When working at a theme park you see many people trying to do the craziest things on roller coasters and attempting to smuggle amazing items onto the rides. Mad antics on coasters are becoming competitive and are proving to be a great means of getting publicity or making money for charity. Take “Scream If You Know the Answer”, a television quiz show where the celebrity competitors were filmed trying answer questions whilst riding the coasters. Adding a roller coaster to the mix makes for a good story and some great pictures.
I was involved in the filming of “Scream If You Know the Answer” at Thorpe Park. Watching a succession of celebrities descend rapidly into meltdown was really funny but sadly I missed another great event – the setting of a world record. In 2004 the record for the most naked riders was set on Nemesis Inferno when 81 students stripped off in front of the cameras. The record was set at 28 as this is the total number that can be seated on the train. I am sure this episode was very entertaining and in addition to raising funds for the university who organised the stunt, Thorpe gained a lot of valuable exposure for the park (pardon the pun). The stunt was surpassed a few years later when 102 naked riders took on Green Scream at Adventure Island in Southend. They raised £22,000 for a breast cancer charity and so it was all in a good cause.
Merlin Entertainments, who own Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, are clearly well versed in the art of publicity stunts. Their efforts have included announcing that the area around Storm Surge at Thorpe had been found to be haunted and inviting guests to donate urine samples for use in Saw Alive! Sadly there are always some people who fall for these stories. I think the most successful one was the clever press release announcing that the dummies used to test The Swarm had all had their limbs severed on the circuit.
Alton Towers gained much publicity from the occasion when Ultima Bras illustrated their products’ supportive qualities by filming a group of ladies riding different coasters sporting nothing but the bras. I wonder if my nice lingerie would be as effective against the G force? I was once guilty of removing my bra and lifting my top for a ride photo on Silver Star at Europa Park!
On the subject of ride photos it should be noted that people will go to extreme lengths to grab a good photo as a souvenir of their ride. I have lost count of the amount of guests that I sent on rides wearing super hero suits, fancy dress costumes and assorted other disguises. There is now a trend for grabbing a photo of your group playing a board game on a ride. It started with chess producing a series of snaps of riders appearing to be deeply concentrating on their game mid-cycle but now things have got competitive. Enthusiasts are getting snapped playing all sorts of crazy games on coasters and I only hope that they never let go of these things and strike another guest. The pieces are naturally all glued in place but a board full of chess pieces could really hurt and I hope no one tries it with KerPlunk!
We have had nudity, lingerie, fancy dress, super heroes and board games and so I have to wonder what the next big thing will be. Do let me know if you think of something.
Article by Sally Stacey