Jump to content
D4n

Hocus Pocus Hall

Recommended Posts

I like to think I try and give a balanced view other than Merlin is the devil incarnate etc. etc.

 

I mean I still tell people who haven't been to Thorpe before that DBGTROTD is a good experience, provided it all works. That's balanced right? ?

 

My FN review from Press Night I still stand by. (Containment and Blair Witch being very high quality stuff, Containment in particular)

To get back on topic: as I understand Gruffalo has been very well received, I haven't ridden yet but they've done a good job from POVs etc and to partially quote Merlin I would much rather they did something with Hocus Pocus than nothing. Similarly, I think to be fair what has been done to X is pretty good considering what they were working with, essentially a family coaster. What I had an issue with is Thorpe's ridiculous PR machine as always, meaning people thought WD The Ride was something brand new and not a refurb. Chessington's PR department are at least open about these things, being clear from the off that Bubbleworks was a retheme and Hocus Pocus too. As soon as you hYpE things up to such ridiculous - false - expectations a la 15 out of the 10 on the scare scale, you to stand to fail and disappoint. 

 

And also, Vulcan Peak.

 

Sorry, that's never going to not amuse me... ?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/10/2018 at 8:56 AM, Mark9 said:

I remember the hate for Gruffalo when that was announced and it turned out to be a vast improvement on what had gone before and a great ride.

 

Sometimes it's utterly miserable being here, especially when reading anything coming in the future. Fright Nights also got an absolute mauling for weeks before the event but oh look, everybody is having a great time.

Think you're getting a very skew impression of enthusiasts online from a relatively small representation, or online exaggerations. Enthusiasts on the whole don't hate theme parks, unless they're very confused and getting themselves wound up. It's because these parks could be fantastic today and so much more than the way Merlin develop/run them.

In the wider picture, I think it's clear that a park made up of a patchwork of IPs and underwhelming attractions will make for a very commercial feeling, mediocre day out. Merlin do it because they don't care about parks long term or even mid term. They just want whatever cheapest option can be used to boost sales that year.

If guests respond better to cheap attractions cloaked by a well-known IP slapped on top, then that only makes a case for the decline of the theme park industry. Been shown over and over again that there's much greater value in originality for parks and guests in the long term.

The Merlin parks are fast becoming quite esoteric in terms of actual entertainment, relying on growing a 'Merlin brand' following with the beguiled public, rather than simply entertaining guests and giving them a good experience.

Europa's IPs you mention are either very self-contained areas (Arthur) that actually live up to the IP, or are very minor attractions. They don't make up sizeable parts of the park or replace classic attractions with IPs at every opportunity.

Also I think in the bigger picture, enthusiasts were glad to see IL Bubbleworks go and had actually been wanting a replacement for years. It was appauling that IL Bubbleworks ever happened to Prof Burp's in the first place. And that thank god Gruffalo was a good ride in the end, if dull for what a family dark ride could be. Room On The Broom will probably be similar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don’t mean to be harsh in my negative posts most of the time, and I am it’s because I think they could do better rather than deliberately grudge them.

 

The biggest concerns I see are of newer attractions having the bare minimum of what seems acceptable and older stuff looking delipidated and falling apart. Whilst there are actually people who care in the departments, they usually have to travel the earth and sea for higher to grant the most basic upkeep.

 

Too often little things from quirky theming to additional features are removed but not replaced,because they are seen as inessential and unimportant to most. I have noticed many of these chiseled away from all the park’s in recent years, from the crypt and chandeliers in Vampire, queueline features in Dragon and the tunnel on (the now likely deceased) Loggers.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Gruffalo ride and it’s probably one of my favourite attractions at the park. However I sometimes look at it and think,  they could’ve done even more, from more scenery in places, less cardboard walls and maybe a couple. More animatronic items. An actual moving Gruffalo would have been one hell of a show-stopper if they could’ve done that. I understand various limitations may have prevented that, but oh well.

 

Wickerman (inspite of flaws some say) is proof when things are done properly, the park’s can create great, impressive and memorable attractions. It’s one of the few attractions created Merlin that would not look out of place at somewhere like Efteling or Europa. It can be done again, but they need think more outside the box instead of using the same few rules over again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/7/2018 at 9:34 PM, Wumbamillio said:

Think you're getting a very skew impression of enthusiasts online from a relatively small representation, or online exaggerations. Enthusiasts on the whole don't hate theme parks, unless they're very confused and getting themselves wound up. It's because these parks could be fantastic today and so much more than the way Merlin develop/run them.

