Theme VS Steel - The Smiler

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TheMan, 8th Feb 2014.

  1. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    Inspired by the constant debate between theme/steel or wood I was pondering The Smiler and wondered why, so often, is the debate about what is more important?

    Both are important.

    Neither ride, nor theme, are grandiose on a flagship record breaking coaster.

    This is a missed opportunity. A very well furnished The Smiler, properly built, could have been a truly world class attraction. Then again, saying that, I was struggling to think of a record breaking high thrill roller coaster that is really well themed?

    Blue Fire looks pretty awesome, but is it super thrill and does it leave you immersed in theme and theatre?

    My knowledge of world wide coasters is not what it could be, so rather than the same tired old debate I thought this would be a good thread to dedicate to high thrill coasters that have superb theme. Ruling out Harry Potter et al.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  2. Nick

    Nick TowersStreet Member

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    Not particularly record-breaking, but what about Black Mamba, Expedition Everest or Atlantis Adventure?
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  3. smudge

    smudge TowersStreet Member

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    Coasters are near on impossible to completely theme, like dark rides are. The hulk for example is very well themed, and you are immersed until you fly out of that tunnel. I think it would be impossible to fully immerse you on a coaster throughout the ride, luckily though, you are on a coaster, that's the thrill.

    The smiler ain't half bad for a merlin effort IMO. If you see past the shoddy workmanship and quality, like 99% of people do, then I'd say you'd be immersed in the theme. Of course the sanctuary, tott etc you are fully immersed throughout, but they don't have a 14 inversion monster after the batching area either.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  4. Danny

    Danny Gugu Rides’ Number 1 Fan

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    Seeing as Nick mentioned Expedition Everest, I thought it'd be a good time to point out that it actually manages to do all of this throughout the ride. Even the prancing around section in order to get to the lift hill feels like it's part of the overall experience and the ride remains immersive, yet suitably thrilling for all ages for the entire duration of the ride. For me, EE is one of the greatest combinations of overall theme and coaster experience combined together.

    There's plenty of other examples out there too, but overall they unfortunately lack in this country.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  5. Ian

    Ian TS Site Team Team Member

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    Blue Fire is a whole different class of thrill. I'd say it's very much like Air in that it is a thrill ride, but it handles the riders far smoother and more gracefully than the likes of Nemesis, which go for the rip your legs off adrenaline pumping experience. The only part of Blue Fire which I would say has any similarity to the massive thrill machines we're familiar with would be the final roll, which is simply down to the way the ride takes the element so slowly with only a lap bar to keep you in place. Like I say, it is a thrill ride, but it's by no means going to win worlds most intense coaster. Plus, the fact it has the long dark ride section at the beginning means that it has far more opportunity for theming than may other coasters out there.

    Disney and Universal are the ones to go for if you want a totally immersive thrill coaster. They understand that the easiest way to do this is to use the coaster as part of a dark ride, with Mummy, Rock'n'Rollercoaster and Space Mountain being some of their best examples (*ushers Crush's Coaster quickly out of the back door* :p ). However, for your average park this option simply isn't feasible.

    One which I think often goes unaccredited is Saw at Thorpe. They did a fantastic job of the theming with that ride, even if the coaster isn't quite to everyone's taste. The first half is fantastic, and a really great effort by Merlin I think.

    Personally I think that any good coaster should be able to support itself without theming. You can't paint a turd gold, and if your ride is totally reliant on theming to make itself a decent ride then something is wrong. If theming was so important to making coasters successful then I doubt Six Flags and Cedar Fairs would still be doing so well :p

    Ultimately it comes down to priorities. Smaller parks with smaller budgets simply need a solid thrill ride to bring in the punters. If they had the budget to theme them then I'm sure many of them would, but as they can't they have to make sacrifices. Take Drayton for example; as much as many of us dislike them, I doubt the park would be anywhere near as popular and busy as it is without Shockwave and G-Force, and yet both of them are pretty much themeless. But they still work and serve a purpose. Without wanting to make a massive generalisation and tar everyone with the same brush, there are a percentage of your average visitors which are fickle. As long as the ride excites and thrills them they're happy.

