Imagine if you could make your dream theme park a reality – no lines, no broken rides and endless cotton candy! In the new animated film Wonder Park, 10-year-old Cameron “June” Bailey (Brianna Denski) finds that the theme park she made up when she was younger has come to life. It’s a magical place filled with talking animals, insane roller coasters and the unbridled creativity of childhood.

But not all fictional theme parks are this fun… or safe, for that matter. Here are five where your next ride may be your last:

1. Jurassic Park

The Tyrannosaurus rex goes for a walk in the park. Credit: IMDB

Mention “fictional theme park” and the first that would come to most people’s minds is the late Michael Crichton’s diabolical creation, Jurassic Park. The novel about a theme park featuring genetically recreated dinosaurs was adapted by Steven Spielberg into the 1993 blockbuster of the same name. The book also spawned a literary sequel, The Lost World; four more flicks and a franchise of real-life rides at Universal Studios theme parks, comic books, video games and merchandise.

The latest film instalment last year, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, grossed over US$1.3 billion worldwide and took the No. 12 spot at the all-time worldwide box office, proving that moviegoers still love to witness giant reptiles devour hapless tourists. Jurassic World Evolution, which features the voices of Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard and B. D. Wong, is a business simulation game based on the first Jurassic World film and was released last year.

If you prefer killer robots over hungry dinos, “Boy, have we got a vacation for you!”

 

2. Delos in Westworld

The Gunslinger is quick on the trigger. Credit: IMDB

The tagline of Delos Amusement Park from the movie Westworld says, “Boy, have we got a vacation for you!” Delos is a cinematic horror park populated by lifelike androids. It was created by Crichton, in his 1973 feature directorial debut.

In the then-future year of 1983, Delos features three themed areas – Western World, Medieval World and Roman World. The lifelike robots are programmed to not physically hurt their human guests, allowing the latter to indulge in any activity they desire with the former, including rape and murder. When the androids start malfunctioning and killing the visitors, two of them (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) have to find a way out while evading the Gunslinger (Yul Brynner).

Westworld was well-received by critics and a sequel, Futureworld (1976), and a short-lived TV series, Beyond Westworld (1980), were made. The franchise was revived in 2016 with a new HBO series of the same name – created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and starring Luke Hemsworth, Thandie Newton and Anthony Hopkins, this time following the viewpoints of the robots. The show’s first two seasons had a good critical response and it has been renewed for a third, with Aaron Paul reportedly joining the cast.

While the Gunslinger might challenge adult visitors to a duel any time of the day, for the next park on our list, it’s armed robbers versus ninja children at high noon in…

 

3. Mega Mountain in 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain

Picture this: Die Hard in a theme park… with kids! Credit: IMDB

Nineties kids may remember 3 Ninjas, an action comedy directed by Jon Turteltaulb (of National Treasure fame) about a trio of young brothers who learn martial arts from their Japanese grandfather (the late Victor Wong). The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-meets-Home Alone cult classic turned out to be the most profitable flick of 1992, grossing US$28.8 million for Disney on a budget of only about US$2.5 million. Rocky, Colt and Tum Tum went on to kick and punch baddies for three less-successful sequels.

In the final instalment in the series – helmed by Sean McNamara and starring Wong in his last film role – the boys join their new, computer-whiz neighbour Amanda for Tum Tum’s birthday party at the titular Mega Mountain. When a criminal mastermind named Medusa (Loni Anderson) and her henchmen take over the park and hold its patrons hostage in exchange for US$10 million from the park’s owner, it’s up to the ninjas and their geeky friend to save the day.

This entry proved to be the nail in the coffin for the ninjas, with an abysmal 0 per cent rating from six reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re a World Wrestling Entertainment fan, though, keep an eye out for Hulk Hogan’s cameo as a washed-out TV star, Dave Dragon, who helps the ninjas out. And if you want to visit “Mega Mountain”, you’d be happy to know the film was filmed at an actual theme park, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, in Denver, Colorado.

Here’s another fictional theme park crawling with criminals that was filmed at not one, but two real theme parks…

 

4. Wonder World in Beverly Hills Cop III

Axel Foley wishes he stuck with the merry-go-round. Credit: IMDB

In the final film of his iconic maverick-cop trilogy, Eddie Murphy returns as Axel Foley, a loudmouth Detroit detective who keeps going back to where he doesn’t belong – Beverly Hills. Axel’s boss is gunned down in a bungled raid and the trail leads him to a theme park named Wonder World. Teaming up with his old friend Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and park employee Janice Perkins (Theresa Randle), Axel sets out to find the killers and uncover a shady enterprise deep within the park.

The 1994 movie was filmed at Great America Amusement Park, which belonged to Paramount at the time, and Universal Studios. One of the film’s scenes sees Axel rescuing two children trapped in mid-air inside the cabin of a Ferris wheel-like ride called The Spider. This was an actual ride at Great America called Triple Wheel, one of the world’s first triple Ferris wheels (it had a twin named Sky Whirl in Gurnee, Illinois). At the time, Paramount had just purchased the Kings Entertainment Company and with it, Great America. Sadly, Triple Wheel closed in 1997.

But don’t despair – you can still experience one ride from the movie today: the Earthquake segment of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Studio Tour, otherwise known as Stage 50. It was renamed Alien Attack in the film and remodeled with alien robots that fire lasers, but theme-park aficionados would still recognise the burning petrol tanker, derailing train and flash flood.

But crooks and loose-canon cops can’t hold a candle to the horrors that await in our final theme park. We’ve saved the worst for last, and it’s based on and filmed at the most famous of all…

 

5. Walt Disney World in Escape From Tomorrow

The turkey leg tastes a bit funny… Credit: IMDB

You read that right – you definitely do not want to go to Walt Disney World, at least, the version depicted here. In Randy Moore’s 2013 directorial debut, Jim White (Roy Abramsohn), a repressed, middle-aged father, is on a family vacation at the Happiest Place On Earth (specifically, Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, one of six such “happiest places” around the world).

Throughout his trip, he has bizarre visions and encounters. Like a mysterious woman claiming the park’s costumed princesses are actually part of a secret prostitution ring that services rich Asian businessmen. Like a secret lab under Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, with a mad scientist who can probe his mind. Like the bloody hairballs he’s been coughing up in the toilet…

Moore, who based the story on memories of him and his divorced father’s trips to Walt Disney World, did not seek Disney’s approval before shooting the movie in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. He and his crew had to rely on guerrilla film-making techniques to avoid attracting park employees’ attention, such as using the video mode of two Canon cameras and storing the script on iPhones. The film was shot in monochrome to compensate for the lack of lighting control, and its footage was edited in South Korea to prevent Disney from finding out.

Moore submitted the movie to the Sundance Film Festival, where it was shrouded in secrecy up to its screening. Critics praised its David Lynchian surrealism and audacious production, while Disney was surprisingly reticent. Rather than taking legal action against the film, the company chose to ignore it. The Mouse House did acknowledge it, though, in an entry in the online supplement to Disney A To Z: The Official Enyclopedia.

Compared with these terrible, terrifying theme parks, Wonder Park is so much more wholesome. Just look at the adorable critters running the place – there’s the cuddly bear greeter Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell), beaver brothers Gus (Kenan Thompson) and Cooper (Ken Jeong), chimpanzee mascot and ride creator Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz), porcupine safety officer Steve (John Oliver) and Greta (Mila Kunis), a wild boar who is Steve’s love interest.

Yup, with a porcupine as safety officer and a 10-year-old as the boss, what could possibly go wrong? I mean, just take a gander at all the splendiferous rides in the trailer

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Oh no. Chimpanzombies.

Ah well, I suppose they can be a new attraction. If you’re looking for the ultimate thrill ride this March school holidays, take the whole family to visit Wonder Park, now showing in cinemas.

P.S. Don’t miss experiencing it in D-BOX motion-simulator seats, available only at GV Bishan!

 

Sources: Golden Village Cinemas, IMDBBox Office Mojo, Jurassic World EvolutionDeadline, Warner Bros. UKDeseret News, Rotten Tomatoes, Musical Journeys Thru Cinema, Movieclips, Movieclips Coming SoonDisney A To Z: The Official Encylopedia, Universal International Pictures Singapore, Paramount Pictures

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