Don’t you just love it when you’re blown away by something completely unexpected? I know I do.
Magic Gallery is a dark ride found at Oriental Heritage Changsha and one of the newest creations straight out of the Fantawild factory. There’s only a single entry for this attraction in my handy guide to their various resorts, though I imagine it’ll start popping up at some of the other parks that are being opened around this time and I certainly hope I get to stumble across it again myself.
After overdosing on many other Fantawilds prior to this visit I had gotten used to browsing the relevant park websites just to confirm that I had already experienced everything they had in some form or another – just another coaster today I guess.
When it came to the Changsha park, this particular attraction caught my eye because I didn’t recognise it at all, so I wrote down the unassuming words ‘entrance with rocks and vines, dark ride?’ in my notes for the trip and left it at that – I had no idea what it really was or whether it was even a ride at all.
The queueline is an adventure in itself and gave little away as to the true nature of the attraction, winding back and forth through more rocks and vines with the odd teaser screen of some boy with magical powers.
The same character starts to appear more as we enter this secondary entrance to a more indoor section of the queue, the house of the magic pen.
I’m always taken aback by just how intense the queues are at these parks and it seems a shame that they’re likely underappreciated. The excitement of what’s around the next corner never lends itself to lingering, particularly when you’ve got a clear run ahead and I often find myself pondering how or when it could ever get busy enough for guests to actually occupy this space.
We’re not even halfway now and it’s time for some preshow antics. Can’t get over how good this looks.
The momentum of the queue area is seemingly broken by this large exhibit. Hang on a minute, you’re not telling me all of that was the build up to viewing an old scroll in a museum, are you?
Desperate at this stage for that not to be the case, the final section passed in a blur for me. An ornate bridge was crossed and behold, a trackless dark ride vehicle awaits us. I couldn’t be more excited now.
The ride takes us on a journey with the aforementioned character, who works as an apprentice for some ancient art gallery master. He has the ability to transform into a brush and by interacting with the various artworks can bring the contents to life. The primary goal in the narrative appears to be to find that massive scroll from earlier on in the queue and add it to the collection, but there’s a ton of other things going on along the way and the runtime of this attraction is simply astounding.
A blow by blow of events is beyond me at this stage and I’ve been doing enough spoilers in these reviews already, but I can safely say the whole thing is stunning from start to finish. It makes excellent use of the trackless technology with some rotating room trickery and by curtaining off of cars into their own little simulator shows at times. There’s countless gorgeous open areas of galleries coming to life and you even get to play hide and seek with a dragon inside an old, rotting ship complete with some of the most amazing smells in the business and a surprise water effect.
It has a fantastic aura of fun about the whole thing, being led by such a friendly and mischevious character who essentially befriends everyone and everything let loose from the artwork along the way and accidentally brings them back to the gallery at the end, causing chaos in the post story scenes. I found it very refreshing to not have any sort of good vs evil encounter, just a jolly romp of wonderment.
My jaw was pretty much on the floor throughout the entire first lap and by the time we reached the offload area I was physically shaking with glee. My mind was reeling with the same sort of effect as hitting the brake run on a new top 5 rollercoaster.
As if to say that’s not a strong enough reaction, the ride host handed us two cups of tea at the point of stepping out of the car. Does this simple act improve a theme park attraction beyond words? Yes, yes it does.
I haven’t yet formally created any form of ranking list for dark rides (an upcoming project for the site no doubt) but Magic Gallery is a powerful contender for #1. For me it beat out anything else Fantawild has ever done, mainly from being a much more pure ride experience as opposed to the half and half (cheating?) of Jinshan Temple Showdown or Hero of Malacca.
Better than anything Disney? I’ll have to get back to you. It’s certainly got the cogs in my head turning now.
I think the tea has a good chance of tipping it. Cheers to that.