Recently, the ambitious plans for 20th Century Fox World theme park were announced, setting fan and industry-related sites abuzz with commentary and activity around the world. The new resort, which is set to be built in Dubai, is a much larger project than Fox has ever taken on, and by all accounts, this project certainly has teeth.
Theme Park Adventure has scrutinized the project’s press release, tracked down multiple quotes by employees of Rethink Leisure & Entertainment, and has gone over every inch of the fairly-detailed concept art of Fox World Dubai. We’ve drawn our own conclusions and thought it would be fun to share them with you. Whether or not any of them are correct certainly is anyone’s guess. However, it’s helpful sometimes to come at these things from our professional background, to explain our thoughts and educate fans as to why we see things the way we do from time to time. In the end, we simply want our enthusiastic speculation to come off as interesting and thought-provoking to you. TPA usually doesn’t get into this territory; on occasion, something comes along that is so juicy, we can’t resist rolling up our sleeves and getting into the thick of it just for fun!
What we’ll do now is break this all down for you, piece by piece. First, you will read the company’s official press release. Second, we’ll present quotes that we’ve found online from members of the Rethink team working directly with 20th Century Fox on this project. Third, we’ll take a look together at the concept art and throw our own ideas and thoughts out to you for digestion and then discussion, if you are so moved. Ready? Let’s dig in:
The Press Release
Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG) in an international licensing partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, announced plans to build a Fox-branded theme park and resort in Dubai. This will be the second 20th Century Fox World theme park and the first Fox-branded resort. The deal allows for a roll-out of up to three additional Fox-branded resorts in territories outside Dubai. 20th Century Fox World, Dubai, an immersive entertainment destination, will encompass themed lands featuring unique attractions, rides and retail outlets that will bring to life the studio’s iconic film and television franchises. The licensing partnership with AAHG also calls for the creation of the world’s first Fox-branded resort, where themed rooms and dining opportunities will offer visitors a chance to further immerse themselves in the entertainment brands and rich history of 20th Century Fox.
Highlights of 20th Century Fox World, Dubai will include:
- Theme park consisting of themed lands and attractions based on Fox properties, including, Ice Age, Rio, Planet of the Apes, Aliens, Predator, Night at the Museum and Titanic, The Simpsons and Sons of Anarchy.
- A broad attraction mix, ranging from media-based dark rides to thrill rides that will tell new stories based on Fox film and television brands.
- A themed retail street featuring unique shopping and dining based on Fox properties.
- The world’s first Fox-themed resort hotel.
“20th Century Fox World, Dubai is the second Fox theme park destination and marks an important step forward in our global theme park strategy. Fox World will be a world-class destination that will help fuel Dubai’s emergence as a global tourism destination,” said Jeffrey Godsick, President of Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products. “This park builds on the foundation being laid by 20th Century Fox World, Malaysia, currently under construction.”
Mohammed Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Holding Group said, “AAHG’s history in the genre of entertainment is replete with successful partnerships with top motion picture studios. We pride ourselves in understanding the pulse of the audience and catering to it with novel and breakthrough projects.
“Fox’s rich history of great entertainment-based intellectual properties from movies, television shows and animation concepts will help us spearhead this project and add value to our latest offering in the global entertainment space. As part of our international deal with Fox, we look forward to building these attractions and resorts globally starting with Dubai as the first location and additional Fox branded resorts that we hope to open across other territories in the future,”added Khammas about AAHG’s deal with Fox.
“We are thrilled to partner with Al Ahli Holding Group on this exciting project,” said Greg Lombardo, Senior Vice President of Global Live and Location Based Entertainment for Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products. “20th Century Fox World, Dubai will provide an ongoing platform for immersive brand engagement with our consumers from around the world, including key international markets of Europe, Russia and China.”
“The synergy created by AAHG’s partnership with Fox will enable 20th Century Fox World, Dubai to offer the consumers in the Middle East and global tourists visiting Dubai to experience world-class facilities with unique attractions and retail outlets that will take themed entertainment to a different level,” said Manoj Aheeray, Director of Investment and Strategy for AAHG.
20th Century Fox World Dubai is slated to open in 2018, Design and Production services are being provided by Rethink Leisure & Entertainment.
