Attraction sample- “The Magic School Bus: Magnificent Monarchs”, Part I
Intro, Objectives, and Considerations
As a writing exercise, I wanted to create a moderate throughput dark ride, with medium-level technical requirements, not based on existing IP (which I failed at, and will discuss why in a moment), where the trope of “something goes horribly wrong” isn’t he driving force behind the events of the ride.
A C-ticket family attraction with a wide appeal.
I decided on a few non-fiction based ride ideas, originally as an Omnimover-style for high throughput. But that changed to have more scene length timing control, and a more immersive feeling minus a chain of cars. I’d still like to do an Omnimover sometime though.
Since the concept revolved around a flying creature, standard tracked or even trackless vehicles weren’t appealing. I considered some of the current systems of suspended vehicles and their riders per hour, and adjusted from there. Really, I’d like a higher capacity inverted ride vehicle, and a higher throughput design, but I stuck with existing technology numbers. I wanted to be leading edge, but not cutting.
The goal was a 5 minute ride time with 20-25 4 person cars for 1000ish people per hour goal equaling 400-600′ of track.
As I considered concepts, I was intrigued by the Monarch butterfly, its journey across North America, and its declining populations which deserve wider public attention. In the Monarch as a subject, there are beautiful visuals, an educational component, and a fun journey. Nothing needs to go wrong for our experience as a rider to happen. Coincidentally, I found out about “Flight of the Butterflies” in IMAX a week after starting this and ran out to see it. (It was pretty good; visually I was expecting a little more though.)
However, this concept presented two main and interrelated issues. 1) Butterflies are small, and their journey across North America is thousands of miles long. There is a micro to macro issue to be dealt with. 2) A butterfly is not an individual character to hang a story on per se. Heck, the migration is generational so it’s not even the same butterflies in many cases. I didn’t want to turn the butterflies into fantasy characters who talked or were cartoony, so there’s an emotional distance issue with the story of connecting to a tiny insect as you go through this ride. (On that note, the story of “Flight of the Butterflies was interweaved with the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart, who spent the better part of his life determining and tracking the migration of Monarchs, and finding where they spent winters.
My solution, which I’m actually generally happy with, resulted in failing the “no existing IP” objective. People where the best place to hang the emotions of the story on and assist the narrative. So I selected Scholastic Books’ “The Magic School Bus” series as an IP to brand the attraction with.
With numerous picture books, chapter books and TV episodes, “The Magic School Bus” was a flexible IP that conceptually and in storytelling allows the ride just to do more things than previously.
In “The Magic School Bus” Ms. Frizzle, an extremely colorful and humorous third grade teacher at Walkerville Elementary School, uses magic to teach scientific concepts to her kids, mainly through The Magic School Bus. The school bus can change shape, size and total functionality depending on the subject of Ms. Frizzle’s lesson. It can be a surfboad to teach about the ocean, a spaceship to teach about planets, or size-changing vehicle that can zip across the continent quickly to teach about Monarch Butterflies.
The students that go with her on the field trips are often transformed as well, from droplets to learn about the water cycle, to caterpillars and Monarchs themselves to learn about metamorphosis. The each have distinct personalities, including Arnold, the nervous one who always seems to have something go wrong to him on the field trips for comedic effect.
Ms. Frizzle goes with the kids on wild “field trips” teaching them scientific concepts in a first hand manner as they’re all in a volcano, or electrons or whatever, and both the kids and teacher can serve as educators and narrators in the context of a story.
It’s really a great foundation to use, and could be used for multiple attractions (though hopefully not all at the same place. Using this IP gives me characters to relate to, keeps the scientific and realistic aspects in tact, and magic to break rules for attraction purposes.
And as importantly, for people not familiar with the IP, it’s not hard to explain the conceit.
Part II and on will be the attraction description itself.
I don’t have any examples or templates to work from, so I’m winging the format of this part. I welcome any comments, especially from people who actually write attraction descriptions, scripts or pitches, on how to do write a document like this better and make sure it has all the things it would actually need.