What do you think of Icon characters? – they seem to be taking over the UK
Anyone who follows the US Scare scene will know that the major theme parks love their big Icon characters each year. This is probably most noticeable at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights where famous Icon characters have included The Director, Bloody Mary, Jack and this years’ Lady Luck.
Here in the UK we have always eschewed this sort of marketing and characters have become famous in their own right. Clearly the most obvious example is the beautiful but twisted Esmeralda, who first appeared properly as the mistress of the house in Terror of the Towers in 2007.
Whether it was the character of whether it was the incredible skills of the actress Toni Griffiths, but Esmeralda struck a chord with scare fans and a trip through Terror of the Towers wasn’t the same unless Esmerelda was there. This was the same year that Michael Haynes created the larger than life Master character and the attraction felt all that stronger for their presence.
Fan forums and scare people started to take more note of these characters and when they started appearing outside of Alton Towers people really started to notice. One of Esmerelda’s first appearances was at ScareCON in 2008 where she hosted a terrifying scare attraction called The Cloakroom. Years later she was to be found propping up the front door of The Cellar at Tulleys Shocktoberfest and once again working alongside her beloved Master at the Scare ZONE at LIW – a promotional attraction created by the ScareCON team.
Esmerelda has gone on to be an internet celebrity with her own website, viral videos and a face book page where she shares her warm and fluffy views of the world to anyone who cares to listen!
Another potentially iconic character was Bozo the clown from Room 13 at Alton Towers. Anyone who visited this amazing attraction and experience Bozo’s bizarre and frankly random expressions will remember just how demented he could be. Like Esmeralda – Bozo soon made his way to Tulleys and now has his own attraction built for him, the It’s Curtains maze.
These three characters are iconic because of the things they have done and the history behind them. They sort of extend beyond the 2 dimensional characterisation that they were given, and now live as real characters in our world.
So after their success – what’s next? 2011 has seen a bit of a push for more icon characters across the UK with Tulleys already pushing Ethel as a potential title holder. Ethel is a fantastic scare character and has made me jump a number of times but unfortunately doesn’t have the longevity of Esmerelda or the Master. This is no slight on the wonderful actress playing her, it’s just that she doesn’t have enough time to truly interact and bond with people as she is usually only in a scare role.
Yorkshire Scream Grounds have announced no less than four new icon characters including Lord Fear and Sebastian. It will be interesting to see how they turn out. A lot will depend on how they are utilised around that attraction. For an audience to truly respond and come to love/hate a character they need to spend time with them and learn more about them. It isnt enough to just have a quick scare and move on.
So what do you think? Are icon characters the way forward or should we let people create their own icons?
Summer has started but already our minds are turning to Halloween! Over the last few weeks I have been working closely with some of the UK's biggest names in the scare industry to bring you an exciting line up of new and exclusive events that you can only experience through ScareTOUR.
For example. last year we were able to offer an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Curse at Thorpe Park. Everyone who attended said how much they enjoyed both this and meeting up with other scare enthusiasts. In fact many people who met on that trip are already firm friends and are planning to come back in 2011!
All the dates and prices are still being finalised but expect a full announcement soon. Halloween is such a busy time for us and we are trying to create a mix of trips and reviews that cover all parts of the country instead of just returning to the same favourites year after year. Of course, all trips and visits will be followed with the detailed and up to date reviews and pictures that you have come to expect from this site.
Of course - planning is really hard when new attractions seem to keep springing up all over the place and with two months to go - there's still chance for a few more to crawl out the woodwork. Dont forget if you hear of anything - let us know and we'll try to come along
Springtime. Not traditionally the time you start thinking about Halloween and all things dark and nasty but in this game you have to start early!
So what’s the big Springtime news at the moment?
Well firstly, the guys at GNG have just completed a successful run of their 3rd original attraction. Called Killers Live, the show opened in Whitby right in the middle of the famous Whitby Goth Fest! As expected the Goths (as well as the locals) all had a whale of a time. If you haven’t looked at it yet – check out the review.
The Dungeons around the UK have all been launching their new shows with Sawney Bean in Edinburgh and Gladiators in York. All eyes though, are on the exciting new Vengeance ride opening Saturday May 28th at London Dungeons. This "first for the UK" ride will mix a rotating floor system with 3D effects, animatronics and laser blasters to make you feel completely immersed in the action. Don’t forget we have tickets to be won to be one of the first to ride - check out our competition.
Last week we visited Ghosts Stories again and took some along some representatives of some of the UK’s biggest attractions. We screamed, we laughed, and we shuffled nervously during the tense bits and then enjoyed an interesting Q and A session with Andy Nyman, the star of the show, afterwards. Covering such interesting topics as to what scares him, how the show was created and more importantly for fans of this site - why he thinks that “live” scares are so much more successful than movies! Andy isa great guy and since we met him at ScareCON last year, he has been in regular contact about the show and we were pleased to hear that the recently opened Toronto show is proving just as successful as London.
