Visitors who ventured into Cloud Cuckoo Land at the Alton Towers theme park in England were treated to a sweet experience, as they took a deliciously delightful tour through Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory.
In 2006, the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was adapted for a new type of dark ride. Falcon’s Treehouse was contracted to design and compose all audio throughout the ride and provide a turnkey solution for the elevator portion, which was the second half of the whimsical ride. In the first part, guests boarded boats and floated along a river of “chocolate,” passing illustrious characters from Roald Dahl’s book, such as Augustus Gloop and Veruca Salt, in the form of animatronics or projected images.
After visitors got off their boat and left the water behind, they were treated to a brief pre-show video that set the stage for the great glass elevator ride, which was anything but a standard lift. Once inside this unmoving, unconventional cube-shaped theater, guests were served a feast for their senses.
The presentation utilized a new product called Fifth Dimension, meaning it had five projection surfaces - left, right, front, back, and top. CG animation was rear-projected onto all of the semi-translucent walls. A trembling floor, impactful musical score, strategic sound effects, and flickering lights rounded out the experience, providing guests with a unique sensation, as if they were flying.
This trip through the factory started with many storyboards, which animators used as the foundation for their efforts. We wanted to feature as much of the factory as possible – stairs, boiler rooms, doors, ceilings, a big tank of chocolate! At the end, we lifted everyone into the sky for a bird’s eye view of the factory.
One of the challenges our team faced was making it look like guests were in a huge factory, even though the space they stood in was relatively small. One way we overcame this was by placing source audio in a multitude of locations. This technique, in addition to the interesting moving visuals, helped create depth and dimension that was not actually there.
Fans of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride still have glowing things to say about it to this day. You might say they felt like they had scored a golden ticket, being one of the lucky guests who experienced the attraction before it welcomed its last rider in 2015.