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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!
(Top to Bottom: Interior Theming photo, Interior Shot of Battle For Eire, Suzy Cheely explains how to use the VR Headsets, Jason Ambler discusses the production aspects of the ride, and Larry Giles answers our questions regarding the mechanical and engineering behind the ride).
* Easter Egg: is an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature of a work (often found in a computer program or video game). The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter Egg Hunt. The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that encouraged the player to find further hidden messages in later games, leading them on a ‘hunt’.
Side note: In Battle for Eire, I’m hoping for some “Questor or Corkscrew Hill” Easter Eggs during the ride. Fingers Crossed!
*The book/movie Ready Player One is fictional story about a character named Wade Watts, who embarks on his search for an Easter Egg in Virtual Reality game; the discovery of which will lead him to inherit a fortune.
This year, Howl-O-Scream Bites right into your fears with scares to make you shiver!
If you haven’t experienced Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens this year, now is your time. Every weekend until Sunday, October 29th, the park is ready to scare and entertain guests with new additions and returning fan favorites. This year’s schedule also includes an additional bonus! The park will be open on two Thursdays (the 19th and 26th) and on select Saturdays (the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the 28th), guests will have until midnight to experience all the event has to offer!
As for me…
I’ve been actively returning to the park since opening day of Howl-O-Scream; making sure to catch up on all the fun opportunities guests can experience. As always, the park goes above and beyond to bring the ultimate level of fun and creepiness for those willing to be scared.
So what’s new?
Let’s start with Frostbite. Located in the Oktoberfest section of the park, Frostbite is a walk-through haunted house that utilizes the interior of the Curse of Darkastle ride. It was a fantastic choice! Without revealing major spoilers, I’ll just say that the maze is a very chilling experience; literally. The AC is kicked on full blast and sets the tone from the first step inside. Just so you know, “Winter is Coming”. (Wink…wink to any Game of Thrones fan).
I sincerely enjoyed the haunted house, with its clever use of the projection screens, sound effects, atmospheric lighting, ghoulish costumes, and a generous use of jump scares. It was by far, my favorite haunted house this year.
*Also… a cool side note regarding some Busch Gardens History found inside Frostbite:
You have to look closely inside the maze, but with a trained eye you can spot the old Neptune statue that was once located in the center of a small fountain in the Rhine River, (way back in the Old Country era). This statue was also reused in the retired Haunted House, Bitten. Oh Neptune, how glad I am to see you well.
In addition to Neptune, the lighted Gargoyles holding cauldrons are also found in the maze. These were originally in the decor of the Enchanted Laboratory, a show that had tremendous success in the old area of Hastings, (currently Ireland). These gargoyles reappeared in the once popular Howl-O-Scream dinner show, Blood Banquet. I couldn’t get a clear picture due to low lighting. Hint: They are near the end of the maze and you have to look up to spot them.
Moving from Oktoberfest to New France, you’ll find the other fresh addition. Axe Alley is a new Terror-Tory that replaced last year’s theme of Windigo Woods. Axe wielding Vikings stalk guests with unexpected battle cries and staged attacks. The themed area fits well with the nearby coaster, Invadr. Be warned! The Windigo still remains chained up… for now!
Last but not least is the new Escape Room, the Case of the Haunted Hotel. In the midst of a cursed hotel, this new attraction features a series of puzzles to trick guests and delay the possibility of escape! Returning is the Case of Mr. Karver; a mad doll maker who wants nothing more than to trick you into staying indefinitely! To those who played the game of Mr. Karver last year, there is good news. All the puzzles and challenges have been changed to create a whole new mystery to solve!
If you wish to enjoy The Case of the Haunted Hotel or, The Case of Mr. Karver, there are some things you need to know:
Both escape rooms have a separate up charge and are not included with regular admission. Making a reservation online or immediately upon entering the park is strongly suggested. Only six guests are allowed in each reserved time slot. You must be 18 or older with a valid ID. In order to receive a discount on admission, you must have a valid season pass. If you are interested in booking a time slot at either Escape Room, more information is found on the Busch Gardens website here: https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/no-escape
So what’s back again this year?
