austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Pretty soon we learn to fly

In 1911, Professor Hugo II, a world renowned Archaeologist and explorer extraordinaire set out on an incredible journey into the very heart of the wilds, in search of the legendary city which the ancient people of Maya called Volcanoland..... After months of trekking, exhausted and strained, he finally broke clear of the dense jungle and realized he had reached the end of his search, as he came face to face with VOLCANOLAND!!

So begins ``The Legend of Volcanoland,'' which attempts to explain the exhibit of that name on Sentosa Island. It starts with a set that sort of looks somewhat Mayan, I suppose, though they've added robot dinosaurs making it harder to see the sculpting. But the appeal is supposed to be the Volcano, which ``erupts'' every half hour. And so on the half-hour the doors open, our tickets are taken, and we're ushered into a series of dark tunnels.

The panels in the tunnels speak of Professor Hugo, and his 1911 expedition to the center of the Earth, and building the robot IGO NOGO, and supports it with things like clippings from the ``Fimes'' of London. You probably get the spirit there. It starts out rather neatly with dimly lit campsites decorated with dust- and cobweb-laden props like old Ovaltine cans. There are spots of `fossilized' animals, or human skeletons hung on ladders to nowhere, while speakers hidden in the lamps play ominous noises and dripping water and all. Then the tour guide comes along and chases me -- I'm a lingerer -- into the elevator.

There, the guide listlessly explains we are ``about to take the ride to the centre of the Earth, from which we may never return.'' The door closes, and the cabin shakes around while loud mechanical noises play, and a little light effect makes concentric circles shrink to the center of the ceiling. After a minute or so of this, a different door opens, and we're told we're in the center of the Earth. This is more tunnels, albeit darker ones, with different skeletons and more glittering bits in the walls to represent precious metals.

Finally we're ushered into a theater, one of those interpretative center-type stages with the screens and rising and falling props. It starts with a couple of spheres on which a movie of the creation of the world is shown, and a booming voice declaring itself to be the element of Fire, and it goes on to explain history as the battle of life and fire, with mankind, in the form of Neanderthals, eventually taming it ... and fire was banished to the center of the world, along with the most precious stones, including even diamonds.

Then up in the corner pops Professor Hugo and his robot, IGO NOGO. Hugo is hard at work reviewing his notes because he's so fascinated by what might be learned about the evolution of life. IGO asks about his own evolution; Hugo explains that he's a robot, he doesn't evolve. ``I forgot,'' explains IGO. You see what I mean about the vaguely Hanna-Barbera relationship the two have.

Fire goes on to explain more of the role of fire in ruling the world, which you'd think Hugo would pay attention to, but he's British and so very involved in his notes, never mind secrets of the universe. Finally Fire has enough and says the humans have invaded his domain ... as a show of his power, he will now send us back.

Strobe lights flash, and the bass speakers rumble around, and a mask swings forward off the wall, near Hugo and IGO. There's more cracks of noise and half the facade of the top of the stage lethargically swings down. There's some more rumbling, and finally the flashing lets up, and the doors to the gift shop open up.

The audience looks around, baffled, and in some crowds laughs in a bewildered state. As you might gather, it's an odd mix of reasonably believable `lost expedition' sets, done maybe with Amusement Park Haunted House stylings but fun and a bit spooky for that; and then somewhere around the elevator it just tumbles off into goofy trails. That's fun too, but ... Fire elementals? Weird rambling threats? It's certainly worth the admission price, but it does leave the audience looking at each other wondering what the heck they just experienced.

Trivia: The first Nobel Prizes were approximately US$40,000 each. Source: Asimov's New Guide to Science, Isaac Asimov.

Currently Reading: Saint Vidicon To The Rescue, Christopher Stasheff.


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