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Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:58 am

Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

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To sum it up, this ride had some fantastic themeing but the overall atmosphere was kind of like a museum. Looking at this video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbtftJXs0Ww I would have loved this ride today – I’ve made posts here about trying to capture a historical museum vibe but seeing this video and remember how this was my least favourite dark ride has made me completely rethink my attitude towards the historical museum vibe. As a child it didn’t work for me. I have to confess, if I’d first seen this ride today I would have been absolutely smitten because I love the feeling of history, I love going in historic national trust buildings but all of that sensitivity to the charm of history – I just didn’t have when I was a kid, and thats more for whom dark rides are for, though they are for adults aswell.

The wicked witches haunt/phantom phantasia always seemed to inferior to the fifth dimension, terror tomb and the haunted house at alton towers. What did these rides have that WWH didn’t? I know straight away one problem I had – NO SMOKE MACHINES. I look at the pictures of this ride this morning and it looks incredible, its got big faces, an ornate shop window with sweeny todd, its got a HUGE chandelier, rafters – but I just did not pick up on this stuff when I was a kid as much as a picked up on stuff like smoke machines(I developed a fog machine obsession later in life btw so maybe im over sensitive relative to average folk) .I know the ride changed when it have a UV update: I rode it before and after but it does merge into one ride so forgive me if i describe it as one. Next: NO REAL ANIMATRONICS. All the stuff in there looks to be cam based movement. I don’t think there were any scares. The figures, while historic didn’t move that much at all, although looking at the video some of this was implemented pretty darn well. But I wanted to see ROBOTS because when you look at an animatronic you are really looking at a pretty advanced robot aswell as whatever figure/character said animatronic is supposed to be. NO SOUNDTRACK – or atleast very limited. There does seem to be a few sound fx and a tiny bit of music but Merlin always had incredible music e.g. the vampire, haunted house themes.

I’m pretty sure the place smelled just like museum aswell, and again – this is all stuff I’d think was amazing today but as a child I just couldn’t feel these things anymore than someone colour blind can see red or green.

Comparing again to rides like fifth dimension, terror tomb and the haunted house another thing this ride didn’t have was DRAMA. The pace of the ride was much the same and it didn’t seem to have a story line. With these other rides you had strobes, a changing of pace, scares, smoke, shouting and screaming, voice acting and this makes it into theatre. It makes it a dynamic experience seems to give people the slap round the face to wake up from their depressive coma. These rides also had more of the look of theatre with curtains/drapes/tabs and theatrical lighting – its a bit secondary but for me to see all those professional lights, aimed like cannons, is a wonderful thing...And of course you can’t really beat hanging/drape type stuff for a dramatic feeling.
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:44 pm

I can't believe this used to be at Thorpe Park...  :shock:

I understand what you mean. I wouldn't mind the animatronics not really being animatronics though. I mean, if you think of Duel, most of the zombie movements are just swinging forwards towards the car, and then back into the darkness. There is no real movement.

Music and scares would have been nice though...
 
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:45 pm

Actually that is very true about Duel! Most of the gags are 1-direction movements so that makes me think what else did Haunted House/Duel have over wicked witches haunt? and Im starting to realise some other things
-The figures smile a lot more and their faces are very expressive. Its funny right? - Its much more laugh in the dark -and maybe there is a slight branding there of hooligan faces and lunatic smiles.
-The gags are much more agressive and if you consider things like the Trommel, the actual motion and size of that motion is big/powerful

Once again, I would have been all over this ride today and I think thats because I'm an adult. I distinctly remember my Mum being all "Look, Herny VIII. Look Sweeny Todd" - but I thought it very important to say how our minds...I guess our souls - change in the sensitivity of certain things as we grow older, meaning certain kinds of more subtle charm is lost on kids.
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:41 pm

Bear in mind this was built for Thorpe Park in 1983, way before the UK theme park industry really got going. Comparing it to "show rides" such as the Fifth Dimension is unfair since they had different purposes and were built in different contexts. Thorpe Park was more of an educational day out during the 1980s anyway, what with its big historical exhibitions.

Also, animatronics were still quite primitive in Britain until John Wardley came along with his own pneumatic designs (as opposed to the audio-animatronic method that Disney used, replaced by computers).

