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  1. Wumbamillio

    Hocus Pocus Hall

    Great post. Although this point about making sure people turn up, it depends on what part of creating entertainment you mean I suppose. I learnt a lot from designers of well-known attractions who spoke about their experiences creating rides in the UK. These are people who spend over a year on projects, it becomes they're daily life. But they don't think 'we've bothered to spend so long on this that we'll use an IP to make sure people turn up'. The only people who think along those lines are the senior board (if its a company the size of Merlin), who have no involvement in attractions other than satisfying shareholders with no-risk growth. However, Merlin acted like this even before they were a public company. It's absolutely understandable that a business will want assured return when it spends millions of pounds. But there are so many great strategies to ensure a good idea with the right potential becomes a successful attraction, without just buying the popularity of an existing IP. I've also been involved in building small attractions and events (as part of wider teams, I wouldnt claim credit), but plenty of people turned up and enjoyed what we'd made regardless of no IP. I found the popularity of the event was based on past reputation, growing big success over the years. These were attractions that took months of hard work to create, but made a lot of money and were entertaining. To be honest, people's responses were a far cry from Thorpe Park's no-budget IP Fright Nights events of recent times. It's always very interesting to see what people react to and what they don't, and see how reputations build over certain attractions we made. Where I thought mistakes had been made, sure enough guests reacted poorer. Or where a great idea just hadn't been realised properly, the word spread it wasn't so good. I find the same goes for most attractions if you look in enough places and hear/see their reactions first hand. I guess what I'm getting at is, people do turn up in big numbers for good entertainment, and they do still react badly to bad entertainment or missed opportunity. It just takes time and effort and word of mouth over repeat years to grow an event into a big success. So far more worth the effort of creating good entertainment to accumulate success. Some original attractions have lasted decades and the public love them, because they were entertaining and grew word of mouth. While most cheapo IP attractions in this country have lasted 5 years max and died a quick death. Also I think fairytales and well-known themes, like 'space', 'haunted', 'egyptian', etc, are a great way to attract guests. You can use that as the hook to attract guests and put your own spin on it from there. It's different from IPs, because no brand deal is involved and you're still basing your business on the entertainment of guests. Original concepts can still be simple and work well.
  2. Wumbamillio

    Hocus Pocus Hall

    Another thing I thought to add, just to emphasise this really isn't just some personal vendetta I have – one of my favourite rides I discovered in recent years was Arthur at Europa Park, their big fat IP! Only I had never heard of this IP before hand and it wasn't the characters or the brand that I enjoyed about it. It was because it was a great ride! The IP was just a name to get people through the door – could have been a different Europa fantasy theme and been just as entertaining. I can't emphasise how detached IPs are from the source of entertainment. A bad ride with a good IP will still not be entertaining to the public. Merlin have perfected the art of creating mediocre parks with lots of hype, so that most come off without thinking it's 'bad' at least, but not exactly getting their money's worth either (the benefits of running a monopoly again, guests have not much to compare against). IPs is small quantities are nothing new. They have been around at attractions in the UK for decades, but have never been done on such a commercial scale like this, or been a stipulated IP quota.
  3. Wumbamillio

    Hocus Pocus Hall

    They're not responding to a natural change. They are constructing a change to suit their business model best, or at least following the commercialism started by other entertainment giants. It's the McDonalds 'clone and conquer' model that has been around for decades, only now it's happening to theme parks outside of Disney. Merlin and others have systematically changed the theme park industry to be what suits their business model best. This includes running a monopoly in the UK, so that they can squeezing people's salaries, strip out value for money, charge higher, and give unfair contracts to attraction industry contractors who have few other businesses to work for in the UK. All I "liked the theme park industry to be" is entertaining and something unique, not just a commercial extension of pre-existing franchises and a highly marketed tourist trap machine. This is exactly the same as how I feel about the movie industry and music industry today, the only difference with those being that there is far more selection to chose from and great music/movies can still be made on low-medium budgets (even of kinds I don't have a taste for, it doesn't matter, as long as they can still be made). But you can't make a theme park on a budget smaller than several million. In their quest for massive growth in the shortest time possible, the only thing that suits Merlin's model is growing a quota of IPs. Then pumping huge amounts into marketing manipulation, to get people to pay more for less and go for brand over value. That's really all there is behind their decisions. It's a negative on the whole industry, not just my personal preference. You say all parks are adapting towards this, but many hugely successful parks around the world show the enormous benefits of going for long-term value than short term fads. Take a look at one of the most successful 'new' franchises in the last 25 years, Pirates of the Caribbean. The original movie was an idea that people were trying to get off the ground for years, but Disney actively tried to stop it being made, citing market research "the public don't like pirate movies" because they had some previous adventure movie flops. When the board at Disney were persuaded to fund it (which included tieing it in with the ride), they tried to shut down production a couple times and even suggesting firing Johnny Depp because his character was 'too strange'. Of course, when the movie got made, everyone loved it because it was great fun and unexpected. What about that market research that said it would be a huge failure? The moment it became a success, it was 'well done' to the board that was determined to stop it getting made. The next thing you know, it gets turned into another never-ending franchise until it too has run out of steam. If the original movie was a rare case of an original idea slipping through the net, imagine how many other potential successes were cancelled? The reason these don't get made by big companies is because, like all good ideas, it carries a degree of risk. Inflated business at the level Merlin has grown to requires ALL risk to be removed. IPs have little to do with trying to entertain people more, more to do with this no-risk, short term growth. I'm not against good business, I want the whole UK industry to make good business (which it certainly isn't doing with Merlin's dominance), but taking healthy risk is a fundamental part of good business. Also, the main thing that working in UK attractions over the years and visiting more parks abroad has shown me, it's that people still do respond the same to good entertainment as they did when I was young, they don't actively ask for it, but give them a surprise or pull off a good idea well and they do enjoy really it. This is worth so much more than a patchwork park of IPs, which they will be drawn to in bigger numbers in a shorter space of time, but ultimately isn't sustainable and is just part of the franchise game.
  4. Wumbamillio

    Hocus Pocus Hall

    "Merlin still about originality" With respect, this couldnt be further from Merlin's real intentions and procedures. Sorry for the looong post! Merlin started off buying already-successful attractions and turning them into formualted 'IPs' (The Dungeons brand, the Sea Life brand, the 'Eye' brand, etc) so that they could be cheaply copied all over the world. So it makes sense that now they are trying to seek other brands too. They now stipulate dark rides have IPs and that they grow their "IP portfolio" every year. Merlin – the parent company, not their parks (much to Merlin's annoyance) – were never about originality or entertainment. Nick Varney has never stopped talking about brands and IPs in this way since Merlin began. So not the death of originality, but we've already a huge decline in creativity, entertainment and value for money. In his own words, "IPs are the future of theme parks", and if you don't think so, you're wrong, he says. Therefore, so long as this is belived, I do see the death of (most) originality at Merlin owned parks. When you licence an IP, you are bound to design only within the parameters given by those who own the IP. It's a fundamentally different process to creating an attraction for the sake of entertainment business. You're no longer creating business out of how good your entertainment offering is. Instead you're making a deal – I'll use your already successful 'brand' to guarantee my own success regardless of what I make, while I pay you money for it. So the entertainment is completely secondary, and that's what the entertainment industry is understandably irked by. It's dark rides that suffer the most from this model, the (completely wrong) assumption that any dark ride 'WILL fail' if it doesn't have an IP, based completely on assumption by people who have no experience with entertaining people whatsoever. We already have a public who are more easily beguiled by massive global marketing, which isn't actually interested in entertaining people at all. Whenever parks appear in conversation with people I chat to, it's an expectation that theme parks are just based off movies and TV shows, that they're just an extension of 'franchises'. This wasn't the case when I was young and the families I used to visit parks with. There are always exceptions, but honestly I don't like the expectation that kids should just respond to the biggest brands they see on TV, rather than be surprised and imaginative. Also, there's no identity if a park like Chessington becomes a patchwork of fad IPs and declined (once fantastic) old rides. It just becomes a competition of whose brands are bigger, which is why Legoland Windsor wins, despite being currently the worst value family park in the UK. I'm only grateful that so far it's turned out alright, with IPs that suit. Gruffalo is charming for a British family park, not like the other IPs that were considered for it... This is the work of the people having to deal with the stipulation to use IPs, in finding the least-worst option, or designing the most creative solution around the limitations. Cbeebies Land is the cheapest, nastiest, falling-apart IP refurb I have ever known in a UK park. But even then, the designers tried their best with what they got. Personally I like the look of the new Hocus Pocus plans so far. It seems like this IP is less restricting to design than usual, so really it could be any walkaround but just has the Gruffalo name and characters slapped on top. But again, we almost got a different IP refurb this year, which thankfully was persuaded against. Tiger Rock had a cool station overlay and new drop, but the rest was the last thing the ride needed. It had been in a shocking state for years, but no money was allowed to be granted until the "zoo brand" quota could be ticked. This isn't how you properly develop a great zoo or a great park. And if not zoo theme, then it must have an IP! Nothing else will get approved. Scorpion Express was done with a tiny budget and is not nearly as entertaining as the original ride. A tarmac queue, dead scorpions, a standard coaster on flat ground, a cool theme but much less of it than before. The Swarm is drab and a very stingy realisation of what could have been a great area. I don't think any one is actually that entertained by the theme, but enthusiasts like it because it had that enthusiast appeal, so fair enough to them. The ambulance on its nose is the best moment, something memorable and not just a scrap vehicle parked on a pavement with some cheap water effects. Wicker Man was great, very entertaining, surprising and made for a great themed coaster. Fantastic! Everyone loves it and the public really get into it with the build-up to the ride. A great turn for the better. But then Merlin immediately hand the park "Alton Towers Dungeons" the next year.
  5. Wumbamillio

