Amaze with shows too

Amaze with shows too

22 May 2020 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ di Valerio Mazzoli /

It is in the nature of theme parks to create wonder and engagement among guests. So how do they do this? Creative artist Valerio Mazzoli examines this topic.

When I start looking at the concept for a theme park, I like to think of it as a fantasy city that must amaze its visitors. Indeed, a theme park must contain elements that amaze, entertain and give visitors a glimpse of life outside of their daily standard. A unique experience that can be enjoyed several times, as each time it will need to be different in both major and minor aspects. 

Valerio Mazzoli, theme park & attraction designer

A project built on solid foundations, as I have already described in previous articles, must contemplate the possibility of evolving and transforming itself continuously, even with small adjustments, so as to always entertain and amaze its guests. Certainly thanks to new technologies, transformations and improvements to attractions are now much easier and faster, but often also very expensive. However, a theme park is a great container for developing ideas, including less expensive ones. One very important element that always offers thrills are live shows, mechanical shows with special effects and parades. Disney is again the master here: at its parks it always amazes guests with its fantastic shows and excellent actors, parades with imaginary floats and mechanical shows with great pyrotechnic effects and mapping projections. At Universal Studios parks too, great shows always keep alive the dream of cinema with its magic. 

There is no shortage of shows and parades, very often of high quality, also at other parks throughout the world. At Gardaland, for example, there are great magic shows, international music shows with major artists, and personally I love their live shows during the Halloween celebrations in which the guests are the protagonists. Magic is also important at Mirabilandia, however the flagship of the shows at the Ravenna park is its Stunt Show with spectacular car and motorcycle stunts. Devised in 1997 – and I can proudly say that my company also collaborated on the first version of ‘Scuola di Polizia’ (Police Academy) – this show fascinated the public immediately, and year after year has been updated in a crescendo of thrills that has seen it since 2015 have a Mattel Hot Wheels theme, with its most spectacular features also including loop-the-loops on steel tracks over 15m high! And what about the live show a few years ago on Mirabilandia’s lake, ‘The Magical Lands of Midendhil’, written and produced by the Onset Studio from Orlando? Another great success, popular due to its innovations and quality, one of the first shows in Italy with dancing fountains and projections on water screens, created by one of the world leaders in the sector, German company Oase.

Another important theme park with great shows is Europa-Park in Germany, which has always boasted a number of live shows and various productions of great international quality, with an average of 300 artists hired each season.

Complementary activities such as shows are important as they bring life and an identity to the park by alternating the experiences and thrills of mechanical attractions with live shows. Let’s now look at how live shows are integrated into a theme park where mechanical attractions are the main features. Generally, a visit to a theme park is always hectic, especially if it is a large structure where guests want to see everything in the space of a day. We also know that the more impressive the attractions, the longer the queues, with waiting times of up to several hours. Shows, in addition to being fun, amazing and magical, if performed at strategic times of the day also serve as a moment when guests can rest and relax. Parades are generally held in the late afternoon when the weather is milder, so that guests can gather on the sides of the route. In some parks (for example, Disney) the parades are true masterpieces, with splendid designs, floats representing different themes, and costumes with attention to the smallest details (if you have seen the parades at the Animal Kingdom for example, you will certainly agree with me). Generally they are successful because they are developed around the characters of the park and the different attractions. 

I’ve talked about magic shows, musicals, stunt shows, parades, but I can also mention night-time shows, often multimedia shows combining laser light effects, mapping projections, water features etc. Evening shows are now common at almost all theme parks around the world: the conclusion to a special day spent in a world where fantasy exceeds reality, leaving guests entranced and amazed. 

The art of designing a theme park is always a major challenge and the results seen around the world are numerous: fantastic, beautiful, mediocre and even ugly! This is the challenge of creative designers: to make a new dream come true every time.

Taken from Games&Parks Industry May 2020, page 84

Valerio Mazzoli /  theme park & attraction designer /