Just arrived back from a trip to the UAE so I thought I’d share my thoughts on a couple of parks, plus a brand new and what looks to be mostly unreported on park that pleasantly surprised.
I've embedded a couple of POVs from YouTube (not mine) for context.
Choosing a park to visit in Dubai was difficult - Ferrari World was locked and loaded for Abu Dhabi but, after sightseeing, we only had time for one in Dubai. I did a lot of research on IMG Worlds of Adventure vs Motiongate - both had a pretty equal list of pros and cons. IMG had a good collection of rides (the standout being Velociraptor, a Blue Fire clone) BUT I’d heard that the enclosed environment created a lot of noise and reminded more of a beautified carnival than a theme park. Motiongate on the other hand had a very unique collection in a setting similar to Universal - a powered suspended Mack coaster, Gerstlauer Infinity and a Mack launch similar to Star Trek amongst a number of flats and trackless dark rides. So, Motiongate it was...
The park was almost 50km out from the center of Dubai and is only really accessible by car. Taxis are cheap but you’ll still need to factor in ~$30 each way when visiting.
The entryway is big and impressive. Desert turns to roads lined with lush greenery with palm trees leading up to the entry. The dropoff point is at the front of an area called Riverland - essentially their version of Universal’s City Walk that connects the four parks in the complex Motiongate is part of.
There’s a pretty lengthy walk through Riverland to get to Motiongate (later discovered there’s a tram you can take) but it is beautiful. The area is very well done but is let down by a lack of general atmosphere. It was a quiet day so I’m not entirely sure if it’s the norm, but there was no music or street entertainment. Such a brilliantly themed area would benefit hugely by some complimenting music and a few roving entertainers. The shops/restaurants were sort of just “there”.
After around 15 minutes we reached the entry plaza for Motiongate - it’s impressive.
The park begins with a relatively small and short Main Street area with the standard gift shops. This then leads to a fountain which branches off to four lands - Lionsgate, Dreamworks, Columbia Pictures and Smurf’s Village.
We started off with Lionsgate, so far only home to one of their IP’s being The Hunger Games. There are two rides, Panem Aerial Tour (simulator) and Capitol Bullet Train (Mack launch). The sim was first up...
10 mins was posted for the queue but it ended up being around 25. Inside the queue looked short but it was painfully slow - little did we know that this would set the tone for the day. The ride itself was average. The sim movements are very smooth but I feel this is detrimental to the ride’s story. The flight turns violent and fast paced so the vision doesn’t match the system’s movement. It doesn’t really go anywhere and has a pretty anticlimactic ending. If you were to visit on a busy day this would definitely be one to skip.
Capitol Bullet Train was next which thankfully was a walk on, although I wouldn’t have minded a wait because the queue is amazing. The weird thing is the theming stops completely once you’re out on the track. It begins with a slow roll onto the transfer which then slides you over to the launch track. A countdown plays which would have been good if it wasn’t for the lacklustre launch. You sort of just roll forward for a few seconds until the LSM’s engage, even after which they don’t offer much of a kick, only sending the train a quarter way up the loop. You then pass through the launch track again (this time the LSMs properly kick in) and send you up the spike, then through the loop and the rest of the course. It’s a decent layout with a good pop of air on one of the hills but nothing stellar.
Following this we headed over to Dreamworks, a massive enclosed building that is split into four mini-lands - Shrek, Kungfu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar, branching out from a breathtaking Dreamworks themed fountain that stopped us in our tracks whenever we walked past.
Shrek was up first and we were blown away. Obviously being enclosed it’s constantly “night” - it’s beautifully lit and really immersive. We headed over to Shrek’s Merry Fairy Tale Journey, one of a few trackless dark rides in the park and the longest at around 8 minutes. It basically tells the full story of Shrek in “puppet style”. All the animatronics have visible strings and are basic however there are some great transitions between scenes and is a very good ride overall. What I really liked is that the ride ended with a scene where you’re transported back from the tale with a few “proper” animatronics - sort of felt like a statement from the park to remind that they’re more than capable of creating real animatronics. I don’t think the trackless system was necessary however as there are only really 2 alternate paths the cars take.
At this point I had a great feeling about the park, the good was outweighing the bad. There was some areas that reminded me of Universal and some even matching Disney quality...
Shrek lead into Madagascar so that was next. Again, another well done area. This was home to Mad Pursuit, a Gerstlauer Infinity with a 35 min wait posted. Seemed excessive for a very quiet day but we decided to wait anyway. Unfortunately this was the start of the park showing it’s uglier side. The queue was a decent length but still only looked 1/4 full with all switchbacks empty. The queue was crawling. I initially put it down to potentially a single car running but was confused when the station came into view (50 minutes later), along with the revelation that 3 cars were running. In addition to insanely inefficient SLOW operations (cars stacking for up to 2 minutes?), priority was always given to anyone in the Q Fast queue. If there was enough to fill a car from Q Fast, no one would be taken from the regular queue. We saw multiple people reriding without any issue while the normal queue stopped moving, sometimes for up to 15 minutes. A mind boggling way to manage a priority queuing system and a great way to annoy regular guests.
70 minutes later we were on. Really punchy launch with a wicked turn immediately following. The rest of the layout was good but the theming was lacking, you fly through a few static cut outs in near darkness. Missed opportunity here I feel.
I’d heard great things about Dragon Gliders but refrained from watching any POVs or reviews in detail, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The ride system I wasn’t familiar with either. This had a 60 min wait time but thankfully only ended up being around 30 - the train never stops in the station, similar to HP Forbidden Journey, so it definitely keeps ops on their toes and loading trains quick. There’s an illuminated line that, if the train passes without all restraints locked, will stop the train in the station. This happened a couple of times but was resolved within 20 seconds. The queue again is stunning, perfectly lit with some cool effects.
The ride is by far and away the best in the park. There are multiple scenes with impressive animatronics that the cars stop in front of, each car rotating to view the scene. Eventually you come out of the show building and coast (at decent speed) above the How to Train Your Dragon area. It ends with a fantastic spiral back into the station as you circle around the final animatronic scene. There are a few rides that have left me seriously impressed (namely Gringotts and Forbidden Journey), this is one of them. It’s the one ride they’ve nailed from start to finish and is 100% world class. Motiongate is worth the visit for this alone.
The main attraction in Kungfu Panda is Unstoppable Awesomeness which we skipped - again another line that didn’t move so we ran out of patience.
By the time we came out of Dreamworks the sun was setting, so it was through Smurf’s Village - a very well themed kids area with a roller skater - and onto Columbia Pictures. A big castle with cool forced perspective dominates the area which houses Hotel Transylvania, another trackless dark ride. Very poor ride that meanders in and out of a bunch of rooms that do a bunch of nothing. It could be greatly improved if the rooms were hidden with doors, but instead you just crawl around and end up hearing the audio from each room repeating over and over.
Ghostbusters next and - you guessed it - is trackless, albeit a shooter. Without question the park’s poorest attraction, the guns are flimsy, effects and interactivity bad, sound and animation average. Waste of space and time.
By this point The Green Hornet (Gerstlauer Bobsled) had a queue of 40 minutes and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (river rapids) 75 minutes, which was absurd as the park was extremely quiet. We decided to try our luck with Zombieland Blast Off - a S&S double shot - but that too, somehow, had a 40 minute wait.
Overall the park is good, it is so close to being great but is really let down by some of the worst ops I’ve seen in any park, along with some average rides (outside of Dreamworks) that look to be the victim of cost cutting. Visiting off-peak seems to have more cons than pros, there is virtually no street entertainment, rides are cut to using minimal cars, staff inefficient (and clearly bored) and shops/restaurants close. Clearly they want to compete on an international level and be at the Universal/Disney standard, but silly things like the above mean they won’t get there. On the other hand you have the stellar Dreamworks area that is so good it could be its own separate gate, but it’s frustrating going from a world class attraction like How to Train Your Dragon to garbage like Ghostbusters.
PVRK, a new VR theme park in Dubai is up next...