Huge indoor theme park Warner Bros World is now open on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island. The park covers 1.65 million square feet and is made up of five immersive lands – Metropolis; Gotham City; Cartoon Junction; Dynamite Gulch and Bedrock. These branch off from the central Warner Bros Plaza, where films are projected on the walls, and which buzzes with restaurants and shops, some of which sell merchandise specifically designed for Warner Bros World. Here is your guide to the rides, the food, the family fun and more...
The big rides
When Warner Bros World is fully operational it will house 29 state-of-the art rides. When we visited on Tuesday night, not all of the rides were ready to open to the public, but word is, 27 of the 29 rides are now operational, with the park open to the public today.
When we visited it was a dark night for The Dark Knight as the Batman: Knight Flight attraction, which promises to whisk riders over the Gotham skyline in a prototype Batplane wasn’t ready yet, while Clark Kent wasn’t having a super time either – the Superman 360 attraction was also out of action. We also didn't get to try the Warworld Attacks 5D Justice League ride. But here are the rides we did try...
Gotham City’s take on the classic fairground funhouse sees visitors enter via a traditional mirror maze, with the added bonus of a soundtrack of The Joker himself taunting his lost victims. Once you’ve negotiated that hurdle, you’ll follow a trail of physical and mental challenges, from optical illusions to moving ladders and physical obstacles until you eventually escape The Joker’s clutches via a tube slide.
The warning sign at the entrance mentions that those with heart conditions and bad backs should give the ride a miss. We’d add anyone with limited mobility to that list. Some of the challenges are surprisingly physical, although a lift or staircase option is generally available as an alternative.
Is it a roller coaster? Is it a waltzer? Is it a pirate ship? It’s a mystery to us, which is most likely exactly what that dastardly Riddler would hope for. Riders are strapped around the edge of a large disk sitting atop a linear roller coaster track – basically a "W" shape. As the ride rolls, rises and plummets from the left-sided high point of the “W” to the right, and back, then back again, the disk also spins round and, we think, rocks from side-to-side, too. It’s hard to be sure as the overall experience is like taking a two-minute ride in a well air-conditioned tumble dryer. Thrill-seekers will love it.
Fast and Furry-ous
A surprisingly grown-up ride in the heart of the cartoon-themed kiddie section of the park, Fast and Furry-ous sees riders take on the role of Wile E Coyote as he chases Road Runner through the Southwest American desert on his Acme rocket. Riders are strapped into a car hanging under the track with their legs hanging free below, and are fired round a series of loops, banks, turns and drops with the desert’s rocks and random pieces of Road Runner-themed furniture often seeming way too close for comfort. The rider next to us was on her fourth ride of the evening, so this one looks to be a winner already.
Be warned, this ride is deceptive. With its backdrop being the noir-ish skyline of Gotham City, the ride resembles a spider with each of its multiple fingers home to a two-seat compartment. Once you are strapped in, you begin to move anti-clockwise, with The Scarecrow picking up speed and height. The kicker lies in the joystick stationed in the middle of the compartment. A toggle to the left or right allows the compartment to sway in those directions, while an almost semi-circle pattern can have you upside down in a few seconds. It only went for a few minutes, but it was enough to make us feel plenty queasy.
Green Lantern: Galactic Odyssey
This one shouldn’t raise your blood pressure too much. This ride’s family appeal is more down to its technical prowess rather than its thrills. You are basically seated in a flying theatre as you join the intergalactic peacekeeper, the Green Lantern, while being transported through a star-studded universe with its eye-popping visuals and slick sound effects. The whole experience is like being in a moving planetarium.
A parent's verdict: visiting the park with kids
The National's Melissa Gronlund visits the park with a three- and five-year-old in tow...
The three areas to the right of the Warner Bros plaza make up the child-friendly section, with rides, food, and merchandise orientated towards your darling midgets.
Cartoon Junction is the place for families with young children (toddlers up to about six), and here I doff my motherly cap. If you have multiple kids you know how hard it is to cater for different age spans, and Warner Bros has created a largely separate area combining rides and soft-play areas for when the kids are bored of queueing or just need to run around by themselves.
One of the soft-play areas is for one- to two-year-olds, and its proximity to the rides lets you watch over the little ones while still keeping an eye on the others. The rides here are good, too — posh versions of fairground favourites — and I literally have to drag my youngest daughter off the Ricochet Racin' with TAZ, a car ride that whips around the corners. “I LOVE SO FAST!” is her shouted-at-full-volume verdict.
Beyond this separated area, Cartoon Junction also has technologically impressive rides that are good for four- to- 15-year-olds. In Ani-Mayhem you don 3D glasses (with straps for the kids to better keep them on: nice touch) and aim your laser pointer at targets, racking up points as you travel through the ride. It’s like being in an interactive video game and can get addictive — I think I've done very well and then realise I was trounced tenfold by an eleven year old. Rematch?
Set in a big, impressive mock-up of a scary house, Scooby-Doo! The Museum of Mysteries is the flagship ride, and already the talk of the mum's network. Not to stereotype you, mums, but I love how you can take a blank slate and within an hour and a half create some kind of stressful issue out of it. We're two comments shy of a WhatsApp group: Is Scooby-Doo too scary for the kids? Did you hear that so-and-so's child started screaming before he even got on the ride? Warner Bros has done a good job of making the queuing areas entertaining for the big rides; the Scooby-Doo haunted house wonderfully elicits mock screams all around. And my kids love it, with it rising to our older child's firm favourite. I'm leaving you, Scooby-Doo 2018 WhatsApp group! Being scared is all the fun.
Dynamite Gulch and Bedrock have the bigger rides, and the crowd lining up for the Fast and Furry-ous roller coaster is half kids, half adults (this area is best for those about six and above). Top marks go to the speed (“fast from the start!”) and the curves. Like at Yas Waterworld, it is the kind where your legs dangle free: maybe this is accepted roller coaster practice by now, but for old fogeys like me, it’s still pretty exciting.
Lots of 8- to 11-year-old kids seem to love the water ride, Bedrock River Adventure, though I have to admit I'm underwhelmed: it’s a slow boat ride through the world of The Flintstones, which most children don’t know nowadays, with one big splashy pay-off at the end. But the pre-teens go wild for it, queuing up again and again.
Different Looney-Tunes characters roam the area, posing with children and giving huge hugs. The kids were so sweetly excited: little jumps in place while waiting, lots of eyes full of wonder. My littlest one started out scared of them but ended the night with a sequence of Speedy Gonzalez high-fives — hats off to the actors behind the costumes for their expressive enthusiasm.
My final verdict: lots of grins. It is well-planned out, with food evenly spaced around the rides, and a variety at that: empanadas, manakish and salads, in addition to your more standard burgers and nuggets kids’ fare. Parents who have put in their hours at indoor kids’ play areas will find this place low on the sensory overload scale: especially in Bedrock and Dynamite Gulch, the area is pleasant and bright, and there is a good mix of 'wowee' rides as well as spaces where the kids can just run around and let off steam. You might want to bring a sweater because of the high air conditioning, but to be honest, my kids didn’t stop running once.
With Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi sharing its Yas Island precinct with the likes of Yas Waterworld, parking is not an issue, with plenty of space dedicated to the park. The walk to Warner Bros from the parking is relatively straightforward with clear signage pointing the way. After you exit the car park you only need to cross a narrow road to make it to the venue.
Entering the park and accessibility
Considering Tuesday night was packed with families, as well as dignitaries and came complete with a red carpet, the arrival to the theme park was still smooth and relatively painless. Any thoughts of hot weather will be forgotten thanks to the cool breeze of the venue’s air conditioners, and you are immediately ushered into a courtyard that holds four ticket booths. Each station has up to three staff members to process tickets to ensure orderly flow during peak periods.
To the far right of the entry zone are two ATM machines (ADCB) for cash withdrawals, and a large guest relations suite with dedicated staff to handle inquiries, next to that are male and female toilets. On the other side, directly across, is the Lost and Found room where you can log and pick up you missing items.
The park gets marks for accessibility, too. We bumped into a friend whose husband had forgotten his mother's wheelchair as we were entering. Impressively, staff were immediately on hand, and a replacement was provided within minutes.
You won't go hungry in Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, with restaurants lurking at every corner in each of the venue's six themed "worlds." In the Warner Bros Plaza there are four restaurants: the old Hollywood charm of The Starlight, the Italian-inspired Hollywood Trattoria and the bright diner of Celebrity Scoop.
The latter is for those with a sweet tooth, with a strong selection of ice cream treats such as its signature Celebrity Split (three flavours of ice cream, crushed cherries, pineapples, chocolate syrup, banana and whipped cream) for Dh49, while a simple soft serve ice cream will set you back Dh15.
Hollywood Trattoria offers pizza and pasta in a diner setting surrounded by posters of classics from Warner Bros' back catalogue. Decent pizza is available under the watchful gaze of V from V for Vendetta and Neo from The Matrix. The margarita was surprisingly tasty for this simple staple, though the chicken tikka was an abject reminder that chicken tikka and pizza are two different meals, and should not be united. Thankfully, no pineapples were in evidence to spark that debate.
