Technical Theatre student designs dream theme park ride

4th June 2020

A Technical Theatre student from Stratford-upon-Avon College has been putting her time in lockdown to good use by completing an independent project as part of her College course.

Katie Bonehill, 20 from Redditch, has been designing and building scale models for an astonishing theme-park ride of her own creation.

Katie explained that for their final projects, Technical Theatre students choose between working behind-the-scenes on one of the College’s Performing Arts stage shows or working on an independent project. Even before lockdown restrictions made the former option no longer possible, she opted for the independent project route in order to pursue her love of theme park rides. “I wanted to create something new and give myself a chance to experiment with set design.”

Katie’s fascination with theme park rides is long-standing. With her whole family huge Disney fans, she has been going to theme parks since early childhood: “I’ve always been obsessed with the Disney attractions in particular.”

Katie created a ‘dark ride’ – an enclosed themed attraction transporting people through a series of scenes brought to life by lighting, sound and special effects – based on the Disney film Atlantis: The lost Empire, because “I wanted to create a visually spectacular ride featuring lots of beautiful locations.”

To add even more excitement, she decided to create a hybrid ride by incorporating elements of traditional roller coasters: “I wanted the ride to have an ‘adventure’ feel, which reflects the nature of the action-packed film.”

Katie’s project involved compacting the film into 14 separate scenes, each of which becoming an area the riders would pass through. She explained: “I designed each scene by creating drawings and to-scale ground plans. I’ve also planned for the inclusion of lighting, sound effects and other technical aspects on the ride.”

And not content with creating the ride itself, Katie has also written an essay describing her use of lighting and other features, such as optical illusions.

Louise Millward, Technical Theatre lecturer at Stratford-upon-Avon College, is extremely impressed with Katie’s project. “The quality of Katie’s work is exceptional. She has the ability to combine vision and creativity with practical solutions and her attention to detail is astonishing. Her project has allowed her to explore in great depth her passion for a particular career – a very unique and specific career choice that very few other courses would allow her to explore in such detail.”

Katie, who will progress to Birmingham City University in September to study Designing for Performance, has definite plans for her future. It’s no surprise to learn that her dream job would be to design theme park rides, and her particular wish is to become one of Disney’s “imagineers”, as they call their ride designers and engineers.

“The Disney attractions are so heavily themed and detailed, and my Technical Theatre course has helped me to understand just how much technology and set design goes into them. Suddenly, the job of imagineer seems a lot more achievable.”

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