Disney World's Rise of the Resistance media event and have had some time to process this announcement, let's dive into The London Resort's plans.Last week at the Blooloop conference in the United Kingdom, The London Resort revealed the line-up of its theme lands. Now that I am back from
The line-up announced this week was for the park's first planned gate, which is scheduled now to open in 2024. The resort plans to open a second gate on its 535-acre site by 2029. If the resort proceeds as planned, it would become Europe's third multi-gate theme resort, following Disneyland Paris and PortAventura World.
"We have three guidelines we work to when it comes to developing attractions," the Chief Executive of London Resort Company Holdings, PY Gerbeau, said. "Number one is innovation. We’re not here to copy what's been done before even if it has been successful. Number two is relevance. We need to consider that the customers of today will not be the customers of 2024. And the third is flexibility. We need to create a park that can evolve and adapt easily."
Let's see what the park has to say about its lands:
The entrance to The London Resort will be via a grand plaza that leads visitors and hotel guests through The High Street. Full of shops, restaurants, hotels, a Convention Centre and a first-class waterpark.
Visitors can start their journey in The Studios, a gritty, modern-day warehouse district that practically roars with the exhilarating thrills of big, blockbuster features. A winning combination of explosive action, high-octane car chases and high-stakes espionage.
Just to the north lies The Woods, an enchanted realm where springtime reigns eternal and the boundary between reality and fantasy dissolves. Here, the young and young-at-heart will be invited to step through the pages of a storybook and embark on adventures that put a fresh spin on beloved bedtime stories, fables and fairy tales.
From the Woods, the journey continues through the ages into The Kingdom, an immersive realm of swords, sorcery, dragons & legend. This is England as a dark and ancient land, a place of threatening and imposing castles and mystical Arthurian legends.
To the north lay The Isles, a land of giant creatures, mythical beasts and adventures at the crossroads of imagination and reality. Fantastic jaw dropping architecture will combine with magnificent rides and 21st century technology.
The past begins to blend with the future in The Jungle. Ancient ruins of a mysterious long-lost Mesoamerican civilisation are seen pushing up through treetops. Here, an overgrown environment, brimming with ancient secrets, surprising discoveries and strange mystical artefacts will be transported to the present by inquisitive explorers – young and old.
The final land, dedicated to futuristic experiences, alien encounters and big thrill rides, The Starport is a bustling 23rd century landing zone. It will launch visitors into thrilling science-fiction adventures that are out of this world, leaving them mesmerised at things that should be impossible but are not.
And here are the park map and new concept images, courtesy The London Resort:
Let's start with that entrance gate, shall we? Paramount withdrew from this project in 2017, but returned earlier this year. Originally slated to be open by now, this park initially was branded to Paramount, before years of delays and Paramount's exit. When the studio returned to the project earlier this year, I assumed that it was simply to provide IP for planned attractions, but the use of its iconic Melrose Avenue studio gate at the entrance to the park suggests a more substantial role. Remember that no one seems to have announced what the names for either of these proposes theme parks would be. They - and the resort overall - can't all be called "The London Resort."
Developers promised this week that 70 percent of the park's attractions would be under cover, as suggested by the Union Jack-screened dome over the entrance and abundant use of roofs in the aerial concept image. While London's average temperature would not demand an Abu Dhabi-style indoor park, England's persistent precipitation does call for cover. (My apologies for that sentence, BTW. It's been a long week.)
The uncertainty of global climate change hangs over the themed entertainment design industry as it does over every industry on this planet. To that end, developers promised that The London Resort will pursue a Net Zero emissions goal.
"We won’t just be creating a world class leisure destination," Gerbeau said in referencing the resort's partnership with EDF Energy. "It will also be one of the most sustainable theme parks on the planet."
But one park's zero emission goal, while laudable, does not excuse designers from having to find a way to create a comfortable environment in world filled with ever more crappy and unpredictable weather. The aggressive use of cover demonstrates a nice start toward that, but let's not forget that The London Resort's location on the Swanscombe Peninsula is on the "wrong" side of the Thames Barrier when it comes to flooding.
As for the lands themselves, ultimately - of course - they will succeed or fail on the quality of the attractions within. But context remains important. A theme park designer's first task must be to create a space in which people will want to spend time. Great attractions in an uncomfortable space do not sell tickets.
To that point, the resort's use of "gritty" to describe its Studios land concerns me. We've drilled down on the studio theme problem before, and after watching industry leaders Disney and Universal throw billions of dollars to get away from parks that look like studio backlots, I am amazed that anyone would be spending money to go in that direction.
I cannot imagine that anyone wants to spend money to visit a "gritty" space. The "explosive action, high-octane car chases and high-stakes espionage" are great, but the location that houses them must be aspirational, not someplace we are conditioned to avoid.
The rest of the park seems a bit like it could be called "London's British Empire Adventure," though I suppose that theme falls down on developers' choice of Mesoamerica for The Jungle land, rather than India or Africa. Beyond the "gritty" misstep, the land descriptions are fine, though the lands' names seem so generic as to make me question whether they are placeholders. Surely "The Starport" would be better branded as a Star Trek land, given that is Paramount's big SciFi franchise, right? The description even sets the land in the 23rd century, for goodness' sake.
The resort's other IP partners are ITV Studios and the BBC, so I will leave to readers to play connect the dots and assign appropriate franchises to these lands. (So where does Coronation Street fit in all this, again?)
Given the delays so far with this project, I think it understandable that many readers would come to this announcement with a fair bit of skepticism. But there's Kuwaiti money behind this project, and Middle Eastern-funded projects have developed most of the new parks we've seen outside of China over the past decade. Brexit throws uncertainty over all British tourism at this moment, as well, but if The London Resort delivers any world-class attractions, I imagine that a large audience from both Britain and beyond will find their way to visit and experience them.
The bones look good here. With this thematic foundation, this project could work for theme park fans — in the UK, Europe and even a few from America. Construction is supposed to begin next year. If it does, then I am eager to hear more details from this park as they become available.
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