REVIEW: Sea World, Gold Coast, Australia

The Grande Dame of Gold Coast, Sea World was founded in 1923 and acquired by Village Roadshow in 1993, who made significant investments bringing international IP’s (Cartoon Network then Sesame Street and now Nickelodeon) and world-class rides.

The park known for its dolphin show is a hit with adults and kids of all ages. A lot less ocean-themed that Asian marine parks (Hong Kong Ocean Park, Ocean Kingdom), it is beautifully integrated in its natural setting, a land spit in the heart of Gold Coast, with great bodies of water surrounded by quality landscape and rockwork including the stunning Shark Bay (above and below) featuring great corals.

The long and narrow layout with attractions dispatched along the central alley works best for a family park, making for a very simple and intuitive visit. A typical day at the park starts with a visit of the various animal exhibits while everyone is still full of energy and curiosity, leading to the dolphin show at 11h15am and then it’s fun time either at Nickelodeon Land for the young ones, Castaway Bay for the older ones or Shark Bay and Seal Harbor.

The 2 newest areas, Castaway Bay and Nickelodeon Land, are perfectly themed and feature a great choice of rides hitting the spot. Australians and international tourists (mostly Asian) can have a bonding blast at the splashing boat ride, kids of all nationalities can freely enjoy the popular Paw Patrol show and the water jets of the Reef at Castaway Bay and young adults can chase the thrill at the Sky Climb (ropes course) and Sky Fortress (adventure course).

I personally fell in love with the Jet Rescue coaster (Intamin), which I thought was one of the most relevant and best use of a roller coaster; the ride was extremely smooth and it did feel like you were on a jet ski. How convenient! I could not try the new Storm coaster, which was under maintenance, but thought the theming (industrial container port) incorporating the old abandoned Viking’s Revenge flume ride was really cool.

But of course the star of the park is the dolphin show, which doesn’t disappoint: a new take on education show with a great use of music and pre-recorded voice, making it uplifting and less focused on animal performance.

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REVIEW: Warner Bros Movie World, Gold Coast, Australia

Almost 10 years after my debut in the industry I finally made it to Gold Coast to check out Village Roadshow’s theme parks, which serve in many ways as benchmarks in Asia.

My first stop is Warner Bros Movie World, their most popular parks and home of numerous IP’s from DC Comics and Warner Bros. I am very interested to see how they treat IP’s that are not their own in the context of several IP setbacks in Asia (Dreamworks at Movie Animation Park Studios and 20th Century Fox at Resorts World Genting).

It is a beautiful hot summer day in the first week back to school but right in the middle of the Chinese New Year holiday so lots of Asian visitors (Hong Kong, Mainland China), some Australians and quite a few New Caledonians and Arabs. I bought a 3-day multi-park pass, which cost me only AUD129.

My views in a few words

Definitely worth the visit, great value for money, a good offering for all ages (Looney Tunes for young kids, great coaster for young adults and shows & shaded main hub with lots of tables and seats for families) and for all visitor origins (popular IP’s).

The quality of the music playlist, F&B offering (good variety, fresh and reasonably priced) contributed to make the park grow on me as the day passed. I arrived a bit skeptical and overwhelmed by an overload of slightly “dated” theming and left simply happy with a big smile. What more could Village Roadshow ask for?

What I particularly liked

  • SUPERMAN Escape roller coaster – Definitely the most popular ride in the park (45min wait). Simple and on-point theming with great consistency between the waiting area (MRT train station) and the ride (MRT train track with waste water flowing, walls falling). Super smooth and great speed sensations.
  • Good choice of roller coasters for young adults with DC RIVALS HYPERCOASTER, GREEN LANTERN and ARKHAM ASYLUM, all very smooth and featuring well positioned viewing areas where friends can watch and take pictures.
  • Wild West Falls Adventure Ride – fun flume ride in a Disney-quality environment (quality Wild West theming and beautiful landscape).
  • The Looney Tunes kids area – very cute, well themed, arranged around a square with benches under the shade of a big tree (where old people were sleeping) and featuring cool kids attractions such as the covered Junior Driving School with a track designed as a mini Warner Bros Movie World theme park, the adorable Speedy Gonzales’ Tijuana Taxis and a popular water play area.
  • In-park pricing from the AUD59 family meal combo (2 adults, 2 kids) to the merchandise deal combos in a bag.

What I didn’t like so much

  • JUSTICE LEAGUE 3D – Another case supporting my theory that 3D shooting dark rides are totally overrated and probably imposed by ride manufacturers for the lack of better options: poor animation quality, shooting device not working half the time, storyline all over the place, in short boring and frustrating.
  • Merchandising is a bit messy with different quality levels and too many brands.

What I am not sure about

  • The park made an effort to address the strong Asian visitorship with Chinese New Year decorations, but they looked a bit simple. A good idea but failing in execution.
  • AQUAMAN – The Exhibition features amazing (and surely expensive) props from the movie but the lack of interactivity and dark setting is probably not ideal for a theme park like this.
  • This leads to my comment on the treatment of IPs. There is a lot of IP content and theming but the treatment is not quite consistent and it shows the park owners don’t own the IP’s (one of the main concerns for our industry). For example the treatment of DC IP’s is from a different generation and it would be very expensive to change it all each time a new movie is released. Another example is the SCOOBY-DOO Spooky Coaster Next Generation, which even after upgrade still looks outdated.