On June 18, the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort opens, and we could not be happier little movie geeks. We can't wait to buy our own magic wands at Ollivander's and get buttered on butterbeer at the Hog's Head! But all this hoopla has gotten us thinking about other film franchises, many much older than Harry Potter, that deserve their own theme parks. Here's our list of eleven action, fantasy, sci-fi and comedy franchises that we would love to immerse ourselves in for at least four or five days out of the year.
While Indy has rides in Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea and a stunt show at Walt Disney World, we want a park that caters to the entire world of Indy. A virtual truck chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark! A mine cart roller coaster from Temple of Doom! A biplane ride from Last Crusade! And maybe a ride based on Crystal Skull where they put you in a fridge and launch you 50 feet into the air. Conveniently, all of Indy's hard-won artifacts would be available in the gift shop.
The centerpiece of any Die Hard theme park would be a luxury hotel patterned after Nakatomi Plaza, of course, but the entire park would be populated by barefoot John McClaine impersonators, spouting catchphrases, rappelling down the tower, taking drink orders, giving helicopter tours of New York and guiding you through a tunnel full of crashing cars. They'd even help land your plane at the park's private airfield!
Alien vs. Predator
All of the famous environments from the movies would be re-created here: the Guatemalan jungle, planet LV-426, the Predator pyramid, the crashed alien ship... You can play the hunter or the hunted in numerous role-playing scenarios, and enjoy various egg-based dishes at the Cafe Nostromo or fresh-cut steaks at the Predator Grill. But watch out for Gary Busey, who's roaming the park with a liquid nitrogen cannon and a bloodstream full of stimulants!
There's been talk of a fourth movie, and while James Bond seems a bit dry for a theme park, we think there'd be interest in a more over-the-top world based on the International Man of Mystery, complete with musical numbers, roller skating rinks, stunt shows and attractions dedicated to 1960s London, 1970s New York and Dr. Evil's secret Hollywood lair. Building the elaborate attraction would only cost... $100 billion dollars!
Lord of the Rings
Fans already flock to New Zealand to see where the movies were filmed, so why not re-create the Shire, Rohan, Gondor and the rest of Middle Earth in America, especially with the Hobbit movies in pre-production? Our advice is to start building the Shire and the Lonely Mountain (complete with animatronic Smaug) right now, and worry about hiring the requisite number of little people when the time comes.
The first movie was a thinly-veiled jab at Michael Eisner and Disney World, complete with costumed mascots and animatronic characters welcoming visitors to the kingdom of Duloc. For the real park, we say recreate the kingdom of Far Far Away, complete with a big castle, a Hollywood-style sign and a Starbuck's on every corner.
Considering that Batman & Robin was pretty much an ice-skating show caught on film, it should be no problem to turn the other five modern Batman movies into amusement park attractions. (There can even be a Batman '66 island just for the grandparents.) And every hour on the hour there'd be a parade of Batmobiles, hosted by the Joker as master of ceremonies: "Where is the Batman? He's at home, washin' his tights!"
The new Tron film has already gotten Disney thinking about creating a new Tron attraction (not to mention sticking pictures of lightcycles on its monorail), but we need a whole park dedicated to being inside a computer and witnessing gladiatorial-style combat and motorcycle races. Plus, imagine being able to go into real-life "chat rooms" and talk to people from around the world, who are also visiting the park? The future is now!
Yeah, yeah, they're supposedly updating the Star Tours rides at all of the Disney parks, but why aren't we riding a speeder bike-themed roller coaster, or navigating the swamps of Dagobah in rafts, or being thrown to our doom by Darth Vader in an air-shaft free-fall? Our imagination envisions a park based around a Death Star the size of Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, but we'd be happy just to pay $20 for a burger in a mock-up of the Cantina.
National Lampoon's Vacation
Rather than being pinned down to just one destination for your vacation, why not go to a single park inspired by the Vacation movies, with sections that re-create Walley World Amusement Park, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Europe? And for one month every year they can decorate the whole park for Christmas Vacation, or simply keep that one section of the park covered in snow all year round, so it's always Christmas!
Jay & Silent Bob
The sex-drugs-and-comic-books-themed films of Kevin Smith may not seem like the ideal fodder for a family getaway, but there's really something for everybody! Junior can ride on the Bluntman & Chronic Smoke Coaster, Mom can pet orangutans in the wild at the Coalition for the Liberation of Itinerant Tree-dwellers, Sister can shop at the Mallrats mall, and Dad can peruse the back-issue bins at the longest-running comic book convention in history (open 24 hours!). Then they can all get together to eat dinner at Mooby's!
What movie or franchise would you like to see a theme park based on? Start the roller-coaster ride below. And for more info about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, click here.
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