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Netherlands theme park ride takes royal subjects on a secret tour of a king’s palace

Netherlands theme park ride takes royal subjects on a secret tour of a king’s palace
Concept rendering of the new Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy dark ride coming to Efteling, about an hour south of Amsterdam. (Efteling)

A new $38-million ride opening July 1 at a Netherlands theme park will step inside a storybook world where reality, dreams and fantasy collide, and nothing is what it seems.

The Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy trackless dark ride will be the most expensive attraction ever built in the 65-year history of Efteling, located about an hour south of Amsterdam.

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The new attraction will be built at the center of the park, which is often compared to Disneyland for its fairy tale settings, focus on storytelling and attention to detail. Efteling was named the best theme park in the world by the International Assn. of Amusement Parks and Attractions in 1992 and recognized as a "classic" park by the Themed Entertainment Assn. in 2005.

Concept art of the reception hall, where the king’s servant O.J. Punctuel awaits with a long list of rules.
Concept art of the reception hall, where the king’s servant O.J. Punctuel awaits with a long list of rules. (Efteling)

The seven-minute Symbolica attraction will take riders along three potential paths through a king's palace. Six-person ride vehicles built by Netherlands-based ETF Ride Systems will follow predetermined paths that crisscross and travel into and out of dead ends. The wooden sleigh-themed carriages can move forward and backward, rotate and overtake other vehicles, according to Blooloop.

The ride's backstory finds Symbolica's king inviting his royal subjects on a guided tour of the Palace of Fantasy. The king's servant O.J. Punctuel welcomes visitors in the reception hall with a long list of rules. But Efteling's jester mascot, Pardoes, hijacks the tour and takes riders on a journey through the secret corridors and magical rooms of the palace.

The Palace of Fantasy is topped with a series of copper-roofed towers.
The Palace of Fantasy is topped with a series of copper-roofed towers. (Efteling)

Along the way, riders will encounter 10 animatronic figures built by San Bernardino-based Garner Holt Productions. After traveling on separate journeys, the ride vehicles will reunite and "dance" together in the ballroom finale, according to Theme Park Insider. The funhouse mirror-lined ballroom will be outfitted with golden suits of armor that play bass drums and cymbals, crystal chandeliers imported from Germany and a fanciful calliope festooned with cellos, harps and horns. A musical score for the attraction was recorded by a symphony orchestra in Belgium.

The Symbolica palace show building and dark ride scenes were designed in-house by Efteling's own creative team. The Palace of Fantasy is topped with a series of copper-roofed towers. The 40,000-square-foot building is covered by solar panels cleverly outlined by a rooftop garden.

Efteling's storied dark ride history includes three ambitious attractions: Droomvlucht, Fata Morgana and Carnaval Festival. The 1993 Droomvlucht, which translates to Dreamflight, takes riders in hanging gondolas through a fairy tale world of enchanted forests filled with fairies, trolls and unicorns. The 1986 Fata Morgana, or Forbidden City, travels by boat through scenes from "One Thousand and One Arabian Nights" populated with more than 100 animatronic characters. The 1984 Carnaval Festival is Efteling's take on Disney's It's a Small World, with a heavy emphasis on European countries.

Symbolica joins a growing list of trackless dark rides that includes Pooh's Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland, Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, Ratatouille at Walt Disney Studios Park in France, Antarctic at SeaWorld Orlando, Thor's Hammer at Norway's Tusenfryd and Hotel Transylvania at Dubai's Motiongate.

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