Miscellaneous Quotes From Rethink Leisure & Entertainment
- “The entire team at Rethink is honored to be working on this fantastic project, in one of the most exciting regions in the world. As envisioned, we are looking to create a world-class theme park destination unlike anything previously seen in the region.” – Scott Ault, President & CEO, Rethink (InPark Magazine)
- “Our work on the resort is just beginning, but I’m proud of the effort that the creative team here at Rethink has put forth. From day one, our design goal has been to bring to life exciting worlds that guests can experience with all five senses. Right now, those worlds are only pixels on a screen, but in the coming months, earthworks will give way to alien landscapes, redwood forests and prehistoric glaciers. Our team is looking forward to doing the hard work that’s going to get us there.” – Joshua Updike, Chief Creative Officer, Rethink (Screamscape.com)
- “Given the rich source material, we owe it to the fans to be as immersive as possible. Our industry is trending toward deeper, more detailed experiences, and so are guest expectations. We want you to believe you’re on an alien planet or flying through the Amazon. It’s all about believability.” – Gary Blumenstein, Senior Creative Director, Rethink (NewsPlusNotes.com)
- “Rethink is excited to be working with HBG on the creative integration of our hotel and theme park designs for Fox Studios Dubai. Collaborating with HBG’s team and utilizing their extensive expertise in resort design will result in an extraordinarily entertaining guest experience.” – John Rust, Senior Creative Director, Rethink (HBGInc.com)
Detail Dissection and Discussion
At first glance, the release about Fox World is typical; a standard announcement of a park that is going to “unlike anything” and “fully immersive”, and so on. We get it. Everyone says it, regardless of what the project is – they’re industry PR 101 buzz words that executives love to use and fans eat up. The fact of the matter is, themed entertainment has been immersive on a large scale since the 1800s; theme parks may be more elaborate and attractions certainly are bigger and pushing the limits now than ever before. But when you step back and look at history, immersive attractions have been there all along.
Before I even get to the matter of the theme park artwork and attractions, I want to share two thoughts on the remarks/quotes that have been made by the Rethink group, which is a relatively new force in the themed entertainment industry. They have some heavy hitters on their staff, which is one of the reasons I took pause – and a more than glancing interest – in this particular story/release.
If you read each of the above quotes carefully, they all have a common thread – the desire to create all-encompassing environments; three-dimensional locales that guests pass through, and become part of. Today, way too many attractions are media-based with minimal theming, as opposed to large-scale, elaborate dark rides. Most of the time, this is a client-driven thing, as creative teams are told to find a low budget and stay there. That usually translates to media; screens, shooters, and/or simulators. While there definitely is some of that specific language in play regarding this particular park, there is a lot of meat – or at least, there appears to be – if you read between the lines and zero in on what the Rethink creatives are saying.
Statements such as, “…earthworks will give way to alien landscapes, redwood forests and prehistoric glaciers…” and, “…we want you to believe you’re on an alien planet or flying through the Amazon…” tell me that there is much more at play here than a few show buildings boxes with media screens. Everything the team has said, indicates a shift from media-heavy rides to more practical, dark ride-type environments. If that’s the case, it’s going to be music to fans’ ears – the writing is on the wall that most people are sick of media-only/heavy attractions, and the public wants more large-scale dark ride experiences these days instead of digital ones.
I’m going to take this one step further and shed some light on one particular individual that is prominent in this story, Gary Blumenstein. Most fans wouldn’t know him – and that’s not at all surprising. For decades, Gary has served the themed entertainment community as a creative director and show writer, the latter rarely receiving much credit at all, since all of the “fortune and glory” tends to always go to the executives spearheading projects or filmmakers behind intellectual properties attractions are based on. Show writers rarely get much credit at all, which is something particularly near and dear to me, since that’s exactly what my forte is in the industry as well. Full disclosure – I have known Gary for a while; that personal connection however, is not the reason I am calling his involvement out here in this story. While he’s worked on many projects as a show writer through the years, I am going to name three projects that just about any theme park fan will know; ready to raise a brow? Indiana Jones Adventure – Temple of the Forbidden Eye, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
How’s that for an attention-getter? It certainly piqued my interest. Having someone of Gary’s caliber on the creative team tells me instantly that these aren’t small-scale attractions being called out for Fox World Dubai. While certainly adept at creating narratives for media-heavy rides and experiences, there’s no one I look up to more than Gary when it comes to a proven track record of creating the real deal – true “world-class” experiences that have always been mind-melting, from the jungles of Adventureland at Disneyland to the cobblestone corridors of Knockturn Alley. Everyone talks the talk – Gary has been there in the trenches, and has helped imagine attractions that have shaped and re-shaped the guest experience and industry itself. Knowing that he’s on this project tells me this isn’t all smoke and mirrors – and that what we have here, is something substantial.
