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.)
Here's a scene from Jaan-e-Jigar, the nightly Bollywood musical at Dubai Parks & Resorts. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/fhv8A6UOYn— Theme Park Insider (@ThemePark) December 17, 2016
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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