Friday, September 22, 2023
Home Blog

#98 – New approaches in design and technology

On the cover

The San Antonio Zoo turned to PGAV Destinations to design a new entrance and extensive gorilla habitats for both the animals and human guests to enjoy.


Just add technology by Martin Palicki

Erasing the line between theory and practice by Judith Rubin


Expo 2027 Belgrade Exclusive interview with Dr. Dušan Borovcanin

by James Ogul

Pathways to growth Alcorn McBride’s innovative internship program for theme park engineers

by Wendy M. Grant

Listening to operators Q&A with Smart Monkeys CEO Stephan Villet

by Judith Rubin

The era of spatial computing Electrosonic connects themed entertainment and spatial computing

by James Careless

TEA’s recipe for success Events and networking fulfill an industry need

by Martin Palicki

All about Brand Licensing Europe Interview with Ella Haynes and Ben Roberts

by Judith Rubin

Celebrating the community and the zoo Three new projects by PGAV Destinations at the San Antonio Zoo

by Joe Kleiman

Making the move to cashless How Connect&GO can make operations easier with RFID

by James Careless

Design & development Five UCF grad students create concepts for Alterface’s The Wander

by Judith Rubin

Helping yourself Semnox streamlines the future of self-service in leisure venues

by Tammie Richards

Taking a moment Moment Factory: from music for the eyes to symphonies for the senses

by Gene Jeffers

What’s in a MIRT (Mario in Real Time)? SimGraphics ushers in well-behaved AI characters for LBE and themed attractions

by Judith Rubin

New FUSION dark ride blends theming and gameplay into stunning immersive experience 


BoldMove presents the best of both worlds to move park visitors – IAAPA Expo, Booth B2125

Brussels, 22 September 2023 – BoldMove is excited to announce at IAAPA its new FUSION interactive media dark ride. It blends the fun game play of midway style dark rides with immersive theming and an unexpected plot twist. The attraction revisits a classic dark ride ride using the latest technologies in interactivity, gameplay, AI and AV. The new ride points to BoldMove’s vision to ‘realize bold ideas with smart moves’.

The footprint of FUSION has been optimized to remain under 1,000 square meters, accommodating a series of captivating scenes which add to the immersive experience. Quality theming and flexible media upgrades guarantee a sustainable attraction that will last for decades. The distinctive back-to-back seating arrangement provides the players with a unique game experience using fixed interactive devices. Besides being particularly engaging, FUSION also boasts a throughput of over 900 persons per hour. In addition to the interactive setup, the team has added fully themed and multi-sensory environments featuring media, light & sound, projection and AI technologies.

High-quality midway attraction for all ages

The first IP for FUSION takes players on a hilarious mission to stop robotic fluffy creatures stealing candy in an “Art Nouveau” style factory. The players are brought from one scene to the other throwing all kinds of projectiles to stop the nasty creatures plundering the candy production. This IP appeals to a wide audience and the fixed devices used to throw the virtual ammunition are easy to operate by even the youngest players. 

BoldMove’s CEO Benoit Cornet explains, “We do believe in infusing proven and popular recipes with new creative perspectives and exciting-yet-proven technologies. Visitors want to be immersed in an environment they can enjoy together with their friends and family. However they do not want to bother with complex storylines or actions, but embark in their vehicle and become fully submersed in an engaging experience like a theatre or movie. Our creative process starts with this in mind and then defines all required ingredients to make it a successful attraction.

“FUSION proves to be the ideal solution for a high-quality midway attraction with a multi-faceted approach so players of all ages and skill levels can enjoy a fun and action-based experience in a stunning environment. By combining an effective two-rows back-to-back vehicle set-up with a multilayered gameplay we obtain the best recipe for an unforgettable journey!” concludes Cornet.

Brand Licensing Europe introduces location-based experience trail

Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) will host a new location-based experience (LBE) trail at this year’s event, which takes place Oct. 4-6 at ExCeL, London. Including the “Peppa Pig Afternoon Bus Tour,” in collaboration with Brigit’s Bakery, and the “Tiger Shark” Hot Wheels Monster Truck, visitors will be able to get fully immersed in interactive features across the show floor. 

The LBE trail will include the following:  

“Peppa Pig Afternoon Bus Tour,” in collaboration with Brigit’s Bakery, located at stand D205

In collaboration with Hasbro/Entertainment One’s “Peppa Pig,” Brigit’s Bakery is creating the “Peppa Pig Afternoon Tea Bus Tour” using the iconic 1960 Routemaster Bus. Visitors can visit the actual bus and talk to the Brigit’s Bakery team about exactly what was involved in bringing this experience to life.   

The “Terminator” Skynet bar, at stand C141

Step into a dystopian future where machines rule the world, and humans fight for survival at the ultimate “Terminator” Skynet Bar experience. Located in the heart of BLE’s show floor, visitors can immerse themselves straight into the post-apocalyptic universe of the “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

“Tiger Shark” Hot Wheels Monster Truck, at stand E140 

Coming in at almost three meters high, this is a rare opportunity to see the truck up close and personal as it prepares to take part in the recently announced Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live Glow Party taking place around the world in 2024 and organized by Family Entertainment Live and Mattel. 

Peppa’s Party Café, at stand B211

Come and celebrate in Peppa’s Party Café open throughout all three days of the show. Eat, drink and experience the world of Peppa and friends – there are plenty of opportunities for selfies.    

The Arcade, at stand E160 

Step into a world of pixelated nostalgia at The Arcade, a retro arcade zone on the show floor. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the spirit of the golden age of gaming as they venture through rows of classic arcade games. Unleash your inner child and rediscover the joy of simple yet exhilarating gameplay.   

