Movieland Park

21st July 2005

Canevaworld is a resort located just a few miles away from the well known Gardaland park in Italy. It comprises two parks; Movie Studios and Aqua Paradise, as well as two restaurants, Medieval Times and the Rock Star Cafe. The resort may not be particularly well known, but the owners are clearly taking steps to remedy this deplorable situation. I saw a light aircraft towing an advertising banner flying over the Gardaland as we passed it on the way home in the evening, showing that all is fair in competitive business!

We began our day with Movie Studios Park. Even though I'd never been here before it was impossible not to feel a sense of Déjà Vu as we walked through the gate. The entrance area was identical to both Warner Brothers Movie World and what has since become Movie Park Germany. However, the similarities ended there.

Movieland Park

In the first few moments in the park, we had already run into an odd assortment of movie characters. All of these were quite happy to pose for photographs with excited children (and adults!). Andrew naturally wanted his picture with just about all of them, ranging from a uncharacteristically friendly Storm Trooper (Star Wars) to Dr Emmet Brown in his DeLorean (Back to the Future). It is times like this that I am glad of the 2GB flash card in my digital camera; I had already managed to take fifty pictures and I hadn't seen any of the attractions yet!

The first attraction we made it to was the Terminator 2 show. In the queue line we were all photographed against a police line-up backdrop, with two pictures taken (front and side). It turned out on exiting that these were not used in the attraction; rather, they were offered for sale. Nevertheless, the setup still provided much hilarity for those watching the proceedings. After mugshots were taken, the group was divided into two; the men on one side, and the women and children on the other. This gave rise to a considerable amount of amused comment; why exactly was the group being divided? Several more vocal children declared themselves to be men for the purposes of this show, and I ended up looking after Luke while his mother and sister entered the other line.

The performance began with a fairly typical pre-show safety video. This was entirely predictable, and I didn't need the English subtitles on the Italian soundtrack to know precisely what was being said. With this out of the way, we were led into a standard layout show room with several rows for people to stand in, of the sort seen in similar attractions around the world. The men occupied the front two rows, with the women in the back two. I wasn't able to follow the detail of the performance - it was after all in Italian - but it was full of loud bangs, explosions, and fight scenes, concluding with the scene from the movie where the T800 calls a halt to proceedings by lowering himself into a vat of liquid metal. It was only at the end of this that the reason for dividing us into the two groups became clear; those in the front two rows got to experience a completely unexpected (and surprisingly violent) special effect that took us all by surprise in style. Without spoiling the surprise, I will say that I ended up grabbing for the handrail in front of me, and Luke beside me jumped completely out of his skin. We were not the only ones!

So far, it is fair to say, I had been extremely impressed with the park. Unfortunately, it was at this stage that I realised that the Six Flags management philosophy was in evidence. For a park with just ten attractions in it, it is absolutely inexcusable that the vast majority of these do not open until between sixty and ninety minutes after the park gate itself. We were on our way towards the back of the park for the rides when we came to a staff member blocking the path, who informed us that this section was not open until 11:30. We then moved towards the Magma attraction, only to learn that that would not open until 11:00. With more than a little frustration one of our group asked if anything at all was open. Terminator 2 was suggested, but as we had just done that it was hardly worth a second showing as the novelty would have worn off. It turned out that only one other attraction was available; the Horror House.

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to experience a haunted house with live actors in Tibidabo. At the time I remember thinking that actors made the attraction much more interesting, although it would be fair to say that the Tibidabo attraction wasn't particularly frightening; rather, it was a cute attraction suitable for the entire family. Movie Park has gone for the other extreme with the Horror House, building what is without question the most terrifying walk through attraction I have ever experienced anywhere. The park brochure proudly proclaims their success; "In 2004, 33% of our visitors did not even see all of the attraction". It is not hard to see why.

Groups of eight guests at a time enter the house by descending a floor in a lift. The staff have the group forming a human chain with one lucky person leading the way through near darkness. I had strategically managed to locate myself in third place in the chain, with Gordon leading the way under serious protest. He did try to bow out of this role but I would not allow it, as the next person in line would have been eleven year old Luke and this would not have been fair at all, as he was clearly having difficulties even in second place. On more than one occasion he jumped out of his skin, and Gordon complained later that the grip on his shoulders had gotten tighter as the attraction progressed.

Many of the scenes within were references to famous movies, such as Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, Psycho, Friday the 13th, and more. Actors played their part in developing the experience, with some grizzly specimens jumping out to scare the hapless victims just trying to escape. Others, including one covered in blood, chased us through some of the scenes. It is to our credit that the whole group made it to the end, but it was not easy, and some club members of more nervous dispositions elected to sit out the attraction altogether.

It was approaching opening time for the three rides in the park, and a brief walk brought us over to them. The first one to open its gate did so at 11:36am, six minutes after the scheduled time. This was the X-Speed powered coaster, another installation of the Pinfari ST40, exactly the same model as at Holnemvolt Park earlier in the week. Chris managed to come up with a startlingly accurate description for the ride experience; "it's like being pushed around in a shopping trolley on a cobbled street".

I chose to sit out the X-Spin ride, as it was nothing I hadn't seen before and my stomach was suffering the after effects of several days of theme park food.

Movieland Park

The last ride to open was the log flume, X-Splash. Rather than go for a fully themed experience, this installation looked like a portable model of the type seen in fairgrounds around the world. It did not, however, have plexiglas shields over the water splashes, leading me to assume it to be a dry log flume. This proved to be a woefully inaccurate assessment, getting me completely soaked. Fortunately my camera survived the experience, allowing me a lot of fun snapping pictures of club members who had discovered the true nature of the ride for themselves!