Let’s take a look at the park under a magnifying glass and throw out some solid speculation:
Fox World Dubai Hotel
What we know: We know that there will be a resort hotel that doubles as the entryway/gateway to the theme park. It’s seen in the concept art, and it’s noted in the official press release as the world’s first Fox-themed resort hotel. This is the same type of hotel/gateway that has been done before around the world, including Disney’s Grand Californian at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, and the Disneyland Hotel in Paris. These types of hotels offer guests unique, special views into their counterpart theme parks, allowing for higher room rates and better master plan integration. It’s a solid move, and one that is known to work well.
What we can speculate: I’m going to throw a curve ball here, and say this looks to me like two separate resort hotels; not just one sprawling one. They are completely disconnected at the center, and just looking at the rendering, it appears that they vary design. If this is the case, then we can further speculate that the two hotels will likely vary greatly in style and price. While Dubai is certainly a wealthy region, it also draws a lot of visitors looking for good value for their money. The hotel on the right appears to have a highly-themed exterior on its park side, indicating strong integration to the land/zone its facing. It also features a large pool area, which could very well appeal to families looking to relax and have fun outside of the park itself. The hotel on the left features a large porte-cochere, indicative of a more highbrow design to accommodate guests and their vehicles immediately upon arrival. There is a large rooftop space indicated on the left, which looks like an outdoor bar/social space complete with string lights and fountains. Bars are a tricky thing in Dubai; they must be attached to hotels or private clubs in order to be licensed. That said, there are probably bars planned within both Fox World Dubai hotels, with the more high-end one featuring a really neat rooftop view into the park beyond. Most certainly, this will be attractive to guests staying at the resort – and the view of any fireworks from the park will likely be spectacular!
Fox World Entry Feature
What we know: At the entrance of Fox World, you can see a large building featuring the name “20th Century Fox” with guests indicated entering and exiting one opening. The building itself is fairly large in size, and is tall, visible to guests as they enter and exit the theme park as well as from the two resort hotels nearby.
What we can speculate: This is the park’s “castle”, drawing guests in and immediately establishing corporate branding… YOU ARE HERE. What guests will find inside is likely very similar to the Disney Animation Building at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim. Once inside, guests will be surrounded by iconic moments from Fox’s library of film and television properties, no doubt accented with loud music and intense show lighting. There may be interactive museum-like displays that can be rotated out, and guests may also find mini attractions, including art “classes”, film “editing” kiosks, and/or sound foley interactives. This would be a great place to showcase awards, costumes, and props from classic Fox properties.
Night at the Museum Attraction
What we know: Based on the official Fox World Dubai press release, we know that there will be a Night at the Museum attraction featured in the park. The concept art shows what we believe fits that theme; a large building with an Easter Island-style statue at its entrance blowing a bubble gum bubble. Judging by the size of guests entering and exiting the building in the artwork, the structure seems to be pretty tall in scale, possible 30 feet in height or more.
What we can speculate: The shape of Night at the Museum (if this is, in fact that) is pretty box-like, indicating a compact ride track, or perhaps a two-story ride path, much like Transformers utilizes here in the United States to save footprint space. This could also be some sort of 4-D theatrical attraction, with various antiquities coming to life and engaging in battle/wreaking havoc within the theater space as guests scream and laugh, caught in the middle of the action. It’s not a small structure by any means – but it is fairly large, and definitely houses an attraction of some sort; HVAC is even indicated on the building’s roof.
The Simpsons – Springfield
What we know: There is a very large Simpsons presence within Fox World Dubai, which has been indicated by the press release. It’s also completely visible in the artwork for the park, complete with a large “Welcome to Springfield” entry arch. There are multiple components to this area, including the Springfield County Court House, Krusty Burger restaurant, Aztec theatre, a Krusty the Clown-themed carnival, multiple “food trucks”, the Lard Lad Donuts icon, and the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant (which features two really tall smokestacks), all indicated in the concept art. This is a large-scale component to Fox World, appearing to be much larger in scale and scope to the depictions of Springfield at Universal Studios’ parks.
