The build-up to the reveal and opening of a Secret Weapon at Alton Towers Resort is always an exciting time! We’ll be keeping track of all the official teasers and announcements for SW8 here.
The first official confirmation that the Resort were planning Secret Weapon 8 came on 16th March 2016, when the Towers Loving Care Twitter account (@AltonTLC) posted a photo of a banner on the fence that had been erected around the former site of The Flume.
There was then no further official word on SW8 until March 2017, when the banners on the fences around the construction site were updated, along with the launch of a dedicated SW8 page on the Resort’s website. This saw the branding incorporate wooden textures, reflecting the fact that this would be the Resort’s first wooden rollercoaster.
On National Rollercoaster Day 2017 (Wednesday 16th August) the Resort released a video which included a teaser for SW8 at its end, stating that guests would ‘be chosen at Scarefest’. This also saw the Resort’s SW8 page updated to reflect the new branding, taking on a darker tone and introducing runic symbols, providing the first real insight into what SW8’s theme would be. The page now also featured information and a video summarising the history of Alton Towers Resort’s Secret Weapon Programme.
A few days later, on Friday 18th August, the Resort announced that their brand new, fourth scare maze would be called ‘The Welcoming: Be Chosen’. The inclusion of the runes associated with SW8 in the maze’s logo suggested a link between the two attractions, similar to what there had been between The Sanctuary and The Smiler. The Resort’s website provided the following description for what guests could expect from the scare maze:
The woods surrounding the village of Alton harbor a mysterious group, which until recent sightings were unseen by the modern world. Whispers around the village say that the group are angered by people abusing the world’s natural resources and the rapid advance of technology. Every year the secluded group host a festival to celebrate their own interpretation of Halloween – paying homage to the earth and celebrating the crossover between the living world and the dead. The group have recently infiltrated the Alton Towers Resort and for the first time are allowing outsiders to celebrate with them. But what part will you (‘the outsiders’) play in this ritual? Is this really an initiation?
Wednesday 23rd August saw the release of the first episode of a mini-series which would provide exclusive information about the Resort’s latest Secret Weapon development. Featuring YouTuber Elliot Crawford and his co-presenter Julez Taylor, the episode covered the history of the Secret Weapon Programme and promised a look behind-the-scenes at the construction of SW8 in future installments. More observant viewers also noticed some strange goings-on in the video, including more runic symbols being spotted throughout.
On Thursday 5th October, a symbol, thought to be SW8’s logo, appeared on the signage around the construction site. The following day, the SW8 page on the Resort’s website was replaced by a new minisite which featured the same logo and runic symbols reading as ‘Feed the Flames’, as well as giving SW8 an opening period of Spring 2018 and naming new scare maze The Welcoming: Be Chosen as its “official prequel experience”. The site also continued to allow visitors to sign up for the chance to be one of the first to experience SW8, stating:
The time is upon us
Re-assess your modern lives
Re-connect with the earth and its elements
Unite with the chosen ones in 2018
With Scarefest underway, the logo now associated with SW8 was being projected onto the Towers Ruins, along with runes spelling ‘Feed the Flames’.
On Thursday 19th October, images emerged of London commuters being trapped inside a wicker-built cage by members of the mysterious group from Alton Towers. The following day, a video was also published showing the strange activities.
On Sunday 22nd October, what initially appeared to be the second episode of the mini-series was published, however, around 20 seconds in it was interrupted by a sequence of runic messages, which were decoded as saying:
We interrupt this to bring you good news. You are invited to a celebration of our earth and its beauty. All this noise, all this technology. It’s too much isn’t it? There’s no time or space to think is there? Deep down you know the truth don’t you. The technology has now taken the reigns [sic]. How did you get here? Maybe it doesn’t matter. What matters is this chance, your opportunity to reconnect with the earth. Come join us near the woods and partake in our celebration. How far you choose to go, that is your own choice. What part you choose to play only you can decide. Be chosen on the night where the living meets the dead.
Just before the end of the 2017 season, on Wednesday 1st November, ITV News posted a video featuring aerial footage of the construction site and a time-lapse of construction so far. Their article also confirmed that SW8 would be opening in March 2018.
