The Best One Yet

After the success of my last attraction, Pest Control, I was keen to continue improving and creating better, deeper, richer experiences and with JOY I aimed to create the most immersive and detailed attraction I’ve made to date. A lot of the bigger budget went on new special effects that enhance the drama of the experience including DMX lighting, a sequencing box, mist wiring and endless pieces of tapestry.

Theme & Backstory

A strong story-led experience is a big ethos of The Joy Sequence. I wanted to create a story that can be taken as simply or as deeply as the guest desired. If they only want a light understanding, that they can have, but if they want to dive deeper into the theme and backstory, that’s available to explore.

The simplified premise is that JOY is a box told to have magical power, sitting in a shrine protected by the Joyseekers. Various symbolic tapestries and poetry decorated the surroundings and can be read to understand that on every completed lunar cycle, the box calls out a jingle, its crank handle turns and it unleashes its contents upon those who surround it – pure joy. However, JOY can sense those who do and do not believe in its power, and those who do not are thrown a curse, imprisoning them in a kind of hell, compromising them all of their senses, trapping them within the box forever.

Not so scary?

Instead of being outright intimidating and spooky from the beginning, I wanted to explore a different angle. Everything that surrounds this attraction, the tranquil and meditative music, the blue and turquoise branding, the breezy village draped in flowing art, is all of a mostly pleasant and blissful vibe. On the face of it this attraction is ‘supposed’ to be a totally pleasant experience, you go into the shrine and receive pure joy, nothing can be bad about that right? Of course it can. But how can it be so serene and untroubled when you simply know it won’t be? And at what point could something go wrong? Enter tension and uneasy nervous laughter. You’re told from the beginning that something bad happens to non-believers, and that all you have to do for everything to go swimmingly is “believe”. Believe what? Who knows. All you have to do is believe.

The 6 Senses

The marketing and teaser for JOY focusses on your 6 senses. The 6th sense being joy. The Joyseekers purposely avoid stimuli, living simply and off the land to unlock their minds to maximum joy. I triggered everyone’s senses in the following ways:

Sight

The sense of sight was first treated with bright symbolic tapestries and patterned cloth, and later compromised by total darkness and blinding strobes illuminating only the thick smoke in front of your face.

Smell

The Shrine needed a distinctive smell, so after consulting with the very helpful AromaPrime, I chose to use their scent ‘Werewolf’, it has just the right touch of magic and mystique to it that I was looking for.

Touch

From things touching you in the dark, textured walls, obstacles to duck under and water effects, I ensured your personal space was attacked at all times.

Sound

The Joyseeker’s village was blessed with soothing sounds, relaxing melodies and atmospheric wind chimes in the soundtrack that I created for the attraction. But as soon as the curse hit, incessant hammering bass and reverberated screeches of terror pierced the ears of the non-believers.

Taste

Magical punch and garlic-infused sweetcorn was available in the shop and turned out to be very popular. I’m still working on a safe and legal way to force people to involuntarily taste something…

The Joyseeker's Village

Surrounded by hanging tapestries, blissful music and teepees, the queue line takes you on a journey through the Joyseekers’ village. The Shrine blocked off by various teepee walls and draped cloth, you and your group only get to see it when it’s your turn to enter, keeping the suspense throughout. A Joyseeker can be seen sitting on the grass, playing cards, passing time, waiting for the next lunar cycle to be over so they can receive their joy once more. Unlike my previous attractions where guests’ reactions were exposed for all to see, people exiting this attraction are hidden out of view as they emerge down a secluded passage of tapestry and mist effects, getting them a bit wet for one last surprise, before entering the shop teepee. This kept everyone in suspense and made the experience feel much more personal and less ‘one in one out’.

The Cursed Gazebo

The Cursed Gazebo is the first teepee that guests enter and acts as the waiting area for each group before going into the Shrine. I used this teepee as the turning point for where things start to turn a shade darker. Away from the tranquility of the village outside, this tent begins to remind people of the consequences of not believing before it’s their turn to worship. They are warned with poetry written by the Joyseekers (poet Phil Cramp), statues of heads having had their senses compromised, a ‘4 believers at a time’ sign and ‘commandments’ rules/health warning board designed by Josh Shaw that warns people of strobe lights and simulated fog etc. It’s all vague enough to make you understand the gist of the story, and certainly enough to make you not want to be a non-believer. Themed safety warning audio and a summoning announcement play before it’s your turn to enter the Shrine.

