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UK Theme Park Round-Up - May Review and June 2014 Preview

Thorpe Park

Angry Birds Land

In early May, Thorpe Park finally confirmed the opening date of Angry Birds Land - the 24th of May. Coincidentally, this is the same date as CBeebies Land at Alton Towers. Opening a new land aimed at families at some point in May makes incredible sense to do so on the first day of Half Term - the 24th, so one can’t help but give Thorpe Park credit for choosing this date in particular.

So, following on from the launch day, Angry Birds Land has now officially opened at Thorpe Park. It features 3 attractions - the re-themed Detonator, now entitled - Detonator: Bombs Away, the Angry Birds 4D Experience (located in the old Pirates 4-D/Time Voyagers theatre), and King Pig’s Wild Hog Dodgems - Angry Birds Land’s only brand-new attraction.

Detonator: Bombs Away has been re-themed to incorporate the Angry Birds theme, with a new name added - Bombs Away, apparently based around the black Angry Bird and its ability to self-destruct. With the exception of a new queueline entrance, there aren’t any hugely obvious theming changes, but to be fair to Thorpe Park, there is very little one can do to effectively theme a drop tower.

The Angry Birds 4-D Experience now resides in the old 4-D theatre (as mentioned above). Based around the story of the Angry Birds attempting to get their eggs back from King Pig, Thorpe Park is pulling out all the stops, by using water, smoke, air jets, bubbles, and brand new seating to make this as interactive and fun an experience as possible, and to really immerse their guests in the world of Angry Birds.

Angry Birds Land (2)

Finally, King Pig’s Wild Hog Dodgems, the third Angry Birds attraction, definitely draws the eye with its bright green and red cars. Located next to Tidal Wave and Amity Fish ‘n’ Chips, riders can choose if they’d prefer to side with the red Angry Birds or bad green Pigs when picking their car for the ride.

A range of midway style games located in Angry Birds Land have been re-themed to fit into the Angry Birds IP, with Flock 'n' Shop now open for Bird merchandise, and Peckish's fast food open for business.

There is indeed a themed arch as shown on Thorpe Park’s 2014 park maps, having been constructed over the main entrance to Angry Birds Land. This is located on the corner of KFC and the entrance to Tidal Wave. There are an additional 2 themed entranceway instalments into Angry Birds Land - on the Stealth side and the other next to Storm in a Teacup. These bear the Angry Birds Land sign but don’t form a full archway - instead two features either side of the path, themed similarly to the main arch.

The main arch is formed of crates and wooden planks, in keeping with the scenery in the Angry Birds game, and this teamed with the other entrances to Angry Birds are quite significant, as they are the only theming elements in Thorpe Park to specifically designate a land - despite Thorpe Park having several different themed areas (though in recent times, to use the terms SAW Island, Calypso Canyon, Lost City and the like has felt a little unofficial). Will this clear outlining of a themed land continue at Thorpe Park, adding to the experience? Or is this a one-off instalment, due to the fact that Angry Birds Land is located in a re-themed area, squashed between Amity Cove, Calypso Canyon, and Stealth? The Swarm is announced on its bridge, after all. Only time will tell if more in-depth theming will enhance the experience of Thorpe Park’s guests.

In association with Merlin Entertainments' charity - Merlin’s Magic Wand, Thorpe Park hosted 100 children in what was described by the theme park in a recent press release as “an all expenses paid, special day out”, taking place on the 8th of May. This was part of a global event held by Merlin, in all of the 22 countries they operate in, to celebrate their 100th attraction opening this year.

Thorpe Park Ride and Club Nights

Thorpe Park's next upcoming event, taking place on the 7th of June, is another one of its popular Ministry of Sound nights. Music this time will be Clubber’s Guide to Ibiza, with the rides operating from 8am - 11pm and the whole event itself running from 8am - 3am. Special guests starring are Ricky and Marvin from KISS FM.

Finally, coming up in June is Reserve 'n' Ride - Thorpe Park’s "virtual queuing system". This is not an entirely new system, and will be returning to the park. Some of you may remember Reserve 'n' Ride was trialled on The Swarm at the end of summer 2013, with rumours it could be used on more attractions in the future.

Reserve 'n' Ride will be trialled on the following dates: June 2, 3, 6, 7, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30. This time, it will not be exclusive to The Swarm, but will be extended to cover Thorpe Park's top 5 rollercoasters - the others being Nemesis Inferno, Colossus, SAW: The Ride, and Stealth. Very similar to Disney’s FastPass+ system, Reserve 'n' Ride allows you to book a slot to ride the attractions of your choice, using your smartphone. It is currently a free service, like FastPass+, but it is always possible Merlin may charge in the future if Reserve ‘n’ Ride proves to be a hit, with the chance it may replace physical Fastrack tickets altogether.

Chessington World of Adventures

Chessington Gorilla

Not much to report from "Britain’s Wildest Adventure" for May, however, a very special event is being hosted later on in June. The Chessington Conservation Fund Evening will take place on Saturday the 28th. Entry is £6 per person, and all proceeds will be going towards the Chessington Conservation Fund. Tickets include entry to the zoo, a “meet and chat” with one of Chessington’s zookeepers, as well as an auction for VIP meet and greets with selected zoo animals. Other animal charities and organisations will be represented at the event with their own stands. Events like this, being held at Chessington, are fantastic, as they remind us park guests that even though there are all these amazing thrill and family rides available, Chessington remains, at its heart, a zoo.

It is also worth mentioning that over the May Half Term period (24th of May to 1st of June), Chessington was offering Early Ride Time on many of its most popular attractions. The ERT, running from 9am to 10:30am, was not just exclusive to hotel guests, but to any park guest booking their tickets online at Chessington.com. It is interesting to see such a family-orientated park offering ERT to, ultimately, any non-Annual Passholder, especially on a wide range of attractions, and over such a busy holiday period.

Wrap-up

May has been a big deal for the UK theme parks, with the opening of two brand new lands in its top 2 resorts. It will be interesting to see how the clear family-friendly orientation of Alton Towers and Thorpe Park continues to develop over the coming months. But now it’s time to see what lies ahead for us in June, as the parks get busier, the screams get louder, opening hours get longer, and the summer peak season really begins to kick off.

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