Wednesday 22nd November saw the construction time-lapse video added to the official minisite. The following day then saw the release of a video which gave slightly more detail about the ‘mysterious group’ first encountered in The Welcoming: Be Chosen and the ‘ancient ideology’ they follow, as well as featuring runes translating to ‘pay homage and unite’. The associated description was as follows:
In the woods surrounding Alton Towers Resort a mysterious group have emerged.
They’ve come to escape the outside world and reconnect with nature.
Cut off from modernity, they’re striving to forge a simpler way of life.
Living and working together, the group have become single minded in their pursuit.
They developed their own language and belief system.
They’re working towards something … something big.
As the sun’s warmth gives life to the earth, so they believe that their efforts can bring change.
Delivering them from modern society to a simpler, brighter future.
A new page was also added to the SW8 minisite titled ‘The Beornen’, although it was unclear exactly what the name referred to.
The next video came on Wednesday 6th December, with it titled (and featuring runes translating to) ‘the awakening has begun’, and having the following description:
The Beornen have marked the woods of Alton Towers as their own.
Onlookers sense the excitement rippling through the trees as the winter air buzzes with nervous energy.
In a clearing, a mountainous hand built structure is taking shape.
Looming over the woods, its incandescent glow ominous yet mesmerising.
Only the chosen few may enter. Be chosen.
Throughout December, the Resort also ran a competition that required entrants to correctly solve five clues in order to be in with a chance of winning the prize of being one of the first to experience the attraction, an overnight stay, and some other exclusive extras. Another 25 entrants would also win free theme park admission.
As the year of 2018 began, the next teaser video was published on Wednesday 3rd January, revealing that SW8 would be ‘unearthed’ with an announcement on Monday 8th January. The video’s description read as follows:
The Beornen structure is now complete, towering above the treeline.
Although dormant, an ominous drum beat can be heard from within, echoing through the woods of Alton.
Ignite your senses and join the chosen few.
The awakening is nigh, unearthing 8-1-18. Be Chosen
Later that same day, another video was published – the first in a series which would count down the days to the announcement by taking a look back at the previous Secret Weapons.
On Monday 8th January, Alton Towers Resort unearthed Wicker Man as the name for Secret Weapon 8, releasing further details and visuals of the ride, billing it as “the world’s first rollercoaster experience fusing wood and fire”.
Another teaser video titled ‘Lift Your Faces to the Light’ was released on Monday 29th January, providing a first glimpse at the Wicker Man structure itself.
It was then on Friday 16th February that the first official photographs of the ride were released, focusing on the six-storey tall Wicker Man lit up by some of its effects at dusk.
Tuesday 20th February saw another teaser video released, this time titled ‘Are you ready for the ritual to begin?’, and featuring some close-up shots of the ride’s trains.
Then on Friday 23rd February, Alton Towers began a Facebook Live stream at 6pm which transpired to be night-time drone footage that gave the first official look at a train completing a circuit, along with effects on the Wicker Man structure. The following Monday then saw the release of more drone footage, providing a look at the Wicker Man theming structure during both the day and night.
Alton Towers finally announced that Wicker Man would open on Saturday 17th March (the start of the 2018 season) on Thursday 8th March, with the release of a construction time-lapse. This was also the day that TowersTimes was invited to a special ‘Meet the Maker’ event, alongside other enthusiast communities, to get a special preview of Wicker Man ahead of its grand opening.
Wicker Man Announced as Latest Ground-Breaking Rollercoaster Experience from Alton Towers Resort
Following years in development, work is nearly complete on the globally unique rollercoaster experience fusing wood and fire – due to open in Spring 2018
- Wicker Man is the world’s first rollercoaster experience fusing wood and fire – incorporating a giant, flaming Wicker Man who stands six-stories high
- Wooden track will race through the flaming structure of the Wicker Man three times
- Wicker Man is the UK’s first new wooden rollercoaster experience in 21 years, reconnecting riders with the primal essence of rollercoasters
Alton Towers Resort has announced its latest ground-breaking thrill attraction set to open in Spring 2018 – Wicker Man.
Wicker Man is the UK’s first new wooden rollercoaster experience in 21 years and comes with a globally unique twist – bringing together wood and fire for the very first time. A Wicker Man structure standing at 57.57ft (17.55m) tall – the height of a six-storey building – will dominate the very centre of Alton Towers Resort, appearing to burst into flames as the wooden track races three separate times through the structure.
