I often find on international forums like these, many people dont grasp my understanding of "quality" -- just why is my vision of "Disney" on such a high pedestool?
The Gold Coast Australia, is home to the countries theme park corridor, a strip of highway and land that encompasses multiple themeparks and attractions. To briefly name the majors, consider: Dreamworld, WhiteWaterWorld, Movieworld, WetnWild, Paradise Country, Australian Outback Spectacular, Seaworld, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
This report will focus on Movieworld. A park which in their own words is:
"The only Australian movie related theme park" where you will "experience a fun-filled, Gold Coast theme park family adventure with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood... Meet your favourite stars and enjoy all the behind-the-scenes action, comedy stunts, and exhilerating rides, shows and attractions"
Some quick research on Wikipedia will show anyone who isnt familiar with the park (particularly its origins) that it was established in the early 1990's and was quite impressive in its opening years with a fantastic line up of attractions that closely aligns with the above mentioned marketing statement: Police Academy Stunt Show, Looney Tunes River Ride, Looney Tunes Musical Review, Movie Magic Special Effects Show, Young Einstein Gravity Homestead, The Gremlins Adventure Western Action Show and the original Batman Adventure-The Ride.
Movieworld adjoins the Warner Roadshow Studios and was developed
(see official website) "on a concept which has proven highly successful in the USA and is an extension of a fully operational and very successful movie studio with an established track record, offering an inside look into the magic and fantasy of movie making."
Now as Movieworld approaches its 20th Birthday lots has changed. The adjoining studios and the themepark operate independantly, there is no longer a studio tour (despite the previous incarnation of a four empty soundstages already lacking in comparison to its inspiration at Universal Studios Hollywood). Attractions wise, the park is rather pressed for land like USH, and as a result frequently replaces and repurposes showbuildings instead of adding attractions. Regretably all the movie related attractions have now vanished from Movieworld. There is one remaining opening day attraction at the park, The Looney Tunes River Ride.
Keeping in mind this information, I hope to show you why I find it so frustrating that places like Disneyland are not within a closer grasp for themepark fans downunder. I'll now move along to a photo trip report style presentation detailing my latest day at the park.
To start off.
How much does it cost to visit Movieworld?
To put it in perspective; the larger, more established (and still movie orientated) Universal Studios Hollywood have single day admission (which also includes a second day free) priced at US$74.00 - Now I know there is a conversion rate rate and depending on the value of the dollar things change.
Even Disneyland single day admission is only priced at US$76.00.
Next step; still not inside the park, is this any indication of whats to come?
To be fair, Wild West Falls is down for scheduled maintenance, but Marvin The Martian Rocket...
...looks to be about as dead as Marvin's earlier appearence in the park: Marvin the Martian in 3D. It's been a long time since this ride has been in
daily weekly monthlyyearly? operation.
Okay, so once the admission is taken care of, what happens once you are inside the front gate?
Movieworld officially opens at 10:00AM local time; with the gates occasionally opening 30minutes earlier to facilitate the turnstile queues.
Once inside, things dont look so good. On this particular day, I entered the park around 11:30AM; two hours after the front gates opened.
Even at this stage you are lucky if 3 out of 30 shops / dinning options
As guests enter Movieworld they are greeted with this:
Dont let this picture confuse you. I know the overcast day might be misleading but this is not 11:45PM. This is 11:45AM; almost the middle of the day, and the park still looks like this...
Closed. And unprofessional looking too. No guest should ever see this side of theme parks; this distracts from the magic.
Crossing under the berm at Disneyland lets guests leave the world behind.
Not so here:
Closed; Not only closed, but distracting from the Western theme.
Closed and long gone. A forgotten area of the park, once home to a lively Western town with shops, photo opportunities and a stunt show. Now just boarded up and abandoned; funny how even the Ghost Town premise cant cover up this thematically.
Not even the posters are themed appropriately.
Maybe Thriller is the new Western.
Closed. Although apparently this absence of this store has been cleaverly and thematically hidden behind a dogtag dispenser.
