Ahead of the official opening of World of Jumanji on Monday 15th May, Chessington World of Adventures Resort invited Attraction Source and others to preview the adventures that await guests! We round-up everything that this new land has to offer.
Entry to World of Jumanji is via an entrance portal off the pathway that runs from the Explorer Entrance down to The Blue Barnacle. This wooden-look archway, which takes inspiration from the design of the fictional Jumanji board game, bears a giant 3D version of the area’s logo, finished with foliage. In the distance can be seen the Jaguar Shrine, gazing upon guests as they journey into Jumanji, and overhead is the scream-inducing inversion of Mandrill Mayhem, the world’s first Jumanji themed rollercoaster! Off to the left, just after guests enter the land is the Jumanji Field Guide Outpost, which displays a map of World of Jumanji. Although this was the location of musicians during the launch event, this looks like it will normally be where adventurous guests can collect an activity trail to complete whilst exploring Jumanji. The pathways then branch off into the land, giving guests a choice of where to head first to begin their adventures.
The headline ride in the new land is Mandrill Mayhem, a Bolliger & Mabillard launched shuttle wing coaster, and it seems likely to be here that the most thrill-seeking of guests will head to first! The queue line entrance depicts the rope bridges where the characters encounter the mandrills in the 2019 film, Jumanji: The Next Level. The main queue line then takes guest off to the right, to an area at the base of the Jaguar Shrine. The queue features posters displaying facts about Jumanji’s wildlife, as well as signage matching the pop-ups of each player’s strengths and weaknesses seen in the two latest films. The queue line then heads back behind the entrance, running parallel to the Ride Access Pass queue and what will presumably be a Fastrack queue line which also enter in the same place, and onwards towards the station building.
The last part of the queue line features Nigel Billingsley’s jeep, sporting a number plate that provides a nod to the development’s early project name. Nigel is the character which welcomes the players to Jumanji and guides them on their progress in both of the more recent films. Actor Rhys Darby has reprised this role for World of Jumanji, providing a number of voiceovers, such as at the entrance to the land and most notably within Mandrill Mayhem’s station.
Before entering the station building, guests are batched into which side and row they will ride. Due to the ride launching through the station, guests do not wait at the airgates for each row, as is typically the case on rollercoasters. Instead there are two areas, just after the merge point of the three queue lines, where there are imprints of numbered leaves on the floor corresponding to each of the seven rows. For those on the near (or left hand) side, a staff-manned gate prevents guests from heading along to the airgates. For those on the far (or right hand) side, guests are asked to wait at the bottom of the flight of steps that takes them over the track to the other side, until they are instructed to cross over by the batcher. Upon crossing over, there is again a staff-manned gate to hold guests back from the airgates until the appropriate time.
The station building is themed to the Parrish Treehouse, a location visited by the characters in the 2017 film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, when it is being used as a base by Seaplane McDonough. There are a number of details within the station that reflect this, including Seaplane’s tally of the number of days spent in Jumanji at the back of the ride operator’s cabin that is situated above the track at the forward exit from the station. As well as show lighting, there is also festoon lighting suspended from the ceiling and walls, which completes the delightful look of the station. The mandrills themselves can be found awaiting guests inside of the treehouse, in the form of carriages that each depict a mandrill with its arms outstretched, ready to carry guests. The seventh row faces ‘backwards’, in the opposite direction to the other six. With two guests seated on either side of each of the seven rows, the train has capacity for up to 28 guests.
After being let through the gate, guests walk down to their respective row and board the ride. Once seated and safely harnessed in, the impending dispatch is signified by the voice of Nigel declaring that “there’s not a moment to lose”, as the sound of the Jumanji drums builds. In a thrilling start to the ride, the train is launched backwards out of the station, which comes as a surprise to Nigel, who can be heard exclaiming “no, not that way”. The train travels up into a ‘scorpion tail’ spike, with those in the back few rows being taken beyond vertical at its high point, before rolling forwards and back towards the station. Although this element is less exciting for those towards the front of the train, since they don’t travel as far up the spike, the backwards airtime experienced as the train drops off the launch and into the element is accentuated in these rows.
The train then travels forwards through the launch and station, reaching its maximum speed of 42mph. Both the backwards and forwards launches feature synchronised lighting, in addition to the audio, with the forward launch also have added smoke beneath the operator’s cabin which the train travels through as exits from the other side. After a relatively forceful left turn, the mandrill horde whisks riders through the ride’s inversion, the first on a coaster at Chessington. The profiling of the inversion and speed at which it is taken, allow riders a moment to wave to guests on the ground, with the swooping left turn that follows also being an opportunity where riders will be able to interact with those queuing for Ostrich Stampede, one of the area’s flat rides.
