News broke yesterday that James Cameron's Avatar will be developed into theme park attractions by the Walt Disney Company. It makes sense that Disney would want to capitalize on the billions raked in by Cameron's detailed sci-fi world, but what about the other movies that were already waiting in line?
Disney has been making theme parks based on their films for decades now, the Harry Potter franchise has a successful new park in Florida, and the King of Jordan is busy dumping millions into his very own Star Trek theme world, but there are more than a few other films and film franchises ripe for the theme park treatment.
Why We Love It: This is the most obvious. We love Jurassic Park because the very premise is something most of us would have gone crazy over when we were 5: a theme park featuring real live dinosaurs. Sure, everything went horribly wrong, but it's still fun to think about a zoo filled with extinct monsters.
Why It Works as a Park: We're not saying you have to go out and clone dinosaurs from multimillion-year-old mosquito food or anything (though it's worth a try), but a Jurassic Park theme park could at the very least latch on to the idea of getting as physically close to dinosaurs—even animatronic ones—as possible. Put the carnivores behind massive fences, the herbivores in petting-zoo-style settings, and let the kids climb trees to stare into the eyes of the particularly big ones. Work in faux archaeological digs, a dino-themed café or two and maybe a nighttime thrill ride in which you run from a hungry T-rex, and you've got a killer (pun intended) theme park experience. Bonus points if you can get Jeff Goldblum to stop by and explain to every guest how nature finds a way.
Why We Love It: We love zombies, of course. In an age when a lot of crappy supernatural fiction is swirling around out there—much of it in the form of direct-to-video cinema—it's good to see a flick that's willing to both embrace the conventions of the genre and poke fun at them, and do it all with special-effects polish and lots of Woody Harrelson swearing.
Why It Works as a Park: Zombie obstacle courses for grownups are emerging throughout the country, but a Zombieland park could take it to the next level. Roam down a deserted stretch of highway searching for the world's last Twinkie, crash a deserted theme park and pick off the undead as you ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, and compete with your friends to see who can improvise the best weapon. If you can get celebrities to cameo as undead monsters that you can kill with paintballs, it's a home run (especially if you'll let us all take a shot at George Lucas).
The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit
Why We Love It: It's the granddaddy of modern epic fantasy tales, and one of the most successful film franchises ever. It's also a fully realized vision of an incredibly dense and textured world: Middle-earth. Cool swords and orcs to behead never hurt, either.
Why It Works as a Park: Just as J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World provides a deeply immersive experience for readers, viewers and park visitors alike, so too does Tolkien's Middle-earth. Take advantage of all the wonderful work done by New Zealand's Weta Workshop during the production of the films and create a land filled with detail and wonder. Have dinner in Rivendell, defend the wall at Helm's Deep, make your very own orc in your very own mud, train with Aragorn to do battle, practice archery with Legolas and finally find out what it is the hobbits have in that pipeweed of theirs.
The Star Wars Saga
Why We Love It: As if you needed an explanation. All the love/hate frustration over the constant revisionism of its creator aside, it's Star Wars. It's a rite of passage for every viewer and arguably the most influential movie franchise ever, and it all takes place inside a vast world of planets, strange life forms and intergalactic history. Also, there are lasers.
Why It Works as a Park: Yeah, Star Wars already has Star Tours to uphold its theme park presence, but this universe could be so much more, especially if you take into account all the canonical stories that have enhanced the mythos over the years. Ride a hovercraft on Tatooine or a tauntaun on Hoth, learn to wield a lightsaber from Master Yoda himself in the Jedi Temple, have a picnic amid the gardens of Naboo, throw tomatoes at Jar Jar (OK, not exactly canonical, but definitely fun), sit in the cockpit of an X-Wing and run the Death Star trench and have a drink or two at the Mos Eisley Cantina while trying to avoid getting your arm sliced off. And what visit to a Star Wars park would be complete without tasting some of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru's famous blue milk?
Back to the Future
Why We Love It: The Back to the Future trilogy took the stuffiness out of time travel stories with one fell swoop, and it remains among the coolest franchises to emerge from the 1980s (and for a decade that produced Terminator and Aliens, that's saying something). Plus, it takes place in no less than four eras, one of which hasn't even happened yet.
Why It Works as a Park: Well, for starters, the park guide and map would be packaged with a 1985 sports almanac cover, and every trip would begin with a DeLorean ride to 1955. From there, you can roam around, have a milkshake at the local diner and try to avoid kissing your mother, then zoom into 2015, then way back to 1885 (which would, let's be honest, probably be the most fun of the bunch). It's like Disney's whole retro Main Street USA thing, but much more in-depth, and with the added bonus of not starring a talking mouse. Plus, it's an excuse to finally develop working hoverboard technology (get on that, science).
The Wizard of Oz
Why We Love It: It's one of the great works of imagination in the history of popular fiction, and it spawned an expanded universe that's still being added to. And, perhaps even more than Star Wars, it's a great unifier. Everyone knows what The Wizard of Oz is.
Why It Works as a Park: Mimic Dorothy's journey along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, and throw in all manner of amusing distractions along the way. Ride your tornado-stricken house down to the ground, then hang out with the Lollipop Guild in Munchkinland. From there, fight talking trees for the right to their apples, resist the Wicked Witch of the West, do battle with the flying monkeys and then stop in at the Emerald City to ride in a carriage pulled by a horse of a different color. Top off the day with a ride in a hot air balloon and go home with some lovely slippers from the gift shop.