Written by: Andrea Shockling Thursday, February 28th, 2013 .
Walt Disney theme parks have been using “omnimovers” for four decades to move visitors through attractions like the Haunted Mansion series efficiently while also hiding ride mechanics from view. They typically consist of a chain of cars on a hidden track moving at a constant rate of speed, coupled with a conveyor belt at the loading and unloading areas to help passengers into and out of the vehicle. Recently, Disney submitted plans with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a new type of omnimover ride with boats instead of vehicles, and speculation is heavy as to how and where this new ride might be used.
Omnimovers were originally developed by Walt Disney Imagineering in the 1960s, and they differ from other multi-passenger rides in a number of ways. Because each vehicle can swivel independently from the rest of the cars, riders can be turned to face any direction along the track. This is a great feature to direct focus when there are a lot of visual details to take in throughout a ride, and it also helps passengers feel like they’re having a private experience.
Looking at the patent documents, the omnimover boats don’t appear to be as separated from one another as the omnimover vehicles in the Haunted Mansion rides. Nor do they have the tall back seats that create an intimate experience for passengers. It’s important to note, however, that these are not artist’s renderings or indicative of a final ride design, but simply the general plans included in the initial patent application. And though the details were revealed recently, the actual document was filed in July 2011, so Disney has had plenty of time to design and develop the omnimover boat system for incorporation into an upcoming theme park experience.
In terms of implications for riders, there are several exciting differences between traditional Disney omnimovers and the proposed omnimover boats. The patent application describes a free-floating system for the boats where they are “not guided by and do not contact nearby sidewalls” for a portion of the ride. The ride schematic mentions a wave machine as well, which could help propel boats through that segment. Additionally, “in the open bay or free-floating portion, the boats or vehicles may even be caused to traverse over land or out of the water by placing ramps in the path of the boats and providing pads or rollers/wheels on the bottom of the boat hulls/bodies.” So what does that actually mean? Amphibious boats! Picture a ride where the vehicle chain moves seamlessly from guided channels to an open free-floating section up to land and back to the river channels again. Add waves and levels and Disney might just have the makings of a really unique take on their own omnimover ride experience.
The Shanghai Disney theme park slated to open in 2015 has a Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the works. The concept art already released fits well with the newly revealed patent details, so it is likely we’ll see the omnimover boats at that park first. It will be exciting to see how and if Disney incorporates this new technology in other parks as well.
Image source: progresscityusa.com, imagineeringdisney.com, google.com/patents