Wicker Man: It’s wicked.. man!

An account from four chosen ones who encountered Wicker man at Alton Towers (and survived)

At the end of the summer four students travelled excitedly to Alton Towers to experience the much talked about roller coaster ride ‘Wicker man’.

One Animation Student ( De Montfort Uni), One Psychology Student (Derby Uni), One Media Studies Student (Also from De Montfort University) and one Creative App Development student (Falmouth University). For ease of reference (and to protect the innocents) These Wickerman riders (aka the chosen ones) shall herby be referred to as Animal, Psycho, Medias and CAD.

Here follows an account of their experience which may not be entirely accurate as they had been scared within an inch of their lives..

Our four heroes begin their journey as they enter the forest of wooden tracks (AKA The Queue). 

“So, my Dad loves The Wickerman film… It’s a Cult Classic” said Medias. 

“Yeah and Nicholas Cage was in the 2006 version, I have a thing for Nicolas Cage, weird I know”, replied CAD. 

[Wicker Man ride takes as it’s starting point this film but is much more than that]         

“Oh, my God look at that ride!!! It looks amazing!!! and look at the flames and smoke. Is it safe to have real flames near a wooden rollercoaster”. (Medius) 

“Its okay, look the flames are on screens behind the ‘wood’ which is incredibly realistic”. (CAD)   

“I have to get a selfie, hold on”. (Medius).

[Medius stands at the specially created ‘selfie-spot’ situated carefully along queue line]   

“Wow, this ride looks awesome, its soooooo fast. Look at the huge drops!”, (Animal)

“Listen to the music? It’s really strange and evocative” (Animal)   

“The sign over there has strange writing on it… and I love the Wickerman Sign”. (CAD)  


[They move closer and closer to the heart of the roller coaster]  


“Listen to the clatter of the wood”, (Psycho).

“Yeah, but if you look closely the sound of the clatter seems to be coming from the struts that are not weight supporting. (CAD).               

   



“Look, the cross support isn’t load baring (although it might go some way to dissipating the energy created at the bend of the roller coaster), it’s placement seems to be a deliberate design effect which is being used to create an ominous clattering sound.. how cool is that? (CAD)     

“Yeah, I hadn’t noticed that” (Weird looks are thrown and weirdness is implied.. the speaker remains anonymous) 

As the four riders get closer and closer to embarking on the ride they feel part of the other riders experience.

They look up and say,    

“Oh dear, look at the faces of the riders going up that steep incline. Some are waving and others look petrified haha”. (Psycho) 

“Look at the profile of the Wickerman against the sky… It looks pretty ominous” (CAD)

“I can’t wait to get on this ride” (Medius)   

“Me neither!’ (Animal)  

So as the riders slow to embark on final stage of The Wickerman ride, they are led into a small room to wait.  

The air changes and the tension builds.. What lies behind the closed door. 

SPOILER ALERT  
This is a research post and if you don’t want to know what happens next please do not read on.  

As the chosen ones are ushered into a small round dark room with strange objects embedded into the walls.    

The room is filled with echoes from the same eerie music subliminally experienced whilst waiting in the queue. The story is unravelled, revealed on a large flat curtain which appears high on the wall in the darkened room.  

The host (a real live and kicking person) states that he will not be travelling with any further as they are ‘The Chosen Ones’.


He then leaves the room and closes the door which leaves the chosen ones in an entirely dark black room.

Suddenly,  a fierce and horrifying animation of The Wickerman appears mapped on to a 3D form within the room. (To be honest, we could have been burned alive right there and then and I suspect none of us would have noticed!)   

The Wickerman had one thing to say and one thing only… You are the Chosen Ones.. and,    

YOU ARE ALL DOOMED.     

The door to the room opened and the chosen ones are herded on to the coaster platform, there was no escaping their fate now.   

As I mentioned this is a research post. I am interested in immersive storytelling that creates  memorable collective experiences with impact.

I am now trying to bring together my eclectic experience and skillset gained from my commercial animation, illustration, design and production practices so that I can design and produce VR Narrative projects as well as fully immersive experiences.

With this in mind, I have researched the ‘making of’ The Wickerman and have contacted Merlin and Alton Towers to ask for their help to understand how the experience was designed and produced. Unfortunately the design process is very definitely TOP SECRET.

The Wickerman at Alton Towers was created by the following teams of talented artists, storytellers, graphic designers, engineers, technicians, animators, project managers, producers and directors at,

Merlin Magic Makers
Holovis
Scruffy Dog
Great Coasters –  Roller Coaster Design
I MA Score sound design 
Kyle Lambert – Graphic Designer
Narrative Design

The wickerman has also been reviewed by In Park Magazine. 

http://www.inparkmagazine.com/alton-towers-wicker-man-2/

There is also a documentary which aired on 23/08/18 ‘Inside Alton Towers’. Unfortunately it’s not available for on demand viewing at the moment but I will post it here when I do.

Experiencing this design project for myself, observing the response of others, researching the  development techniques and connecting to the work of key studios in the field has meant that I can  evaluate my current skillset and identify areas in which I need to develop additional skills (GOALS).

I can’t help but think about how spectacular this experience would be after dark and the forthcoming scarefest could be just the chance to see Wicker Man glowing red against a pitch black sky…

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