As I mentioned briefly above, the indoor haunted house, Bitten, has been removed. However, many of the previous Haunted Houses/ Mazes and Terror-Tories have returned.
- Unearthed: Scarlet’s Revenge (Ireland)
- Catacombs (New France)
- Cornered (Oktoberfest)
- Lumberhack (Oktoberfest)
- Circo Sinistro (Festa Italia)
- Deadline (Italy)
- Ripper Row (England)
- Demon Street (France)
- Vampire Point (now located in Oktoberfest)
- Sideshow Square (Festa Italia)
What about the shows and adult beverages?
Let’s face it; Busch Gardens Williamsburg is constantly ranked high in theme park shows and entertainment category. Rightfully so I may add! Talented singers, actors, musicians, and dancers light up the stage in unforgettable performances all around the park. Just remember that all the major shows contain suggestive adult overtones.
This year there is a new spin on an old classic. Night Beats: Revamped features a new stage and story. Located inside the Festhaus, the show contains a new cast of characters with a quick paced story line that keeps the music going. I find the show quirky, amusing, and full of current pop songs cleverly mixed in with samples of original Night Beats music.
Side note: I was sad to see that the old characters of Ulrich and Beatrix have been retired. However, I do appreciate the little homage by placing their names on tombstones at the top of the stage. Speaking of, the stage is opened to reveal the location of once beloved German band platform. If you grew up in the old days of Busch Gardens, seeing the musicians play back in their old stomping grounds will certainly bring back some memories.
If you are a fan of last year’s shows, you needn’t worry. Monster Stomp (England), Fiends (Ireland), and the Starfright Orchestra (Italy), have all returned!
And last but not least….
Those who are 21 and over will have plenty of opportunities to find adult beverages at numerous places around the park. Most locations feature “Spirit Bars” where a host of costumed character actors serve up some spooktacular concoctions to guests. Since there are so many to choose from, here is a link to the park’s website listings: https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/dining-and-spirits
This list does not include the wine tastings located in France, Germany, New France, and Italy. The France and Italy wine tasting locations also have themed cocktails!
Well folks, that’s a wrap!
It is always a pleasure to share my memories with all of you. I really enjoyed Howl-O-Scream this year and I hope you do too. Thanks for reading my blog and may you all have a “Wickedly Wonderful” adventure at Howl-O-Scream 2017! Cheers!
Here is an additional cool place to explore: A friend of mine, who runs IoMGeek.com, does an amazing job with theme park reviews and YouTube videos. He released a park walk-through and I highly recommend watching! Feel free to like, comment, and subscribe to his channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slObupBBF58
To the Team Members and Park Employees:
My gratitude extends to all those who have successfully come together to create a highly anticipated attraction each year. The amount of work transforming the park in such a short period of time always astounds me.
Thank you all so much. You guys and gals are all top notch!
It’s hard to believe but April 7th, 2017 has already sprung upon us; ushering in the official opening of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest attraction, Invadr.
Starting over a year ago, the park’s executives and marketing team, through a clever use of social media, openly revealed aspects of the ride in stages; even allowing fans to take part by voting on the name and logo for Invadr. This was a brilliant move. It created a palpable anticipation that connected coaster enthusiasts together.
Invadr’s selected location is quite sentimental for an old park goer like myself. It is nestled between three of the original attractions that date back to the park’s opening day in 1975; Le Scoot log flume, the Busch Gardens Railway and Le Catapult. Invadr ties these iconic rides together through clever location and an organic flow.
This brings up another point.
It took major skill in the planning and design of Invadr. The wood-metal hybrid coaster winds around (and even over) both the LeScoot Log flume and the park’s iconic train ride. Though a relatively small footprint, Invadr feels like a continuous interweaving of lines and space; much like Norse art itself. Even the queue line mirrors the entwining aspect of the coaster and allows riders a great view of the structure below!
