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Towers (Alton Towers) and Be Discovered (Thorpe Park)
upon a time, every day at a theme park was a special event! Well, they
should be, shouldn’t they? Departing from the humdrum of daily life
for a jaunt into a landscape of fast rides, entertaining performances
and quality time with friends and family?
for the jaded and annual pass holding amongst you, this might not be
considered enough, and so occasionally, a theme park will host a
‘special event’, an extra flake in the Cornetto to your day – a
surprise for new guests, extra pleasure for returning ones, and
something for fans and annual pass holders to look forward to and then
is always a busy time at theme parks, usually as they’re rolling out
their new investments to an eager to ride public, all waiting to queue
hours for first dibs, or to pay a couple of quid extra and waltz past
said public. Two of the busiest of theme parks, Alton Towers and Thorpe
Park are both rolling out new attractions, both of which you’ve
probably heard of by now. And so, it’s nice to see the parks feel that
more guests are to be enticed by ‘special’ events.
Towers marketing meetings must be a hoot. They once dedicated a whole
week to ‘The Sound of Music’, bringing the hills of the park alive
by dressing up the university drama student entertainment staff as Nuns
and having them prance around, yodelling and pretending to be Swiss.
granted free entry for students who’ve failed A-Level exams, and those
who happened to be dressed as Superheroes upon arrival, and were once
quirky enough to advertise and cancel a Halloween event two years in a
row! I bet they wear caps backwards and have their feet on the board
table, and use lots of hip terminology.
on April 1st, Alton Towers launched ‘Charlie and The
Chocolate Factory – The Ride’, a re-hash of the aging Toyland Tours
ride, in an attempt to provide a new family attraction, and after last
year’s addition of Rita – Queen of Speed, bring more guest flow to
an area of the park Nemesis and Air once spelt the death of.
is the key here, and so the park have decided to host ‘Chocolate
Towers’ – a ‘resort-wide’ event designed to embody the sprit of
all things sweet, accompanied by the nifty tagline ‘You won’t leave
empty handed’, which we’re sure in fact doesn’t refer to parking
at Alton Towers entrance plaza, the event is obvious – the whole of
the gate structure has been plastered with a very professional, very
striking gold motif spilling chocolate, and welcoming us to the event.
Yes, the chocolate may be matte paint, but it’s very effective and not
course, as guests rush in, their main aim is to head to a ride, and so
it’s particularly nice to see that Towers Street (imaginatively
renamed Chocolate Street!) is not without decoration… on each of the
small lawns in the centre of the paving, oversized, tempting looking
lollipops have seemingly spurted from the ground, the frog fountains are
awash with oversized chocolate pieces, and at both ends of the street,
are two oversized inflatable Easter eggs.
there’s a variety of flags and sweet wrappers hanging from lampposts
and roofs, like sugary hanging baskets.
most obviously, is the impressive, amusing, if not slightly unsightly
‘Mount Chocuvius’ – a dark rock base feeds into the rough green
cone of a mock, 20 foot volcano. At the top, blobs of melted chocolate
peek out, with remnants of the last ‘eruption’ glooped over the
pours out of the top and from the cracks at the side, whilst
occasionally two lines of flames lick both the base and business end of
the edifice. Business end?
That’s right folks, as although Chocuvius fails to fire out hot,
melted chocolate, it can manage to pump out a rather vast amount of
Cadbury’s Miniature Heroes all over excited guests.
is a very cool concept, and without a doubt the highlight of the event
– the sort of silly little spectacle that most UK parks seemingly make
a point of lacking.
flags, signage and confectionery spewing (in)natural phenomena is all
well and good, but is Chocolate Towers all shell and no filling? Well,
I’m happy to report, the event has more than just a hopeful glaze. But
there’s a Coffee Revel attached to this recommendation.
Alton Towers, the UK’s self proclaimed #1 paid for Tourist Attraction,
and possibly the most expensive day out in the country, was closing on a
balmy, busy springtime evening at 5:30PM – an utterly ludicrous time
considering the size and pull of the park.
the park, queues hit over an hour on several of the largest attractions,
and I’d doubt that a group of guests arriving at around eleven would
be able to conceivably manage all the ‘big hitters’. Therefore, the
range of activities offered at Chocolate Towers was surprising in it’s
magnitude considering a lot of thrill hungry guests would choose to
ignore them completely. As well as ‘Chocolate Street’, Fountain
Square became umm… ‘Chocolate Square’.
was good park planning. As well as putting a gratuitously spacious area
to good use, it paid heed to the crowds in the most popular section of
the park. Here, guests could queue to meet ‘Father Chocolate’ – an
afro-bearing, hip talking smooth operator in a green suit, who would
engage guests on his chair and offer a free Easter egg and a hug or a
sturdy handshake. Very imaginative.
the way, £1 bought you a surprisingly scrumptious chocolate egg and the
use of a wide variety of decorating inks to spell your message of choice
– whether it be ‘Merry Christmas’ ‘Will you Marry Me?’ or
‘Bring Back Toyland Tours’. Next door, guests could obtain a special
Chocolate Towers tattoo, and even an acrobatics revue has been set up.
in Cred Street, the park’s theatre was proudly playing host to ‘The
Chocoholic Follies’ – three bouncy, calorie loving ladies and their
flamboyant transvestite friend. They sing, they dance, they mince, and
they eat. This is a surprisingly well staged show, with an undeniable
sense of fun. It’s snappy, and amusing, yes, borderline weird, but
most importantly – really good fun.
rather splendidly dressed stilt walkers – ‘Ladies of Chocolate’
greeted guests, and a free, park-wide ‘Easter Egg’ hunt to win,
unsurprisingly, chocolate or a weekend at the park was available to all.
