Martin Aquatic Celebrates Opening of VinWonders’
Spectacular Fountain Show “Once”
Vietnam’s largest theme park wows audiences nightly with dazzling special effects of water, fire, and projection created by an interdisciplinary team from around the world.
With the opening of VinWonders Theme Park in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, the newest resort entertainment destination in southeast Asia, visitors are getting the first glimpses of the 135-acre park and its wide offerings of attractions, including the nighttime fountain and stage show, Once: An Enchanted Storybook Spectacular. Joining the team of consultants that helped bring the $12-million USD Once show to life, Martin Aquatic Design & Engineering developed the special water effects within the 6,128-square-meter lagoon, creating an impressive array of water screens and fountains that help tell the original story.
Blending Vietnamese culture with universal themes of good versus evil, Once takes the audience on a thrilling adventure as a boy receives a magical storybook, giving him the power to harness his imagination in defeating an evil sorceress. The quest tests the bravery of our hero, leading him through perilous settings aboard a pirate ship, under the sea, and face-to-face with a giant mystical Phoenix.
The spellbinding tale is the collaborative effort of numerous technical consultants, all led by Quantum Creative Studios (https://quantumcreativestudios.com), the world-class entertainment and experience innovation producer that directed this nighttime lagoon spectacular from conception. The park’s owners, Vinpearl, allowed the production team complete control of the design and infrastructure of this area of the park, creating the large size of the lagoon and audience viewing area specifically for Once.
“Quantum assembled the team together at such an early stage in the development of this show,” said Martin Aquatic’s President & Creative Director Josh Martin. “It’s rare that technical consultants and the creative producers can collaboratively build a show and venue of this magnitude from the very beginning, and we were so proud to have added our expertise to the mix.”
Storytelling Through Advanced Special Effects
Set in front of the park’s European-styled castle, the show utilizes numerous technical effects that complement the performers on stage and create the magical moments that propel the story forward.
In addition to the award-winning writers and designers from Quantum, world-class special effects creators, and top lighting and audio/visual creatives, Martin Aquatic brought its creative design experience to the table to develop the programming alongside the fountain manufacturer, Oase. More than 40 fountain nozzles form an array inside the lagoon that can shoot water as high as 150 feet, with 31 nozzles capable of moving and rotating to create dramatic arcs of water. In addition, special misting nozzles created a 50-foot-tall by 150-foot-wide water screen for projecting video during the show.
“Because water is such a life-giving element of Vietnamese culture, we created a human connection to water by giving the boy the power to control it and make it move. Those fountains are really the heartbeat of the hero—his excitement, his growing confidence, and his bravery in the face of danger,” said Quantum’s Chief Creative Officer Kelly Easterling. “But if you watched the show as just fountains, it wouldn’t make sense. It takes all the elements together—the characters, the projection video, the music, and the fire effects to create a complete story full of emotion and suspense.”
The project team composed original music and video, as well as choreographed the battle sequences simultaneously with fire and water effects throughout the 20-minute-long show. Quantum even engaged the famed puppet designers of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to create the giant Phoenix, which was operated by eight members of the 25-person cast.
Technical Challenges of Creating a Larger-Than-Life Show
By creating a grand nighttime spectacular, the team faced a number of technical challenges in sizing the stage, the lagoon, and even the castle. For example, the audience needed to be a certain distance away from the fountains, fire effects, and castle in order to view the entire video mapping projections.
The final layout places the audience 268 feet away from the stage, making the actors quite small.
“Even though the performers are some distance away, it was because of the fountains and the other special effects that the show is still able to achieve these big moments that Quantum envisioned for the characters and in the story,” said Diego Cordova, Martin Aquatic’s Themed Entertainment Manager. “The way that the water follows our hero’s movements with such intensity helps him become larger than life.”
While the motion of the fountains helped portray the hero’s connection to water in a big way, it was the evil sorceress’ power over fire that presented another big challenge: mitigating the heat from the fire effects. Created by the special effects team at Sigma Services, two custom “Magma” flame units spew out 200-foot-tall plumes of fire during the final battle sequences of the show, generating some hot moments.
“Programming the exact timing of the effects in this show was never more crucial than when those Magma flame units went off,” said Easterling. “The simultaneous water fountains portray the hero’s struggle to defeat the sorceress, but they also help to dampen the extreme heat produced by those flames. It’s another example of just how well this team collaborated to achieve a one-of-a-kind stage spectacular.”
Prior to the pandemic, the team had already endured sleepless nights and midnight phone calls to connect the project team scattered around the globe, and that same passion continued when work resumed to deliver the show for its opening at the end of April 2021. As travel restrictions begin to lift, tourists from around the world will have the chance to experience this stunning production, which is being hailed as one of Asia’s grandest multimedia shows.
About Martin Aquatic Design & Engineering
Built on a history of engineering excellence, Martin Aquatic Design & Engineering is a team of design professionals that sets the standard in producing one-of-a-kind aquatic features. Martin Aquatic bridges creative design with industry-leading engineering to successfully bring projects from sketch to splash. Since 1987, the company has helped craft more than 2,500 projects worldwide using its expertise in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and structural engineering. Martin Aquatic focuses on the key market sectors of water features, resort amenities, water parks, and themed entertainment experiences.