Theming of the ride is spot on with touches of Norse art. For example, the entrance is a showstopper! An enormous dragon-shaped battering ram is bursting through the wood fortifications; allowing guests to venture forth. Wooden shields riddled arrows mark the queue and height requirements. Fences lining the path are decorated with Norse symbols. I especially loved the queue line detail of weathering the wooden beams to mimic a ferocious battle with their slashed and scorched battle scars.
The coaster cars are actually the storytellers. Both trains are adorned with powerful beasts that represent the two battling armies. The Viking raider train features a stylized dragon; steadfast, like a mast of a ship. The Villager train is adorned with a carved wooden bear; teeth bared and ready for attack. Who will win? The answer awaits those who ride.
Overall Invadr is an instant classic. Between the 9 airtime hills and the 74ft first drop, the rides tightly packed twists, turns, and dips really gets the blood pumping. Its sharp banking makes the ride seem much faster than the max speed; much like the classic and beloved Big Bad Wolf coaster. The ride is smooth and packs a punch that will leave a lasting impression to both young and old.
Speaking of young and old, the neighboring coaster Griffon turns 10 this year and its nearby companion, the Alpengeist, turns 20! Both of those rides hold a special place in so many hearts. Invadr will now be a part of that legacy. It will bond parents and their children, thrill coaster enthusiasts, and delight all who ride. May it continue to battle on for generations to come!
Long live Invadr!
- Special thanks to all who brought Invadr to life. From concept on, you all have built something extraordinary and presented it to those who have visited the park from the very beginning, to first time guests, and to everyone in-between. Please accept my appreciation and gratitude.
- I would also like to send a personal thank you to a few people in particular: The brilliant creative team; Cindy White, Melody Methany, and Erin Payne (independent contractors), Janelle Picard (Seaworld Entertainment). Richard Smith, AIA, ASID at GuernseyTingle. General Contractor: Brandon Nice from David Nice Builders, Inc. The Civil Engineering team at VHB. Busch Gardens Williamsburg Communications Associate Manager; Nathan Warters. Park President; David Cromwell. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and so many enthusiastic guests on opening day!
Deciding to create the BGW Memories Facebook Community and Blog was not an easy decision. I knew exactly how much effort and time would have to go into making this concept come to life. Despite worrying about late night editing, networking, frequents updates, messages, responses, and the occasional mean-spirited comments sent my way, I felt compelled to make it all happen.
If you are reading this, then you have the answer: You
We all go through our lives hoping to make a connection with others. We seek out people who have similar likes and interests. We want to know that we are not alone.
Often we look to our past in order to help us find these connections. What city we grew up in, what schools we attended, what ancestry we shared; are all bonds formed among a group of individuals.
Since 1975, millions of people share the wonderful experience of visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I am proud to be one of them.
I have always lived near Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It was my constant, my babysitter, and my best friend. Many kids go to a summer camp. I went to Busch Gardens. In the 80’s my parents would drop my brother and I off at the park and we would roam freely around during the summer. It was heaven!
For that reason, I decided to reach out to others like me and form a kinship by creating BGW Memories. It is my hope that by preserving the past, we will strengthen the bonds between generations of park goers.
I am already thrilled that so many people have responded. What is even more amazing is that some kinships have already become friendships! There is one friend in particular I would like to mention. His name is Gary Terrell.
Since Gary first posted photos and stories here at BGW Memories, I was instantly drawn to how much we were alike. I thought to myself, “Here is a person that remembers those long forgotten details of the past and loves them as much as I do!” In fact, many of the photos shared here came from his collection.
One item he sent to me recently was a video of his family visiting Busch Gardens in the 90s. When I watched the film, the happiness I heard in his voice and the smiles I saw on his wife and son’s faces brought such joy to my heart. It also brought me back to my own childhood.
It was me waving to my mom and dad in the Little Balloon ride. It me sitting on the battlements shooting gallery in Hastings. And when Gary asks his son where he is on the video, I can visualize me looking up at my dad at that age saying “Busch Gardens!”
By sharing such a wonderful moment from his life, Gary helped me to remember my past as well; a truly priceless gift.
So to all the people who wish to find a connection to their past at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, you are not alone. In fact, you may be holding that missing piece of history that someone out there has been searching for.