By Dewayne Bevil VIA Orlando Sentinel
The future of Dynamic Attractions is up in the air, and that’s right where executives want it. The Orlando-based-ride-manufacturing company has developed a reputation for its “flying theater” experiences, and it’s using that expertise to explore attraction ownership. Its first co-venture is SkyFly: Soar America, set to open at The Island in Pigeon Forge, an entertainment complex in eastern Tennessee in mid June.
“We know and understand attraction developments. But we’re not always the smartest guys in the room on market analysis because it’s not always our backyard,” said Jerry Pierson, Chief Operating Officer and President of Dynamic Technologies Group. “So the partner typically provides that type of insight.”
Pierson worked on several potential co-venture projects for about three years, wading through details and contracts.
“In this one, it was just the perfect place at the perfect time,” he said. Dynamic has an option to purchase 50% of the SkyFly venture. Dynamic Attractions is a subsidiary of Vancouver based Dynamic Technologies Group.
In the flying theater concept, audience members are lifted gently from the ground and stationed in front of an enormous screen. The motion of the seats is coordinated with the film to create the sensation of flight. Central Floridians have seen this style at Epcot’s Soarin’, which opened in 2005, and Legoland Florida’s Masters of Flight, which debuted in 2019.
“A flying theater is that type of all=appealing experience. It’s not a super coaster where only the tweens get on it,” Pierson said. “There’s a high demand for that type of product outside of the U.S. In the Asian market, it’s very popular and even in Europe.”
The Pigeon Forge installment, which will seat 39 customers at a time, will be Dynamic’s 14th flying theater attraction, Pierson said. It will be the first one to open in North America since the pandemic era began, he said. It will be a stand-alone attraction, offered alongside Island’s other activities, which include the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, rides, retailers and restaurants.
The Dynamic team has been in Tennessee to complete the job, including the synchronization of the mechanics and the visuals.
“In our facility in Orlando, we have a smaller version of a flying theater, and we use that tool to kind of previs (previsualize) what the final experience was going to be.” Pierson said.
Other SkyFly work done in Central Florida included media creation, visual effects, computer graphics and testing. Sets and scenic work for the preshow were physically made in Orlando by New York-based Adirondack Studios.
Pandemic-related layoffs increased the availability of creative workers last year.
“There were a lot of talented resources on the sideline, and that coincided just at the right time when we were looking for artists and designers and modelers to help us create this product,” Pierson said.
The owners of The Island in Pigeon Forge, which opened seven years ago, wanted to add “something that really would allow people to have this first-class experience without needing to go to Orlando or Las Vegas or L.A. but to really kind of raise the level of attraction here,” said SkyFly co-owner Clay McManus. They started seriously looking into flying theaters at the IAAPA Expo at the Orange County Convention Center in 2017, he said.
“As we got more into it, we really started to develop an appreciation for just how complex a great flying theater attraction is, the different elemtns from the scenic and theming to the film and the show narrative and, of course, the ride itself,” he said.
They were drown to Dynamic’s track record, he said.
There’s not really a turnkey box that we felt was a high end product for this market,” McManus said.
The storyline for SKyFly: Soar America involves a Wild West Theme, a wacky professor who tinkers with inventions in a workshop/barn and his daughter. The flight includes scenes above Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore and for local color, Bristol Motor Speedway.
The racetrack is really a computer-generated version of Bristol created in Orlando, Pierson said. the waiting area has a retro vibe, and the visuals were also produced here.
“You’re watching all the steampunk machines and gears,” Pierson said. It almost looks like you’re in the middle of a Rolex watch or Swiss watch.”
Music from a live, 70 piece orchestra was recorded at Ocean Way Nashville for the 15 minute show.
“The sound is built in a way to take guests on a journey connecting one area to the next and supporting the arc of the attraction’s story,” said Brian Yessian, chief creative officer for the attraction.
Pierson describes the pacing of the flying theater production as a crescendo with multiple wow moments building to a finale.
“There is a cadence to matching the music fulfillment to the motion profile to build the entire story,” he said.
The Pigeon Forge attraction will serve as a flagship for Dynamic, an example to show to other potential buyers, Pierson said.
“The market is more open for us with this type of product that price points are a lot lower than you know, a large special effects roller coaster,” he said.
“When you get into smaller markets, there are opportunities that are a little bit bigger.”