No one can say that Chessington doesn’t put on the most shows out of all the Tussauds Parks, and Halloween is no different, as Halloween Hocus Pocus returns again for 2006. This time there is a change, after a couple of years of kids favourite Scooby Doo, its time that he stood aside and let…. Star Wars into take his place, that’s right, Halloween, spooky, Star Wars…. Ok let’s see what this leads too.
Although certainly not spooky, it’s clear the direction in which Chessington has decided to go this year, and that’s the scary route, with the presence of Darth Vader and Star Wars on stage and around the park.
After a good few years of advertising events and the ease of finding what’s on and where, Chessington seem to have taken a little too much from Thorpe Park, with no leaflets, no extra on the map, and currently one board in the park at the entrance to explain what’s on where, then its up to you to find it! That being said you would have to be walking around the park with your eyes shut, or not walk through two popular areas in order not to find the stages, although making a mental note of all the shows that are on does still need to be made.
Star Wars is the main feature for 2006, this is mostly present in the Market Square, where, the show room has Star Wars figures (ok not a show, but I imagine for massive fans it’s a good addition) and of course the main stage hosts the entertainment.
The main show is the Star Wars show, where some adult will be picked and trained from the audience to help defeat Darth Vader. So what’s the show like? Well it is a little short, with a lot of time taken up with the training part, and very little in the way of action, let’s say, in comparison to the Spiderman show earlier on in the year. On a plus side the costumes are excellent, great detail and does certainly add to the Star Wars set, which, is also, well put together. Jedi Training sounds like what it is, and this is one aimed at the children, where lessons on how to use a light saber in battle against Darth Vader.
Meet and Greet gives you the chance to meet some of your favourite characters, with the end of the day set aside for the fancy dress. In addition to the main stage, the Trick or Treat stage for the little ones is still located in Beanoland, popular small thrills is something that offers something different to the normal yearly shows, and a treat for the winner!
There is also shows in the Dragon Theatre, which is again Star Wars related, this time the backdrop hasn’t been changed for the show, which is a little let down when its started.
So how different is this to last year, and is it an improvement? It would be short sighted in saying that the park had a good family Halloween event (which the last 3 years has been the case, personally had the best time at any park during Hocus Pocus on my own or with the family) and it didn’t need to be changed, or something new added, because this is not always the case. Chessington obviously believe this was the best thing to do (like Bubble Works…) and like Bubble Works, this has taken all the good work out of the updated animal adventures and park shows during the year, and moved backwards.
But why, I love Star Wars! Great, but if your old enough to read and understand this review, then the event isn’t aimed at you! Or is it? Is this Chessington’s new family shows and events? Quite possibly, but looking at this event a few questions have to be looked at, good and bad.
Something different, Star Wars is a big franchise, and may well appeal to the hardcore Star Wars fans who may wish to come and see the models (and the shows I doubt) Fresh, its certainly fresh, no sign of the old theme coming out with Star Wars, and they are very impressive models! So all decided, a huge success, oh right, lets look at the…
OK, to the teenagers this may sound silly, to a parent, let’s see. Lets ask 100 2 year old Children who Darth Vader is, I mean the last *new* film with him in was a 12 rated…. and no, I can’t see too many parents sitting there 2-4 year old children watching Star Wars. Now let’s ask 100 2 year olds who Scooby Doo is, the results, anyone person should be able to answer. I mean maybe it is me, but I visited Halloween Hocus Pocus 2005 3 times, twice with the family because it was that good, and on an off peak day, we waited 40 minutes to see Scooby Doo! On a peak day, 90 minutes, longer than any queue in the park. Off peak day, no queue for Star Wars, with children seeming less interested.
Where’s the Trick or Treat Trail? An interactive event that took children and families all around the park looking for the doors, with sheets provided and prizes given, even without the prizes, it was of interest to families and children not to loose interest, and importantly, gets around the animals. No sign this year.
Find the ghouls? Again, something my children certainly enjoyed was looking for the ghouls around the park, added a sense of adventure again for the children, and something different to look at.
So it’s a total failure? Not at all, but it is probably the worst Halloween Hocus Pocus Chessington have put on. The Star Wars section is excellent, although short; the shows are engaging and have great costumes on display. Was it right for Halloween, well no, it has no Halloween theme, and throughout the year Chessington has run with Cartoon characters, popular ones to get families inside the park, and has worked wonders, however, this should have included Scooby Doo, perhaps not replace, but add to.
For the record its never been a secret I prefer and have a better day, either with family or alone, at Chessington than any other park in the UK to date, I love the place, great staff, great atmosphere, fun rides for all moods, and animals for peaceful breaks. So this isn’t a bias review, by any means I am not saying that the event is poor, because what has been done is very good, but for a park advertising rides and attractions for 2-8 year olds, with the lack of theme, and missing star character (that all kids will have heard of) it is a little bit of a let down.