Bubbleworks (originally titled Professor Burp's Bubbleworks, then Imperial Leather Bubbleworks from 2006) was a dark water ride opened in 1990 at Chessington World of Adventures Resort in Surrey, England. It took riders through animated scenes of a comical factory producing fizzy pop. The ride show was designed by Sparks Creative Services and the water transit system by Leisurtec Ltd. In 2006 a sponsored refurbishment resulted in the factory theme changing to Imperial Leather toiletries. The ride closed in September 2016, to be replaced by The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure.
The ride was created as part of the second phase to regenerate Chessington Zoo into a popular theme park. The Transylvania area in Chessington World of Adventures was created in 1990, opening with two major rides led by John Wardley; the Vampire and Professor Burp's Bubbleworks.
John Wardley developed the concept of a magical fizzy pop factory that followed the making of Professor Burp's fizzy pop from juicing to bottling, collaborating with Siriol Animation to design the characters and scenes. Colchester attraction studio Sparks Creative Services produced the ride, subcontracting the scenic artwork to Rex Studios and the wide range of animations to Seton Engineering. The famous musical soundtrack was produced by Welsh composer Graham Smart, consisting of a 13-track score that played in synchronisation throughout the ride using a timecode system. The dark ride went on to be highly successful, frequently voted third best dark ride in the world by the National Amusement Park Historical Association, and spawned many similarly-themed dark rides around Europe. The iconic tunnel fountains were developed as a bespoke system built by Seton Engineering for Sparks Creative Services and were unique to the Bubbleworks at the time.
The ride was one of the first in the UK to make use of merchandising, something which has become commonplace in UK theme park rides since. Riders had the option to exit into a gift shop selling BubbleWorks themed souvenirs, including Professor Burp-branded fizzy pop drinks, figurines of the Bubblehead characters, cassette tapes of the ride music, novelty Professor Burp hats, themed postcards and such items. In later years the ride's exit path was permanently routed through the gift shop, although ride-themed merchandise stopped being sold.
The original ride operated for fifteen years before being redesigned by Tussauds Studios at the end of 2005 without the involvement of the ride's original designers. In the redesign, the ride's factory theme was changed 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. 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 and it had to be rebuilt. During this time the ride's facade was repainted in blue colours.
In July 2016, Chessington announced that the ride was set for closure in September 2016 and that the building would be re-purposed for a new dark ride opening in March 2017. The new ride has been developed by Merlin Studios at Merlin Magic Making, the central design division of Chessington's parent company Merlin Entertainments, who had no involvement with the creation of the original ride. Tussauds Studios, the predecessor of Merlin Studios before takeover in 2007, were responsible for the ride's 2006 refurbishment. Chessington subsequently announced that a development licensed to the Gruffalo franchise would open at the park in 2017, widely regarded to be replacing the BubbleWorks; a decision that was met with highly mixed reaction on social media. On January 1, 2017, Chessington announced that The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure would replace Bubbleworks.
The use of a licensed third-party Intellectual Property, as opposed to an original concept contrasts with the 1990 ride's core intention to model a successful original concept over the use of pre-existing external properties. The Bubbleworks closed for replacement on 6 September 2016, 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 many factual inaccuracies about the original ride, including the claim that the Bubblehead characters were officially named 'Willyheads'. This name was also displayed on notice boards during the ride's closing-down media party. This name, referring to male genitalia, was instead alleged to have been a nickname by staff for the since-removed Boffin characters. In several instances, social media users claimed that many portions of the tour material and media-night content were plagiarised from an amateur online documentary about the ride, or used large quotations lifted from John Wardley's autobiography.