Behind the scenes look at Alton Towers' Gangsta Granny: The Ride

It's the ride everybody has been waiting for – with children and their families eager to be swept up into the world of Gangsta Granny at Alton Towers.

Comedian and author David Walliams and John Burton
Comedian and author David Walliams and John Burton

And when the ride opens on Monday at the Staffordshire-based attraction, many people will have David Walliams to thank – as well as John Burton.

Mr Burton, from Codsall, has played an "integral role" in developing the ride which will whiz, twist and spin as people dive deeper into the story.

The 29-year-old, the creative lead who brought the book to life at the Alton Towers Resort, described it as a unique and "exciting experience".

David Walliams officially gives the green light to Gangsta Granny: The Ride at Alton Towers Resort

He said: "It was super exciting – I've worked on quite a few different attractions over the years for Merlin and Alton Towers and it's not very often you get to create a ride that is so out there like David Walliams' material is.

"Gangsta Granny, it's a sweet story but it's also really full of humour. It's for kids and a lot of the time my job is to create scary thrill rides like The Wicker Man and rides like that, but it was actually really fun to kind of get out of your comfort zone and use material from different David Walliams [stories] and bringing something really funny to life in a theme park.

"I'm so excited [for people to go on the ride]. When you build these things you've kind of got all the pieces – it's like building a cake, we've got all the ingredients and you think you know how it's going to turn out. What I've seen is exactly what I imagined it would be and it's like the taste test – making sure everyone loves it when they come on it so I'm really excited to see the reactions from the guests when they come along and get to experience it for the first time."

The ride – a part of The World of David Walliams at the attraction – is based on the comedian's most popular book which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

And the idea for the book to become a ride was hatched around three years ago after Alton Towers asked Mr Burton to come up with an idea for a new attraction.

Comedian and author David Walliams working with John Burton

He said: "So Alton Towers gave me a brief of saying 'look, we've looked at our portfolio – we want to add some more rides and attractions for our eight to 12-year-old audience and can you come up with something'? So I went away and I was kind of looking around like 'what are kids of that age doing with their families' and the kind of insight to that is they are reading the Walliams world books of an evening each night with their families.

"And I thought 'hey, what if we were to bring those books to life at Alton Towers'? I thought 'this is a crazy idea but we went and came up some ideas, showed it to David and it was quite nerve-racking because you're kind of taking someone else's ideas and saying 'can we do this with it'? and literally, on the spot, David just said 'let's do it' – 'let's come up with something' and he was so open to it.

"We very quickly landed on the story of Gangsta Granny as the one we wanted to kind of hero and focus on – that being because it's one of his best-selling books, it's now hitting its 10-year anniversary this year and it's a really sweet story with the idea that Ben thinks his grandma is kind of a boring old lady, but she's actually an international jewel thief. "We thought how exciting would it be to join Granny and Ben and try and steal the Crown Jewels and do that re-telling of the story, but put you in that story with them?"

The creative lead, a former student at Codsall Community High School, said the ride featured the "main core aspects" of the book as he praised David Walliams for getting completely on-board with the project.

Gangsta Granny: The Ride launches on Monday at Alton Towers

Mr Burton said: "He was lovely and I'm going to miss working with him on it, to be honest, now we've got it all ready. I came along with some storyboards for a meeting and we would go through scripts and we would talk through an idea and he would like come out with these one-liners and act out the role of the characters, and as a comedian, he would have us all in stitches of laughter.

"He would come out with these brilliant one-liners and most of them have made it into the ride and guests will hear that. When I showed the final project to David a few weeks ago for the first time, I remember the first time I went round I was really nervous because obviously it's like being on Britain's Got Talent – it's being judged by him – and as soon as we got to the end he literally just turned to me and went 'I want to go again' and for me that was like the golden buzzer moment off Britain's Got Talent for me.

"He loves it and I'm glad I've done justice to what is essentially kind of his baby and bringing it to life."

The former Codsall Community High School student, who now lives in London, said Mr Walliams voices three characters on the ride – including the royal host at the start of the ride, as well as on the radio in Raj's Shop.

John Burton with comedian and author David Walliams

He also praised the incredible "army" of people working behind the scenes – with people coming together to chip in with ideas and construct the ride, with Mr Burton saying he couldn't be "any more thankful for all the help – they've produced an amazing attraction and I think it's going to bring joy to lots of families all over."

As well as the new ride, a whole area of Alton Towers will be transformed – inspired by the World of David Walliams, with a host of other rides and attractions. Guests will be able to pick up a bargain in Raj’s Shop, race on a regal thoroughbred on the Royal Carousel, bounce away on Raj’s Bouncy Bottom Burp, as well as other attractions.

Mr Burton added: "With this, we've never brought anything like this to life before. So the characters are all based on the illustrations of Tony Ross from the books, so unlike the film and theatre where it's real people bringing those characters to life, we've had those characters jump from the pages of the book into our ride and that's never been done before.

"We've had ridiculous conversations as well around 'is Granny's bum too big from this angle' and all those different conversations and you just think 'what is my job sometimes' – and like the smells as well. In the book, it's quite renowned that Granny loves her cabbage soup so there's a few moments where Granny might let out a few 'bottom burps' and we were choosing what it should smell like and having all of these different tester samples – that one is too stinky, that one is too floral, some really crazy stuff."

One of the Gangsta Granny-themed rooms at Alton Towers Hotel

"This is quite a new thing for Alton Towers – we've created indoor rides before but nothing quite like this. This is quite a show-based piece, so unlike theatre – which is quite a passive experience where you sit and watch something on stage – you are actually in that show with this and that's what's exciting. We've used lots of technology that we've used before but not altogether in one kind of attraction so it's quite tech heavy in terms of the show and the experience. Hopefully there will be things in there that inspire kids too, that they will go 'wow, how did they do that'? And we wanted to give it a bit of Alton magic too as well, so there's magic tricks and illusions and all sorts of special effects that will hopefully surprise people as well."

Gangsta Granny was first published in 2011 and was David Walliams’ first children’s number one best-seller – staying at the top of the Sunday Times top ten for 24 weeks. The book has also been adapted for the stage by the Birmingham Stage Company, and a television adaptation was commissioned by the BBC in 2013 and first aired on Boxing Day that year starring Miranda Hart, Rob Brydon, David Walliams and Joanna Lumley.

For more information, or to book tickets, visit www.altontowers.com.

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