UCF MS -
METAH OF KATAHDIN: Battle for the heart of the mountain – Choose your side on a quest to determine the truth by finding the METAH OF KATAHDIN and restoring balance to the universe. Elara will guide you on your journey to discover who stole the legendary METAH OF KATAHDIN – was it the Thunderbird of the Upperworld or the SulfurSerpent of the Underworld? Will you take a chance and choose to follow your mind or your soul to find and restore the METAH OF KATAHDIN? Our fate lies in your hands!
For this project I created an original story and design for my immersive experience mid-sized project. I was responsible for designing a 15,000-20,000 SF mid-sized attraction that effectively conveys theme and story while also providing goods or services as part of the experience.
Attraction Story Concept Illustration
Thunderbird of the Upperworld
SulfurSerpent of the Underworld
Long ago when the earth was young, the universe was in harmony. It was a time of peace and balance between the Upper and Under worlds. Then one day, everything changed when the METAH OF KATAHDIN vanished. Since that day, years have passed, and this devastating loss has caused a great chasm of chaos that divides the universe. The creatures of the Upper and Under worlds have been bitterly feuding over who is at fault. This feud has taken over the mountain, the surrounding lands and threatens our world. The creatures have been so consumed by this fight that, to this day, have not found the stone. Elara needs your help to find all the pieces of the METAH OF KATAHDIN so that we can save the world!
One of the central characters is the SulfurSerpent of the Underworld. This character represents the battle we have with our mind. It is a swamp-like underwater serpent covered with iridescent, crystal scales and a single, large ruby crystal in its forehead. Its slick, molten, and pungent appearance alludes to evil but teaches not to “judge a book by its cover”. Its territory is under the mountain in a lava swamp sulfurous cave.
The other central character is the Thunderbird of the Upperworld. This character represents the battle that we have with our soul and its powerful winds sound like thunder while its furious lighting and cold atmosphere dance around you as the battle rages on. Its territory is covered in diamonds, clouds, and rich ice sculptures to reflect opulence and shows that even if it looks grand, true beauty lies within.
Allow me to introduce you to our final central character, our guide Elara. She will be the guide or conscience for the guests throughout the attraction, she will deliver the call to action, instruct the guests on how to use their Fragment Finders and set the guests on their chosen path.
Guest Guide Elara
Fragment Finder-AR Scanner
The central item that divides these creatures is the heart of the greatest mountain. This glowing rainbow moonstone teaches the guests to follow their heart. As you make your way through the mountain, you will have to choose which creatures’ domain to explore to find and collect as many pieces of the stone as possible as the mountain threatens to entrap you for all eternity. To do this, guests will use Fragment Finders to help Elara find as many pieces as they can so they can put it back together. These Fragment Finders are hand-held AR scanners. By using this technology, the focus of the guests will be captured as they look for the fragments in the device rather than just the scenes around them. The fragments won’t be found in the physical space, only on the device. This will prompt the guests to ride again to discover more of the physical areas around them.
This trackless dark ride attraction will prompt guests to take chance and choose to either follow their mind or their soul on an adventure that restores balance to the universe. The experience will begin as they enter the center of the largest of the two enchanting mountains. The mountain will have carvings on the exterior as messages from Elara. The queue will look like an abandoned mine shaft of sorts but have remnants of lightning scars and deep horizontal gouges in the walls representing the creature's fight. The lighting will also occasionally flash like lighting and be recessed within the ceiling.
Entry Concept Illustration
After they make their way through the queue, they will arrive at the loading area that looks like it was carved out of the inside of the mountain. Employees in character will engage the guests and ask if they have heard all the noise and if they have seen the lighting do funny things on their journey there. They will also discuss whether the guests have heard of the legend without revealing too much further. The guests will be filled with wonderment about the legend and excitement as the board their ride vehicle to explore the mysterious mountain.
Once in their ride vehicle guests will discover their guide Elara. She will exclaim how happy she is that we received her "mountain mail", and that we came to help! She will explain how the creatures have been causing so much chaos and urge the guest to choose their side in the conflict. They will need the fragment finders to find out who stole the Metah of Katahdin because that is the only way to find them.
Guests will have to choose their side on this quest to determine the truth.
Was it the Thunderbird of the upperworld or the SulfurSerpent of the underworld? The choice is yours….
Journal - Interactive Retail Offering - Guests can discover more of the story by rubbing "the mountain mail" etchings around the mountain and figuring out the riddles Elara left behind
If the guests choose to go and look in the Thunderbirds lair, they will ascend forth and rise to reach the heavenly area. They will be greeted by a heavenly gate of sorts before entering the throne room.
Guest will begin to search for the stone only to realize there are stones everywhere! Elara will call them and exclaim that they need to collect all those fragments! We need as many as we can in the hopes of restoring the heart of the mountain! Meanwhile the thunderous and lighting cracks along with louds hissing sounds haunt the guests urging them to keep moving.
As they enter the next area, they see the most glorious celestial caverns. There is almost a sense of calm but is short lived when they reach the chaos of the next room! Guests will continue to hunt for stone fragments as Elara reminds them to make haste before they are trapped in the mountain forever! When this happens, the celestial cave will begin to crumble, the ground will transform into a broken iceberg in the sky and guests must make their way out into a new area!
That sense of calm was short lived as we finally see the creatures responsible for all the chaos! Guests must quickly collect as many stone fragments as they can with their fragment finders as they shoot, spin, and fly about the room. This room is cold from all the fighting. Elara will then usher the guests to a quick escape to the center of the mountain to see if we can qualm these chaotic creatures and restore balance with all the stone fragments we have collected.
