The worlds of both theme parks and museums rarely cross, but so often they compete for the same time and money of guests. Traditionally, theme parks offer thrilling and adrenalin-fuelled entertainment, while museums are entrenched in rich, historical stories told through art and artefacts.
As a result, it was through curious eyes that we were delighted to be appointed to work on a project that would merge these two worlds in a new experience at Ireland’s top theme park, Tayto Park.
Working alongside heritage partners
Located just outside Dublin, Tayto Park had already taken inspiration for the country’s clashes with Vikings nearly 1000 years ago, with a log flume ride dedicated to the Battle of Clontarf. Now, with the support of national tourism development agency, Fáilte Ireland, Tayto Park wanted to create an immersive queue-line experience for the ride that not only gave visitors a dip into Viking life but fully submerged them into the tantalizing tale.
As interpretation strategies go, I’ve never come across one as good as that put together by Fáilte Ireland. Even the first sentences of their strategy document were inspiring:
“Storytelling interpretation builds meaningful relationships between places and communities and the people who visit them. It does this by focusing on the visitors and being rooted in authentic first-hand experience of a place. Storytelling interpretation is engaging, entertaining and accessible. It creates powerful encounters and leaves memories that last a lifetime.” Fáilte Ireland
A Viking academy, perhaps?
Clued up on Ireland’s Viking story and with the creative guidance from Fáilte Ireland to embrace storytelling, we began to think about matching the log flume ride narrative, to the winding queue-line experience where guests can spend up to 90 minutes.
The log flume, Viking Voyage at the Park, takes guests on a trip to Ireland, pretending they are Vikings, as they ‘steal’ from monasteries and try to overthrow the all-powerful King Brian Boru – while getting a little bit wet at the same time.
Of course, guests aren’t actually taking part in the story, they’re sat in a boat. But we wanted to bring to life the story of the Vikings like nowhere else in Ireland and let guests be active in the experience. The idea to take guests on a Viking ‘training academy’ through the queue line was born…
A booming voice now fills the queue line entrance, “Step forward if you’re willing to fight the Irish!” Intrepid warriors over 1.2 metres are now beckoned into the queue line by the distant voice of Odin, the all-powerful Viking God.
Odin is our staple character in the narrative as he embarks on a mission to recruit new Vikings to fight King Brian Boru and take over the island of Ireland. Guests are first introduced to him in the form of an apparition (using a mist projection) and are then beckoned towards the final boat journey when his voice booms even louder in the queue line.
Along the way guests learn:
About Odin and the mission of the Vikings in Ireland (mist projection)
Introduction to Hugin and Munin, Odin’s trusted ravens (animatronic characters)
What guests would look like in Viking wear (augmented reality experience)
Skills required to be a Viking fit for battle (punch bag and Batak games)
How to speak old Norse language (insults boards and riddles)
Life as a Viking (various experiences including set design and scent machines)
What the Battle of Clontarf ‘mission’ entailed (audio experience)
Viking battle cries and poetry (interactive horns, drums and printed poems)
Increase and amplify
Reading the list above and you could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve created a museum exhibition. The reality is that we’ve managed to marry an educational and intriguing narrative-led experience into a theme park.
Will Irish school pupils learn more in the log flume queue line than they would in a classroom? Who knows. They’ll certainly come away with a smile, a wet pair of trousers and an idea of how Vikings influenced the country they were born in.
Aside from teaching, we’ve been able to amplify Tayto Park’s social media reach and increase guest satisfaction too.