Posted on July 26, 2023

Hydraulics in the Entertainment Industry

John Joyce
Written by

John Joyce

Posted in
United Kingdom, England

As with the rest of the world, entertainment in the UK is a major industry, with a 2022 value of nearly £ 12 billion. There are two primary sectors : first, music, performance and visual arts, estimated at £ 11.5 billion. This includes cinema, stage theatre along with music festivals and concerts. Second is amusement and theme parks, which were reported separately at a value of £ 909 million. This is clearly an enormous market where hydraulics play a major role. Here are the primary entertainment industries which rely on hydraulics :

Hydraulics in Amusement Parks

As the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over three million visitors annually, the 120 metre diameter London Eye is a cantileveredamusement parks observation wheel and the tallest in Europe . Electric pumps drive hydraulic motors which rotate the wheel. The hydraulic motors turn large rubber tires mounted at the base of the structure along the wheel rim, acting as friction rollers to provide the power to turn the wheel.
Aptly named, The Big One at the UK' s Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park was considered the tallest rollercoaster in the world at 65 metres tall when it opened in 1994 . As with most roller coasters, a hydraulic braking system safely brings the cart to a complete and safe stop for loading and unloading. Passengers are kept safe by the automatic activation of the hydraulic brakes to keep the carts from bumping into each other.  Hydraulic components are used throughout amusement park rides and entertainment, from hydraulic fittings, hoses, power units, valves and cylinders in everything from pendulum rides to shock absorbers on bumper cars.

Hydraulic Use in the Theatre

Motion base seating in some theatres provides big thrills for audiences who want to feel what it's like to fly with the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows , one of thee97fw9-big-one-steel-roller-767223687 copy world 's premier aerobatic display teams. This is made possible by the safety, durability, reliability and low maintenance of hydraulic proportional valves.
London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane incorporates hydraulic lifts that use pressurized water to power a moving bridge as part of the stage setting. Two independently driven, hydraulically powered rams support and operate smooth lifting and lowering of the bridge. The hydraulic pump system can also operate independently, providing a tilting effect. The high-pressure hydraulics are connected to the cylinder bottom, creating enough force to push the attached ram upwards to operate the bridge. These same types of hydraulics are used to raise and lower stage sections in many theatres throughout the UK. Hydraulics are also used in stage lighting and other areas of theatre production.

Hydraulics in Animatronics

Hydraulics are heavily used in animatronics, from moving set designs in movie and TV production to operating large objects and other special effects. The animatronics in dinosaur theme parks, such as ROARR! in Lenwade, Norfolk and The Dinosaur Park Tenby rely heavily on hydraulic power. Electric motors are not fast or powerful enough to move these large, dynamic creatures. Instead, hydraulics using double-mounted bearings create fast, smooth and safe actions like raising up, knee motions, tilting side to side, blinking eyes, three-axis hip motion and calf rotation. Hydraulic valves pump pressurized hydraulic fluid through narrow hoses and tubes to operate cylinders, which create the dinosaur's movements.

Hydraulics in stadium concert productions

One of the first major stage productions to rely heavily on hydraulic power was U2's 360° Tour. For the first time ever, high-pressure hydraulics were used to assemble and dismantle the 230 metric tonne construction known as the claw. The hydraulically operated system elevated the modular stage construction to a height of 30 metres safely and quickly, giving the audience all around the stage an unobstructed view. Erecting the stage was also a challenge- since 450 tonne capacity heavy mobile cranes were impossible to fit inside the stadium venues, they used hydraulic strand jacks. Connected to an electrical supply and operated by a computer, the ready-to-use unit was a highly effective solution incorporating high-pressure hydraulics. This was back in 2009. With a few advancements, the same hydraulic technology is used in major outdoor concert productions today.


From water rides, Ferris wheels, 3D ride simulators, drop rides, theatre productions and animated dinosaurs, hydraulics play a major role in our entertainment industry. Because equipment in the industry involves direct or close proximity to people, the hydraulics must provide:
  • Demanding envelope requirements
  • High performance and repeatability
  • Low noise
  • Safe high-power and heavy-lift capacities
And because "The show must go!", the industry depends on the low maintenance and minimal downtime hydraulics provide.
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