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Why Do Parks Overlook 'The Lord of the Rings?'

Why is it that theme parks we have today overlook J.R.R. Tolkien?

From John Moore
Posted April 17, 2002 at 8:03 AM
Why is it that theme parks we have today overlook J.R.R. Tolkien?

Along with Mary Poppins, Tolkien is cherished by millions. I have to agree with Kevin Baxter. Mary Poppins needs some attractions. But Lord of the Rings is also being overlooked.

Does anyone have any ideas about Lord of the Rings rides? I know that a Lord of the Rings ride would have to be a dark ride of some sort. I have the movie soundtrack, and I love that choir singing Elvish. Why do these dang theme parks overlook my favorite thing to do?


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Robert Niles
Posted April 17, 2002 at 9:56 AM
One word:

Rights.

"The Lord of the Rings" film franchise is being produced by New Line Cinema, which is part of the AOL-Time Warner media empire. Warner has no U.S. theme park presence, since it sold off its interest in Six Flags to Premier Parks (which then renamed itself "Six Flags.")

So, either Warner Bros. holds on to the rights and opens a U.S. theme park (please, please, pretty please! Wouldn't a "Lord of the Rings"/"Harry Potter" park just pack 'em in?), or it subcontracts the rights to another firm. Much like DreamWorks does to Universal.

Now, The Weinstein brothers, of Disney/Miramax were Executive Producers on the films, so there's an "in" for Disney.

But obtaining the rights would be quite expensive. Add the cost of building what would have to be a top-of-the-line attraction, and you are looking at something well larger than Spider-Man's $100 million pricetag.

No manager and any theme park company today seems to be in the frame of mind to risk that kind of money. Except, maybe, Bob Gault, but Universal's got the toughest road to getting the rights, even the lack of any relationship with Warner.

If the demographic situation were more favorable to theme parks, perhaps AOL-TW would be looking to drop a couple billion on a LoTR/HP park. But given that the company is struggling under its own immense wait, I wouldn't expect a LoTR park, or even a major attraction, anytime soon.

From Lesley Allen
Posted April 17, 2002 at 1:03 PM
To be honest, I'd be very worried if a theme park wanted to do something with LOTR. It's a classic story that is highly respected and cherished the world over. I would be terrified of Tolkien's images being cheapened by theme park hype. Didn't ALL Tolkien fans cringe when Burger King did their "Lord of the Rings glowing collector cups" promo? :(

From Robert Niles
Posted April 17, 2002 at 2:08 PM
That's why I think any successful LoTR attraction would have to be a budget-buster. A park that comes out with an off-shelf coaster or dark ride, with a few animatronics or cut-outs is gonna lose more customers than they gain.

And given the money that park would have to spend just to get the rights, that's not worth the risk.

A park would need to deliver something of Spider-Man class, or beyond, to maximize its return on the investment in rights. Unfortunately, no one's taking financial risks in the theme park industry right now. It's a "safe harbor" that's supposed to generate money for other divisions of media conglomerates. So we get more off-the-shelf rides, and no LoTR.

From Anonymous
Posted April 17, 2002 at 7:42 PM
Theme parks are primarily owned by US companies. Therefore, US companies will push US developed characters and themes. Except for lovers of the fantasy genre, LOTR is not in the same league as Star Wars, Mickey and Co., Bugs & Co., Indiana Jones, Spiderman, Hulk, Superman, Batman, etc. Sure, AOL Time Warner will lay out the bucks for films, but I don't think there are enough LOTR fans to justify an attraction. Too much risk. Their selling off of their park assets should give you a hint at how they view parks in general.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted April 18, 2002 at 3:08 AM
Plus, a lot of the biggest LotR fans aren't big theme parkers. Robert is quite correct that for a LotR attraction to do well it would have to be huge. A LotR LAND in a park might do that, but a single ride, even of Spidey's caliber, most likely wouldn't bring in the biggest Ring geeks. But it would be nice to see something dealing with LotR.

From Lesley Allen
Posted April 18, 2002 at 6:41 AM
Kevin.....I hope that the term "Ring geeks" isn't being used in a derogatory manner. I've loved that series for over a decade....ever since I first read "The Hobbit" when I was 8 years old.