If the guests choose to go and look in the SulfurSerpents lair, they will descend to the depths and reach the hellishly slimy area. They will see a swampy mossy cave of sorts before entering the fiery swamp forest.
Exit Retail Offerings
Guest will begin to search for the stone only to realize there are stones everywhere! Elara will call them and exclaim that they need to collect all those fragments! We need as many as we can in the hopes of restoring the heart of the mountain! Meanwhile the thunderous lighting cracks along with louds hissing sounds haunt the guests urging them to keep moving. This area will be aromatic, musty, and sulfurous – Fireflies of sorts will dance around the scene to distract the guests as they search for the stones.
As they enter the next area, they see the most glorious hot lava cave. Steam fills the room in this area. Guests will continue to hunt for stone fragments as Elara reminds them to make haste before they are trapped in the mountain forever! When this happens, the lava cave will begin to crumble, and the lava will bubble and burst through the scene – chasms of lava will burst forth from the ground underneath the guests. Guests must make their way out into a new area.
As they make their way out of that molten area, guests finally see the creatures responsible for all the chaos! Guests must quickly collect as many stone fragments as they can with their fragment finders as they shoot, spin, and fly about the room. This room is hot from all the fighting. Elara will then usher the guests to a quick escape to the center of the mountain to see if we can qualm these chaotic creatures and restore balance with all the stone fragments we have collected.
In the central waterfall area within the mountain, Elara uses your gathered fragments to retore the METAH OF KATAHDIN. The guests will come together in the final room and rotate around the vast cenote scene. Elara will guide them to press the buttons on their fragment finders to send all the fragments to the center of the room. The guests fragment finders will light up and pulsate as their fragments appear in the center and the fighting will cease. The guests will realize that the fighting is what caused the stone to break apart.
Elara will thank the guests and send them out of the mountain. They will exit the attraction and be able to see their scores for how many fragments of the heart stone that they collected towards fixing the Metah of Katahdin. Guests will always be reminded when they see lighting or smell something pungent the experience they had here.
Guests will also be able to remember their journey and deepen their connection with the story through the merchandise they can purchase as they exit the mountain through the retail store. One special item is the journal, where they can scratch etchings from around the mountain to record and discover hidden clues and riddles left by Elara. They can also purchase merchandise that are wearables such as collectable pins or t-shirts that show their attraction pride.
Marketing the attraction is fundamental to show the guests the desirability of the story that is being told and attraction experience. This attraction will need to be highly marketed as it is an original intellectual property and does not have a pre-existing fan base.
Dark Ride Layout and Ride Vehicle
Now to the more technical details behind the attraction. The ride system is trackless, with a cart that must be able angle up or down depending on the path the guest chooses so that have the feeling of going up into the upperworld or down into the underworld. The movement in the cart would also allow for more movement variation to give emphasis to the story and special effects throughout the ride experience. This design allows for 8 passengers per vehicle and has an omni-directional base unit with programmable pitch, roll, and 360˚ continuous yaw. It has an onboard audio system, individual self-locking seat belt restraints, ADA access for lateral transfer, and can integrate the AR system.
The facility for this attraction will be a new build design. The whole facility, including the back of house facilities, will be hidden beneath a mountain rockwork exterior. Here is how the plan would function with the scene break down.
Guests would first enter the queue at the front of the attraction, they would they enter the loading area so that the attendant can load them onto the ride vehicles. From there, they reach Elara in the Pre-show who helps the guest understand their devices and prompts them to choose their path. If they choose the Thunderbird path they will head to the right and will ascend into that side of the attraction. If they choose the SulfurSerpent side, they will go left before descending into that side of the attraction. Both sides will converge into the center cenote of the mountain as they finish off their quest. They will then exit into the scores and future retail area.
This attraction is designed like the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Shanghai Disneyland with 4K Screens and short throw Projectors. This attraction, however, uses projection on the trackless floors, ceiling, and walls to really envelope the guests in the scenes. The use of the handheld AR Scanners for Fragment Finding is also special to this attraction and is like the technology discovered at IAAPA 2021. Steamroller utilized this technology as spectral detectors in their Haunting of Olivia attraction.
This attraction will provide a theoretical hourly ride capacity of up to 800 people per hour with a duration of 6m.00s (each side ~ 45s a scene). It has been estimated that 10 vehicles, each holding 8 guests, will be necessary to achieve this capacity. The minimum queue capacity is 960SF which allows for 1.5 hours wait time capacity. Currently, there has been 1500SF of queue provided which increased the wait time capacity to at least 2 hours. This attraction utilizes almost all the senses through sight. sound, touch, smell, and thermal properties designed within the 10 total interactive scenes.
The operational breakdown shows that this attraction would need to staff 33 employees, accounting for 2 shifts of people. With salaries and benefits combined it would cost approximately $36,000 per week to operate.
The overall square footage estimation needed for this attraction is approximately 28,600SF with 20,000SF of guest facing space. The total project budget estimation would be approximately $112 million dollars.
In conclusion, this high-volume dual-sided trackless dark ride will attract guests through unique theming, music, lighting, competition scoring, AR technology, and its variable track options.
This special story teaches the value of looking beneath the surface, that it is okay to be different. We should never let ourselves be defined by something and that experiencing devastating loss can push good people to become corrupt and evil. Having kindness is what brings the world to life and taking a moment to realize humanity beneath the surface. Neither of the creatures is evil but they are letting others define their character. Taking a moment to stop and reflect on the issue at hand and working together to solve the problem, is the key in matters of the heart. So will you take a chance and choose to follow your mind, your soul, or follow your heart to find and restore the METAH OF KATAHDIN? Our fate lies in your hands!