Alton Towers Resort has been a particularly popular attraction on the small screen, starring in several insightful documentaries that provide unique perspectives of the park, dozens of appearances on magazine shows, and a neat range of marketing material. We’ve compiled the best classic documentaries for your viewing pleasure.
Themes, Dreams and Scream Machines | Aired: 1992
1992’s Themes, Dreams and Scream Machines documents tacky amusement parks being reimagined as fully fledged themed attractions, by following the first of John Wardley’s many projects at Alton Towers.
The show starts somewhat biographical with legendary designer John Wardley discussing his roots in the Theatre and Film industries before his introduction to fun fairs, where he was able to entertain the masses with cinematic scale with huge, physical effects, shortly before he developed the animatronic figure ‘Charlie Plucket’. This cutting-edge figure attracted the attention of Madame Tussauds, which started a long collaboration between the two.
After discussing the approach to relaunching Chessington Zoo as a World of Adventures, the transformation begins to redefine Alton Towers as the same style of theme park – being an attraction focussing primarily on spectacular scenery and innovative ride technology, by introducing Katanga Canyon and Gloomy Wood.
A much more business-oriented film to what would follow, Themes, Dreams and Scream Machines offers a rare peek at the genesis of true theme parks in Britain.
Extending the Magic: The Alton Towers Hotel | Aired: 1994
First shown at the end of the 1994 season, this humorous promotional video provides an exploration in to the investment, planning and construction of the Alton Towers Hotel, the place where Sir Algenon calls home.
With recent landmark investments such as Nemesis, Haunted House and Runaway Mine Train, The Tussauds Group wanted to capitalise on the increasing attendance figures to make the park a multiple day destination, with guests being able to ‘sleep over in the magic’, and not having to leave the grounds.
The initial stages of construction are shown, with the presenter standing in an expanse of mud, water and diggers where wellington boots are a must. The documentary continues by sharing plans and concepts for the finished design, as well as their strategy for finding a hotel manager, which is assumed to be a man as a consultant talks about the qualities that ‘he’ must have – how times have changed!
Extending the Magic: The Alton Towers Hotel is a fascinating insight in to one of the most beautiful and unique hotels ever created.
The Magic Factory | Aired: 1998
Arguably the most iconic documentary about the Resort, The Magic Factory follows various departments throughout the 1997 season, and the construction of the top secret new coaster, Oblivion.
After a brief overview of the humble beginnings of the park, from stately home to fun fairs, the documentary begins with management excitedly talking about their ‘magical’ mission to be Britain’s number one theme park by consistently developing exciting new rides, and putting both staff and guests first. The camera then turns to guest facing staff, who describe both their triumphs and nags at the nature of the business.
Around the half way mark, the focus shifts to that of Oblivion, and documents the marketing process by Manchester based company JWT, before showing the very first test run of the ride, and opening day the following season.
The Magic Factory has a particular charm and appeal with its self-awareness, providing an unparalleled and honest look at Alton Towers at the turn of the millenia.
Park Life | Aired: 2002
The 2002 season brought Air, the world’s first B&M flying coaster, along with Park Life, an engaging documentary which follows employees, guests, and their relationships with Alton Towers Resort.
Two nervous pen pals meet for the first time, and they have chosen the theme park as a neutral location to break the ice, but the sheer awkwardness of their teenage personalities does not make getting to know each other as easy as expected. Melissa, an enthusiastic but troublesome employee is recognised as a memorable character as her story unfolds, with an ending that she probably did not expect.
The documentary goes on to share the planning and work that goes in to the park’s premier entertainment offering; Webmaster: An Adventure on Ice, where the hunt is on for a new lead character.
Park Life excels at emphasising the personalities behind the magic, along with demonstrating exactly why Alton Towers Resort is loved by so many people across the nation.
Alton Towers Resort have produced a series of promotional showreels that showcase the many attractions and amenities on offer. Every video provides viewers a true taste of each era which features, from the class of the late 80s and the cheeky humour of the 90s, to shiny new projects such as their vast corporate events facility.