About Subscribe Submit news Get in touch
 
Home Opinion In depth Video LIVE news Interviews Company profiles Events diary Jobs
Vertical dark rides: Five reasons to go vertical now | Planet Attractions
     

opinion

Vertical dark rides: Five reasons to go vertical now

In the last thirty years, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of vertical dark rides all over the world. So why should you go vertical at your attraction? Erik Huijing tells all...




The majority of vertical drop rides feature a dramatic plunge at the peak of the action   Credit: RES

Dark rides are one of the most popular types of attractions in theme parks worldwide. They have been around for over 100 years and will be around for 100 more. Over the past 30 years, there has been a slow but steadily rising newcomer in the dark ride family - the vertical dark ride.



The development of this variant has largely taken place under the radar, which might make many wonder what exactly a vertical dark ride is and why someone would be interested in one.

A classic dark ride features a transportation system with vehicles, usually a car or boat, that move horizontally through the building. Although these vehicles might go up and down a floor or more, the story was always told in a horizontal narrative, with scenes placed in order next to each other.

For a vertical dark ride, as you might expect the ride system is capable of transporting riders vertically. This allows ride designers to stack scenes on top of each other on different building levels. The concept opens up a whole new dimension for dark rides.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, is the oldest example of a vertical dark ride. Opened in 1994, this attraction was also the first modern free-fall ride. Tower of Terror became so popular that Disney installed three more versions in other parks during the 2000s, with each revolving around a possessed elevator in an abandoned hotel.

A turning point for vertical dark rides came in 2007 when in the UK, Merlin Entertainments opened Extremis at the London Dungeon. This sinister attraction tells the story of the first execution in history with a ‘long drop’. At the climax of the story, the ride plummets into darkness, with the sudden drop simulating a hanging.

Following the development of Extremis, which required a much smaller footprint than a traditional dark ride, the vertical model was adopted mostly by regional parks, with attractions such as Norway’s Hunderfossen, Fantasiana in Austria and Switzerland’s Conny-Land all opening their own version, adapting the story to fit their park. Vertical dark rides have also been seen in China, with a number of similar attractions appearing at the various Fantawild parks.



There is still a lot of undiscovered territory when it comes to Vertical Dark Rides. Here are five reasons why going vertical could be the best way to go:



Even though the oldest vertical dark ride turns 30 this year, there are only 28 vertical dark rides in operation worldwide today. This is only a fraction of traditional ride systems like car rides (582) or boat rides (138). This means that if a park adds a vertical dark ride, it’s likely to be the only one within a large distance, making it unique for the area.



The vertical motion of the ride system can be used to tell unique stories. The story of Tower of Terror’s possessed elevator could not have been told with a traditional ride system. The Dungeon’s Extremis would not be the same without a dropping gondola. The new possibilities of storytelling seem to be endless. Think of a family dark ride where riders follow a group of friendly squirrels up into the trees, or perhaps a crazy bunch of characters performing all sorts of shenanigans on the balconies of their apartments. There is so much to explore when you move vertically.



Since scenes are stacked above each other rather than next to each other, a vertical dark ride is very space-efficient. The building needs to be taller than traditional dark ride buildings, which might be costly, but a smaller footprint makes up for most of this.

Especially in parks where space is valuable, a vertical dark ride can be a very efficient way to create a well-themed experience for visitors. On top of that, the guest’s point of view from current vertical ride systems is much more controlled.

Designers can work with the angle at which the guests witness a scene, which allows the use of less expensive scenery. It also makes it easier to hide technical installations such as lighting, speakers and projectors.



When Walt Disney Imagineering worked on Tower of Terror, they turned to an actual elevator company to manufacture the ride system. Early versions of vertical dark rides for regional parks contained a more conventional family drop tower.

Nowadays, several ride system manufacturers offer vertical ride systems that are specifically designed for dark rides. Many of these are still yet to be premiered or even presented to the public. Even if there is another vertical dark ride nearby, there are enough opportunities to premiere something unique, perhaps even a ‘world’s first’.



Most vertical dark rides build up to a drop or drop sequence. The large Tower of Terror rides for Disney offer the most thrilling experience of the existing vertical dark rides. They are the tallest ones out there and use their height to create the thrill.

The regional parks use the drop ride to create a more family thrill ride. The height of the tower is less of a factor here since these rides rely more on the suspense of when you drop instead of the thrill of the drop itself. However, it is often overlooked that a vertical dark ride does not necessarily need a drop at all. There are possibilities for vertical dark rides that can result in a family-friendly, non-thrilling experience. So from thrill seekers to children, a vertical dark ride can be created for all.



The vertical dark ride is slowly and steadily rising, establishing itself in the industry. The trend was started by a major park in Disney but was soon adopted by a host of regional parks, showing the capabilities of the ride type in any location.

There are so many undiscovered possibilities and untold stories that could be explored by going vertical, that it’s hard to predict when we will reach the top. The time is now for vertical dark rides, make sure you keep up.



Rides

 

Nazi-era bunker undergoes €100m transformation to become green attraction and hotel





Museum of Ice Cream teams up with major brands including Dippin’ Dots to offer sprinkle pools and free ice cream at pop-ups worldwide





Nassau Cruise Port to build US$35m waterpark




Industry insights



The world is on fire, so why should we care about cultural heritage?



