CBeebies Land Development
Plans & Concepts
In September 2013 Alton Towers submitted a planning application for the retheme of the Old MacDonald's farmyard area of the park. It had been rumoured for some time that something was happening to the farm when it was dropped from its usual spot in the resort's Christmas line-up but the plans confirmed that the Resort would refresh the area, which first opened as the Britannia Building Society Farm back in 1989 .
It had been speculated for some time that a refresh may bring a new IP (Intellectual Property or a brand name) to the area and the rumoured IP tie was supported by the lack of specific names, themes, or brands in the planning application, which the planners state have been left out due to "commercial confidentiality".
The plans can be viewed on the Staffordshire Moorlands planning website in full but in summary they proposed the following changes to the area:
- Dung Heap to be removed and replaced with 'low level' play equipment in a smaller area
- Dovecote to be removed, which currently stands between Berry Bish Bash and Doodle Doo Derby
- Part of entrance "barn" to be demolished and remaining parts rethemed
- New theming for the Tractor Ride in the form of themed characters
- New theming for Riverbank Eye Spy in the form of themed characters
- Minor extension to the current Berry Bish Bash attraction for new family and baby changing facilities
- The old ice tent is to be removed and replaced with a new 'green space' made of Astroturf, including an activity area and performance area as well as a new toilet block and back of house area made of portacabins
- The performance area consists of a slightly raised stage area, which can cater for 3 "performances", hinting at new shows aimed at the park's younger visitors
- The activity area includes 4 small tents for covered activities, surrounded by open lawns and a large canopy over the stage area.
- The new arena is surrounded by 3.5m sound barrier fences due to proximity to local residents.
The images from the submitted plans gave an indication of the type of changes that could be expected:
The Berry Bish Bash attraction will feature new cladding on the outside, along with a small extension for some baby change facilities.
Riverbank Eye Spy will remain the same ride, but will feature many new theming elements - some of which seem as though they will move.
The Tractor Ride will have a similar makeover to that of Riverbank Eye Spy - with multiple new theming elements.
The layout for the new marquee and green area on the site of the former ice arena. Including activity tents, sound-proof walls, a new toilet block, new back of house facilities and a new stage.
This image shows the areas of the farmyard that were due to be demolished. It shows that part of the barn entrance, the dovecote, the dungheap and the Ice Tent would all be removed.
Although the plans indicated that Storybook Land was also included in the proposed developments, they did not appear to suggest any notable changes being made to attractions or theming. Indeed the plans suggested that no new rides were proposed for the area, with changes focused on new attractions and cosmetic changes in theming for the existing infrastucture.
Shortly after attractions started to close in October, it was revealed that Merlin Entertainments had signed a contract with BBC Worldwide to create CBeebies Land, featuring rides, immersive play, live experiences and character appearances as well as a programme of seasonal events.
At the time Mark Fisher, Chief Development Officer at Merlin Entertainments said, “The Alton Towers project is very exciting. Most importantly it is the first project in what we hope will be a very important long term relationship with BBC Worldwide. CBeebies is a perfect fit for Britain’s number one theme park resort, and both BBC Worldwide and ourselves are excited by the chance to add a little extra Merlin ‘magic’ to some of the country’s best loved children’s characters. CBeebies Land will add a different and original element to the already fantastic offering we have for young families, making Alton Towers Resort the ideal destination for both day trips and short breaks.”
Joe Godwin, Director, BBC Children’s, added “I’m really pleased that our youngest audience and their families will get the chance to experience hands-on their favourite CBeebies shows and characters in a safe environment which has all the values and quality they expect from CBeebies. CBeebies has long been the number one TV channel for preschool children and their families, but we also know that these days they want to be able to have days out and happy memories with their favourite characters in the real world as well. Hot on the heels of our hugely popular CBeebies app, CBeebies Land gives families another new way to experience the brand.”
At that point it was announced that CBeebies Land wass set to feature characters such as Postman Pat and In The Night Garden, but it wasn't until January 2014 that the full attraction line-up was announced.
Big Fun Showtime
One of the biggest new additions in CBeebies Land was Big Fun Showtime, which saw the return of an entertainment venue to the former site of the park's Ice Rink.
The area was reimagined as an outdoor entertainment area, surrounding a grassy glade where you families could relax together whilst playing games, watching shows and even enjoying a picnic.
The original plans show the original layout for the arena. Including activity tents, sound-proof walls, a new toilet block, new back of house facilities and a new stage. In these original plans the Activity Area was more prominent, whilst the Performance Area was larger then what was eventually built.
This shows the side elevation of Big Fun Showtime. It shows the canopy for the stage area is lower than the previous big top, as well as showing the soundproof wall, activity tents and the soundproof tunnel entrance for the area.
The new toilet block and backstage area in the Big Fun Showtime arena. These proposed back of house facilities were eventually switched for a more modest set of Portacabins located behind the new marquee and green space.
Big Fun Showtime Concept Models
During development a set of digital concept models for the new arena were created, based on the original plans. Whilst the model is strikingly close to the finished product, at that time the outer wall arena had a slightly more stylised (and less purple) appearance. The performance area was also missing its distinctive digital backdrop that provides much of the scenery for the shows.