Fully immersive themed lands are ALL the rage these days at theme parks all over the globe. In 2010, Universal Orlando Resort blew everything we knew about theme park experiences apart when they opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at their Islands of Adventure park. The fully-immersive, intellectual property experience was an instant smash. They, of course, followed it up by opening the Diagon Alley expansion next door at Universal Studios Orlando in 2014 and additional Harry Potter lands opened in Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood. Millions of visitors have flocked to these lands.
They were a hit, is what I’m saying.
Universal’s Central Florida neighbors took notice. Disney countered in 2012 with an immersive Cars Land at California Adventure in Anaheim. Announcements and work quickly began as Disney unveiled its plans for more immersive intellectual property lands of its own. 2017 will see the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and they are (quite famously) building new Star Wars lands at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. As well, as a completely new Toy Story land at WDW.
It doesn’t (and won’t) stop there. Rumors and plans of heavily-themed attractions for Nintendo/Mario (Universal) and Doctor Who (BBC/Paramount) as well as other fan-favorite worlds are already in the pipeline.
With everything headed the way it is, who’s to say what the next round of immersive lands will look like. But, if we had a say, here are a few we’d love to see:
Let’s get this right out of the way up front. We have two small children. We also have a television. We’ve seen every episode of Paw Patrol. Every episode of Blaze and the Monster Machines. Countless episodes of Team Umizoomi, Bubble Guppies, Blue’s Clues, Diego, Dora (original Dora, please…none of this “tween” nonsense) etc. etc. etc. On a trip to Disney World last year, our then 2 year-old asked aloud and often where the Paw Patrol rides were.
So, alright. I’ll bite. Where ARE the Paw Patrol rides? Surely Viacom could pony up some cash and build a park somewhere that catered to families, right? There could be an Adventure Bay section, a Umi City section. A whatever-the-name-of-the-underwater-cave-where-the-Bubble Guppies-live-is section. There are no fewer than 1,700 shows on Nick Jr. A filled-out theme park would hardly be a difficult thing to come up with.
I mentioned we had kids, right? Well, one of them is a Kindergartner and He. Loves. Pokémon. I can’t say that I, personally, would love an immersive themed land based on Pikachu and his buddies, but I CERTAINLY can’t say that it wouldn’t be massively popular. I honestly don’t know what it would look like or what kind of crazy, Psychic-Dragon-type-inspired rides would be available. But, I have to think the ideas would be pretty limitless.
UPDATE: Apparently, there WAS a place called PokéPark in Japan that was open for just a few months several years ago. So, maybe it wouldn’t be that popular…
Ah. Now, here we delve into TOTAL fantasy. Given the fact that Disney owns the rights to the Muppets and has already incorporated them into a couple of its theme parks, this is a stretch. But there was supposed to be a Muppets Land at Disney-MGM Studios back in the day! And it would have been awesome! And I want it to be real!
Universal already has rights to the Illumination catalog of animated characters. Disney has Disney (obvs) and Pixar. But, what of the DreamWorks properties? Who would we….wait, I just looked it up. Universal actually owns these, too. So, nevermind. I guess we’re just a few years removed from that Boss Baby Mega-Coaster I was going to write about.
Alright. Let’s take a stab at something that should actually happen. In 1998, Disney built an entire theme park about animals: Disney’s Animal Kingdom. What better place to build an immersive replica of the titular city from the Oscar-winning film?
Look, I get that people love Avatar…but, no matter how many YouTube videos you show me of the new rides at Pandora, I just can’t get excited about Animal Kingdom’s new expansion. Mostly because A) it’s not Disney and B) it’s ANIMAL KINGDOM. Not “Made up alien world Kingdom.”
I know, I know. “But there’s a DRAGON on the original sign!”
Look, the Avatar stuff may be cool. That’s fine. It just doesn’t belong at Animal Kingdom, in my opinion. There. I said it. (UPDATE: It’s pretty great, actually.) But…an entire immersive CITY inhabited by walking/talking ANIMALS? Come on!
Would it be spectacular? Yes. Yes it would.
While we’re on the subject of actual Disney IPs – and though it wouldn’t technically be a “land” – why is there no version of Litwak’s Family Fun Center & Arcade anywhere at a Disney park?
There are rumors of a Sugar Rush-inspired VR ride in the works at Magic Kingdom which would be amazing. But how ridiculous would it be to walk into an arcade and throw a quarter or two into a Fix It Felix, Jr. arcade game? Or waste a couple of hours trying to conquer Hero’s Duty? Surely there’s room at the doomed DisneyQuest for something like this, yeah?
LEGO MOVIE FRANCHISE
The LEGOLAND theme parks have been successful. The LEGO Movie movies have been successful. Why not build out a themed land where Emmett and Wild Style and Vitruvius (and Batman!) roam freely? The “citizen-built” food stands would be awesome enough. In fact, I dare say…EVERYTHING would be awesome! (Good luck getting that song out of your head now.)
What other immersive lands would you like to see at the world’s theme parks?