Speaking of ScareCON – can you believe that it is only three weeks away? Places are selling fast and there are is now only 1 scare room left (due to a late cancellation). If you want to book or upgrade your accommodation then you had better be quick. ScareCON itself is lining up to be the usual mix of fun and informative sessions, trade stands and a few surprises along the way. It isn’t too late to attened but you must pre-book in advance to guarantee your place. Don’t forget if you are unsure about the event or want to talk to someone just contact me directly or follow the links on the ScareCON site (www.scarecon2011.co.uk)
So, apart from ScareCON, what is there over the next few months to scare you silly until Halloween time?
Pasaje del Terror is open in Blackpool. One of the original UK scare attractions, Pasaje at Blackpool Pleasure Beach still manages to scare and thrill around every corner.
Carnesky's Ghost Train – Blackpool. This artistic Ghost train is open on select days on the sea front to entertain and thrill you.
Alien Attack – unfortunately won’t be opening for the summer season in 2011 but watch this space for exciting global news about the return of the Xenomorphs!
The London Bridge Experience featuring the London Tombs is open daily and is easily the scariest of the London attractions. Dare you sep inside the new Hellevator?
The London Dungeons – look out for the opening of Vengeance in May.
London’s Death Trap is open daily by County Hall on the South Bank.
Over at Chessington – there’s another week or so of the small walkthrough Twilight Zone and of course Thorpe Park are open daily with the fun Saw Alive.
On the temporary side, look out for a few new out of season events coming your way soon including AtmosFEAR’s The Hole (rescheduled from its planned Easter date), a new production from GNG and a number of small projects all across the UK (all will be revealed soon)
So there you go, the sun might be shining and the world seems a light and happy place – but if you look closely enough – you’ll always find something dark and twisted lurking close by!
See you at ScareCON
Sorry I havent been around for a while - been busy working on theLine up for ScareCON on May 12th
This year sees a full day's trade show, exciting evening entertainment and discounted rooms including the Uk's first ALL NIGHT Scare Rooms!.
The day time activities are aimed more at business owners and attraction designers (but is open to anyone interested). The evening ball and scare rooms are open to anyone including scare actors, scare enthusiasts or just someone who wants to come and dress up and have a good time
This year - all food is included in the delegate rates - so why not check out www.scarecon2011.co.uk for details?
In other news - those Deranged and Hybrid guys are at it again with the launch of their exciting new show - Killers-Live. Yes we know that Whitby is a long way to go but if their previous form is anything to go by - this is going to be pretty good. Check out www.killers-live.co.uk.
You may remember I blogged last year about more and more attractions falling outside the usual halloween season and this looks like it may continue the trend. So now it will be even easier to get your fix of scares throughout the year!
I'll be back in a few wee with some more news once I'm allowed to reveal it!
In a shock piece of news I was informed today that Pasaje del terror in London has closed for good.
The closure yesterday was as a result of some ongoing action between the attraction owners and the landlords. As such everything excluding the basic sets and fixings were removed from the premises and the actors were asked to go home.
This action has no impact on the Blackpool Pasaje Del Terror which will open as normal for the summer season.
Pasaje always seemed to have a rough time in London. Although based on a VERY busy pedestrian street, it seemed that people were far too busy walking past to get somewhere else as opposed to heading to the venue.
A lot of this is to do with the beleagured Trocadero centre which once was a prestigous central London location but over the years has developed into a combination of tacky market stalls and souvenir shops.
I may not have raved about it when it first opened (see my review here) but since then it had improved and changed a lot and has actually been very successful in terms of visitors and revenue.
Pasaje del Terror London - Rest in peace
2010 has been an interesting year for all concerned and lets hope that 2011 brings a lot more peace and harmony across the industry.
Check out my review of the year here and let me know what were your highlights
Until we scream again!
I know I havent posted for a while but I've been really busy with my latest venture - Ghosts of Christmas in Glasgow.
I was invited along by the wonderful people at The Tartan Experience to help shape a terrfiying new Christmas themed attraction - the like of which has never been seen before here in the UK.
With evil elves, malevolent toys and a very despicable Santa Claws, the 30 minute show has been enjoyed by thousands of paying vistors and is set to run at least until New Year's Eve - if not longer.
For more details and a completely UNBIASED review - check out this page
So, what's next once the Christmas ghosts are packed away? Well I'm sorry you will have to wait a little while longer to find out but look out for our exciting new announcement in early January
If you have read the front page you will have seen that a couple of new Christmas time scare attractions have recently been announced . Here in the UK, the telling of ghost stories has always been a Christmas tradition and it's interesting to see that it's never really be done before.