The project, previously known as ‘SW8’*, is the latest in a series of mould-breaking ride launches from the Staffordshire theme park that have helped define the industry. A world-class team of experts continue to work on the new attraction, led by Great Coasters International, the world’s leading creators of wooden rollercoasters. The safety of guests has been paramount in the design and build of Wicker Man, incorporating the latest in proven safety technology, rigorous testing and hundreds of training hours for ride operators.
Bradley Wynne, Creative Lead at Alton Towers Resort commented:
“We are delighted to finally be announcing Wicker Man as the latest ground-breaking thrill attraction from Alton Towers Resort for 2018. Guests will be ‘chosen’ to take part in a celebratory ‘rite of passage’ as they race through the flaming Wicker Man.
“We hope visitors will be blown away by Wicker Man’s breath-taking scale whilst the primal essence of the wooden coaster and astonishing effects will leave them delighted, exhilarated and eager to ride again.”
Visitors to Alton Towers Resort in 2018 will embark on a multi-sensory rite of passage, in which they’ll be drawn into the mysterious world of The Beornen, a shadowy group living in the woods surrounding the theme park.
The first publicity pictures hinting at the nature of the forthcoming attraction include artwork created by globally-celebrated illustrator Kyle Lambert – known across the world as the artist behind the imagery for award-winning show Stranger Things, alongside other Hollywood movie work including Jurassic Park, Super 8 and Jumanji.
Andy Hine MBE, Chairman of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain commented on the announcement saying:
“We’ve been hoping that Alton Towers would invest in a wooden coaster for a long time, and we’re so pleased it’s finally coming with Wicker Man. GCI are known for building really exciting, smooth coasters, and this will be a great complement to the ‘Big Six’ steel rides already at the park. It’s a big investment which is great for thrill-seekers everywhere, and I for one can’t wait to ride it.”
And new for 2018, guests can purchase their Alton Towers 2018 Season Pass for just £55 by visiting altontowers.com meaning customers can pay for a day, and come back all year. (Exclusions apply. Full terms and conditions can be found online.)
Keep up to date on the latest Wicker Man details by visiting altontowers.com/wickerman or searching #WickerManRide across social media.
- Wicker Man is the latest ground-breaking rollercoaster experience from Alton Towers Resort
- The world’s first rollercoaster experience fusing wood and fire
- Due to launch at the Staffordshire theme park in Spring 2018
- The UK’s first new wooden coaster experience in 21 years, reconnecting riders with the primal essence of rollercoasters
- Riders must be at least 1.2m tall, the track is 2,028 ft. (618m) long
- Giant, flaming Wicker Man structure stands at six-storeys high (57.57ft / 17.55m)
- Wicker Man has been in development for more than four years
- World-class team constructing the ride lead by Great Coasters International, the world’s leading creators of wooden rollercoasters
- Alton Towers Resort has invested £16m into the creation of Wicker Man
- Launched with teaser artwork created by world-famous illustrator Kyle Lambert
- The latest in proven safety technology has been used, and rigorous testing is now taking place before launch
- Ride operating team will undertake over 100 hours of training each between now and the opening of Wicker Man so guests know that they are in safe hands and can ride in complete confidence
- By launch, more than 1,000 people will have worked on the unique project, the majority coming from the local area
First Look: Alton Towers Reveals Exclusive Images of New Thrill Ride Wicker Man
Alton Towers Resort has released first-look images of their latest thrill attraction Wicker Man, the first wooden rollercoaster to be built in the UK for 21 years, with the unique thrill of fire. The dramatic images reveal a spectacular six-story (57.7ft) structure, featuring an impressive human face on one side and ram’s head on the other, which bursts into flames as the train races through its chest.
Alongside the new images of Wicker Man in all its glory, further details revealed include:
- The height of the Wicker Man structure is 17.55m (57.57ft)
- Over 40,000 tonnes of soil has been excavated to build the new attraction
- Track spans 2,000ft and is made from naturally treated timber, hand-carved specifically for the project
- Every ride will house 2 trains, each made up of 6 wooden carriages carrying 12 passengers (24 passengers per ride)
- Alton Towers Resort has invested £16 million into the creation of Wicker Man which has been in development for the last four years
- Wicker Man will open to the public this Spring
Before boarding Wicker Man, riders will embark on a journey into the world of the Beornen, a secret community living in the woods around Alton. Lured in by chanting, rhythmic sounds and unseen eyes watching them, guests will ‘be chosen’ to take part in the cinematic ‘pre-show’ before braving the ride itself.
