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WTF Merlin?


Active Member
Chessington: Chessington's new plan to work on the zoo side of things might also helps it differentiate itself from Thorpe now that Thorpe is trying to be more family orientated.

Could it be that the one big pot style of funding makes it harder for parks to plan much into the future hence why some additions don't make sense? Has John Wardley retired for sure now? Not sure whether this changes anything but could mean future changes in creative style.

Imagine what kind of parks we would have if none had planning or height restrictions! Probably very different!


Have Merlin actually added a new flat ride to Thorpe since they bought all the Tussauds parks (excluding Storm Surge & the dodgems)? Yeah they've added Swarm, Saw and the Angry Birds theme but they are really removing themselves from what they were. Even Blackpool Pleasure Beach seems slightly more on track with the new ride, Nickelodeon ride and Goldmine retheme (which I personally enjoyed) and people say that they are starting to fail.

Another thing to point out is their non theme park attractions. I went to the York Dungeon (by myself - I was bored) on Saturday for the first time and quite a bit of it seemed quite shabby. It was also a shame that two of their shows didn't contain any actors. Maybe Merlin are on a serious decline, hopefully the Paramount park will shake them up a bit!


Active Member
Erro_r said:
Have Merlin actually added a new flat ride to Thorpe since they bought all the Tussauds parks (excluding Storm Surge & the dodgems)?
Actually, if I'm correct, Merlin management has only ever added one thrilling flat ride - Kobra at Chessington, which most of the GP would identify as a coaster anyway. They've definitely removed more than they've added in any case!

At least they're keeping Slammer going...but for how long? ;)


Miss CoasterForce 2016
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Ooh this topic is right up my Cred Street. I'm sure I won't be the only UK goon who hasn't bothered renewing their Merlin Annual Pass for a few years.

I've found the majority of recent moves this company has made so disappointing.

My main issue is that - with most of their new additions, it seems as though they are scraping to provide nothing but the bare minimum required to be able to advertise a "new" attraction. Ie:

- Scorpion Express. A 28yr old coaster gets a sprinkler system. "NEW FOR 2014!"

- X. A 19yr old coaster gets some disco lights. "NEW FOR 2013!"

- Storm Surge. Because nothing says World Class Theme Park like a grubby relocated dingy ride. "NEW FOR 2011!"

- Angry Birds Land. It isn't a land. It's more like Angry Birds Short Cut To Nemesis Inferno.
In the tiny area it inhabits, the decor is cheap, it looks as though a child hurriedly ran around sticking large Angry Birds stickers on the pre-existing rides before opening day.
It's of an embarrassingly low standard. You would think Merlin would put more effort into it, since it's not even the first Angry Birds themed area to inhabit a UK park. But still, it's "NEW FOR 2014!"

The frustrating thing is, Merlin are evidently still capable of getting it right - The Swarm demonstrates this. A lovely, re-rideable coaster with excellent, imaginative, original themeing. I wish they would stop clutching at straws for yearly "NEW" attractions, and take the time to build truly impressive new ones instead.

How many people would rather wait out a year with no new attractions at Thorpe - in hope for a quality dark ride in 2016; than have a cheap fix in the form of I'm A Celebrity now? Adding this crap lowers people's future expectations of the park, it's not worth it in my eyes.

In comparison to the big leagues: where Universal has successfully realised Harry Potter world, and Disney builds game changers like Mystic Manor and Ratatouille, Thorpe Park adding I'm A Celebrity appears so tacky and desperate. Why are Merlin so willing to lower the standard of attractions in their parks to this?

I'd love for Merlin to announce a concept that I can actually get my hopes up about. But I don't see it happening with all the poor decisions they have made in the last couple of years.


John Wardley said in one of his Q&A sessions that the main thing that frustrated him while he worked for them was Nick Varney's belief that EVERY new attraction had to have some unique selling point, usually a world's first.

Wardley wanted to build a woodie for years but was rebuffed because of "market research" and the fact they couldn't make one a world's first. :p


Well-Known Member
And then the opportunity arose to have Europe's first RMC and they didn't, but then there's that other rumour floating about noe that may explain that.

Which leads us into a point worth making...

A lot of the WTFunkery is because we can't see behind closed doors. We don't know all the details. Some things probably make perfect sense from their side of the fence and they watch frustratedly as we fail to get it.


From CoasterForce
Staff member
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^ That Alton will be getting a launched RMC based in the Forbidden Valley in 2017 is the grapevine rumour at the moment.


Credit Whore 2016
Staff member
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^Grapevine rumour? When you put it like that, I'd say you're quite sure of yourself Ian, source? ;)


Well-Known Member
Ian had a little teaser tweet ages ago about a wooden coaster, I'm sure of it.

But then he'd never give away such an obvious clue.



Active Member
This is an outsiders perspective so take it with a grain of salt, but Merlin is a chain that regularly installs B&Ms and other large investments etc, and in spite of criticisms does make a reasonable effort in terms of theming.
And yes Thorpe put in bumper cars last year....But Cedar Point for example put in a giant wing rider one year, and then followed up with Flying Scooters the year after.
Is there really any difference?
What precisely is the problem with the chain?


Active Member
^They make silly decisions? Not all of the time (Saw, The Smiler), but often (Thirteen, Sub-Terra, Angry Birds Land, I'm a Celebrity Maze, 2016 Thorpe Dark Ride probably will be). And The Swarm wasn't really a bad decision, it just wasn't very well received by the general public, upon opening.


