Tours, Alton Towers
Many years before Cred
Street and the Land of Make Believe ever ebbed their way into Alton
Towers, Talbot Street was one of the most popular and bustling areas of
the park. At the end of this street, Around the World in 80 Days, and
whilst it was hardly frequented by the masses, was an animatronic frenzy
around the world featuring mummies from Egypt and adorable fluffy seals
from the Arctic.
Whilst on one side of the park
a savage monster was ripping holes in the ground and tossing riders
through it’s contorted circuit (going, of course, under the guise of
Nemesis), Talbot Street became the Land of Make Believe, and Around the
World in 80 Days became Toyland Tours.
The transformation was
spectacular – from the outside, the drab exterior was no longer an
inconspicuous subtle façade, but instead a brightly coloured entrance,
fronted by colourful porches and arches. The transformation inside too
was rather spectacular, with the theme being that of a magical toy
Whilst the same boats were
used, that is where the parallels end. Through the door, you climb some
stairs that take you aboard the deep red and gold hull of the S. S.
Toyland Tours. As you cross this ship, the cloudy walls proclaim that
‘ideas make toys – toys make presents – presents make parties’.
You cross the ship and go down some stairs beneath its bridge before you
walk onto the platform that loads just one boat at a time.
The station really is
fantastic, with the paddle steamer that you cross to get onto the
platform and a huge six-foot teddy bear being lifted from a box with a
gathering of brightly coloured balloons.
Ideas make toys; your boat
rolls from the conveyor and into the water before you pass a bubbling
tank of brightly coloured liquid, so named the Thinking Tank. Above it
thought bubbles echo some of the ideas this contraption has come up with
– opposite, a prototype ‘Elecopter’, a giant pink elephant with
‘chopper rotors upon it’s cap. Above it, the thought bubble declares
that this is an idea that ‘will never take off’.
You continue to pass madcap
ideas, such as bouncy castles (bouncy castles on trampolines,
obviously), a Snailetrix (race track for snails, many running on
‘lead-free slime') and stripy paint.
As a batches of stripy green
and yellow balls undulate through a zany contrivance, you are duly
informed about the balls – each sign says either ‘balls up’,
‘balls in’ or ‘balls out’. This kind of humour is enough to make
any adult smirk, and goes way above the heads of those young enough to
The teddy stuffing department
will soon pass on your right hand side, teddy bears are told to keep
their mouths shut, those who habitually don’t have stuffing pouring
from their maws. A giant robot watches over proceedings, a television
screen set into his bulbous blue stomach shows the prevailing boat of
riders as they enter the next room.
As you go beyond the dolly
mixtures, in the truest sense with every part of their bodies a
different garish colour, you go into the bathroom, where you are
surrounded by thousands of bubbles, plastic ducks and fountains jumping
over your head. You soon go between two columns of water pouring from
the taps into the poorest and most unbefitting part of the ride.
This Sega room has a huge
console to your left and standing proud on this rather outmoded machine
under a monitor is the ever-endearing Sonic the Hedgehog. On screens
around the darkened room between golden hoops are snippets of Sonic and
his computer capers.
Toys make presents; the Toyland
Express train chuffs past, fully laden, with a teddy bear in the front
engine, pulling carriages piled high with party presents and gifts.
Geronimo Giraffe pulls on a ribbon on another present as you pass under
a castle archway from which toy soldiers play fanfare.
Presents make parties; the
grand finale of this inimitable voyage is the grand party. As lights
flash and mirror balls turn a band of cats play music as your boat sails
by a huge jelly (by huge we’re talking about 20 feet tall here) with a
mermaid wobbling upon the top.
There isn’t really much
substance to the final scene other than the over-use of glitter as well
as gaudy, clashing colour schemes. As you pass a huge spinning turntable
of butterfly cakes (remember them?!) and fairy cakes, you go under a
collapsing tunnel of candy canes before the boats queue up for the
station under the shadow of a dancing hippo in a sequin dress upon a
fairy cake. Attention is drawn to the continually swinging chest of this
The ride follows on from the
despicably popular Bubbleworks, a ride that has received almost
universal praise. Both the Bubbleworks and Alton Towers’ Haunted House
were done by outside companies, the theming on Toyland Tours, though,
was done in-house (virtually) by the Tussauds Studio.
It is fair to say that on the
whole the theming inside is fantastic. It is a very colourful ride, and
seems to have been looked after very well, whereas parts of the
Bubbleworks are showing their age.
The ride is tucked away in the
middle of nowhere though. This means that very few people ride it, and
in fact the whole of Cred Street is very baron, a lost opportunity, and
something the park seem to have picked up on due to a new look virtually
every year (Nicklodeon, Barny, Land of Make Believe… the list goes
There are a few facets that
mean the ride is far inferior to the Bubbleworks; the finale is an
anti-climax and, incongruously, the one of the most disappointing parts
of the ride. The Sega part is also completely incongruous parts of the
ride. The story is that ideas make toys (covered by the not so droll
think tank), toys make presents (the scenes following) and that presents
make parties (the ‘finale’). The Sega section seems to be a palpable
plug for Sega, and to a less annoying extent, the bath section seems to
break away from the consistency that the rest of the ride works for.
As a family ride, Toyland Tours
seems to set the balance right, and is still an interesting ride
whatever your age. It just lacks the finale and homogeny that the older
Bubbleworks seems to have set the president for.
▪ A relaxing escapist
▪ Very colourful, and
one the children will enjoy
▪ A lot is very outdated
(remember Sega? - no, me neither)
▪ Poorly located
▪ The ending is very kitsch