Chessington World of Adventures Resort officially launched their latest attraction this weekend with the opening of Room on the Broom a Magical Journey. Attraction Source was invited for a special preview of the attraction before the theme park opened to guests for the 2019 season.
Based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s well loved children’s tale, Chessington’s newest addition is located within the Burnt Stub Mansion, which used to be home to Hocus Pocus Hall. From the outside the most noticeable changes are the installation of new signage and the addition of a new cattle-pen style queue-line, including a large purple building which houses a green screen photo opportunity where guests are encouraged to pose around an imaginary cauldron before being given a receipt to view their photo at the end of the attraction. The bright purple finish of the photo building somewhat jars against the appearance of the Burnt Stub Mansion – it is a shame that it could not have been more sympathetically blended with the appearance of the historic building.
Inside, the attraction has been completely transformed, utilising a mixture of projection, sets, and special effects, alongside a specially created soundtrack to bring the story of Room on the Broom to life. Guests enter the Enchanted Library where they meet Witch and Cat in a pre-show which uses a clever mix of projection onto a giant story book (something which echoes the first scene of The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure), and special effects centring around a cauldron which has been cleverly designed to ensure any smoke released does not interfere with the projection. Those who look closely around the Enchanted Library will notice several little details, including a replica BAFTA which is a nod to the Children’s BAFTA won by the production team for the animated version of Room on the Broom.
Once guests embark on their journey inside the attraction, they meet each of the characters from the book, included Dog, Bird, Frog, and Dragon (who fancies Witch and chips for his tea). Each room features a beautifully designed and created set, which invites guests to interact with elements of each room to help find an item which Witch has lost – from jumping up and down to dislodge Witch’s hat from the tree, searching through haystacks for Witch’s bow, and hitting fireflies to get the bull frog to release Witch’s wand. Each room also has its own unique smell which helps add to the atmosphere. There is even a nod to the attraction’s predecessor, Hocus Pocus Hall, in the retention of the Hall of Mirrors. The attraction culminates in a nice finale, including getting to see the ‘truly magnificent broom’ Witch creates, although the finale perhaps leaves a better impression with children than it does with adults. Whilst the sets in the rooms themselves are extremely well designed, some of the corridors which guests use to transition between the rooms are a little sparse, although one nice touch at the end of each corridor is a little detail of a hat, a bow, and a star above the door of each room to indicate which item you will be looking for next. What really brings the whole attraction together is the soundtrack which has been recorded specifically for the attraction using a 63-piece live orchestra. It combines perfectly with the narrative and sets to really bring the attraction alive.
During its first weekend of operation the attraction did experience some technical difficulties with Saturday seeing members of staff having to manually trigger each scene, however it is expected the rooms will be automated within the next few weeks. There were also some logistical issues which still needed to be worked on. Some of the group sizes seemed too large for the size of the rooms meaning those at the back risked not being able to fit in and see what was happening. A few of the animatronics also had short cycles which didn’t repeat, meaning those last into the room risked missing the narrative, however it is not clear if the animatronics will repeat when automated rather than triggered by a staff member. It also appeared that some small features were either unfinished, or not working, but these should hopefully be fixed soon.
Saturday saw queue times for the attraction reach almost 3 hours, and at one point the queue stretched out of the entrance, around the side of the building towards the entrance to the Smoke House. The attraction failed to open at all on Sunday causing frustration among many guests who had visited specifically for its official opening day.
Room on the Broom – A Magical Journey has been over two years in the making for Chessington World of Adventures Resort with the result being an enchanting walk through style attraction which continues the high standards of design seen in the Resort’s last attraction based on one of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s stories – The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure.