A new US theme park has unveiled an attraction based on Princess Diana’s death.
The 1997 car accident that killed the British royal is recreated through 3D animation at National Enquirer Live, an “immersive museum” in Tennessee.
The park, which opened on Friday, focuses on the history of the American tabloid National Enquirer and its celebrity articles, inviting guests to "explore the untold story". It also features a replica of the scene where OJ Simpson's ex-wife was found murdered, as well as Michael Jackson in a hyperbaric chamber and a recreation of the moment the "King of Pop" dangled his baby from a balcony, alongside exhibits on aliens, Bigfoot and the moon landing (as well as moon landing conspiracy theories).
Speaking about the controversial Princess Diana exhibition, Robin Turner, one of the park's principal investors, told The Daily Beast: "It's a 3D computer model, and you're looking down on what looks just like Paris. It's projected, and you see the buildings and everything in a 3D presentation ... And it shows the pathway as she left the Ritz hotel, and the paparazzi chasing her, and the bang-flash that we think blinded the driver – and how it happened."
The creators insist the attraction has been sensitively handled and is “definitely not in poor taste”.
“There’s no blood,” said Turner. “There’s none of that.” He added that it also introduces visitors to conspiracy theories surrounding Diana's death, such as a claim the “People’s Princess” was pregnant with Dodi Fayed’s child and or that she was murdered by British intelligence services.
“You will be polled on what you believe was the cause of her death and who was behind it,” Turner explains. “We ask questions like ‘Do you think the royals were involved?’ ‘Do you think she was pregnant?’”
This is part of a wider exhibit called the Royals’ Closet, which is filled with recreations of outfits worn by royals.
Stirring up controversy
Ahead of the opening, Turner said he had heard rumours of possible protests by people who dislike the tabloid. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, news of the Diana exhibit has not gone down very well in the UK.
Princess Diana's former media manager told The Independent that the exhibit was "in very bad taste". Dickie Arbiter, who was the royal family's spokesman between 1988 and 2000, told the British newspaper: "I wouldn't call it an attraction, I'd call it very tacky. Tacky is not strong enough, but I don't think there is a words that's strong enough.
“[Robin Turner] says it’s not in bad taste – well, I doubt he’d know anything in bad taste if it slapped him in the face.”
He added that he believes Princess Diana’s two sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, who were 12 and 15 at the time of their mother’s death, would be “very offended” by this exhibit and by their family tragedy being turned into entertainment for the American public.
When The Daily Beast asked Turner if he believed they'd be offended, he said: "I hope not. But that's hard to say. I know they're very sensitive. With everything out there, I think they've had to – you know, there's nothing new that's being presented."
Plenty of commentators took to Twitter to denounce the exhibit, too. Entertainment blogger Perez Hilton simply wrote “gross". Other words (among numerous expletives) used to describe the move included “disgusting”, “distasteful” and “disrespectful”.
The Diana exhibit is one of about 100 based inside the 2,043-square-metre theme park, which is based in Pigeon Forge, about six kilometres down the road from Dolly Parton’s entertainment complex, Dollywood. It’s one of two National Enquirer Live attractions to have been built, with the second in Branson, Missouri. The latter is due to open on June 28.
Turner said he expects the Pigeon Forge park to draw in 450,000 customers in its first year. Tickets are $25 (Dh92).