Jurassic World as a Theme Park

WARNING: It is impossible to discuss this topic without giving away key plot points and developments in the movie. Do not proceed if you’re concerned about spoilers.

Following our viewing of Jurassic World, DH and I both desperately wanted to hear our favorite theme park logistics/planning enthusiasts’ take on it. I tweeted to @lentesta and @jimhillmedia posthaste to request a podcast. But, while they’re considering that request, I wanted to give my own thoughts about Jurassic World as a theme park, as depicted in Jurassic World the movie. Also, I should note that I’m writing largely based on what I saw in the movie, but I did reference the spectacular website for Jurassic World for some details and data points. I also want to note that I use a lot of promo photos from the movie (ones that were part of the press park made freely available on their website) in this review. Those are all owned/created by the movie, not by me, and I’m using them here for criticism purposes only.

Who Would Go?

Jurassic World is located on an island, the fictional Isla Nublar, west of Costa Rica (how far west varies by movie, and Jurassic World does make clear that this is supposed to be the same island as the ones from previous Jurassic Park movies). Travel to that destination is going to require a passport and a fairly expensive flight for most of the world population. (It always bothered me how the prior JP movies, when panicking about escape, would talk about dinosaurs wandering around San Diego, when the closest region would be Costa Rica. Do we only care if they make it to the US? Seems like just about any of the flying species could end up at Costa Rica with little trouble, much less the many nearby islands in that region. But, I digress…) Additionally, there’s a ferry and/or separate flight to get to Isla Nublar (depending on the movie). In Jurassic World, it’s a park-sponsored ferry from Costa Rica.

I don’t think they explicitly mention a park admission ticket price in the movie (though I could be wrong), but I think it’s reasonable to guess that a park that offers a ferry ride to its off-coast site and is the only park in the world to have live dinosaurs would garner an admission ticket in the $2-300 range for adults. Add in what is probably a $800 flight, plus staying at what seems to be the only on-site hotel ($600+ a night I’m sure), and this a trip out of the range of most families. Thus, we can make some assumptions that the guests at JW are well-off world travelers.

Park Size

Jurassic World explicitly mentions 20,000 guests being present on the day the movie takes place. We’re also told that this is a time when kids are out of school, and it seems to be summer. That means Jurassic World should be seeing peak or near peak attendance, though the implication is that this is a Thursday, so maybe low peak. So, let’s figure that 20K is perhaps 60% of capacity, making the actual capacity around 35K.

Disneyland (not all of DLR, just Disneyland) hits capacity at 40K, roughly. Disneyland Resort has an 85K capacity. Magic Kingdom caps at roughly 100K. But, if we look at more zoo-like parks, SeaWorld Orlando is around 40K. Animal Kingdom is around 50K (though it can be argued that the attractions can’t support its functional capacity). So, this is in the ballpark, but it seems like Jurassic World is under-sized, particularly since it was built in the present with the movie taking place in the comparable “near future”. (There are plenty of technologies having nothing to do with dinosaurs shown in the movie that are not currently achievable as shown, but they’re likely achievable in the near future.) Then again, it may be that with the prohibitive cost they need to charge to meet their needs and the cost of travel, they anticipate a smaller available audience.

But…putting that aside, we see crowds shown in the movie that seem to indicate a) that Jurassic World is actually operating at or near peak on this day and b) that the attendance is higher than 20K. The one that stands out the most is the arena that we see for the water dinosaur demonstration (with the awesome stands that descend below the water level for a different view during the show):

Jurassic World: Mosasaur Arena

That arena in and of itself is shown holding nearly 20K of people. To give a proportion, 20K is less than half a Sounders game’s average attendance. Unless the entire park empties and that’s a once a day show, the number of people we see in the movie is far past the number quoted as attendance. So, it’s also possible that Jurassic World is much larger, and the 20K number is bogus.

(The interesting part is that it almost seems like 20K was a reasonable number to give, but the set/CGI designers then showed us stuff that didn’t fit that model, which is perhaps not surprising.)

Note: After doing all of this ballparking, I found the website for Jurassic World which has a handy park capacity graph right on it that let me back into the actual park capacity, which is approximately 31K. So…ha. 🙂 They were at 64% capacity, so my guess of a 60%ish capacity is spot on. Go me!