What we can speculate: Since The Simpsons is such a beloved and highly-successful IP for Fox, one might imaging that the park will feature not just a few food and beverage facades, but a true reproduction of Springfield; that is exactly what we appear to be looking at in the concept rendering. There is a Town Square that is lined with buildings – each appears to be its own thing, from food and beverage to retail. Springfield also looks to be attraction-heavy, with at least two or three show buildings indicated here – the Court House, Power Plant, and the carnival; each building is also a pretty sizable footprint, as well. The Court House is adjacent to the Power Plant; the two combined could be the facade of a very large ride building/track. The Simpsons attraction at Universal’s parks is a massive simulator – chances are, Fox doesn’t want to repeat itself – I’d imagine that the attractions found in Springfield here will be anything but simulators. A live show? Doubtful. Dark rides of some type – quite possibly; one with an overall Simpsons theme, and maybe some sort of interactive one for the carnival space. The idea of a Springfield reproduction in a park other than Universal is a bit odd – at least for those of us here in the United States. However, The Simpsons is definitely a major part of the Fox portfolio, and it appears that someone high on the food chain wants a bigger, better Springfield. One component that is likely going to be a glaring omission of Springfield is Duff Gardens, due to the country’s laws on bars/alcohol in public. There does appear to be a row of business fronts in Springfield that butt up against one of the resort hotels; perhaps this is where we might find Moe’s Tavern, since that might satisfy the law of a bar being connected to a hotel. If that is the case, does that mean hotel guests could enter Moe’s Tavern as well? And if so, how will the park differentiate between hotel guests and theme park visitors? Interesting pondering material, indeed. Regardless, it looks like The Simpsons will have a major presence here, and that it will be really nicely done.
The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot/New Tronic City
What we know: There is a small “street” section of Fox World Dubai that is called out in the artwork, but is void of any visible signage or stand-out iconic structures (at least to my eyes). An animated series called The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot ran on Fox Kids from 1999 to 2001, featuring 26 episodes taking place in New Tronic City. The property comes from a popular comic book series, and had its own toy line as well as promotional tie-in with Burger King restaurants.
What we can speculate: Very little, actually. I am completely unfamiliar with The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. In fact, the only reason I landed on this as a possibility for this space is that it kind of fits the visuals I found online when researching sci-fi properties owned by Fox that might be a match. I also looked at Futurama, although one would think that if Fox did that, it would lend itself to a larger area and perhaps an attraction. What we have in the concept art of the park is a street with maybe one small show building – or perhaps a F&B location; I am unfamiliar with the IP, so it’s pointless for me to continue poking and prodding. The only reason I am on the whole sci-fi kick is what looks to me like several large retro space-style components on the rooftops of the street’s buildings.
What we know: We know that Alien is a major Fox property, and that it’s been called out numerous times within the original Fox World Dubai press release, as well as by several of Rethink’s creatives. The entire upper left quadrant of Fox World Dubai appears to be an desolate, dark landscape – not of this planet – with militaristic structures built on top of it. There looks to be two separate areas/attractions within the Alien area of the park – one enclosed in a massive show building with a bunker door-like entryway, the other appearing to be an outdoor attraction, with what looks like the M577 Armored Personnel Carrier from the Aliens universe parked nearby for photo ops/ambiance.
What we can speculate: There is likely a very large, intense Alien dark ride experience (possibly a shooter simply by nature of the IP) that is housed in the structure in the upper left of the rendering. Not only does this offer a nice, big footprint – it also gives guests respite from the extreme heat in Dubai. It also allows for the total control of climate and lighting throughout the space, allowing designers to play with darkness and create a very intense, frightening environment, fitting for an Aliens ride. The attraction outside is a large yellow structure, and looks to me, like the futuristic forklift suit worn by Ripley in Aliens when she confronted the Xenomorph Queen at the end of the film. In the artwork, there is no noticeable depiction of the Queen, so if this is an attraction based on the forklift suit, perhaps it’s a souped-up flat ride/thrill ride of sorts, and the presence of the Queen is only implied. Or maybe it’s a training session. Or maybe I am completely wrong. Regardless, this is definitely the Alien section of Fox World Dubai, and I for one, want to go there!
Ice Age Carousel
What we know: Ice Age is another renowned property that has been produced by Blue Sky Studios, and distributed by Fox. Ice Age has been called out multiple times in both the original Fox World Dubai press release, as well as by members of the Rethink group, including Josh Updike, who mentioned “prehistoric glaciers” when recently quoted about the project. There is a carousel depicted in the concept art that has a large mammoth on the platform. High above the carousel is what looks like a squirrel on top of a spire. The canopy of the ride is blue and white – which indicates an icy/arctic color pallete.