    The Smiler is far better themed than many other coasters of its kind that you will see out there, though its still not the best. Coasters are notoriously difficult to maintain an immersive theme throughout (Though not impossible, as illustrated by the likes of Black Mamba and Expedition Everest), so really Smiler manages to pull something quite challenging off, what with the interaction with the marmaliser. Like I say, it's not perfect, but it's far better than it could be.

    A compact layout certainly helps, as, particularly with Smiler, riders have plenty of chances to see theming which would probably be missed on a normal coaster? Why? Simply because of the speed and manoeuvres being performed. For many riders their mind is more focused on the ride itself and worrying if they're going to make it back to the station in one piece! Do you think that every rider on The Smiler pulls out of the Sea-Serpant roll and then stops screaming, looks to their left and goes "Ooh, that screen and the giant syringes look cool!"? No, they're most likely going "ERRRRMAHGAAWD!" :p
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  6. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    This is one of the main reasons I think, opportunity lost. It isn't often that you get the opportunity to create something so tight and unique, and record breaking.

    If you think of the mass of concrete etc, a bit more imagination could have seen it evolve into one of those rare beasts - awesome coaster (and building issues aside, it really is), and awesome theme.

    Given the responses (thanks everyone) so far, I think it proves my suspicions were correct, that there are not that many high thrill coasters that maintain high theme throughout.

    The Smiler could have done that, and it hasn't.

    Definitely short sighted and a missed opportunity to create something that would have really shouted on the world map.

    Take your point Ian about Saw, the start/station etc is fantastic, I absolutely carped it before I rode that first time, because the theme/drop etc were so incredibly intimidating by UK standards.

    The theme of The Smiler doesn't invoke that same sense of trepidation.

    Don't mistake this for having a pop at the ride, remember, I rode this thing 17 times (I think) consecutively last year - I wouldn't do that on a ride I didn't like lol!
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  7. CoasterCrazyChris

    CoasterCrazyChris TowersStreet Member

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    The problem with The Smiler is that the physical theme has very little substance to it - just a lot of yellow and painted spirals.

    The marmaliser is an impressive structure but has no real thematic details.

    Oblivion and the rest of X-Sector is far from perfect but at least you can see they put good effort into the design and stylistics.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  8. smudge

    smudge TowersStreet Member

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    I agree with you wholly, the man, but the smiler doesn't have to compete on the world stage. I wish it did. I wish alton did, but alas, it's the best the uk has seen for over a century - quite frankly that is poor, and sad in certain respects.

    The problem we have, is that it worked for AT. The smiler doesn't have competition, alton don't have to go the extra mile anymore, as much as everyone who visits misses out on 'what it should have been,' the reality is, it's the best we've got, and likely to get in at least 3 years. This saddens me.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  9. Alastair

    Alastair TS Forum Team Team Member

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    This is true. Only with the pressure of competition do companies produce their best work. 1994 being a prime example.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  10. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    Smiler is a weird beast, in my opinion the ride is great (not better than Nemesis), the theme concept is really good (1984 quirk) but the application of the theme is a bit pants.

    It's better than Th13teen though, they had a good theme idea but a crap coaster and crap application...

    ... Maybe SW8 will get it right

    :)
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  11. _nemesis_

    _nemesis_ Guest

    I wouldn't say TH13TEEN is a crap coaster, its just not overly thrilling, and it has pointless trims. In the dark it's amazing. When riding expecting a family thrill ride, its great.

    In fact I'd only flaw it for the amount of scaffolding and the lack of leg room. Other than that, it's great and it has a universal appeal.
     
    Posted 8th Feb 2014
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  12. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    This is true, I agree entirely with you both. I have a motto that I live by, the only thing I am in competition with, is myself. I set my standards of achievement high, because I want to. Businesses that become globally successful chase this standard. Unfortunately, in this case as you both point out, the fact is they didn't have to do more, reach that bit higher for the sake of the process of creating it and the joy it will bring and achievements/accolades it would have bought.

    They did enough, I do really like it as most of us agree - it's decent, hardware wise especially. It is however, only enough - it's indicative of Merlin's wider attitude.

    It isn't like they didn't have the funds to do it either, with a £300 odd million profit wasn't it? To have one real stand out piece of machinery in their flagship park.

