The Merlin Entertainments Group, which operates Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and LEGOLAND Windsor among many other attractions across the world, has revealed the theme for its mystery new attraction in London's County Hall.
The experience will be themed around the Shrek movie series, after Merlin signed a deal with creator DreamWorks Animation. The London version, dubbed Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure, will be located close to the London Eye, the Sea Life London Aquarium and the newly-relocated London Dungeon.
The company submitted a planning application for the new attraction early in 2014. It hopes to start construction in September 2014, and Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure could open as soon as April 2015.
Here are 6 things to expect from Merlin's latest UK attraction.
6. It'll be centred around a walkthrough experience
Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks, promises that the Shrek experience will be "a convergence of theatre, audience participation, character engagement and, most of all, a lot of laughs."
Merlin's planning applicaiton, meanwhile, reveals that it will take guests around an hour to make their way through Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure. Visitors will be batched into groups of 40, and will make their way through 10 main show rooms, each lasting about six minutes. Live actors will be used to "enhance the overall experience", while a combination of physical sets, digital projections and audio-visual effects will be used to create an immersive experience.
In summary, the entire experience sounds similar in style to the London Dungeon, where guests are escorted through a series of scenes and come face-to-face with live actors.
In addition to the wakthrough, the Shrek attraction will include a courtyard where visitors will be able to meet Shrek himself, along with other DreamWorks characters from films such as Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar. Guests will spill out into a store selling DreamWorks merchandise, and there will also be a rotating exhibit highlighting the latest DreamWorks cinema and DVD releases.
5. It'll feature an all-new storyline
Just like Shrek 4-D at Universal's theme parks, Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure will boast an original storyline developed by Dreamworks.
"It's not like anything else, if you can imagine a theater-like experience where you the audience are part of the story," promises Katzenburg. Characters including Fiona, Donkey, Puss in Boots and others are set to appear alongside Shrek.
4. It'll end with a simulator ride
As with the London Dungeon, Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure will complement the walkthrough section with a theme park-style ride. In this case, it'll be a large motion simulator. Merlin has stated that the ride will be "interactive", suggesting that riders may be equipped with weapons of some kind.
The ride appears to be themed around a bus, which led many to speculate the Merlin's new attraction would have a London theme. Instead, it seems more likely to be based around an old-style horse-drawn carriage.
3. It'll be on a relatively small scale
The new attraction will be housed largely on the first floor of County Hall, replacing the former London Film Museum South Bank. The remaining movie museum exhibits will be relocated. It'll be part of Merlin's "midway" line-up, which includes the Dungeons, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life centres, which means it'll be on a much smaller scale to the company's theme parks. This is reflected in the cost of building it, which is expected to run to around £7 million to £8 million. This compares with the £18 million that Merlin spent on opening a single ride, The Smiler, at Alton Towers last year.
Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure will be Merlin's sixth midway attraction. CEO Nick Varney claims that the firm has its eye on a seventh, possibly acquiring an existing franchise.
2. It'll be the first of many
Merlin and DreamWorks have signed a deal to build six Shrek-themed attractions globally over the next nine years, but it may not stop there. "There is no question that there is an opportunity to build more than six of these," said Katzenburg. "This is a very solid annuity for DreamWorks. Not only do [the attractions] create a very solid, reliable income stream for us, but they are great for the DreamWorks brand." Dreamworks will receive a share of revenues "in the mid-single-digits" from the attractions. Ultimately, Merlin believes it could build 20-30 such attractions.
Varney has stated that he hopes that the deal with be "the start...of a wider collaboration with DreamWorks Animation", which suggests that attractions based on other movies could be in the works.
1. Entrance will be bundled with other attractions
Merlin is focusing its London attractions, which also include the London Eye, around the County Hall site. Last year, it relocated the London Dungeons to the site in a £20 million project. This enables it to cross-sell tickets to other attractions. Entry to Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure is likely to be heavily discounted for those buying entrance tickets to the London Dungeon, London Eye and Sea Life London Aquarium at the same time. It'll also add extra value to the Merlin Annual Pass, which enables entry to all of its UK attractions.