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Trip Report - Motiongate and Bollyood Park Dubai

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  • Trip Report - Motiongate and Bollyood Park Dubai

    I recently had the opportunity to briefly visit Dubai on the way back from a business trip to India. I had read a lot about the Dubai Parks and Resorts development, and had the opportunity to spend a full day at the property. A long time annual pass holder at the Disneyland Resort, I have had the good fortune to visit most of the international Disney properties over the past few years, and looked forward to seeing how Dubai’s new theme park district stacked up.

    Logistics and ticketing:

    The parks are reasonably priced. The cost of a “two parks, one day” ticket on the official Dubai Parks and Resorts web-site is about $77. However, my Citibank credit card refused to authorized this purchase (even after calling Citibank), so I ended up hunting around and finding what turned out to be a better deal on the Singapore Expedia site ($63 for the same two parks, one day ticket).

    Dubai is a much larger city than I imagined, and the parks are located about a 45 minute car ride from the center of the city (Mall of the Emirates), and are not connected to the city’s excellent Metro service. Instead, Dubai Parks and Resorts runs shuttle busses from many of the city’s hotels and malls. I booked a hotel in the Dubai Marina area that was on the shuttle route. This worked as advertised, though the morning bus arrived about 20 minutes late. This was not a problem, as the shuttle bus still arrived at the parks about 45 minutes before opening, at the late hour, at least for Disney fans, of 11 am. I strongly recommend this service, as it was convenient and free. I noticed that several families had driven to the hotel (where parking was free) to take the shuttle.

    Riverland

    The Dubai Parks and Resorts complex currently consists of four theme parks (Motiongate, Bollywood Park, Legoland, and a Legoland water park) connected by a sprawling entertainment complex. This complex is vast (much larger than any of the individual theme parks) and consists of three major themed areas, the French District, India Gates, and Boardwalk. The area contained a mix of restaurants, cafes, and shops. As in Dubai more generally, there is a heavy preponderance of US chains (Starbucks, Le Pain Quotiden, McDonalds, Cheesecake Factory, and many, many others), along with Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Indian eateries.

    I was visiting on a Monday in early February, and the complex was close to deserted when I arrived. I noticed later in the day that several restaurants were closed (perhaps operating weekends only) or were still being constructed (Cheesecake Factory). Nevertheless, the selection of food in the Riverland complex is quite impressive and I’d recommend eating main meals here rather than in one of the theme parks. I ended up eating lunch at a “Chicken Stix” chain, which was quite good. The theming within the Riverland area is also very well done, especially the French District.
    Riverland is designed so that all visitors will make a very long stroll from the main parking lot to the theme park entrances. This reminded me quite a bit of the parking situation at Universal Studios Hollywood, especially when later in the day I noticed a “VIP Parking Lot” situated right next to the entrance to the Bollywood Park entrance.

    Motiongate Park

    The park I was most excited to visit was Motiongate, as it has an impressive array of attractions based on intellectual property from American film studios. While smaller, the general design of Motiongate is similar to Disneyland: a short main street leads to a central hub, which has entrances to the park’s four themed lands (Lionsgate, Dreamworks, Smurf Land, and Columbia Studios).

    Of the four lands, the smallest is the Lionsgate area, which is home to two rides based on the Hunger Games franchise. I started my day here. I had originally planned on riding the park’s recently opened “Capital Bullet Train” roller coaster, though I wimped out after watching the ride’s pretty intense inversions a couple of times. While not long, the ride seemed very popular with guests. I did go on the area’s second attraction, a motion simulator ride called “Panem Arial Tour”. While standard fare, the motion simulators had high resolution270 degree video screens that completely surrounded the ride vehicle, which made the flying scenes around the Hunger Games capital city impressive. At the ride’s end, the shuttle/simulator lands and guests are told they are now located in “District 13” from the book and film series, and we then exited into a gift store. This would turn into a constant theme throughout the day. Literally every major attraction within the Motiongate park ends with guests exiting into a themed gift store.

    I next ventured into the Dreamworks complex. This the most impressive area of Motiongate. The entire complex is indoors (which I am sure is a plus on hot days in the desert), and is expansive. The area consisted of four heavily themed areas, each linked to a major Dreamworks intellectual property (Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, Shrek, How to Tame Your Dragon). Each area had one major attraction, a shop linked to that attraction, and either a play area, smaller spinner-type attraction, or eatery. I found each of the four main attractions to be excellent, and these were the only attractions I ended up going on more than once over the entire day.

    My favorite attraction is the Dragon Fliers ride based on the How to Train Your Dragon film. The ride is a hanging coaster type affair, through the speed and orientation of the ride vehicle is controlled. The ride has some similarities to the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal (though on a much smaller scale), in that some scenes take place before stationary video screens, and some scenes consist of you zipping around the interior of the attraction, with animatronics and other scenery. This ride was thoroughly enjoyable – I wish Universal would license this property and develop a similar attraction locally.

    The second star attraction is the “Madagascar Mad Pursuit” roller coaster. The ride has a circus theme and consists of the ride vehicle “jumping” through hoops and other scenery in a mostly dark ride environment. The ride is short (not more than say 2 minutes) but very fast and smooth.. The ride vehicles are small (about 6 passengers per vehicle, seating 3 across), which I think increases the sensation of movement and speed. While, I only went on this once (I was a bit queasy after the first ride), I noticed that this ride had a 30 minutes plus line when I walked by for the second time in the afternoon.

    One of my other favorite rides is the “Kung Fu Panda: Unstoppable Awesomeness. The ride is a well-designed motion simulator attraction with a river journey theme. It is superficially similar to the Despicable Me Minion Mayham ride at Universal Studios, in that there were several ride vehicles within a specialized theater environment. In the case of the Panda ride, there were two “boats” within the theater, each of which could hold about 25 people. The ride was convincing and had numerous water splash effects, and excellent integration between the on-screen video and ride vehicle/boat.

    The other large area in Motion gate is the Columbia Pictures land. It is an outdoor space with several attractions. My favorite was a dark ride based on the “Hotel Transylvania” theme. The ride employs great theming, a gothic mansion based on the movie artwork, has a mild haunted house theme. It makes good use of the attraction’s ride system, a pseudo trackless system, though the cars follow a metal strip on the floor but do not rotate. Within the attraction, guests repeatedly enter and exit a large central hallway of the mansion, then verve into side rooms containing animatronics and other effects.

    The Columbia Pictures area is also home to an attraction based on the Ghostbusters franchise. Having read several negative on-line reviews, I boarded the ride with low expectations. While generally a very good ‘shooting’ style attraction, the main problem with it is that almost all the action consists of shooting figures on medium size video screens. The ghost animations are cute, and the gun/shooting mechanism was very responsive. I think the main issue with the attraction is that the video elements are fairly static (mostly shooting lots and lots of the same green ghosts).

    I also rode the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: River Expedition themed water rapids ride. This is a fun ride. While not as turbulent as the Grizzly River Run at Califoirnia Adventure (it has no drops), the rapids sections are fast and it is possible to become very wet (as I did). I didn’t ride the Green Hornet rollercoaster, a smaller size mouse type coaster, but with steep drops (and lots of screaming guests). I also wasn’t able to ride the park’s 4D movie attraction based on the Underworld zombie series. I tried a couple times but missed the once an hour or so opening times – apparently this is a 25-30 minute attraction.

    In general, I found the Motiongate Park to be an excellent way to spend a few hours. I’d rate most of the major attractions as solid “D-ticket” rides on the Disneyland scale, but there are lots of these attractions. The scale of most rides was fairly small or contained – the footprint of popular rides at Disneyland, such as Big Thunder Mountain, or themed areas such as the Rivers of America, is much larger than anything contained at Motiongate. That being said, the park boasts a solid mix of ride types, from roller-coasters, to various types of motion simulators, to dark rides.

    I was able to see pretty much everything in about 4 hours – though on a Monday morning in a nearly empty park. However, even with the park being mostly empty, I had to wait 15-20 minutes on many attractions. Some of the rides were running at reduced capacity (for example, only one of the two “boats” on the Panda ride was being used). However, other rides, such as the Dragon Fliers ride and the Madagascar roller coaster, seem to have been built with relatively low capacities. These rides had huge queue areas, presumably for busier days. The park does offer multiple cut to the front of the line type options (called “Q Fast”). Given the relatively low cost of park tickets, I’d recommend purchasing one of these passes on busier days.

    The single rider line idea is foreign to Motiongate. However, on my second time on the Dragon Fliers ride, after asking about the single rider line, gently explaining the concept, and noting that due to the three across seating there are many empty seats, the polite but possibly overwhelmed ride attendant let me use the “Q Fast” line.