Here is the closed door anyway.
On my last visit to Disneyland, the park opened at 6:30AM local time. At this point in the morning it was obvious that attendence had yet to peak, but the park was open; so too were the shops and eateries.
Similarly, when Universal Studios Hollywood opens its front gates, guest walk down the entry promenade greeted by open stores, street entertainment and the appeal of a lively themepark atmosphere.
This is a common sight at Movieworld as children peer through closed doors and windows eyeing off what souvineers they want Mummy and Daddy to buy.
Australia beat Universal Studios Orlando to having the World's first Harry Potter themed attraction, the Harry Potter Movie Magic Experience; a walk-through which featured several recreations of sets from the Harry Potter films.
Now all that remains is the Harry Potter Shop; although seeing it like this, gives me the indication that Movieworld is having a hard time competing with Universal's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Personally I am not interested in purchasing from a store that is not interested in selling their products. Opening stores late does not force guests to hold off their shopping urges until late afternoon, extending their stay in the park. It simply frustrates them. Children become agitated as they cannot get the latest toy they fancy, which in turn becomes another worry for parents to deal with. With little other options to keep them entertained, its more likely to drive them away then loosen the purse strings.
In this particular instance, it seems even the staff are confused as to wether the Shrek Shop is 'Open' or 'Closed'.
Guests are bombarded with an over usage of semi-professional inhouse printed signage at every turn.
Sticky tape can fix anything at Movieworld.
Unlike the care to detail that occurs at Disneyland after hours, the park is hardly cleaned after hourse, let along painted daily!
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbV_miHV2Fw"]YouTube- Disneyland After Dark[/ame]
Whatever are guests to do if the park does not open when its supposed to?
Let's try The Rides:
Oh look the queue doesnt look too bad here...
See maintenance stuff.
Let's try some of those shows; you know the ones that immerse you in the movie magic of "Hollywood on the Gold Coast"
The Movie Magic Special Effects Show - Defunct.
Studio Tour (larger part of The Movie Magic Special Effects Show) - Defunct.
Riddlers Lair; Sets from the feature film Batman Forever incorporated into the "studio tour" portion of The Movie Magic Special Effects Show - Defunct.
Harry Potter Movie Magic Experience - Defunct.
The Official Matrix Exhibit - Defunct.
The world's first 3D film; Marvin The Martian In 3D - Defunct.
Studio Tour - Defunct.
How about dancing animals instead. Drastically different to the original opening day attraction; Looney Tunes Musical Review.
Fair enough, this venue is being refurbished for a new Christmas Show... on Ice.
I wonder where that idea came from?
This brings me to a new point of discussion.
Attempting To Replicate International Success On No Budget
As Movieworld has progressively repurposed any original attraction relating thematically to movies, they have increasingly attempted to captialise on larger budget international offerings.
Take for example the stunt show replacement for Movieworld's longest running and most popular show; Police Academy Stunt Show.
I dont know if it's the Italian village setting, the Red hero car, or the heist/chase storyline... something about this is familar.
Unfortunately, investing AU$10Million doesnt really compare to:
The last major construction at Movieworld was the installation of a large roof to cover the Main Street. Heard that idea before?
Here is the concept excuted successfully in Universal Studios Japan.
Here it is at Movieworld. They are quite proud of their addition; advertising the obvious weather benefits and the large function capacity.
Unfortunately the destroyed a wonderfully themed Main Street like this in the process.
To reduce costs, the roof only extends as far as it has too, just past the building facades. That's an alright idea from a business perspective, but to accomplish this...
the unthemed, obtrusive roof support poles now stand in front of the once nicely themed Main Street.
Not to mention the Plaza, which went from this:
To this. Don't knock the exposure levels. This is how bleak Movieworld looks under the roof on a normal day, let alone today's overcast weather.
You also have to wonder, arcitectually, what were they thinking when they designed this structure. Here's a series of photos that I shall call "Poles in front of Doorways" -- I think you get the point.