Color-In-Nature with The Natural History Museum, at stand B272

With an abundance of incredible species from the natural world just waiting to be brought to life, visitors can retreat from the event hustle and bustle and pick up a pen and get creative with the Natural History Museum’s coloring-in wall. 

The VR Lab, at stand D244

Where reality blurs and imagination reigns supreme. It’s not just an experience; it’s a virtual adventure waiting to be explored. Attendees can immerse themselves in the future of technology and try their hand at VR games and challenges.    

Other activations include:

  • See a McLaren 720S (stand B274)
  • Grab a drink at the Sports Bar (stand E235)
  • Enjoy in-hall food trucks offering delicious hot meals and snacks in the Food Court (stand E225)
  • Make some time for a bit of R&R in the Relaxation Lounge (stand E134)
  • Rest easy at The Lounge Bar (stand C260)
  • Check out the Brands Untapped Footwear Showcase (stand E174) showcasing some of the coolest footwear collabs, including Transformers x Irregular Choice – a first look preview opportunity plus The Met x Dr Martens, Minecraft x Crocs, Sesame Street x Vans, Playboy x KOI and Playboy x Duke & Dextor, and championing the creatives behind the launches.

“LBE is a huge and growing trend and one that has the potential to affect everyone in the most positive ways,” says Ella Haynes, event director, BLE. “It’s also a category that embraces brands, designers, manufacturers and retailers – the entire brand licensing ecosphere. That’s why we wanted to create experiences at BLE that would let people enjoy LBE first-hand and be inspired by the people who have experienced success.” 

“We have a trail of activations on the show floor, our keynote from Hasbro and The Path Entertainment Group, our trend sessions and masterclass and much more. I know everyone’s BLE calendars are bursting with meetings, but I encourage you to carve out a little time to learn about the opportunities in LBE and how they can positively impact your business.”  

Speaker sessions on LBE include: 

Wednesday, Oct. 4 

12:30-1:15 p.m. – Passing GO: Bringing the World’s Biggest Board Game to Life   

Hasbro and The Path Entertainment Group will explore the creative pursuit, potential and problem-solving required to turn Monopoly into one of the most talked-about activations on the experience market today.    

  • David Hutchinson, chief executive officer, The Path Entertainment Group
  • Matt Proulx, vice president, LBE, Hasbro

2-2:30 p.m. – Location-Based Experience Trends  

LBE is a $3.29 billion market expected to grow 30% by 2030. The experience economy is increasingly important to licensors and brand owners to create creative experiences for fans and customers to engage with their brands in new and exciting ways. Find out the key trends impacting LBE in this session from a brand perspective:   

  • Ella Baskerville, business development director, Blooloop
  • Ngaio Harding-Hill, head, attractions and live experiences, Aardman
  • Danielle Tanton, head, licensing, The Path Entertainment Group, and vice president, Themed Entertainment Association Europe & Middle East Division

Thursday, Oct. 5

2-2:45 p.m. – LBE: How to Master the Experience Economy  

Location-based experience has created a new layer of engagement for fans and families worldwide, but how can brands navigate the market, find the right format to maintain authenticity and work with best-in-class partners? License Global will speak with experts from across the market to show how shared experiences can become lifelong memories.    

  • Alex Sanson, senior brand manager, Magic Light Pictures
  • Matt Wild, director, Wild Creations
  • Gary Pope, chief executive officer, co-founder, Kids Industries
  • Brian Hook, chief commercial officer, The Everywhere Group
  • Moderator: Ben Roberts, EMEA content director, License Global

The BLE 2023 agenda is now complete with speakers and participants. All sessions are free to attend and focus on the trends defining brand licensing, extensions and collaborations with sector-specific sessions covering gaming, location-based experiences, fashion, food and beverage, anime and animation. Seating is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.  

See the full Brand Licensing Europe 2023 content agenda.

Register for Brand Licensing Europe 2023

Mysterious caverns, ghost pirates, a kraken, and the town drunk

Sally Dark Rides and Daniels Wood Land use Monterey history as an interactive dark ride adventure theme

by Joe Kleiman

In the early 1800s, a French privateer named Hipólito Bouchard was commissioned by the government of Argentina, newly independent of Spain, to attack Spanish colonies in the Americas. Among the towns sacked was what is now Monterey, California. In 1818, Bouchard landed one of his ships and began attacking the local Spanish garrison. By the time his crew entered the Presidio (the military headquarters), where they swapped out the Spanish flag and replaced it with the Argentine one, the base had been abandoned, apart from a single local drunk named Molina, who was promptly taken prisoner by Bouchard’s crew.

Thanks to a collaboration between Sally Dark Rides and Daniels Wood Land (DWL), Bouchard’s tale lives on – reimagined as a supernatural pirate adventure in Treasure Hunt: The Ride, a state-of-the art, interactive dark ride attraction that opened July 2023 on Monterey’s legendary Cannery Row. This new, standalone attraction is just a few blocks from the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, which for nearly forty years has been the anchor and tourist magnet of the neighborhood. Cannery Row’s profile is being further elevated as the aquarium is joined by a new generation of unique, theme park-caliber attractions, starting with Treasure Hunt: The Ride.

The Treasure Hunt team

Daniels Wood Land is a design and fabrication firm based in Paso Robles, California. DWL creates themed cabins and treehouses, shooting galleries, interactive props, themed sets and environments, animatronic characters, playgrounds, and chainsaw carvings for clients around the world. The company is the focus of the popular Animal Planet show “Redwood Kings.” DWL also designed and fabricated The San Francisco Dungeon with operator Merlin Entertainments, and the attraction ran 2014-2019 on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The company recently expanded its scope, incorporating DWL Amusement LLC in 2021 to own and operate attractions, including Treasure Hunt: The Ride.

Sally Dark Ride and Daniels Wood Land executives raise a mug of ale at the Grand Opening.

Sally Dark Rides, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, is a leading designer and provider of dark rides to theme parks and standalone attractions. Recent projects include the rides Uncharted and Sesame Street: Street Mission (a TEA Thea Award recipient) at Spain’s PortAventura World, the series of JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis dark rides at multiple Six Flags Parks (the California version of the ride was also honored with a Thea Award), and VOLKANU: Quest for the Golden Idol at Lost Island Theme Park in Iowa.

The two companies put together a dream team of creative suppliers to turn the historical story into an action-packed family ride. Gosetto supplied the ride vehicles. Techni-lux handled attraction lighting, creating an eerie sense of being in lost caverns. Targeting systems were provided by Alterface, an interactive technology specialist with many rides and attractions to their credit. Media production throughout the attraction was by Pure Imagination Studios. Techni-lux, Alterface and Pure Imagination all previously collaborated with Sally on the JUSTICE LEAGUE rides.

From shooting galleries to shooting dark rides

Cannery Row, made iconic by John Steinbeck’s classic novel of the same name, was once home to numerous sardine canneries, the last of which closed in 1973. The area began its transformation into a shopping and tourist destination in the 1950s and ‘60s, as the canneries began moving out. In 1984, Monterey Bay Aquarium, founded by Julie Packard, whose father was a co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, opened on the grounds of the Hovden Cannery, one of the oldest and largest sardine canneries on the west coast. A few smaller attractions, including escape rooms, laser tag, and a wax museum (now closed) have dotted the rest of Cannery Row.

A barker pirate encourages guests to enter the basement and collect treasure.

The wax museum was in the basement of a shopping arcade that had repurposed the historic Monterey Bay Canning Company. “We had always wanted to do something there,” says Ron Daniels, President of Daniels Wood Land. “We recently built a couple of automated shooting galleries in some available storefronts – one gallery setting is under the ocean and the other is a carnival midway. We got a call from Cannery Row Company, the primary owner of real estate on Cannery Row and our landlord, that the wax museum had closed and the space was available, and jumped at it. We were thinking, ‘pirates and dark ride, but with a unique twist.’

Since DWL had a sharp eye for storytelling and theming, but lacked experience with dark rides, Daniels reached out to John Wood, President and Chairman of Sally Dark Rides. “Our companies have known each other a long time,” explained Wood, “from both exhibiting at IAAPA Expo and at other industry events. This is not the first standalone attraction we’ve worked on, but Ron invited us to join as a partner, and we did extensive research, looking at annual attendance in the area, and determined it was well worth considering. Ron and the DWL team are enthusiastic about the project and it helps that they’re just down the highway from Monterey.” With the new partnership in place, the two main design firms were able to work together without some of the budgetary constraints of a traditional contractor-client relationship.

The ride – Bouchard the pirate

In the ride, Bouchard becomes a pirate in the style of Hollywood films, with added supernatural elements. Helping lead visitors to the ride are an animatronic barker pirate and his parrot (animatronics are a Sally specialty) situated on a ship’s mast in the center of the Cannery Row Marketplace, hawking the adventures that await. This Instagrammable bit of marketing also includes a many-tentacled kraken photo opp. Situated next to the ticketing booth and the stairway leading to the attraction, the pirate and kraken are visible from both the street entrance and two side entrances to the arcade.

Guests board the elevator a descent hundreds of feet to the caverns below.

The queue helps provide backstory for the dark ride experience to come. As the tale goes, Bouchard hid his fortune of plundered treasure hundreds of feet underground in recently discovered caverns, guarded by a kraken. To get there, guests will need to take an elevator 300 feet below Cannery Row. The entire queue experience, including the elevator preshow, lasts around fifteen minutes. According to Sally Chief Creative Officer Rich Hill, “The elevator plays an important role. In addition to presenting the backstory, it breaks up the queue and helps group guests for our six dark ride vehicles.”

Inside, video screens on the sides and top of the room create the illusion of being in a large elevator shaft. A pneumatic floor supplied by Extreme Engineering sits below. A control lever and a phone are attached to the elevator side, incorporating real show controls into props. The elevator apparently fails to operate; the attendant calls a maintenance mechanic to fix the problem. Seen through the overhead “windows,” the mechanic doesn’t quite accomplish his job; the elevator falls hundreds of feet, crashing into the caverns below.

Molina, the town drunk, and his donkey appear in animatronic form once the elevator crashes in the caverns.

At this point, the far side of the elevator collapses; animatronic figures of the town drunk, Molina, and his trusted donkey can be seen in the caverns. Molina gives more of the backstory, warning guests that Bouchard’s ghost is lurking about.

The queue continues through a mineshaft before arriving at the loading station. Here, guests can insert Power-up Tokens (available for an extra charge) that give them a competitive scoring advantage during the ride. (Nowadays, similar upsell models are offered on a number of dark rides in various theme parks, but these usually require the purchase of a physical item such as a wristband, glove or wand, which Treasure Hunt does not.) Each of the four token stations on the load platform corresponds to a particular seat on the ride vehicle, and powers up the seat’s accompanying Treasure Collector.

Alterface supplied the targeting system, which allows guests to shoot at targets on both physical props and real-time widescreen media, similar to the mixed targeting at a previous Sally-Alterface collaboration, Justice League Invasion 3D at Warner Bros. Movie World on Australia’s Gold Coast. With a Power-up Token, guests increase the amount of treasure they can obtain, along with a rapid fire ability that allows multiple shots while depressing the trigger. The real-time rendered video, combined with shooting-gallery style props and the consistent movement of the vehicles, provides for a high variability of gameplay and repeatability. For an additional $5, guests can purchase an unlimited, all-day ticket, which also allows access to a corridor for repeat rides, bypassing the preshow.


