The Universal Studios brand is an icon of entertainment. Their parks are globally recognized and are renowned for their cutting-edge attractions and stunning themed lands. The chain has parks present in Hollywood, Orlando, Japan, and Singapore. While the parks have experienced a recent growth from within their own walls, just a few years ago the company was preparing for a global expansion. The crown jewel of theme parks in the desert, Universal Studios Dubailand was an impressive concept from top to bottom. With World Of Universal’s new focus on expanding coverage to other parks around the globe, we will review the project as a whole, and see why it was ultimately scrapped.
In the mid-2000’s, Universal Studios had already begun several projects to expand their parks globally. The park in Singapore was being developed around the same time as the Dubai project. Universal partnered up with a subsidiary of the Dubai Holdings investing firm, Tatweer, to create the vision for the park. With a costly price tag of around 2.2 billion dollars, Universal Studios Dubailand was born. Concept art and models of the park were presented upon its official announcement, preparing guests for what was supposed to come in 2010. Covering over 20 million square feet of land, the resort itself was part of a much larger entertainment complex located in the United Arab Emirates. In the summer of 2008, ground was broken for the park.
Themes and Attractions
Universal Studios Dubailand is certainly quite unique among any of the other parks in the family. The park was to be broken up into five distinct areas, each with its own theme. These were Hollywood, New York, Surf City, Epic Adventures, and Legendary Heroes. Upon hearing the list of lands, some are quite familiar. Both the New York and Hollywood lands are commonly replicated in Universal parks around the world, but the geographical location of Dubai is what makes these versions different. Among several concept renderings of the park, some lands are actually entirely covered with a shade structure, not unlike the ones found in Japan and Singapore. Even more impressive is the fact that the coverings would be cooled with air conditioning. These structures are necessary to combat the intense temperatures found in the desert.
Major attractions centered around Jurassic Park, The Mummy, and even King Kong were each uniquely designed for this park. Epic Adventures would be home to the Water World stunt show, the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure water ride, and a clone of the Dragon Challenge dueling inverted roller coaster in Orlando themed to King Kong. Interestingly enough, the Jurassic Park ride was later built in Singapore (most likely would have been an exact copy due to the cost of developing rides) and the Kong sub-area of Epic Adventures does somewhat resemble the Reign of Kong attraction that opened in Universal Orlando this summer. Surf City, designed to be the park’s kid and family section, had a beach/boardwalk theme with characters from Woody Woodpecker being the official mascots. The rest of the lands are full of beautiful architectural designs, including an interesting glass/steel arch building in Jurassic Park and bright colors with attractions and shops to match. Despite all of the effort put into the creation of Universal Studios Dubailand, it had a grim fate.
The Fate of the Park
Timing was this park’s worst enemy. Shortly after preliminary construction began, the global financial crisis hit the area hard. Construction was delayed multiple times and eventually came to a standstill once Tatweer dissolved, leaving no financial backer for the project. The site was left virtually abandoned by 2012, with the only evidence being the iconic Universal Studios archway standing alone in the desert. In late 2012, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the leader of Dubai, announced a redesigned entertainment complex that would feature a family area branded by Universal Studios. This project also went nowhere as plans soon stalled out. Just this past October, the park was announced to have been officially scrapped.
It is interesting to look at a project that was very far along into planning to see what could have been. While we may never see a Universal park in Dubai, plans and ideas for rides were later saved and adopted for the Singapore park; small elements still exist in other locations. The chain is beginning its plans to create both a South Korea location and a park in Beijing. What becomes of those projects could be the next fantastic set of parks or a dream lost in the sand like Dubai. Only time will tell.