I have just returned from a fragrant, pungent and occasionally odiferous trip to the Netherlands. Having recently started helping out at AromaPrime, creators of themed smells for the likes of Alton Towers, I was eager to sniff out new and imaginative ways to tell stories using scent.
First on my itinerary was Efteling, famed for its detailed fantasy world. This theme park truly understands the potential in using smell for storytelling like few others. Even with my own expertise in themed aroma, one of the ways Efteling employ it was particularly unexpected to me!
Rides and Dioramas
Dark rides are all about atmosphere, so it’s no surprise that Efteling hits you with aroma the moment you enter the award-winning Symbolica palace. Fans also express their love of the burnt-salty scent which welcomes you into the queue for the theatrical, chaotic Flying Dutchman ride.
The most memorable smell of all is probably Fata Morgana’s opulent, slightly spicy smell, perfect for the mystical Eastern setting. Guests become so enthralled in the world around them that they never want to leave, and in a way, they don’t have to- when you walk into the themed gift shop, you are able to purchase the fragrance for yourself! This means at home, you can let out a spray, play the soundtrack (which is also sold at Efteling) and take yourself right back! Ingenious!
Efteling is ahead of the game when it comes to accessibility with their Droomvlucht boat ride. Guests in wheelchairs, who are unable to ride for safety reasons, are invited to enjoy the same experience in virtual reality, feeling the same wind and smelling the same immersive aromas:
This was certainly the most surprising olfactory encounter! Normally, themed scents are contained indoors, and there are many scents used for indoor scenes of Efteling's Fairytale Forest. However, the recent Pinocchio installation catches you off guard. As a monstrous fish opens its cavernous mouth to reveal Pinocchio inside, the handrails emit wafts of a fishy pong into the nostrils of onlookers!
Amsterdam Dungeon and AromaPrime
Following my trip to Efteling, I enjoyed a visit to the famous Amsterdam Dungeon. The Dungeon is a walk-through theatrical experience, so historical odours are used to plunge guests into immersion and repulsion alike!
Merlin Entertainments, who own the Dungeons, often use AromaPrime for their experiences, due to their endless range of historical aromas. These include rotting bodies, salty ships and flatulence... as well as a few pleasant ones too! It's amazing how a visceral pong can really bring the past to life.
AromaPrime's smells were actually used to create ambience in the Timewalk attraction, which I wrote about recently, and also the acclaimed Wicker Man roller-coaster at Alton Towers.
From Efteling to AromaPrime, smell never fails to catch people by surprise and make an attraction stand out. Our smell receptors are directly linked to the parts of our brains which process memory and emotion, so it's no surprise that aroma can have such an impact on how we are immersed in storytelling. With that in mind, I always love to see how attractions use this science to their advantage when it comes to creating fantasy!