After travelling past a near miss element in the form of wooden spikes in the ground, with these being most effective for those sat on the left hand side, the train travels through another small launch section. This gives the train enough speed to climb to the top of the helix that spirals up and around the 55ft tall Jaguar Shrine. Upon reaching the top, mist emerges from the mouth of the Jaguar Shrine and a roar can be heard. After the train hangs for a moment, it then begins to descend back down – for most riders this means travelling backwards once more, although those in the seventh row now get to experience the main part of the layout forwards. The track supports themselves work to provide some further near miss moments on both the way up and back down. The launch at the base of the Jaguar Shrine, enables the train to go back through the inversion before eventually being brought to a stop upon returning to the station. As guests disembark from the ride, another voiceover from Nigel congratulates riders for returning the Jaguar’s Eye jewel and sends them “onwards to save Jumanji”. Although not heard by guests on-ride, for the duration of the ride experience a bespoke audio soundtrack plays in the station that underscores the train navigating the circuit. With it possible for this to be heard by those in and around the batching area, this builds some last minute excitement for guests before boarding themselves.
Overall, Mandrill Mayhem is good fun and offers some thrilling moments both forwards and backwards that will be universally appealing to children and young thrill seekers, with the rollercoaster having a minimum height restriction of 1.2m. It should be noted that there is also a maximum height restriction of 1.95m. We preferred sitting towards the back of the train, in either row 6 or (the backwards facing) row 7, since this provides the best experience of the ‘scorpion tail’ spike and seems to make for the most forceful all-round ride. We did find that it was a smoother experiencing sitting on the inside seats, with something of a wobble being felt on the outside seats.
By the nature of being a shuttle rollercoaster and operating one train, the ride does not have as high of a capacity as a full circuit equivalent would be expected to have. Therefore, the Resort will initially be operating a virtual queue system. Guests can each book one slot per day for up to 6 people, with slots first bookable from 9:45am and more availability then released throughout the day. This will be done via the Resort’s app, with signage featuring QR codes directing guests to this already on display. During the preview event, dispatch times seemed to average around 3-4 minutes – this would put hourly capacity in the region of 400-550 riders. With the ride itself being around 1 minute length, and at least another minute being required to unload and reload the train, maximum theoretical capacity is assumed to be approximately 840 riders per hour. Therefore, while there looks to be some scope to increase actual achieved capacity in time, this will be somewhat limited.
It does seem like the batching and loading process could be made more efficient, and indeed it did sound as though this wasn’t being fully implemented as intended during the preview event. Given that the ride was also walk-on for most of the preview event, staff were perhaps also waiting longer than they would with a full queue, to allow time for more people to board. There was also only a single ride host on either side of the train checking restraints for the majority of the event, but we understand it should ordinarily operate with two hosts on each side which should speed up this process. Further delays were also caused by confusion around where guests should leave their bags – these need to be left on the train-side of the airgates, otherwise they can’t be retrieved after guests off-load until the airgates are opened to enable the next batch of guests to board. Again, we understand that there are things to come which should make this clearer.
After getting off Mandrill Mayhem, guests are directed out through an exit-way that runs parallel with the track as it emerges from the front of the station. Guests getting off the right hand side are required to cross back over the track, with the first section of this corridor and stairs being notably dark – hopefully lighting is due to be added to this area, or perhaps just wasn’t functional during the preview. This walkway directs guests into the bazaar area, where an on-ride photo (taken during the launch at the base of the Jaguar Shrine) can be purchased. This is also the location of the area’s retail outlet, which is rather uniquely mostly located outside beneath a canopy, although there is also a indoor section which houses the kiosk. A range of merchandise is available to purchase, including more generic Jumanji products, like plushies of the four main film characters, as well as those specific to World of Jumanji and its attractions, such as clothing, rucksacks, pin badges and mugs. There are also different versions of the Jumanji board game on sale. A nice touch that adds to the immersion is that all items feature a hand written price tag, as you would expect from a market stall. So immersive such that it was, one guest was overheard trying to haggle on prices.
In the bazaar area is also found one of the land’s two flat rides – Mamba Strike. This SBF Top Dancer (a Miami-type ride) requires guests to dodge the fangs of the black mamba, which is preparing to strike from behind the ride! This attraction again has a themed entrance portal that’s in keeping with the surrounding area, with the queue line then taking guests behind the ride where the mamba in its basket can be fully seen. On the fencing surrounding the queue are paintings of the mamba, as well as messages that call-back to the riddle faced by the characters in the film. Furthermore, the metal fencing used is topped with custom snake head shaped pieces. The operator’s cabin is also nicely themed, with surprisingly ornate looking doors on either side. While the ride experience itself is not as intense as what would be expect from similar type rides found at funfairs, it still provides pops of airtime. The ride has a minimum height restriction of 1.2m. During the preview event, the ride did experience a fair amount of downtime, with us actually getting stuck on the ride for around 15 minutes upon it faulting.
