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Bubbleworks (originally titled Prof. Burp's Bubble Works, then Imperial Leather Bubbleworks from 2006) was a dark water ride opened in 1990 at Chessington World of Adventures Resort in Greater London, England. It took riders through animated scenes of a comical factory producing fizzy pop. The ride was designed and built by the Sparks Group for attraction producer John Wardley. The original ride closed, to be redesigned in 2006 with a sponsorship by Imperial Leather toiletries, with the majority of the animations removed. The new Bubbleworks then itself closed in September 2016 and was then replaced by The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure.

Original Bubble Works logo 1990–2005
Chessington World of Adventures
Opening date1990 (As Prof. Burp's Bubble Works)
2006 (As Imperial Leather Bubbleworks)
Closing date6 September 2016; 3 years ago (2016-09-06)
Replaced byThe Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
General statistics
Attraction typeDark ride
ManufacturerLeisurtec / WGH
DesignerSparks Group (1990)
Tussauds Studios (2006)
MusicGraham Smart
Capacity1,000 riders per hour
Vehicle typeTubs
Riders per vehicle4
Duration6 minutes
Fastrack available
Must transfer from wheelchair
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available


Prof. Burp's BubbleWorksEdit

Prof. Burp's Bubble Works station under its original lighting and scenic design 1990–2005.

The ride was created as part of the second phase to regenerate Chessington Zoo into a popular theme park.[1] The Transylvania area in Chessington World of Adventures was created in 1990,[2] opening with the Vampire and Prof. Burp's Bubble Works as its main attractions.

Park development director for Tussauds, John Wardley, developed the concept of a magical factory following the making of Professor Burp's fizzy pop from juicing to bottling.[1] He collaborated with cartoon company Siriol Animation to create the characters and scenes. Keith Sparks' production company designed and built the attraction.[3][1] The musical soundtrack was produced by Welsh composer Graham Smart, consisting of a 13-track score that played in synchronisation throughout the ride.[3] The iconic tunnel fountains in the finale of the ride were developed by the Sparks Group and were unique to the Bubbleworks at the time.

The dark ride went on to be highly successful for the park and was, in its first seasons years, voted third best dark ride in the world by the National Amusement Park Historical Association.[1] It spawned many similar water dark rides around Europe. Following the BubbleWorks, Keith Sparks and John Wardley teamed up again to produce The Haunted House at Alton Towers in 1992.[1] John Wardley later reflected on the attraction as being his "proudest moment at Chessington".[4]

The ride also made use of themed merchandising, something which has since become commonplace in UK theme parks. Riders had the option to exit into a gift shop, originally selling BubbleWorks souvenirs, including Professor Burp-branded fizzy pop drinks, figurines of the Bubblehead characters, cassette tapes of the ride music, novelty Professor Burp hats and postcards.[3] In later years, the ride's exit path was permanently routed through the gift shop.

2006 RefurbishmentEdit

Exterior of the Imperial Leather Bubbleworks, as it appeared following the attraction's redesign in 2006.

Prof. Burp's BubbleWorks operated for fifteen years, before being replaced a new sponsored version by Tussauds Studios at the end of 2005, without the involvement of the ride's original design team. The ride's theme was changed to a soap factory to suit sponsor Imperial Leather. Several of the sets and props were recycled, extensively modified and repainted by Tussauds. Additionally, almost all the animations were removed or made static.

"The Bubble Works, I think probably that was one of the happiest experiences I had. It had, and has still got, a huge following - even though it in effect closed [in 2005]. [...] And it was very sad when the ownership of the park changed that it was decided that the Bubbleworks had to be made more commercial, and a sponsor was brought in, and the storyline was reworked to suit the brand of the sponsor."

 – John Wardley reflecting in 2010 on Prof. Burp's BubbleWorks and its 2005 closure.[5]

Upon re-opening, the redesigned attraction received highly negative response for having removed the animations and humour of the ride and for the flawed alterations to its soundtrack, lighting and animations (including dubbing over most of the original theme music with quacking duck sounds).[6] It was noted that the new Bubbleworks was largely a "monotonous... charmless and, at best, highly irritating" advert for its sponsor.[6]

The original ride's producer John Wardley refused to ride the new version, having been warned that he "would weep if [he] did", emphasising that he disowned the new version.[4][5]

In 2014 the Imperial Leather brand logos were removed or covered up, although the ride remained unchanged otherwise. On 21 December 2013, a fire broke out at the adjacent Creaky Cafe building, which damaged an exterior wall to the finale room, requiring repairs. During this time the ride's facade was repainted in blue.


In the summer of 2016, Chessington announced that the ride was set to close in September that year to be replaced by a new dark ride. The replacement was developed by Merlin Magic Making (previously Tussauds Studios).

Chessington subsequently announced that a ride based on the Gruffalo franchise would open in 2017; a decision that was met with highly mixed reaction on social media. [7][8] The use of a licensed third-party Intellectual Property contrasted with the original 1990 ride's success championing family attractions with original concepts.[3]

Throughout the closing down period, Chessington conflated the much-changed 2006 ride with the 1990 Professor Burp's version (which had received its own closing down event 10 years earlier), and instructed their press coverage to do so. It was erroneously claimed that Prof. Burp's BubbleWorks had been operating for 26 years.[9] The park were criticised for capitalising on the reputation of the since-closed original. John Wardley declined to attend the closing down event in 2016. The Bubbleworks finally closed on 6 September, with many of its remaining props sold at auction.

Throughout the ride's final month, Chessington offered separately-priced 'VIP Behind The Scenes' tours to the public. Led by an actor in a Professor Burp imitation costume and wig, the tours purportedly contained factual inaccuracies about the original ride, including stating that the Bubblehead characters were named 'Willyheads' (referring to male genitalia).[10] This was also displayed on notice boards during the ride's closing-down media party.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Creating My Own Nemesis". John Wardley. 2013.
  2. ^ "History of attractions / timeline: Chessington". Chessington UK. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d "Prof Burp's Bubble Works production documentary". British Theme Park Archive. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b "John Wardley Q&A BubbleWorks discussion". YouTube. 15 March 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  5. ^ a b "John Wardley Bubbleworks discussion at 12:30". The Season Pass Podcast. 28 April 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  6. ^ a b "2006 IL BubbleWorks Review". Coaster Kingdom. 26 March 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Chessington's social media announcement & guest response". Chessington Official Facebook. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Chessington World of Adventures Resort".
  9. ^ "Visitors 'heartbroken' as Chessington's Bubbleworks ride closes". 22 July 2016.
  10. ^ "British Theme Park Archive".
  11. ^

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