eruption of Chocuvius provides the footnote to the day’s events,
exploding at 5PM and 6PM, although the park seem to be in the habit of
tweaking these times – certainly explosions spread throughout the day
would better pay heed to hungry crowds.
gather around the barriers at the base of the volcano, and after a lot
of shouting and a story told about the Volcano’s being (which was in
fact a sprightlier version of the Nemesis legend), the volcano erupts
for around a minute solid, sending children and adults into a flurry of
excitement to catch the treats. The chocolates which don’t reach the
crowd, are then handily chucked out into the masses by Father Chocolate
and Alton’s ‘Magic Makers’.
not great news to day visitors, Alton have chosen to extend the event to
the hotels. In Splash Landings Ma Garittas Bar stands another chuckle
inducing feature – an actual Chocolate Gunge tank, a shower cubicle
that ceremoniously dumps chocolate on whoever is unlucky enough (or
lucky enough?) to happen to be trapped inside it.
door at the Alton Towers Hotel, the ornate theming has found itself
covered in sweet wrappers and the park have gone through the trouble of
transforming one of the Conference suites into the ‘Time Out’ lounge
– a groovy, somewhat sensual, very funky open plan ‘chill out’
room, where guests can gamble with chocolate chips (naturally) and
winners can make use of a giant fondue set.
10pm, the lounge becomes adults only, with the park offering the rather
surprising opportunity to lick melted chocolate off the bodies of
models. Well, you get what you pay for.
the bar and atrium entertainment is courtesy of the Chocoholic Follies,
an act practically made for a room of excited children and drunken
so, as the first real attempt at a ‘Resort wide’ event, Chocolate
Towers is worth a chew – it’s not half bad. In fact, I’d say
it’s really rather good, especially for a first season incarnation.
One can only suspect it’ll return – not only considering its
popularity on the day, but a substantial amount seems to have been
invested in special staff fleeces for the two week course, not to
mention that Chocuvius can’t have been cheap…
a smaller scale, Thorpe Park is offering the opportunity for guests to
‘Be Discovered’, in a day out that the press release seems to have
you believe is a cross between sky diving and a recording of X-Factor.
In fact, Be Discovered is possibly the most boring event I’ve ever
attended, that offers just two redeeming features.
– It’s an event at a time when the park don’t really need an
#2 – It kept the park open until 10pm.
the argument for the latter of those two is a little flat –
considering the crowds, the size of the park, the several national and
regional advertising campaigns running for it, the arrival of a new £12
million rollercoaster, the time of year and general accessibility,
Thorpe Park should be opening its gates later than 6 or 7pm regardless
of whether guests wish to ‘Be Discovered’ or not. However, as it
stands, 10pm opening outside of the usually chilly Fright Nights in
October was lovely, with the majority of guests sticking around to ride
in the dark or as the sun began to set. It must be said however, the
lack of lighting on Stealth, the park’s widely promoted ‘icon
coaster’ seems blindingly stupid.
Discovered didn’t quite do what it promised – that being turn Thorpe
Park into ‘a land of Hollywood Glitz and Glamour’. Now, I’ve never
been to Hollywood, but I’ve heard it’s not all you might expect, in
which respect for all I know; it could in fact resemble Staines.
a red carpet nobody notices, Basement Jaxx’s Greatest Hits album on
loop, and some red tape wired around the bridge doesn’t constitute
glitz, or indeed glamour. The paparazzi which were promised to snap me
on the way in never materialized, instead replaced by sound effects of
Paparazzi. Or, so it seems, that these ‘paps’ were so determined to
get an exclusive shot of me, they were determined to hang
off the side of the bridge, to do so!
actual main event was in Port Atlantis (AKA, The Dome) – a rather
snazzy stage was set up for budding stars to step up onto and belt out a
tune to the approval (or otherwise) of several judges. I’d like to
tell you who they were, but it wasn’t stated.
show was attracting pretty much one type – 17 something girls in jeans
and Topshop merchandise, whom all managed their vocals around Alicia
Keys or Christina Aguilera tracks. The show therefore had no zest, and
no real atmosphere. Positioning the stage in this area didn’t help –
with four ‘heats’, throughout the day, and with ride queues at over
an hour all over the place, would it really be to a guest’s advantage
to make their way over to, essentially, the exit, for a show that really
lacked much advertising, and was in fact, rubbish?
could have been enormous fun, if guests were encouraged up to simply
give it a go, karaoke if you will. But, whilst the park and its
participants insisted on taking it so seriously, what was left was very
for the celebrity appearances, Jo ‘her off of that S Club, remember
them?’ O’Meera turned up briefly for the final heat, where as
promised Richard ‘Craig off of Corrie’ Fleeshman failed to
materialize at all. Finding their way to Thorpe Park from Madame
Tussauds, were the rather splendid waxworks of Simon Cowell and Louis
Walsh, pop moguls and most famously, X-Factor judges.
panelist, Sharon Osbourne, didn’t show up, which seems particularly
half hearted considering she was just required to sit down for four
days. Pictures were encouraged on the desk of these two famous faces –
and were available for £4.99. Personal photography was forbidden for
copyright reasons, and although the figures were nice to see, theirs
only so long you can spend pointing at a well molded piece of plastic
without wanting to move on.
would all be quite tragic, if guests seemed to care in the first place
– they didn’t.
as Chocolate Towers had a sense of the giddy about it, Be Discovered was
a total misfire, the late ride opening being it’s only graceful note.
so, this Easter, you were more likely to find success with a sweet tooth
than with a taste for the big time.
Chocolate Towers 3/5,
Be Discovered 2/5