In the wider picture, I think it's clear that a park made up of a patchwork of IPs and underwhelming attractions will make for a very commercial feeling, mediocre day out. Merlin do it because they don't care about parks long term or even mid term. They just want whatever cheapest option can be used to boost sales that year.

If guests respond better to cheap attractions cloaked by a well-known IP slapped on top, then that only makes a case for the decline of the theme park industry. Been shown over and over again that there's much greater value in originality for parks and guests in the long term.

The Merlin parks are fast becoming quite esoteric in terms of actual entertainment, relying on growing a 'Merlin brand' following with the beguiled public, rather than simply entertaining guests and giving them a good experience.

Europa's IPs you mention are either very self-contained areas (Arthur) that actually live up to the IP, or are very minor attractions. They don't make up sizeable parts of the park or replace classic attractions with IPs at every opportunity.

Also I think in the bigger picture, enthusiasts were glad to see IL Bubbleworks go and had actually been wanting a replacement for years. It was appauling that IL Bubbleworks ever happened to Prof Burp's in the first place. And that thank god Gruffalo was a good ride in the end, if dull for what a family dark ride could be. Room On The Broom will probably be similar.

I feel like I can reply to this now (because I'm going to talk about the much loved Disney brand here as it seems oddly relevant).

 

The reason I am okay with IP's is because in general, Merlin don't actually do a bad job with this. Gruffalo, Peppa Pig World at Garda and Heide, Cbeebies land, How to train your dragon to name but a few are high quality rides/areas and IMO are good*. I'm going to couple that with the fact that Merlin are still very much about originality. Look at The Wicker Man or The Swarm and I'll thrown in the recent refurbishments of Runaway Train into Scorpion Express and Dragon Falls into Tiger Rock as examples of where Merlin actually on the whole get things pretty right when it comes to rides and attractions.

 

*Thorpe is the exception, here is an example of absolute disaster but then the original attractions like Derren Brown also get this disastrously wrong.

 

Now the reason I bring up Disney is because the CEO recently came in for a bit of stick for a certain quote.

1269465775_Screenshot2019-01-10at12_19_06.thumb.png.ed1b6a69bb4b5249752b6897153c9979.png

 

Now Disney fans got themselves into a right rut about the apparent Expedition Everest put down implied here for Bob Iger and I got a bit annoyed too. The idea that Toy Story Land or Frozen Ever After has the same integrity, narrative strength and artistry as a ride as thought out and cared for as Everest is almost insulting. But here's the thing, I understand the perspective. What I dislike about modern Disney is that the days of Phantom Manor or Mystic Manor seem to be over. IP's are all we get. So far, Merlin aren't doing this and seem to be adding IP's where its relevant or where an improvement can be seen.

 

TLDR, IP's shouldn't be feared or seen as death of originality in theme parks. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"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.

2 hours ago, Mark9 said:

TLDR, IP's shouldn't be feared or seen as death of originality in theme parks. 

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.

2 hours ago, Mark9 said:

Look at The Wicker Man or The Swarm and I'll thrown in the recent refurbishments of Runaway Train into Scorpion Express and Dragon Falls into Tiger Rock as examples of where Merlin actually on the whole get things pretty right when it comes to rides and attractions.


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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Wumbamillio said:

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.

Thing is though, IPs are the future of the theme park industry, and the even the wider entertainment industry.

 

How many successful parks don't have external IP brands in these days? Whatever the answer, it's a dwindling number. And when you look further, the entertainment industry has been lending itself more and more to brands - sequels, spin offs, re-makes, merchandise, interactivity via the internet, etc. The entertainment industry is now primarily focused on creating things which have a strong focal point, from which further things can be created, and capitalise on that focal point to make more money. That's effectively the same logic as a park bringing in an external IP.

 

18 hours ago, Wumbamillio said:

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.

Yes, you are bound to the parameters of the IP owner. But those parameters can be agreed upon by both parties. If a park agrees to use an IP when they've agreed too restrictive conditions for use of that IP, that's ultimately the park's fault, and I'd wonder if given the free reign to create an attraction for the sake of entertainment, they'd have done any better. That comes down to people not being fit for the industry, not IPs being an inherit hindrance in the industry.

 

19 hours ago, Wumbamillio said:

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.