Francis Jackson, Operations Director at Alton Towers Resort, commented:
“Wicker Man is Alton Towers’ most ambitious project to date and we’re really excited to finally reveal our newest thrill attraction to the world. We’ve spent four years creating an experience that is truly spectacular by investing in the latest technologies which combine wood, fire and special effects to give riders the genuine feeling that they will be racing though flames. We can’t wait for everyone to experience Wicker Man when the park opens this Spring.”
Holovis encases Wicker Man with immersive technologies
Experience designer Holovis worked with Alton Towers to create the Wicker Man, designing and delivering all elements of the multisensory experience that puts guests at the heart of the terrifying story before they board the park’s first wooden coaster.
Holovis worked with Merlin Magic Making (MMM) from the onset, using its visualisation techniques to bring the plans to life. This included modelling the whole site and experience in RideView, the company’s proprietary visualisation suite which takes place in a CAVE. This is a five-sided structure
where all walls feature 3D projection mapping allowing multidiscipline teams from designers to engineers and stakeholders to explore the scenes in 1:1 scale and in real-time.
To support the park’s marketing of the attraction, Holovis used Augmented Reality to track a model of the coaster and show its operation and flow of guests.
For the immersive media experience itself, Holovis worked alongside MMM to concept and script the preshow, then produced the media and delivered the complex AV elements throughout the attraction, including the projection mapping. This began on-site at the Holovis Demonstration Campus filming scenes and capturing vocals in the Green Screen and Audio Studio with full post
production and mixing.
The Holovis media team worked alongside the company’s attraction engineers to integrate this with complex AV, digital, show and media set ups across the attraction.
Onsite, surround audio and immersive media feature throughout the queue line, preshow, station loading zone, enclosed sections, exit and within the Wicker Man structure. Holovis also programmed all the SFX including pyrotechnics synchronised everything throughout the experience.
Peter Cliff, Creative Director at Holovis explains:
“We specialise in creating story led, immersive experiences that put the guest at the heart of the narrative and create long lasting, powerful memories. Immersive pre and post show scenes have now become a staple of the traditional rollercoaster experience, extending the thrill of the ride from just a few minutes to something that guests will remember, talk about and share for years to come.
“This has been a phenomenal project for Holovis and a great example of the company’s turnkey capability, with our artists, software developers and engineering teams all working together to deliver this spectacular experience, which we hope guests will enjoy as much as we do.”
IMAscore produced the soundtrack for Alton Towers Resort’s Wicker Man
IMAscore produced the soundtrack for Alton Towers Resort’s novelty of 2018: Wicker Man. Thereby the team’s composers join the chosen ones on the world’s most immersive rollercoaster experience to date, unifying cutting edge special effects with classic wooden coaster technology for the first time. Like the material Wicker Man is made of, the soundtrack focuses on raw natural elements to create an iconic and authentic soundscape.
The soundtrack production began early 2017 and went through an elaborate process of finding the right motive, mood and instrument arrangement, until it came together like it can be heard today over a year later.
Already at the beginning of the production it was clear that the soundtrack of the attraction’s queue line should be special, also in a conceptual way: It has been separated into different phases, welcoming the guests in a positive, but still sinister way, and letting them go through an acoustically hypnotising downward spiral while getting closer and closer to the ride itself. All three phases are synchronized to allow a fluent transition from phase to phase. This
concept of a “dynamic soundscape” also has a huge impact on the total experience.
Another important part of the audio experience are all the sound effects, many of them triggered, which accompany the ride itself. Special moments like the rollercoaster trains rushing through the burning Wicker Man structure have been set to music and sound, to make these moments even more characteristic.
The marketing for Secret Weapon 8 has featured a notable number of runes, representing the ride’s theme as well as providing hidden messages. We’ve recorded the character to which each rune corresponds below, in the hope of increasing our chances of being chosen…