Theme parks inspired by film and television, as Saudi Arabia announces Dragon Ball land

From Hunger Games to The Flintstones, beloved shows and characters are a common inspiration for theme parks in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia to build world's first Dragon Ball theme park

Saudi Arabia to build world's first Dragon Ball theme park
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A theme park inspired by Dragon Ball, a popular Japanese manga and anime franchise, has been announced in Saudi Arabia.

Qiddiya Investment Company, which is also building the first Six Flags amusement park in the region, announced the project over the weekend, much to the excitement and anticipation of the show's fans.

No official opening date has been revealed yet, but when it does open, it will be the world's first Dragon Ball-inspired theme park, allowing visitors to experience the adventures of Goku and the manga's entire ensemble in person.

To be located in Qiddiya, an entertainment and tourism megaproject in Riyadh, the park will span 500,000 square metres. It will feature seven themed lands with more than 30 rides, as well as hotels and restaurants.

Renderings of the park show landmarks recognisable to fans of the franchise, including the pink island bungalow Kame House and the domed Capsule Corporation. The centrepiece of the park is the 70-metre-high rollercoaster based on Shenron, the mythical wish-granting dragon that can be summoned by anyone who collects all the seven titular balls.

The theme park announcement comes at a significant time, just weeks after the death of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama and in the same year that Japanese graphic novels are celebrating their 40th anniversary.

This is not the first time a pop culture series has inspired a theme park. Taking inspiration from beloved characters, settings and storylines elevates the experience of amusement park goers, especially for those who happen to also be familiar with the thematic references.

Here are some of the most popular pop culture inspired theme parks in the region:

Motiongate Dubai

Located within the vast Dubai Parks and Resorts complex, Motiongate Dubai takes inspiration from Hollywood. It showcases five themed areas dedicated to popular films. For example, the DreamWorks Animation area houses attractions based on Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar and Shrek.

There is also a zone dedicated to films from Columbia Pictures, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania and Ghostbusters. Rides and attractions based on the Hunger Games and John Wick franchises can be found in the Lionsgate area, while a children-focused entertainment can be found at The Smurfs' Village.

Warner Bros World, Abu Dhabi

One of the largest indoor theme parks in the world, Warner Bros World in the UAE capital features six themed lands.

Gotham City and Metropolis are based on the fictional settings of DC Comics characters Batman and Superman, Cartoon Junction land features rides and attractions based on characters such as Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry, as well as Bugs Bunny and friends; an American desert landscape is recreated at Dynamite Gulch, with featuring Looney Tunes characters including Wile E Coyote and Marvin the Martian. Fans of The Flintstones will enjoy a trip back in time to the Stone Age in the Bedrock area, where visitors can go on a scenic boat tour, taking in prehistoric sights and sounds along the way. Over in Warner Bros Plaza, cinema lovers will enjoy a meander through a world inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, with shopping and dining options befitting the theme, such as Hollywood Trattoria and Celebrity Scoop soda shop.

Guests can also check into the The WB Abu Dhabi, Curio Collection by Hilton hotel to be close to all of the action, with a Warner Bros-themed hotel stay.

Coming soon: Harry Potter Themed Land at Warner Bros World, Abu Dhabi

Next year, Warner Bros World will add another immersive world to its ranks, the first Harry Potter-themed land in the Middle East.

Fans of the book and film franchise will be able to step into the wizarding world of Harry Potter and friends. Announced by Miral in 2022, the park promises to stay "as true to the story as possible," Miral Experiences chief executive Julien Kauffmann told The National last month, while bringing the experience "to the next level".

There are already four of Harry Potter-themed amusement park areas located at Universal Studios around the world. In the US there are two, one located at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida and a second at Universal Studios Hollywood in California. In Asia, you can currently immerse yourself in JK Rowling's fictional world at Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Beijing, the newest of the four, which opened in 2021. Each of the Wizarding Worlds have a number of Harry Potter-themed attractions, including the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster for children and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey guided vehicle ride. There is also an interactive Ollivander's Wand Shop Experience located at each of the four parks.

In England, you can visit the Making of Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London, which displays parts of the original film sets, as well as original props and costumes from the movie franchise.

Angry Birds World, Doha

Inside Doha Festival City is the world's first theme park inspired by popular video game Angry Birds, which was extended into a Netflix television series, Angry Birds Toons, in 2013. Featuring the game's identifiable characters, Red, Chuck, Matilda and more, the space combines arcade games, indoor and outdoor rides and attractions, and a water park.

More than 20 attractions are featured at the park, including drop tower ride Blast Bomb, family-friendly flat ride Bouncing Blues and Super Slingshot, a ride that flings guests 60 metres into the air. There is also a laser tag arena, a trampoline park and an adventure zone with zip lines and slides.

IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai

The indoor amusement park IMG Worlds of Adventure is divided into five different zones – two of which are based on Cartoon Network and the Marvel universe.

The Cartoon Network zone features some of its most popular characters, including Ben 10 and the Powerpuff Girls. There are also rides and attractions based on Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball. The Marvel area features character-inspired rides, including the Thor Thunder Spin, a spinning water ride; Spider-Man Doc Ock's Revenge, a roller coaster with 180° views; and Avengers Battle of Ultron guided vehicle ride.

Updated: March 25, 2024, 2:03 PM