- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DOSWELL, Va. Critics routinely refer to big-budget action movies as “roller-coaster rides,” so developers at Paramount’s Kings Dominion decided to embrace the cliche to deliver an attraction for the thrill-seeking film audience.

The park’s new Italian Job Turbo Coaster takes its name from a 2003 film that starred BMW’s Mini Cooper S along with actors Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Edward Norton. Selecting the cinematic effort for a theme-park experience was a no-brainer for Dave Cobb, senior creative director for Paramount Parks.

“‘The Italian Job’ has one of the best car chases in movie history. Not only that, but all of the stunts were real, no [computer-generated imagery] in there, all real driving, and also, it stars one of the most recognizable cars in the world,” he says.

Visitors to the park are in for an unforgettable adventure as they become part of the movie’s stunt team. The ride mixes speed, hairpin turns, pyrotechnics, sound and water with technological magic to bring the film’s final chase scene to life, using people, not images, to re-enact the scene.

A 100-person team of engineers, architects, industrial designers, composers, sound men, and members of Maryland’s own Premier Rides worked with Mr. Cobb from 2003 to develop the coaster for the Virginia theme park.

After three groups of four riders each enter their own train of 75 percent scale linked Mini Coopers, they are accelerated from zero to 50 mph and into a helix track (a design accomplishment that is the first of its kind) to pull nearly four Gs through that first turn.

Referred to as a launch coaster, the ride uses a linear induction system to propel and stop riders. Each train of cars has aluminum fins on its sides that stick below the track level. The tracks have a series of magnets that turn on and off as the fin goes through them. Using the theory of attraction and repulsion with magnetics, the fins are pushed out at very high speeds with incredible power — enough power to move an almost 4-ton vehicle from zero to 50 mph in three seconds.

The ride will not be remembered for record-breaking drops, its size or speed, but Mr. Cobb hopes it will stand out for its authentic feel and cinema-merging experience.

“Just like a movie has a pace and emotional beats to it, a coaster needs to have a pace,” he says. “So we really worked hard on making sure the ride had beats to it and a flow.”

Riders will revisit six scenes from the movie that pare down the final chase sequence into 90 seconds of thrills, including dodging police cars, flying down subway stairs, narrowly avoiding helicopter gunfire, moving through a sewer tunnel, and plunging through a billboard and into a Los Angeles aqueduct.

Not surprisingly, the first-time rider has so much to absorb, it just becomes a blur, which is a good thing for Mr. Cobb — the more people go back for another ride, the more they appreciate some of the attraction’s finer points, including the cars’ authenticity.

“BMW spends millions of dollars on their design, and it’s an important consumer brand. For the audience, it is a beloved car, and we needed to make sure that all of the things people like about the Mini were translated into the design.”

The Mini Coopers were hand-sculpted in clay and molded in fiberglass, with BMW adding comments and information all along the way.

An added layer of stimulation for the rider is the onboard stereo-surround audio system. The Mini is loaded with a visible front speaker for each passenger in the dash, a sub-bass woofer under the car and one on the back that together cause the entire chassis to resonate.

The audio designer also created original music for the ride, so the ride essentially was scored just as a composer would score a movie.

“I am most proud that the ride is a ‘sum of its parts’ experience,” Mr. Cobb says. “It’s not a one-trick pony, but lots of neat little things going on that make riders want to get back on again and again.”

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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