The land’s other flat ride, Ostrich Stampede, is located in the dunes section of the area, which is off to the right when guests first enter into World of Jumanji. On this attraction, an SBF Super Jumper, guests find themselves swept up in the herd of stampeding birds, sitting within the wings of ostriches which have the same menacing appearance as in the films. The entrance portal for this attraction is themed using corrugated metal and ‘ostrich feathers’. Strewn around the queue line are the parts of vehicles, which reflect the first environment that the characters find themselves in upon returning to Jumanji in The Next Level. The theming of the operator’s cabin is also reflective of this. Like the area’s other rides, the attraction has a minimum height restriction of 1.2m. The ride cycle did feel on the short side, especially with the arms only bouncing for a minority of the cycle, with the rest of the cycle seeing the ride rotate with minimal vertical movement. We do understand that this is due to change, with the ride still having to work through some technical difficulties.
Opposite Ostrich Stampede is Jumanji Trading Co, a food kiosk serving a selection of on-theme snacks. This includes savoury options in turkey legs and pork hotdogs, as well as cupcakes as a sweeter alternative. The kiosk itself is themed to be a truck that has been overturned and ravaged by the mandrills – the front of the truck is actually that from Ripsaw’s former operator’s cabin, and audio plays out in this area of the engine attempting to start. The offerings here do seem to be on the pricey side as, while the portion sizes for the savoury options are large, at £13.50/£14 they are priced similarly to full meals at other food outlets in the park, which are typically served with fries and a drink.
Beyond the three rides, there are also lots of different features to explore and discover across the wider World of Jumanji area. At the centre can be found an array of wooden climbing apparatus, along with a photo opportunity that features the Jaguar Shrine and the World of Jumanji logo on the floor. The plants used for the landscaping in this area have been selected for their fast-growing qualities, and therefore it is expected that the area will start to look more like an overgrown jungle come late summer. Borders are also due to be added around the planted areas, to deter guests from walking across them. In all areas, but most noticeably around the central area, a soundtrack is played at a loud volume, along with ambient sound effects, that together completes the land’s atmosphere.
In the bazaar, there are lots of trinkets and wares lining the walls and occupying spaces that would otherwise be empty. The walkway through the bazaar is also lined with midway games located in well-themed buildings, as well as a Coca Cola Freestyle station themed as a garage – next to this are petrol pumps which feature an Easter Egg in the years of release of the 2017 and 2019 films. We believe the jeep that was located here for the preview event will not be a permanent fixture. Throughout the entire area are a number of challenges for guests that are perhaps not yet tall enough for the rides to tackle. On their exploration of Jumanji, guests should also be on the look out for a hungry hippo, as well as plenty more Easter eggs than just the few we’ve noted above. Explorers can also be found roaming the land, ready to guide guests on their adventures. All of the staff members working in World of Jumanji also have a themed uniform.
The launch of World of Jumanji brings to a close what has been a period of two years following the project’s progression. This began with a public consultation in May 2021 to gather initial feedback on the proposals, with this providing a first look at what would eventually be revealed to be Mandrill Mayhem as well as the different flat ride options being considered for the area. The submission of the full planning application followed in August 2021, with this fuelling speculation that the area would be themed to Jumanji due to the shape created by planned pathways and landscaping matching the route on the fictional board game. This application was approved in January 2022, and subsequently, in March 2022, Merlin Entertainments and Sony Pictures Entertainment announced an agreement to develop and operate attractions, rides, lands, retail outlets and themed hotel rooms based on the Jumanji film franchise across Merlin’s Resort Theme Parks and Waterparks in Europe (including the UK) and North America.
Construction of the new land started to pick up over the 2022 season, with the steelwork for the rollercoaster’s station building and the Jaguar Shrine structure starting to go up over the summer. In August, Chessington revealed the first details regarding World of Jumanji, and this was followed the first delivery of rollercoaster supports in September. As the 2022 season drew to a close, track had also begun to arrive and be installed on-site. The closed season saw construction continue at pace, and in January 2023 the Resort unveiled full details of what would await in World of Jumanji. February saw Mandrill Mayhem begin testing, and at the end of the month the Resort hosted a Meet the Maker event that featured a hard hat tour of the construction site. This coincided with the announcement of the opening date, which provided a final couple of months for the finishing touches to be added to the area.
World of Jumanji represents the vision of a team headed up by John Burton, Creative Lead at Merlin Magic Making. Mandrill Mayhem itself is the first entirely new rollercoaster that John has been involved with during his career at Merlin, but we’re sure will not be the last! John was present for the preview event, and, as always, was kind enough to stop for a chat about the development’s creative process.
In summary, World of Jumanji is a wonderfully themed new area with a well-rounded line-up of attractions, food and retail. It has a unique headline ride in Mandrill Mayhem, that feels well-pitched for Chessington’s target audience – we saw plenty of young adventurers enjoying rides on the rollercoaster that is really unlike anything else that they can experience in the UK. Although there are some operational challenges to work through across all of the area’s rides, this is to be expected during a preview event and the early days of opening. Thank you to Chessington for inviting us to attend – we trust that there will be plenty more exciting developments to follow at the Resort over the coming years!
When are you planning to journey into World of Jumanji? Do you think you’ve got what it takes to tackle Mandrill Mayhem? Let us know via the Attraction Source social media channels.