What we can speculate: While I’m not a big animation fan, I do know a bit about Ice Age. From that, I can logically guess that the mammoth depicted in the artwork on the carousel is Manny, from the franchise. There are other very basic indicators of animals on the carousel platform as well, which is a perfect source of theming for such a ride. There is what looks like a squirrel figure at the top of the spire over the attraction – and I am guessing that is the iconic saber-toothed squirrel known as Scrat in the Ice Age films. Since every kid would want Scrat as their animal to ride on, a smart design decision would be to place him in a strategically visual place, while eliminating him from the options of carousel characters to choose from.
Ice Age Ride
What we know: The Ice Age franchise has been called out as a major component of Fox World Dubai by both the press release as well as Rethink creative team. There is a very large attraction facade and show building depicted in the artwork in the lower right area of the theme park. The facade bears the Ice Age logo, so that pretty much eliminates all other IP possibilities in this case.
What we can speculate: This is a large-scale ride, and I’m going to say it’s a dark ride, either tracked or trackless. I’m pretty confident that this isn’t a log ride, considering those usually have outdoor components, including a visible main drop; nowhere in this artwork does it indicate any ride vehicles/track penetrating the facade exterior of the attraction. My guess is since an Ice Age flume ride already exists in Germany, Fox will want to move in a new direction with the IP; in my opinion, this looks and feels like a dark ride within this show building is the safest bet.
What’s interesting about both the carousel and the large attraction, is that if they are indeed, both Ice Age-related, the area that they’re in isn’t themed. In fact, the area that surrounds both of these attractions is lush and tropical-looking. This is very different from the icy landscape you’d expect to see in a zone hosting two arctic-style attractions. That said, directly across from the larger of the two rides, the facade of the resort hotel does appear to be themed with ice and rock work to fit into the arctic Ice Age environment.
What we know: In 2013, Blue Sky Studios released an animated film called Epic that features humans transported to a magical land where they are tiny – tiny enough to battle bugs and ride on the backs of hummingbirds. Fox World is utilizing other Blue Sky Studios properties heavily in Dubai, so it seems rational that Epic, which earned $268 million at the box office, would be included in that mix. We also know that the mountain/landscape feature called out in the artwork absolutely matches one prominent in the film. It seems too much of an aesthetic coincidence to be anything but an Epic-themed area in this park. It also seems apparent that there are what look to be three separate attractions in this section of Fox World, as well.
What we can speculate: Based on the concept art, there appears to be three separate attractions in the Epic land/area of Fox World Dubai. Starting at the left, what appears to be a “Dumbo”-style ride rests near the iconic mountain/rockwork from the film. Flowers appear to grow from its center and smaller ride vehicles – probably themed as hummingbirds (based on the clips I watched from the film when researching this IP) are staggered at different elevations below. If this is the case, it’s a charming overlay to a very popular ride system that’s used in parks everywhere – a total no-brainer for this property.
In the middle of the land, we see two large trees with colored splotches surrounding them. I haven’t seen Epic, so I am at a loss story-wise as to what they could be. The indicated gates around their bases however, tell me that they are likely a junior drop tower of sorts, much like Jumpin’ Jellyfish at Disney California Adventure. At least, that’s what I see when I look at this art.
The final and largest attraction in the Epic area is a conundrum, because I can’t see any clearly indicated entry or exit to what appears to be a show building that is of considerable size. There is a large tree near the front of the show building, so without knowing the story at all, I will guess that probably is the visual attractor for the entrance to this attraction. Given the clips I have seen from Epic and the size/footprint of the theater, I am going to guess that it’s either a 4-D attraction like It’s Tough to be a Bug!, or a smallish flying theater show. I don’t think (based on the size of the buildings to either side of it in the overall bird’s-eye shot) it’s big enough to be a tracked/trackless ride, although I could be incorrect. For this space and IP, it just feels like it wants to be some sort of 4-D theatrical adventure of some sort, which are usually very popular attractions at any park.
I’d imagine this entire area/zone will be very pretty at night, with clever use of show lighting and enchanting soundscapes to play with from the film.
What we know: Rio is one of Blue Sky Studios’ biggest franchises, and has been specifically called out in the park’s press release and by members of the Rethink creative team. Specifically, Gary Blumenstein mentions “flying through the Amazon” in one of his quotes about the park. If the indicated waterfalls and lush jungle foliage aren’t enough of a tip-off outside the cavern entrance to the show building, the large “RIO” letters along the main pathway pretty much spell out what part of the park we’re looking at here.
What we can speculate: As mentioned above, Gary Blumenstein mentioned “flying through the Amazon” when discussing the attractions at Fox World Dubai. Perhaps this is a flying theater attraction; the shape of the show building is fairly odd, but if accurate, could house two theaters the same way Soarin’ does, each facing away from the entryway. The structure certainly is tall enough for this type of ride system, and they are very popular around the world, made by multiple manufacturers. And then, it may be a dark ride, or even an indoor roller coaster; it’s really challenging to pinpoint what something could be from an artist’s rendering. I simply chose flying theater due to the odd shape of the building, and the fact that it could be a cool delivery system for such an IP adventure.
Sons of Anarchy
What we know: Sons of Anarchy is a very popular show and has been called out as being a big part of Fox World Dubai by the client in their announcement press release. While a very odd choice for a themed land/attraction, it appears that Fox has given SOA a very large footprint in its Dubai park, complete with food and beverage locations, shops, dramatic landscaping and a sizable roller coaster that appears to be operating motorcycle-themed trains through tunnels, possibly a show building, and along curvy outdoor sections of track.
What we can speculate: This looks to be the same type of roller coaster that we’re seeing installed at Shanghai Disneyland right now for their Tron ride. Kind of like a Pony Express (Knott’s Berry Farm) on steroids, if you will. Several companies make this type of launch coaster now, and we’re seeing more and more pop up around the world, themed as everything from Light Cycles to jet skis. There is a large mountain that the trains are shown entering and exiting – perhaps there will be some high-energy show moments within; the landscape could very well be hiding a show building. There are surprisingly, a lot of smaller buildings in this area than one might imagine giving to such an IP for use in a theme park. There will likely be food and beverage (no booze, as this is a stand-alone area, not connected to any of the resort hotels), as well as Sons of Anarchy merchandise here. It kind of looks like Cars Land for biker gangs! There appears to be a large lodge-type structure in the middle of the area – my guess is, that’s the bulk of the queue and station.
Every time I think about this section of the park, I cannot help but scratch my head and wonder what prompted Fox/Al Ahli to incorporate such an adult IP into a family-style theme park. In a country where religious laws dictate how people dress and what they can and cannot eat or drink in public, Sons of Anarchy seems just as appropriate of a theme as adding an interactive Cards Against Humanity show! Don’t get me wrong – I dig the idea, and I would ride it in a heartbeat; I am just really surprised by this choice and very obvious placement in the middle of the park. In a way, I think this is the single most compelling/interesting aspect of Fox World Dubai to me, simply because it’s so left-field in nature; a total wild card.
What we know: Depicted in the artwork for Fox World Dubai, are several trolley-like vehicles with tracks indicated along the lower half of the park. While no modes of transportation have been directly called out in the press release or by anyone from Rethink, one would have to look to the artwork of the theme park for circulation and guest flow methods. Some parks have skyway buckets, others have trains. The only mode of transit seen anywhere in the Fox World Dubai art are colorful vehicles, very reminiscent of Disney California Adventure’s Red Car Trolleys – bus-like vehicles prominent around the world and United States in the earlier 1900s. Many cities still use them, including San Francisco; hold that thought for a moment.
What we can speculate: Dubai is hot. Really hot. Fox World is a very large theme park, with no other mode of automated transit indicated other than these trolley cars. I would venture to guess that not only are they functional, they’re probably going to be very air-conditioned and there will be more than just a couple rolling around the park. While the vehicles depicted in the artwork are only seen at the front of the park, if they are more than photo ops, they most definitely must travel to the rear of Fox World as well to help move guests around, especially to the rear of the park. And that is what leads to our final observation – it’s a biggie; we’ve saved the best for last…
Planet of the Apes
What we know: Planet of the Apes is 20th Century Fox’s most profitable IP. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014, the franchise has earned Fox nearly $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide, and has brought in more revenue via merchandise and licensed promotions. A third film in the series, War for the Planet of the Apes is set for a July 2017 release. You can bet that Fox is making Planet of the Apes a cornerstone of all of its theme parks, not just the Dubai property. It’s been called out in this press release, as well as by multiple members of the Rethink team working on the project.
