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Dark Rides: From early immersion to virtual reality

journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Joel Zika
This paper will examine one of the most important interactive multimedia experiences of the 20th century. A Trip to the Moon, was an attraction built in 1901 by inventor and showman Frederick Thompson. It was first exhibited one year before the now legendary French film of the same name directed by George Méliès. Thompson’s was the first carnival ride to harness electricity to create a fully immersive narrative installation, complete with projections, atmospherics, music and moving panoramas. It plotted out an evolving landscape using complex changing screens and theatrical effects. Trip to the Moon would go on to become the key attraction and namesake of Luna Park amusement park in Coney Island. The Luna Park franchise would later become the largest in the world with sites on every continent. A Trip to the Moon was one of the earliest examples of a dark ride, a type of mechanical indoor ride that would become synonymous with the amusement park experience. Taking early
advantage of electricity to power lights, projectors and motors, rides of this type created a new language of mediated aesthetics. Rides such as the haunted house and ghost train were popular contemporary versions of this format appearing in the 20s and 30s. Despite their ubiquity little has been written academically about the format despite obvious links to digital interaction and immersion. The dark ride format exhibited influences from the cyclorama and panorama attractions and British fairground ride. It contained many of the immersive attributes of these formats but added surround sound and haptic feedback for the first time.
This paper sets a framework for the definition of the dark ride as a media format. Examining how Thompson’s ride influenced new media storytelling and current practices of immersive games and virtual reality storytelling.

History

Journal

Panorama : The International Panorama Council Journal

Volume

2

Pagination

103 - 105

Publisher

International Panorama Council Journal

Location

Luzern, Switzerland

ISSN

2571-7863

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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