This is big thing that jumped out to me in your post. The industry has changed from what it used to be, what you liked it to be, and Merlin is responding to that change. Maybe they're being a bit too full-on with embracing this change, but that doesn't mean they're not about originality. Yes, they're a business, and yes any new attractions will include a check-list of silly buzz words that any new attraction must fulfil, and Merlin are taking less risks. But the building block behind that all is originality and entertainment. Just because you don't agree with the way things are done, it doesn't mean things have changed.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the bigger concern will be in a few years when there are about 28 million versions of a (for example) How to Train Your Dragon themed area/attraction and it loses any sense of actual individuality or appeal... And the inevitability that one is awesome and another is utter crap...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, JoshC. said:

Thing is though, IPs are the future of the theme park industry, and the even the wider entertainment industry.

 

How many successful parks don't have external IP brands in these days? Whatever the answer, it's a dwindling number. And when you look further, the entertainment industry has been lending itself more and more to brands - sequels, spin offs, re-makes, merchandise, interactivity via the internet, etc. The entertainment industry is now primarily focused on creating things which have a strong focal point, from which further things can be created, and capitalise on that focal point to make more money. That's effectively the same logic as a park bringing in an external IP.

Successful parks with no or minimal IP :- Efteling, Europa (has some carefully considered and integrated IPs), Toverland, Phantasialand, Hansa Park, Tivoli Gardens, Grona Lund, Lisberg to name a few

 

I have nothing against IPs in theme parks in theory - I mean I love Disney parks which are one giant IP BUT there is a Balance, and I don't think the future is or has to be IP based just in the same way virtual reality isn't becoming the way forward in theme parks either. 

 

IP's work well when they are considered and integrated and carefully chosen - such as Arthur at Europa - I haven't even seen the movie its based off - yet it's one of my all time favourite rides - because the IP is so visually strong, and had huge scope for immersion. 

 

I personally feel Merlin are taking many missteps because they are concentrating on throw-away IPs, with everything done from a marketing perspective as apposed to a design perspective, nothings done for the long-haul.

They are also letting old areas and rides rot, with minimal spending to maintain the rest of the parks to create a Value WHOLE experience for its guests, they are constantly removing value as apposed to adding to it (theming, detail, quality signage, planting etc etc). 

 

Also where has the distinct themed 'lands' concept gone? - Gruffalo in 'Transalvania' (dark forest I know, I know) and DBGT next to I'm a celebrity next to Walking dead at Thorpe. Chessington is loosing it's 'ADVENTURE' in its namesake!

 

And I know originality and Imagination isn't dead - because all you have to do is look to Europe, Even Parc Asterix, which is one huge IP Integrates original ideas INTO its IP! I still experience the same sense of magic visiting certain parks that I did as a kid at Chessington in the 90's, it really has nothing to do with age! That's what I feel is lost - any sense of magic at Merlin parks. 

 

Theme parks used to be places to Excite and inspire the imagination - not have it spelled out for you in very generic, Homogenised ways, they were there to be an alternative to television and media - not an extension of them! 

 

However at the end of the day I can UNDERSTAND Merlin, because they are a different type of business to say Hansa park which is Family owned. Merlin is a money making machine I get that, however I can state how disappointed I am with Merlins product, and still believe they would still thrive if they where run under differing management perspectives with a more design and quality based ethos! but they have their ethos that must be working for them ££ wise so.........

 

 

                                                                           

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, JoshC. said:

The industry has changed from what it used to be, what you liked it to be, and Merlin is responding to that change

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, RobF said:

Are you able to view(copy and paste)/ screenshot whole article as you have to pay to view it.

Analysts sifted through more than 550,000 customer reviews of around 100 Merlin attractions. They also examined a monitor that tracks average queue times at theme parks.

They found a continued decline in average reviews across Merlin’s Midway Attracti
ons brands, which include the Blackpool Tower and Sea Life Centres.

Merlin also operates Legoland and resort theme parks including Alton Towers, Chessington and Thorpe Park.

UBS raised the alarm six months after it first expressed concern about increasingly negative reviews at the company’s city centre sites.

“We now have greater concerns that this trend could be the result of poor investment and operational decisions, with cost-cutting and a focus on new business development potentially leaving the core profit drivers of Midway under resourced,” the analysts said, as they hung a “sell” sign over the stock.

They have also turned bearish on Legoland. While conceding its strong brand and potential for roll-out in markets such as China, they cited weak like-for-like growth in 2018 and a significant decline in average reviews at Legoland Windsor. Dampening investors’ hopes of a recovery, the note sent Merlin shares down 17¼p, or 5 per cent, to 327¼p.

