John Wardley, the creator of many of Alton Towers’ most famous rides including Nemesis, Air and Oblivion, has today given a fascinating interview on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek. John discussed a range of topics from his family links to the entertainment industry, to his own work not only on some of the most iconic rollercoasters, but also in the film and television industry.
One of the most interesting parts of the interview saw John discuss how entertaining people with puzzlement and illusion drove him throughout his career. He described how one of the key elements of rollercoasters is about being able to play with people’s emotions in a positive way and allow them to test the boundaries of their thrills, rather than the view that many people hold that they are something of ‘sheer terror’. When asked about the experiences behind the rides John explained that he and the teams he has worked with have always tried to add an additional element so that the ride is a ‘transit system in the way that a theatre seat allows people to be part of a performance’, and that a well-designed coaster sends people on an adventure and tells a story, it’s not just about sending people down drops. He also described how the differences in cultures affect how theme parks are marketed in different countries, and how the American style of park just wouldn’t work in Great Britain or Europe. John considers himself to be an entertainer, the only difference is whereas actors are in front of their audience, he is very much behind the scenes.
Also discussed was some of the work John had done prior to his work in the theme park industry, from the time where he was told to be in the front of a pantomime horse which he then added various effect to – including making the horse cry, to some of the many special effects he helped create for some of the James Bond Movies.
If you missed the interview on Radio 4, it is available on the BBC iPlayer.
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