Oh look; the shops still closed too. Maybe the fact that Dance Heads is closed lessons the impact of the pole that obsucures its entrace.
On a brief side note; if it looks familiar, Dance Heads is also another product taken from the USA. It appeared briefly at Universal Studios Hollywood, although it did seem rather unpopular during my last visit there.
Back to the poles.
This was once a great replica facade from a classic movie; note the signage I made reference to earlier, and the addition of the pole pulls the guests as far away as possible from Rick's Cafe American ala Cassablanca.
Similarly, this corner of the park no longer looks like The Farmers Merchant Bank from Bonnie & Clyde. Their last robbery was foiled because Clyde wasnt aware of the new addition which didnt show on the banks blueprints.
Now this one is just embarrasing. This store was added after the roof.
That's not all.
The same problem occurs with the positioning of just about every pole that supports the new roof.
Even when there isnt a door in sight. Who puts a pole in the middle of the only footpath around?
It is apparent that eliminating rain and bad weather was the only aspect taken into consideration when building the roof. In addition to the irreversable damage to the theming of Movieworld, the roof has terrible accoustics; speakers that once projected from windows above Main Street now blast noise all around the park. Reverberation and echo make the music inaudible and just throw back the crowd noise. Instead of being transported to another world of movie magic, as you walk down Main Street nowdays your sensory environment reminds you of a crowed shopping complex.
In 2006 Movieworld introduced a Family orientated Halloween event. They recently decided to up the anti, making it a more adult orientated event.
Sound like Universal's Halloween Horror Nights?
Well this is how Universal do it:
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laL4Sg8-XdA"]YouTube- Guest Reactions from Halloween Horror Nights 2009 at Universal Studios Hollywood![/ame]
And... the same attempt, only with minimal construction and theming budget; and the stubbornness to only work in house and not seek the assistance of the local film community.
Everytime I see people joking online about Disney's bad show when a single light bulb is blown, I have to laugh out loud.
Movieworld's main entrance is requiring a bit of TLC.
Show buildings are not maintained.
Back of house areas are freely visable from front of house.
Recently I read a report on Parkz.com.au about how theming can work and related to each other between different areas of the park.
The report highlighted how this area in the Kids WB area of Movieworld compliments the Wild West Falls attraction in the distance.
Photography is great like that. Take a step back and look at the view that guests see.
Respectfully, I hope the view of Disney's Carsland from Paradise Pier doesnt end up looking like this.
In another area of the park you find yourself in Chinatown.
Until you move closer, and the theming runs out.
Instead you are now in an underachieving area of the park where shops are closed to save on staff wages.
And its passed off as "Maintenance".
Take a peek through the closed roller door and you will see an empty shop floor. The Lethal Weapon Store has been closed for months, going on more than a year.
Where ride photo preview screens once stood, is the same small sign instructing guests to go here there and everywhere in search of their photos. I'm afraid to say, at AU$15 per photo, the run around isnt worth it, and the ride experience is quickly forgotten as the desire to make a purchase.
In retheming attractions, such as this:
It seems to the the genral consensus that the old theming and aging paintwork will not be visable behind the new facade.
Also, apparently not visable. Staff on mobile phones/bad back of house transitions.
This one is something anybody will notice from the moment you purchase your tickets to Movieworld. Now, signage (and particularly A-Frames) are not necessarily bad. But they sure are in excessive use here:
I can see this will likely be an ongoing report, as its already quite lengthy. I will leave you, for now, with a final couple of observations:
Movieworld's Shrek 4D attraction closes this month. I understand Universal licensing fees are too much for the company to continue leasing the rights.
However, when the Shrek store finally opened, you cant help but wonder what Universal think of this?
I gather this kind of merchandising lends itself to the whole Marvel/Disney arguement.
After 90minutes walking around at Movieworld I managed to visit every open shop, and check out all the open attractions. With daily admission set at AU$74.99 and a severe lack of value present inside to fulfill an entire day, you start wondering why this sign isnt at the front of the park.