Alton Towers is a theme park located in Staffordshire, England. It is often voted the most popular theme park in Britain, just above Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and is one of the country's leading attractions. Like its sister parks Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures it is currently being run by Merlin Entertainments Ltd., and caters for the family market, edging on thrills and fun. The park's notability escalated in the 1990s thanks to John Wardley, ride concept designer for Tussauds and now Merlin's creative consultant, who revolutionized the British theme park industry from the late 1980s to the early 2000s and developed part of the park through theatrical brilliance.
The estate was originally owned by the Talbot family (otherwise known as the family peerage, Earl of Shrewsbury) until the 1920s. The Talbot family themselves have their heritage sewn into one of the rides, specifically the legendary curse on the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury.
Aside from the obvious rides, rollercoasters, and attractions, Alton Towers have the wonderful ability to show off the aging but beautiful Towers complex complete with the utterly gorgeous gardens. The Towers ruins themselves are Gothic and reflective of the 1800s, as well as notable for hauntings and strange sightings.
The park is noted for its "World First" rollercoasters:
- Nemesis: Themed around an extraterrestrial who seeks sanctuary on Earth but humans found it, worshipped it and soon chained it in place. Notable for being built below ground level for avoidance of height restriction and is one of the park's most popular rollercoasters. Opened in 1994.
- Oblivion: The world's first (not truly) vertical drop rollercoaster. Utilizes acrophobia effectively, through theming around a portal that plunges into darkness and the possibility of blipping out of existence.
- Galactica: The world's first "flying" rollercoaster, and in 2016 the world's first dedicated rollercoaster with virtual reality. Opened in 2002 as Air before retheming.
- Th13teen: The world's first rollercoaster to have a piece of track that drops. Themed to a crypt in a forbidden forest.
- The Smiler: The world's first 14-inversion roller coaster, themed around an organization called The Ministry of Joy 'correcting' people into smiling by using the rollercoaster as a brainwashing device. Opened in 2013.
- Wicker Man: Not to be confused with the 1973 horror film of the same name, this ride is themed after ancient pagan sacrifices. Advertised as the first rollercoaster to fuse wood and fire, though arguably this isn't true. Opened in 2018.
Other notable rides include:
- Corkscrew: One of Alton Towers's first roller coasters and the crux to the park's opening success. Opened in 1981, closed in 2008 to make room for Th13teen.
- Toyland Tours: One for the family; it was a Disney-style boat ride around a toy factory run by toys. Opened in 1994 and closed in 2005. Notable for an appearance by Sonic The Hedgehog.
- Runaway Mine Train: A roller coaster themed around an African mining village, popular with families. Opened in 1992.
- The Black Hole: Another early roller coaster for the park, constructed in 1984 and themed loosely around traveling through space (by "loosely" we mean having the ride entirely enclosed in the dark, along with some disco lights and minor props strewn about). Closed in 2005, with the coaster itself now at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden as Rocket.
- Duel: A dark ride through a terrifying haunted Victorian mansion. Opened in 1992 as "The Haunted House".
- Hex: The Legend of the Towers: A dark ride themed within the Towers ruins, based upon the legendary curse of the Talbot family. Also has what might be the most atmospheric soundtrack ever recorded for a theme park ride, composed by Crispin Merrell.
- Spinball Whizzer: A roller coaster with each train consisting of a single car with seats facing each other, that spins freely 360 degrees around through most of the ride. It also operated as "Sonic Spinball" from 2010 - 2016 and had a Sonic the Hedgehog theme.
- Thunder Looper: A Schwartzkopf Shuttle Loop roller coaster (the first-ever installed) which the Towers obtained third-hand. It has since moved to yet another park.
Tropes used by Alton Towers include:
- Curse: The story behind Hex: The Legend of the Towers concerns one on the Talbot family, which will supposedly kill a member of the family every time a branch falls from the old tree, which the Earl later had chained up to prevent such an occurrence.
- Eldritch Abomination: Nemesis is described as one in its backstory.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Don't be fooled by The Smiler's name. Yes, it is themed after smiling, but for a reason that could give you a heart attack more out of fear rather than sweetness.
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: The Smiler's main gimmick.
- Haunted House: A dark ride present in the park is themed after and named The Haunted House.
- Kill It with Fire: Wicker Man is based around this, as "chosen" ones (represented by the riders) are heavily implied to be burned to a crisp in the Wicker Man effigy. (of course, the ride makes it so the fire doesn't actually touch the rider, that would NOT end well.)
- Large Ham: The man on Oblivion's queue line videos.
- Literal Bookworm: In 1996, Alton Towers opened Storybook Land, in the middle of which stood a large animatronic bookworm emerging from a storybook. Visitors could press the button on a normal-sized bookstand to make the bookworm speak and move. Storybook Land was closed to be rebuilt into Cbeebies Land at the end of 2013 and the bookworm was sold into individual ownership.
- Mind-Control Eyes: As suggested by The Smilers logo and some promotional images, the brainwashing procedure featured in the rides lore results in not just a permanent smile, but also yellow swirls in the iris of victims.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Done to truly awesome effect in the soundtrack for Hex.
- On Ice: In Storybook Land there is an ice show that features characters from Beatrix Potter such as Peter Rabbit, Miss Tiggy Winkle, Tom Kitten, Miss Tiddle Mouse, and The Two Naughty Mice.
- 1 Million B.C.: The theme for UG Land.
- Recurring Riff: Many of the rides' soundtracks include a snippet of "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
- Scavenged Punk: The general aesthetic for Forbidden Valley.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The theme for Merrie England.