In the summer of 2014, Canada’s Wonderland opened one of the most anticipated attractions of the year, Wonder Mountain’s Guardian. The first-of-its-kind attraction is a hybrid of interactive shooting target dark ride and roller coaster.
Built inside Wonder Mountain, which was created as the park’s “weenie” when it opened in 1981, this new roller coaster had to fit within the confines of empty space inside the structure that was previously unused. Guardian was a project that was created by Cedar Fair Parks in concert with Triotech, who provided the media and interactive gaming portions of the ride.
I recently got a chance to speak with Christian Martin, Triotech’s Vice President of Marketing and Marie-Christine Babin, who was the Product Manager on Wonder Mountain’s Guardian and spoke with them on what it was like to create the groundbreaking new ride.
As it turns out, 2014 marks Triotech’s 15th year in business and was started by their CEO, Ernest Yale, initially as a video game company. You’ve most likely seen their games like Typhoon, where two passengers ride through a variety of simulator experiences like abandoned mine shafts and roller coasters.
They also produce attractions like the XD Theater, which allows up to 100 riders at a time to be able to go on an adventure on motion-based seats all while shooting targets along the way. The media can be changed out or customized based on the attractions needs. This, combined with a proprietary technology that gives instant feedback to the shooter (other similar technologies have a delayed response) and a colored dot system that lets the guest know exactly what they are shooting at and if they have hit their target, allowed them to move into the interactive dark ride business.
Their first Interactive Dark Ride was a retrofit of a haunted house in Tivoli Gardens called the Aarhus. The 2.5-minute attraction gave Triotech a working proof of concept that they could use the same technology used in their XD Theater and put it in a building with a moving track. Their proprietary system combined with shooting zombies was a huge hit for the 2013 season and this leads us to Wonder Mountain’s Guardian.
For years, Canada’s Wonderland has had a mythology of a dragon living in or around Wonder Mountain. There have been laser shows with dragons being projected on the mountain and even one of the park’s original roller coasters is named Dragon Fire. On the opposite side of the mountain from Guardian is Thunder Run, a powered coaster that tunnels within the mountain and whizzes by a dragon’s head.
Canada’s Wonderland wanted to keep the mythology going for their new interactive roller coaster, so Triotech developed a story line around a dragon and his keeper. As the story goes, King Adelsten went into the mountain to fight this enormous dragon. During the battle, the King lost his crown and sent his servant Stansein to retrieve it. Stansein enlisted the guest’s help in going back in to retrieve his boss’s crown via television monitors. While waiting in line, guests get a preview of what kind of creatures lurk in Wonder Mountain, which are all original characters created by Triotech.
The team began official production for Guardian in June 2013. Little did they know, the install would be a sort of “polar hell,” as Toronto experienced the coldest winter in over 40 years later that same year. Tents with space heaters were pitched all over the building (which had no central heating/air units prior to the install) just to make sure the workers and even the equipment didn’t freeze. According to Christian Martin, “We felt like it was an expedition into the Arctic. It was so cold our network cables were getting close to being completely frozen, and if that happens, they could literally snap in half!”
Through a lot of dedication, the team made their deadline and Guardian opened in May 2014. In total, they installed 64 720p projectors into the ride and screens that wrap around either site of the train once it enters the mountain. One of which is the longest interactive screen in the world at 500-feet-long and approximately 13-feet-tall. This actually makes Wonder Mountain’s Guardian stand out in that riders don’t stop game play while waiting to travel from screen to screen. The transition from scene to scene is literally seamless.
Another huge benefit to an attraction like this is that it can be changed simply by uploading new software to the server and the projectors. Triotech has already added more characters/targets to the attraction since its opening and has even created an entirely new experience to open during the ride’s inaugural Halloween season.
Debuting in October 2014 during Canada’s Wonderland Haunt event is Zombies 4D. Using the exact same track as Guardian, all of the projections used on the ride will be entirely themed around flesh eating zombies. “I have gotten a chance to test out almost all of the new media that has been created for Halloween,” said Babin. “It sounds unbelievable, but it feels like an entirely different ride. We will be changing where some of the special effects are at and even adding new ones just for this special version.”
That’s definitely the beauty of this ride system. If the park wanted to, they could create an entirely new ride experience for the same coaster year after year. They could even design a separate daytime or nighttime attraction. The possibilities are endless. So what do you think? Are these media based attractions the wave of the future because parks can get more bang for their buck by swapping out the projections and offering a “new” attraction? Or will this just be a passing fad we see in the industry? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.