Alton Towers Bookworm Restoration

Just by coincidence I recently interviewed the engineer that built most of Tusssauds' animatronic figures for a video feature and the bookworm was his last project.

Tussauds always built their animatronics to be very durable with maintenance in mind (easy to replace the standard wearing components). He said at the time the bookworm was intended to last "forever" with routine maintenance.

The mech is the expensive part that has to be durable. The skin is the wearing part, designed to be replaced whenever needed. This doesnt necessarily mean the maintenance actually happens unfortunately!

Obviously Shawn doesnt have the moulds to make the bookworm's new skin, probably AT don't have them anymore either, so that's a challenge, but the mechanism is the key part. From what I saw in the video the important parts all looked in good condition.

There are lots of animatronic fans about who rescue old figures and get them to work again. I'd not heard of anyone deliberately removing the mechanism from an animatronic before. There was always the chance it would change hands in years to come and someone else able to restore it, if Shawn didn't want/have the means to restore it himself?

I also rescued an animatronic from a British park that was being thrown away. I found out how it worked, built a simple control system and despite not being used for about 20 years it worked really well!
 
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WillPS

TS Member
A man's treasure is his own to do with as he sees fit. I don't doubt the story that if Shawn hadn't intervened it would have been scrapped.

It's a bloody massive thing and presumably it needed a frame the size of the book it sat on to anchor it while moving. That's a lot of garden space to use up. It's not going to last forever whatever happens.

It's a strange situation to find yourself in sticking up for Mr Sanbrooke but I think the level of judgment going on here is really not fair. It's unfortunate that it wasn't saved in it's entirety but it's completely understandable.
 

OilyWater

TS Member
People's responses to my "unfair" posts would have you think I went on a personal tirade and would rather see the bookworm in landfill.

A man's treasure is his own to do with as he sees fit. I don't doubt the story that if Shawn hadn't intervened it would have been scrapped.
Where has this idea come from that either Shawn had to bin the mechanism, or the bookworm would go to landfill?

It stood in his garden for years just fine, why would it now need a base the size of a giant book? All he'd need to do is move it inside somewhere to stop the rubber getting worse.

I'm only saying the mechanism was in good condition until he removed it. He blames Alton Towers for "removing so much of the mechanics" when actually he's done just that. Now he's removed any chance of it moving ever again, why is any of this a controversial thing to say?

He wouldnt even need to get it moving if he didnt want to. Still doesnt justify binning the mechanism because he mistakenly thought it was broken, without first trying to find out how it worked. He would have realised all the important stuff was still there and worth keeping.

It's his to do whatever he wants, Alton Towers binned it anyway. But because I love theme parks and animatronics, I'm just calling out a dodgy "restoration" where the guy doing it doesnt seem to know how an animtronic works?
 
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RicketyCricket

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He made a donation and saved it from being binned. He's not a Book Worm Engineer, he just wants to make it look nice. It's a fun little project for him and he can do what he wants with it I guess.
 

DistortAMG

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What? I never said he shouldnt have it. It's not a case of remove all the animatronic parts or scrap it.

Why couldnt he have just kept it intact? And built a new base to hold it, he didn't even need to get it moving again if he didn't want to. Instead he destroyed all the animatronic engineering, half the point of an animatronic, especially a rare remaining one.

The animatronic wasn't ruined, you can actually see from his video what good condition the animatronic parts were in. It was clearly built to last and such things can be easily repaired, or just replace the standard parts like springs.

The only parts that were broken at Alton Towers were the costuming and silicone skin, which on most park animatronics get replaced every few years as part of normal maintenance.

Let's be honest here, he removed the animatronic parts because he didn't realise how they worked and assumed that "the motors and wires" (which it never had) had already been removed.

Imagine car enthusiasts praising someone for destroying a car engine because they didn't know what it was, just keeping the body. Then when someone points out what they've done, they get jumped on for daring to criticise the lord TPWW. I thought we were meant to be theme park enthusiasts?

At the end of the day he could do whatever he wants with it, but I'm just pointing out the obvious in this supposed great "restoration".

We are all enthusiasts here so it is nice to see it again in any form.

Bottom line is this, and it is very simple. Had it not been for his intervention the thing would never have been seen again. So seeing it again in any state is better than nothing. That's it. Nothing to do with criticising the 'lord' or whatever rubbish that is. My opinion would not change had it been someone else.

But that also works both ways. I think sometimes he gets it the opposite way and gets unfair criticism because of who he is, from someone elses different agenda who do not like him. He couldn't do right full stop in some peoples eyes. Anyway that point is for a different topic.

One last point. It is not the idea that had Shawn not removed the mechanism then it would have been scrapped. It is the fact had Shawn not taken it off Alton Towers hands it would have been scrapped.

