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Get a kick out of summer! Talking Donkeys coming to South Bank

  • Wednesday July 20th 2016
  • Family Friendly, Press Release

Donkeys on Westminster bridge

This summer, families visiting London’s South Bank are in for a surprise. Merlin Entertainments is bringing the traditional summer fun of donkey rides to the heart of the capital with an added dose of magic; these seaside steeds can talk!

The group behind popular attractions the Coca-Cola London Eye, the London Dungeon, SEA LIFE London Aquarium and Shrek’s Adventure! London, has commissioned donkey expert Mark Ineson, along with the science boffins at Design Works, to interpret donkeys’ complex emotions. Making a translation tool that will give the world’s oldest form of transport a very modern update.

The donkeys - Carl, Sally, Danny and Sonny - have travelled all the way from their native Blackpool and are currently in training for their London debut next week when they will be giving free rides to visitors from Tuesday 26 to Thursday 28 July inclusive.

Families exploring the South Bank will be able to reserve rides for children between the ages of two and 15 in Jubilee Gardens between 11am and 5pm, through Eventbrite’s booking service which goes live on Wednesday 20 July at 9am GMT.

Hywel Mathias, Cluster Director for London Attractions at Merlin Entertainments, commented: “At Merlin, our ultimate goal is to create truly ‘eye-popping’ moments for children, helping to keep families entertained all day long. The South Bank is the perfect place for a day out, with four Merlin attractions within walking distance of each other. Our talking donkeys will provide an extra sprinkle of magic this summer, creating amazing memories for parents and children.

To create the ultimate Dr. Dolittle experience for our thousands of visitors we recruited Mark Ineson the UK’s most eminent Donkey behaviourist and teamed him up with tech boffins to tell us what these beautiful animals feel. By giving them a voice, our equine friends will now guide the children around the South Bank area and can even point out the different attractions!”

The technology behind the translators analyses the unique sounds, frequencies and vibrations of each donkey’s “ee-aww”, triggering one of several pre-determined phrases.

Sean Miles, head of production at Design Works, commented: “We’ve been asked for all sorts of crazy contraptions over the years but getting donkeys to talk was a whole new challenge for us! While the technology that identifies sound as a trigger was relatively achievable, figuring out the animals’ emotions was much harder. For this part we were able to work with Mark, who is something of a donkey-whisperer, to get a gauge on the animals’ emotional responses and ultimately create a piece of technology that is very intuitive to what the donkeys are communicating.”

For images and video please go to our online press kit.

About the donkey rides
Donkey rides will be available in Jubilee Gardens from 26 – 28 July 2016. There will be four donkeys and each ride will last approximately three to five minutes. Parents can book rides for their children through Eventbrite:

Merlin has hired the donkeys from Real Donkeys, based in Blackpool. The owner, Mark Ineson, often provides donkeys for events and press purposes and has over 12 years’ experience working with donkeys and children on Golden Mile at Blackpool. The animals are well-trained and used to working with children and being in a crowded environment, so they will not become stressed.
All children will wear helmets for the duration of the rides and will never be left alone with the donkeys without adult supervision.

Mark and all Real Donkeys staff are licensed by Blackpool and Kirklees local authority to look after donkeys and work with children. To ensure the safety of the children and the donkeys, Mark restricts children over 8 stone and 15 years old to ride the donkeys. He also assesses each child individually to see how comfortable they are with the donkeys – if he feels that they are not comfortable he requests that the parent walks alongside them to ease any anxiety they may be feeling. The donkeys are permitted to work up to 8 hours per day with an hour lunch break.
The welfare of the children and animals is of utmost importance to Merlin Entertainments.
Eye Popping Days Out.

Merlin Entertainments London attractions’ ‘Eye Popping Days Out’ campaign runs from the 1st July-31st August 2016 offering visitors a range of memorable experiences across summer 2016. A variety of special ticket offers running across all five London attractions; Coca-Cola London Eye, Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE London Aquarium, the London Dungeon and Shrek’s Adventure! London as well as Big Bus Tours are available.

Take in a view you will never forget on the Coca-Cola London Eye. Meet Shrek and his pals at DreamWorks Tours: Shrek’s Adventure! London attraction. Escape the Great Fire in an all-new show at the London Dungeon and get to know some Gentoo penguins at the brand-new Penguin Point at SEA LIFE London Aquarium. There is loads of eye-popping fun to be had at all five London attractions, as well as dozens of others across the UK.

Our London Attraction tickets offers major discounts of up to 40%* to some of the best attractions inLondon and it’s simple - the more attractions you choose, the bigger the saving! With all these attractions in one place and valid for 90 days, that’s summer sorted.

*Savings based on the Adult on-the-day rate for each attraction vs an Adult London Attraction Ticket purchased through


For more information on tickets go to: