The Alton Towers Festival of Thrills Smiler takeover has arrived as we head down on the opening day of this unusual event.
Celebrating 10 years of The Smiler rollercoaster Alton Towers has put on a party with a bit of a twist.
The Smiler takeover begins right on Towers Street where you collect a card that you must stamp around the 6 (Nemesis is closed remember) major coasters around the park.
Once you have collected your six stamps you simply take a selfie with the stamped card, tag Alton Towers and use the #FestivalOfThrills to be in with a chance to win a free overnight hotel stay.
A nice touch from the park as it gives you a little mission to do around the resort. In addition, there are Smiler Vinyls scattered throughout the park for you to count. Sadly, nothing was offered for this particular task, which was strange as the two seem more challenging.
I’d have at least given a pin badge or something similar away for those determined enough to go around counting every Smiler logo dotted around the park during their visit!
Last year’s festival consisted of stages around the park but not this year. Whilst it didn’t exactly work for me it did create somewhat of an atmosphere in each section but that has now been scaled back.
X Sector is where the party is at with two stages and even a small stage showing magic and illusions. There’s a singing show, a ‘fear test’ where one volunteer will undergo various fear tests (and will be rewarded with some Smiler fast tracks for their trouble). There are also an assortment of games to play and lots of characters walking around creating a vibe.
I don’t have one bad thing to say about X Sector, they’ve smashed it down there. The singing stage theming is a lot to be desired but the atmosphere is wonderful. Festival of Thrills The Smiler takeover sadly fails absolutely everywhere else throughout the park though.
At various rides, the resort has erected various Smiler-themed set-pieces just standing there out of place in ride queue lines or outside of rides themselves. It doesn’t fit. It looks weird and completely ruins each area’s individual aesthetic.
The Smiler takeover audio is a nice touch as each ride audio system is ‘hacked’ by the ministry. This is a great touch but the audio describes that the ride itself will be taken over. When you experience the ride, there’s absolutely nothing of the sort.
The only thing the ministry has taken over is the audio system declaring their takeover. There is SO much they could have done with this, just a few ideas that I had whilst I was there were as follows.
Have the ministry take over the Wicker Man pre-show and change it slightly. Have yellow lights in the station or through the tunnel at the end of the ride along with a strobe / audio message from The Ministry. The screens inside Big Bob (the giant Wicker Man statue) that usually display fire could have displayed a ministry optical illusion instead.
Have the wraiths dressed up in smiler cloaks or wearing funny glasses. Before the freefall drop has a ministry takeover with some yellow lighting inside the drop section. Place two Smiler dummies dressed up inside the back two seats of the ride train to assist you on your journey, tailor the audio to smile always before the first drop (right before the camera section)
Change the launch audio for Rita, and announce the ministry is conducting new experimental ways to make visitors smile. Blind launch the ride without the countdown.
Change the preshow screens to have a hacked ministry spokesperson introduce the ride. Add yellow lights to the mist in the tunnel and have a giant Smiler logo at the bottom of the drop that people can see before they plunge into the hole. The actual surrounds of the Oblivion hole could be themed like a giant mouth or similar.
Have the station building screens taken over, yellow lights in the tunnel before the lift hills and retheme the Galactica Portal to an optical illusion portal where things spin/interact with guests. Paint the story as once again another new experimental method of marmalising guests.
Whilst Nemesis is closed the Nemesis canon could have been rethemed or draped in Smiler attire, random interactive points could have been added or Smiler-themed set-pieces set up that blend in with the area including photo ops. Change the audio to direct people towards X Sector where further tests will be conducted. Have yellow smoke oozing out of the Sub Terra doors.
The ideas above could easily be implemented into the park without confusing the general public who may not know too much about The Smiler and its backstory. Just quirky little nods to the takeover without obnoxious and intrusive set pieces ruining individual ride aesthetic.
I feel as though Festival of Thrills this year is even more rushed than it felt last year (see last year’s review here). At least last year there was more of a festival atmosphere and I won’t lie, I enjoyed it! I was in the minority. Whilst I’m happy the park is celebrating The Smiler’s birthday (they forgot Th13teen’s 13th birthday) I think this event needs to be culled immediately. It just doesn’t work.
A special shoutout to Sam who works at Alton Towers Resort. This guy embodies every character he’s given and he drew the crowds in and provided the best show of the entire event. Hats off to you and your colleagues!
If this was advertised as a Smiler birthday party and not a ‘Festival of Thrills’ then there would be no complaints. X Sector looks ace but sadly marketing/advertising have dropped the ball on another Alton Towers event (sorry guys).
Check out a vlog of our Festival of Thrills Smiler takeover experience below: