On March 9th we were invited along to Chessington for the launch of their newest attraction, Room on the Broom - A Magical Journey.
Room on the Broom replaces Hocus Pocus Hall, which opened in 2003 and has been a family favourite attraction ever since, but in its later years it did become a bit tired and drew less visitors, so something new was definitely in order.
Room on the Broom is of course another story by Julia Donaldson (the author of The Gruffalo), which has become a huge hit with children & families, and like The Gruffalo was made into an animated special.
Our day at Chessington started early at 8am where we were checked-in at the Express Car Park. Once all parties had arrived we were led over to the front of the attraction, passing by a Room on the Broom cauldron photo op next to the SEALife centre.
The attraction itself doesn’t look too different from the outside. Apart from a brand new sign above the door (with a broom sticking out of the window above) a much larger queue at the side of the mansion, and a new green screen photo building at the end of the queue, the overall look of the building remains the same.
We were lucky enough to be the first people to go into the attraction, and it has seen a great transformation from its Hocus Pocus days. The pre-show centres around a big book, which using some great projection mapping techniques, which introduces the Witch and the Cat and starts the story. The projection used here is amazingly clear and uses the same animation style as the animated film. The pre-show works incredibly well, there is a large smoking cauldron sitting in front of the book, and as the witch throws items in to cast her spell water splashed out onto the floor, It’s a simple effect that works very well and is followed by plumes of smoke and more projection mapping around the room as a bookcase opens and your journey begins.
Not wanting to give too much away, but the rest of the attraction follows the story fairly closely, with the Witch losing different items along the journey, and each new room introduces a new character and a different activity for everyone to join in with to find the item.
The finale of the attraction with the Witch eating dragon includes the mirror maze from Hocus Pocus Hall, ends with a new multi-layer projection mapped show as the Witch and her new friends cast a spell (using a similar cauldron as the pre-show) to make the new broom with seats for all of them, which raises up behind them.
The whole attraction, from start to finish is a fun experience for all, the kids loved joining in and being part of the story they know and love. The environments created are nicely detailed using both physical 3D landscapes and animatronics, and virtual effects like screens and projection mapping that results in a great cohesive storytelling experience.
After our first walkthrough we went through again, but this time we had the creative lead for the project from Merlin Magic Making talking us through the different aspects of the attraction. It was clear that a lot of passion has gone into not just translating the book and film into a physical attraction, but into making it an immersive environment with different layers of theming to elevate effects and elements.
Moving on from Room on the Broom - A Magical Journey, there is also a new show this year to accompany the attraction. Room on the Broom - Spooky Story Time is an interactive retelling of the story, is found in the outdoor theatre next to the Lodge Gate. The show allows three children from the crowd to take the roll of the cat, bird & frog, with accompanying headwear to get them into character. They are joined by the narrator (who also plays the dragon), the Witch and the Dog, who are all played by the enthusiastic entertainments team. It’s a fun little show, which lasts around 10 minutes, so it’s a nice addition that doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day, and again the kids loved it.
The rest of the event, which was held on the same day as the Annual Passholder Preview, saw both Room on the Broom - A Magical Journey & Spooky Story Time reserved for the event attendees until midday, with lots of press, VIPs & celebrities visiting to try out the new offerings, it certainly seems like everyone was having a fun time.
Room on the Broom - A Magical Journey, is a great new addition, it may not be a big new ride, but it is a really fun experience. Currently the attraction is being led by a member of staff triggering each scene, but this is planned to be automated within the coming weeks, once real guest timings through the attraction has been measured, so the whole experience will continue evolve and become more magical as the characters come to life as you walk into the scenes.
Thanks to Chessington for inviting us along, a great day was had by all, and we’re sure the new additions will be a great hit.