Changchun Movie Wonderland: Definitely Not Universal Studios
   2013-07-31 15:42:36      Web Editor: Luo Chun

The most entertaining (and terrifying) moments at Changchun Movie Wonderland are carried out by some of the robotic characters positioned outside the park's buildings.

The Exploration of Space building is just one of the many architecturally fascinating buildings at Changchun Movie Wonderland, each housing activities and performances within. [Photo:]

Changchun isn't usually thought of as one of China's A-List cities, but it does have a cinematic reputation. The Changchun Film Group Corporation and its studio are cornerstones of the Chinese film industry and the city also hosts an international film festival; it was a natural enough progression for Changchun to open its own movie theme park in 2005.

Unfortunately, whenever the words "movie theme park" are uttered, most people tend to think of America's Universal Studios theme parks. Universal Studios have cut the prototype of what a movie theme park can be, and it may appear that any other movie-themed park must be resigned to live in their shadows.

Changchun Movie Wonderland is hyped up in the same language used to market Universal Studios: "High tech," "high quality special effects," and "the most advanced movie techniques" are phrases it commonly tosses out to describe itself, in the vein of that insanely expensive Transformers ride. But can Chanchun deliver the goods?

It turns out that stereoscopic 3D movies and some 3D computer animations are the heights of Movie Wonderland's technological advancement, which is to say, far from the frontlines of innovation. (3D? Didn't they do that back in the '50s?) Of course, nobody needs the latest technology to create drama or excitement, but Wonderland doesn't exactly instill the wonder it promises.

A total of 15 buildings each had a schedule of show times, and visitors would scamper from one to the next to squeeze everything in. Some activities were particularly disappointing, despite being taking place in buildings which were architecturally fascinating on the outside. In the Turning Star building, a crowd of people stood in a room with 3D landscapes being projected on four walls, with most people tuning out within minutes.

The Haunted Castle was dark enough to bump your head into walls or trip over things, but far from interactive or frightening. Even the chainsaw guy at the end was less than terrifying.

In one building called Special Lab, a five minute low quality 4D movie was shown. Bugs farting bubbles into your face exploited 3D capabilities so that children were reaching out to touch them. The fourth dimension referred to mist sprayed into the air when the elephant's trunk spewed water, and a piece of string would swipe at your legs a couple of times. In truth, it felt appropriately icky, and the kids screaming their heads off illustrated that 5D was not necessary. "It's much better than Avatar," declared one Ms Li. "Avatar is just visual, but here I can feel the wind and the rain touching me."

The volcano eruption was fun enough with fake boulders crashing down on Aztec idols, a shaking floor and thunderous booms, but did we really have to walk through 12 minutes of pointless rooms to get there?

Outside, robotic fake people positioned near the Waterscreen Movie provided the most hilarious moments in the park. One would periodically scream and shake as he got the electric chair. Another would loudly vomit fake vodka into a barrel. This is the one place where Universal Studios might learn a thing or two from Changchun.

Then there were the performances which demonstrated "the most advanced movie techniques." This amounted to audience contributing their voices to dubbing, scrunching Styrofoam to sound like walking in snow, and taking part in a bit of blue screen action. Ironically, the performances seemed to prove how much fun low technology can be.

Although I found Changchun's Movie Wonderland to be a dissatisfying experience, other visitors couldn't dig up a single complaint. Olesya, a 15-year-old Russian girl glowed about the whole experience. "It's beautiful," she said, without irony." I want to stay here forever."


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