When Chessington - a true theme park and thrill park - was built years later, there was great pressure for Thorpe Park to adapt. Many of its developments during the 90s were direct responses to new attractions that Chessington had opened. I imagine that refurbishing it as Wicked Witches Haunt in 1994, with its new emphasis on ghouls rather than history, was an attempt to bring the ride more inline with its new competition, like The Haunted House at Alton Towers.

Obviously, the ride still would have lacked the original music scores, lighting effects and other 'theatrical' features that Tussaudes was experimenting with during the 90s. In my opinion, looking retrospectively, it was only until Tussaudes bought Thorpe Park in 1998 (two years before the ride burnt down) that it started becoming a truly professional theme park; before this they were trying but failing, and ended up building stuff like X No Way Out...

Phantom Fantasia/Wicked Witches Haunt is still a very interesting ride, since not much seems to be remembered of it these days. But it would certainly have been removed by now because of its age, so you still may not have had the chance to "get all over it" as an adult.
Last edited by electricBlll_Returns on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:24 am

Yeah I know, in many ways it was great but I just wanted to make a point of why as a kid I didn't think it was as good as Fifth Dimension and Terror Tomb just for the sake of my own ideas and anyone else who cares read my articles. Which (on a side note) I do feel must contain some insight - I rode the 3 (4 including Fifth Dimension) big dark rides and have been obsessed with them for about 22 years now. This is not a moan at you either, I've wanted to say that for a long time.

You reiterate some of my point well when you used the phrase 'theatrical features'. John Wardley says this aswell, some dark rides are "a piece of theatre"...or rather they are a dark ride crossed with theatre, with a ROBOTIC/AUTOMATED layer (and I think thats important, imagine if you replaced all automations with people- its not as good).

Anyway, I think the ride was better when it had the UV overhaul (I think this is when John Wardley got involved and I'm sure I can remember him or someone talking about it on the TV) There was UV tubes from start to finish joined one after another and there was this talking witch/psychic head on a pedastall, which was a projection of a face through the back of a mannequin like head (only made from translucent material for the sake of the projection)- this is from Disney Haunted Mansion I believe.

Looking at some of the figures and FX in this ride im amazed so much went over my head. There was a few Peppers Ghost/"Hologram" effects and some of the figures are HORRIFYING, like the face of the skeletons doing the seance or what that is lol. But still, some of the other stuff I can see what the problem is - its the character of it and I can best describe it a bit like this:

Did you have books like Roald Dahl and other well known, fun books with fun cartoony illustrations?...Then you get that one book that no one knows what it is, and the illustrations are more mature, sensible, not cartoony but more professional pencil/water colour(?) pictures...
Like you would have had the past-day equivilant of Peppa Pig, The Gruffalo, A Very Hungry Catepillar and then you get one thats called "Timmy The Soldier Boy" and neither you nor your brothers or sisters have a clue what that is and it looks like its been written and illustrated by people in their 90's. Truth is, its probably a better book all together, but as a kid its just alien lol. But theres many ways to skin a cat and while Fifth Dimension, Bubble Works (and shall we say Beano Land aswell) have this, there are other ways they seem to get across a kind of "whackyness" that appeals to children.

So yes - Whackyness- important.
Last edited by MattsDesigns on Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:01 am

I just wanted to make a point of why as a kid I didn't think it was as good as Fifth Dimension and Terror Tomb just for the sake of my own ideas and anyone else who cares read my articles.
That's fine, but since this is a discussion forum, you won't mind me talking more generally about the ride itself and not just your specific opinions. It would be great if you could describe the rides that you remember, since nobody will ever be able to experience them again today.

Anyway, I think the ride was better when it had the UV overhaul (I think this is when John Wardley got involved and I'm sure I can remember him or someone talking about it on the TV)
No, John Wardley did not have anything to do with Thorpe Park until 1999 when Tidal Wave was developed. Before then, Tussaudes Group did not even own the park. Thorpe Park was bought in 1998 and had previously been owned by Ready Mixed Concrete Ltd since 1979. Phantom Fantasia was refurbished in 1994, the same year that TerrorTomb at Chessington opened; again, probably a direct response to Chessington opening their new dark ride.

So yes - Whackyness- important.
By wackiness you perhaps mean stylisation, which, you are correct, is very important in production design/art direction. You choose how far to deviate from 'realistic' visuals. If you look at the original Haunted House, a lot of it was exaggerated, but not to the extent of slapstick, to give it a consistent atmosphere of lightheartedness, with a 'spook' edge. However, Phantom Fantasia I assume was built more as an educational trip through the dark aspects of British history, with some scares thrown in (like the London Dungeons), so it never intended to have the characteristic styles of more recent British dark rides.

