Last month saw the opening of a new European theme park in Bremen, a town on the north Germany (where some of Europe's space industry is located). Called "Space Center Bremen", this brand new attraction is Europe's largest indoor theme park -- 70,000 square feet!
And guess who is the show-producer of Space Center Bremen? Bill Gorgensen. "And who is Bill Gorgensen?" you ask. Bill worked for many years for the Walt Disney Company in their Imagineering division. Gorgensen was co-show producer with Chris Tietz on the Adventureland section of the Disneyland Paris theme park. He supervised the creation of DLP's "Pirates of Caribbean." And -- outside the theme park -- Bill helped created the resort's Disney village area (I.E. The "Downtown Disney" of Disneyland Paris). So -- obviously -- Bill Gorgensen is a man who is well known in themed entertainment circles for delivering a top quality product.
"So what's the back story on Space Center Bremen?" you query. Well, the original idea for the park came from a German nuclear physician, Dr Wilke. Which is perhaps why he entrance area of the theme park is played very straight. With a 200 foot high mock-up of the Ariane rocket towering overhead and replicas of Sputnik on display nearby.
But don't let those displays of old spacesuits fool you. Space Center Bremen is a real theme park. One that's loaded with thrill rides, a 4D movie, simulators, an interactive dark ride as well as a brand new roller coaster featuring state-of-the-art technology! Plus licensed attractions like "Star Trek: Borg Encounter" and "Star Gate SG 3000."
But -- before we get to all of that stuff -- let's start at the beginning: The exterior of the building. At first glance, Space Center Bremen seems like a fairly standard structure. Until you notice that the shape of the building's walls look very much like the exterior of a spaceship.
This seemingly insignificant detail actually has some importance. For it's all part of Space Center Bremen's "inside story." In fact, the "back story" of SCB is that the building that the theme park is housed in is actually supposed to be this giant space ship in which "windows" are open to various different time periods: For example, the "Star Gate" window is supposed to allow you to "enter" the year 3000, the "Star Trek" window allows you access to 2400, etc.
Getting back to the theme park's entrance: As soon as you see this, you just know that Space Center Bremen is going to be great. Giant boosters welcome you with light and sound to the Futuristic Corridor -- a kind of "Main Street U.S.A." -- which leads to the Quantum Turbine and the giant Cosmosphere, the icon of Space Center Bremen.
All along the Futuristic Corridor, the theming, music and lightning is all "Disney quality-like" and the use of this interior space is wonderful. This part of Space Center Bremen, leading up to the park's giant hub and the Cosmosphere is so well done, it could easily fit in Epcot. No, I take that back.
This part of Space Center Bremen is actually better than Epcot. Particularly on the half hour, when the space ship's giant computer presents an elaborate laser light and sound show. This whole park of the theme park is a real E Ticket.
But -- before you get to the Cosmosphere -- you have to go through the Quantum Turbine, a place where images from the conquest of space that have taken place over the past few centuries can be seen. This is the section of the theme park that supposedly "transports" guests into the space time continuum of the Cosmosphere.
Also along the Futuristic Corridor, you'll find the entrance to "Mission Control," a place where you can watch -- live -- the launch of the next Ariane rocket or locate the exact position of the International Space station (which is orbiting high above the Earth). From here, you can enter the theme park's IMAX theatre. Where you can watch an edited down version of the recent IMAX film that was shot on the space station (which was narrated by Tom Cruise). This film -- which was shot in 3D -- features some wonderful effects as well as some just plain amazing views of the Earth.
Then you arrive at Space Center Bremen's "Hub," where the theme park's guests have the choice of visiting four different time periods. Let's start with the first one on the right, "Moon Base One." After entering a replica of the Space Station corridor, you arrive on the moon base where there are four attractions to chose from.
"Moon Base One's" main attraction is "Galaxy Express," an indoor roller coaster that featuresnew technology. On this unique virtual reality adventure, guests take a high-speed ride along a track that travels through the entire Space Center. As they journey through this attraction, guests -- as they are well seated in their train -- wear a kind of a helmet. Which allows them to see CGI movie that visually propels the guest through the infinite vastness of the universe. This clever combination of real coaster movement synchronized to computer generated imagery really plays tricks on your body and your mind. It makes regular roller-coaster speed seem like the speed of light, every curve becomes a desperate, last minute, planet-evasion maneuver. "Galaxy Express" may be a bit short in length, but it's still a great new coaster experience.
