THE PRINCESS RIDE

The Princess Ride is a personal project I wrote in collaboration with Jonathan Plsek, whose artwork is featured below. His portfolio can be found here. Based on the classic movie The Princess Bride, this lyrical boat ride adventure drops guests right into Grandpa's story, sailing through  all the beloved scenes in the ultimate quest for true love. 

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LOAD – Countryside Docks

Guests meander through a grove of trees that spill from the boy’s bedroom and lead out into a countryside setting. The hills continue into the distance, dotted with dainty farms and fields. Trees drape over a river as a simplistically cheerful, romantic tune plays. Farmhands wait at the river to help guests into boats, each dressed in rustic working clothes.

 

SCENE 1 - Westley leaves

 

A serene, sunlit countryside. Grandpa’s voice carries over the air as guests drift peacefully along in their boats. “Westley and Buttercup fell in love the day she realized that when he said to her ‘as you wish,’ what he meant was ‘I love you.’” As the boat curves slightly, guests see a young man and woman – WESTLEY and BUTTERCUP – embracing in the distance. Their silhouettes are backlit by the sunset, romantically dramatic. Beneath Grandpa’s words, Westley can be heard saying, “As you wish.” Grandpa goes on to explain that being just a poor farm boy, Westley had no money for marriage, so set out to seek his fortune on the seas. It wasn’t long before Buttercup heard that pirates had attacked Westley’s ship and her heart was broken. As the boat winds around another hill, guests see a desolate Buttercup rocking in a chair, staring out the window of her meager hut.

 

SCENE 2 - Engaged and Kidnapped

 

Far in the distance, an imposing castle rises from the hills. The noise of a crowd – presumably within the kingdom walls – carries through the air. Festive bugles trumpet importantly. “My people!” proclaims the voice of PRINCE HUMPERDINK. “I give you my bride to be, your future queen: Princess Buttercup!”  Grandpa, his voice still drifting through the air, explains that the Prince was free to choose his bride from the commoners, but Buttercup did not love him. The boat veers away from the castle and into a thick grove of trees.

 

Through the forest, guests can see a cluster of figures standing beside a boat rocking gently in a harbor. A simply dressed giant with a fuzz of dark hair and beard, FEZZICK, stands on a bridge over the river, holding an unconscious Buttercup over his shoulder, looking concernedly at his comrades. VIZZINI, his boss, around four feet tall, glowers at him from beside the boat. “You fools!” he shouts. “Get the princess on the boat! We are kidnapping her! Do I have to explain everything to you?” The third man, INIGO, stands thoughtfully beside Vizzini, occasionally muttering rhyming commentary to Vizzini’s commands.  

 

SCENE 4 - Shrieking Eels

 

As the forest river widens into an ocean, the music quickly turns ominous. A pale moon hangs overhead in the sky, illuminating the scene at sea: the boat from the harbor has set sail with its four passengers. The three men stand on the deck of the ship, looking out at BUTTERCUP who is treading water in the ocean. Her expression is blank with abject terror. Around her swirl dark shapes in the water, doing a slow and deadly figure-8. She twitches her head back and forth, watching them. A nightmarish, nails-on-chalkboard scream carries across the water, alien and animalistic. “Ya hear that, princess?” yells VIZZINI from the boat. “Those are the shrieking eels. Swim back now and we promise not to hurt you.” Out on the horizon, Buttercup’s obvious inspiration for escape, a dark ship sails alone in the light of the moon. 

 

SCENE 5 - Cliffs of Insanity 

 

As the boat rounds a rocky corner, a small harbor and unthinkably tall cliff is revealed: The Cliffs of Insanity! Vizzini’s boat is anchored in the harbor, its passengers gone. This boat is joined by another empty boat, the same one towards which Buttercup tried to escape.

 

Guests can barely see the top of a thick rope hanging down the cliff, shrouded in mist many stories above. About halfway up the cliff, FEZZIK climbs the rope with his massive hands, his other three companions strapped to his waist. BUTTERCUP and INIGO hang off of either side of the giant while VIZZINI faces Fezzik, his back to the rocks. “Faster, you fool, faster!” Vizzini shouts in his face. “Can’t you see he’s gaining on us!?” Down at the bottom of the rope, a MAN dressed all in black is just beginning to ascend the rope. A mask covers his face, but he gazes upwards at the awkward foursome, preparing to come after them. Intermittently, Vizzini bellows, “Inconceivable!” to which Inigo replies, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

 

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SCENE 6 - Fencing and Wrestling 

 

The cliffs give way to a steep, mountainous incline; they are now at the tops of the Cliffs. Vizzini and Buttercup are gone and the MAN IN BLACK has reached the top of the cliff as well; he is locked in a swordfight with INIGO on the right side of the boat. “You seem a decent fellow,” says Inigo. “I hate to kill you.” The Man in Black responds: “You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.” Just past the swordfight, presumably after the Man in Black has won, is a wrestling match between the Man in Black and FEZZIK. The Man in Black hangs onto Fezzik’s back, his arms around his neck, grunting. The boat sails by as Fezzik tries to crunch the man into the rocks behind him. 

 

SCENE 7 - Vizzini’s Challenge 

 

The boat continues up the final portion of the incline as Vizzini’s voice carries through the air. “This is supposed to be a battle of wits, but it’s so easy. A smart man would clearly put the poison as far away from himself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!” Just as the boat crests the top of the hill, the scene is revealed: VIZZINI and BUTTERCUP sitting on one side of a table-sized rock, the MAN IN BLACK on the other. Two goblets of wine rest on the rock in front of them. Vizzini laughs hysterically, his face turning a corpulent red, before falling sideways in a dead heap. 

 

SCENE 8 - As You Wish 

 

Just as the boat pivots away from Vizzini’s Challenge, the voice of Buttercup rings out: “You mock my pain! You can die TOO for all I care!” Without warning, the boat drops backwards down a steep fall, just as the voice of Westley, the Man in Black, calls back, “Asssss youuuu wishhhhh…” And Buttercup’s reply: “Oh my sweet Westley, what have I done? I’m coming!” 

 

SCENE 9 - Fire Swamp 

 

After the enormous drop, the boat double-hops to a slower speed, straight into a foreboding thicket of trees, the vines and scraggly branches closing behind it. It’s a claustrophobic forest, yellow light filtering through the trees. Fire bursts sporadically in small pockets on either side of the boat with warning sounds of popping and cracking. Dark shadows rustle the undergrowth. No talking is heard and the quiet is unnerving. As the boat takes some sharp corners, terrifyingly large rodents advance from the underbrush: R.O.U.S.s. They snarl at the boat, coming closer and closer. Just then, the boat pivots again; moving forward, it just begins a pitch down a perilous drop, facing off with the largest R.O.U.S. yet. But then, it halts abruptly, midway through its drop. GRANDPA’S voice rings out around the boat: “You’re not going to die, you know. You’re going to make it. I just wanted to tell you because you looked a little bit worried. No? Ok, now where were we? Vizzini poisoned, they run away, she pushes him down the hill, into the fire swamp, ah yes. Here we are…” The boat released and falls down the rest of the drop, narrowly avoiding the waiting mouth of the R.O.U.S. 

 

At the bottom of the drop, guests hear Buttercup’s relieved voice: “We made it out!” But then Prince Humperdink’s voice - “Buttercup, come with me. Throw Westley in the Pit of Despair!” The boat drifts forward, away from the scene. 

 

SCENE 10 - The Pit of Despair 

 

Through an opening in a large tree trunk, guests enter the Pit of Despair. It’s a stone and earth cavern, stairs carved roughly into the uneven ground, roots winding over the walls and floor. Medieval brackets of torches and candles flicker eerily. To the right, a roughly hewn and sinister contraption churns slowly, its many wheels and pulleys grinding and stretching. Beside it, FEZZIK and INIGO stand over WESTLEY who lies on a table, apparently dead, but Fezzik and Inigo aren’t ready to give up yet. “Have you any money?” asks Inigo. “A little,” replies Fezzik. “I just hope it’s enough to buy a miracle…” says Inigo. Guests drift past the last remnants of the Pit of Despair’s devices, past the ALBINO slumped unconscious in a wheelbarrow, and then out into the next scene. 

 

SCENE 11 - Miracle Max 

 

They emerge into a wooded clearing outside the thatched hut of Miracle Max. The scene bares all the signs of rustic living - farm animals, a pot over a campfire, herbs hanging to dry… Passing through the front door and into the house, guests see a ridiculous scene inside. MIRACLE MAX stands on the right side of the boat, pumping bellows into WESTLEY’S mouth. Max is an eccentric looking old man with shocks of white hair that stick out in tufts. “Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much,” says Max. “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s something I can do about that…” Inigo watches intently as Westley begins to stir. On the other side of the boat, Fezzik flicks a large cloak - the holocaust cloak - interestedly. Miracle Max’s wife VALERIE, a crazed looking old woman, stands in the back, shrieking incessantly: “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife!” 

 

SCENE 12 - Wedding & Sneaking into the Castle 

 

The royal cathedral lies in wait outside of Max’s hut, its stained glass windows glowing in the fading twilight. It’s a classic Renaissance castle with gray stone walls and spires piercing the sky. The shadow of a preacher in a tall, pointed hat appears through the window before the shadows of Buttercup and Humperdink who hold hands in their forced wedding ceremony. The voice of the preacher carries out to the boat: “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togevah today…” 

 

Across the river, a castle turret overlooks the cathedral and the heads of FEZZIK, INIGO, and WESTLEY peer out from over the battlements: they are here to stop this wedding. “Inigo,” whispers Fezzik. “Yes Fezzik?” asks Inigo. “I hope we win…” 

 

The boat sails past the turret and the cathedral, beneath a stone bridge, and begins up a steep lift hill. They ascend into the castle, an enclosed stone hallway lined with bracketed torches and suits of armor. Scattered down the stairs are unconscious guards and a path of destruction; Fezzik has smashed his way through this corridor to help his friends. At the top of this steep hallway, the giant is beating down a door with a mighty thud.    

 

SCENE 13 - You killed my father & To the pain 

 

Continuing the steep ascent, the boat emerges into another castle chamber, this one clearly a banquet hall. In the middle of the tables and chairs, lit by flickering torchlight, two men face off: INIGO and the SIX-FINGERED MAN, a sadistic villain from Inigo’s past. Their swords flash back and forth as Inigo advances fiercely. “My name is Inigo Montoya,” he says, “You killed my father. Prepare to die.” 

 

Leaving the sword fight behind them, the boat enters the final scene in the castle, a royal bed chamber with an astonishing scene unfolding. The room is bedecked in royal finery: a four-postered bed, rich tapestries, and candelabras. WESTLEY and BUTTERCUP stand together, both pointing their swords at PRINCE HUMPERDINK, bound tightly to a chair and looking fearfully between the two heroes. Westley bares down on the prince triumphantly. “To the pain means this,” he says. “If we duel and you win, death for me. If we duel and I win, life for you. But life on my terms…” and he goes on to describe the grisly manner in which he will let Humperdink live, securing his victory over the cowardly prince. Westley and Buttercup have overcome all and at last can be together. 

 

SCENE 14 - Escape & Into the Sunset 

 

The boat sails through an open window in the room and, as if the guests too are jumping to their freedom, drops thrillingly down in the wide sea below; it splashes into the water as the music becomes joyful and deeply romantic. After a curve in the trough, the finale is revealed: a grand and glorious sunset sweeps across the sky, glowing over some faraway mountains. Vizzini’s boat is now captained by INIGO and FEZZIK and floating in the harbor as the two friends wave goodbye to the guests. And at last, GRANDPA’S voice carries once more to guests: “Since the invention of the kiss, there had been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure.” And there before the guests, BUTTERCUP and WESTLEY are revealed in the most beautiful scene of all, riding a white stallion and kissing passionately before the sunset. “This one left them all behind,” Grandpa says. 

 

SCENE 15 - “Buh-bye!” 

 

Just as the boat prepares to pull back up to the docks, MIRACLE MAX and his wife VALERIE appear standing next to the river, waving cheerily. “Buh-bye!” they call out, “Hope ya had fun stormin’ the castle!” “Think they’ll come back?” mutters Valerie to Max. “It would take a miracle,” he replies. “Buh-bye! Take care!” 

 

And with that, the epic tale of Buttercup and Westley and their adventures draws to a close. “The End.” 

 

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