Video



Disneyland Paris renames park ahead of €2bn expansion


In Depth



Hole in One: How Holovis is changing the game with 360Golf



© Kazoo 5 Limited 2024
About Subscribe Get in touch
 
Opinion In depth Interviews
LIVE news Profiles Diary Video
Jobs
Vertical dark rides: Five reasons to go vertical now | Planet Attractions
opinion

Vertical dark rides: Five reasons to go vertical now

In the last thirty years, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of vertical dark rides all over the world. So why should you go vertical at your attraction? Erik Huijing tells all...




The majority of vertical drop rides feature a dramatic plunge at the peak of the action   Credit: RES

Dark rides are one of the most popular types of attractions in theme parks worldwide. They have been around for over 100 years and will be around for 100 more. Over the past 30 years, there has been a slow but steadily rising newcomer in the dark ride family - the vertical dark ride.



The development of this variant has largely taken place under the radar, which might make many wonder what exactly a vertical dark ride is and why someone would be interested in one.

A classic dark ride features a transportation system with vehicles, usually a car or boat, that move horizontally through the building. Although these vehicles might go up and down a floor or more, the story was always told in a horizontal narrative, with scenes placed in order next to each other.

For a vertical dark ride, as you might expect the ride system is capable of transporting riders vertically. This allows ride designers to stack scenes on top of each other on different building levels. The concept opens up a whole new dimension for dark rides.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, is the oldest example of a vertical dark ride. Opened in 1994, this attraction was also the first modern free-fall ride. Tower of Terror became so popular that Disney installed three more versions in other parks during the 2000s, with each revolving around a possessed elevator in an abandoned hotel.

A turning point for vertical dark rides came in 2007 when in the UK, Merlin Entertainments opened Extremis at the London Dungeon. This sinister attraction tells the story of the first execution in history with a ‘long drop’. At the climax of the story, the ride plummets into darkness, with the sudden drop simulating a hanging.

Following the development of Extremis, which required a much smaller footprint than a traditional dark ride, the vertical model was adopted mostly by regional parks, with attractions such as Norway’s Hunderfossen, Fantasiana in Austria and Switzerland’s Conny-Land all opening their own version, adapting the story to fit their park. Vertical dark rides have also been seen in China, with a number of similar attractions appearing at the various Fantawild parks.



There is still a lot of undiscovered territory when it comes to Vertical Dark Rides. Here are five reasons why going vertical could be the best way to go:



Even though the oldest vertical dark ride turns 30 this year, there are only 28 vertical dark rides in operation worldwide today. This is only a fraction of traditional ride systems like car rides (582) or boat rides (138). This means that if a park adds a vertical dark ride, it’s likely to be the only one within a large distance, making it unique for the area.



The vertical motion of the ride system can be used to tell unique stories. The story of Tower of Terror’s possessed elevator could not have been told with a traditional ride system. The Dungeon’s Extremis would not be the same without a dropping gondola. The new possibilities of storytelling seem to be endless. Think of a family dark ride where riders follow a group of friendly squirrels up into the trees, or perhaps a crazy bunch of characters performing all sorts of shenanigans on the balconies of their apartments. There is so much to explore when you move vertically.



Since scenes are stacked above each other rather than next to each other, a vertical dark ride is very space-efficient. The building needs to be taller than traditional dark ride buildings, which might be costly, but a smaller footprint makes up for most of this.

Especially in parks where space is valuable, a vertical dark ride can be a very efficient way to create a well-themed experience for visitors. On top of that, the guest’s point of view from current vertical ride systems is much more controlled.

Designers can work with the angle at which the guests witness a scene, which allows the use of less expensive scenery. It also makes it easier to hide technical installations such as lighting, speakers and projectors.



When Walt Disney Imagineering worked on Tower of Terror, they turned to an actual elevator company to manufacture the ride system. Early versions of vertical dark rides for regional parks contained a more conventional family drop tower.

Nowadays, several ride system manufacturers offer vertical ride systems that are specifically designed for dark rides. Many of these are still yet to be premiered or even presented to the public. Even if there is another vertical dark ride nearby, there are enough opportunities to premiere something unique, perhaps even a ‘world’s first’.



Most vertical dark rides build up to a drop or drop sequence. The large Tower of Terror rides for Disney offer the most thrilling experience of the existing vertical dark rides. They are the tallest ones out there and use their height to create the thrill.

The regional parks use the drop ride to create a more family thrill ride. The height of the tower is less of a factor here since these rides rely more on the suspense of when you drop instead of the thrill of the drop itself. However, it is often overlooked that a vertical dark ride does not necessarily need a drop at all. There are possibilities for vertical dark rides that can result in a family-friendly, non-thrilling experience. So from thrill seekers to children, a vertical dark ride can be created for all.



The vertical dark ride is slowly and steadily rising, establishing itself in the industry. The trend was started by a major park in Disney but was soon adopted by a host of regional parks, showing the capabilities of the ride type in any location.

There are so many undiscovered possibilities and untold stories that could be explored by going vertical, that it’s hard to predict when we will reach the top. The time is now for vertical dark rides, make sure you keep up.



 



© Kazoo 5 Limited 2024