He owns it. He can do what he wants with. He has no obligation to anyone to get anything working again he can do as he pleases with it. Even if that upsets people.
 
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Rick

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If you've got £8.30 handy, you can purchase a 30 - 60 second personal explanation of what he's doing...



I suspect he isn't pursuing a fully functioning model because he wouldn't have a great deal of use for it if he did. Not suggesting there is a great of 'use' for a static model, but it's less of an ongoing headache and more practical.
 

Tim

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I don't normally talk about my work on here but as I have both maintained and designed Animatronics this feels like an ideal time to give a bit of insight.

Both OilyWater and BritishThemeParkArchive raise good points about the state of the animatronic. The bookwork has a very streamlined design of a steel armiture driven by pneumatic cylinders and spring loaded to smooth the motion. There is one shot in the video where Shawn has everything layed out on the ground before jumping to the next shot where it's been replaced by a wooden plank. I must admit I also felt really disappointed to see that. I was actually about to message him and offer assistance in repairing it until I realised he had no intent to do so. But I accept that Shawn made this decision to reduce the scope of the restoration, making it manageable for something he and his dad can do. Ultimately I can't see the Bookworm ever being used again as more than a garden ornament.

The bigger problem is that this is happening in the parks too. With high staff turn over, a lack of dedicated effects teams, and "restoration" being carried out by people who are enthisastic but not necessarily knowledgeable a lot of old effects are going the same way. Just look at some of the jobs that have been done to Duel and Tomb Blaster over the years. Done with the best intention but sometimes caused more harm than good when an effect is changed in such a way it makes restoration impossible. I'll also hold my hands up and say I've done exactly the same. Many of the early repair work I performed I later regreted the way I had done them. But at the time I did what seemed right, with the best intentions.
I've since moved on from maintenance to designing effects and I have the fortune to be working with others that have years of experience. We are also very aware that this is a problem and are constantly asking how we can make our new designs as maintenance friendly as possible to ensure the people who will one day restore them have access to this information.

As a side note (and to show this problem is not unique to Merlin) Europa Park is also a classic example of a similar problem where "too many cooks" can spoil a restorstion. Geisterschloss is the best example as a ride that would be massively improved with a consistency of effects rather than the patchwork of additions over the years. It'll be very interesting to see the new Batavia, which until it was all lost had the same problem.
 
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OilyWater

TS Member
It is the fact had Shawn not taken it off Alton Towers hands it would have been scrapped.

He owns it. He can do what he wants with. He has no obligation to anyone to get anything working again he can do as he pleases with it. Even if that upsets people.
You're still not seeing my point. I keep saying of course he can do what he wants with it, that's not my point

It's some rare animatronic engineering that he only binned because he thought the moving parts had already been removed. So it's worth pointing out this mistake. If he actually wanted to bin the mechanism then fine, but it's a pointless loss. Someone else could have got it moving in the future.

Bottom line is this, and it is very simple. Had it not been for his intervention the thing would never have been seen again. So seeing it again in any state is better than nothing. That's it.
This is a total strawman, obviously Im glad he saved it. It stood for 5 years in his garden with the whole thing intact, why was it necessary to bin the mechanism for it to be "seen again"? It's not binned mech, or "nothing".

I don't care who has it, I would say the exact same thing to anyone. I'm talking about his restoration here, not the weird polarised divide around whether people like Shawn or not.

It's a discussion forum so we're discussing it. Ploughing in with heavy handed statements about "Bottom line is this, very simple, that's it" to shut down discussion just because it's criticising a vlogger is pointless.
 
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Tim

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Curse auto-correct. I don't know what's been up with my phone latley. I'm taking longer fixing my posts now than I do writing them. This post alone changed longer to loving and writing to withering...
 

Matgo

TS Member
Part 3:



There's nothing to suggest he has disposed of the animatronics and seeing as we're talking about someone that collects coaster parts I'd find it unlikely that he has.

Considering he has made an access panel in the back perhaps he's keeping his options open for a later date.
 
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Part 3:



There's nothing to suggest he has disposed of the animatronics and seeing as we're talking about someone that collects coaster parts I'd find it unlikely that he has.

Considering he has made an access panel in the back perhaps he's keeping his options open for a later date.

The head must have been really difficult to work on. It was literally hanging by a thread.
 

WillPS

TS Member
Part 3:



There's nothing to suggest he has disposed of the animatronics and seeing as we're talking about someone that collects coaster parts I'd find it unlikely that he has.

Considering he has made an access panel in the back perhaps he's keeping his options open for a later date.

All the articulation (other than the arms) has been disabled by replacing the flexible silicone (or rubber, if his Dad is right) with brittle fibreglass and filler. It ain't going to move again.

If it is rubber, then presumably those parts which haven't been removed will continue to degrade?
 
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