One of the industry’s best-known manufacturers of amusement rides and attractions, Zamperla, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. Throughout the year, the company has installed more than 200 rides in theme parks around the world – and with a raft of contracts already in the pipeline for 2017, it’s clear that Zamperla is preparing for another 50 years of success.

The history of Zamperla stretches back to a century-long family tradition, which started with an equestrian circus at the beginning of the 20th century and developed – through the establishment and management of one of the first street cinemas in Italy – into the production of amusement rides in the 1960s.

The family marked its foray into manufacturing in 1966, when Antonio Zamperla, founder of Antonio Zamperla S.p.A., realised that popular adult attractions could be successfully reproduced for children, as is the case with the bumper cars, the first travelling go-karts, punch balls, balloon races and other rides, which have now become classics in the entertainment field.

In 1979, Zamperla evolved into a limited company and expanded its production unit to 2,000sq.m and 50 employees. The growth of the company has continued ever since. It was incorporated into a joint stock company in 1988, and it was during this time that Zamperla won a major contract with the soon-to-open Disneyland Paris.

Today, Zamperla has a 9,600sq.m productions facility and 190 direct employees.

When asked to pick out some key highlights for Zamperla over the past 50 years, the company’s Marco Mazzucchi said: “In 1976, Zamperla landed in the New World and settles down in Montreal before moving to New Jersey, where Alberto Zamperla, Antonio’s son and current president, opened a sales office and spare parts warehouse to serve the demanding North American market.

“Another turning point for our company was when Disney came to Europe and we were selected to build seven of the initial 12 rides for Disneyland Paris. Because we were on time for the Paris contract, Disney asked us to make another ride for California, and so we started a very good collaboration which is still progressing and which has resulted in a total of 25 rides sold to Disney to this today, with further to come in the future.”

Mazzucchi added: “The acquisition of the Disneyland Paris contract is still remembered with emotion and pride, and it represents a milestone in the development of the Vicenza-based company. In 2005, Antonio Zamperla was inducted, as first Italian in the history, into the IAAPA Hall of Fame by virtue his significant contribution to the entire industry, joining other pioneers such as Walt Disney, George Ferris and Walter Knott.”

Discussing business for the company amid its 50th anniversary celebrations, Mazzucchi said: “2016 has been a very good year. We have a good number of rides that are performing very well, such as Air Race, all the Disk’O family and Magic Bikes. These rides have become a must-have addition for all parks. During the year, we delivered more than 200 rides all over the world.”

With its rich history in the industry, Zamperla is well placed to discuss the challenges that currently face both manufacturers and operators. “21st century ride manufacturers cannot avoid coming to terms with a quick-changing world and its high-tech evolution,” Mazzucchi stated.

“Theme parks have already entered the fantastic world of apps and ride manufacturers cannot avoid investing and investigating into this field.”

He added: “Innovation is a must to survive. Here at Zamperla we continue to develop new products and services. For example, we have already designed a few rides with an eye to guests with special needs, and we can take on further challenges in this direction, if required by our customers.

“In addition, we are also considering implementing new technologies, such as 3D photocopiers and software in our design and manufacturing processes, and we are testing the application of virtual reality tools onto rides.

“New technologies are set to change both our ride experience and overall ride manufacturing process. New skills will be necessary on the part of our employees, who will therefore need to ‘open their mind’ and get ready for a cultural change in their way of approaching their job.”

Looking ahead, 2017 will see the opening of a new theme park in Alabama, US. This park, according to Mazzucchi, will feature no fewer than 20 Zamperla rides. “This is one more example of the success of our one-stop shop strategy,” he said.

“Next year we will also install two new Thunderbolt coasters, in addition to other important coasters like the Factory Coaster for Wanda. We are proud to take part in all the most important park projects in the world and supply our rides to the most well-known players in the park industry, such as Disney, Universal, Chimelong, and others in 2017.”