Active Member
But don't all chains make weird decisions when all the Cedar Fair parks put in those up charge dino, La Ronde putting in an SLC, SW building a rubbish penguin dark ride.

I don't think its actually reflective of deep problems in the chain, more that enthusiasts get bratty about rides not being to their narrow taste.


Staff member
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^In regards to the dodgems, I don't think anyone is necessarily saying that was a bad move, but to theme it to angry birds was. Along with retheming an adult thrill ride to an IP brought in specifically to aim at the young family market. An IP which is already becoming outdated.

I agree that they do from time to time over indulge us with amazing new B&M creds, but it's the decisions around that which have no long term focus which is frustrating.


Well-Known Member
Gazza, thanks so much for your post.

The dodgems weren't the problem at all - Retheming Detonator and the surrounding area to such an atrocious standard was.

The park had recently started marketing the place for families on the TV, where the adverts literally just showed Tidal Wave about 50 times because they don't have anything else. And following that, their most intense and terrifying ride, Detonator, gets a retheme to Angry Birds? Setting the public up for disappointment. I know that families sometimes complain at Thorpe that there's nothing for them and they're offered transferable tickets to Chessington.

And then this year, we get a walk through themed to a really naff TV show. I might be being a real arse here, but does ITV make anyone else think "cheap daytime telly for idiots"? It's not a sign of quality at all and I can't imagine people will be racing to the park for it.

But weirder still is that everything people associate with "I'm a Celeb..." they won't be able to recreate. The show highlights are eating gross foods, touching or being surrounded with terrifying animals, being covered with goo, etc. This is, like Gavin criticised, going to be hand in box gets blasted with air.

In essence, my criticism is that Thorpe sets guests up for disappointment. And even with major instalments, such as Swarm, they manage it by marketing the thing as this absolutely terrifying intense monster that it just couldn't possibly have been. Once the marketing had died down, people actually quite liked the ride. But when the TV fed them promises of this absolutely intense scary thing and it wasn't, people were like meh. And I'm not talking about enthusiasts. That first year of operation, Swarm received such negativity if you talked to anyone. It flipped in 2013. It was super weird. Proves marketing is doing it wrong.

EDIT: Following Swarm is when the park switched to their "yay families!" attitude. It's almost as if Swarm's marketing mishap made them think "ahh this isn't working QUICK MARKET TO FAMILIES!"

It's like they can't see that there's more to failures or successes than one thing. The weather that season matters, the Olympics mattered, etc. But most importantly, the disjointedness between marketing promises and actual experience matters. It's sensible to be thinking of marketing in terms of what will bring the most people in - yes, 100%. But then the attractions being designed need to be catering to that. Instead, it just looks like both the park and their marketing do one thing and the designers do another and don't ...talk?

But like I said before, what something looks like and what's actually going on are two completely different things. And it's not like Merlin haven't had successes with IPs or with doing weird stuff in the past. Saw turned out to be pretty genius, didn't it.

We are lucky to have a saturation of pretty good parks in the UK making good quality attractions, it's just sad when you glance over to mainland Europe and every park seems to be doing really high quality exciting stuff. That's not to say that Liseberg adding Helix, however wonderful it is, isn't weird because Kanonen exists and doesn't that render that pointless? But given this forum's UK base, it's hard for us to comment with any depth on stuff like that because I don't visit those parks often enough to know. I talk a lot about Merlin and Busch Williamsburg because those are the parks I have a lot to say about. I'm not ignoring the fact that parks everywhere are doing weird things too. Let's talk about how weird what Canada's Wonderland did with their hyper/giga combo that's now being replicated at Carrowinds. I'm personally concerned that, like Merlin, they are missing something here. There's some other piece of the puzzle as to why worked. Or maybe I am. Because I don't get it. Ya know? Stuff. I've written a lot. Gonna go get breakfast now. Yes it is 1PM.


New Member
Well I can speak with relative confidence to say merlin's front of house managers (kids) run some of their parks like a butlins and have no idea what their doing.

To refer to the earlier post about falls and tomb blaster, anyone who's ever taken a trip round the back of tomb blaster will come out astounded that it hasn't burned to the ground long ago. The bundles of crushed wire are left dangling and often get severed by machinery of the adjacent maintenance yard.

Dragon falls is on top of a huge, huge fire-hazard. The design of the ride and the top trough means that dangerous situations can and do arise, as with the station runup (mounting boats on top of one another)

I find Thorpe Park's additions of recent rather short sited and late to the cause. Angry birds was ailing in poularity like those plush toys in the claw machines, I guess thats how they "came up with the idea" this kind of backward thinking and fannying about is doing damage to the parks and although Alton is in better stead in regards to input foresite and resources, it still has it's moments which remind me of those eighties "one season rides"

Chessington used to have a team of in house painters employed, all these jobs are outsourced to contractors now (again not so much alton) Contractors are doing it for the money, not the longevity of the parks.


Think what the 'smaller' parks are doing/have done too (thrills wise):

- Flamingoland: Mumbo Jumbo, Hero
- Pleasurewood Hills - Hobs Pit, 2x coaster relocations
- Adventure Island - Time Machine

Of course Drayton has been doing the Thomas land plus Paultons has added rides.

Can't wait to see what the Paramount park will be like and if it will obliterate Merlin!