Europe 09/21 – Efteling

One of the reasons we ended up arriving too early for F.L.Y. last year was that we had originally planned to use that day for a much dearer old friend to pick up some new attractions, but the various national restrictions at that time just weren’t playing ball.
This year, they were.

Day 20 – Efteling

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Not seen that shot before.

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Instead of the usual joke about being here for the +1s, I’ll be up front. I wanted Symbolica, badly. I’d left it so long now that I had almost forgotten why that was.

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Though the queue soon reminded me of that. The whole attraction oozes that Efteling quality from the moment you set foot inside the building and this impressive animatronic waffles on at you about not going any further.

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Cheeky Jester Pardoe has other plans though, and invites us deeper into the attraction for some magical mischief.

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Descending the square spiral staircase gives us this clue as to what we’re in for. A trackless dark ride of course, the perfect hardware for some sorcery.
The ride has three different ‘tours’ which form three different loading areas in the station. While they follow the same overall storyline, each one contains a couple of key differences during the layout. The cars also have touch screens in the front which can be used to interact with things at certain points during the ride.

We began with the treasure tour and, in their batches of 3, the cars set off down a castle corridor, amusingly getting up to some overtaking antics that I love to see from this type of hardware. The first main room is rather magnificent, a big wizard’s lab with floating planets in which another animatronic Pardoe appears out of nowhere and casts a visible spell on each car.

Through the next corridor, cars move out onto a balcony overlooking a very Efteling style diorama scene before moving on into an arboretum type room which, for some reason, has a friendly whale in it, behind a glass wall. The glass can’t take the strain and begins to crack, with water beginning to pour out of the gaps. Time to back away quickly past another Pardoe who tells you to hurry up.

At this point the cars spilt off again ino their own respective rooms, themed to whichever tour you’re on. Magical stuff happens and the interactivity comes into play a bit before moving into a large cluttered area full of furniture and artifacts where other cars appear from all angles. At some point during this they reach another tour exclusive point, pausing for a while in a little side area while you get another opportunity to mash the screen and make things move or light up.

Finally it’s time to pass through the cellar, getting shot by wine corks and crashed into by stacks of pancakes along the way, before entering the last big room with everyone else. There’s a banquet with the castle family inside a big ballroom where the cars dance around each other and a couple of twirling couples. A fun and light-hearted way to end the spectacular experience.

I can’t fault the thing really, other than for having several effects out of action since the opening days (biggest one being the whale himself) – something that appears to be occurring quite regularly with Efteling as of late. Maintenance aside, easily one of the finest dark rides in Europe. Managed to pick up the heroes tour later in the day, which nicely leaves one more to aim for (music tour – sounds like the best) on a future visit!

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Took some time to look around the actual dioramas of old. Love their distinctive styling.

Wanted to try the ‘Raveleijn’ show this time around, having never made time for it before, so we booked the earliest slot of the day on the app, then had a panic and nearly lost it again after overthinking and trying to be cheeky and change plans on the fly.

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In the meantime, nearby Droomvlucht was a must. I love being immersed in the soundtracks of Efteling and this one feels so nostalgic already, floating through fairy worlds, amazing music blasting.

Villa Volta had a similar effect once you actually get on board, but the preshow ratio is a bit off (not helped by not understanding the language) and seems to go on forever, particularly on rerides. They were also playing a weird cut down version of the main theme on a perpetual 30-second loop in the queue, which of course we then heard 100 times over, that took the edge off it a bit.

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After making a lucky recovery, it was time to head into the Raveleijn arena for what should have been a spectacular show.

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Had big expectations for some reason and they were a little misplaced. I’m led to believe this was a slightly cut down version, for covid, but knowing what I know now, the fundamentals I took issue with would still be there.