Meanwhile, if you fancy a few tandoori chicken sticks in the futuristic city of Metropolis you can go to the Ace of Clubs, which specialises in bite-sized intercontinental cuisine. Not far away you can also dine at Gotham City's Finest. The downtown diner, where we're told Commissioner Gordon was once a regular, has mini fish'n'chips, nachos, mac'n'cheese croquettes and other such nibbler's delights that make up the menu of bite-size meals, priced around the Dh25 mark.
For something more substantial, Metropolis's Big Belly Burger is a good choice. It is an all-American diner for an all-American city where you can gorge on burgers (ranging from Dh25 to Dh45 depending on the number of patties required), hot dogs, chicken wings and fries while reading the framed front pages from the Daily Planet dotted around the walls.
One thing is for sure, Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi wants you to buy their wares. Fortunately, because it's responsible for much-loved characters in both animation and motion-pictures, there is plenty to choose from. Items sold at the main thoroughfare range from clothes to bags, and mugs and key chains, featuring plenty of characters: as a price example, a grey Bugs Bunny and bright yellow Tweetie Pie pyjama set (shirt and pants) is Dh175.
Most of the shops within the park sell much of the same WB-themed memorabilia, whether in the main plaza or dotted around the park's zones. We couldn't help wondering what Aquaman had done wrong - while Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and The Flash baseball caps sold for Dh150, you can pick up the Aquaman version for a Dh125.
In Treasures of Hollywood, located in the main plaza, there are more unique souvenirs on sale, including high quality character models, vintage comics and original artwork and prints. A Batman #210, from March 1969, was the rarest comic we spotted, priced at Dh900. You can also pick up some original Roadrunner artwork signed by the legendary Chuck Jones for Dh4,000.
So, how long do I need?
As ever with this type of attraction, that's up to you and what you want to get out of the experience, and of course, how busy the park is. If you just want to sample a couple of the main rides and the queues are small, you will probably be satisfied after a couple of hours. Realistically, we'd recommend putting aside at least an afternoon, and if you want to take in everything the park has to offer, probably most of the day.
As well as the rides, you can catch shows - we enjoyed a fighting display and lesson with Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Robin in Metropolis, as well as watching Batman rescue a hapless audience member from the clutches of The Joker, Harley Quinn and The Riddler in Gotham.
The Warner Bros Plaza hosts screenings, and has a roof that offers changing skylines: Manchester's Trafford Centre shopping mall was the world's first major attraction to offer this technological wonder, in its food court, back in 1998, and that was the same year that Warner Bros released the other Avengers, and brought former Batman, Michael Keaton, back to screens in Jack Frost.
It wasn't a vintage year for the studio, but we can vouch that in 2018, their false sky ceiling is an improvement on the Trafford Centre's version of 20 years ago, as is their release schedule of films like Ready Player One and Creed II.
Take time out just to enjoy the sets too. Gotham has done a fine job of recreating the fictional city - we'd say Tim Burton-era, as there's more of a twisted carnival vibe than a Christopher Nolan dystopia. Metropolis, meanwhile, is the quintessential ultra-modern, neat city - so neat, in fact, that one visitor we spoke to said they hadn't even noticed any rides in the zone. We promise you they're there, but are just tucked away inside the city's pristine buildings.
Kids, meanwhile, will love Bedrock with its rocks, rivers and dinosaurs. We've had a strange fascination with the fake fantasy worlds theme parks throw together ever since entering the fake caves at Alton Towers' Dinopark as a toddler, and Warners' set builders have delivered here.
Easy and accessible. Upon exiting the main gate of the park, turn left and walk 200 metres to a dedicated taxi stand. Upon arrival we saw seven cabs waiting and when we left there were four in the line. The taxi from Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi to Abu Dhabi Corniche is approximately Dh80, while to Downtown Dubai is between Dh200 to Dh250.
General admission tickets for adults are Dh295. If you are under the height of 1.1 metres you are then eligible for the Junior ticket at Dh230. Those coming in groups can make use of the Family and Friends ticket, which is valid for four people and valued at Dh885.
A range of annual passes are also available. Those looking to spend quality time in Warner Bros Abu Dhabi over the year can nab the annual pass for Dh695. To combine that with all three Yas Island Parks, including Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Water World Abu Dhabi, is Dh1,295. A Yas Parks Annual Platinum Pass, which comes with host of extra benefits when attending all three parks is Dh2,895. Children under the age of three have free entry to Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi.