The Neverending Story of Bavaria Film Studio and Falkor the Luckdragon

“I can’t believe I have a job that means I can claim this as a tax right-off”, I thought, as I pumped my fist in the air with one hand and clutched Falkor’s back with the other. I was pretending to soar through Fantasia skies in The Neverending Story, while actually sitting stationary in a film studio in Munich. Most of my other thoughts were some combination of “If only my eight year old self could see me now,” and also, “there are so many people watching me”.

If you were a child in the eighties, chances are you don’t need me to tell you how much I longed to have a luckdragon like Falkor by my side when I was a kid. How many hours I spent watching the The Neverending Story and dreaming that I could sit on my luckdragon’s back as Fantasia winds blew through my hair and his fur. Chances are you don’t need me to tell you, because I bet you had the same dream.

What I can tell you is that when I finally did get to ride Falkor, it was hilarious, and ridiculous, and everything I ever hoped.

(If you haven’t seen The Neverending Story and have no idea what Falkor is, the movie has just been released on Netflix, and I couldn’t recommend it more.)

The Neverending Story of Bavaria Film Studio

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The Neverending Story, Wolfgang Petersen’s iconic fantasy movie, was filmed at Bavaria Film Studios in Germany. At the time, it was the most expensive film produced in Germany’s history. As well as making a generation of children long for their very own Falkor (or at least their very own Golden Retriever), the studio is also the place where Das Boot was filmed, as well as Hitchcock’s first film Pleasure Garden, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, and Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, along with many other German and international hits.

the Filmstadt is designed to give visitors the opportunity to “be part of this special world, to be part of their dreams for 90 minutes.”

In 2019, the studio will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary, as well as 38 years since it opened the Filmstadt. The Filmstadt is a theme park set within the working studios containing props and sets from the movies filmed there. It is filled with experiences made for Instagrammable bliss. The first prop to be exhibited at the Filmstadt (and the inspiration for opening the theme park) was the full size U-boat model used in Wolfgang Petersen’s iconic film, Das Boot. Today, tourists to the Filmstadt can join a 90-minute tour in which they walk through the actual, full-scale submarine model used in Das Boot; as well as see authentic props, sets, and costumes from iconic movies; act out their favorite scenes in front of a green screen; see how media professionals work; and discover film industry insights. One of the most popular exhibits for international tourists is, of course, Falkor. The exhibit is complete with a fan and green screen, so visitors can feel Fantasia winds blow through their hair as they soar across the sky.

In the words of Stefan Bryxi, Operations Director, the Filmstadt is designed to give visitors the opportunity to “be part of this special world, to be part of their dreams for 90 minutes.” Stefan’s words describe my experience here exactly.

The first time I came here was a few years ago. I visited alone, and joined a German language tour, even though I don’t I speak German. I stood at the back of the crowd of tourists, hoping not to be called on to act out a scene or answer a question. For 90 minutes, I nodded along with the other visitors and challenged myself to get to the end of the tour without anybody realizing that I barely understood what was happening. When we finally reached Falkor, I climbed on his back, and revelled in the joy you can only feel doing something so ridiculous. I was a grown man, who joined a tour on his own in a foreign language, just to live out the fantasy of his eight-year old self, and I could not have been happier.

It’s been a few years since that first trip, but the experience has stuck with me. I’ve told the story enough times that almost everyone I know has added “ride Falkor” to their bucket-list. Recently, when I returned to Germany, I couldn’t resist returning to the studios. I wanted to learn more about the history, the exhibitions, and why a movie prop could bring me so much joy. So, I arranged to interview Stefan Bryxi, the Operations Director, for the season finale of Our Global Adventures. It seemed fitting to end our first season of a show dedicated to adventures in the studio where one of the greatest adventure stories ever was filmed.

Take a look at our interview to hear more about the 100 years of film history at the studio, the joy that people feel when visiting props and locations from their favorite films, and find out which celebrity has also flown on Falkor’s back across Fantasia skies. You can also catch a glimpse of me joyfully fulfilling my childhood dream.

If you want to ride Falkor yourself, head over to the Bavaria Filmstadt website to plan your visit. Pro tip: if you don’t speak German, I’d recommend the English language tour that’s held once a day during high season.

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