Published 14th November 2019

Aardman Theme Park Call for Ideas: The Winning Concepts

Back in March, we invited Aardman partners to submit ideas for 4D theme park attractions. From the outstanding entries, two concepts were chosen for development, ‘Adventure Through Time’ by Lucy Izzard, and ‘A Fish Tale’ by Darren Dubicki. Below, Lucy and Darren reveal the inspiration behind each story, and how we’re bringing them to life…


Time travel, flying, dinosaurs, pirates, Ancient Egyptian artefacts and magic! This idea was based on all the things that used to captivate me as a kid. From the finger trap in ‘The Addams Family’ film to the adventure, mystery and puzzle-solving of ‘Indiana Jones’ (particularly ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, my favourite Indiana Jones film) to ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ for the magical time travel!

I’m used to being quite conservative with my ideas, budgets usually put a constraint on the number of characters and locations I can include, but for this project, at this stage of development, few constraints existed. So without limitations, the question to myself was ‘what’s the most exciting adventure story I would want to see as my 8 yr. old self?’ And I got thinking!

The call out was for a 4D film idea, 8 – 10 minutes long. I knew I wanted a strong, resilient, creative and bold lead female to carry the film forward, particularly as this was something that wasn’t hugely present in films when I was growing up. At the time of writing up my first ideas, my brother told me about someone he works with called Tang Tang. I loved the alliteration and repetition of the name, however we simplified it to ‘Tang’ during the creative review process.

I made a list of 4D physical cinema effects and this helped me chose my story locations. The first location being land, for its smells, bubbles and vibrations. The second location the sea, for its water sprays, mist, smoke explosions and 3D cannon balls and swinging ship sails. The third location the air, for wind, lightning and thunder.

Without giving too much of the story away, there’s heaps of action & adventure, high-velocity jeopardy, quick-thinking comedic resourcefulness and moments of warmth and sensitivity between characters (human and not). Tang is a modern day Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Rather than a little-girl-lost, she is a cart-jumping, main brace-ducking, dino-avoiding, puzzle-solving mini-adventurer – taking the audience with her on a fantastical, magical journey of the imagination.

I’ve been so fortunate to work with a team of very talented artists for the initial stages of development. Kian Kiani, Jim Grant, Jim Lewis, Asa Lucander, Julia Briemle and Gav Strange.

There’s even talk of this idea being turned into a theme park ‘dark ride’. A company in Florida called Sally Dark Rides have collaborated with us at this early development stage to visualise ‘Adventure Through Time’ as a dark ride experience (meaning being taken on an immersive journey through the story on an indoor roller-coaster). It’s so exciting to think about the way Aardman as story tellers and great character animators can collaborate with a theme park developer to create a ride that combines strong story and characters in an immersive experience. I can’t articulate how excited I would be to see my idea develop into a theme park ride that I can go on with my kids!

Darren Dubicki - A Fish Tale

‘A Fish Tale’ is a story I created specifically to be told through more immersive techniques and technology. It’s an area I’ve become really interested in from a film making perspective – VR, AR, mixed reality etc. but I’m also drawn to the fact that such mediums allow for this story to cross into realms such as theme park rides and 4D entertainment.

Aardman are currently creating such stories and were looking for new potential ideas and new IP’s to focus on. I decided to pitch ‘A Fish Tale’ and was beyond delighted when I got the go ahead to develop the idea further with the studio. From this point, it became clear that the story could potentially work as a 4D film or even as a theme park dark ride.

The idea was initially inspired by a simple digital painting I created – of cormorants diving for fish – which I then wanted to see animated in some form. Studying cormorants then led me into the magical world of cormorant fishing – a synergistic relationship between cormorants and their fishermen masters on the Rivers of China, where the birds are trained to effortlessly catch fish for them. I became fascinated by this traditional practice and the atmospheric world that surrounds it, and decided to use it as a basis for telling the story through a young boy’s eyes.

In a nutshell, it’s a heart-warming buddy story between a young boy and his pet Cormorant. As we follow the pair’s attempts to catch fish for the first time, their naivety and inexperience unfortunately get in the way. But, thanks to their perseverance and pluckiness, the story dramatically resolves with the pair proving they’re worthy to carry on the tradition.

At this point I figured there’s ample potential for audiences to experience 2 rich, immersive worlds – above and below the water surface as they’re led on a journey with the characters.

It’s very early in stages of development, but it’s very exciting as I see the idea increasingly become more tangible as artists and writers in the studio help to shape and realise the story. Aside from Aardman’s support, we’re also now partnered with a fantastic company called P&P Projects who specialise in creating worlds for theme parks, museums and much more. They have great vision for how ‘A Fish Tale’ could develop into a vibrant, physical world for audiences to explore, which is amazing to see their development interpret a traditional narrative into a live experience.

I’m also keen that the story lends itself to universal engagement with the real world – this is a beautiful, but dying art so it’s a potential for any audience to experience a slice of this magical location and culture.

Both studios are working hard to ready the project for its next milestone event, IAAPA Expo 2019 in Orlando, where the story is unleashed to the world of global attractions… and hopefully it will find a home.

Lucy Izzard


Lucy Izzard has a style full of warmth, character, comedy and sensitivity. Before joining Aardman, Lucy worked with multiple animation companies over the years, including Slinky Pictures, 12foot6, and ArthurCox,

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Darren Dubicki

Director & Visual Development Lead

Darren is a Director and Designer with 16 years experience in the animation and design industries. During this time he has worked across a broad spectrum of media; employing his mixed media, creative and filmmaking skills in film, broadcast, commercial and print projects.

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