Molina acts as onscreen guide throughout the ride, but inevitably, something always goes terribly, terribly wrong. In the first scene, Molina teaches guests how to fire their pistols and aim at targets. Errant shots from guests cause barrels of gunpowder to explode, creating a torrent of water projected not only on the screen, but also on the floor of the room. A splash of water into the vehicle helps round out the 4D effect.

The water carries the guests to other caverns, where they are introduced to the ghost of Bouchard. Bouchard summons the kraken that has guarded the treasure for more than 200 years. Vehicles are sent down a corridor, shaped like the hull of a wrecked ship, with the animated tentacles of the kraken visible overhead, finally coming face to face with Bouchard, projected onto a mist screen. The final scene features a battle against Bouchard’s undead crew, presented in skeleton form, with physical skeletons popping out from the ceiling just feet in front of guests, an example of physical props smoothly integrating with onscreen media.

Expanding the space through vehicle control

The custom dark ride vehicles allow for a controlled narrative experience. “One of the things that made that ride system such a good fit for this application,” says Ron Daniels, “was the challenge of the space itself. In just sheer square footage, we were really pushing the envelope on how small a space you can put a ride into. The ride space, which encircles the lower level queue and elevator simulator, encompasses 60% of the attraction’s total 7,575 square feet. With the ride itself being only four minutes long, the four-passenger vehicles feature variable speed and pointed rotation on a fixed track, directing riders’ attention to particular elements in a scene. The vehicles go at high speed between scenes and then position themselves at a standstill or slowly moving in front of a screen, and this creates the illusion of the ride being longer than it actually is.

Ride layout

The story is presented through both physical props and large media screens, with media integration and ride control done in-house by Sally. There are 20 Epson projectors throughout the attraction. The final product feels seamless, thanks to DWL’s fabrication and prop construction skills harmonizing with Sally’s expertise in dark ride design and animatronics.

A one-of-a-kind attraction, with a possibility for more

Treasure Hunt: The Ride signals a major evolution of Cannery Row by introducing a theme-park caliber attraction to the district. More local developments are on the way, including a top-tier flying theater attraction currently under construction nearby. With these new visitor experiences plus the usual complement of souvenir shops, restaurants and candy stores, Cannery Row is becoming a small-town equivalent to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

Ron Daniels and John Wood led a toast (family-friendly, with root beer instead of ale) to the gathered crowd of several hundred at the attraction’s opening in July, joined by other DWL and Sally management, all decked out in pirate garb. In proper, pseudo-maritime tradition, they also christened the attraction by breaking a bottle on a fabricated kraken.

“Opportunities like this don’t come around too often,” says John Wood. ”The partnerships and teamwork that developed as a result of Treasure Hunt: The Ride will not only help revitalize Cannery Row but also provide a new model of attraction development and ownership for the industry.”

Bluestone Equity becomes minority partner in RWS Global

Global sports, media & entertainment private equity firm Bluestone Equity Partners has announced a minority investment in RWS Global.

Built on more than 120 years of combined expertise, RWS Global is the combination of four leading companies — RWS, ted, JRA and ARC. Together, they design, create, cast, produce and operate entertainment experiences and destinations around the world. Each year, RWS Global casts more than 8,000 performers and technicians, delivering more than one million live moments to guests in over 50 countries, across six continents and the seven seas, every day.

With headquarters in New York, London and Cincinnati, RWS Global employs a diverse team of world-class talent, driven to exceed client and guest expectations. From cruise ships, museums, theme parks and sports venues, to destinations, resorts, stage and screen, RWS Global offers capabilities from ideation to execution.

“Bluestone partners with uniquely capable and scalable businesses to accelerate growth on a global basis, creating lasting value for all stakeholders,” said Bobby Sharma, Bluestone’s Founder & Managing Partner. “RWS Global represents the platinum standard in live entertainment, having established a dominant position in a market sector primed for explosive growth. Its visionary Founder & CEO, Ryan Stana, has built an industry cornerstone, earning the admiration and trust of many of the world’s most well-known and respected brands, corporations, and organizations. RWS Global is a perfect addition to Bluestone’s strategic growth equity portfolio, and as its first institutional investor, we’re excited to be an integral part of its next chapter as an industry pillar.”

RWS Global marks the second investment for Bluestone, which launched its inaugural $300 million growth equity fund, in a single closing, during the first quarter of 2023. Bluestone is differentiated in the SME capital marketplace by its blue-chip industry operating experience, expansive international network, stable institutional capital base, and collaborative synergistic approach with portfolio companies. In connection with this investment, Bluestone will hold two seats on RWS Global’s Board of Directors.

“Turning the big and small moments into powerful and lasting memories is what we do,” said Stana, who founded the Emmy Award-winning company in 2003. “This is an inflection point on a remarkable journey that has taken us to over 500 productions a year, on land and sea, and virtually every corner on Earth. In a world driven by experiential culture, RWS Global continues to shatter expectations of what live experiences can and should be, reinvigorating in-person moments for both guests and brands alike. We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Bluestone to take us to the next level of growth, and an even higher level of operation, service and commitment to our clients.”

RWS Global’s subsidiaries include RWS, the leader in live moments by bringing to life unforgettable in-person experiences; ted, Europe’s largest leisure entertainment experience company; JRA, an award-winning creative studio specializing in master planning, design and project management; and ARC, providing casting for theatre, film, TV and commercials.

