’s main aim is to provide a product that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, with the product encouraging multiple visits.



One way to add an element of unpredictability and replayability to a media-based interactive dark ride attraction, is to add an interesting dimension to the experience - artificial intelligence.

While we may be some way off an intelligent ride, programmable and learned behaviour is something that can spice things up when it comes to interactivity. We already apply this to a certain extend in Champi’Folies with the reaction of the mushrooms to the players, adapting to different skill levels.

Cornet explains: “We use a specific form of artificial intelligence - autonomous agents - that we are giving skills, capabilities and emotions. They are programmed with certain ideas that make their reaction less predictable.

“We’re not expecting users to necessarily be aware of this intelligence. We're doing this for rides which have repeat visits in mind to subtly enrich the visitor experience. Using AI we can say the experience is unlimited in playability, you can never precisely know what's going to happen and you can engage people on a deeper level.”

Exploring this form of AI, it could be as simple as a character realising that if it goes left it will be shot, but if it goes right it can hide. Maybe a certain type of character that scores a player more points, proves harder to hit than one worth less. This way the player’s actions start to have an effect on what they see playing out in front of them.

“We are constantly working on this autonomous agent system, ” says Cornet. “I'm a strong believer in that. I think that the concept of interactivity as it exists today will gradually evolve into something that could be called ‘proactivity’. Ride dynamics will less depend on visitor actions - let’s be honest, most rides today are variations of the good old shooting game - but the ride will gradually acquire what we could compare to ‘life’, with awareness of visitor reactions and actions that start revolving around them. The autonomous agents and the enrichment of the experience they bring, is just the beginning of a longer term evolution.”



Technological advances are great when it comes to dark rides, with new technologies offering new ways to immerse yourself within a story. But for Cornet, too much of a good thing doesn’t necessarily always mean a better end product.

“What is really important is not to develop our attractions based on our own fantasies but to keep the focus on the players; this is a common mistake that is made today and which results in attractions that are not relatable to the public,” he says.

“We’ve been working on formats to make sure that more people can take part. We try to work on the ease of play and the comfort of the player to expand the user base. And we try to make the technology more intriguing for the people. The immersion is also going up and up.

“We have a nice example in Belgium, with Walibi having two dark rides - the Challenge of Tutankhamon and Popcorn Revenge. What you can see is that there is no significant difference in customer satisfaction between the two. Popcorn Revenge is a nice technological ride, but it’s light on decoration and lacks immersion. Tutankhamon is definitely less advanced but more immersive. At BoldMove, we are trying to position our product in the area between those two extremes to produce a truly immersive ride, with good balance between decoration, action and fun.

“While a lot of companies are putting the emphasis on the technological wonders they can produce, we still feel that we need to remain extremely humble towards the visitors. Ride makers need to address potential risk of frustration, which can be experienced by players who are younger or less skilled. They also need to address one of the most commonly experienced drawbacks from group interactivity: making sure that people have fun even if they aren’t winning.”



Some of the world’s largest operators have seen great value and equally great success from high end dark rides in recent years, most notably at Disney and Universal with attractions such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. These indoor, highly-themed and media-based attractions tied to major IPs are seen as futureproof, and something the whole family can enjoy, with many setting the standard for what a theme park ride can be. This innovation in turn opens up the possibility for further creativity at smaller operations when it comes to dark ride design. But according to Cornet, it’s hard to beat a classic approach.

“Companies like us are not dependant on one type of technology. We don't have any preconceived approach to the ride when we start. It's what fits, and what we want to achieve. It makes us, I believe, different because we are tech independent. We understand these technologies and we know how to integrate them but we won’t necessarily force this on you. I think that's something as an independent vendor that gives us an edge.”

Focusing on visitor experience and how they can serve it best, as specialists in media based attractions and dark rides BoldMove wants to create more choices in the market and offer more capability, also by extending the ride to fit all ages and skill levels. Through his decades of experience, Cornet has learned to focus first on the visitor experience, serving the end user first when developing a dark ride.

