With “Frostbite,” SimEx-Iwerks brings popular Dino Island series to the flying theater
by Joe Kleiman
The flying theater has become a hugely popular attraction genre in its own right since its introduction 20 years ago, taking passengers on virtual aerial adventures in leisure venues throughout the world. Flying theaters are custom motion simulator experiences that give the sensation of flight via a combination of specialty cinema and special effects – and allowing guests’ feet to dangle. SimEx-Iwerks, a pioneer in the field, is producing a new film, Frostbite – Dino Island III for its FlyRide® flying theaters that introduces a new ride dynamic and continues one of the company’s signature ridefilm storylines.
“In Frostbite – Dino Island III, guests explore a volcanic island where dinosaurs are frozen in ice caves,” says Mike Frueh, Senior Vice President, Licensing & Distribution at SimEx-Iwerks. “Their flying theater capsules are attached to a crane arm on an off-road electric vehicle. As they pass by the ice, they can see each dinosaur in detail, but then the volcano erupts, the ice melts, and as often happens on these kinds of ridefilms, havoc ensues.”
Frostbite – Dino Island III is the spiritual successor to the original Dino Island and Dino Island 2, the popularity and success of which, when they opened in the late 1990s, spurred a dramatic increase in the number of 3D and motion simulator theaters. “We’ve talked about making another Dino Island for over a decade,” says Frueh. “They’re among the most successful films we’ve produced. Dino Island 2 pushed theaters into 3D. Likewise, we feel FlyRide® gives us new opportunities. This is not just flying over geographic landmarks. Rather, it’s an authentic, story-based experience.”
The company is building a new content library for flying theaters. “Frostbite – Dino Island III takes FlyRide® to the next level,” says Frueh. “It’s the start of creating a pipeline of unique shows for the system. Our goal is to build a large catalog of FlyRide® films, just as we did with our 4D Attractions and Motion Ride Theaters. Having great films available makes the decision to build a FlyRide more attractive to operators. Eventually, with unique content like Frostbite – Dino Island III, FlyRide® will become a global network of flying theaters.”
Richard Needham of SimEx-Iwerks is the creative producer on the project. Over the past few months in Toronto, he and his team created a virtual previz mockup of the experience using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, mapping out the path of the ride and the direction the audience would face in each portion of the adventure. “We want this attraction to really showcase all the best attributes of flying theaters and 4D experiences,” says Needham, “from the ride dynamics to the environmental effects.”
The animation itself is being produced by animation firm Red Raion in high resolution at 60 frames per second. “We are extremely proud that SimEx-Iwerks has chosen Red Raion to produce the newest chapter of their successful Dino Island series,” says Valeria Rizzo, Business Development Director at Red Raion. “It’s not the first time we have worked together: our collaboration started several years ago when they chose our 5D movies for licensing, and we’ve also recently announced our partnership to provide them with Red Raion’s growing catalog of licensed titles in fly format for their FlyRide® theaters.”
Once animation is complete, post-production and scoring will take place back in Toronto. The entire production cycle is expected to take another 12 months.
There are currently three operating FlyRide® theaters – at Agila Enchanted Kingdom in Laguna, Philippines; Beyond the Lens in Branson, Missouri; and Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. A third US location, Beyond the Lens in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is scheduled to open in 2022, and two new locations will open in China over the next two years. Branson and The Dells, both of which opened in 2020, supplemented their custom flying films over the holidays with SimEx-Iwerks’ attraction version of the Warner Bros. hit movie The Polar Express.
Frostbite – Dino Island III will offer a number of preshow options, from one that sets up the backstory to an educational one showcasing the various dinosaurs, appropriate for school groups. “The show will work as a standalone experience as well as a fantastic complement to dinosaur-themed special exhibits,” says Frueh. In order to make the film more accessible, SimEx- Iwerks will be offering it for a number of platforms in addition to FlyRide® – including 4D and motion ride theaters, along with flying theater systems from other companies. • • •