On "Moon Base One," younger members of the family can experience what it's like to be space travelers by visiting the "Moon Playground." for kids. At the "Destination Moon" attraction, you can see what the Earth looks like from the Moon through a beautiful and emotional 6-minute-long film. On the interactive "Robot Rescue" ride, guests travel in lunar vehicles through a deuterium-3 mine. Your mission is to reboot all the robots that you see in the mine (which have been stricken with a mysterious virus) by firing at them with your laser beam. Cute but fun.
Space Center Bremen's next "land" .... Oops! I mean next "stop" is "Planet Quest". This is a dark ride that's loaded with 3D screens. Its storyline supposedly recreates a trip into an unknown world. What I liked best about this ride is that it had a kind-of "Adventure through Inner Space" feeling, that old beloved Disneyland attraction.
Not that "Planet Quest" looks or feels "old," mind you. Far from it. Here you have a ride that is supposed to be this pseudo-serious scientific exploration of extra-terrestrial worlds, similar to "JTIS"'s somewhat serious trip through inner space. But here you have perfect 3D effects that "follow" the movement of your vehicle (Similar to what happens when you're riding through "The Amazing Spiderman" attraction at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure). Admittedly, the show's story is a bit jumbled and somewhat hard to understand. But -- what with "Planet Quest"'s excellent 3D sequences as well as the ride's great post-show are -- this Space Center Bremen area is still well worth a look see.
Okay, now it's time to talk about the theme park's two licensed attractions. First up is "Star Gate SG 3000." Making its world premiere here at the Space Center Bremen park, "Stargate SG-3000" is inspired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios' TV-series, "Stargate SG-1." After a pre-show in a room which features the famous "Star Gate", guests then walk in one of the three high-tech simulators. 35 guests at a time experience what happens when a gateway opens to various different dimensions.
The realization of this attraction is not based merely on various visual themes. But -- rather -- the visitors are completely immersed in the world of "Stargate SG-1." So Space Center Bremen visitors are caught up in a race to get the Stargate key from the low-down Satra, a character specially created for the "Stargate SG-3000" experience.
Need to sit down and grab a quick snack before your next out-of-this-world adventure. Then why not grab a bite to eat at Bistro 3000, a themed restaurant that seats over 450 and features various show kitchens. A variety of good and not-very-expensive fare is offered here -- everything from hamburgers to pasta to oriental food. The futuristic theming decor of Bistro 3000 is really great. And -- given that this restaurant is right next door to the Cosmosphere -- you often get a laser light show (featuring "liquid architecture" and changing light projections) while you dine.
Next up is the "Star Trek: Borg Encounter" attraction. This one is Space Station Bremen's real good E-ticket. Your journey starts aboard the U.S.S. Voyager (a pretty impressive pre-show unto itself). The next thing you know, the starship that you're on is under attack by the Borg. So it's time to board one of Voyager's large shuttle craft in an effort to escape.
This 250 seat theatre is absolutely wonderfully designed. And -- because you're supposed to be inside a shuttle -- some of the members of Voyager's crew actually participate in the show. This "4D" movie is great for any "Star Trek" lover. The attraction's 3D effects works well and the in-theatre special effects (mainly in your seat) are just as good as any you find at a Disney or Universal theme park. (FYI: Space Center Bremen's "Star Trek: Borg Encounter" film is being produced by Paramount Pictures. This attraction is an exact copy of the ride film that's just recently debuted at the Las Vegas Hilton. It was designed by Herman Zimmerman, the well-known production designer for "Star Trek".)
Space Center Bremen sounds pretty impressive so far, doesn't it? Well, wait. I'm not finished yet. There's still one attraction that you have yet to experience at this theme park. One that's actually located outside of this highly themed indoor attraction. (Yes, I know. Space Center Bremen was supposed to be an indoor theme park. But this last ride was just too big to fit inside the building!)
Close (just 5 meters away) from the giant Ariane rocket near the building's entrance, the "Space Shot" ride catapults theme park guests 65 meters straight up, exposing them to a force of four G's. Then -- suddenly -- "Space Shot" stops. Which is when the guests experience free fall. Weightlessness for just under two seconds. Then your "space capsule" glides safely back down back to Earth. (You can stop holding your breath now. Wow, what an experience!)
Although it's located in Germany, Space Center Bremen is actually under the management of Pro Fun, a corporation that's based out of California. "And how much did this indoor theme park cost?" you ask. $250 Million. No kidding. Of which at least $120 million was spent in the building itself.
All in all, Space Center Bremen is a great way to spend a day ... particularly if you're looking for some out-of-this-world fun the next time you're in Europe.
Space Center Bremen is located in Bremen and is open every day except Mondays. For further information on this brand new indoor attraction, visit their web site.