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  1. Wicker Man - New for 2018

    But if I read the situation correctly, theyve actually budgeted for a restaurant and then cut it, so only if they've gone far over budget on the coaster would this make sense. Hopefully it wasn't just another budgeting trick to have a side project granted budget from Merlin's financiers that Alton Towers can then 'conveniently' cancel and use the money elsewhere?
  2. Madame Tussauds London

    From when I last experienced it about 10 years ago, sounds like it's gone waaaaayyyy downhill and become 'just another midway', but still decent. Shame Spirit of London was noticeably broken - it's an amazing ride, one of the last intact fantastic things from that ambitious Tussaudsy era!
  3. Doctor Who

    From what I can remember, I agree with your list! Although I thought Heaven Sent from series 9 was a great episode that took me by surprise. The premise of series 10 was also really promising (love me retro Cybermen and John Simm's Master returning WITH BEARD) but the dodgy writing and completely rushed stories just made it feel bland again for me. Something Ive seen in a lot of entertainment now, it wants more to impress you by how 'clever' it is, plot twisting back and forth until you can't trust anything that's happening on screen, rather than taking the time to weave a good story. And we're told constantly that this dude The Doctor/Sherlock/Jack Sparrow/whoever is so brilliant and that the situation is so perilous, without the characters' actions on screen actually justifying this at all, most the time people are just standing around talking backstories and explaining the plot.
  4. Doctor Who

    I really liked the 'down to earth' writing of the Russel T Davies period, but by End of Time it had lost touch. The End of Time was one of the cringiest things I'd ever witnessed with my family on TV (when I was still young and really into Doctor Who). That being said, I really liked Matt Smith's first series, it felt like it became much more creative for a bit. But I felt it quickly lost any storytelling heart and became a horribly formulaic show designed as fanservice to the growing Cult of Doctor Who. With repetitive catchphrase tropes for the Doctor and the same kind of "BE IMPRESSED" writing/direction that plagued Sherlock. Now that the Doctor is a woman, I hope they take it in a fresh direction and not use it as some kind of underlying feminist political agenda. Capaldi is my favourite actor to have played the part, but like much of the way his character was written, his send off was rushed and a wasted opportunity. Such a shame. I'm too old for the show now, but whenever I catch a glimpse (of what used to be my favourite show) I'm surprised at how esoteric and way up its own bum Doctor Who has become. It's like it's designed to satisfy a horrible warring fandom of nerds, full of in-references, catchphrases, overblown production and 'fan fiction' esque storylines...
  5. Park Music

    Posters above arent wrong about IMAscore's composing style either, they tend to use preset MIDI beds and sequences with cliched tunes added over the top, and go for an impressively glossy (for theme parks) but still very cliched sound (which is technically very easy to do these days with the right software). They're a brand first and composers second, they have the resources to do big orchestras and high production but not the uniqueness. If they do have the talent, they certainly prefer to sell the same quick, big sound over and over to UK parks. It's clearly what Merlin parks want and it's part of a bigger focus of brands over product quality. I loved The Smiler score when I first heard it, it was so fresh and captured the awesome edge of that ride's theme, but then when I stood in the concrete queue for hours and heard that tacky "Ha ha ha" circus chorus, it really hammered it too far on the nose. The public often look visibly bored with it by the hour mark. Since then they've repeated the formula more and more. Digital music is now SO easy to do with the right set of tech, that things were always going to end up marketing & brand led, unfortunately. There are many freelance composers who could produce the same or a better sound than IMAscore, but IMAscore have found a niche to inhabit in the theme park industry and obviously have very persuasive sales reps. There was a lot more atmosphere and charm in the older composers, but it was more effective while on park, whereas parks today seem to want the music more for promo videos, etc. We'll never get a Hex again, or even a classic fun sound like Prof Burp's. Colossus' theme still used a preset drum loop, but it was dynamic track, a unique feel for the ride and great melody. The redo of Colossus sounds glossier produced but the only good parts are those lifted from the original melody.
  6. Park Music