“I used to work for an Israeli company and my boss at the time said, okay, you can never do something unless you walk in the person's shoes,” he says. “I believe this is very important. We spend a lot of time analysing the market, visiting the parks, sitting on the benches and looking at the people, trying to understand the dynamics.

“I often think that companies would have been better served by spending more time listening to people - there’s no point in cooking a meal when you know the people you’re serving won’t like it. Being adaptable is a strength and something I feel strongly about when it comes to designing your product. Regardless of the technology, guests are looking for an immersive themed experience, which is what makes a dark ride so special.”

For more on BoldMove, click here


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Thought leaders: Benoit Cornet on how BoldMove is developing the total dark ride package | Planet Attractions
feature

Thought leaders: Benoit Cornet on how BoldMove is developing the total dark ride package

Benoit Cornet shares a fascinating insight into the world of dark rides and the emergence of his new company - BoldMove Nation






The dark ride is a concept that dates back to the late 19th century, with the ride through offering a popular choice at theme parks and other attractions ever since.

In its most traditional form, guests will board some form of vehicle before being taken through several rooms that use elements such as animation, sound, music, special effects and props to create a compelling experience to tell a story.

In the years since the first ‘scenic railways’ appeared, the dark ride has significantly evolved, with much of that innovation arguably taking place in the last five to ten years. As technology and thinking evolves, creativity continues to be sparked and new offerings from operations big and small wow guests in locations all over the world.

The modern dark ride of course varies wildly in terms of what it can be. A smaller scale ride will feature simple animation and props, while a large-scale offering can cost tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, with complex special effects, trackless options, and more. On top of this, more often than not, a dark ride will also feature some form of interactivity in its offering.



BoldMove Nation is a company born in 2021 that offers more than 25 years worth of experience from a mind synonymous with dark rides and creative thinking.

The former founder and CEO of Alterface, Benoit Cornet set up BoldMove as a company that designs and builds compact and affordable action-based rides with custom theming that’s adaptable to seasonal activities and infrastructure. Rather than using a certain technology or company to realise his projects, Cornet and BoldMove look into the market for exactly the right products, delivering something bespoke in their creation.

“The strength of BoldMove actually lies in the fact that we can do virtually any type of dark ride regardless of if the ride is tech heavy or to the contrary more old school, or - preferably - a combination of both,” Cornet tells Planet Attractions.

“What we see is that people are, more than ever, looking for a themed experience in a dark ride. More and more, especially when talking about broad demographics - such as family dark rides - we see many people wanting to enjoy the experience rather than actively participate. So they are watching the show, enjoying it and looking for the details. We are focussed on the combination between technology, action and decoration.This is really, I believe, what makes us different.”

Cornet has enjoyed multiple successes with interactive dark rides through his career, including working on multiple projects for Legoland Discovery Centres, and award-winning rides such as Maus au Chocolat at Phantasialand in Germany, and Walibi’s Popcorn Revenge in Belgium. Overall, Cornet has led multiple teams to build interactive dark rides globally, earning a reputation as one of the world’s utmost authorities on development of such attractions, also pioneering several approaches to different styles of dark ride.



It was in 2020 that Cornet partnered with Anja D’Hondt to found BoldMove, which has already made waves with its Smash & Reload dark ride and accompanying Too Mush IP - an affordable option able to fit into a compact space to great effect, as seen recently following its debut at French theme park and zoo, Le Pal. As well as receiving a number of nominations at a number of industry awards for best family ride, best use of theming and product innovation, Smash & Reload concluded its debut season at Le Pal with 257,967 visitors in total. According to Le Pal, the ride has “truly found it’s place in the park”.

The company, however, has offerings beyond Smash & Reload, the latest being Fusion - a themed dark ride concept that blends the gameplay of a midway style attraction with immersive theming. Using the latest technologies in interactivity, gameplay and AV, the ride’s distinctive back-to-back seating offers a unique experience while boasting a throughput of 900 people per hour, having also been optimised to remain under 1,000sq m (10,800sq ft). Fusion is designed to act as an ideal solution for a midway attraction, with the dark ride able to host players of all ages and skill levels. The dark ride also comes with a themed pre show and F&B options, as well as related merchandising and playgrounds, expanding the experience beyond purely the dark ride itself.

“I spend every minute of my life thinking about crazy ideas for dark ride concepts, thinking about what could be fun and then scribbling those ideas down on a piece of paper,” says Cornet.

“The ride is at the heart of everything. But then around that you have to pre-show the post-show and merchandising. With Fusion, our intention is to expand our theming experience around the dark ride to make it a fuller experience for the visitors. Our first IP revolves around a candy factory with fluffy creatures going sugar-crazy.”

When it comes to dark ride concept and storytelling, Cornet uses the silver screen approach: “We spend a lot of time designing characters that are relatable and likeable. There are also these moments where visitors can look at the theming before getting back into the action, but a bit more relaxed and also ready to go for the last fight. Our concepts are all like a good Hollywood movie. There is always a soft moment before the very last action, that's what we try to do.

“We now also extend our creative thinking and dark ride expertise to enhance the visitor experience with preshows, shop, F&B and even themed complementary attractions and playgrounds. Our TooMush IP is ideally suited for this and we are working on new and fun family characters and themes.”



In addition to Fusion and Smash & Reload, BoldMove has already launched a number of different concepts and is working on others at the moment. “We have a beautiful concept called Double Down, a ‘multiverse’ dark ride approach that combines a walk-through and a dark ride,” explains Cornet. “It's two rides in one if you look at it, so we're working around this concept and looking for the right customer to start with.”

When coming up with the concepts, one of BoldMove’s stand out capabilities, says the company, is to build a product that caters to the attraction rather than the attraction having to accommodate to the product. Everything it produces is bespoke and adaptable, meaning it can cater to different budgets and sizes.

“We just recently announced a new strategic alliance between BoldMove, Polymorph and Eye-Opener as ‘Immersive Theming and Media Group’,” says Cornet. “We’ve successfully worked together on design, theming and media/gameplay for Champi’Folies and it's a powerful combination.”

By joining forces, the three partners offer a unique turnkey approach for themed rides and attractions, fully integrating media, design and production. For theme park and leisure venue owners this means a more streamlined process, saving time and cost without compromising on creativity. Currently the team is working on the queue line of Le Pal’s new flume ride.

“Media, IP and theming are at the heart of the experience and require design capabilities that are integrating them at the early stage of the creative process,” says Cornet. “Next, we identify the best partners on project basis for more technology dependent components such as ride system, interactivity and projection or show control. This new alliance allows us to deliver any kind of location-based immersive experiences, blending media and theming into happy worlds for our customers and ultimately their visitors with friends and family.

“We know exactly what is on the market and how it works and we can honestly go to a customer and tell them exactly what is right for them. We want to create more choices in the market and offer more capability.”

In addition to this, to offer the total package, BoldMove’s main aim is to provide a product that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, with the product encouraging multiple visits.



One way to add an element of unpredictability and replayability to a media-based interactive dark ride attraction, is to add an interesting dimension to the experience - artificial intelligence.

While we may be some way off an intelligent ride, programmable and learned behaviour is something that can spice things up when it comes to interactivity. We already apply this to a certain extend in Champi’Folies with the reaction of the mushrooms to the players, adapting to different skill levels.

Cornet explains: “We use a specific form of artificial intelligence - autonomous agents - that we are giving skills, capabilities and emotions. They are programmed with certain ideas that make their reaction less predictable.