 

another similar article here:-

https://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/212322/merlin-entertainments-skids-lower-as-ubs-cuts-its-rating-target-and-estimates-on-concerns-over-midway-customer-review-data-212322.html?fbclid=IwAR2H2CX85q7Ibz-JiHGDh0b_kKiFG1NICaVsjTuHhVLub4vPW3h6I9e4MNA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mrmonkey said:

Successful parks with no or minimal IP :- Efteling, Europa (has some carefully considered and integrated IPs), Toverland, Phantasialand, Hansa Park, Tivoli Gardens, Grona Lund, Lisberg to name a few                                                                          

 

 

Here's a question, are fairytale stories IPs? Could the legend of the Flying Dutchman be considered one? What about myths about Nordic Gods? Does taking inspiration from real life places and stories consist as an IP?

 

N.B. Obviously Pardoes is an original character but just because the park created that character does that declassify them as an IP?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Benin said:

 

Here's a question, are fairytale stories IPs? Could the legend of the Flying Dutchman be considered one? What about myths about Nordic Gods? Does taking inspiration from real life places and stories consist as an IP?

 

N.B. Obviously Pardoes is an original character but just because the park created that character does that declassify them as an IP?

 

I don't think it's quite the same, you might have a point in the broader sense, but fairy stories have been interpreted my countless people over the course of history - including Disney of course! 

 

Myths, legends, folk stories, and certain literature can be interpreted in countless ways - whereas a registered IP of a specific contemporary show/product/franchise has pre-made perimeters to work with creatively.

Originality doesn't mean it has to be a completely new idea! in fact being too Abstract could work against it -it's more about bringing a fresh approach to a story or genre - a good example of this is last years opening of 'Avalon' at Toverland - not a new idea at all..... Merlin the wizard etc etc BUT they managed to pull off something that feels fresh - with an accessible backstory.

 

And of course IPs can work the other way around and be generated by the parks themselves - take POTC for example - that originated from a Disney ride - and has gone full circle to now being a ride-based-on-a-film-based-on-a-ride at Shanghai! 

Those IP's are generated through creativity within the parks - as apposed to clutching at straws of popular media etc 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Primarily that article shows 2 main problems we all have with Merlin: 1) Forgetting about turning a GOOD day out to a GREAT day out and 2) Turning their parks into what is essentially a shopping centre of IPs with hundreds of irrelevant logos and irrelevant q-line TV ads to get your attention whilst in the park totally ruining any sense of escapism. Coupled with the overpriced non-ticket items such as food, pictures and items in the shop it leaves people leaving with a slightly bitter taste in their mouth (especially when they get to the queue to leave if they came by car).

 

I for one am not against IP's - you don't spend thousands of hours to create high-quality content only for a small number of people to turn up - creating IPs brings in fans of that IP which is obviously good but you should really avoid using too many of them or at least be attempting to spread them out. You should also trust that people will turn up without needing an IP (I.e. making something unique like Fright Nights - it took around a decade but now it's one of the best in the country and gives a reason to visit every year).

 

We go to attractions to escape reality a bit and things like flaking and old paint work, rides with excessive downtime or not open at all (unless for a good reason), rude and unhelpful staff (I rarely  encounter this at Merlin attractions), overpriced items, trash everywhere, queues to enter and leave ruin that magic.

 

Merlin, if they are going to be using IPs, should remember to have attractions, scenery and events that aren't IP related to off-set the IP dependent attractions which should help reduce the problem 2 in my first paragraph (think Europa Park or Disney Land level of "escape" - you are meant to be the best in the country after all). Too many IPs, however, are just laughable and counteract your aim of creating magical days out - cBeebies land at Alton Towers was a pointless IP and could have been implemented by potentially making the area themed to one of your own "inventions" and potentially had just as high an ROI especially in the long term whilst having that magic "escapism" factor increase (I say "potentially" as of course it hasn't happened). We see cBeebies every day, we DON'T go Alton Towers everyday. If we had an amazing time at Alton Towers' own unique themed bundle of attractions we're more likely to return there as we can't get that experience anywhere else (something Disney capitalise on hugely as do the other theme parks in Europe - after all we're not returning when there's little difference every year or so for no reason) whereas for cBeebies we could just go to any of the other events they put on or just switch on the telly. 