The nearest we have had to a Christmas attraction was the brilliant Ebenezer's Haunted tower at Warwick Castle. Obviously based on characters from A Christmas Carol, this show was set around Christmas but based everything else on characters from literature. The result ? an engaging and fun show, but nothing really Christmassy
Unlike Ghosts of Christmas which has scare characters based around traditional christmas favourites such as elves, toys, the North Pole and of course the very mean and (possibly) drunken Santa Claws! Check out the details of our exclusive discounted performances on Dec 11th
Also coming up is Silent Night a fun but scary run round Bristol from the makers of 2.8 Hours. This attraction also looks set to subvert a few Christmas favourites . Tickets are limited and going very fast.
So what does this mean for other scare producers out there? Is the industry sitting back and waiting to see how successful these are before venturing into the "out of season scare" market more? I am aware of a number of different products currently on the boil which we can expect to hear about very soon.
So maybe this is true. A scare attraction is for life , not just for halloween!
Happy Christmas to you all and dont forget to check back for a VERY exciting announcement at the end of the year.
As Halloween closes for another year there is just a handful of attractions open for the last few scares of the season. Most of the big events and shows shut their doors late last night and organisers around the country breathed a big sigh of relief and had a few celebratory drinks!
It’s funny when you talk to anyone involved in this business (organisers, actors and staff) in that the final night is filled with 2 emotions. Sadness for the end of a fun time where a group of disparate strangers have pulled together and become a family all focussed on scaring. But this is also mixed with a relief that the physical, emotional and stress that comes with creating an attraction is now over for another year!
Last night my Facebook page was just full of people all over the country commenting on their experiences, including their ups and downs the last few weeks. Even those who had fallen really ill or were completely exhausted were raving about how, in hindsight, they had survived a wonderful experience. This can only be a good thing and may even encourage more interest and development in the future!
But remember guys – scaring is for life and not just for Halloween. There are a number of permanent attractions around the UK where you can get your buzz and like last year – it seems more and more attraction producers are looking to create attractions outside of the regular Halloween period. I am already aware of at least 4 brand new experiences due to be announced soon. Looks like 2011 will be even bigger than 2010!
So it’s looking to be a great time for Scare Attraction companies and more importantly for the enthusiasts who love being scared. ScareTOUR will remain with you through these exciting times and will continue to work on exclusive discounts, events and behind the scenes visits.
But in the mean time – there’s just a few reviews left to post. A pile of props and costumes to be put away and a few more aspirin’s to take to combat last night’s hangover!
And if anyone hasn’t done it yet – may I be the first to wish you a VERY Merry Christmas!!
I’ve just returned from a fun trip to the Dublin area where I was given such welcome that my belt buckle is significantly tighter than it was when I left. It’s true what they say about Irish hospitality! I also sampled a drink or 2 despite the very early drive back to the airport the next morning. Just glad that I started on lighter beer and not the usual Stella! Eight pints of that would have killed me!
While in County Meath, I visited the hill of Ward which is also knows as Tlachtga. It is believed to be the Home of Halloween as ancient celts believed that this sacred hill was the closest portal between this world and the otherworld. During medieval times it was the site of great festivals, including one at which winter fires were lit at Samhain, which is the precursor of our modern Halloween.
The Samhain celebrations have survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the harvest and the dead. In Ireland and Scotland the 'festival of the dead' always took place on Samhain.
The night of Samhain, in Irish and Scots Gaelic, is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and falls on October 31. The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks, was an attempt to copy the evil spirits or placate them. In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white. Candle lanterns, carved from turnips were part of the traditional festival. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, placed in windows to ward off evil spirits.
As the Samhain celebrations spread , Guisers - men in disguise, were prevalent in the 16th century. Children going door to door "guising" in costumes and masks carrying turnip lanterns, offering entertainment of various sorts in return for food or coins, was traditional in 19th century, and continued well into 20th century. At this time, the mass transatlantic Irish and Scottish immigration popularized Halloween in North America, introducing the more modern concepts such as trick or treating, dressing up and of course scaring people.
Now it would seem that everything’s gone full circle and halloween has come back to County Meath. In such a small area, there all manner of halloween attractions for people of all ages including Farmaphobia at Causey Farm, Haunted Spooktacular at Grove Open Farm and Phantom Funtasia at Funtasia water park. Add in themed events all across the area and County Meath is definitely the place to go for the full halloween experience.
Many of you will know me already. My name is Michael Bolton and I am passionate about Scare Attractions and being scared. I have been visiting and reviewing attractions since 2002. Why not come along on one of our trips and have a scream?