As for the comment on America mainly backing American themes in its parks...that is quite true. It would kind of explain the lack of Mary Poppins theming at Disney, wouldn't it?

From John Moore
Posted April 18, 2002 at 10:12 AM
However, there are some privately owned theme parks. I've been to one. They love ideas for rides, and they are totally commited to adding new attractions. I want to put it on the site. I haven't gotten an e-mail explaining how I'll put it on. I don't know Html.

From Robert Niles
Posted April 18, 2002 at 10:45 AM
I don't agree with the suggestion that America backs mainly American themes in its parks. What about Winnie the Pooh? Or all those fairy tales that Disney made into movies and, then, attractions? Kevin and I, among others, have begged for a Wallace and Gromit attraction, or anything from Aardman. It'd be huge.

Americans, like any other theme park patrons, want safe, smooth rides that engage the mind, spirit and senses. The rest of the world has plenty of great stories, "Lord of the Rings" among them, that could provide the inspiration for such attractions.

The trouble is, producing a theme park attraction is perhaps the most expensive form of entertainment on Earth today. An indie producer can put together an entertaining, award-winning film for a couple million dollars. Theater companies can put on top-quality small cast shows for even less. Television shows get on the air with similar expenditures, assuming you are not hiring an established star or creator.

You cannot produce a top-quality theme park ride for less than eight figures. This high entry barrier keeps smaller, privately-owned theme parks out of leadership positions in the industry. And this high development cost discourages the big companies from developing very many new, innovative rides. Those that do get approved must be sure-fire hits.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted April 19, 2002 at 4:54 AM
Yes, Mary Poppins is extremely adored and she is quite un-American (though Dick Van Dyke's accent seems to be in a netherworld that is neither American nor British!) If Universal built my idea for a Chicken Run Pie Machine roller coaster, Americans would line up in droves for it. So I don't buy that argument.

Just because someone loves something doesn't necessarily make them a geek. If you dearly love the books, that doesn't mean you are a geek. Now, if you were one of the people who went onto LotR bulletin boards and whined and moaned about the casting of the movie a year before it debuted, then, yes, you are a geek. It is THAT type of person who isn't much on theme parks.

From Lesley Allen
Posted April 19, 2002 at 6:13 AM
LOL....well, luckily, I don't fall in THAT category, Kevin. Otherwise I'd be posting on their message board rather than this one! :)

Chicken Run Pie Machine coaster.....Hmmmm.....Fascinating idea! Or they could even make a Spiderman-caliber dark ride out of it. (Unlike some people on this board, I happened to think Chicken Run was a great movie.)

From Kevin Baxter
Posted April 20, 2002 at 1:40 AM
A little off the subject, but why do we call people who are rabid about entertainment "geeks" while people who are rabid about sports are still just "fans?" Some of these people know all the stats of a whole bunch of players, and I don't think you can get much geekier than that. Yesterday, Sacramento Kings playoff tickets went on sale at Arco Arena. People were told that the line could form from 8am until 10am, at which point they would conduct a lottery to see where the "new" line would start. Hilariously, the guy who got to buy the tickets first didn't show up until after 9:30. People at the front of the line had shown up THE NIGHT BEFORE! There were hundreds of numbers in that lottery, so what is the chance that the number ONE would have been the one drawn? The people that showed up the night before are TRUE GEEKS! And stupid to boot.

Anyhow, my idea for the Chicken Run Pie Machine (which is ALSO off this subject, LOL) was kind of a half Spidey/half coaster thing. The first part was a trip through the pie machine, the coaster part was after the machine "explodes." It is quite inventive and Universal really should be called up repeatedly and told to hire me. DreamWorks should probably be included in any such phone calls also, just in case. Steven has a lot of pull there, from what I hear.

From Terry Skinner
Posted May 2, 2002 at 7:36 PM
I teach middle school and high school,and one of the afterschool programs I run is a theme park design academy. WE use Chris Sawyer's Roller Coaster Tychoon to design our parks. The students learn theming, finances, physics, etc. This year there were two competitions between teams. Two teams designed a park based upon Harry Potter, and the other Two Teams designed parks based upon Lord of the Rings.

All four teams did a great job of designing rides, coasters, and landscaping for their parks. LOTR had as its Centerpiece Rivendell (a large village surrounded by gardens); there were themed areas like Hobbiton, Sauron's Tower, Smaug's Mountain (an underground-outside-underground coaster), Goblin Town, a barrel-river ride, Shelob's Web (a wooden coaster), and several other impressive areas.