 

Another reason this is a problem: The GP will see and think "cBeebies Land" adverts and think "oh, another cash-grabbing attraction to pull our children in". They see "Alton Towers' New Children's Land" or whatever they want to call it and it's more "hm, sounds interesting". It won't have an initial massive return in terms of visitors but it will strengthen the attractions on offer which is a very easy way to get people to return the following year/ later in the year which should bring others' in through sustained marketing and positive reviews - see FN's above.

 

Fixing the above problems should also help improve customer experience by regaining some of that magic Merlin pride themselves on. Spending time highlighting what you could do/change/add to increase the "magic" factor in your parks = better reviews = easy way of bowling people over to visit you over a competitor.

 

Merlin's current growth strategy of solely relying on external IPs is fundamentally flawed as it results in problem 2 above which is definitely not a place people want to be as it just screams as "cash-grabbing" (ads in a rollercoaster queue line for example - WTH Merlin?!?! - at least make them somewhat relevant to the theme of the ride). Having a mix of IPs to initially boost the numbers as well as unique attractions that offer great entertainment value (rollercoasters, Hocus Pocus Hall, FN's for example if they're done well and haven't been clearly "cost-cutted") is important to ensure visitors attend the following year. For cBeebies land this could have been done by having "New Characters" and having a mix of the IP's shows with in-house designed themed attractions.

 

Please read my signature and I hope I've struck a chord with some members on this forum and if so I hope Merlin's higher ups listen or at least investigate for the sake of Merlin but more importantly for the sake of Thorpe Park. (I'm sorry for the post length, future posts will be much much shorter).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ivsetti said:

Merlin, if they are going to be using IPs, should remember to have attractions, scenery and events that aren't IP related to off-set the IP dependent attractions which should help reduce the problem 2 in my first paragraph (think Europa Park or Disney Land level of "escape" - you are meant to be the best in the country after all). Too many IPs, however, are just laughable and counteract your aim of creating magical days out - cBeebies land at Alton Towers was a pointless IP and could have been implemented by potentially making the area themed to one of your own "inventions" and potentially had just as high an ROI especially in the long term whilst having that magic "escapism" factor increase (I say "potentially" as of course it hasn't happened). We see cBeebies every day, we DON'T go Alton Towers everyday. If we had an amazing time at Alton Towers' own unique themed bundle of attractions we're more likely to return there as we can't get that experience anywhere else (something Disney capitalise on hugely) whereas for cBeebies we could just go to any of the other events they put on or just switch on the telly. 

 

Another reason this is a problem: The GP will see and think "cBeebies Land" adverts and think "oh, another cash-grabbing attraction to pull our children in". They see "Alton Towers' New Children's Land" or whatever they want to call it and it's more "hm, sounds interesting". It won't have an initial massive return in terms of visitors but it will strengthen the attractions on offer which is a very easy way to get people to return the following year/ later in the year if they live close by with little initial investment.

 

 

I agree in all you say, But Cbeebies was very cleaver BUSINESS WISE (not creatively) as it plays into pester power - just like toy adverts. Young kids see an advert or learn there's a 'cbeebies land' somewhere - and immediately will want to go! 

 

Parents often associate CBeebies with pacifying their kids - so also buy into it! The problem is, visitors are drawn in by the marketing - visit, have a less-than-satisfactory-time, will will therefore not return in a hurry. 

 

Also CBeebies shows are also fairly short-lived - meaning the need to change-out attractions fairly regularly! 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Ivsetti said:

you don't spend thousands of hours to create high-quality content only for a small number of people to turn up

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/11/2019 at 12:53 PM, mrmonkey said:

Successful parks with no or minimal IP :- Efteling, Europa (has some carefully considered and integrated IPs), Toverland, Phantasialand, Hansa Park, Tivoli Gardens, Grona Lund, Lisberg to name a few

Efteling (and to a lesser extent, Hansa) has stuff around fairytales / legends which are very well known in their market (will get to that later).

 

If we're being pedantic too, you could argue Phantasialand have at least dabbled with external properties, with Michael Jackson lending his name to Colorado Adventure, and with the Charles Lindbergh hotel being a thing. Slightly different I know, but it shows they acknowledge there's some form of strength in using something external to help them.

 

My point is, even with those you've listed, it's still a minority of large, successful parks. And I fully expect the number to decrease over time too.

Quote

Also where has the distinct themed 'lands' concept gone? - Gruffalo in 'Transalvania' (dark forest I know, I know) and DBGT next to I'm a celebrity next to Walking dead at Thorpe. Chessington is loosing it's 'ADVENTURE' in its namesake!

