LEGOLAND Windsor will open a brand new attraction for the 2011 season, combining a dark ride with Sea Life marine exhibits in a first-of-its-kind concept dubbed Atlantis Submarine Voyage. Owner Merlin's attempt to merge two of its most lucrative properties is an intriguing prospect - but will it result in a great new addition to the family-friendly park?
Merlin Entertainments Group operates an array of Sea Life centres and theme parks around the world, including multiple LEGOLAND parks. It has previously located smaller Sea Life attractions in its theme parks, including the Sharkbait Reef aquarium at Alton Towers. However, Atlantis Submarine Voyage represents the company's first attempt to incorporate the Sea Life brand into an actual ride - and could be a sign of things to come at the chain's other parks if it proves a success.
So far, LEGOLAND Windsor has announced few details or images of its plans for Atlantis Submarine Voyage, simply describing the ride on its official website as a "groundbreaking attraction" that is due to open in 2011. However, a planning application submitted to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in May revealed the key elements of the new ride. Let's take a look at what's in store for visitors to the park in 2011.
Expanding Adventure Land
Construction is already underway on Atlantis Submarine Voyage in the Adventure Land zone of LEGOLAND Windsor, on the site of the former picnic area between Dino Safari and Dino Dipper. The latter ride will be relocated to make room for the building that will house the new attraction, which looks set to become a major landmark within the park.
The building's facade will feature a pyramid as its centrepiece, reflecting the importance of the "Pyramid Map" to Atlantis in the plot of the LEGO Atlantis movie. The enormous water tanks that will house a variety of marine life will be located underground in order to enable the building's elevation to be reduced, helping to secure planning permission for its construction.
Navigating through Atlantis
Once inside the Atlantis building, guests will board one of 8 vehicles which travel on rails in a loop through a series of marine exhibits. Riders will be accompanied by an on-board audio system that is likely to provide details of the marine creatures in each exhibit, as well as narrating the plot. According to LEGOLAND, the same ride system is in use at a park in California, although it is not known which one. The vehicles will be themed around the Undersea Explorer submarine that plays a key role in the LEGO Atlantis movie, and will hold up to 14 people each.
LEGOLAND revealed in its supporting information for the planning application that the ride building will house a one million litre tropical fish tank, touch pools and other interactive areas. This suggests that the ride will be accompanied by walk-through sections, with the plans appearing to show these being located at the end of the ride itself close to the building's exit.
Joining the Atlantis Crew
The storyline of LEGOLAND Windsor's new attraction is likely to close match that of LEGO Atlantis - The Movie, an animated feature that was produced to promote the Atlantis-themed range of LEGO toys. The light-hearted movie can be watched via the LEGO Atlantis website.
The heroes of the the movie (and presumably the attraction as well) are the Atlantis Crew, a deep sea salvage team who scour the ocean for treasure. The crew discover the Pyramid Map, a mysterious artefact which appears to hold the key to finding the mythical lost underwater city of Atlantis. The movie tells the story of their quest to find it, encountering several evil Atlantis Warriors along the way (including a shark). The ride's plot is set to match this, with guests passing through a LEGO recreation of Atlantis, which will be "guarded" by live sharks.
Atlantis Submarine Voyage will share its theme with an existing attraction at Denmark's LEGOLAND Billund. The Danish version differs from the the planned attraction at LEGOLAND Windsor, in that it does not include a dark ride transit system. Instead, riders watch a pre-show on-board a "submarine", before walking through a number of marine exhibits including a large underwater tunnel. The plot for the attraction closely follows the movie, with divers leading the way to Atlantis.
Unsurprisingly for a theme park that is based entirely on a range of toys, LEGOLAND Windsor has proven extremely adept at encouraging kids to beg their parents for expensive "souvenirs" in its many shops. The symbolism of the treasure-filled lost city of Atlantis is particularly apt for its new attraction, which is sure to be accompanied by an extensive store selling the recently-launched LEGO Atlantis range. The park may well have struck gold with its new concept.
What sort of toys can kids of all ages expect to find in Atlantis Submarine Voyage's retail outlet? A range of vehicles (such as the Undersea Explorer and the Neptune Carrier) seen in the movie will line the shelves, alongside a number of buildings such as the Atlantis Exploration HQ. The Atlantis Crew themselves and their Atlantis Warrior enemies will also be available - with the full LEGO Atlantis range shown on LEGO's website.
We're excited by the concept behind Atlantis Submarine Voyage. Although we've seen Sea Life attractions make their way into Merlin's theme parks before, it's great to see the company looking to offer a ride experience rather than just a scaled-down version of its other Sea Life centres. The LEGO Atlantis tie-in is also a good move, and should mean that the ride will have a coherent storyline rather than simply being an on-rails version of a standard walk-through aquarium.
Our only major concern over Atlantis Submarine Voyage from the plans seen to date is over the ride's capacity. Although on-rails dark rides can often handle large number of guests per hour due to their continuous-loading systems, the limited number of cars on the new attraction is a worry. It's too early to judge at this stage (the cars may hold large numbers of guests each), but we hope that LEGOLAND has learned lessons from some of its most popular attractions (Driving School in particular), which process guests at agonisingly slow pace.
If Merlin can execute well on a great idea, then Atlantis Submarine Voyage should be a strong addition to LEGOLAND Windsor's line-up, appealing to both the park's young target audience and their parents. It could even mark the start of a new trend in Merlin's parks - perhaps its Madame Tussauds waxworks brand is next-in-line for the in-park ride treatment? We'll be visiting LEGOLAND Windsor in 2011 to see if Atlantis Submarine Voyage can live up to our lofty expectations.
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