RWS Global’s impressive client roster includes Apple Inc., Azamara, the Cincinnati Reds, The Coca-Cola Company, Crayola, the Dallas Mavericks, Europa-Park Resort, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, The FRIENDS™ Experience by Original X Productions, the Green Bay Packers, Hard Rock Resorts, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Holland America Line, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lionsgate, The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Marella Cruises, the Mascot Hall of Fame, MSC Cruises, NFL, Roompot, Six Flags, Space Center Houston, Steelers Country, TUI Group, Vera Wang, Warner Bros., Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway, Chicago the Musical, The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes and many more.

FlowRider partners with Hydrostadium on “river wave” attractions

FlowRider Inc., a preeminent name in the stationary wave category, and Hydrostadium, subsidiary of French energy conglomerate, EDF, are proudly announcing a licensing agreement surrounding Hydrostadium’s patented “river wave” technology. The culmination of this deal was months in the making and pairs together a multi-billion dollar company with expertise in hydrodynamics with FlowRider, the decades-long leader in delivering stationary wave attractions to the world.

“We are beyond stoked” says Marshall Myrman, leader of the FlowRider team. “To have a company of this caliber reach out to us because of our reputation, is a massive compliment, and we are genuinely humbled by the opportunity. When we saw Hydrostadium’s novel solutions that dramatically reduce power consumption and water volume to industry lows, we knew the partnership was a no-brainer and we had to switch gears immediately. Pairing together the best aspects from our original FlowSurf designs with Hydrostadium’s massive achievements, we’ve truly found the best approach to “moving water” in the industry. Our collaboration is already in full swing, and we can’t wait to see where it takes us.”

The agreement covers all three versions of Hydrostadium’s existing technology including Wavestadium, Wavedock, and Wavestream. All three of these existing products can currently be surfed in venues across Eastern France in Lyon, Tencin, and Epinal respectively. Although the products already boast impressive benefits like surface smoothness and energy efficiency, both companies will leverage their collective engineering prowess to continually advance the surf experience and system performance.

Moving forward under the terms of the agreement, all products will be branded ‘FlowSurf’, yet another innovation within FlowRider’s diverse product portfolio.

Stanislas Lequiller, CEO of Hydrostadium, comments: “We are proud to announce this licensing agreement with FlowRider, the world’s leading player in surf waves. For several years now, Hydrostadium has been investing in and developing a technology that is efficient and consistent in terms of energy consumption, and which enables a surfing experience that is now recognized worldwide. By teaming up with FlowRider, we’ll be able to promote this technology and know-how, while continuing to innovate and continually perfect the technology”.

With 200+ sheet wave installations worldwide, FlowRider has fueled the global surf craze for decades by creating a complimentary surf experience that is accessible for both consumers as well as venue owners and operators. As natural progression within its product line, FlowSurf will continue to build on the company’s legacy of bringing the joy of riding a wave to anywhere in the world, but now with real surfboards.

“As aspirations for surfing are at an all-time high across the planet, there’s no better time to kickstart a partnership as monumental as this. With our longstanding history of bringing surf attractions to nearly any venue type, we’re thrilled to add a new surf experience to our quiver that helps developers capitalize on the untapped demand for surfing that continues to grow. Plus, as a San Diego-based company rooted in the surf culture, and Hydrostadium’s passion for aquatic/board sports, the companies match up well in lifestyle DNA” states Andrew Yathon, VP Business Development at FlowRider, Inc.

Coming off the heels of this agreement, FlowRider is announcing 4 new FlowSurf projects coming across North America and the Middle East. These entertainment venues will showcase FlowSurf’s state-of-the- art technology as anchors to their masterplans.

IAAPA announces offerings and sponsorships at IAAPA Expo 2023

IAAPA Expo 2023 is set spotlight a host of exciting new features and attractions for attendees. In addition to the indoor exhibit space being sold out for the first time since 2019 – featuring more than 1,100 exhibitors – this year’s expo highlights an expanded exhibit space and sponsored programming that shines a light on major industry brands.

“The team has outdone themselves with the number and creativity of sponsorships and only-at-IAAPA Expo programming being offered this year,” said Jakob Wahl, president and chief executive officer for IAAPA. “IAAPA Expo 2023 is going to be great. We wanted to bring new offerings to the participants this year and the team has come up, together with our partners, of many fun ideas to present to the larger attractions industry.”

Here’s a look at some of the new offerings available this year:

Hasbro CLUE Game in the IAAPA Expo Insider Booklet

Upon registration, each attendee may pick up their exclusive IAAPA Expo Insider Booklet, sponsored by leading toy and game company Hasbro. This booklet acts as a key to an attractions industry twist on the classic mystery game, CLUE, which was recently reimagined by Hasbro earlier this year. Attendees are encouraged to channel their inner detective and solve the mystery for a chance to win a special prize, which can be claimed at IAAPA Member Central. The IAAPA Insider Booklet containing instructions and materials for the game will be readily available at entrances to the trade show floor, the exhibit hall entrance, and outside of the opening ceremony.

New Alcohol, Beverage, and Innovation Pavilion

As IAAPA continues growing its membership base and welcomes more companies that align with the evolving needs of the industry, this year’s tradeshow floor will include a new Alcohol, Beverage, and Innovation Pavilion. This area, which will feature brands like 375 Park Avenue Spirits, Dogfish Head, Twisted Tea, Liquid I.V., BuzzBallz, Beverage Management, Craft Standard Draft Cocktails and Taub Family Wines, includes a fully operational bar and networking space. Please note that this is different from the Food & Beverage Pavilion.

Take Brightline to IAAPA Expo 2023

With IAAPA Expo taking place Nov. 13-17 at the Orange County Convention Center in the heart of Orlando, there’s a new way for attendees to get to this industry event through a partnership with Brightline, the brand-new rail connection that links central and south Florida. Use promo code IAAPA15 at checkout to save 15% on select SMART fares starting September through November 17, 2023.

SkyElements Drone Shows

IAAPA Expo presents four drone light shows on select nights Nov. 10-17. Soaring high above the convention center, attendees should keep their eyes on the sky after sunset for aerial displays and a cutting-edge light show, sponsored by SkyElements.

ShimmerTech Photo Ops

Attendees at IAAPA Expo 2023 can capture memories that shimmer and shine with two selfie walls, including an 8’x8′ wall on the South Concourse and a massive 9’x26′ display on the North Concourse, sponsored by ShimmerTech.

Connect+ and CaptureLife photographers

IAAPA Expo 2023 is fully replacing the trade show program with Connect+, IAAPA’s official mobile app. Attendees can access the complete IAAPA Expo agenda, networking tools, and a full list of exhibitors on Connect+. Additionally, through a sponsorship with CaptureLife, photographers will scan IAAPA Expo badges to sync event photos to Connect+, creating a personal photo gallery for attendees to relive the experience.

TRANSFORMERS takes center stage at Triotech booth during IAAPA Expo Europe

Triotech will showcase several attractions and rides in its booth (A-1601) during IAAPA Expo Europe 2023 in Vienna.

Through Triotech’s latest strategic collaboration with SEVEN, the company will design and construct multiple state-of-the-art dark rides. These cutting-edge attractions will be inspired by the iconic TRANSFORMERS intellectual property, creating a unique immersive experience for visitors and elevating the entertainment landscape in Saudi Arabia.

Triotech’s momentum continues to build following a busy Summer of achievements and openings. In May, the highly anticipated PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS attraction opened at LOTTE World in Seoul, South Korea. May also marked the debut of Champi’Folies at Le Pal theme & animal park in France, representing the first deployment of the new Smash & Reload platform. Later in the season, Carnival Chaos Hyper Ride opened in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Created to increase throughput and capacity, Triotech deployed its new Stand- up Theater, a one-of-a-kind attraction that combines elements of a dynamic simulator and a flying theater. This experience features standing platforms for guests, enhancing the motion and immersion through various special effects as well as significantly increasing throughput.

Triotech also continues to drive innovation in the FEC world with the QUBE™, a premium interactive multiplayer coin-op game. Designed to maximize the immersive experience, the QUBE™ is an attendant-free, 4-seat simulator that occupies minimal space while delivering a deluxe experience. Its broad demographic appeal coupled with group-play dynamics delivers a high return on investment for operators.

With American Monsters and Onionhead’s Revenge haunt at Mall of America®, Miziker Entertainment expands as owner/operator

By Judith Rubin

Onionhead’s Revenge is a brand-new, immersive and interactive haunted attraction running for six weeks (Sept 15-Oct 31) at Mall of America (Bloomington, MN) for the 2023 scare season.

American Monsters LLC, the parent company and IP rights holder of Onionhead’s Revenge, was jointly formed by Miziker Entertainment and Haunted Hotel, both based in Southern California. Miziker Entertainment is a global leader in themed attraction design and production, with a global clientele and 40 years in business. Haunted Hotel has reigned in the haunted attractions business since 1992 with haunts that include The Haunted Trail in San Diego’s Balboa Park, and has been featured in the New York Times as one of the top haunted attractions in the US.

This endeavor will be something to watch – not just for attractions professionals, but for those with an interest in haunts, immersive experiences, seasonal projects and the shopping center space. With this splashy new venture, the team is pushing boundaries on all fronts.

All images courtesy Miziker Entertainment

With 5.6 million square-feet and over 40 million annual visitors, Mall of America® (MOA) is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America and an ideal location for this new immersive attraction. It offers prominent visibility, a good demographic fit, and the opportunity to deliver a major haunt experience to a region that is considered under-haunted.

From Miziker to Monsters

If Onionhead’s Revenge fulfills its promise, American Monsters could well rank with the likes of Meow Wolf and Illuminarium as a producer of fresh, bold, highly creative collaborations from artists helping redefine the LBE terrain.

“We’re really excited to tell this story,” says Charlotte Huggins, CEO/Executive Producer for both Miziker and American Monsters. A well-known firebrand in attraction and specialty cinema production, Charlotte came to Miziker 10 years ago. Owning and operating their own attractions was part of a five-point plan she instigated shortly after joining the company to work alongside Ryan Miziker (Chief Creative Officer) and create “Miziker 2.0” as founder Ron Miziker (Ryan’s father) dialed back his role.

With extensive involvement and direction from Sean Chung (Miziker President/Senior Project Director), they developed a body of unique IP inspired by monster folklore in the US that would form the backbone of American Monsters and the basis of its new attraction concepts. They spent two years fleshing out the concepts including original art, music and character development. Searching for a location to put a first attraction into play, “We found the right venue when we chatted with Chris Grap and his boss, Jill Renslow, from Mall of America at IAAPA Expo in November 2022,” says Charlotte. (Grap serves as Lead Storyteller and Experience Designer at MOA, and Renslow is Chief Business Development/Marketing Officer). “They said, ‘Would you be interested in doing a haunted experience at MOA?,’” Charlotte recounts. “We happily replied ‘Why, yes… by the way, we have a concept brewing!’” After several conversations, the green light came in late March.


Scouting the mall, the team identified a 45,000 square-foot space that satisfied their wish list. It was the second floor of a former, three-story Bloomingdale’s, with good ventilation, high ceilings, parking, mall and direct garage access. “It was and is incredible,” says Huggins. “We are ‘Hauntrepreneurs!’ We are a new anchor at Mall of America!”

The Monster Pass

Onionhead’s Revenge draws upon an American ghost legend that grew out of a real-life story in Southern Louisiana involving the persecution of a boy who was brutally killed by a vigilante mob after being wrongly accused of the murder of a young woman. (Following this incident, the boy’s attackers also came to bad ends.)

The experience is rich with AV media, original music and radio plays, scare-actors and animatronics, as well as food, libations and merchandise all themed to the Onionhead story and designed for everyone over the age of 10. Per Huggins, the attraction covers 28,000 square feet, including an extensive graveyard setting, church and an enormous lobby with a Slidell-themed bayou, store fronts and Vern’s Moonshine Bar, all of which all visitors can enjoy with no entry fee. Ample space remained for back-of-house amenities – and future expansion such as a custom music venue.

Voodoo vignette.

Inside the mall, costumed characters lead guests to the entrance marked by huge, wrought-iron gates. There are multiple levels of engagement – free (the substantial lobby experience) and paid (general admission, fast pass and the expansive Monster Pass). Ticketing is online or in-person. The average expected dwell time is around 30 minutes.

As the driving creative force in this project, Sean Chung says, “We came at this from our experience in themed entertainment and storytelling with an exploratory element. I felt something could be achieved elegantly by walking into an interconnected world of reality and horror, and that there could be a significant emotional payoff. When you are standing in the middle of the expansive cemetery – the main set –  you will be able to look across the haunt and see into the bayou set and the church. You’ll be thinking about which path to take. Because it’s not predictably linear, it accesses the guest’s imagination and elevates their experience and enhances the scares.”

At the heart of the attendance model is the Monster Pass, providing access to secret rooms and additional layers of story. “The Monster Pass makes our haunt really special, wrapped in a package of exploratory aspects and character interactions, giving additional breadth and depth,” says Chung. “We sought to combine the lower throughput of an intimate immersive experience with the larger throughput of a haunt.”

Scenic elements in Onionhead’s Revenge.

Motivated general admission holders will discover that they can also find their way into some of those deeper levels of experience, but the Monster Pass confers a level of status and control. “Rather than an elite path, there are two paths that complement one another,” says Chung. Onionhead was designed to deliver on all levels. As Chung says, “With or without a Monster Pass, you will still get scared out of your mind.”

Ahead of the trend

With 33 years of scaring people, Greg Defatta and his team at Haunted Hotel bring owner/operator savvy to American Monsters and Onionhead’s Revenge. Currently, Haunted Hotel operates two popular and successful haunted attractions in San Diego: the Scream Zone and the Haunted Trail. Like Miziker Entertainment, Haunted Hotel is a family business, with a father-son dynamic. Greg’s son, Dylan, has taken a leading role in running the company. But the connections go even further in the case of American Monsters. Friendship between Greg’s and Charlotte’s families goes back for many decades – coincidentally from Louisiana. “I’m in business with a person I trust like my own brother, and another I trust like my own son,” Charlotte says. “We can get things done quickly and smoothly because of this life-long foundation.”

When it comes to haunts, “We have always tried to stay ahead of whatever the trend is,” says Greg. “I’m really liking this new version of haunted houses and the new concepts it contains. I take my hat off to Miziker and their team of incredible professionals.”

Some of the LA crew that Miziker brought in to join the Onionhead team are Production Designer Dan Rucinski, VP Marketing Marti Boone, Stage Manager Lashette Showers and artists like Christopher Ulrich and James Brown. “What we’ve created with them is not like a traditional linear haunt. It has a lot of unique, interesting surprises,” Greg adds. “The use of lasers in appropriate areas is something of a game-changer, allowing us to quickly shift the mood of a room. Likewise, the use of projection can transform the whole environment. We create whatever we want people to see, and feel. There are rooms guests may not find on the first visit, so it inspires return visits. Everything is fully thought out, including every character, down to their background, habits and look.”

In the lobby, a wrecked truck with forgotten occupant sets the stage for the experience ahead.

Haunted Hotel’s considerable expertise was essential. “We flexed our muscle in every aspect of the venture, from hiring to training,” says Greg. “Our builders helped train other builders in aspects such as how to mount and integrate equipment out of reach of the public, and what materials to use. Haunted houses take a beating like nothing else. You need to build it right the first time.”


Chris Grap talks more like a themed entertainment pro than a shopping mall executive, and his background is also nontraditional. But then, Mall of America isn’t your ordinary mall, billing itself as a global tourist destination. While Onionhead’s Revenge may be MOA’s first haunt, the facility already has a significant number of attractions, including Crayola Experience, FlyOver America, Nickelodeon Universe, SEAlife Aquarium and Museum of Illusions. The mall is handily situated near MSP airport.

Grap, who has been with MOA for 11 years, has close connections to the stuff haunts are made on. His previous experience is in film production, with a specialization in special effects makeup – as he describes it, “blood, guts, and gore for bunch of horror movies with Roman numerals in the titles.” MOA had been on the lookout for a haunted experience that was up to their standards when American Monsters came their way.

Opening night visitors

“I’m happy to share the opportunities I’m aware of in this market, being very tied into the horror community and other communities that love these types of attractions,” he says. “If Onionhead delivers on even 50% of its promise it’s going to be 200% better than anything else of its kind in the market. I truly believe this approach is unique. I think the best types of experiences lend themselves to three levels – casual observers, curious explorers, and super sleuths – and Onionhead’s Revenge has all that.”

As malls over the years continue to adjust the mix and the model for today’s consumer markets, MOA has been a trend-setter – a living example not just for malls, but for regional attraction development. “The way I see it, MOA has a 30-year jump on everybody,” says Grap. “We are THE mall. Malls that want to survive and thrive need to do what we’re doing. Trends come and go, but the things we do exceptionally well are things that don’t go out of style. MOA is a recognizable brand, akin to that of a theme park, and that implies a promise to live up to, in terms of guest experience.”

He explained that people plan multi-day visits to MOA just as they would to a theme park, and that experiences function as anchors and destination drivers just as do major retailers. “We don’t try to hit a specific ratio of entertainment to retail – just to be the best we can be. Try things. Let things grow organically. Know your audience. With Onionhead’s Revenge, we hope to deliver something that is a destination driver for years to come.”

Opportunity and trust

Ultimately, says Sean, “Our passion and focus on story and creativity are what is truly going to make this special. For me, it’s about creative freedom; not just the decisions, but the process in general. It’s very interesting and rewarding to be able to start from scratch and have the story evolve as the project evolves.”

“Our industry has to keep evolving, and I think this is a leap forward,” says Greg. “There is so much competition – but the cool thing about our haunts is that our competitors have nothing on us!”

Scare actors engage in performance pieces throughout the haunt.

“Onionhead’s Revenge will be the premier haunted attraction between here and Orlando or Anaheim as far as I’m concerned,” says Chris. “This is a partnership characterized by opportunity and trust. Miziker and Haunted Hotel, both wildly and widely respected experts in their fields, have come together like a haunted house supergroup.”

Charlotte says, “Our company is growing and changing; we’re going out into the immersive attraction space in a very big way. We have great plans for the future of American Monsters.”

More information: Miziker Entertainment (; Haunted Hotel (; On Instagram (if you dare) @monstagram_official.

Minnesota to present bid for hosting 2029 International Horticultural Expo

The World’s Fair Bid Committee Educational Fund has announced its intent to submit a bid on Tuesday, September 18, 2023 to host the 2029 International Horticultural Expo in Minnesota.

International Horticultural Exhibitions are hosted throughout the world on a rotating schedule and focus on the economic, social, environmental, and cultural development objectives of a city or region on a fixed milestone. Hosting such an event is a unique opportunity to strengthen the international image and position of the host city, state, and country. Horticultural Exhibitions create parks and new, attractive public spaces of recreational value for citzens and tourists. They typically run 3-6 months in time and attract millions of world leaders, decision makers, and visitors over the duration of the event.

Initial conversations with green industry leaders have been extremely positive. Mark Ritchie, Board Chair, World’s Fair Bid Committee Educational Fund said, “Exploring the exciting possibilities with both our state and national horticultural and landscape organizations has been a turning point in our campaign to bring a World’s Fair to Minnesota. We’ve been laying the groundwork for this success over the past decade, and now we can harvest the fruits of this 12-years long campaign.”

When asked about the possibility of a U.S. event showcasing horticulture and the myriad benefits of plants and landscapes, Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort, Executive Vice President, Advocacy, Research, & Industry Relations said, “As the national trade association for horticulture in the United States, AmericanHort profoundly understands how plants enrich people’s lives. Sharing this message on a global scale, right here in our own country, would be truly thrilling.”

“Locally, the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA) is excited to be part of the conversation around bringing an International Horticultural Expo to the U.S., and specifically our region. Engaging consumers about the health, economic, and environmental benefits of plants and landscapes is something our industry does every day. We’re excited to have the opportunity to potentially share the benefits of the green industry on a much larger stage,” said Cassie Larson, Executive Director of MNLA, the region’s oldest and largest green industry trade association.

Green industry businesses are also supportive of the conversation. Ryan McEnaney, a 5th generation family member at Bailey Nurseries based in St. Paul, Minn. said, “We have some amazing stories to share with the world. From sustainability efforts to plant breeding and technological advancements, Minnesota is a hub of what’s to come for global horticulture. We are grateful to participate in the bid and Expo planning process and hope to welcome worldwide visitors to Minnesota in 2029.”

While conversations are still in the preliminary stages, official bids will be submitted in January 2024 and a host location selected in spring of 2024 by the International Association of Horticultural Producers. Please contact Craig Regelbrugge, Cassie Larson, or Ryan McEnaney with immediate questions, or sign up for email updates here:

Smart Monkeys introduces its latest ISAAC product, the Foundation 100


Utilizing cutting-edge technology to offer unparalleled performance and reliability, the Embedded Platform allows operators to quickly and easily monitor and manage their AV system.

The Foundation 100 Series provides an industrial-grade solution, engineered for challenging applications. Fanless, solid state construction, an operating temperature range of -20° to 60°C, wide input power range, and industrial components with long lifecycles make Foundation 100 Series an ideal fast-deployment platform. In order to make installation even easier, the system offers power over ethernet (PoE) power delivery, meaning power and networking can be provided to the system over a single cable.

Foundation 110 is a very cost effective solution to bring the impressively compelling features of the ISAAC software suite to systems that wouldn’t benefit from virtual machines hosting.

Its incredibly small form factor makes it a great choice for existing system that can then take advantage of powerful monitoring and management tools. Easy deployment, robustness, and cost efficiency gives ISAAC Foundation an edge when it comes to large multi location installations such as retail and hospitality.

Engineered for Reliability ISAAC Foundation is an ultra-compact industrial ARM computer, powered by a Quad-Core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC. It also meets industrial controller requirements for EMC according to Industrial/Scientific Equipment EN 55011, IT Equipment EN 55032 & 35, Medical Devices 60601-1-2 (4th ed.), and Maritime IEC 60945. Safety evaluations have included NRTL Safety Listings and CB schemes for IT equipment, and Industrial/Scientific/PLC equipment (IEC 62368-1, IEC 61010-1, 61010-2-201).