Known initially as SW7 (Secret Weapon 7), The Smiler was to follow in the footsteps of Nemesis, Oblivion, Rita, Th13teen and Air as Alton Towers' next big attraction. After months of speculation, a planning application was submitted to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council in December 2011, with the ride plan visuals following in January 2012. At this point there was no indication of the number of inversions, nor that it would be a record-breaker.
It was announced by the park that X-Sector rides Enterprise and Submission would be closed for the 2012 season to allow for construction of SW7, a decision which was quickly reversed in February 2012.
March 2012 saw planning permission granted for the project, and the demolition of the former Black Hole tent began on April 10th 2012. Groundwork continued into the summer months, and by August 2012 a large hole had appeared on the site. Steelwork began to arrive in September 2012, and the now infamous 'smiley face' appeared on the paths around X-Sector. October 2012 saw a marketing boom across the park, with "world beating" posters appearing, and The Sanctuary scare maze giving us a background of The Ministry of Joy which would later transpire as a predecessor to The Smiler. After apparent delays to the project, the first supports went vertical on 7th Decmeber 2012, with track photos being emailed out by the park on a viral marketing push on 17th December 2012.
A surprising and controversial event occurred when the official countdown to the SW7 opening was removed from the official Alton Towers website on 4th January 2013, leading to rife speculation that the project was heavily behind schedule and would not open with the park in March 2013. Also in January came viral marketing that spanned the country - the ride logo appeared in train stations from Leeds to London, and was also projected onto the side of Big Ben! Sheep were sprayed with the logo, and finally the name The Smiler was announced to the world on 21st January 2013.
After a two month hiatus, track construction resumed during the park's February Half Term event, and it became very clear that the new rollercoaster would not open with the park on March 16th 2013. Instead, the normally Halloween-only attraction The Sanctuary returned as a free scare-maze between 16th March and April 14th 2013, giving guests a chance to digest the back story for the new ride. On March 28th 2013 the ride cars arrived at the Resort, and then on April 24th 2013 track construction was finally completed.
It wasn't until May 9th 2013 that the world was finally told - The Smiler would have 14 inversions and would be a world-record holder! The ride was originally slated to be opening on May 23rd 2013, but it was announced only the day before on May 22nd that due to teething problems, the ride would not be available as planned. The Smiler finally opened to the public on May 31st 2013.
June 2nd 2015 Incident
On June 2nd 2015, four people sustained serious leg injuries after two trains on The Smiler collided. The incident occurred on the "batwing" element of the ride and involved one full train and one empty train that had stalled on the track prior to the event. The incident garnered significant media coverage, and is the worst in Alton Towers' history. Following a five day park-wide closure, which allowed the Health and Safety Executive to visit the crash site and carry out on-site testing of the ride, the park re-opened with The Smiler unavailable to all guests and with all of it's obvious branding removed.
Following completion of investigations and changes made to operating procedures, The Smiler reopened on 19th March 2016. The majority of the ride's theming was restored, although some minor changes were made, including removal of the video showing comical fictitious medical effects to riders and also the removal of references to riders being 'corrected'.
Marmalisation and The Marmaliser
The Smiler back-story revolves around the concept of Marmalisation; a process intended to instill a sense of social compliance through constant smiling, previously tested in a facility known as The Sanctuary. The process is a development of the Ministry of Joy who are a secret organisation now believed to be behind all of the experiments in X-Sector.
The Marmaliser itself is a spider-like structure that stands tall as the centrepiece of The Smiler, and the passing trains with it’s riders are subjected to a number of Marmalising effects that are triggered on each leg. These legs are:
The Inoculator (A jab of happiness as you pass by Stage One of the Marmalisation process)
The Tickler (Aims to tickle you until you can't resist smiling)
The Flasher (A giant flashing device, blinding you as you hurtle underneath the leg)
The Giggler (Infectious, intoxicating laughing gas)
The Hypnotiser (Has the power to disorientate, mesmerize and disrupt your self-awareness)
Based on the previous experiments run at The Sanctuary, the new method of Marmalisation represents a modern approach to ensuring a constant smile (with a lot less mutilation!).
Plans, Construction & More
For more details on Marmalisation, take a look at our dedicated Marmalisation History Page
To view plans for The Smiler, once known as SW7, see our Plans page for the documents submitted to Staffordshire Moorlands Council
See TowersStreet's unique Construction Timeline for important dates during the development of The Smiler
A long time before the project took shape, community member Nemesis94 (Dan Wells) released a recreation of the layout based on the plans