I almost want to breathe a sigh of relief! After years of secret planning and development, the world finally knows what we have been working on: A world class wooden rollercoaster, Wicker Man, is coming to Alton Towers.
At the very beginning we knew one thing, that we wanted to build a really exciting rollercoaster. We’ve never had a wooden rollercoaster at Alton Towers and we knew it could be a great addition to the Resort’s suite of already very impressive coasters. We listened to our fans who were searching for a completely different experience; something that could take them back to what they first loved about rollercoasters. Everything we do at Alton Towers then needs that extra layer of magic to make it truly unique – and we started to develop a huge theming feature which is the Wicker Man himself who would burst into flames as you go through him.
When it came to building a story that goes behind that, we wanted to draw on legend, British history, references from the local area, myths and tales from Alton and the surrounding areas. The concept of burning of an effigy (or a wicker man in this case) can be traced back through the Neolithic period, ancient Druids and the Roman era. The historical motif has appeared in many forms in contemporary arts and culture – from a music festival, at Burning Man in Nevada – even as the title of an Iron Maiden song! Since we announced the title Wicker Man, a lot of the reporting has linked the theme back to the Wicker Man movies, but actually the theme and story of our ride is completely unrelated. True, we’re exploring similar concepts as the movies, but our inspiration has come from the historical sources, and we’ve created a very unique and strong identity for our Wicker Man ride.
We knew there was an opportunity for us to expand on this myth, this structure, to build on some of the themes already seen in popular culture and to then create our own unique story. Something entirely new that could draw upon existing references but also be distinctly “Alton”. We wanted to add some colour to “the happenings on the edge of the woods” – and who might be behind them, so, as we do with all ride developments, we spent a lot of time developing an elaborate backstory (some of which we will never actually communicate to our guests, but informs our design decisions throughout). As part of this process, we developed the concept of ‘the Beornen’.
The Beornen are a secretive, feral community that live hidden in the shadowy woodland surrounding Alton. They have evolved alongside modern English society, looking in from the outside, but have never integrated. They have certain identifiable beliefs, but they shun modern society and their belief and value system is incompatible with our own – so they are hard to relate to. They have their own language and rune alphabet – which we have alluded to within the ride theming and tease PR campaign. The Beornen believe that if they set fire to this Wicker Man effigy it will bring a sense of enlightenment and eternal wellbeing.
The six-storey Wicker Man itself will have a head which is half human and half ram. The human face represents the Beornen’s deity, who they’re hoping to ‘re-awaken’ by setting fire to the Wicker Man structure. He looks ethereally up at the sky, in a ‘power stance’. The Ram looks imposingly down over the riders on the reverse side. The Ram is a reference to the ‘Horned God’ which has been referenced throughout history in many different belief systems and legends. It is often associated with the nature and the cycle of life.
The Wicker Man rollercoaster experience will see the chosen ones lured in by the Beornen, and invited to climb on-board the Beornen’s train passing further into their secretive world, splintering around a labyrinth of twisted track. Burning embers will light the path as the train hurtles towards the six-storey high flaming effigy. Speeding towards the Wicker Man, he will spectacularly ignite into real flames as the train bursts through his torso three times.
We honestly can’t wait for the world to experience our own Wicker Man story this Spring. We promise it will ignite your senses!
Creative Lead at Alton Towers Resort, Merlin Magic Making
Merlin Magic Making (MMM) is the creative heart of Merlin Entertainments. MMM Find, Create, Produce and Deliver the magic for all Merlin attractions globally.