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Lost Island Volkanu Dark Ride

Long ago, the realms of Lost Island lived in harmony – the floating air kingdom of Udara; the water nomads of Awa; the wise earth protectors of Yuta, the fierce fiery warriors of Mura... All was at peace.

Until Volkanu emerged. A molten demon forged in the fiery depths, Volkanu’s roiling rage threatned to shatter the realms and destory Lost Island forever. Only one hope remained. Guided by the Tamariki spirit guardians, the realms united to forge a golden idol imbued with the strength of all four elements: the Ora-Tika. Placed on the altar of the Fire Temple, the Ora-Tika sealed Volkanu away…

And so long as the Ora-Tika remains, Volkanu awaits… his rage growing stronger with each passing day…

Image: Sally Dark Rides

It’s not every day that a genuinely new, world-class dark ride opens in the United States. It’s even rarer that such an attraction debuts outside the big budget domains of Disney and Universal Parks and their coastal, destination resorts. In fact, so unique are new regional, dark ride experiences that when a Six Flags, Cedar Fair, or Herschend park manages to open one, it feels like a modern day wonder.

Which is why the emergence of a truly world-class, modern dark ride – one packed not just with screens, but with Audio-Animatronics, motion, projection, flames, theatrical tricks, and a homemade, original mythology – should send dark ride enthusiasts the world over scurrying to learn more…

Today, we’ll explore VOLKANU: Quest for the Golden Idol at Lost Island Theme Park to discover the incredible mythology and impressive moments you’ll find in this brand new, multi-sensory dark ride adventure! So button up your khakis, pull on your boots, and get ready for an adventure into the unknown…

The Legend of Lost Island

Image: BDR Design Group / Lost Island

In this case, “long ago” isn’t as far back as you might think. Opening in the summer of 2022, Lost Island Theme Park in Waterloo, Iowa has the distinction of being one of the newest from-scratch parks in North America… That’s notable in itself, as it’s not every day, year, or even decade that a sizable new theme park opens in the United States.

Even rarer, though, is a park that aspires to be more than merely a collection of rides… and that’s exactly what Lost Island is. Clearly a concept born of the post-Wizarding-World era of the themed entertianment design industry, Lost Island was crafted by BDR Design Group of Cincinnati. Working with the park’s owners – the local Bertch family, who got their start with the world-class Lost Island Waterpark decades ago – BDR developed a from-scratch theme park hinging on surprising detail, unexpected depth, and a completely original, park-wide story that turns Lost Island into a living adventure.

Image: Lost Island

The results are charming at worst and spectacular at best – that here, in this place, could exist such a lovingly-crafted, master-planned, from-scratch build. One where each realm is adorned with its own textures, colors, lampposts, and characters…

An air realm of cloud rocks, pinwheels, pedal-propellers, and soaring flat rides all decked out in the cogs, gears, and wise purple of the Udaran kingdom; a water realm of thatch-roofed Awa huts, tropical murals, sand play areas, and jaw-droppingly customized family flat rides; an earth realm littered with rocky Yutan temple ruins and dig pits beneath the Totara Tree; the fire village of Mura, with its extreme thrill rides set on the shores of an inner lagooon…

Image: Lost Island

Frankly, we’re enamored with Lost Island – this “Little Engine That Could” of a park set on a 30 acre lagoon in the midst of the soybean sprawl of Iowa. If you haven’t already, be sure to take a look through our realm-by-realm tour of the park, celebrating just how clever and customized this “I can’t believe they pulled it off” project is. Every flat ride customized; an indoor queue and pre-show for its drop tower; an app-based adventure game exploring the Island’s history; custom plush of the park’s Tamariki spirit guardians…

Some critics say Lost Island is too ambitious for its audience. Others suggest it’s not ambitious enough, lacking the ride count and coasters to rival Des Moines’ Adventureland several hours southwest. And it’s true that this young park is – for better and worse – a newborn, with freshly-laid paths, vibrant paint colors, young plantings, little shade, and a tiny two-coaster collection. But in its imagination alone, Lost Island would’ve been a bucket list park. That status is made even more certain by its anchoring dark ride…

Ride, Sally, Ride!

Image: Sally Dark Rides

Few dark ride enthusiasts would be surprised to find that Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol was developed by industry favorites, Sally Corporation. If you’ve been on a dark ride outside of a Disney or Universal Park, chances are good that Sally has been involved.

If you’ve been on a Ghost Blasters at a boardwalk, amusement park, or a mall; a Boo Blasters at one of Cedar Fair’s parks; a Scooby Doo and the Something-or-Other; Holiday World’s Gobbler Getaway; Hersheypark’s retired Reese’s X-Treme Cup Challenge, or LEGOLAND’s Lost Kingdom Adventure, then you’re familiar with the foundation of Sally’s catalogue: classic, blacklight, blaster-based attractions that send guests through flat, ultraviolet scenes activating cutout characters and simple effects. It works, and these nice little rides offer guests at many parks one of their few chances to escape the weather and experience a little taste of a “Disney” style experience!

Image: Sally Dark Rides

But lest you think Sally isn’t capable of more, take a look through the company’s portfolio and you may be surprised…

No less than seven Six Flags parks have rolled out Justice League: Battle for Metropolis – a Sally installation that uses motion-simulator-base vehicles, physical sets, screens, and Audio-Animatronics to astounding effect. The same ingredients went into PortAventura’s Sesame Street: Street Mission in 2019. There’a slo the legendary Labyrinth of the Minotaur at Spain’s Terra Mítica – a trackless dark ride with three exit points, ensuring that only vehicles that score high enought make it to the ride’s final scene.

In other words, borrowing some of the key innovations of the Modern Marvels: Indiana Jones Adventure and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and making them accessible for smaller, regional parks, Sally's multi-media dark rides are astounding in their own right, and top-of-class. 

Image: Sally Dark Rides

Of course, Sally also develops original concepts available for purchase. In 2010, the firm announced the availability of a new attraction they deemed “Forbidden Island” – a blacklight-based, adventurous alternative to the popular Ghost Blasters.

As the firm began to experiment with the kinds of innovative and ambitious multi-media elements that would power Justice League: Battle for Metropolis and Sesame Street: Street Mission, their “adventurous” take on the laser-blasting genre got an upgraded option, too: “Volcankus 4-D," sending guests to collect ancient gems whose power would recapture a rampant god of fire born of a volcano's heart.

It stands to reason that either could’ve been easily bought and set down in Lost Island, whether a “flat,” blacklight Forbidden Island ride or a mixed-media Volcanikus install. The former would seem more likely, anyway, given Lost Island’s upstart nature where an adventurous Ghost Blasters would be enough, right? But instead, Drew Hunter (Vice President at Creative Design at Sally) recounted in a blog post how Lost Island’s owners were thinking big.

Image: Sally Dark Rides

Not only did Lost Island's owners prefer the more ambitious, elaborate, and expensive Volkanicus ride concept – already a pretty outlandishly luxurious installation for Iowa, mind you – but they insisted that the mythology and iconography of Lost Island’s realms was simply too great to ignore. Fusing Sally’s design with the existing characters and lore of Lost Island, a whole new product emerged… Ready to step inside?

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