With tourists ready to travel once again, many destinations are preparing for a massive influx of visitors once the pandemic has subsided. Those that can are using this time to enhance their offerings, but few are going to the extreme that one waterpark in Thailand is. The Amazone water park in Bangsaray, Thailand, is undergoing a complete overhaul and will emerge as the world’s first Columbia Pictures-themed waterpark.
Amazone, which was previously themed to Cartoon Network franchises, was part of a larger push in the region by its parent company, Amazon Falls. First opened in 2014, the Cartoon Network Amazone is credited with being one of the first attractions in Thailand with internationally recognized intellectual properties.
Unlike in North America, where waterparks are rarely linked to film or television franchises, Asia has seen the concept spread rapidly over the past few years as tourist destinations look to differentiate themselves. Cheaper upfront costs and the ability to update the attractions more easily means while few media properties have been used in Asian theme parks, they’re extremely common in water parks.
Highly themed water parks are not new. One of the first modern water parks, River Country at Walt Disney World, shared a rustic Americana theme with the campground connected to it. Still, in the U.S., the vast majority of themed water parks pull from a generic tropical feel, albeit with some differences in how that tropical idea is realized. Last year saw the DreamWorks Water Park open in New Jersey’s American Dream megamall. Like the Columbia Pictures Aquaverse, the DreamWorks Water Park relies on a mix of recognizable franchises to enhance otherwise standard water park attractions.
At Columbia Pictures’ Aquaverse, this will include a tower of water slides themed to Men In Black, including a wormhole-inspired freefall slide; a Ghostbusters water coaster which will features ‘world’s first fully-enclosed water dome in a family raft ride;’ a lazy river themed to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; a water fort themed to Hotel Transylvania; outdoor go-karts with Bad Boys-inspired neon art installations; and numerous other attractions themed to Jumanji, Surf’s Up, The Emoji Movie, and the upcoming Lin-Manuel Miranda musical VIVO.
In announcing the Columbia Pictures water park, Sony exec Jeffrey Godsick, pointed to it being the next step in the company’s move into location-based entertainment.
“Columbia Pictures’ Aquaverse is the next step in Sony Pictures’ larger global strategy to grow and expand location-based entertainment by utilizing its strong global film and TV brands. We are creating opportunities for all audiences around the world to immerse themselves deeper into our stories through water parks, touring exhibitions, and theme park attractions.”
With Comcast seeing massive success with its Universal parks, other studios have looked to harness their own properties. While delayed, Warner Bros. is still moving forward with an HBO-backed Games of Thrones studio tour attraction in Northern Ireland and a Harry Potter studio attraction in Japan. A Warner Bros. theme park in Abu Dhabi has proven successful, leading to rumors of a similar theme park in the works for other locations. Lionsgate has also seen success with theme park attractions in Asia and the Middle East. They’ve been candid with their plans for more attractions, including in North America.
Sony has also increased its presence in the location-based entertainment industry. At Motiongate Dubai, Sony franchises sit alongside Lionsgate ones, and a Hotel Transylvania-themed attraction recently opened at Moscow’s Dream Island Theme Park.
Like Warner Bros. and Lionsgate, Sony has seen less success in North America. Plans for an indoor theme park resort in Minnesota are dead and the Sony Square NYC, an experiential retail venue that regularly hosted Sony-branded pop-up experiences, closed last year due to pandemic-related difficulties.
With the Columbia Pictures’ Aquaverse licensing agreement, Sony has shown it doesn’t plan to leave location-based entertainment. But, even as Warner Bros., Lionsgate, and Sony all invest in the industry, for now, the North American market looks to remain controlled by Disney and Universal.
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