The Harry Potter parks had a contemporary entryway with shops, etc., but then visitors had to ride a train (Called Hogwart's Express, of course)to the park's Centerpiece, which was the castle for Hogwart's school. There were themed areas as well, and a great double-duelling steel coaster called
the Quiddich. There were also underground coasters and rides, and, though I'm not completely familiar with the Harry Potter series, the kids seemed to do a great job designing the parks.

Roller Coaster Tychoon is a great game and... if it could just be built as easily as it can be imagined, the world would be a more "amusing" place.

On a related note. I truly wish the makers of Roller Coaster Tychoon would provide some more expansion packs allowing for wannabe park designers like us to design parks on the lines of themes mentioned above.

From Anonymous
Posted June 16, 2002 at 12:16 PM
One could quite easily do an end run around AOL/Time Warner and not make it Themed off the Movies. I mean, just because there are films made from these timeless classics does NOT mean that one would have to use the content of the movies in a Middle-earth themed park. Then the stumbling block would be ponying up the bucks that Saul Zaentz would want for the use of the names...(Do a web search for Tolkien Enterprises).

If the approach was correct, respectfull to the material and the author, and the right number of zeroes were involved right of the dollar sign, I can't see anybody failing to obtain the rights to build the park...it's getting the V.C. to do it that would be the challenge.

From Anonymous
Posted October 30, 2003 at 11:56 AM
it starts to get annoying that all that people talk about is lord of the rings

From Tim Hillman
Posted October 30, 2003 at 2:37 PM
No posts on this thread for over 4 months, and some anonymous moron seems to think that all people talk about is "The Lord of the Rings." Go figure!

Some people just shouldn't be left alone with a computer and the internet.

From Robert Niles
Posted October 30, 2003 at 4:38 PM
"Gosh, I looked up 'Lord of the Rings' on Google, and all I got were pages about 'Lord of the Rings.' Can't anyone understand I really just wanted pages about 'The Matrix'?"

What, folks don't know how to use the InterWeb in Michigan?

From Kevin Klein
Posted December 11, 2003 at 11:28 AM
I don't know what you all have heard, but from what I know Universal has wrapped up the rights to an LOTR ride. Also Disney grabbed the rights to Harry Potter. There two reasons I can think of that Universal hasn't developed anything yet; One they have spent 160 million between the two mummy rides and two they don't want to rush and ruin the image of chersihed work of literature by producing a second rate attraction. They got praise for this patientance from Dr. Seuss widow when they opened IOA. Also, they probably would want Spielberg's input on a concept like many of their past rides. Don't expect anything in the near future if all this is true.

From Derek Potter
Posted December 14, 2003 at 8:02 PM
Parks overlook LOTR because most people could have cared less about JRR Tolkien...at least up until the movie came out. Now that LOTR is "mainstream", I'm sure that we will see an attraction soon. Tolkien's writings have been around for a while. Before the movie came out, the rights would have cost the park peanuts. Now that the movies are hits, I'm sure that they don't come cheap. Someone with foresight could have snagged these rights for nothing a long time ago.

From Robert OGrosky
Posted December 14, 2003 at 9:20 PM
I still dont think we know if any park as any rights for LOTR to be used in a theme park. Some may claim they know but nothing has been proven.
As for the cost of it, while im sure it would be Spiderman/MS type money im sure Disney or Universal would be willing to spend that money to create a top notch attraction which would no doubt increase attendance, and sales of merchandise.
But that could only be done if the family is willing to see the rights and while spielberg is very good im sure who ever would do thius type of attraction would want jackson involved much more than Spielberg as he is the one who has created the magic of the Triliogy.

From Ontario Emperor
Posted December 14, 2003 at 11:10 PM
If you want to create a good ride that does justice to the original material, you need to have a good concept. One could just stick the passengers on a moving vehicle and have them zip past parts of the story (stick some Ents there, Ernie!), but the best thing for a Lord of the Rings ride would be to take just a part of the story - for example, the entry into Mordor - and build the ride around that. (Incidentally, I still haven't gotten around to seeing ANY of the movies - I want to re-read the books first.)

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