    That's not how theme park music is commisioned or contracted, it's usually always bought outright by the parks, so IMAscore likely own no (or little) aspect of the music. Unless this is a new deal where they've retained the sales rights to the music and its simply on contract to Merlin. Either way, Merlin will have come to an arrangement for them to be allowed to sell it, and will be receiving significant royalties from the sales of these CDs, because it's their intellectual property. That's just not true, the public respond very well to themed audio, they just don't get hooked on it and want to listen to it at home. If you watched a movie with no musical score or a poor score, it would obviously feel flat and have no atmosphere. But you wouldnt necessarily want to go home and immediately buy the movie soundtrack, you don't have to be a film enthusiast to enjoy the effect. This "only enthusiasts care" attitude much of the industry has today is a complete misunderstanding. Ride soundtracks were always a big deal in the past, but the standard dropped in the mid 2000s in the UK, just because parks weren't commisioning much for a while.
  7. Park Music

    There's nothing wrong with hardcore fans enjoying the music at home if they like it that much, but selling soundtracks for merchandising can often lead to the kind of OTT music being produced to sound good on headphones and not so much as part of an experience. I think we've already started to see this creep into UK parks, eg DBGT where the music already sounds like just some trailer music played through a queueline tannoy as if "Insert dramatic music here" was written on the plans. Like I say nothing wrong with selling it if hardcore fans want it. It's often done in other parks. But it NEEDs consideration and restraint. I worry that if Merlin see £££s then thats it, all park soundtrakcs can be streamed or sold online and then people will be hearing it more on YouTube than they do in person at the park! Which totally takes away the unique effect of the experience. Their recently left head of show services seemed to have the right motivation that its the sound systems and effect of the music on park that matters the most. So I hope that doesn't get neglected in favour of selling it as a commodity.
  8. Wicker Man - New for 2018

    Its all to do with their very corporate interpretation of market data. Most fans Ive seen online & on social media are actually demanding more energised and creative themes, and less dark themes if anything! Same with Thorpe Park. They know the public respond well to intimidation when it comes to big coasters, which is true. But you can do a bold or edgy theme without it needing to be bland and grey. This is what they don't seem to get. Even within the world of Merlin, The Smiler already proved this - they went through many of the same 'abandoned warehouse', 'dark', edgy themes before suddenly at the last moment it was changed into an energised, exciting and still intimidating concept. The public LOVED it! This Wickerman theme seems like they looked at the woodland setting (it was originally going to be in the valley forest), watched the Wickerman movie and then thought 'that fits'. You can even do a dark & spooky forest theme much more creative and original than this, and I'm sure the designers are capable of it, but the company choses not to as usual. To be honest, I don't think the vast majority of their market research says the public want richly themed rides at all. That's something the public like when they see it, if its done well, but they tend not to actually ask for it. That's at least something Merlin intepret right, otherwise we'd just get more Ritas. But again the public responded hugely to the 'out there' (for Merlin) Smiler theme, and that wasn't dark in the same tired formulaic way. They pretend to be the most creative company on earth, but in the world of theme parks they're just cheap and bland.
  9. Wicker Man - New for 2018

    It's just a symptom of their completely unimaginative, unadventurous corporate attitude. Hex was fantastic concept that took a leap of faith on something outside the box and in keeping with the amazing Towers. Thirteen was just a very cheaply produced throwback to that theme because it was next door, resulting in 2 spoopy woodland areas at Towers. Thirteen ironically would have worked much better down in Gloomy Woods, between the SW8 and Haunted Hollow where a coaster had been planned a couple years before. Would have been a great setting and been less grey than not-very-Dark Forest. And now this, weird cult (Nemesis) + spooky woods (Thirteen) + 1 big grey theming structure in the middle again. Wickerman does look like a much better version of a similar theme as Thirteen, but I'm very tired and bored of the same thing being rehashed over and over. Dark themes don't need to be drab and passive. The Smiler proved that, still their best original theme I think, even though it ended up as a bare concrete building and some bins strapped to a truss in the end. They're probably relying on a big flame effect again (just like The Swarm and Scorpion Express) to add any life to SW8. I look forward to when someone produces a really instinctively fun, energtic & amazing themed ride in the UK again.
  10. The Future of Rumba Rapids!

