Armageddon in Paris and in California: Part 20 of our Fire! Serie

Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux had a fascinating premise: what if guests were trapped inside the doomed Russian space station from the 1998 Armageddon movie?  It is simple enough and depending on how it was produced and explained to guests, could be a great success.

Thierry Coup, who later joined Universal Creative and helped bring the universe of Harry Potter to life with the Wizarding World, was the imagineer in charge of bringing this disaster to life.  The attraction was also in development for Disney’s California Adventure as part of its Hollywood Land area, but it was delayed and never built there. The building for the attraction was later used for “Who wants to be a millionnaire? Play it!” and is currently empty.

The show building had a massive lighted-up sign that looked nice and had an Armadillo vehicle from the movie on the right.  Ominously, a large quantity of steam was constantly leaving the top of the building.  After guests entered one of the two preshow rooms, a cast member welcomed them to the special effect stage and they were forced to recite an awful script with forced guest interaction.  It took a lot of talent to make thing interesting and not bore guests to death.  Add a boring video featuring Michael Clarke Duncan, who also had to work with terrible material and guest interest was lost before they even stepped inside the main show.

Parcs et Compagnie provided us with those photos of the preshow, shot during previews of the park in March 2002.

The main show was unique: whereas Backdraft, Twister, and other attractions of that type use wide open sets and stages, Armageddon went the intimate route.  Guests spread around the space station, with screens disguised as viewing windows, access tunnels and lots of props.  When things started, you had dual language narration: the computer voice was in French, the Russian astronaut in English. 

The show started with the main viewport opening, followed by an alarm that an object was approaching.  The second viewport opened and as the computer described the meteorite that was approaching, we saw the building damage on the exterior of the stations on the viewport.  Power briefly cut out, but this was a short respite as damage built up inside and outside.  Guests standing by a corridor were treated to multiple bursts of fire from a ventilation vent.

Parcs et Compagnie provided us with those photos of the main show with work lighting, shot during previews of the park in March 2002.

Initially, one of the corridor had an amazing smoke effect where after a prop burst through the wall, smoke was sucked outside.  It was an effective way to show the loss of integrity of the station, but it was challenging to maintain, and by the time of the closure in 2019, the smoke was absent.

The computer asks us to brace for impact when all the lights cut out: water and fire burst out from the vent in the ceiling in the center of the room.  The side corridor that previously had been on fire also blows another fireball.  Things are not over yet: an even larger fireball and water emerges from the center.  The floor drops a little, concluding the disaster scene’s shooting.

Whereas the main show was always interesting, the preshow destroyed guest satisfaction: internal surveys showed that when Armageddon was open, it made guests more unhappy than if it had been closed.  In 2019, when the Backlot closed for remodeling into Avengers Campus, Armageddon was to be torn down entirely and not redressed.  Its replacement is much more popular: W.E.B. Slingers is the park’s first interactive dark ride attraction featuring Spiderman and opened in 2022 with the rest of the campus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s