    While well-themed, the general atmosphere in the park is a bit sterile. The loving attention to detail throughout the Disney and Universal parks is absent. Given the strong intellectual property surrounding all areas of the park, it has outstanding opportunities for character meet and greets and shows. While advertisements for the park show guests meeting characters, I saw none the day I visited. There is only one major show within the mark, a hip-hop themed dance revue with a Dubai theme; it was closed the day I visited.

    Bollywood Park

    I spent the afternoon at the Bollywood Park. Having just spent several days in Bangalore, India, I was looking forward to seeing an idealized version of the best the country has to offer. The park is relatively small (definitely a boutique park), but has several distinct areas, all of which are immaculately themed.



    Reviews of the park note its ability to capture the energy of Bollywood films, with impromptu dance events on the streets and lots of energy. While I do think this park has lots of potential, the day I visited the park it was almost empty – I wonder if there were even 500 people in the entire park. I saw no spontaneous dance events or other character interactions. I was especially interested in seeing the Dabangg: Stunt Spectacular Show. Unfortunately, it was dark the Monday I visited – a real disappointment.

    The park does have five major rides. All of these attractions are focused on video screens,each with an obligatory ‘pre-show’. While some of the rides were excellent, I would have liked more variety. It is also interesting to note that some of the rides employ clones of the ride systems used in Motiongate. The park has an excellent motion simulator attraction featuring a chase through Dubai, that uses the same ride system as the Hunger Game ride in Motiongate. It also has a ride using an identical shoot the screen system as the Ghostbusters ride. I will say that the Bollywood Park version is superior, with larger screens, much more motion within the videos, and a fun plotline.

    Bollywood Park has one ride that I found truly excellent, a motion simulator ride loosely based on the popular Commonwealth game cricket and called Lagaan: The Thrill of Victory. The ride system on the Lagaan ride is similar to the Simpsons ride at Universal Studios, with riders placed in front of a giant video screen and situated in ride vehicles that generally follow the action. The ride has several similar scenes to the Simpsons ride, using a rollercoaster dynamic, but several other scenes based on cricket imagery that I found really entertaining and fun.

    Bollywood Park also is home to a major flying theater attraction, centered on a popular Indian action hero called Krrish. Soarin’ is one of my favorite rides at the Disneyland Resort, so I was looking forward to try out this ride. It is fun, but no match for Soarin’. The flying theater consists of three very long rows of seats (with maybe 50 people seated across). While there are similarities to the ride mechanism in Soarin’, the range of motion in the Krrish ride is limited by the very long rows of seats. The first part of the ride is good, featuring a similar fly-by of the Taj Mahal as seen in Soarin’, and some fly over scenes of Mumbai. The bulk of the ride, however, focused on Krrish fighting off an alien invasion. I didn’t find this memorable (and a few days later have a hard time recalling any of it).

    The centerpiece of Bollywood Park is a beautifully themed and large theater that hosts a nightly theater production called Jaan E Jigar. The production was dark the day I visited, but unfortunately is an up-sell show for guests. Having not seen the show, it is hard to comment on this strategy. But I will say that given the small size of the park, it seems reasonable that a major attraction like this would be included in the normal ticket price.

    Overall, given the relatively inexpensive price for the two parks, one day ticket (at least by Disney standards), I was satisfied with my experience at Bollywood Park. I managed to see all that was on offer in less than 2 hours, though again both the major shows were dark and I saw no street performers. On a busier day, I could see spending more time here.

    The park is beautifully themed. While I am no expert on India, having been to the country a few times I found that the park did well in capturing the friendliness and vibrancy of the country.
    The employees, almost all Indian, were polite, friendly, and seemed happy to make small talk while standing around waiting for rides to cycle through. On a busier, more vibrant day, I can this park having a terrific atmosphere.

    Wrap-up

    Overall, for theme park buffs I recommend visiting the Dubai Parks and Resort complex. Despite my complaint that Motiongate at times seemed sterile, for a brand new property it is off to an excellent start. I suspect that on a livelier day, with more characters out and about, the park atmosphere would be stronger.

    I hope you’ve found this review – which I just noticed is lengthy – was informative, and I look forward to comments.

    Last edited by DisneyanaFan; 03-20-2018, 06:21 PM.
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