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AlexB

What makes a theme park?

16 posts in this topic

The off topic topic has again raised the great debate - what actually constitutes a theme park?

1 hour ago, Thrill Seeker said:

Disneyland is a Theme Park (pure theme park)

Movie World is a Theme Park (cheap knock off more an amusement park)

Dreamworld is a Amusment Park (no similar theme around the park with the addition of a water park on the same property with no separation)

Seaworld is a Marine Park (with some rides)

Wet’n’Wild is a Water Park (rides for everyone)

 

Based on the above, I respectfully disagree with the assessment.

Quote

Definition: an amusement park with a unifying setting or idea.

Firstly, let's set the scene and a few ground rules - I'm sure we all agree Disneyland is undeniably a theme park. Uncle Walt practically wrote the book (of course, utilising ideas of others), and Disney Parks are usually well regarded as 'theme parks'... however, to set the bar at "disney level" or "$100Million per attraction" level is a bit unachievable for all but the big guys.

Now - based on the definition above we take a few things - firstly - Disneyland isn't a park with a single unifying setting. It has different lands, but - each land DOES have a (for the most part) unifying setting.

Movie World certainly has different areas or lands, and each has a unifying setting or idea (although those waters have been muddied in recent times).

Dreamworld likewise had different areas or lands each with their own unifying setting or idea. Again, muddied waters more recently.

So, in my opinion - an amusement park is a collection of attractions, where each attraction is essentially 'plonked' into a space that will fit, with no thought given to the surroundings. You can certainly "theme" each attraction and give it elaborate props and styling and signage, but if it doesn't relate to the things around it, it fails as a 'themed land or area'.

This is where I tend to disagree with those Perth based fans of adventure world. Mostly, each attraction in it's own right is themed well to a cohesive theme, but those themes don't tend to interact well with the other things around it.

Sea World, on the other hand, does well to keep it's theme. It's a marine park, yes - but see, that's the theme - the unifying setting or idea is that of water, ocean, marine life, the "Sea". It does make one scratch one's head when looking at previous attractions like the Dinosaurs, and of course, not everything Nickelodeon is 'sea' themed, but they've at least made the effort to have spongebob related attractions (at least 4 by my count) along with a Nick-theme applied to their other kiddie attractions.

Wet N Wild (GC) is a hard one to answer, but it's usually easy to exclude them as "water park". Although they've tried to have unified settings for attractions in close proximity in the past (Extreme H2O zone, Calypso), lately its become a matter of 'plonking' wherever it fits.

Are the GC parks "well themed" theme parks? Not when compared to Disney. Are they theme parks? in my opinion (and with the above caveats) - yes.

So... over to you. What do you think makes a theme park?

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In Australia I'd argue that a theme park is any park where most of the rides aren't traveling models, and contains at least 1 non traveling model coaster with custom footers.

 

I'm aware that doesn't speak to the difference between amusement and theme, but that's my definition and I stand by it.

Edited by joz
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I agree with Alex

Movie world is certainly a theme park, it’s theme is literally in its name 

Dreamworld, although not a cohesive theme throughout the entire park, is definitely still a theme park. There are themed areas to the park and a theme park doesn’t necessarily have to stick to one theme (but I’d say it would need to have some level of cohesion, which in some sections DW still does). A theme park doesn’t even have to have “lands” if there is still some sort of cohesive theme in parts of the park.

Sea world is definitely both a marine park and a theme park themed to the ocean.

WnW I’d say is just a water park. There is some theming but not enough to warrant it being a theme park IMO. There are of course water parks that are also theme parks, such as the Disney water parks or volcano bay.

To me, amusement parks are your typical six flags or cedar fair parks where some rides may have a loose theme but nothing ties into anything else that much. Adventure world (although not having been there myself) appears to sit on the boundary between amusement and theme park.

I’d say our parks are above average in terms of theming. Clearly not nearly as themed as Disney or some of the German theme parks, but there are parks out there that have far worse theming.

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A few years ago, I would have said that Australia did have a lot of Amusement parks like Aussie World, Fun Fields, AW, etc. But today, I would say all of these are theme parks. 

MW and DW are definitely theme parks. SW used to be, but now I would say it’s more a marine park. In comparison to US SW, I would say those ones are theme parks.

 

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12 hours ago, Santa07 said:

amusement parks are your typical six flags or cedar fair parks where some rides may have a loose theme but nothing ties into anything else that much.

I see where you're going with this, but I'm not sure I agree.

