What Entertainment Designers Need to Know About Flying Theaters
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
During a recent trip to Vancouver, I had the opportunity to experience an unexpected but delightful attraction: Fly Over Canada. Fly Over Canada offers guests an experience that’s exactly what it sounds like. Guests watch a short, themed orientation film that explores the history of Canada in a 360 degree domed room. You then file in to a theater and choose a seat. Once you’re in your seat, you are buckled in similar to a theme park ride.
When the lights go down, an immersive screen surrounding the theater setup comes to life and a several minute video starts to play. What guests may not realize is that they’re sitting in a flying theater. The seats move on two axes, up into the air and forward toward the screen. They also tilt and vibrate as appropriate. The Fly Over Canada attraction lets you soar with skiers in remote British Columbia, follow whitewater kayakers as they crest the waves of wilderness rivers, explore the endless agricultural fields of Saskatchewan and look down on plummeting views of Labrador’s Torngut Mountains. Music and a certain “au de pine” that perfectly evokes Canada accompany the images.
The development of flying theater technology is enabling an explosion in the popularity of attractions that offer similar experiences. Fly Over Canada is a project of Soaring Attractions. The flying equipment for Fly Over Canada is provided by Brogent Technologies. A number of other recognizable entertainment design brands are developing their own version of this technology. Simworx recently debuted a 360-degree rotating flying theater. The 360° Rotating Flying Theatre provides a sensation of flying, with guests’ legs dangling as the rows of seats move in every conceivable direction.
When paired with a huge dome screen, guests have the experience of flying through the scenery, which is enhanced with audio systems and other optional special effects. Dynamic Attractions – a brand that has collaborated on attractions with Disney and Universal – brought the patent-pending Flying Theater to market. Other examples include RoboCoaster with more on the way.
The sensation of flying is becoming a bigger trend in attraction design, and not only in theater experiences. One popular example is the blockbuster Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, which gives the sensation of flight with the help of RoboCoaster G2 technology and KUKA robotic arms. The robotic arms, which are mounted on the roller coaster track, fly riders through physical sets and provide a flight-like feeling due to the the ride vehicle’s dramatic, articulated movement. This use of technology has set a new standard in attraction development for increased degrees of freedom and a heightened sense of reality.
The popularity of “flying” attractions throughout the industry raises important questions. Versions of flying rides can be found at family entertainment centers and at the world’s largest theme parks. One reason is psychological. If you ask a random sample of people what superpower they would most like to experience, a top answer is flight. The ability to bring this to an entertainment experience makes it immediately engaging. Flying technology also adds a physicality to the experience that grabs a guest’s attention and doesn’t let go until the ride is over.
Entertainment designers should be keeping an eye on the developments driving these technologies, especially flying theaters. The next generation of flying and motion attractions will be incredibly sophisticated; attractions like Universal’s Harry Potter rides are impacting guests’ expectations. New flying technologies open up tremendous creative potential for designers, especially when combined with storytelling, interactivity, and other theming elements.
Images sourced courtesy of Dynamic Attractions, Fly Over Canada, Simworx