    'I'm a Celebrity' Maze

    Fair enough that you were replying to a post about money and resources rather than entertainment value, but when bad attractions need to be justified by fastrack sales you know somethings wrong. Fastrack is a scam that shouldnt need to even exist. Attractions should make good business out of good entertainment (I'm sure you agree, but just saying)
  6. Wumbamillio


    Colossus is not a nice ride experience but it's a thrilling coaster, best enjoyed with gritted teeth. I can see why people hate it, but if you go in knowing what to expect it's still a fun ride. Some new trains are much needed in the future, the faff and lack of room seriously slows down loading and is very uncomfortable, but this was a design oversight from the start really. Would be very wise of Thorpe Park to commission new trains, even if it cost a lot to prototype them, if they want the ride to continue for decades to come. Or would the ride have had its day in 15-20 years anyway? Since it was only really designed to break the record and shift Thorpe Park to a thrill park, which it's well known for now and could maybe use the space for a better looping coaster? It's worth a few more years though I'm sure!
  7. Wumbamillio


    Ive not heard it in there myself but remember well the effect the audio used to have, hopefully is just yet to be tweaked (the ride had almost no winter period) than left in a half-done state. Great that it's now looping properly, has the SFX back and no longer sounds like an awful warbled recording. But why did it ever get in such a bad state in the first place? Complete carelessness. Although I'm not sure that rubbish phone recording really gives any accurate impression of how it sounded, other than showing the original mix and sound effects. But it definitely used to sound suitably loud and really fun, which it needs back.
  8. Wumbamillio


    A genuine question, have you visited this winter? The original soundtrack has been restored and the bad cassette recording is finally gone. Not to its orginal 1990 state with the corridor audio and zoned organ, but definitely to how it was at the time that video clip was recorded, the way it was in the 2000s. If you have visited this month and think it still sounds bad, it may be more to do with the aging state of the sound system, or that it needs tweaking now that the original audio is back. Although I still think having the same music outdoors on those PA speakers numbs the impact of hearing it the first time in the station, hopefully they will change this to an ambient track outdoors. IPs are purely for business purposes and really nothing to do with thematic storytelling. The motorway service station type ads in Chessington's queue are super tacky, gives a really commercial impression about the park. Yuck!
  9. Wumbamillio

