The Making of Project 42
Thrilling new scare maze at Alton Towers Resort
Scarefest at Alton Towers Resort has a new scare maze, Project 42, to add to its award winning line-up! We went 'behind-the-screams' with the Creative Entertainments Manager Simon Allen, one of our resident 'Scaresperts', to find out just how they created the thrilling Project 42 at the feet of iconic roller coaster, Nemesis.
How was the initial theme and idea for Project 42 created?
We decided that we wanted to tell a new chapter of the Nemesis story and further explore what happened after SubSpecies. It has been a couple of years since the resort had a zombie presence and we thought that it was time they came back with a vengeance! The Nemesis story arc lends itself perfectly to developing a story line that includes zombie type creatures and with the location being Nemesis Sub-Terra - the two pieces matched up really well.
What is the backstory around Project 42? (Spoiler Alert!)
The Phalanx base has been compromised and the Nemesis monsters have escaped and an alien virus has spread throughout the community. Following the events of SubSpecies, tests began within the base in attempt to find a cure for the virus. The base has being using civilians to test and this involved exposing the civilians to manufactured replica of the virus to study its effect; the test subjects, now controlled by the virus, have broken out. A lab technician who developed a vaccination is trapped inside the base. Phalanx requires volunteers to enter the compound, find the technician and rescue him. After which the formulae for the vaccination can be passed on, mass produced and humanity rescued!
How long did it take to design Project 42 from design to completion?
The initial top line concept was developed in March 2018 and took five months to complete. Project 42 was a really exciting project to put together, as most of my team hadn’t seen inside the Nemesis sub terror ride before, so we were unaware of the challenges and opportunities. During the initial site visit, it was obvious what an amazing base the existing theming would provide for us. Our job was to then create set pieces and props that would enhance and compliment the original structures. Most of the Project 42 scenic elements were produced by a talented in house team from scratch, making it as detailed and immersive as possible.
What are the biggest challenges you faced when creating Project 42?
We have always had unique challenges when creating scare attractions at the resort because of the areas in which the mazes are located. We feel very lucky to have such wonderful locations to build, such as the listed heritage buildings, which we have to treat with utmost respect. Often routes and designs are dictated to us by the building to some degree.
The same applies when building into an existing attraction, as we cannot permanently attach anything to the building or drill holes in existing sets. We really have to think creatively about how we can incorporate, hide or temporarily change already installed set pieces. Sub-Terra already had a large amount of tech installed for the ride system, which we have been able to tap into and augment with the install of new tech equipment, so effectively, we had to get both the new and existing tech to work together. This was a challenge, it meant a total reprogramming of the entire attraction and we inevitably encountered some bugs along the way!
What additional challenges did you face building a maze within an existing ride?
One of the real challenges was to break the guest’s expectation of the maze being located in a familiar ride. We needed to suspends peoples imagination and bring them into a total new world. The construction team designed and built beautiful new set pieces that slot into existing areas, transforming easily recognisable spaces into something completely different. One great example of that is the barracks area as you first enter the building, when the Nemesis Sub-Terra was operating this was an open room batch holding area, but now it’s a confined twisting and turning space that transports you into a military barracks.
Has a scare maze been built in a disused ride area before?
Yes, although the resort is vast, we do often have to use buildings in a creative way. The Boiler House and Carnival of Screams have both been located in the Black Hole tent. This differed from the Project 42 design challenges because the Black Hole tent was essentially a blank space where we could erect the maze in any configuration of our choosing.
What are your hopes for visitors to Project 42?
We want guests to feel like there is no escape and that they are immersed in a world of fear. They should be asking; why did I sign up to this? When will it end? And sigh a breath of relief once they exit the attraction but want to go around again because the adrenaline rushing through their system. If I can hear screams and gasps of horror when guests exit a maze I know we’ve done a good job!