The New Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster

The world's bravest Great Dane superhero has arrived at Warner Bros. Movie World located on Australia's popular Gold Coast. The Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster is a AUS $13 million indoor roller coaster ride inspired by the feature film shot at Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios, also on the Gold Coast.

The 530m-long (1,750') coaster, designed and built by Mack GmbH, is set in the dark and scary depths of a medieval-looking castle. Coaster cars carefully replicated from the Scooby Doo film launch guests on a hair-raising journey complete with laser lighting, sound effects, and animatronics.

Other than the coaster itself, the dark ride building's almost 900,000 cu. ft. (25,350 cu. m) is segmented into two distinctive parts. The first section sets the scene with demons and monsters to scare the riders while the second uses lasers to illuminate the room and create infinite depth.

Australian laser specialist Laservision Macro-Media (based in Sydney) was awarded the contract to design and install the laser show. The Scooby Doo ride's objectives required that the Laservision effects embrace and create the entire illusion, maintain it throughout the experience, and simultaneously perform for multiple audiences moving through three-dimensional space at speed.

Laservision's design integrates seven strategically located scanning projector heads fed via optical fiber distribution from two powerful 40W YAG laser systems and one Mini-Ray 100 milliwatt diode laser system. To maintain the ride's "spooky" theme Laservision's Stella-Ray projectors were selected for their intense emerald green light.

Although there are only two Stella-Ray lasers the result looks like there are six projectors placed in the space. "We transfer the light via fiber-optic cable to various remote projection devices," explains Simon McCartney, Laservision's director of attraction development. "Each Stella-Ray laser produces three sets of information simultaneously to three different places. That is how we achieved the coverage, as they provide an immense power output."

After the first part of the ride, the car enters a vertical lift where it ascends to the highest point of the ride. As the vehicle reverses out of the lift it races down a 7m-deep (23') reverse chute before it is turned 180º and a three-dimensional laser tunnel confronts participants. This commences the roller coaster section of the ride.

The two Stella-Ray laser systems are complemented by a Mini-Ray 100 milliwatt diode laser system. This system creates special effects in an area of the Spooky Coaster called the Ring of Fire where the four-seater car is swallowed by a colossal monster.

"You're propelled straight through its mouth and, what you don't realize because the lasers conceal it, is that there is a huge drop the other side," McCartney continues. "Once the car has dropped to the lower level it is confronted by another laser tunnel. As the car moves forward, the tunnel opens on one side to allow the car to escape and then closes behind it. So, although it's only made of light, it looks almost mechanical."

The entire system is driven by Laservision's own Sinodial Series show control technology utilizing two Digital Data Pumps and associated Macro-Media hardware, linked via a fiber-optic data communications network.

Approximately 100 laser beam bounce mirrors are mounted within the building on different planes to enhance the illusion of infinite interior space; mirrored floor sections adjacent to the vertical illuminations accentuate this illusion, more than doubling the rider's perception of coaster height. Jem StageHazers and ZR33 Hi-Mass fog machines provide atmosphere.

The main challenge confronting the Laservision team was the size of the room and complexity of programming. "You couldn't get an impression of how it would look taking the heads in isolation," McCartney says. "A lot of the rules that we've established over the years in programming laser shows we found did not work on this project. All of our usual programming for special effects assumes that the audience will be standing still, not traveling at high speed on a roller coaster. We had to consider the viewpoint of the riders at every bend in the track, of which there are many, and confront each of them at that point with laser effects that were tailored particularly for them." Programming was therefore very time-consuming; as soon as the team had programmed a cue they hadto hop in a car and ride the coaster to check their work.

The Scooby Doo installation has been accepted for entry in this year's ILDA (International Laser Display Association) awards.

Contact the author at catstrom@optusnet.com.au.