    My problem with the changes is that it's dead, dead boring. Fun should come over whether it fits in - the surrounding area is hardly jungle themed anyway, its just the recycled European square painted different colours, with a volcano next door. It's a themed area in name only. The old Rumba theme was often berated for being one of the most garish themes Tussauds came up with (it was) but somehow they made it worse with this cheap redo, by making it boring & brown. I think they've lost sight of what makes a fun theme park, in a poor budgeted attempt to introduce themed areas, using only tins of paint.
  11. Bubbleworks

    Yeah it was well known they were under there, but apparently not with whoever organised the closing down! The only cool/valuable part of the original ride left straight in the skip, as usual. Looks like only 3 three were saved and the big ones (the more memorable) probably too big for any staff to have snuck away in a car. My problem is how insincere their attitude was, when they did nothing to improve the ride for its closing down, misled the public to cash in on nostalgia, and charged people £35 each for a man in a costume reading Wikipedia. At least it's unintentionally hilarious! You'd never get this level of rubbish with a proper theme park like those in Europe, run by much smaller companies.
  12. Bubbleworks

    I was looking for a cheap as possible wig for a tiny budget project I'm working on and I came across the exact same wig Chessington used for their hilarious "Professor Burp" in 2016. I got curious and looked for the rest of the costume they appeared to use and found almost everything just by typing into Amazon "green waistcoat", "large bow tie", etc and sorting by "Lowest price" lol!! Here's the actor for reference "Mad professor" wig (looked hilariously nothing like Prof Burp's memorable hair) The exact same bow tie Looks like the same green waistcoat The pink jacket Thats about £35, so their costuming budget (for one of the UK's biggest theme parks, and one of the biggest & richest theme park operators on the planet) was pretty much covered by the sale of just 1 ticket to their "backstage tour" event. Which was also filled with made up facts and didn't really go 'backstage' at all. What a rip off, haha! Not to mention the costume the actor wore was nothing like the one the character wore in the ride. It's like they gave their actor (who did the best with what he had) some pocket money to go buy a costume online, read Wikipedia and watch a few old BubbleWorks videos, feed him lots of sugar, then watch the money roll in, night after night of the tours! They sure rinsed fans with little effort, during the Bubbleworks PR mania they kicked up using social media (which wasnt around at the time the original closed), a fake news story about a goofy fan changing their name, and instructing the press to still call it "Prof Burp's BubbleWorks". Very obvious they didn't really care about Prof Burp's BubbleWorks at all and just wanted to dodge backlash from fans, direct attention to their new Gruffalo, while getting a big summer attendance boost from people coming to remember a broken down, corporate version of a ride that used to be good. Easy money! Plus recently someone put the original posters on ebay, saved from the skip apparently. Remember the "Prof Burp auction", where they sold the rubbish tip-ex'd Imperial Leather posters for hundreds of pounds each. The much loved originals were still glued underneath. They binned the only intact props from the orginal ride!
  13. Logger's Leap

    That's the average time for a major new development from scratch, including a year or two of research & development, not for reopening an old ride that was known to be in a poor state and needing alterations/repairs for a long time.
  14. New for 2018

    I think it's still Merlin's policy that any new development concept gets approved by Nick Varney or the Merlin board before hand though, so they'll be aware of this and have approved it. But things like sponsorships will probably be at a park level rather than a Merlin level. But I'd have a guess that the previous X redo a couple years back was a park-led idea, and that all Merlin would have been involved in was granting the budget to refurbish the trains and buy new effects. So MMM wouldnt have been involved. I don't see the previous X project as money wasted, it did improve the ride and put some fun back into it for a wider audience, and I think that's what matters.
  15. New for 2018

    This won't be so much to do with the designers, and more to do with the company/park's marketing strategy which traditionally flip flops all over the place failing to see the clear picture, while succumbing to pressures of shareholders who don't care one bit about the actual guest experience on offer. They just want quick short term solutions, so sticking an IP on an existing attraction it is. Merlin's (failing) marketing strategies lead all aspects of the theme parks development. In fact Merlin Magic Making are just as much a research and marketing division as they are attracion designers. Good marketing is important and would tell you that a hardcore American TV show brand slapped on to the park's only big family rollercoaster isn't the way forward. Superficial marketing gets you I'm A Celebrity, VR hurredly designed into Derren Brown's Ghost Train at the cost of the whole concept working as intended, the flip flopping Thorpe Park brand and the park becoming filled with grey, drab depressing themes.