I personally am all for the idea of themed lands. But that doesn't seem to be Merlin's direction quite so much now. They more seem to exist for reference to location. 

 

I've nothing against the idea of not having coherently themed lands (plenty of successful parks don't do this across their whole park). In some ways, it can be a positive, as it means you don't have to shoehorn in themes, and have greater scope. But yeah, maybe they should let go of the highly themed names if that's their direction.

Quote

Theme parks used to be places to Excite and inspire the imagination - not have it spelled out for you in very generic, Homogenised ways, they were there to be an alternative to television and media - not an extension of them! 

 

However at the end of the day I can UNDERSTAND Merlin, because they are a different type of business to say Hansa park which is Family owned. Merlin is a money making machine I get that, however I can state how disappointed I am with Merlins product, and still believe they would still thrive if they where run under differing management perspectives with a more design and quality based ethos! but they have their ethos that must be working for them ££ wise so.........

This is the thing, as I've said, the industry is changing (or perhaps even already has). Theme parks across the board can see there is a great deal of success to be had be extending brands into their parks. It's fine if people don't like that, but just because people don't like something, it doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong.

On 1/11/2019 at 1:32 PM, Wumbamillio said:

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.

But, does it really matter if it's a natural change? Why ask what people want when you can tell them what they want to suit you? Of course, this shouldn't make standards drop, overshadow originality, etc (which is the bigger issue here), but if you an make a change, just do it.

Quote

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.

Agreed. But IPs can and do have long term value, if the right one is chosen. There's definitely questions about some of Merlin's choices and their longevity, but theres plenty which are fine, and I don't think many parks outside of Merlin are really making questionable IP choices.

Quote

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.

Agreed. I absolutely hate the 'there can be no risk' style of thinking, and that is definitely stifling Merlin as a whole. The flash-pan IPs definitely reduce the risk, but carry little long term benefit. But the correct IP with appropriate work is fine.

On 1/11/2019 at 2:36 PM, Benin said:

 

Here's a question, are fairytale stories IPs? Could the legend of the Flying Dutchman be considered one? What about myths about Nordic Gods? Does taking inspiration from real life places and stories consist as an IP?

This is something I was going to mention in my previous post, but wasn't sure.

 

Fairytales, etc. are a weird one. There's no third party to deal with to say 'you have to do this, that', but equally you're still bounded but keeping within that story's general realm. Do you really have much more creative license working with a fairytale than you do with an IP with a good working agreement? Arguably, the difference won't be that much.

 

On 1/11/2019 at 4:03 PM, Ivsetti said:

Another reason this is a problem: The GP will see and think "cBeebies Land" adverts and think "oh, another cash-grabbing attraction to pull our children in". They see "Alton Towers' New Children's Land" or whatever they want to call it and it's more "hm, sounds interesting". It won't have an initial massive return in terms of visitors but it will strengthen the attractions on offer which is a very easy way to get people to return the following year/ later in the year which should bring others' in through sustained marketing and positive reviews - see FN's above.

I really don't think that's how it would work. With young children (the target market for CBeebies), parents will want security in knowing that their children will like it. I don't think as many parents will see adverts for CBeebies Land and think it's a quick cashgrab as you think. They may think that when at the park and seeing the prices, but that'd basically be the same regardless of the IP.

 

This is where the whole risk thing comes in - Merlin could have taken a risk to create something internally, but ultimately saw an IP as the safer option.

 

My problems with CBeebies Land is that many characters they've used are human (making a lot of meet and greets impossible, which should have been key), and it's an IP that children outgrow. A young children's area still had the ability to cater to a slightly older audience if they're done right. Maybe Towers wanted to avoid that, but I personally feel like that's a missed opportunity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think ideally parks need to ensure there is a general balance between original ideas/internal IPs and external IPs.

 

I don’t have a major issue with IP’s, as long as they fit within the park’s character, are delivered to a high quality and remain creative and imaginative. Europa for example seems to have a good balance with this, as last year they added IP attractions Jim Knopf (formerly Old99) and the Paddington Ice Show, whilst opening the ‘quirky and original’ Madame Freudenreich Ride (a retheme Of the ageing Universe Of Energy).

 

One could argue Can Can Coaster could also be an ‘external IP’, with it’s ties with the moulin rouge, but even then they have developed original ideas within this concept. 

 

Getting back on point, as ‘external’ IP's go, Room On The Broom is one of the better choices and should fit within the park hopefully. There are certainly much worse IP choices out there, like IAC and Love Island.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...