NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
Salam and good morning from Abu Dhabi, where it’s business as usual. The sky is blue and temperatures reach an astonishing 39 degrees Celcius. After yesterday’s visit to Legoland Dubai and Motiongate, I’m ready for more theme park fun today. However, I must admit that the United Arab Emirates are actually way too hot in September. It’s even hardly bearable to walk outside during the summer months. Luckily, the tourist paradise of Yas Island has multiple ways to escape the heat. You can spend an entire (expensive) day at the air-conditioned Yas Mall, you could have some splashing fun at Yas Waterworld or soak up the Swedish atmosphere at a local Ikea. I really don’t care for shopping, swimming or Scandinavian furniture, but amusement park enthusiasts aren’t forgotten. Yas Island is actually home to 2 theme parks: Ferrari World and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. Both parks are (mostly) indoors and the air-conditioning creates an ideal ambient temperature. Great, I’d love to spend my day there.
I will be visiting Ferrari World later this afternoon, but my day starts at Warner Bros World. This park opened in the summer of 2018, which means that it’s brand new. The exterior facade is still shiny and the entrance gate looks great. Thanks to its spacious security check and the many ticket booths, it actually feels like I’m entering an airport. It may be a tad too clean, but it has an undeniable grandeur and the impressive film soundtracks fit perfectly. So yes, my first impressions are good and I do suspect that Warner Bros World will blow my mind a couple of times today. Spoiler alert: that suspicion is correct.
After scanning my admission ticket at the turnstiles, I immediately find myself in the nightly Hollywood atmosphere of Warner Bros Plaza. This huge square serves as the hub of the park, with the other themed areas around it. It immediately becomes clear that the level of theming is extremely high. Just as it’s the case at many other amusement parks, this entrance zone primarily focuses on restaurants and shops. On the right side, you’ll find cheerful souvenir shops full of Looney Tunes dolls, mugs and keychains. On the left, however, superhero merchandising can be found on the store shelves. That’s not a coincidence: this division gives a subtle hint of the themed areas that can be found to the left and right of Warner Bros Plaza.
I arrived around 10 o’clock and honestly… that’s too early. After all, it’s difficult to fill an entire hour at Warner Bros Plaza and other areas don’t open until 11 AM. Still, I would recommend to arrive early because the Warner Bros Cinema Spectacular starts at 10.40. This show uses high-quality video mapping to bring legendary movie scenes to life. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck lead the show, while blockbusters like Gravity, Harry Potter and Batman are projected onto the facades. The show builds up nicely and the it even ends with a simulated fireworks display above Warner Bros Plaza. That’s a festive moment, especially because it means that the rest of the park is now officially open. Let’s go.
Yesterday, I unfortunately missed two coaster bingos. That’s something I’d like to avoid today by riding Warner Bros’ 2 roller coasters as early as possible. The first one can be found in Dynamite Gulch, the cartoony version of a classic western village. The ride is called Fast and Furry-ous and it’s themed to Roadrunner & Coyote. There’s no doubt that the decoration is beautiful. This Intamin coaster was integrated into a beautiful mountain landscape, as if it was an inverted version of Big Thunder Mountain. Besides, the park added loads of funny details and the train – including onboard audio – looks great. However, the ride turns out to be rather disappointing. This is mainly due to the roughness. The ride is not overly tall (18 meters) or fast (50 km/h), but Fast and Furry-ous lacks the smoothness that most Vekoma family coasters have. I definitely prefer Kvasten and Orkanen over this shaky experience.
Dynamite Gulch is stunningly beautiful, but Fast and Furry-ous is its only must-do. That’s why I walk towards the nearby Cartoon Junction, which has considerably more rides. The facades in this area are all beautiful and Warner Bros has hidden some very surprising attractions behind them. One of those surprises is Scooby Doo – The Museum of Mysteries. This is a trackless dark ride through a museum where lots of things seem to go wrong. But hey, wait a minute… doesn’t that sound like the story line of Mystic Manor? Yes, these rides definitely have their similarities. Of course, there’s the Scooby Doo theme and Warner Bros’ animatronics are a lot simpler. Still, I can sense a certain Mystic Manor vibe in this attraction. Just like Hong Kong Disneyland‘s most legendary dark ride, The Museum of Mysteries has a brilliant atmosphere and the finale is nothing short of fabulous. This final scene uses the trackless system in the best possible way, which results in a chaotic moment including 4 (!) criss-crossing vehicles. After reaching the unload station, I can actually only think about one thing: I want to do this again. And again. And again.