“We’re not expecting users to necessarily be aware of this intelligence. We're doing this for rides which have repeat visits in mind to subtly enrich the visitor experience. Using AI we can say the experience is unlimited in playability, you can never precisely know what's going to happen and you can engage people on a deeper level.”

Exploring this form of AI, it could be as simple as a character realising that if it goes left it will be shot, but if it goes right it can hide. Maybe a certain type of character that scores a player more points, proves harder to hit than one worth less. This way the player’s actions start to have an effect on what they see playing out in front of them.

“We are constantly working on this autonomous agent system, ” says Cornet. “I'm a strong believer in that. I think that the concept of interactivity as it exists today will gradually evolve into something that could be called ‘proactivity’. Ride dynamics will less depend on visitor actions - let’s be honest, most rides today are variations of the good old shooting game - but the ride will gradually acquire what we could compare to ‘life’, with awareness of visitor reactions and actions that start revolving around them. The autonomous agents and the enrichment of the experience they bring, is just the beginning of a longer term evolution.”



Technological advances are great when it comes to dark rides, with new technologies offering new ways to immerse yourself within a story. But for Cornet, too much of a good thing doesn’t necessarily always mean a better end product.

“What is really important is not to develop our attractions based on our own fantasies but to keep the focus on the players; this is a common mistake that is made today and which results in attractions that are not relatable to the public,” he says.

“We’ve been working on formats to make sure that more people can take part. We try to work on the ease of play and the comfort of the player to expand the user base. And we try to make the technology more intriguing for the people. The immersion is also going up and up.

“We have a nice example in Belgium, with Walibi having two dark rides - the Challenge of Tutankhamon and Popcorn Revenge. What you can see is that there is no significant difference in customer satisfaction between the two. Popcorn Revenge is a nice technological ride, but it’s light on decoration and lacks immersion. Tutankhamon is definitely less advanced but more immersive. At BoldMove, we are trying to position our product in the area between those two extremes to produce a truly immersive ride, with good balance between decoration, action and fun.

“While a lot of companies are putting the emphasis on the technological wonders they can produce, we still feel that we need to remain extremely humble towards the visitors. Ride makers need to address potential risk of frustration, which can be experienced by players who are younger or less skilled. They also need to address one of the most commonly experienced drawbacks from group interactivity: making sure that people have fun even if they aren’t winning.”



Some of the world’s largest operators have seen great value and equally great success from high end dark rides in recent years, most notably at Disney and Universal with attractions such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. These indoor, highly-themed and media-based attractions tied to major IPs are seen as futureproof, and something the whole family can enjoy, with many setting the standard for what a theme park ride can be. This innovation in turn opens up the possibility for further creativity at smaller operations when it comes to dark ride design. But according to Cornet, it’s hard to beat a classic approach.

“Companies like us are not dependant on one type of technology. We don't have any preconceived approach to the ride when we start. It's what fits, and what we want to achieve. It makes us, I believe, different because we are tech independent. We understand these technologies and we know how to integrate them but we won’t necessarily force this on you. I think that's something as an independent vendor that gives us an edge.”

Focusing on visitor experience and how they can serve it best, as specialists in media based attractions and dark rides BoldMove wants to create more choices in the market and offer more capability, also by extending the ride to fit all ages and skill levels. Through his decades of experience, Cornet has learned to focus first on the visitor experience, serving the end user first when developing a dark ride.

“I used to work for an Israeli company and my boss at the time said, okay, you can never do something unless you walk in the person's shoes,” he says. “I believe this is very important. We spend a lot of time analysing the market, visiting the parks, sitting on the benches and looking at the people, trying to understand the dynamics.

“I often think that companies would have been better served by spending more time listening to people - there’s no point in cooking a meal when you know the people you’re serving won’t like it. Being adaptable is a strength and something I feel strongly about when it comes to designing your product. Regardless of the technology, guests are looking for an immersive themed experience, which is what makes a dark ride so special.”

For more on BoldMove, click here


 



© Kazoo 5 Limited 2024