Take magic mountain as an example - yes, many of their more recent additions do take more of a 'plonked' attitude, but their 'Justice League' area is tied in well - with Green Lantern, Batman, Riddler, Flash, Wonder Woman all gathered together with a cohesive theme, including the food outlets, etc. Superman for obvious reasons is located a fair way away, but the towers (including Lex) stand at the entrance to the Justice League area too.
Their WB children's area is also really nicely done. There are many other areas of the park that have great theming - even if it's just a small area with one ride. Although clearly on a larger scale, I wouldn't consider them any less a 'theme' park than say - Movie World.

I'm sure comparisons could be made for many other SF or CF parks.

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Adventure World is an interesting topic when regarding it as a theme park or not. I’m not denying that adventure could improve it’s theming however some arguments against it being one doesn’t have a straight yes or no answer. Such as the critic of lack of themed lands. Adventure World has included elements multiple times over the past few years to incorporate themed lands.

The first of which being Dragon’s Kingdom which brought cohesive theming to the area and transformed the colour scheme from bright and off putting colours to ones more natural allowing it to bend better into the garden strengthening it’s theme. And this is while most (but not all) parks in the country haven’t updated their children’s area at all, or attempted to blend the barrier between the theming of the rides and the land they are kept in.

Adventure World has also gone to the trouble of renaming multiple rides over the years as the stepping stone of full land integration. The area known as Nautica (Kraken, Sea Serpents, Tidal Wave, Wahoo Speed Slides and Buccaneer Battle) after the introduction of the Kraken have had it’s ride’s renamed, had consistent themed elements spread throughout the land (barrels, row boats and signage) in an attempt to homogenise the theming of the land. This being said money can be spent to further improve the theming in this Area which is something I believe AW would be interested in the future however their priority would likely being funding of the MI series of attractions. There is also Water Mountain which was entirely re-themed to the Wild West and of course Thrill. Yes there is some arguments against AW’s Thrill Area.

Yes the paving doesn’t match (Goliath’s different paving was introduced to be a cooler surface since many people are bare footed at AW since it also contains water rides) however there is similar darker ride colour schemes, almost identical sounding ride announcements and ‘scarier’ theming contrasted with the rest of the park. This is aided by the ‘woods’ like trees in the backdrop and on the lead up to inferno to help build a more dreary atmosphere.

Yes Adventure World is far from spending 100 million on theming like Disney parks however the continued improvements is what is important, when was the last time other theme parks in Australia attempted to homogenise older lands to have more consistent theming (only referring to revisiting not entirely new lands) most other parks as time progress lose the consistent theming within the land whilst adventure world has improved it. In my opinion that makes it a theme park. 

Edited by Guest01
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I like to take my Theme Park breakdown to the edge of insanity.

Most people are looking at “Theme” as the defining word, but one must include the proceeding word of park.

 

THEME PARKS

Disney being the Godfather of theme parks is the template used to judge a Theme Park.

(The Disney template is not about comparing the quality of attractions)

Does the park have an overall theme or a story to tell?           Yes/No

Do areas within the park tell a larger story?                               Yes/No

Does the individual attraction tell a story?                                 Yes/No

Do the amenities within a land add to the story?                      Yes/No

 

4 yeses and you have a theme park.

 

 

AMUSEMENT PARKS

Amusement parks generally skip storytelling, but no law is written that an Amusement park can’t have themed areas or themed attractions.  Amusement parks also generally have areas of loud noises including the screams of riders, amenities and stores that have nothing in common.

 

Movie World   = Theme Park

Sea World = Theme Park

Dreamworld = Once a Theme park but now an Amusement Park

Adventure World = Amusement Park

Legoland Discovery Centre = Theme Park

Edited by Skeeta

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I agree with lots of the comments so far.

Adventure World is a hard one to classify as it didn’t really start as a theme park or an amusement park. It didn’t have any off the shelf rides; they only showed up later. It was more of an action park.

However, it does mean things like Old Sydney Town/Pioneer World or Fox Studios Backlot were theme parks. 

Just out of interest: what’s the difference between a Legoland Discovery Centre and a Legoland theme park - theming wise? Why didn’t they call it a theme park?

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On 09/05/2019 at 12:08 PM, Skeeta said:

 

Does the park have an overall theme or a story to tell?           Yes/No

I agree with your other points, but I don’t think a theme park necessarily needs to be focused on a single overall theme. Main example I can think of is Phantasialand - doesn’t really have that much of a consistent theme overall, but the individual sections of the park are well themed and each tell a unique story. And anyone who wants to argue that Phantasialand is not a theme park might as well try to argue that Disneyland isn’t one either.

Edited by Santa07

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A themepark flows...colours, atmosphere, attractions all work as "one". DW was certainly a themepark up to say the mid-90's, then she had some sort of nervous breakdown and allowed itself to be vadalised by people who wanted to treat the park as a one-night stand and not give her any true long-term love!  😞

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Hang on, why does a theme park have to have an overall theme?

