Back to 3 questions a day again now!
DiogoJ42 asked John Wardley...
Film special effects have become dominated by CGI these days. Many people (myself included), lament the loss of animatronics, models, stop motion etc.
Do you think this could be happening in the themepark industry as well? Rides like The Haunted House and Terror Tomb had amazing animatronics by the dozen, whereas dark rides these days tend to use static props, 3D UV paint, or video. To take it to the extreme, look at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... Almost all video projection.
Are animatronics out of fashion these days? Or are they too expensive to build compared to the cost of animating a few pixels?
A very good question. When it is done well, cutting edge technological effects can be sensational in the context of amusement rides (take Spiderman at Universal Orlando, for example). I was not involved at all with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so I can’t comment on it. But I think we must embrace all new technology when its application is appropriate.
In my “James Bond” days, when a scene needed to show something being blown-up, you built a set and you blew it up! Now a team of people sit at computer keyboards for a few months and type away. It’s not so much fun!
Our TH13TEENTH question is from Jem8472:
Are your family big rollercoaster fans? If so, which do they think is the best ride you have created?
And today's final question was a question about Scarefest. Both Ritadz and SAM93 wanted to know about this topic area.
Can you give us any insight into the park events you have worked on. I understand you worked on Scarefest this year (such as in the Carnival of Screams were many of TowersTimes saw you in the opening room). Is there anything you could tell us about the Carnival of Screams?
James Paulding (who has now left Alton Towers to work for Merlin Entertainments in the States) asked me to be involved in the Carnival of Screams, as he knew my background in film effects, stage illusions and animations. I devised the first room (with the Laughing Sailor) and the finale room (the Gorilla Cage) as well as being part of the team involved in the attraction as a whole. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had in the past few years, as I like to take a hands-on approach and be involved in the operation (something which my other rôle as ride consultant doesn’t allow). There is a great team of dedicated people in the entertainment and operations departments at Alton Towers, and it was a privilege to work with them all.
We inevitably had a few sequencing and throughput teething problems through the maze on the first day, and the queue started to build up, which is why James and I stepped in and helped with the batching of the guests and the re-sequencing of the actors. By the middle of the evening we had gobbled-up the queue, and were actually exceeding the predicted hourly throughput!