sun baked earth, and sea by sail, brave men speak the Dragonís tale.
Fire red wing and sharpened claw, razor fang in gnashing jaw, with scaly
skin and horn spiked neck, his every breath is certain death.
Though gold and jewels adorn his lair, be advised: GO YE NOT THERE
For the brave alone venture to his den... few ever return through this
the popularity of Universalís Mummy coasters, it is easy to think that
blurring the line of distinction between coaster and dark ride is a new
thing. It does in fact date back as far as the late 1800ís with the
popularity of the Scenic Railway.
such rides, dioramas would be built around the circuit of a figure-eight
roller coaster, where a train Ė the speed of which was controlled by
an on-board brakeman Ė would pass through these scenes giving the
impression that people were travelling through rich and exotic lands.
coasters became more exciting, the need for extra scenery to excite
riders became somewhat redundant, and so this genre split with ghost
trains and dark rides becoming ever-more popular, whilst roller coasters
made use of new technology such as upstop wheels to create their own
brand of excitement.
have since flirted with the idea of incorporating scenery into rides,
but not ever to the level of the Scenic Railways. Rides like Space
Mountain (Disneyland Paris) use sporadic set pieces, but have always
remained more coaster than dark ride.
of the Mummy (Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood)
have perhaps tipped the balance back in favour of the dark ride, using
the coaster as your conveyance, but letís not forget Legolandís
Dragon Coaster, half dark ride and half coaster.
Legolandís apparent original insistence to the contrary, Legoland
needed a coaster, and Windorís version followed two years after
opening, and a year on from the similar, but far from identical model in
the home of Lego, Billund (Denmark).
version, like Windsorís, was half dark ride and half coaster, but
unlike Legoland Windosorís
used a Mack Blauer Enzian ride system, a completely
powered Ďcoasterí much like Alton Towersí Runaway Mine Train.
Legoland instead employed the British company WGH to supply a more
traditional gravity coaster using tyre drives for the dark ride section.
1999, Dragon was joined by his younger sibling, Dragonís Apprentice,
again from WGH offering a ride not dissimilar to a pint-sized Vekoma
Roller Skater (such as Tami Tami at Universalís Port Aventura), which
completed Castle Land, one of Legolandís largest and most spectacular
Castleland gleams its name from the castle the land is built around. The
theming here is simply beyond the capabilities of what any British
themer can conger up with a full sized castle complete with octagonal
turrets and drawbridge set behind a tranquil moat in front, from which a
Lego dragon rears his head.
even the most unrelenting nitpicker* can find a tin warehouse underneath
this castle with every rampart and every battlement intricately detailed
down to the smallest touch.
Yes, thatís me. Guilty as charged]
the confounds of the port cullice, the detail continues. Sculpted from
Lego, a statue of a fair maiden clasps a vase from which water cascades
down into the fountain below, whilst two sleepy guards (also sculpted
from the Kingís plaything of choice, Lego) guard the door to The
Dragon, a small archway underneath one of the main turrets on the rear
wall of the courtyard.
Legolandís not-particularly-surprising bias towards modelling anything
they can out of Lego, it is probably easier to highlight what these are
in the review by putting a + next to the description. There
are only so many ways you can say a model has been made out of Lego
before sounding like a stuck rec... stuck rec... stuck record.
queue starts off by passing an open book+, bookmarked at a
page asking ďWhat secrets lie within?Ē. Little touches like this
will abound the long and winding queue line which first takes you up
stairs inside one of the castleís turrets before wrapping around the
courtyard on the castle ramparts.
you pass through the turrets surrounding the castle entrance, you climb
yet more steps up onto the highest stockades of the castle. Legolandís
typical attention to detail abounds and keeps even the most fidgety kid
engrossed with wizardís cloaks and hats+ hung out of reach
and plucky knights+ above taking aim with their crossbows.
station is a vault deep within the castle. The flaking ceiling is held
aloft with timber joists, archways set within the walls with flickering
lanterns lighting the room. From an archway to your left, a 28-seater
fibreglass dragon will climb a slaloming brake run and enter the
seven-car train is fashioned after a Lego dragon, with an angular
rearing head at the front, red wings flanking the side of each of the
bottle-green cars and a tail on the rear end of this plastic beast.
dragonís belly has more than enough room to accommodate 28 people,
with each row of two secured by a single lap bar. After a brief check of
bars, the dragon slowly leaves the station through an archway, flashing
and sparkling as if some timegate into another world.
first enter the castleís cellar. With barrels set into the stone
archways in the deepest recesses of the castle, you pass two mischievous
monks+ stood around a barrel of beer. As one swigs at his
tankard of beer, the other spits out Ďbeerí as a fine vapour all
over the riders.