Movie Studios Park is home to Magma, an interpretation of the studio backlot tour of the type seen in the Universal and Disney parks. The tour vehicles, instead of lengthy trams, comprised large trucks in which twenty or so seats had been fitted. This allowed an introductory stage in which the vehicles travelled through a valley at a not inconsiderable speed, giving a ride not unlike a mid sized roller coaster (and presumably requiring driver training to ensure passenger safety). The first stop was a bog standard affair, with a large water tank being dumped on the vehicle. The second one, presumably the one from which the ride gets its name, is an elaborate simulation of the inside of an erupting volcano. Its authenticity is, of course, limited by the inadvisability of pouring molten lava over the passengers therein, but there were certainly plenty of sparks, assorted loud bangs, and the obligatory ground shaking.

Having just experienced a studio backlot tour, it wasn't altogether surprising to discover that the attraction named Studio Tour was something a little different; in this case, a monorail ride. The journey was punctuated by long stops with information screens explaining the visible sets in Italian. While the monorail did allow a good angle for photography of some of the park, the attraction as a whole was dull and seemed rather pointless; one does not need a monorail journey between alternate sets of TV screens. Additionally, the videos were completely wasted on those of us without any ability to speak the local patois. On disembarking I could not help but wonder aloud whether there was any way to recover the wasted quarter of an hour.

The last attraction we had time for was the Rambo show. Once again it wasn't the easiest to follow due to the language barrier, but there were some great scenes in it spread amidst the cheese. The obligatory ending of the death of a beautiful woman is something I could have done without, but some of the stunts were very good, ranging from jumps on a motorbike to large explosions. Andrew particularly enjoyed seeing one of the characters burst into flames and collapse into the water.

It would be doing Movie Studios Park an injustice if I did not mention briefly my overriding impressions of the park as a whole. The three off-the-shelf rides in this park were junk, and removing them would not be any loss whatsoever. However, they are not what this park is about. The designers here, as Andrew put it, clearly have a true love for movies. All of the movie themed attractions, with the exception of the dull Studio Tour, were absolutely first rate, and for the most part the best examples of their genres I have ever come across anywhere. The Horror House in particular was so far ahead of other such attractions that it seems improbable that any others will be quite the same again.

Having basically completed the park at this point we moved across to Aqua Paradise Park. While I enjoy water parks as a rule, I have visited very few, and I have been unusually lax about documenting my experiences therein. Additionally, for reasons which I hope are obvious to the reader, I do not have either notes or photography from any of these parks. As such, my memories do tend to blur into each other, making a fully accurate trip report somewhere between difficult and impossible. With that in mind, I do not intend to draw comparisons between different water parks or most of the different slides, as to do so would be to author a work of fiction. Furthermore, I have no information as to ride names as I compose this, so descriptions alone will have to suffice.

Due to a combination of circumstances I had ended up looking after Luke for a while to allow his mother and family to get some peace and quiet. Luke was at the stage I was at a few years ago, with certain rides, which he would probably enjoy, looking just a little too daunting for him. I would never bully anyone into trying something they are not ready for, but I will gladly use gentle encouragement and sometimes creative bribery to encourage the timid to face their fears head on. My only solid rule is that the person must board the ride of their own free will; if, after negotiation, they still say no, then that is that (until the next time!).

At any rate, Aqua Paradise is home to a pair of thirty metre tall so-called death slides. For the uninitiated, these are very steep full body slides, with the rider basically experiencing free fall for much of the descent as they slide to ground level. Luke did not want to do these immediately, but I put my foot down; if we got them out of the way now, then everything else in the park would be less scary. His mother agreed with me, and moments later all three of us were climbing the numerous flights of stairs.

It would be lying by omission if I did not mention my own trepidation as I got into position at the top. Though I had previously ridden the same type of ride both at Michigan's Adventure and at Wyandot Lake, the very nature of the ride and the openness of it all makes the experience quite hard on the nerves. Nevertheless, it is not permissible for an adult to show fear on a ride like this when a child is trying to find courage himself. With that in mind, I pushed off, and about five horrific seconds later it was over, with me feeling a renewed sense of exhilaration at being still alive. Moments later, I could see clearly Luke experiencing similar emotions as he crashed to a halt on the other slide.

Over the next few hours, we tried out just about every major slide in the park. Nothing particularly stood out until we came across a large slide at the back of the park, with its beginning mounted on the same tower as that holding the death slides earlier in the day. From this point, two riders sharing a raft experienced a death slide style descent, followed by a steep ascent with airtime at the top (!) and another descent into a splashdown. Getting over the hill was entirely based on momentum, and indeed as I watched the occasional boat did not make it, sliding backwards into the valley before the hill.

It was this quasi-roller coaster slide that made the park for me. Never before have I seen anything of the kind; it was superb fun, and something I would like to have done more often. Getting airtime on a hill on a water slide was quite an experience; I was very glad of the handles on the raft! There was, however, a catch (as always); the wait time was just under one hour in an unshaded queue, which for a water slide is absolutely ridiculous. It was arguably worth it, but one wait was enough. The park would do well to install a second (and possibly a third) parallel track to improve capacity. Nevertheless, this is definitely an attraction I would like to see duplicated in other water parks in the future.