The birds they use are cool, cleverly trained, pretty magic. The horse stunts aren’t the best, a bit more OK Corral than Colourful Yunnan Paradise. One of the horses in particular was kicking off and giving the rider a tough time, which only dragged out the fairly insignificant sequence even further while it sorted itself out.
The elephant in the room is the big mechanical dragon, Dragonicon (though I do like that he has a name). As the next in a long line of effects no longer working, he doesn’t rise up from the floor any more, so he’s just there, chillin’, throughout all of the rest of the show. Once he starts kicking off, when the narrative dicates, the impact just isn’t there, although fire effects are always a winner in their own right.
It wasn’t clear (without translation at least) who was good, who was bad, who was fighting what throughout, even through the use of simple colours and the manner in which certain characters were introduced, so it all felt a bit inconclusive. Oh well.

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Let’s see what they’ve done to my beloved Pandadroom, now known as Fabula.

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It’s a Mack Media overhaul of the old ‘save the planet and the pandas’ 4D cinema, with new characters, new plot, new everything. And it’s decent. The pre-show sets up this grumpy bear in a cave who doesn’t like to share his space with the other animals, cruelly sending them out into the rain.
A tiny wizard bloke decides to teach him some morals and magic begins.

Once in the actual theatre, the bear gets sucked into various portals to new habitats and transformed into a different animal, to suit each one. A squirrel from the cave accidentally gets caught up in this and, through the course of several adventures they become best friends, eventually living back in the cave, happily ever after. There’s some good little nods to the attraction that came before, some subtle, some as obvious as several pandas in a forest. Sadly the big tree effect didn’t go off (broken?), though it felt like it easily would have been incorporated.
It’s charming and a bit of fun, just not quite the emotional and musical powerhouse that it once was.

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The last new attraction (finally, some creds) was #1 Max & #2 Moritz, the duelling powered coasters that replaced old Bob.

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Of course there’s a good bit of lore behind the scenes for this, two kids and their soap box racers.

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I thought that they could pull off something a bit more special though, bring the Mack powered coaster into the 21st century a bit more. Plohn’s is better, what does that say?
Plus points are all the little details and effects in the station (how long will they last?) and the genius onboard soundtrack that plays a catchy tune, slowly for the first lap and then more quickly for the second.
In terms of duelling and interaction however I found it all a bit sub-optimal. The track layouts aren’t particularly decorated (or even interesting) and there’s only one real moment of crossover between the two trains at any point – you’d expect at least a handful. There’s also some weird pacing going on in the climax of one of the sides.

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Time for some classic coasters. Vliegende Hollander was just as gorgeous as I remember on the inside, although the water projection wasn’t working…

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And just as anti-climactic on the outside. Segues nicely into Joris en de Draak though.

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I’m very disappointed. What were usually my favourite GCIs on the continent were running very poorly both on-ride and operationally. The queue was fairly hefty and yet dispatches were taking 6-7 minutes, with the staff just lounging around without a care in the world between laps. Sitting onboard the train with enough time for the entire ride theme to play through multiple times does absolutely nothing for the atmosphere of a fast-paced racing coaster and it ended up becaming somewhat of a chore.

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Then once it did get going it was just a bit weak. Cracking layout with very little delivery. With a broken dragon of course, so no namesake water or fire either.

Which left big Vogel Rok to be the best coaster in the park for the day. All the effects budget must have gone into this awesome indoor coaster, it was running better than ever with all sorts of trickery happening. The onboard audio is sublime, I just love singing along to it as it swoops around. Perfection.

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Oh, yeah, they’ve got Baron 1898 as well. The world’s most beautifully themed, but least intimidating dive coaster. With the usual nothingness of a layout. I still love the theatrics of it at least. And mist. Mist is good.

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Fata Morgana was the bomb, as always. Stuff wasn’t working of course, but I think that’s been the case ever since my first visit and it still kicks ass.

Stayed to watch the Aquanura show at the end of the day and was left feeling a bit… deflated. There were a lot more holes in Efteling this time, I used to think they could do no wrong and yet it’s either overexposure on my part or their standards are slipping. I always got the impression they pride themselves on being better than the rest and through a variety of factors that just didn’t feel evident this time around.
Still a lovely, fulfilling day out of a park and I adored Symbolica, but they ain’t on a pedestal any more.

Day 21

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