Any time you get a charity involved with helping to design and market a theme park attraction, there is always going to be some element of propaganda involved to hopefully entice visitors into supporting the charity’s work and getting its message across. What can be difficult is balancing this with also creating an enjoyable experience that makes people want to learn more about the charity in the first place. For my money, PandaDroom at Efteling pulls this off with aplomb.
PandaDroom literally translates as PandaDream, although the show has also aired as PandaVision in various other places. It’s presented in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and so conservation and ecology are at the heart of its message. During the course of the show we visit three different environments: the polar ice caps, under the sea and the rainforest. Each one introduces us to cute animal characters whose lives are impacted by the actions of man (although in a clever and subtle touch we never see any humans in the movie itself), and ends with a rather dramatic finale in which the titular panda saves the audience from being crushed by a falling tree.
What I like about PandaDroom is the fact that it manages to be cute and funny at times while also being shocking and poignant. It really gets you thinking about the impact that we have on our planet, and how this affects the lives of the creatures we share it with. The whole film is animated so we never see any real animals after the pre-show, but it’s still enough to make you feel their pain and suffering when their lives and habitats are all but destroyed by the actions of the unseen humans. I don’t think it’s too in your face, though, and there are plenty of cutesy moments and a really beautiful gift shop at the end to make it worth doing even if you’re not a supporter of the charity.
There are a couple of minor issues with PandaDroom, mainly concerning its age and staging. The 3D visuals and imagery used are not the best I’ve ever seen, most likely due to the budget or the fact that things have progressed in the decade and a half since the show first arrived. It doesn’t spoil the experience as such, and there are plenty of things that make up for this, such as the giant falling tree branch and sudden seat movement in the finale, but I do think a little restoration on the film and footage would improve the quality of the experience overall. Other than that this is an interesting and thought-provoking attraction which is beautifully set and presented and gives you the opportunity to support and find out more about a very worthwhile cause, while still being an enjoyable and entertaining attraction that all the family can experience together.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your stay here at Along for the Ride.