Not many parks do one theme overall because it gets boring and you run out of ideas....Not saying you can't, but few parks do.

Like, Ferrari Land in Spain has quite a limited palette to work with and results in weaker attractions that are shoehorned to fit the theme.

 

I thought theme parks can have several distinctive themed lands. Eg the way Phantasialand has Africa, China, Klugheim, Wild West etc.

 

Some parks might be a bit weak with their lands, but that's how I define if.

Amusement Parks are just more generic, and more just (usually) present stuff in an attractive manner, eg Adventure Park Geelong, Hersheypark.

Adventure World is a tricky one, because although it has themed zones, the park is so spread out and has large areas of no theme that it ends up feeling like an amusement park when actually there.

Edited by Gazza
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For me, a theme park is a magical place where visitors of all ages feel completely immersed in a whole different world from the moment they enter.

Many theme parks have multiple "lands" (Disneyland being the most obvious example), but whilst each area of the park might have its own distinct specialisation, they should all tie into the parks overall theme. For example, each land within a Disney theme park is themed to a particular Disney character or movie, but they're all Disney!

Within a good theme park, there should be a wide selection of different experiences. These should include various different sorts of rides, shows, and walk-through attractions.

The experience should be enhanced with various roaming characters, restaurants, shops, music (both live and recorded), and the careful design of the parks facilities, shops, accommodation (if there is any), restaurants, landscaping etc.

Importantly, just about any type of person visiting a theme park (from a toddler to a grandparent) should be easily able to enjoy the experience and use enough of the attractions to keep them occupied happily.

Finally, a great theme park both changes enough to keep regular guests wanting to come back, and also knows what features of the park guests have strong attachment to and makes reasonable efforts to keep these preserved and available as much and as long as possible (while safe, of course).

Edited by pushbutton

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but whilst each area of the park might have its own distinct specialisation, they should all tie into the parks overall theme. For example, each land within a Disney theme park is themed to a particular Disney character or movie, but they're all Disney!

But not all theme parks have an overall theme, and often the park has it's name more out of marketing considerations, or because it's just a name that has stuck over the years.

Alton Towers is an example, it's absolutely a theme park, and a good one at that, but you cant say that the park has some sort of overriding theme, nor can you say the park name suggests a theme, because it's just named after the old castle in the middle of the park, and the theming on rides like Galactica or Oblivion have nothing to do with that castle.

Or Gardaland, it's just called that because it's next to Lake Garda.

Or Efteling?

Or Busch Gardens Tampa? 

Edited by Gazza
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25 minutes ago, Gazza said:

But not all theme parks have an overall theme, and often the park has it's name more out of marketing considerations, or because it's just a name that has stuck over the years.

Alton Towers is an example, it's absolutely a theme park, and a good one at that, but you cant say that the park has some sort of overriding theme, nor can you say the park name suggests a theme, because it's just named after the old castle in the middle of the park, and the theming on rides like Galactica or Oblivion have nothing to do with that castle.

Or Gardaland, it's just called that because it's next to Lake Garda.

Or Efteling?

Or Busch Gardens Tampa? 

Fair points. I'm not familar with Efteling or Busch Gardens Tampa, but I've been to Alton Towers many times, and to me personally it's the best theme park I've ever been to.

You're right that Alton Towers is named after the historic castle in the grounds (as indeed it should be). There are a couple of attractions (such as Hex) that are at least somewhat themed to the history of the place, but many aren't I suppose.

The overall style and feel of the whole place (including all the landscaping, buildings and entertainment) does seem to 'fit together' though.

A great park, but perhaps it doesn't have (or need) one central theme.

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Id even go so far as to say that most theme parks consist of disparate themes, and the ones that have the purity of an overriding one are the exception.

Take Disneyland. A lot of the themed lands are NOT based around Disney movies or characters, and in fact its only been in recent years that management have decided to insert characters into them to make the most of cross promotion.

Eg at Disneyland, Space Mountain, Autopia have no movie/character tie in. The submarine ride was previously just submarines, and it was only the 2007 relaunch when they added Finding Nemo.

Over in New Orleans Square you have Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Both of these rides pre-date their respective movies by quite a long period, and it wasnt until the Pirates of the Carribean Movies got released that they updated the animatronics to match Jack Sparrow etc.

The Matterhorn? Big Thunder Mountain? Both non film/character related.

Though Disneyland did appear to use some Disney characters as a starting point for the park (Eg in Fantasyland), they did branch out with other themes that are just themes that look good and are immersive.

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