Battle for Eire: Looking Ahead
News about Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest attraction, Battle for Eire, has been buzzing around social media for months. Scheduled to open April of 2018, the ride will feature a state-of-the-art VR experience that utilizes custom visual software and a musical score that will wow the crowds.
I had the honor of attending the media day/ Hard Hat Tour and was given access to interesting and new details about the ride. Suzy Cheely, the Director of Design and Engineering at Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Jason Ambler, Executive Producer & Director of Production at Falcon’s Creative Group, and Larry Giles, the VP of Engineering at Busch Gardens Williamsburg were all on hand to discuss and answer questions.
What to expect:
Battle for Eire will be located in the Ireland section of the park and will be replacing the Europe in the Air simulator ride. It is a one-of-a-kind Virtual Reality attraction that will allow guests a unique visual experience each and every time.
What does that mean exactly?
Each headset, unlike other simulator rides found outside Busch Parks, has been programed with a separate mini computer which enables 4K resolution and 90 frames per second. In addition, this new technology provides each rider a unique visual adventure. Based on the individual’s head movements, the software will trigger specific animations for each rider. Someone could ride numerous times and still not see all the programmed animation.
Personally, that fact alone has me really excited. For a theme park enthusiast like myself, nothing like a good Easter Egg* hunt! (I was told there were a few, so let the hunt begin!)
The actual story behind Battle for Eire is original but will have strong ties to Celtic Mythology. It centers around a main character named Addie, short for Aednat (meaning Small Flame in Gaelic). She is a fierce female Fairy warrior trying to save the heart (or magic) of Ireland. In order to do so, she must recruit the help of guests entering the ride. It will be up to the riders to assist her in bringing magic back to Ireland.
Addie is accompanied by her Dragon Ollie, who will be carrying guests on their simulated adventure. Ollie, short for Ollipeist (meaning “Fabulous Beast” in Gaelic), is based on the mythological dragon that legend has it, inhabits a lake in Ireland. Addie uses her friend Ollie to travel through Eire in hopes to beat Balor and his minions, the Sluagh.
Balor, the antagonist of this adventure is based on a Celtic supernatural being that has been referenced in legend as a personification of drought and blight. He is also a Cyclops that creates destruction whenever his eye opens.
The minions of Balor, the Sluagh, also have a connection to Celtic mythology. In myth, they are flocks of restless spirits that are troublesome and destructive.
Being that both Balor and the Sluagh are featured in this ride, it’s a safe bet that these creatures will certainly be a fearsome adversary on the quest to save the magic of Eire.
Larry Giles, VP of Engineering, hinted that each rider may choose to aid in saving the magic of Eire or not. I am intrigued by that ambiguous statement and wonder how that plays into the VR experience. I guess that will be a wait and see kind of answer.
So….what about the technical aspects of the ride itself?
Here are some facts and figures that may help answer your questions:
- Height requirement of 42”
- 7.1 mix audio and Stereo 4K sound
- VR headsets will all have their own computer to generate a personal experience with 4K resolution with 90 frames per second. (Seamless graphics at all times)
- 59 seats in each unit. There are two separate units for passengers.
- Total ride experience from pre show, loading, and ride itself is approx 15 min.
- Ride video will be projected on-screen for those not wanting to use the VR Headsets (in case riders are prone to motion sickness)
- VR Glasses (or Enchanted Lens as they are called in the ride) are separate from the Headsets (or Emerald Masks).
- There are 10,000 Emerald masks that feature a magnetic locking device for your VR
- Each Emerald Mask is returned at the end and sanitized completely. The actual VR headset never touches your face and can also accommodate guests wearing glasses.
- Uses existing unit has 6 actuators (Internal Hydraulic System) with 2000 psi. Similar systems are used at NASA for flight simulation.
- Voice talent hired from Dublin
- Original musical score from Irish Composer Colin O’Malley and features a full orchestra, choir, and soloists.
During the tour, I was able to go under the ride to view the mechanics and discover how it operates. The existing simulator will have a much larger range of motion from other rides that came before it. Previously, the mechanics were always hindered by keeping a tight alignment to a fixed screen. According to Larry Giles, it really “Moves and Dances” like never before.
Regarding the Musical Composition featured in the Battle for Eire:
During the behind-the-scenes tour, we did not have access to listen to the soundtrack. Luckily, I was able to reach the composer Colin O’Malley directly and he provided me with background information about the music and those who also contributed the original score.
First of all, let’s begin with Colin O’Malley. He is a highly acclaimed songwriter, orchestrator, and composer who has previously worked for companies such as Disney, Universal Studios, and Electronic Arts. In 2005, he received an Emmy nomination for his score in the PBS WW II documentary The Last Reunion: A Gathering of Heroes. If you would like to know more about Colin and his extensive background in music, I would recommend visiting his website at http://colinomalley.com
In addition, the soundtrack for Battle of Eire will feature the Capellan Orchestra; located in Prague and run by the conductor Petr Polonlanik. The soprano soloist is Jennifer Thigpen, who has a long career singing in The Voices of Liberty at Walt Disney World. She is also known for her #1 song on the classical music charts called “A Place in Heaven”. The Irish Wind accompaniment will be performed by recording artist and remote session musician, William Arnold.
No doubt the music will be enchanting and true to the spirit of authentic Celtic melodies.
Here are some music samples that may give you a sense of how epic the music will surely be:
Colin O’Malley: http://bit.ly/2FvjgPE
Capellan Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGh4FcZKekA
Jennifer Thigpen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tCg9P1QsMY
William Arnold: https://www.youtube.com/user/themusicinstigator
Well folks, now it is a waiting game from this point.
The park posted a generalized opening date of “April 2018” via social media but keep in mind that opening dates are always subject to change. Let’s hope that there will be no major delays.
So how do I personally view Battle for Eire so far? Honestly, I cant wait! The ride animation has this Don Bluth Animation style mixed together with a Labyrinth/ Dark Crystal vibe. The technical aspects seem to harness a superior version of an Oculus Rift with a simulator that utilizes the mechanics of a NASA flight simulator. It’s as if the technology of the best-selling novel Ready Player One* is here and we get enjoy the ride.
May the Battle for Eire begin!