a rich smell of food in the air, you continue your passage through this
majestic castle. You slalom through the banqueting hall where the royal
family+ are sat around a table feasting on a banquet. As
molten wax from the candelabras+ drip onto the table below,
the red-haired king+ takes a swig from a raised goblet+
as he talks to the queen+ opposite.
pass more tableaux such as a wizard+ in his laboratory
clutching a beaker of brightly coloured potion before our curiosity
continues as we venture further into the castle, however, the
festivities of the previous rooms are a distant memory as an enormous
dragon+ has burst through the wall of the castleís basement
and is standing guard over the kingís nest-egg of gold, jewellery and
the treasure glistens in the dim light, the plucky reptile breathes
smoke, growls and generally looks displeased by our presence. Noting
this, we continue past this agitated Lego lizard into a corridor, past
the back end of the dragon and itís flailing tail towards a knight+
which fades into view from behind a wall as you abruptly turn a corner,
through an archway outside.
passage of escape takes us skywards up a tyre-driven lifthill before the
front of our fibreglass stead pulls you into a spiralling helix towards
the rugged grassland below.
through the long grass, the train buries itself into a trench, digging
itself below terra firma sweeping through into another helix.
our dragon gets out of breath, he is given a little push up a second
brisk tyre-driven lift hill. As the ride prepares for itís final
throws, you plunge down a long, straight drop squeezing under overhead
track before plunging beneath a courtyard into a dark tunnel.
a brief sub-terrainain foray, bowing first to the right and then to the
left, our plastic-fantastic dragon gets drawn into yet another
ground-level helix spiralling anti-clockwise before ducking under the
entering track, passing behind a large oak tree, climbing up to the
right into a comically warped Ďbrake runí using booster tyres to
slow the train down for itís final climb back into the castle.
peoplesí accounts of encounters with dragons are not well documented,
historically dragons are not renowned for their good company and donít
seem to have built up a good rapport with humans. But against the odds,
this dragon is popular with young and old.
fear not; this isnít a case of contenting the youngsters during the
dark ride section and bowing to the demands of the thrillseeker
throughout the coaster section Ė both halves of the ride strike a
balance, with the dark ride section courting childrenís attention with
bright colours and pure eye candy, whilst not forgetting adults
inscribing the unmistakable Legoland signature in the form of their
unmistakable sense of humour and attention to detail.
WGH havenít chalked up a huge tally of coasters, Dragon is a
fantastically smooth and often exciting coaster, which are hallmarks of
an excellent all-round family coaster.
two such distinct halves to the ride, it would be easy to end up with
half of the ride wasted thanks to one half eclipsing the other.
Fortunately, Dragon avoids such burden with each half of the ride
confidently supporting the other Ė the dark ride is no inconvenient
preamble, nor is the coaster cumbersome journey back to the station.
neither the coaster or dark ride are amazing, but together they are
ingredients in a pretty tasty family ride.
isnít to say it is without fault, though. The dark ride section is let
down by the lack of music and dialogue throughout. In fact, your
soundtrack will consist only of sound effects from the various tableaux
and the squeaking of wheels underneath your train.
characters really set out this attraction from many others; not only do
they appeal to children thanks to their buoyant capers and cheeky grins,
but to adults, too, thanks to the accomplishment of building detailed,
full sized animatronic figures out of, yes, you guessed it, Lego.
coaster section never really leaves the ground enough to be scary, nor
does it have the impact of more established coasters, but never the less
it provides an enjoyable ride.
a fairly sprawling ride for itís size, there isnít much to look at
on the coaster, nor is there the fun and interactivity of pathways,
fields or buildings playing with your line of flight, other than the
notable dive underneath the pathway off of the second lift.
probably owing to the elevated station, there isnít much of a finale,
with the explosive drop off the second lift never really being equalled
as the train simply runs out of speed on itís final approach to the
each half of the ride is good, not great, but together the whole
attraction is a fun and exciting attraction for kids, and certainly
inoffensive to parents and any teenagers. Both halves of the ride
exhibit a certain amount of unrealised potential, however, which would
have made the difference between a good ride and a great ride. But
nevertheless kids tucked under the wing of this dragon will come off
MS 08 June 2004
An original idea to
combine dark ride with coaster
Building and dark ride
theming amongst the best in the country
Smooth and exciting
▪ Excellent drop and
tunnel combination after second lift
▪ Great attention to
▪ Landscape around the
coaster is fairly boring
▪ Poor finale
▪ Low capacity meaning
queues are inevitable
▪ Dark ride section
needs more dialogue and/or music