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An Interview With Rich Hill Artistic Director For Sally Corporation On Creating Justice League: Battle For Metropolis

Sally Corporation is creating one of the most anticipated attractions of 2015, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis 4D. Appearing in Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Over Texas, this will by far be the most immersive dark ride ever seen inside of a Six Flags park. Last week, Sally Corporation’s CEO John Wood unveiled their Joker figure which sits atop of a cannon filled with “laughing gas.”  After seeing it up close, it’s extremely impressive and wonderfully detailed.

 

I got a chance to chat with the Lead Designer of Battle for Metropolis, Rich Hill, about what it’s been like to work on the project. Enjoy!

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

Josh Young: So how long have you been working on this project and what has it been like so far?

 

Rich Hill: Since we made the initial pitch to Six Flags, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, we have been working on this for about two years. Six Flags approached Sally Corporation to create their new dark ride after annual pass holder surveys showed dark rides ranking very high as future attractions they would like to see in the parks. So their team looked at existing dark rides to see what would be a good fit for their guests.

 

Ultimately, Six Flags liked what we (Sally Corporation) did at Warner Brothers Movie World in Australia with Justice League: Alien Invasion 3D and other dark rides we’ve created for them throughout the years at their various parks. It also helped that Six Flags holds licensing rights to the DC Comic characters in the United States. They wanted a custom, interactive thrill ride with a new storyline and cast of characters though…something even more spectacular than what we created in Australia.

Copyright Sally Corporation

Copyright Sally Corporation

JY: So will any of the same elements you used in Alien Invasion be carried over into Battle for Metropolis?

 

RH: Besides using the same Justice League team members, it is a completely different attraction. Battle for Metropolis follows a new storyline with sets, scenery and media on a larger scale than the ride we produced for Warner Bros. Movie World. We wanted to make this ride a little more thrilling to match Six Flags fan expectations. That’s why we asked Oceaneering to be involved. They created a completely custom, motion-based, 6 passenger ride vehicle for us that is fast and responsive and will help us tell the tale we want to tell absolutely perfectly.

 

Oceaneering provided the vehicles for Spider-Man and Transformers at Universal and those are great rides, but I really think our ride brings something unique to the industry due to the interactive elements mixed with motion and media…not to mention Battle for Metropolis is being built for a fraction of the cost of those other rides, too!

Oceaneering

Photo by Josh Young

JY: What makes yours better than those attractions?

 

RH: Those rides are fantastic, but generally you can’t see anything around you at street level due to the high sides of the ride vehicle. That’s intentional and works fine for those rides. In this attraction, we took a different approach. I designed the ride vehicle with open doors so you can enjoy the highly dimensional environments and feel like you are a part of them.  This should provide guests with more of a tangible experience battling alongside our superheroes.

 

Also, I don’t know if it makes it “better” than other attractions, but this ride is a fully realized interactive game as well as a dramatic adventure. This makes it fun to ride over and over again, competing with your teammates for the highest score!

 

Besides designing and managing the project, Sally Corporation is fabricating all of the show action equipment (animatronics and special effect scenery) in house.  Because of the massive scale of these two attractions, we had to go outside of our studio to get everything completed on time.

 

We hired Lexington Scenic to build all of the static set elements.  Over the years, they’ve fabricated some of the most amazing environments in the world for companies like Disney and Universal. Pure Imagination is helping us to create incredibly dynamic interactive media that makes good use of the Alterface scoring system. Techni-Lux is providing our amazing lighting and BOSE has designed a sound system that will really rock!  Not to mention, RealD has developed a custom 3D system for us just for this attraction… This ride really is being built by the best of the best in the industry.  Our own team of superhero artists!

Copyright Sally Corporation

Copyright Sally Corporation

JY: How many animatronic figures are you creating for Battle for Metropolis?

 

RH: Just the Joker and Cyborg.  Other characters will be seen in other mediums like holograms or on 3D screens. We really wanted to use a mix of unique technologies, many industry firsts that I can’t talk about just yet, but we will have all kinds of traditional special effects in the ride as well, including live fire and set pieces that fall and crash around you.

Copyright Sally Corporation

Copyright Sally Corporation

JY: Will the rides in St. Louis and Texas be identical?

 

RH: In terms of the story and what guests will see scene by scene, yes they are the same. However, we are dealing with two different buildings that are being retrofitted. One is roughly 17,000 square feet and the other is around 20,000 square feet. The ceiling height is a little different in each, so there has been some design work that needed to go into making those spaces work for the ride, but they will be very close to each other in terms of guest experience.

Copyright Sally Corporation

Copyright Sally Corporation

JY: What has the process been like working with DC Comics?

 

RH: Honestly, a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to design a ride using the most famous superhero team on the planet? We are in constant communication with DC to make sure we get every aspect of it right. We show them the progress of the ride and they give us notes and we go back and tweak a little if needed and keep charging forward.

Copyright Sally Corporation

Copyright Sally Corporation

JY: Have they given any notes that they wanted drastic changes? And will the ride tie into the upcoming “Superman vs. Batman” movie at all?

 

RH: The only major notes they gave was on the concept early on. We had the original story taking place in Gotham and while they liked the idea, they felt that Gotham and Batman were already pretty well represented and would rather the setting take place in Metropolis instead. I reworked the ride concept and script to accommodate that change. Other than that, the notes have been very minor and well thought out.  Warner Bros. and DC are a real joy to work with…they are all super talented and know how to best represent their characters and locations.

 

As far as having anything to do with the upcoming movie, I don’t think so. It seems like they keep everything in separate compartments at DC Comics and they want this experience to exist in its own universe. Every once in a while when they make comments I kind of scratch my head and wonder if it’s related to the movie, but it would be a total guess on my part.  I can’t wait for their slate of DC’s new movies to come out though…trust me, I’ll be the first in line!

Copyright Six Flags

Copyright Six Flags

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Rich Hill of Sally Corporation for taking the time to chat with Theme Park University. It’s important to note that if this takes off, this might spur a new wave of themed indoor dark rides for regional parks that usually only get flat rides and roller coasters. It’s an exciting time to be a theme park fan! Make sure to follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook Page!

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