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The Legendary Knott's Bear-y Tales Ride Is Now a Family Fun-Filled Sequel
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Sometimes, you can indeed go home again, at least when it comes to classic theme park rides. Déjà vu and a revamped, cutting edge 2021 technology enliven and continue the adventures of the original Knott's Bear-y Tales. That ride opened initially in 1975 and was enormously popular through 1986, when it closed.

Created by Rolly Crump, whose work is fully legendary in and of itself, the designer and talented artist shaped an entirely original work, one that could only be seen at Knott's and represented Knott's Berry Farm's own origins. Crump worked on the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World at Disneyland as well as on the original Bear-Tales dark ride.

The imaginative ride was a long-time fan favorite, and Knott's afficiandos have been asking for it's return for decades. To say parkgoers had fond memories is a decided understatement: many clamored for its return, and now it has.

The park itself reopened to passholders on May 6th, ahead of the reopening to the general public on the 21st. The new Knott's Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair 4-D interactive dark ride debuted at the same time. This year marks not just the park's reopening and the opening of the new ride, but also a milestone for the park; its 100th anniversary.

Award-winner Triotech worked with Knott's to reimagine the ride in time for the park's anniversary – which was supposed to be held in 2020. Naturally, due to the pandemic, the occasion and its celebration were postponed for a year.

Ernest Yale, Triotech's founder and CEO had worked with Cedar Fair, the parent company of Knott's Berry Farm, on other occasions, including the completion of the Voyage to the Iron Reef ride which had been the replacement for the original Bear-y Tales ride. So, in seeking an iconic ride for Knott's 100th anniversary, Knott's Bear-y Tales itself immediately came to mind. “We thought, now's the time to do an attraction [rebooting the original] that has much more physical theming, that fits with what you see on screen and uses the latest technology and the latest media.”

While the ride indeed plays off the original, following the storyline of guests visiting the bear's factory, the queue line is now featuring a factory design and there is acknowledgment that 35 years have passed in the ride's storyline. It is also thoroughly updated.

According to Triotech creative head Nol Van Genuchten, the vehicles in the update are based on the old ride's cars, with the same colors; and with the “smell factory” still a part of the ride “you smell all the different scents as you go through. But we now also have the interactive piece where, with their jelly blasters, riders can shoot the animations on the screen.”

The gaming will also lead to repeat visits, so that guests can up their scores and continue to test their skill at blasting pies and scoring points as well as enjoying the vivid sets.

Van Genuchten terms the ride “a milestone, and then on top of that, it has a very special place in the memory of a lot of guests because it was the thing that they remember as a child...Capturing that spirit, the creativity and the originality that made that dark ride such a success, became our guiding light,” he says.

Another guiding light for the ride's creation was a conversation with Rolly Crump's son, Chris, who made sure to offer insight into his father's vision. And, the park's history and heritage as well as that of the ride itself, were essentially built into the construction, through old photographs and original artwork.

Of course, along with staying true to the original ride as a source, the current creators sought to add fully current interactivity, media, and technology into the classic dark ride concept. They also had to let the ride's story evolve and play out before the riders. The gaming targets were tied into this, allowing an interaction with the targets along the large and continuous screens.

The pandemic delays, while frustrating, allowed the Knott's team and Triotech to work more deeply with Chris Crump and fine-tune the ride, resulting in early and overwhelming guest satisfaction with the new attraction. It also allowed for enhanced development of innovative features such as interactive shadows, and the use of a “jelly blaster” rather than a conventional blaster gun. According to Yale “…its much easier for little kids to hold…and you can do the ride multiple times without your hands and fingers hurting.”

Filled with rapid, cartoon-like action and exuding the scent of boysenberry pie, the ride's storyline follows Boysen Bear and Girlsen Bear to the County Fair just as the original did. Now along with Crafty Coyote, there are his offspring, all with their heart set on stealing the pies. The locations are carefully digital rendered, both paying homage to the original attraction and thoroughly updating it from the pie factory to Frog Forest, Fortune Teller Camp, Thunder Cave, and Weird Woods – all locations from the original ride. All the characters are updated – with Boysen Bear now a grown-up factory owner, and Crafty Coyote's pups doing his thieving for him.

The biggest change is the interactive aspect of the ride: visitors simply watched the action unfold in the original, now they are trying to actively stop the coyote pups from their pie stealing. The new ride's 3-D images and interactive play is not only immersive, it's literally and figuratively rapid fire, a fully re-envisioned and modernized nostalgic tribute, and a highlight of Knott's 100th Anniversary celebration.
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