Western Leader : January 11th 2011
19 WESTERN LEADER, JANUARY 11, 2011 NEWS Imaginative work adds to the fun Ever wondered where all the weird and wonderful characters at Rainbow's End sprang from? Reporter Jessie Colquhoun and photographer Shane Wenzlick satisfy their curiosity. Egg shape: Alan Walker sculpted this dinosaur egg and when it's finished it will sit alongside one of the newest attractions at Rainbow's End, Riki the Raptor. Pot of gold: Inside the log flume's cave is a pixie sitting with a hoard of gold he stole from the pirates. Alan Walker bought a lot of the scene's props on TradeMe and individually spraypainted them gold. Pirates ahoy: As you approach the dark cave on the log flume you pass by a pirate scene that Alan Walker dreamed up. He wants to add more pirates, pixies and a sunken ship. Alien nation: This alien keeps Alan Walker company in his workshop. When it's finished, it will be displayed by The Invader ride. Going to town: One of Alan Walker's first projects at Rainbow's End was adding this pirate town to the log flume ride. The log flume at Rainbow's End is an eight-minute journey that transports you to another world. Twisting and turning down the river in a log-shaped boat, you travel through a pirate town and into a dark cave where there are pixies, colourful gardens and a mountain of gold. As you eagerly await the steep plunge into the lake at the end of the ride, it's easy to miss the detail engineered by the park's theme artist. Alan Walker's the man behind all the sculptures, signs, ideas and stories the theme park attractions tell. My job is all about kids extending their creativity and imagination. It's all about making it more than just hop on the ride and hop off it.'' When he first started in the role only one minute of the ride was themed. He made it his goal to extend the thrill. It's not just about what's on the ride, it's about what they see as well.'' There used to just be scenes of pixies but Mr Walker wanted more. I said: Why don't we build a pirate town'.'' That's exactly what they did, complete with drunken pirates, buildings and a dinghy. Mr Walker spends his days in a workshop in the company of pixies, aliens, pirate skulls and dinosaur eggs. The room is a scene of organised chaos but it's where the magic of Rainbow's End really comes to life. Being a theme artist is hardly a run of the mill job and Mr Walker says there's no such thing as an average day. I can be working on six projects at once, which can be very exciting. When you're doing a whole park you do a little bit, leave and then come back again.'' The jack-of-all-trades doesn't stick to one medium either -- he does everything from sculpting to painting to sketching and t-shirt design. He even directed and filmed a short black-and- white western film that screens while people are waiting to ride the Gold Rush. I do a bit of everything. There's no one material I work with.'' Mr Walker's creativity started as a youngster build- ing model airplanes. Then I thought I don't need to buy this stuff, I can make it.'' His foray into theming was inspired 15 years ago by a trip to the holy grail of theme parks. I saw places like Disney- land and thought I'd love to do something like that here.'' Before starting at Rainbow's End two years ago Mr Walker worked on movies and television programmes. He created the fibreglass Popsicle figures that stand on Tip Top corner. He's also used his skills at home and built his daughter a Disney-style castle in the backyard when she was younger. Now she's a teenager, she's a little harder to impress. When she was younger it was cool. Now it's just dad stuff'.'' As long as Mr Walker stays at the park, log flume riders have a lot to look forward to. He has big ideas to help with expanding the thrill''. Eventually there'll be a replica of a sunken pirate ship and pirates floating on pieces of wood in the lake. Pixies will shoot cannons at the boat and the pirates will talk to them. It sounds ambitious but it's just another day at work for Mr Walker. That's the key to doing this -- whatever you can think of, I can make.''
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