Thorpe Park: not for wimps like Princess Di

PETER YORK ON ADS No 141: THORPE PARK

The one thing 10- and 11-year-old boys want to establish beyond doubt is that they're absolutely not little kids to be tucked up with The Lion King or The Jungle Book .They're well hard; they're the target for all these trainer commercials with giant black men doing heroics.

This is the constituency Thorpe Park is addressing with its X:\no way out ride commercial. The ad has the Eighties Bleak Future look: a moody grey city seen from above; angry searchlights raking the sky; occasional explosions and a hovering helicopter. We're all set for the long view up a Canary Wharf-type tower to a Stealth-ish plane with a searchlight - shades of Urban Breakdown 2000.

Then we get spacey people in helmets at consoles facing a meaningless display with an X in it and a lot of abseiling by SAS-types in woolly hats. They're lit in green to make them look weird and cyberspacey - neon green is a very 1980s screen colour - but their British-character-actor faces severely reduce their credibility.

Frenzied zooming gives the impression of the tremendous excitement of the ride, making it look like a cross between the Tunnel of Love and Charles de Gaulle airport. On screen is the curious legend: "If you're 1.4m or taller you're in" (ie not for shrimps).

The green faces look increasingly anxious and sweaty as they get dive- bombed with zooms and strobes. "New ride," it says urgently and then, the graphic coup: X:\no way out. And then, to make things absolutely clear, kids' stuff - not.

Well that's that, then. Thorpe Park's gone beyond Princess Diana and the little Princes in the water-splash into hard-nut territory.

But on the same day and the same channel - Carlton - Thorpe Park appeared in a more familiar guise: in joyous sub-Disney animation, with cartoon animals, rhyming voice-over and primary colours - "it's the absolutely fabulous humungous world of rides". And that's everything self-conscious 11-year-olds hate most.

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