by Joe Tracy, Editor of Theme Park Magazine
A new dark ride has opened at Alton Towers Resort. Called Gangsta Granny: The Ride, it whisks guests away on a high-stakes adventure to steal the most guarded jewels in the world – the Crown Jewels.
What is Gangsta Granny?
The ride is based on the best-selling book, “Gangsta Granny,” written by David Walliams.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that Gangsta Granny is becoming a ride at Alton Towers,” says Walliams. “I never imagined it would happen so it’s a real delight to see my characters brought to life in a ride. I’ve worked really closely with the team at Alton Towers to make sure the ride is just as funny and exciting as the book. I think children and their parents … and even their grandparents! … are going to love it!”
In the video, “The Making of Gangsta Granny: The Ride” (see directly below), Walliams describes the book like this:
“The story of Gangsta Granny is about a boy called Ben who thinks his granny is boring until one day he finds out she is an international jewel thief. And together they go on an adventure to steal the Crown Jewels.”
Creating the Gangsta Granny Ride
Around 2018, John Burton, Creative Lead for Merlin Magic Making, was tasked with dreaming up a new ride concept for Alton Towers Resort that would target a younger audience. His idea: Create a “4D” immersive experience from the best-selling book, “Gangsta Granny.”
Merlin Magic Making is the “unique in-house creative and project delivery team” for Merlin Entertainments Limited. A lot of Burton’s focus is on Alton Towers Resort experiences.
Burton took his idea/concept to Walliams who endorsed the idea and worked with Burton, along with illustrator Tony Ross and other Merlin Magic Making team members, to bring the book to life via a daring heist attempt.
According to Burton, “David’s stories are full of witty characters, intrigue, and exhilaration, so it’s been a fantastic challenge to build all that into a new ride experience. It’s the first time we’ve attempted such a complex combination of a physical ride experience, high-tech special effects, and brilliant story-telling to ensure guests feel they are with Granny and Ben on every step of their adventure.”
The Gangsta Granny Ride puts the rider onboard a Royal Carriage for a simple tour of the Crown Jewels. But things change quickly when the riders become part of Ben and Granny’s heist as the carriage twists and spins through sewers, a chase, and the ultimate destination: the room containing the Crown Jewels.
Like many dark rides, Gangsta Granny is created through the use of scenes. Each scene springs to life by artwork created by Ross and 3D projection mapping used to bring the environments to life. Even the rider’s sense of smell is considered during the ride to help immerse them in the story.
The ride is housed in the former “Wobble World” building at Alton Towers. Building the ride took set creators, animators, lighting specialists, ride engineers, and voice actors. Walliams brought several of those voices to life. The ride vehicles (Royal Carriages) have built-in audio and follow a track line system throughout the experience. However, the vehicles can spin up to 360 degrees to add a more immersive element.
Gangsta Granny uses a special dark ride-guided system designed by Garmendale Engineering Solutions. Garmendale’s Kelvin Ensor told ITV (See ITV video further below) that the key – and challenge – to the project was synching the ride system with all the scenery, special effects, and audio/visual elements.
Commenting further on the project, Ensor told StokeonTrentLive, the digital news channel of The Sentinel newspaper:
“A hell of a lot of work has gone into making this happen. Thirteen months of hard graft has gone into it. that includes designers, fabricators, welders, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and programming engineers. it has been a good task.
Families can expect something that is totally unique to ride systems with the special effects and the level of complexity that is involved in this ride. It’s something different and I don’t think they have brought all these elements together before.”
The ride time for Gangsta Granny: The Ride is five minutes. There is also a pre-show.
What Are The Crown Jewels?
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are a collection of royal jewels and ceremonial objects that are kept in the Tower of London. The collection includes items from over 800 years of monarchy.
According to Historic Royal Palaces, “Kings and queens of England have stored crowns, robes, and other items of their ceremonial regalia at the Tower of London for over 600 years. Since the 1600s, the coronation regalia itself, commonly known as the ‘Crown Jewels’ have been protected at the Tower. Over 30 million people have seen them in their present setting at the Tower. They are possibly the most visited objects in Britain, perhaps the world.”
There was an attempt to steal the Crown Jewels before, as this fascinating video reveals:
Beyond the Gangsta Granny Ride
A section of the Alton Towers theme park has been transformed into a themed area that is inspired by “The World of David Walliams.”
The area will include several new experiences and buildings, including:
- Raj’s Shop
- The Royal Carousel
- Raj’s Bouncy Bottom Burp
To round out the experience, Alton Towers Hotel has transformed four of its rooms into Gangsta Granny-themed rooms. Here’s a video tour of one of the rooms:
Gangsta Granny: The Ride opened on May 17, 2021.
Explore More (Videos)
David Walliams Welcomes the First Riders
Theme Park Jake and Coaster Jen Enthusiastically Break Down the Ride Before it Opens to the Public
ITV Look at the Making of Gangsta Granny: The Ride
BBC News Report on the Ride
Explore More (Resources)
- Book: Gangsta Granny (written by David Walliams – affiliate link)
- Website: Alton Towers Resort
- Web Page: Merlin Magic Making
- Website: Garmendale Engineering Solutions
- Website: StokeonTrentLive
- Website: Historic Royal Palaces
- Book Set: The World of David Walliams (affiliate link)