Another great ride can be found right next door. However, the entrance is a little underwhelming and it can easily be overlooked. Search for this sign anyway …
… or you’ll miss an exceptional family ride called Tom and Jerry – Swiss Cheese Spin. The queue is an attraction on its own. I first walk through a cute living room and then I gradually get smaller and smaller. This shrinking effect may sound familiar if you’ve ridden Ratatouille or Toy Story Mania, but Warner Bros has done a remarkably better job. The ride experience is fantastic as well. Swiss Cheese Spin is a spinning coaster that turns out to be more intense than I expected. The layout is great, the twists and turns are fun and the Tom & Jerry theme provides wonderful nostalgia. This may actually be the coolest family roller coaster I discovered in 2019.
The 3rd must-visit attraction at Cartoon Junction is Ani-Mayhem. Just like the previous rides, this interactive dark ride is one of the best of its kind. In general, I don’t like laser shooter dark rides that much, but this version provides great fun. This is mainly due to the unique concept. Guests experience Ani-Mayhem as hurried postmen who need to scan as many packages as possible. This storyline feels refreshing compared to those other dark rides in which you need to kill bad guys. Besides, Ani-Mayhem features some unique scenes that even transport you into space. Marvin The Martian’s beloved quote “There is supposed to be a kaboom” is undoubtedly applicable to this attraction, because this ride truly is a blast!
After riding Ani-Mayhem, I (temporarily) say goodbye to the cartoons. When entering Gotham City, the atmosphere changes dramatically. Both the fluffy clouds and the Looney Tunes disappear. They make way for a raw, dingy part of a big city. It’s dark and cold, but in the best possible way. Although the atmosphere is totally different, the theming level remains incredibly high. This is especially well noticeable while riding the park’s Disk’o Coaster. You may know this attraction type from Plopsaland or Movie Park. It’s a nice ride, but nothing too special. The designers of Warner Bros World, however, turned this simple flat ride into a visual masterpiece. I’m serious: I could watch The Riddler Revolution all day long if I had the time. Just add a factory theme, a smoke machine and let a light engineer do his job… That’s literally all you need to transform a simple Disk’o Coaster into a stunning eye-catcher.
There are ways to distinguish the very best theme parks from the mediocre ones. It’s simple: just take a look at the infill attractions. Lots of parks don’t add decoration to these rides, but world-class parks usually try to make them part of the total experience. That Disk’o Coaster is a good example, but the nearby Joker’s Funhouse is actually just as amazing. This is much more than a traditional fun house: there’s a creepy pre-show, they added a mirror maze and staff members do their best to add some scare moments. Of course, this isn’t the attraction which convinces me to travel all the way to Abu Dhabi. But it does make my day more complete, that’s for sure.
The more civilized part of Gotham City is home to Batman – Knight Flight. This is the main ride within this area and it features a huge queue area. Fortunately for me, it’s totally empty today (I can get used to those light crowds) and I’m immediately invited to enter the pre-show. Here, Batman asks me to become his new recruit and oh well… why not. Next, I enter a tiny room where a bizarre vehicle is waiting for me. I notice that this attraction uses the same ride system as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but with an alternative boarding procedure. Unfortunately, Knight Flight isn’t the overwhelming experience that The Forbidden Journey is. Although the movements are just as smooth and intense as they are at the Harry Potter ride, the technology and screens are often too visible here. In addition, I do consider the screen-based scenes a little nauseating. Don’t get me wrong… Knight Flight is a unique and powerful ride, but it’s got its flaws and I’m not a huge fan of those robotic arms.
A ride system that I like considerably better is the Flying Theater, a.k.a. the Soarin’ system. You can fly around the world with these attractions at the Disney theme parks or take a European trip in Voletarium. Yet, it’s strange that we automatically associate such rides with a quiet flight above monuments. Because why wouldn’t we create a more intense thrill ride with it? Some engineers apparently thought the same thing while designing Green Lantern – Galactic Odyssey. This Flying Theater simulates a flight to space and that involves some turbulence. And since the bad guys are trying to ruin our flight, this ride features quite a lot of action as well. Fortunately, superheroes are there to save the day, after which we can safely land. This attraction combines a Voletarium kind of ride with a Star Tours-like experience and that works amazingly well. The 3D glasses feel unnecessary to me, but the overall ride is pretty good.
