Written by: Sasha Bailyn Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 .
Tired of going to stiff, corporate conferences where nobody smiles or has any fun? Check out the IAAPA Expo (short for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), which is far and away the nation’s coolest conference. After all, how many conferences host an authentic looking Darth Vader accompanied by storm troopers? And this is just what we saw before entering the convention center. There were some booths at this year’s trade show that really pushed the envelope of creativity and fun. Here is our lineup of the best booths:
At tenth place is Technifex’s Water Web. It was fun to watch kids and adults alike try to make their way through the waterfall-like maze without getting wet. The Water Web is the kind of thing that you’d want to have in your backyard and show off to your friends.
Funtopia proved to be the one of the most entertaining booths to watch. Aside from being creative and fun to look at, Funtopia’s climbing walls were quite challenging. On one panel, footholds would fall away in a fast-pace timing sequence – climbers had to climb faster than the disappearing metal grips underfoot to reach the top and press the finish button. At this booth, there was always an audience watching climbers scramble up the wall to race their friends and the footholds.
8. Moser Rides
This booth did what every booth should strive to do: give attendees the exact experience they’re selling. Not every ride manufacturer can install their product inside the trade show, as big as the convention center is, but a live demonstration is always better than a small model. While Moser’s ride looks tame, there was no shortage of exhilarated shouts as people swung from side-to-side, experiencing what it’s like to be an extreme skateboarder riding a giant half-pipe.
The Air Raid at Zamperla’s booth was probably the most attention-grabbing attraction on the floor. The many whirling arms of the Air Raid launched riders high into the air with reckless abandon, a beacon for fun seen from any corner of the convention center.
6. Black Light Attractions
Black Light Attractions had one of the creepiest and most elaborately decorated booths on the floor. What we loved about this booth is the attention to detail, which made this booth seem more like a dark ride set than a place for business meetings.
5. Theming and Animatronics Industries
At fifth place is the Theming and Animatronics Industries booth, designed to resemble a giant catapult. Not only did this grab the attention of passers-by, but this was also the only booth that gave people a great view of the entire floor (without requiring them to step off of the platform and zipline to the ground, that is). TAA’s approach to their booth characterizes their skills as theme designers, giving conference-goers a taste of being in a theme park. We’re still not sure whether the catapult actually worked…
4. Scare Factory
Scare Factory never fails to impress. While some of their ghoulish characters made a repeat performance at this year’s IAAPA, there were some very impressive new recruits, including a giant abominable snowman, a fuming dragon, and many other indescribable haunted creatures.
3. Life Formations
The Life Formations booth was definitely the most impressive audio-animatronics display this year. Life Formations’ characters have excellent coordination between movement and sound effects and always have extremely realistic features. This year’s booth was mesmerizing and fun to watch as the laid-back fisherman sang along with the menacing shark and silly looking bird.
2. Pale Night Productions
At second place is Pale Night Productions’ amazing full-scale haunted house. These guys don’t mess around when it comes to haunted thrills! Pale Night’s amazing blend of digital screen technology and physical effects creates frighteningly realistic vignettes: digital zombies bang loudly behind chained door props, trying to escape into our world, only to be gunned down from behind by a zombie hunter who splatters blood all over the door window (accompanied by a sudden spray of mist and water bursting from the door). In another vignette, a psychopathic murderer is seen through the window of an asylum door. She drags an axe and walks in a jerky, supernatural way down the asylum hallway, with lights flashing and faltering. As she strikes the window with the axe, the glass cracks but doesn’t break – she begins hacking into the metal door instead, causing deep dents in the metal with each loud bang of the axe. The coordination of physical and digital effects is impressive. And this was only one side of Pale Night’s booth – there was also a mini haunted house walk-through!
1. Daniels Wood Land
This year’s best booth was Daniels Wood Land, which was a theme park-worthy treehouse made from a real tree trunk, complete with a rope bridge and a meticulous, detailed scenic environment. We loved this booth because it really brought people out of the convention floor environment and into a story. It was less of a company booth, and more of an enchanted portal into another world.