The entire upper right portion of the Fox World Dubai artwork is the Planet of the Apes attraction; it’s massive – but it is, without a doubt, Apes. And it appears to be more than just a ride; this is perhaps, what could be the biggest area of the park. There are several locales from the films called out that are plainly visible in the artwork, including the hydroelectric dam, Unocal 76 gas station, and a large “ape village” tree that looks absolutely large enough for guests to explore. What appears to be the main entrance to the area leads into ape village, toward the tree depicted in the artwork and movie art here to the right.
Obviously, the ride is a whitewater raft-style attraction, as it’s depicted very clearly in the artwork, with the finale drop coming down over the front of the dam itself. The station uses a turntable load/unload system, which is common in most raft rides around the world. This is a big area; Fox is definitely focusing a lot of attention on its Planet of the Apes attraction.
What we can speculate: This is where it gets fun for me as a fan and designer. I look at all of the locales depicted in the artwork and think to myself there is no way that this is just one ride; it’s got to be a dedicated land within Fox World Dubai dedicated to the Apes franchise. Sure, we see a flume ride; a whitewater raft ride, to be specific. But it’s what we don’t see that has me intrigued. There is very little of the raft ride seen outside – which tells me that the majority of it is inside; hidden within that large mountain behind the dam and underneath Muir Woods (the redwood forest from the film, which is where the apes live). I would imagine that this is a mostly-indoor attraction, with a generous mix of practical and digital effects bringing the movies to life very close to riders – and in full 360 view, since you can’t easily control the way a floating raft vehicle spins at any given time as it moves along the flume. I would imagine that the apes will be projected/computer animated, so that they are extremely accurate (and mobile) in presentation throughout the ride. And, I would guess that there will be some very impressive practical sets and special effects that bring the action to life in every direction as guests pass through each scene.
My guess is that the Unocal gas station is either a large merch location, or it may even be the exit of the attraction; it’s hard to tell, based on the artwork. What really has me curious is how definitive this rendering is of the park’s actual boundaries. In the image, we see the front of the Planet of the Apes area – but we don’t see the back of it – what lies behind that large mountain/show building. Perhaps it’s nothing at all. Or maybe that is where the bulk of Muir Woods is, with a sprawling whitewater flume footprint. Even more fun to think about – where’s San Francisco in this land? Perhaps the deserted, foliage-overgrown city is in ruin just behind the mountain in the bird’s-eye. If the transit vehicles I pointed out a little while ago do travel to the rear of the park – they’d fit perfectly with a San Francisco theme and environment, wouldn’t they? Just like the historic F Line in San Francisco, for you kids familiar with the city.
Whatever the final design is, you can bet that Fox is going to make Planet of the Apes the biggest and best part of the park – and likely others, because of its popularity and the truckloads of revenue it generates. And rightfully so – Apes is a fantastic franchise that Fox has handled beautifully. I think it’s an exciting IP and one that’s definitely perfect for a modern-day theme park with big, cutting-edge attractions such as Fox World Dubai is promising.
I’d be remiss while talking about promises not to mention that the company partnering with Fox on this project – Al Ahli Holding Group – has made big promises before. In 2007, it was the force behind the announced Marvel theme park also slated for Dubai that was supposed to open in 2014. That project never moved forward, and now that Disney owns Marvel, that project will never be realized. One has to become excited about Fox World Dubai with the clear understanding that we’ve been here before with this group – we’ve been promised a world-class, billion-dollar theme park, only to have those grand visions come and then vanish like a sandstorm. This story has received a lot of attention – and all eyes are on what Al Ahli does next. I think it really helps that Fox is seemingly all-in on this – if it were just AAHG announcing this, I’d be fairly skeptical – however, the fact that Fox seems serious about this and Rethink Leisure & Entertainment has been brought on along with its heavy hitters tells me that this thing could actually move forward and happen.
That’ll open the door to other major Fox parks – and that’s good for all of us in the industry, from fans to professionals. We’re due for a new theme park revolution – fans everywhere want big, beefy practical dark ride experiences once again like we enjoyed in the ’90s – so, this could very well be the return to that.
Thanks for reading – it’s been a fun, rare treat to venture into the land of speculation with this particular project; something TPA rarely does. It was just too juicy and tempting not to, considering the players involved and the gorgeous (and realistic) artwork Fox presented us with! I’d love to hear what you think, too! Do you agree with my assessments? Am I nuts? Definitely comment below and share your own thoughts!
– Rick West
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