I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. The words of Julia Donaldson, and drawings of Axel Scheffler were done justice in the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure.
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Today saw the opening of the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure at Chessington World of Adventures Resort. It’s a day I’ve had mixed feelings about for a while now. It replaces the iconic ‘Bubbleworks‘, a ride that was very dear to my heart. However in 2006, the Bubbleworks as I knew it as a child was stripped back, and left to rot. It’s fair to say that it needed replacing.
You’d probably have to been living under a rock for the last 16+ years to have not heard about the Gruffalo. It’s a much-loved, multi award-winning children’s book, first published in 1999. I read it to G when she was a baby, and did the same for J. It’s a story close to my heart, and etched on my brain.
I love the Gruffalo and was intrigued to see how Chessington could translate it into a dark ride.
All aboard the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
The station is within the ‘Wild Wood’ – the ceiling is tree lined and dimly lit with a ‘stream’ running through it. The gentle musical score from The Gruffalo animated film echoes around. The stream has wooden ‘tubs’ that riders hop into to begin the adventure. They drop down a small incline to the first scene, the opening words of the book appearing onto a massive blank book. You’re then off down the stream into the rest of the story.
Each scene tells a part of the story. Using a mixture of vocals, animatronics, projection, rear projection, smoke, and scent. It’s a multi-sensory experience guaranteed to make young (and old) folk smile. It feels a little sparse and under themed in places, but the speed of the stream nips you on quickly.
I found some of the audio a little quiet and lost in places, however the rest of the effects were spot on. It’s all based around the animated film, with little clips of it mixed into it.
The kids were enchanted by the ride, without a doubt. I loved watching their faces as they took in the surroundings – J was a little scared by the Gruffalo. They’ve got the scale just right – he’s bloody massive. It all ends with a splash, a flash (from the on-ride picture), and a growl from the Gruffalo as the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure reaches its finale. Some of the iconic fountains from the Bubbleworks finale remain, which is nice to see.
Take a ride with us!
In something a little different, I actually filmed the entire ride on a Galaxy Gear 360 camera. Meaning all 360 degrees of the ride is visible, just by scrolling around! The boat spins and swirls, so you will probably have to do lots of that to have a proper look around. It’s completely uncut, so even the lift hill stopping is included. If you’ve got a Google Cardboard or Gear VR, it will create a very realistic experience!
I was gunning to dislike the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure – it was never going to be as great as the Bubbleworks. However, whilst it’s not great – it’s good. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. The words of Julia Donaldson, and drawings of Axel Scheffler were done justice in the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure. There is a lot of technology behind the effects in the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure – Chessington MUST keep on top of maintenance to ensure the quality is consistent.
In my opinion, it would have been great to see some more active animatronics. The finish of some of the scenes look a little patchy and rushed in places too. With a few tweaks and enhancements it could be better. The bottom line is – your kids are going to love it. There is no doubt about that – J was talking about it as I put him to bed. It even made my 13 year old smile! I wasn’t ‘moved’ as I have been by other dark rides – but I did enjoy it. Give it a go – you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it.
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