Graham Maycock of Orangeville walks threw the doors of the blue mythical castle built on a 50-acre piece of land in Amaranth, shakes his fist at the cameras and belts out his war cry, “Fist pump. Fist Pump. Yeah.”
In front of the 13-year-old lies an obstacle course featuring a spinning mace wheel, a pair of moving giant foam axes, a floor engulfed by millions of gallons of water and two trigger happy gladiators armed with a gun ready to fire soapy Nerf balls the youngster’s way.
“Oh my gosh. This is going to be fun, but hard,” Maycock recalled thinking. “I thought it was going to be a lot easier, but it was a lot harder than I expected.”
That challenge is exactly what hundreds of youngsters have, or will, face when they encounter the world of Splatalot, a medieval-themed game show produced by Toronto-based film company, marblemedia. After keeping mum on what the teens may face inside the castle for some time now, “I think we’ve been successful on overwhelming them,” the show’s co-creator and producer Matt Hornburg said.
“We’re seeing the shock in their faces,” he said. “But, they just have no fear sometimes. They’re really willing to try daring things and for me, I think, the biggest surprise is you never know what you’re going to get.”
Hornburg added the need to shock competitors as highly important, especially considering they’re probably already watching prime time adult challenge shows on television.
“You need to have it feel big and impressive, not cheap and simple,” he said. “(The castle) is a multi-million dollar device — there is a huge amount of innovation that went into it, mechanics and the specialized foam as well.”
After the show wraps up filming in early October, Splatalot is scheduled to air on YTV during March Break, ABC Australia next spring and the BBC in England next summer, Hornburg said. Each of this season’s 26 episodes feature 12 contestants, known as the Attackers, facing off against gladiators, the Defenders of Splatalot, over three stages — cross the moat, escaping the stockades and finally, capturing the crown.
“They see these giant 14-foot in the air battle axes that are moving that they have to climb over top of,” Hornburg explained of the course. “This huge mace wheel that they have to run across with these big foam protruding things. It is a pretty big deal.”
Orangeville’s Melanie Gallant is psyched to test her skills, as she’s been chosen to navigate hey way through Spaltalot on Sept. 24. Completely in the dark and not knowing what to expect, the 14-year-old is excited to “just be on TV,” but has no idea how she’ll do compared to others.
“I don’t know what other people I’m facing. They could be really athletic too,” she laughed, noting the added bonus of missing school on Sept. 24. “I’ll get to try something that I’ve never experienced before.”
However, as Hornburg explained, competitors shouldn’t assume athletic teenagers are going to complete the course more successfully than others.
“Don’t think that the tall athletic jock is necessarily the one to win the race. We’ve had people from all shapes, size and backgrounds that have done really well,” he said. “And there are others that we expected more from that just found it really challenging.”
Receiving about 1,000 applicants, producers for the show chose 312 teenagers, many of which call Dufferin and its surrounding community home. One of those local residents, Chris Dixon, 15, of Shelburne, who took part on Wednesday (Sept. 8), said it was nothing like he expected.
“It was pretty hectic. … Like Wipeout for teens,” Dixon said, only divulging competitors should to expect to get wet. “It was great though. You’re doing this thing that people don’t normally do.”
If you ask Hornburg, any competitors missing their chance to get in front of cameras this time around may get another chance to test their might against the sheer force of Splatalot. As he explained, the show’s immediate popularity and growing fan base on Facebook already has producers alluding to a second season.
“If that is any indication, it means that we have a really big hit on our hands,” Hornburg said. “Hopefully, we can go back there and shoot for the next three to five years.”