After 26 years Bubbleworks, Chessington World of Adventures Resort’s much loved dark boat ride, has closed its doors and taken its final passengers as the attraction retires to make way for a new ride set to open in 2017.
To mark the final closure of the attraction, the Resort have thrown a VIP #ByeByeBubbleworks Party which both celebrated the attraction’s long history, and also reflected on the many memories created by the ride. Along with an appearance from Professor Burp who kicked off proceedings at the start of the evening, invited guests had the opportunity to get their final rides before bidding a final farewell to the attraction. A selection of items from the ride were also on display as well as a brief history of the development of the ride offering a unique opportunity to gain an insight into how the ride developed and see up close some of the inner workings and theming features.
First opening in 1990 as ‘Professor Burp’s Bubbleworks’, the attraction formed part of what was then the all new Transylvania area of the theme park. Masterminded by renowned ride designer, John Wardley, the attraction formed part of the second phase of the plan to regenerate Chessington Zoo and saw Vampire open alongside Bubbleworks. Although initially overshadowed by Vampire, the ride soon became a success in its own right and would see the attraction turn into one of the theme park’s most successful rides and a world renowned dark ride. One of the key elements of the ride’s initial success was its impressive theming which included hand crafted posters, animatronic figures throughout the ride, and a number of key theming features which would come to be iconic for the ride. Taking visitors on a journey through a magical fizzy pop factory in themed rafts along a water channel transit system, the ride culminated in a water fountain finale.
In 2006 the ride would undergo a major transformation as the result of a new partnership with Imperial Leather. Gone was the fizzy pop factory theme and, much to the dismay of many, this also meant the departure of Professor Burp. The ride took on a bath time theme with the boats now resembling round bath tubs. Changes were also made to many of theming elements within the ride, however this meant the loss of many of the theming features which had become iconic. The majority of the animatronics were made static whilst many of the hand-drawn posters were replaced with printed versions. Whilst many guests continued to enjoy Bubbleworks in its new form, for some enthusiasts these changes represented the end of the ‘real Bubbleworks’.
More recent years have seen the removal of the Imperial Leather sponsorship with all references to the branding gradually removed from the ride since 2011. However, most of the other changes which were introduced with the sponsorship remained in place. The lack of changes following the removal of the sponsorship have left the ride looking tired and in need of TLC. Despite this, the attraction has still created many happy memories for guests who have experienced the ride.
During the lead up to the final closure of the ride, Chessington World of Adventures Resort have run a series of special events to both mark the popular attraction’s final days and also to collect people’s fond memories of the ride. Guests have been able to enjoy behind the scenes tours and special Bubbleworks Breakfasts, both of which have seen the return of Professor Burp. Many of the theming elements from the ride have been offered for sale as part of a silent auction to raise money for Merlin’s Magic Wand, whilst guests have also been invited to submit their memories of the ride using #ByeByeBubbleworks.
As yet, it is currently unknown exactly what will replace Bubbleworks and what new attraction we will see when the theme park opens its gates for the 2017 seasons. Rumours have been circulating of an IP based attraction using a well-known children’s character, with the Gruffalo seemingly being the strongest rumour at this time. All we know is that, despite it’s more recent flaws, Bubbleworks will be missed by many people but the memories created will be cherished for years to come.