    It is shameful really.
     
    Posted 9th Feb 2014
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  13. James

    James TS Founding Member

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    I quite like The Smiler as a package. It's certainly the best thing we've had in the UK for a very long time!

    Agree with other comments though. The Smiler has a great theme although it is poorly executed in parts. Apart from The Marmaliser there's not a whole lost that establishes the theme.

    I wonder if the originally planned plaza, viewing platform and other 4 pieces of theming come to fruition the theme may have felt a bit more real and established.
     
    Posted 9th Feb 2014
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  14. CoasterCrazyChris

    CoasterCrazyChris TowersStreet Member

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    The coaster itself is brilliant but it isn't enough to make it a great experience as a whole. I just think there are too many poor individual elements - the boxy entrance, lots of cheap plastic-y yellow, architecturally and thematically devoid station building, horrendous cattle pen queue line and the fact the whole thing feels shoehorned into a space that can barely accommodate the ride resulting in no thought for spectator enjoyment.

    To me The Smiler feels like a product of marketing demands (both ride and theme) rather than the culmination of an individual or creative departments imaginative ideas (ala Nemesis and Oblivion).

    Of course, compared to Rita and Spinball it's practically perfection.

    :)
     
    Posted 9th Feb 2014
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  15. Slugjc

    Slugjc TowersStreet Member

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    Just to the left of over there!!!
    I would have enjoyed the look of the smiler more if it wasn't for the caged animal queue line they went for. Really good idea having the ride coming towards you lie but my god after 2 hours your ready to kill the next person in tracksuit bottoms, with an iphone with a smashed screen. But also like thirteen you can do lovely bit of queue jumping ay the bag handing in place.

    Its main problem look wise is you look down at it from the top of xsector and you look up in the queue. Very little chance to engage it at an eye level. IMO. Look is very good but I would have gone for a more Oblivion type look.
     
  16. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    That is a great point James, but much like air, (can't resist ;D) they will never be arsed to finish it properly. (Just to add, to avert sudden outbursts of pedantry, I KNOW Merlin did not build air).

    Not Towers, if Merlin gave them another wedge of cash and said "finish the job" they would.

    Fact is, once again, there is a ride that is not finished... I would genuinely like to sit Varney down and ask him - this is your companies flagship ride, in its flagship park, what on Earth possesses you to think it is OK to ostensibly do half a job?
     
  17. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I think the plaza for The Smiler might have materialised if it had not been for the groundwork problems. Between the initial plans being submitted to the council and the time contruction started they must have realised that they need far more substantial foundations and groundwork than they initially though, hence the pit where the Staffordshire Knot is and the huge concrete base.

    As I've said all along with The Smiler, this all comes down to poor and last minute planning. They even managed to mess up the revised groundwork plans!

    :)
     
  18. Benzin

    Benzin TowersStreet Member

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    ^I would certainly agree that the poor initial groundwork resulted in the loss of a fair few aspects we should have received... You can see that there was space to walk down into the area which is often gated off (because it's stupidly steep and H&S)...

    The resulting concrete work that was required no doubt hit reasonably into the overall budget for it and affected the plans to a slight degree...

    A lot of the issues with the ride do seem to stem from the original ground survey, then of course the construction team... Goes to prove that certain rides cannot be planned and opened quickly and effectively in a short space of time...
     
  19. James

    James TS Founding Member

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    Air is an easy example. :p I think most, if not all the Secret Weapons have had theming or other details cut. I know Th13teen and Oblivion as two examples didn't have half of what was in the concepts (although Oblivion got away with it and worked well in the end - Th13teen not so much).

    Merlin will never give them money to add things that were in the original plans. Towers usually have to go to great lengths to get a penny from Merlin (Sub-Terra being the prime example).

    The Smiler was a disaster waiting to happen from the minute they rushed up the idea. They should have left it for another year and opened it (fully planned out, thought of and built working solidly) in 2014. I enjoy the ride and experience of it but its flaws really do show how half-arsed a lot of it was. Only when it comes down to track design (John Wardley and Candy Holland to be thanked!) and the concept idea do I see any great work put into it.

    No arguing it's the best thing in the UK in a long while though! Which is rather depressing to think. :p
     

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