The Shrine

Surrounded by sequenced pulsing blue lights rigged up to the ceiling and hypnotic drums and chants, guests enter the Shrine and take their seats. The box that they’ve been made unavoidably aware of since the beginning, constructed out of screws, hinges, MDF boards and painted (and kindly foam padded on the inside as people will be crawling through it), sits before them. Once everyone is sat and prepared, the lights dim to black as the box glows up in front of them. Whispers of JOY echo around them with deep pulsing bass rattling the room as blue and trippy ultraviolet lights shine down onto the box.

The room falls into pitch black as the jingle begins. At this point people start to get nervous as they can’t see a single thing, intensifying the suspense of the already suspenseful jingle. The jingle is interrupted before it completes its tune and whispers of a ‘non-believer’ emerge from the box, while sounds of deep rumbling, voices, screeching birds and unintelligible chants intensify, getting louder and louder, getting people braced on the edge of their seat for something to happen. Flashes of light strike the room triggering the first jump scare and sounds of dripping water are heard before guests are shot in the face with water, whilst still in pitch black, creating a brilliant jump scare that had everyone screaming just how I wanted. To achieve this effect on a low budget, the person operating the control box hidden behind a curtain next to the box would peek a water gun out of a hole and fire mercilessly.

Just before guests can wipe their noses, sirens and red lights flood the corridor to their left marked ‘non-believers exit route’, leading off into the darkness. The ticking of a clock echoes through the Shrine as it’s time to run. Loud and intense audio attacks their sense of sound as they navigate corridors of thick smoke and strobes, blinding them, hanging obstructions causing them to duck and feel their way through attack their sense of touch. The entire experience of these corridors was designed to make you feel isolated, stranded, like all of your senses have been stolen, and this worked a treat on guest vlogger Nikki from Lush Velvet Coasters, as can be seen from her experience video here.

Escaping the box

At the end of the corridors you find yourself lost in fog, with nothing but a bright blue light visible from down below. Following and walking into the light, you get down and crawl through the tunnel to the end where you find a ‘PUSH’ wall covered in hand prints. Pushing the door open, you find yourself exiting out of the very box you were sat in front of minutes ago. You have escaped the curse of JOY in time.

Take JOY Home

A new element of this attraction was the inclusion of a gift shop at the end of the experience. A teepee directly at the end of the exit path, ‘Take Joy Home’ tempts guests to a selection of themed merchandise, popcorn, magical punch and little goodies they could buy to support The Joy Sequence. Of course, amongst these offerings were the fridge magnets, so everyone could add to their collection of magnets from the previous attractions, The Grotto and Pest Control.

The Joyseekers

In contrast to Pest Control where the stars of the show were the staff in costume, acting as cold and sinister characters to the event, JOY took a more subtle approach. The Joyseekers acted as friendly but ambient entities, minding their own business, passing time, the Joyseekers simply exist in this location, this story is about you and your experience. They were dressed in loose striped fabrics and light blue tones, very much muted and in keeping with the theme.

The Vine of Joy

As a giveaway gift to entice people to answer my survey in order for me to learn more about what people noticed and what people want in future attractions, I created a Vine of Joy wine bottle, containing a delicious blend of magic and Sainsbury’s own to enrich all 6 senses!

Tales from The Joyseekers

A book of poetry was also written by Phil Cramp to accompany the attraction, adding depth to the story. You can get the free Kindle book or order a paperback copy here!

JOY 2.0?

Something I would be very keen to develop with this attraction is introducing a more active approach to the story. Due to space limitations, guests’ fate was locked to being deemed non-believers, and the halls of the curse were walked by all (but one, who left half way through the preshow due to fear).

A second instalment could see the box making a decision on whether those who sit before it are believers or non-believers, sending them down individual paths making the experience even more re-doable and would create great contrasts and discussions in the Take Joy Home teepee afterwards.

Have a question?

Feel free to ask me anything on twitter, Instagram, or by email!

And remember – all you have to do is believe.