x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Some novel ideas for theme parks

It's one thing to turn Harry Potter into a theme park, but let's not forget Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare and a host of other classics.

An artist's impression of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a forthcoming US theme park.
An artist's impression of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a forthcoming US theme park.

We've had the books, the films, the video games, Lego sets, costumes, and soon, the theme park will be opening its doors. There is no date, yet, for the official opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but parents everywhere are breaking into a sweat at the thought of accompanying their offspring to the 20-acre site. Tickets aren't for sale yet, but it's not going to come cheap. Set deep in the theme-park territory of Orlando, Florida, it has cost an estimated $260 million (Dh955m) to create. The first advert for the opening was aired during Sunday's Super Bowl last weekend, showing two small children on broomsticks racing through the park with a cameo from the Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.

But what's there? Universal hasn't furnished us with many details, although the official website was updated last week with an online tour. Through the entrance gate we go, to be greeted by a re-creation of the Hogwarts express. Then we're in Hogsmeade, where every shop is Potter-themed. Honeydukes will offer Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans and chocolate frogs; in Ollivanders, visitors will get the chance to try out various "magic" wands and in The Three Broomsticks, we can knock back a pint of non-alcoholic Butterbeer, made from a butterscotch recipe tested to perfection by JK Rowling herself.

Rides include two roller coasters: the Dragon Challenge, which runs at high speed; and Flight of the Hippogriff, which offers a more sedate journey. Central to the whole park, however, is the mammoth recreation of Hogwarts itself, which stands at 150 feet tall, though has been constructed using architectural tricks that make it appear four times that height. The inside of Hogwarts is a great secret, although we're told there will be trips to Dumbledore's office and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Most intriguing of all is the mysteriously named ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which the official site proudly proclaims is an "amazing new attraction that uses groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology to create a one-of-a-kind ride".

Yes, yes, yes. That's all very well and good but what about other books? Don't they also deserve to have such a creation named after them? Why not a Shakespeare theme park, with a ghost train through Macbeth's Cawdor castle, a teacup spin through the magical world of A Midsummer Night's Dream, or a trip to the gift shop to buy a small bottle of Romeo and Juliet love potion. A Pride and Prejudice theme park might not appeal to all, but what woman could resist lessons in the art of Regency dance, or a trip down the Pemberley log flume? An offshoot of that could be the Bridget Jones Land of Doom, where visitors (mostly female, one presumes) can enjoy the ups and downs of the Love Rollercoaster, break for a spot of turkey curry lunch and pick up a Christmas jersey on the way out.

More erudite? Try Kafka World, where you can dress up as a beetle for the day, be placed in the stocks and have apples pelted at you. Or The Magical Kingdom of The Grapes of Wrath, where you can sit on the Route 66 ride, the slowest ride in theme park history, which will probably break down along the way. The Lord of the Rings is crying out to be made into a theme park. Movie studios are missing a trick there. Walk through Hobbiton and crawl into Bilbo Baggins' house to try a ring on for size, sit tight on Sauron's Swing, which takes you deep into the volcanic earthquake in Mordor, and spin on the Ent, or talking tree, merry-go-round.

Twilight is another obvious one. Naturally, there would be a Volturi vampire ride, at the beginning of which you would be handed waterproofs so your clothes don't emerge with flecks of blood over them. Werewolf dodgems would feature, as would some kind of interactive prom for visitors to dress up and take part in the authentic, American high-school experience. Finally, what's not to like about The Road theme park? Based on Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel, you and a partner of your choice (a small child works best) will wander the deserted streets of the park. All the rides will have broken down, you will be unable to buy food at any of the outlets so be forced to scavenge the bins in search of sustenance and so return home with the distinct sense of having been ripped off. Much like you might find, in due course, when carrying home plastic tat from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All in all, the magical theme park experience.

* Sophia Money-Coutts