These Greek gods are crazy! The colossal statue that welcomes visitors to the Tonnerre de Zeus attraction at Parc Astérix now wears pink panties. This sartorial eccentricity (can you imagine Taranis or Belenos wearing panties under their breeches?) has one virtue: to notify in a very visible way (especially for Instagram followers…) the rehabilitation of the emblematic wooden roller coaster. Closed for several months, the famous attraction reopened in the spring under the name Tonnerre de Zeus 2.
Pink panties aside, the project manager for this rehabilitation himself acknowledges that “the majority of the public will not realize that there have been changes. » What exactly are we talking about? “The main change concerns the train, which is a new model, more efficient and better articulated, explains Damien Thibault. The course has been modified too, bumps and inclines, and a tunnel with special effects. For us, or for people in the community, even regular visitors, these are big changes. »
Air time of my life
Quite unspectacular in appearance, this rehabilitation was nevertheless necessary to stick to the current standards of this type of sensational attraction. “We removed a curve that was uncomfortable, where the train was hitting the bend. As the train goes faster and the route is a little shorter, the time spent in the attraction has been reduced. But we gain in intensity. In addition to comfort, passengers will be able to count on a record number of air timesthose moments when you have the feeling of falling into the void and floating.
The third favorite attraction for Parc Astérix visitors (after Osiris and the Pégase Express), Tonnerre de Zeus has a reputation to uphold, that of the emblematic roller coaster, which can be seen (and heard, thank you criers) from afar. Damien Thibault assumes this arms race that the major amusement parks are engaged in: “There are more family parks, there are parks specializing in thrilling attractions. We have to be good everywhere to seduce all audiences, that’s our strategy and our positioning. With this kind of attractions, there is an expectation of thrills. It is a must to have this roller coaster. »
Faster, higher, more upside down
Of course, Parc Astérix could not close its star attraction for too long (six months of work) and did not want to revolutionize it either. However, he intends to attract a new audience, or bring back old visitors, thanks to this rehabilitation. “In terms of attractiveness, nothing beats a new attraction. But with a Thunder of Zeus 2, it is believed that the curiosity effect will be very strong. At the moment there are a lot of people but it is also linked to two years of closures and restrictions. People stopped themselves from coming and there they are catching up…”
As to whether visitors are demanding ever faster and more impressive clusters, who knows who can answer. “There are no explicit requests on this, recognizes Damien Thibault. And one might think that we are falling a bit into an “always more” trap with this kind of rehabilitation. But with a wooden roller coaster, you need regular maintenance anyway. So might as well improve it, right? »
To stay up to date, a car in the opposite direction has even been added, for the more adventurous. On the other hand, Tonnerre de Zeus 2 has not yielded to the other major trend of the moment: the scripting of the queue. Most of the new attractions keep visitors waiting (for Tonnerre de Zeus, it can easily take an hour to wait…) with sketches and decorations on the theme of the merry-go-round. “It was not possible with the Tonnerre de Zeus which does not really have a storyline, argues Damien Thibault. People also have a habit. For this attraction, the noises and cries of people on the train are enough to create the atmosphere…”
We finish the roller coaster well
Even without mentioning this rehabilitation which should extend its lifespan, Tonnerre de Zeus, created in 1997, is already a veteran. To the point of dying one day? “We are not considering it at the moment, laughs Damien Thibault. It’s very rare that we abandon an attraction. At Parc Astérix, this was the case with the Transdemonium, which required a lot of maintenance and whose feedback was quite poor. We closed it and threw it away. »
If one day Tonnerre de Zeus were to suffer the same fate, there is little chance that his boards would end up in chimneys. “There is a big second-hand market in the amusement park community,” says Damien Thibault. We redo the sets, we change the size so that it adapts to the new site… Not all parks are required, like Parc Astérix, to innovate constantly. »
For the Thunder of Zeus 3, in 2050, we put on a little green panties of the Greek god.