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Theme park fans don't need to know Bollywood to love Bollywood Parks Dubai

December 17, 2016, 11:28 AM · DUBAI — Dubai Parks and Resorts this morning hosted invited media representatives from around the world to tour the three theme parks of its new resort. Legoland Dubai officially opened to guests in October, while Bollywood Parks Dubai began operations last month. The third park, Motiongate Dubai, opened Friday, though the majority of that park remains under construction.

More on that tomorrow. But while the movie studio-themed Motiongate offers the IP that most appeals to western audiences, a quick tour of the three parks suggested that it's the Bollywood-themed park that might be Dubai Parks' breakout hit. It's tough to judge (mostly) completed parks against a work in progress, but Bollywood Parks Dubai offers the refreshing alternative of a unique theme in this industry, fully realized in a beautiful setting that comes alive with music and dance.

It's a small park. Not counting its abundant street shows, Bollywood Parks offers just six attractions, with a seventh on the way. (There's a separately-ticketed nightly musical in the park's iconic Rajmahal Theatre, too — a richly-staged Bollywood production come to life.)

Even with a couple of outstanding Indian restaurants in the mix, a full, do-everything VIP Tour takes just five hours, according to a host who spoke with me. I knocked off what I heard were the top four attractions in less than two hours. Still, as far as current-half-day parks go, I would choose a visit to Bollywood Parks over Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida any day.

Let's clear this out of the way up front: No, you don't need to be a fan of "Bollywood" — that style of Indian cinema known for its action, spontaneous dance numbers, and often wry humor — to enjoy Bollywood Parks Dubai. If you're inclined to write off Bollywood Parks because you don't know the IP, ask yourself this: Have you been wishing that theme parks would create more story-driven attractions based on original IP? Well, if you don't know Bollywood, then this IP is original to you! Just forget that they came from some movies you've never seen. The park's preshows do a fine job in setting up each attraction with enough information to allow you to enjoy it.

That said, if an impending or imagined trip to the park inspires you to start watching a few Bollywood flicks, take that as a bonus. I "studied" for my visit by watching the Bollywood classic Dabangg on the flight from Los Angeles to Dubai... and loved it. And having watched the movie helped me appreciate not just some of the jokes in the park's Dabangg: Stunt Spectacular Show, but also why so fans cheered so loudly when the first notes of the film's theme song played at the introduction of the show. And why dozens of visitors mobbed the Salman Khan-look-alike who played lead character Chulbul Pandey, for selfies after the performance.

But I knew nothing about Krrish, a Bollywood science fiction franchise, before riding the park's flying theater, Krrish: Hero's Flight. Installed by Dynamic Attractions, the same company that built Disney's Soarin', Krrish: Hero's Flight eschews the hang glider motif but also delivers more action and 4D effects, appropriate to the story of an X-Men-type superhero battling aliens while we're along for the ride.

Lagaan: The Thrill of Victory is a Minion Mayhem-style motion theater ride, taking on a simulated roller coaster ride in a cricket-themed carnival. (That's cricket as in the bat-and-ball game that inspired baseball, not the species of Pinocchio's conscience Jiminy.) The animated film uses a distinctive cut-out style that evokes the turn-of-the-20th century period of Lagaan, a tale about an Indian village that takes up cricket to win a bet with their British colonial overlords in order to get out of paying their taxes.

Sholay: The Hunt for Gabber Singh is a 3D interactive ride with the rare element of actually allowing you to shoot at people. The targets are the bandits in Gabber Singh's gang, whom we fight in several raids throughout the ride. No ghosts or other gimmicky targets here. Just our imaginary bullets blasting satisfying pink puffs from the exploding heads of our victims.

And, as one should expect from a Bollywood-themed park, performers will break out in song and dance throughout the park at multiple times each day. Every show draws a well-deserved crowd that pretty much blocks the pathway around it, so don't bother pushing through. Just stop with everyone else and enjoy the performance.

Bollywood Parks Dubai has plenty of room for expansion around the park, which I hope that it soon will need. I can't blame the park's developers for starting small — again, no one's tried this theme before, so there is no track record against which to benchmark potential performance. But what Dubai Parks and Resorts has here deserves the attention of theme park fans. With a beautiful setting, attentive service, and an engaging line-up attractions, Bollywood Parks Dubai hits every demand I hear from theme park fans.

Now, we just want more of it.

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Replies (10)

December 17, 2016 at 12:08 PM · This is a fascinating park. It's nice to hear it's enjoyable without knowing the IP. What is harder maybe to judge is how authentic it feels to the visitors from the subcontinent. The Indian middle class is a huge untapped resource for the theme park industry. Any perspective from on the ground, Robert?
December 17, 2016 at 12:16 PM · That was the loudest cheering crowd on a per capita basis I've ever heard in a park.

People from South Asia I spoke with today LOVE this park. Is it because they're finally getting some attention from the industry, or is the park really that good? I'm saying it's both.

December 17, 2016 at 2:36 PM · Wow! I'd say that is a big tick. Even if that park is purely bait for the Asian market, this park could be the smartest addition to a tourist region in a long time. Fascinating!
December 17, 2016 at 5:06 PM · This is what Theme Park Apprentice contestants should aspire to. Something unique and beautiful - and not just another Disney park.
December 17, 2016 at 5:11 PM · Wow, what a unique trip! I hope you will write an article in the future about some of the customary differences and what to expect from the Dubai area. Not to sound closed minded, but the middle east has a stigma of violence. Can you elaborate on safety and overall atmosphere?
December 17, 2016 at 6:00 PM · Shaun Fisher - stigma of violence? Funny you should say that, because over in the middle east and the east they look at America - in paricular Floria and Los Angeles with a stigma of violence. Sound close minded ?
December 17, 2016 at 7:02 PM · Looks like all the America's Got Talent Bollywood acts found a permanent home. Is the language in English and Hindi? Hindi is hard on the ears. Seems like many Indian movies end up having a few well placed musical numbers. You don't even have to understand what they're saying to enjoy it. Still a half day park may be just enough.
December 17, 2016 at 9:13 PM · Shaun,

I will be writing a wrap-up about visiting Dubai, when I get back next week.

December 17, 2016 at 11:16 PM · Of the Dubai parks, this is probably the park I heard the least about. After reading this report and seeing the pictures, however, it seems it could be the best of them. That said, the attraction count does worry me, as I consider somewhere like USH to barely have enough attractions to justify a visit and this park has less than half that number. If the attraction count was doubled without the price increasing substantially, this would be reason enough to consider the trip. As the park is now, I see it as well worth doing if you visit, but not enough to justify a visit without strong support. I'm curious to hear the Motiongate report, as the early reception seems to be mixed on that park.
December 18, 2016 at 2:17 PM · The only thing I don't like about it is that it's located in Dubai. It should have been built in India. Plus I'm not exactly a fan of Dubai. To me it had less soul than Las Vegas.

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