The Life & Times
In 1981 Alton Towers invested in their first dark rides as part of their new Victorian area, Talbot Street. A building was constructed near the Talbot Restaurant to house both Doom and Sons, the park's new haunted walkthrough, alongside Around the World in 80 Days, which invited guests to join Phileas Fogg on his adventures as he attempted to circumnavigate the globe.
Whilst Phileas travelled by hot air balloon, guests follow him by boat in an attraction designed for all the family, so long as they weren't looking for anything too thrilling.
Your journey began in the docks of London, where Phileas was just taking off as guests boarded their boat and set sail along the Thames, with a view of the capital's skyline filled with a host of hot air balloons.
It is not long however before you arrive in Siam, passing by temples and a giant tiger statue on the way to Egypt, where an re-animated mummy welcomes you into the land of the pharohs.
The next scene brings you to the United States, where Uncle Sam himself greets guests as they arrive in New York on the Fourth of July. A quick stop in Venice, followed by a trip through the Antarctic, and guests are back in the States to visit Las Vegas for an audience with the king, as Elvis himself performs amidst the glare of neon signs.
Your next stop is Vienna, followed by the windmills and tulips of Holland, before guests arrive at a carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The final stop of your world tour is Paris, with a sight-seeing tour of the Eiffel Tower and a trip to the Moulin Rouge, which provides the ride's finale.
What Happened Next...
Around the World is almost a perfect ecapulation of everything that Alton Towers aspired to be in the 1980s. As with many of the attractions of this era it was designed to compete with Disney as the UK's answer to It's a Small World, and was an impressive undertaking for the fledgling park.
It was a quiteisessital 1980s dark ride filled with minitaure animatronics, where no matter which direction you looked there was always something new to see. As well as the animatronic figures, many of the scenes included signifiacnt set pieces, from the Sphinx looming over the boat in Eygpt, to a a host of windmills in Holland and the Eiffel Tower with accompanying water feature in Paris.
There was a central conflict in the attraction however - whilst it was basically a children's ride, it had a subject that was more appealing to an older generation who would appreciate the detailed rendering of the scenes from around the world. This conflict was resolved in 1993 when Around the World in 80 Days took its final journey before Tussauds re-aimed the ride at a younger audience by transforming the boat ride into the fabulous toy factory that was Toyland Tours.
In its final seasons the ride gained an extra scene at the end, when a Haunted House model was added to advertise the park's new addition for the 1992 season. This was later also joined by the Runaway Minetrain and these models seem to have remained in place until the ride closed in 1993.
But the story didn't end there... and in 2005 Around The World in 80 Days briefly re-emerged during the construction of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As the facade of Toyland Tours was removed it was revealed that toy factory frontage had been built over the entrance of the older ride and so for one final time guests were able to glimpse the turrets and banner that had once signalled the start of a voyage around the world.
This look into the past was only momentary and during the redevelopment the final traces of Around The World were demolished to make way for the new Chocolate Factory facade.
Once the transformation into Toyland Tours was complete, few traces of the old ride remained though it is thought that the model of The Haunted House that featured in the ride was the same model that later appeared in the garden scene of The Haunted House itself.
And whilst the fate of most of the animatronics is uncertain, the Elvis model was adopted by the park's maintenance team as an unofficial mascot. For many years after the ride closed he could be found with his guitar, sitting on the roof of one of the buildings in the backstage area near the Flag Tower.