On November 7, 1999 a small theme park opened in Sydney, Australia based on the success of movie studio parks in the United States, like Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida and the Disney/MGM Studios. The initial investment of $261 million only lasted two years as the park closed at the end of 2001, citing a sharp loss in international tourism after 9/11.
Fox Studios one and only venture into the theme park biz was fairly small and only had a few attractions to speak of. This included an interactive show based on The Simpsons, the set from the movie “Babe” and one of the best walk through attractions of all time, “Titanic: The Experience.”
The number two movie international box office of all-time is James Cameron’s “Titanic,” which hauled in an impressive $2.185 billion. It’s no wonder why Fox Studios wanted this to be their big E-Ticket attraction in the park based on the film’s popularity.
Technifex, based out of Valencia, California, was tapped as show producer for this massive project, which created two completely unique attractions in one. They used designs from the Entertainment Design Corporation, who helped create other amazing projects such as the “Crane Dance Show” in Sentosa World, Singapore.
Fox Studios already had hundreds of props from the movie that were transported to Sydney and were used for “Titanic: The Experience,” many of which were shipped from their studio in Baja, Mexico. The 65-foot model, pictured above, was used in the filming of the “Titanic.” It was restored for this attraction and displayed in the queue as guests waited to board the ship.
Guests were split into two groups as they wandered through the queue. Those who went to the left experienced what it was like to be a first-class passenger and those to the right experienced what life was like in steerage aboard the Titanic.
Regardless of which section of the ship you toured, everyone started off in the same spot – a third-class lounge aboard the ship.
All guests stood in front of a life vest while a purser welcomed them on board. Portholes with projection screens looked out onto the calm waters outside the ship. And then? Chaos ensues as the ship crashes into an iceberg seen through the portholes.
The entire third-class lounge was on the largest simulator motion base that had ever been built at the time, holding 150 people per show.
As the iceberg struck the ship, the entire room would tilt and shake and water started rushing through the walls which buckled right before your eyes.
Before we go any further, it’s important to know that this attraction was meant to be experienced through the eyes of an extra on the “Titanic” movie set. A few small groups blasted Fox Studios for turning one of the best known tragedies known to man into an attraction. Fox stood by their decision, stating, “This is what it was like to be in the movie of the Titanic – not the actual ship.” A fine line perhaps, but a distinction they made clear from the beginning.
Everything within “Titanic: The Experience” was made to look as authentic to the movie as possible. All the wood railings were mahogany, all the rooms were to scale and even the labels on the bottles of champagne were authentic to what was served on the White Star Line.
Technifex took several trips down to the Fox Studios in Baja to take measurements and pictures to ensure that every single room was designed with the same attention to detail used in the film. Even sets like the gym were recreated perfectly, using all the props that came directly from the movie.
After passing through the gym and the promenade deck, guests going through the first-class experience found themselves walking through a hole in the side of the ship and jumping into one of two lifeboats modeled exactly like the real ones on Titanic. Once everyone is seated, the boats push away from the ship and the guests watch the silhouette of the Titanic sink into the North Atlantic. Even the room was chilled an extra 40 degrees cooler than the rest of the building.
The boat then pivoted into the water to face the wall and a projection was used to show what the boat looked like as it sank underwater with all of it’s passengers, cargo and memories, eventually hitting the ocean floor. If you went through the first-class experience of this attraction? You lived to tell the tale.
Steerage was a tour through the lower levels of the ship with very utilitarian hallways that are listing pretty heavily. As you travel through the cargo room, pipes are breaking above your head and boxes are sliding across the floor.
The famous Renault car where Jack and Rose “discover the magic” is also in this scene that rolls in front of you, complete with a handprint in the rear window. Even a giant piano that is being shipped slides across the floor in front of you, barely missing the group and hits the wall – just before you exit.
The finale scene for the Steerage experience takes place in the boiler room. Guests are taken across a gangway where the boilers are slowly submerging into the water and the entire place is covered in fire and explosions.
They used real fire that was eight feet away from the guest along with several other water effects.
Unlike the end of the first-class experience where you are in real water in an extremely cold room, steerage’s finale scene is covered in fire and is extremely hot.
After all is said and done in the steerage experience, the fire and explosions and being trapped on the ship represented your death aboard the Titanic.
As both the first-class and steerage groups were exiting, they are held at the foot of Titanic’s grand staircase.
Upon first approaching this iconic piece, it looks like it is underwater and covered in Algae, an effect achieved through black light.
However, as music plays from the movie, the scene transitions from the staircase laying underwater to perfectly polished rails and freshly coated paint.
Technifex created a spotlight called the ripple image generator which gave the black light a ripple effect that slowly faded into white light, making it a subtle transition between scenes.
Overall, “Titanic: The Experience” cost around $35 million to create and unfortunately lasted around two years before it met its untimely demise. It was in development for just under three years and even won a Thea Award for outstanding achievement in 2000.