ImageAs you can see by this new entrance, they really tried to make it more wacky and haunting, including new animations such as the witch above the entrance, to bring it up to date with other theme parks.
 
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:37 pm

I absolutely loved Phantom Phantasia when i was a nipper, at the time it was one of only a small handfull of rides at thorpe. I never went on WWH after the re-theme, as by then i was obsessed with Chessington and Thorpe really didn't cut the cheese. I seem to remember being impressed by the Peppers ghosts and dancing skeletons, mind you i would only have been about 5 at the time. I also seem to remember having a yorkshire pudding with Jam? just before going on it, so i was probably pretty hyped out at the time.
 
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:44 pm

Interesting post - and I know its 9 months since the last post, but I thought I'd throw my opinion in.

Its interesting that you saw phantom fantasia like a museum as  a kid, I didn't see it that way, but can see how you could.
I loved the PF and WWH as a kid and a teen - the whole ride seemed 'classy' and well appointed unlike a lot of more traditional ghost trains which have brash tacky frontages and then tacky and grotty interiors and effects. It was interesting just to walk in through a Tudor building to find yourself in a ghost house - and then the circular loading platform with the doombuggie style cars (as apposed to other ghost trains which jolt through double doors.

once in the ride I loved how it was full of visual stimulation as you glided past several set pieces, tableau and dioramas which were neither kiddish/cartoony NOR too gory... but rather more spooky and thought provoking - and I think thats why it appealed to me - because as a child I had a gothic sensibility but was still quite easy scared - and hated gore! I still do, I love a good Horror movie - but more in the vein of woman in black and insidious that say.... the Saw series. A lot of ghost trains and horror attractions crank up the grislyness with grose props of people on hooks etc OR they go too far the other way with humor/cartoonyness like like Over-the-hill at adventure island or the little monsters Den at flamingoland - theirs not much in-between apart from say the original Alton Haunted house which went for the family (but scary) market.
also I LOVED that it didn't have a storyline - but was a random sequence of rooms and chambers with different things from varying time periods happening - so in that way it did have something in common with the traditional ghost train.

WWH was also full of effects, lots of peppers ghosts effects, portrait fades, strobe effects, projections, cage rattles, moving props, black lighting etc etc

Although John Wardly did not work on this ride its interesting to note that Rex studios who where heavily involved in the Alton Haunted House were also the company who did the theming to the Wicked Witches haunt in 1994 so there are links!!  - this was especially evident in some of the theming like the giant spiders which were the same design as the Alton Haunted house ones.
 
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Re: Wicked Witches Haunt/Phantom Phantasia review/why it didn't work for me

Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:18 pm

I absolutely loved Phantom Phantasia as a child.

It's criminal Thorpe Park have never really put in a dark ride to replace it since it burned down. The park desperately needs a dark ride that families can enjoy.

Ultimately they had to deal with having a limited budget, both for building and for maintenance so you were never going to get Disney quality animatronics in it. It still had a lot of imagination behind it and some cool effects (like the ghosts which were mind blowing for me as a kid, despite using victorian era tech). I image that smoke machines wouldn't play well with a lot of the materials and mechanics nowadays/
 
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Phantom Fantasia / Wicked Witches Haunt (1983 - 2000)

Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:42 am

Hey guys, my name's Luke. I live in Germany and I wanted to talk about something to you guys.
Here in Germany we have a ride called "Geisterschloss" at Europa-Park, it was opened 1982, and it was also designed by Keith Sparks. The ride shares even the same loading station and the same layout as Phantom/Witches Haunt and even the same ride vehicles. It goes as far as to the fact that Europa-Park accidentally put a picture of Phantom Fantasia in the brochure for Geisterschloss.

Since a few weeks now, they added a new scene which even looks like the street scene in Phantom Fantasia (Pie Shop etc.)
With many kind greetings,

LukaTronic
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Re: Phantom Fantasia / Wicked Witches Haunt (1983 - 2000)

Sun Apr 09, 2017 9:11 pm

Thanks Luka.

Geisterschloss is a wonderful ride and it's lovely to see Europa improve it. It has more atmosphere and elegance than most new dark rides these days!
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