    Blackpool Pleasure Beach

    It's true all major new attractions need to see a decent return, because of their huge cost if anything. But I suppose the difference is Merlin invest only for instant hits, they never invest in the value of the actual park, beyond basic maintenance. Big money gets invested in headline rides, anything else is sidelined. So other than new rides, the state of their parks is pretty poor, including not investing in proper operations to keep queues down and generally not creating a place to be. Then their new rides are also left to decline once they've stopped serving that instant return. Even when new land is added like the Swarm's island expansion, it's just a minimal dead-end, when it had opportunity to add much needed value to the park and create more throughfare. This stuff all has an impact on guests experience. But Merlin's marketing depts still think yet another quick 'rebrand' with new signs, music and logos will do the trick, instead of proper long term investment. Icon at Blackpool was more beneficial to the park's overall value I feel, as well as a headline attraction for that year. It should have been advertised more (beyond the previs videos on BBC that made it look boring!), but it adds a modern element to the park's offering, making the Pleasure Beach a much more rounded day out. I hope BPB sees increasing appeal from here on and gets back on track, but it won't if it lets the momentum die. Looking at parks abroad that began the same way as Thorpe Park in the 70s/80s, you can see how they've taken a much more holistic approach over their history and today are altogether much better places to visit. But Thorpe Park has become so confused by cheap rehashes and short term investments, that I feel it doesnt deliver a solid appeal with many people anymore. Other than Derren Brown, which was probably intended to be a long term investment in the park, but because of its bad development it ended up so esoteric, with costs so out of proportion to its actual entertainment factor. I agree that stronger focus on good events would really help the park. Fright Nights still excites a lot of people in the region, but then why is it getting worse each year? Why is it advertised so much, but then so minimal in reality? You could have a far better Halloween event almost anywhere else, like the brilliant events at farm parks as mentioned earlier. You actually need to put the focus on entertainment for once, instead of the lazy minimal approach currently.
  10. Wumbamillio

    TPM Awards 2018 - The Winners

    Ahh thanks for voting me, didnt realise people liked my posts that much, will try keep it good in that case! Haha
  11. Wumbamillio

    Logger's Leap

    How about all the other Mack log flumes around the world that don't have these modifications? They're still able to keep operating fine. The evac steps on Falls were mostly done because evacuations became so frequent on that ride (because it was knackared, through years of dodgy maintenance all adding up) that it gave a terrible impression to guests and were not suited to regular evac use. The original steps were clearly designed more for general access. That's also why the gantry was added to where boats stack coming back to the station, because so many guests were needing to 'boat hop'. Merlin would rather brush as much under the carpet as they can, and only when they fear a video going online of 'OMG evacd from wooden steps up 100ft on dangerous water ride!!!!' will they spend money like that. Loggers could have had the cash granted to make any adaptions they thought necessary, but it got mothballed instead.
  12. Wumbamillio

    Logger's Leap

    It was one of the most entertaining attractions on park and the park's best family attraction. Not intense like the coasters, but definitely one of the most all-round entertaining, probably my favourite log flume in the UK after Dragon Falls had all its theme destroyed. It took a really good route round a part the park you never see now and had two thrilling drops. Also regardless of what us think as young adult enthusiasts, it was a big part of Thorpe's family line up which they are now desperate for. And trying to hide that a ride has been removed from the lineup the way they did with Loggers and Alton Towers did with Charlie, by saying it is 'being redeveloped' is clearly very bad practice.
  13. Wumbamillio

    Logger's Leap

    Thanks! By the way apologies if my language seemed 'personally' attacking, I dont care about what these people are like in person, only their professional involvement with the park and 'enthusiast' influence. I hope the post makes clear the reasons why, Thorpe needs something to save it from the way it's going and the current direction just isnt it.
  14. Wumbamillio

    Nemesis Inferno

    It's fantastic to see effects fixed around the ride like the foggers and the geysers that I've rarely ever seen working in person (and never synched with the ride as intended), a very cool effect!
  15. Wumbamillio


    its a cool video, so funny to see staff larking about on the ride's supposed closing down day. A couple pretty strange things in there if you watch the whole thing, haha! Shame it doesnt show the station under the show lighting but even in work lights, shows how fallen the brilliant station is now. People said Wicker Man set an amazing standard for a themed coaster in Britain (which it did) – but truly Chessington had it even better years ago with this incredible Vampire queue and preshow!