We head inside the world’s biggest indoor theme park, and reveal what to expect when it opens this July
Sean-Paul Doran, Chris Maxwell and Paul Clifford
It’s been one of Abu Dhabi’s best-kept secrets – and one we’ve been dying to hear. But the date of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi’s grand opening to the public has finally been revealed.
Yas Island’s awesome new US$1billion (Dhs3.7billion) theme park will swing open its doors on Wednesday July 25 and tickets have already gone on sale.
It is the latest superstar attraction in the UAE capital’s bid to become a worldwide tourism destination, with ambitious plans to double the amount of visitors in the next few years. And it’s been a while in the making, with news of the construction first being announced in April 2016. But Warner Bros. bosses promise it will be worth the wait.
Mark Gsellman, the park’s general manager, admits it’s been a long journey to make the venue ready for opening – and believes the real work starts now.
“It has been tough to keep the opening date under wraps, but it all depended on the readiness of the park. We weren’t going to open until we were sure it was the right time,” he says.
“Our amazing team has put a lot of hard work into reaching this stage.
“But in a way the real work starts when we open, because that’s when we have to deliver to the public.
“We have done extensive planning for years and we are confident we have got the right product to present, so now it’s time to do it.”
Gsellman took Time Out on a tour of the mega theme park to show off the latest string to Abu Dhabi’s bow.
The fun is split into six distinct zones – Bedrock, Warner Bros. Plaza, Metropolis, Gotham City, Cartoon Junction and Dynamite Gulch. A lot of thought and effort has gone into bringing childhood favourites such as Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Fred Flintstone and Batman to life.
You can’t help but be impressed by the grand scale of the 1.65million square-foot facility, the amazing theatrics and the blockbuster rides which are set to make it a hit. But for us, the beauty is in the detail. No expense has been spared in the painstaking process to build a concept fit to dazzle and amaze visitors.
Every inch of the sets was built by hand and the little touches are just as important as the eye-catching headline acts.
You only have to look at the hand-carved bricks, the intricately painted backdrops and the passion of the actors portraying our favourite characters to realise how much tireless work has gone into the park.
There’s even a level built above the main floor for the staff to use to get changed so you don’t see Daffy Duck wandering around Gotham or Superman chilling in Bedrock.
And it’s not just a case of showing up and wandering around aimlessly around a theme park. The whole experience is broken down into several interactive stories, all revolving around you. Whether it’s joining Batman on his mission to save the soul of Gotham City or helping Scooby-Doo foil yet another bad guy, you won’t be short of things to do to keep you thoroughly entertained.
The opening of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi marks a major milestone for Yas Island and its bid to become a major attraction in itself. The theme park will join Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi to become the third world-class theme park on the island. With tickets from Dhs230 for children and Dhs295 for adults, it’s maybe not one to go to every weekend (though annual passes are just Dhs695, which is brilliant value).
Tourism chiefs say Yas Island attracted some 26 million visitors last year, but they want that figure to hit 48 million by 2022.
Two more museums, the Guggenheim and the Zayed National Museum, are currently being built, along with a SeaWorld theme park.
Pam Lifford, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, says: “We have worked tirelessly with our partners at Miral to faithfully bring iconic franchises such as DC Entertainment, Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera to life in a truly immersive and authentic environment.
“Delivering experiences and products that continue our brands’ storytelling and excite and engage fans is our primary goal, and we look forward to sharing this world-renowned attraction with them this summer.”
There’s still a bit more work to do before the park is ready to open in July. It will be home to several restaurants, cafés and shops, many of which still need finishing touches put to them. And there will be a huge array of merchandise on offer so you and the kids can pick up a memento of your experience.
Bosses are confident Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi will be a great way to spend the whole day, with enough action to fill six or seven hours at least.
Of course, a theme park dedicated to childhood cartoons might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But bosses have a simple message for anyone who is yet to be convinced it is worth making a trip to Abu Dhabi’s new star of the show.
Gsellman adds: “To those people, I would say ‘Come down and try it before you make your mind up’.
“It’s difficult when you launch something that has never been built before as you can’t refer people to anything similar.
“But we are confident people will realise how immersive and interactive the park is and we are sure they will have a great time when they’re here.”
Roll on opening day... Open July 25. Dhs230 (children), Dhs295 (adults). Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, Yas Island. Tickets available now at www.wbworldabudhabi.com.
IN NUMBERS Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
1 The sprawling new theme park in Abu Dhabi cost US$1billion to build.
6 The number of zones the park is split up into. These include Gotham City and Bedrock.
29 The amount of rides, including Anti-Mayhem, The Joker’s Funhouse and Fast and Furry-ous.
37 The total number of characters, including Batman, Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo.