Mack Solutions’ Chris Lange on creating Europa-Park’s unique, immersive new indoor waterpark
Interview by Martin Palick
ABOVE: Designs for Rulantica include a shipwreck area and a glacier temple. The park is themed to fit into its Nordic-inspired surroundings. All images courtesy Europa-Park.
At this writing, Europa-Park is in the middle of constructing Europe’s newest waterpark, Rulantica. With a unique theme and detailed storytelling, the park is one of the most eagerly anticipated openings for 2019. InPark spoke with Chris Lange, Creative Director for Mack Solutions (Europa-Park’s sister creative company) about his design aesthetic and plans for the new waterpark.
First, tell us how you got involved in theme park design and ended up at Europa-Park.
Throughout my life I have been interested in the elements of amusement parks. As a child, I took up all the space under the Christmas tree for building my Christmas market. Each year I would add to the market with new rides, lights and more. I also enjoyed the elements of theater as a kid, and would experiment with lighting, costumes, and special effects.
I grew up in East Germany, and we didn’t have a Disneyland park to go to. But we did have a small park in Berlin and I enjoyed visiting each summer. When I was 13 my parents took me on a typical California vacation and we got to visit Universal Studios and Disneyland — I fell in love with theme parks.
In school I continued to study theatrical skills and eventually started working at movie studios and then a set decoration company. I figured that I could learn from them and then start my own attraction design & production business. My first project was The Dungeon (Merlin Entertainments) in Hamburg, Germany.
From there, I started working with Merlin as a Creative Director and subsequently did design for AdLabs, Chimelong Group and Genting Group. After all the wonderful traveling and experience I gained around the world, I decided I wanted to come home to Germany and accepted an offer from Europa-Park to head up the Mack Solutions division in 2015.
You are in the midst of creating the Rulantica waterpark. Tell us a bit about the origin of the project, its name, etc…
When I started at Europa-Park, the name Rulantica already existed and there was a general layout for the
waterpark and hotel. We had an overall masterplan from PGAV to work with, but I massaged some of the ideas in order to help create the story of Rulantica. I did not want to do a sunken city, but knowing that we had to include some element of water I thought we could integrate a “shipwreck beach” concept, to name only one of the areas. We did not want to go with a tropical or pirate theme as those have been done many times. So we created this mystical, hidden island of Rulantica located in Scandinavian waters.
The new hotel next to the waterpark is themed as a Nordic natural history museum. In our story, the museum is very popular and people come to view all the different exhibits (and spend the night!) The museum’s curators held an expedition to Rulantica and were able to bring back all kinds of artifacts and information. They decided to create a special exhibition hall for Rulantica, and now guests are able to experience this magical island. Visitors will walk into a market hall building reminiscent of the early 1900s. The main hall leads to the eight different lands of Rulantica, which are presented as different and unique galleries within the museum. In this way we don’t have to ask guests to pretend they are on an island. It is OK for them to see the roof and structure of the building, because they are actually in a museum.
Can you give us an update on the progress of Rulantica?
We are on track for opening this new waterpark near the end of 2019. We have a great team immersed in the very complicated, detailed building process. At present, we are starting on the roof soon as well as the intricate rockwork.
What will make Rulantica stand out from other waterparks?
Many of our competitors have a lot of slides. However, in Germany it is difficult to get permits for fiberglass slides – it takes two years. So many other operators don’t want to go through that process, which is why you see so many steel slides in this part of the world. We wanted to bring in the unique experiences and slide components that fiberglass offers so we took the time to go through that process. In Rulantica you will see a lot of slides not often found in European waterparks. We will have family raft slides, hybrid slides and more. ProSlide and Aquarena are helping us create some amazing slide experiences for our guests.
I think another major difference for Rulantica is in how we tried to put the spirit and heart of Europa-Park into the waterpark. It will feel natural and as though you are in an authentic environment. You will find the small, winding pathways that you can find now in Europa-Park. Each of the park’s eight galleries will be entirely immersive.
It was important to me to not see brightly colored fiberglass everywhere and obvious support structures. So we decided that some of our interior slides would be designed to look like ice, which could naturally fit into the Rulantica theme. It also made sense: ice is slippery, just like a waterslide.
Europa-Park suffered a devastating fire earlier this season. Can you share any update on how the park is planning on redesigning that area?
Everyone wants to know if we will rebuild the Pirates of Batavia attraction. Right now, we are planning on rebuilding the attraction as people remember it. Our fans really love that ride. We got thousands of letters from people saying they loved Pirates of Batavia and hoped that it would be rebuilt quickly.
We will also be rebuilding the Holland and Scandinavia lands. In the process we will improve some of the buildings and facades to create more immersive environments, as well as update some of the infrastructure. I am confident that guests will love it even more than before. We expect that rebuild to happen soon.
How would you define the Chris Lange design style?
Since I am such a theme park fan, I tend to be drawn to what I would like. But I also am aware that not all of our guests view things the same way. There are operational things, like shadows or lighting structures, that bother me but which I’m sure a five-year-old doesn’t care about – they just see a magical place. So sometimes I check with my godson to see how he responds to things. But I also listen to the guests here. That´s the great thing working in an operating theme park – you get instant feedback!
I learned when I had my own company that the client’s wishes come first. Here, the guests are our clients, so I want to see what they like. We are not trying to build the tallest or longest attractions. We ask ourselves, “who do we want to entertain with this attraction?” and then design to answer that question. In the end, it’s about whether or not the guests like it and spend money to experience it. • • •