Diving deep into the detail of Warner Bros. World

Not since Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a theme park provided such detailed fan service as Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi delivers through its six themed lands. The creative team that designed this park, led by Thinkwell’s Craig Hanna & Dave Cobb, has crafted immersive environments that effectively sell the illusion that you are standing in iconic locations such as Superman’s Metropolis and the Roadrunner’s American West… leaving you to forget that you’re actually walking around inside a giant box in the Abu Dhabi desert.

Warner Bros. World is able to sustain this illusion because Thinkwell’s design team has filled the park with detail that reflects and reinforces each land’s IP. While casual visitors will enjoy the beautiful views and impressive facades throughout park, dedicated fans of each franchise will geek out discovering all the thoughtful details and Easter eggs on display.

The press event to which I was invited allowed me less than six hours walking around inside Warner Bros. World — not enough time for a geek like me to appreciate the full extent of detail within park, which might take multiple full-day visits. Fortunately, I spent about 90 minutes of those six hours walking around the park with Dave, who pointed out many of the details that I missed on my first lap.

Let’s start with three examples of what I will call “ley lines” in the park’s lands. Next the entrance of the Acme Co. factory in Cartoon Junction, you will see an Acme rocket, crashed into a window.

Acme rocket

But if you look in a straight line the opposite direction, you will see the path that the rocket took through neighboring buildings, leading back to a bundle of Acme rockets, minus the one now sitting in the factory window.

Good designers uses this technique to help remind visitors subconsciously that they are standing within a space bound by the laws of physics. Therefore, even thought it appears fantastic, it is real. (There’s another great example in the exit gift shop of Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, which depicts the destructive flight of a cannonball.)

You’ll find another exampled in Warner Bros’ World’s Gotham, up in the second-floor windows of the abandoned subway station building that’s now the Hall of Doom. It’s the charred damage of an explosive blast that carries across the land. But my favorite detail from this scene is the decapitated gargoyle next to the charred window.

Charred damage

Want to know what happened to that gargoyle’s head? It’s “for sale” in the Pawn Shop gift store across the street.

Gargoyle's head

And, oh yeah, the batarang that knocked it off is on display in the shop, too. The entire store is filled with the detritus of superhero battles, depicted in DC Comics and the land. The pawn shop’s owner is making his bank by collecting the remains and selling them to fans. (The store IRL is selling T-shirts and other Batman-themed souvenirs. Again, not enough time to fully document!)

You don’t always need to look up to see these design lines. In The Flintstones’ Bedrock, you might notice a set of Mammoth tracks leading from the Warner Bros. Plaza entrance toward the Bedrock River Adventure flume ride. In the middle of the path, the tracks cross a planter. So what’s posted next to those tracks inside the planter?

Mammoth crossing

My favorite attraction in the park was the Animayhem shooter ride, which is set within the Acme Co. building in the factory town of Cartoon Junction. Above the street, you can see the factory gate, emblazoned with the Acme motto, “Caveat Emptor.”

Acme factory gate

Which is Latin for… “Buyer Beware.”

The queue for Animayhem is a tour of “Mad Men”-inspired, mid-century-styled Acme design studio, where you find fan service gems such as the motivational slogan, “Quality is our #1 Dream!”

Quality is our #1 Dream!

And look what form the company has run out of on its paperwork table.

Missing release forms

Deep in the extended queue of the ride you will find the Acme Co.’s awards cabinet.

Acme Co.'s awards cabinet

Um… not much there except cobwebs, right? Well, there is this:

Caveat Emptor Award

It’s the “Caveat Emptor Award” for “Achievements in Legalese”… and it is adorned with an asterisk. Brilliant.

Dave explained the unpublished history of Cartoon Junction. It’s an old railway town, which made it an attractive site for the Acme factory, which would ship its defective products all over the country from here. The mansion at the end of the town was owned by the railway baron, who filled it with collectibles from around the world. He’s long passed, and now the abandoned mansion is haunted museum, making it the perfect location for Scooby-Doo! The Museum of Mysteries.

The backstory for the Scooby Doo building reminded me of the story of Harrison Hightower and Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror, BTW. But the Scooby-Doo ride is filled wit fan service, as it tracks the story beats and conventions of Scooby-Doo episodes, including a chase across a hallway, Shaggy looking for food, and finally pulling the mask of the perp while he complains about “you meddling kids.” If you’ve never seen an episode of Scooby-Doo, you can appreciate the amusing dark ride. But if you are a fan, you can appreciate that the ride’s designers have shown that they are fans who get what this franchise is all about, too.

One more detail in Cartoon Junction. Here’s a billboard for another Acme product posted next to the portal into Gotham.

Batsuit

Here are three of many moments of fan service within Batman’s hometown. A wanted poster for Joe Chill, who killed Batman’s parents:

Wanted poster

Graffiti from the Court of Owls, who are “always watching.”

Court of Owls

And the take a look at the domed roof on the abandoned subway station building that is now the Hall of Doom, the Legion of Doom’s headquarters. If you watched the Super Friends animated TV series in the 1970s, you might recognize the homage to the Hall of Doom from that show.

Hall of Doom

Next door in Metropolis, the inside of the Hall of Justice will leave you feeling like you are standing within the Pantheon of gods.

Hall of Justice

The queue of the Justice League ride lies on the far side of the Superman statue. Within it you will find boards that explain who all these superheroes are, for visitors not familiar with the IP. But longtime fans might recognize what is revealed later in the queue, that the “villain” the superheroes are fighting in this trackless dark ride is Black Mercy, which first appeared in the Superman comics in 1985.

Black Mercy

Outside the Hall of Justice, note the paper for sale inside the news box on the street. It apparently references a moment within the ride (which I did not get to experience).

News box

And the directory for the office building (facade) next to the Hall of Justice includes names pulled from DC Comics, including Emil Hamilton, Starrware Industries, and Cale-Anderson Pharmaceuticals.

DC building directory

I didn’t get a photo, but I also wanted to note Dave’s backstory for why the Marvin the Martian and The Jetsons rides are located within the Roadrunner’s Dynamite Gulch. The IRL reason is that these are carryovers from a sci-fi themed land that didn’t make the cut in the design process, but that the developers nevertheless wanted to save. So how to explain their presence in the American West. Well, that part of the land is its “Area 51 1/2,” the secret government facility to house the aliens and time travelers who crash landed here.

Nice. Even that loose end has been pulled tight.

In all, I couldn’t find anything haphazard in Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. There was no surface unfinished (though two rides did remain incomplete in that they were not sufficiently tested to be open for the preview event.) Warner Bros. World offers a thematic consistency in its placemaking that I have not seen on a park-wide level since Tokyo DisneySea.

Right now, based on what I saw in my brief visit, I would place Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi among the top five theme parks in the world for consistently convincing placemaking in its lands, joining Tokyo DisneySea, Disneyland in California, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

This article was originally published here.

SANAD Capital Names Zenas, Chutter and Jonsson to ‘Power’ ACTVENTURE Advisory Panel

Industry leaders to help lead ACTVENTURE into construction phase

SANAD Capital has today named three top global executives who will serve as expert advisors to the company, to bolster the success of its $450m theme park on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Joe Zenas, CEO of Thinkwell Group, Geoff Chutter, President and CEO of Whitewater, and Fredrik Jonsson, Founder and Managing Partner of Mereha will sit on the Advisory Panel for ACTVENTURE.

“We are very excited about these three outstanding individuals joining our advisory panel, who are exceptional leaders and experts in their respective fields,” said SANAD Capital CEO, Bradley P. Sutherland. “As we move into the construction phase of ACTVENTURE, Joe, Geoff and Fredrik’s expertise will add to the success of bringing a first-of-its-kind destination to the country.”

SANAD Capital also confirmed today that it has submitted its application for approval to start bulk earthworks, to the Sunshine Coast Council. Furthermore, the company has put together a short list of companies from within the Sunshine Coast to start a bidding process for the work.

“Naming our ‘Power’ Advisory Panel comes at a time when we are gearing up to begin the construction phase,” continued Sutherland. “We aim to start Bulk Earth Works as soon as we receive this approval from Sunshine Coast Council”.
The members were appointed by SANAD Capital’s Board of Directors and will serve a three-year, renewable term.

JOE ZENAS: As Thinkwell Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Joe Zenas is responsible for leading the direction of the company as well as new growth opportunities, corporate strategies, strategic alliances and intellectual property partnerships. From the magical world of Harry Potter to the historical Smithsonian Institution, his leadership has been instrumental in building Thinkwell’s reputation for masterfully dealing with some of the world’s most cherished brands and intellectual properties. Prior to Thinkwell, Mr. Zenas worked as the Producer & Director of Universal Studios Creative Studio, a Producer for Walt Disney Entertainment & Disneyland, and an Events Producer for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games Ceremonies, Hong Kong 1997 Reunification Spectacular, and 10 Super Bowl Halftime/Pregame shows.

GEOFF CHUTTER: As President & CEO of WhiteWater, Geoff leads 11 operating business units, 650+ full time employees and 20 international offices worldwide. WhiteWater is the largest designer of waterparks globally, and the largest supplier of waterpark products in the world, with over 125 patents and over 100 awards including the B.C. and Canada Export Awards and the Best Managed Canadian Companies Award. Clients include key players in the entertainment industry such as Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland, Atlantis, Sun International, Lotte, Samsung, Paramount, Cedarfair, Six Flags, Carnival Cruise, OCT, Center Parcs and many more. Geoff has been active politically on the federal scene for over 20 years and sits on the boards of Covenant House and the Small Medium Enterprise in Ottawa Board under Minister Freeland. Geoff’s lengthy International experience in the waterpark industry adds exceptional vision to SANAD Capital for the waterpark in Stage 1 of ACTVENTURE.

FREDRIK JONSSON: As the Founder and Managing Partner of Mereha Fredrik provides strategic advice throughout the full hospitality lifecycle. Fredrik has dedicated his career with leading development and real estate companies, international hotel operators and independent hotels. As Senior Vice President of Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) and Head of Asset Management Hospitality he established and lead the hospitality asset management division, including among others the prestigious Atlantis the Palm Dubai, Mandarin Oriental New York and had oversight of the strategic implementation and development of 10 pipeline hotels of approximately 2.500 keys. As Director of Operations – Asset Management of Qatari Diar he was responsible for the portfolio wide asset management function across all asset classes. He is an experienced board member of property and operating companies, including Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI) and an Advisory Board Member of the HAMA (Hotel Asset Management Association) MEA chapter and a Director of Beaufort Global Partners.