Green Lantern brought us to a zone called Metropolis. At first glance, this area represents a peaceful city by night. The streets are clean, the restaurants look nice and buildings are modern. Metropolis even looks so real that I quickly forget that I’m actually in an amusement park. That’s a compliment for the designers, but at the same time I think it’s a bit of a shame. I love the typical vibe of an amusement park, including spinning flat rides, splashing log flumes and roller coasters full of screaming passengers. That dynamic feel is completely missing here in Metropolis. Although the area features three large rides, they’re all out of sight, well hidden behind stately facades.
Complaining about details is easy, but I’ve got some good news about Metropolis as well. The main attraction of this zone is seriously amazing. It’s called Justice League – Warworld Attacks and it’s not based on one, but seven superheroes. The accompanying storyline is predictable: bad guys threaten to destroy the planet, after which the Justice League takes action. I’m witnessing this battle from a motion-base vehicle, quite similar to the ride system of Transformers and Spider-Man at Universal theme parks. The ride feels the same here in Abu Dhabi. The transitions between real scenes and screens are smooth and they added loads of light and smoke effects. I generally don’t like 3D rides, but Warworld Attacks is one of the few exceptions to that rule. The ride experience is awesome and as if that wasn’t enough, Warner Bros World created a majestic entrance hall for this dark ride. Ladies and gentlemen… this is a world-class attraction.
Some rides blow my mind, other rides are downright disappointing. After the brutal power of Justice League, the next superhero attraction turns out to be tame. Superman 360 – Battle for Metropolis may sound cool, but the actual experience is simple. Consider it as a contemporary version of Disneyland Paris’ Visionarium with yet another superhero-saves-the-day story. The ride features a cool transformation effect that Universal enthusiasts will surely recognize from Poseidon’s Fury and the images are razor-sharp. But still, Superman 360 lacks some suspense. Good to know: during my visit, this cinema-like experience opens once per hour and Green Lantern only flies every 30 minutes. That’s why it may require some planning to visit the attractions in Metropolis.
The contrast between the left and the right half of the park is enormous. I consider that as a positive thing. If you’ve had enough of the dark and aggressive atmosphere on the left side, you can easily cross over to the cartoon world on the other side. And after all those superhero stories, it sure is a relief to enter Bedrock. This mountainous zone was based on The Flintstones. The atmosphere is therefore prehistoric and refreshing. Both of these adjectives also apply to the main ride in this area: Bedrock River Adventure. With this flume ride, Warner Bros World has tried to imitate Splash Mountain and they actually did a great job. I admit that this Flintstones version is much smaller and it could use an extra drop, but the dark ride section looks perfect. Excellent family attraction, if you ask me.
Warner Bros World makes me lose all sense of time and place. You can interpret that both figuratively and literally. On the one hand, the park is so damn good that I’m genuinely impressed. On the other hand, it actually seems like you’re stepping into a world where the clock doesn’t exist. It’s constantly evening in some parts of the park, while an artificial sun shines all day long in other areas. As a result, I have literally no idea what time it is and I’m also forgetting about the scorching hot temperatures outside. Someone once described this as a theme park jet lag. I initially found that a strange comparison, but now I perfectly understand what he meant. Just like him, I feel a bit confused while exiting the park in the afternoon.
Jet lag or not; I have the greatest respect for the geniuses who designed Warner Bros World. They have created a world-class theme park. While talking about indoor theme parks, Toverland and Plopsa Indoor are the first things which come to my mind. Amusing places, but rather small-scaled and mostly focused on children. Here in Abu Dhabi, however, it is proven that things can be done in a bigger and better way. The attractions are all grand, unique and elaborately decorated. Besides, these rides are placed in themed areas that match the quality of an average Disney park. Of course, that’s mainly due to the advantage of such a darkened space: thanks to artificial lighting, designers are able to create the perfect atmosphere at any given time of the day. That dangerous suburb of Gotham City would look a lot less convincing under a bright sun. And how would it feel to walk around Metropolis in the middle of an Arabian sandstorm? Not sure about that.
If Tokyo DisneySea were an indoor theme park, it could look like this. That’s more or less my main thought about Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. Of course, there are always things that could’ve been better. I would appreciate a visible flat ride in Metropolis, for example, to make that area less static. And a heavily themed thrill coaster would be a perfect addition to this park, as well. But did I miss anything today? No, I certainly didn’t. And if I’m really in need of a thrill ride, I could just cross the street. That’s exactly what I’m planning to do now. Formula Rossa and Flying Aces are ready to provide my adrenaline rush this afternoon. What’s more fun than one gigantic indoor amusement park? Exactly… two gigantic indoor amusement parks! To be continued at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.