The Guests

The guests we see are mostly American, and communication throughout the park seems to be in English. While you can make a case that I can’t judge that easily, there’s one scene where a line of attendees gets ticked off that an attraction is closed where their American-ness is very apparent. Given the park’s location, their primary attendance will be from Brazil, which has plenty of affluent park enthusiasts. There should be signage in a few languages. Even EuroDisney has signage in both English and French.

That we didn’t see a single Brazilian tour group (nor any tour groups) is patently unrealistic, as any WDW frequent attendee will confirm. It, like the San Diego references I mentioned earlier, is a reflection of how US-centric this movie is rather than any reality of what you’d see in a true Jurassic World theme park. (The website actually further reinforces this observation.)

Some realism though was in the guests’ reactions when a ride went down (ready to mob the worker there) and the guests watching the Mosasaurus feeding who insisted on standing up for no good goddamn reason and blocking everyone’s view.

What they did not include that they should have: kids crying out of exhaustion and frustration (rather than because a pterodactyl ate their mom), selfie sticks (maybe they’re banned?), people holding up their phones/iPads/whatever during every single freaking attraction/show to video it for later perusal.

Sponsorships/Brands

They nailed this one. Every theme park these days is flooded with sponsored attractions and brand name shops. The ones I noticed on the “main street” of Jurassic World were Brookstone, Pandora, and Margaritaville. (There’s also a fake restaurant called Winston’s Steakhouse. You can view the fake restaurant menu on the website.) The research hall being sponsored by Samsung felt familiar as well, and we hear that Verizon Wireless might be sponsoring the Indominus Rex (ha! Figures!). What’s fun here is that it serves two purposes: realism and actual paid placement in the movie. I also wonder how much of the store presence was influenced by shops that have deals with Universal Studios theme parks.

Attractions

Per the website, there are 20 attractions. (Oddly, a “water park” is a single attraction, and the golf course is counted as an attraction. The monorail is relegated to a utility, like restrooms.) In the movie, we see a few, but most notably, we see the Gyrosphere:

Jurassic World: Gyrosphere

I have a major nitpick with the Gyrosphere. A key plot point of the movie is that the Gyrosphere is closed because of the escaping Indominus Rex while the 2 kids are out exploring. The kids get a notice that the ride is closed and that they should return. And then they proceed to keep exploring in the gyrosphere anyways, even rolling right outside the walls of the attraction. No. Just no. This makes no sense at all. For this Gyrosphere ride to have any sort of realistic throughput, it must have a time limit on exploration. There is no such thing as a “stay as long as you like” attraction in a major theme park that isn’t walk-through. Thus, by design, the Gyrosphere must have some kind of “bring vehicle home” control/command, or else that ride would be screwed. Not to mention that, according to the website, the Gyrosphere notices when you’re close to dinosaurs and moves you back to a safe distance, but in the movie, we see it clearly not doing that. That feature also implies that the kids would not have been able to drive it out of the fenced area. Most likely, the vehicle would be set to either auto-home if driven outside the area or turn off entirely within some short distance of the ride area. This one thing totally bothered me while watching. Thankfully, while it’s a key plot point, it also doesn’t last very long. They seriously could have fixed it just by having the ride person or even the Jimmy Fallon ride video note their “VIP bracelets” when they got on and say, “Oh, you’re VIPs. I’ve set your gyro for unlimited exploration. Stay as long as you like.”

Speaking of the Fallon ride video, while it was a bit over the top, it did hit home in terms of the inevitably corny videos telling you the safety information for a ride or touting the ride’s features.

I also wanted to call out the Mosasaurus feeding arena feature of the stands moving up and down. That is very cool, and I hope it’s in a concept list for some park somewhere, though I’m not sure of the right attraction in a post-Blackfish world.

On-Site Hotel/Day Visiting

The movie showed only one hotel, but the website says there’s two on-site hotels at different tiers. What isn’t clear from the movie or the website is how often the ferry runs. If the ferry is running with enough frequency (and enough boats for “rope drop” capacity) for day trippers from the mainland, evacuating the island shouldn’t have been nearly the problem it was shown to be. OTOH, if the expectation (and perhaps the ticket price) assumes you’ll stay at an on-site hotel for 1+ nights, the ferry may only run a few times a day. The ferry we saw looked like a 1500 capacity ferry. Just based on that, I’m guessing they have a fleet of perhaps 10 ferries and they typically operate 3 or so (1 loading at each port, one or two in transit), with the full 10 being used for the most common transportation times in one direction only.

Competition

The implication is that this is the only dinosaur park…still…even though it’s been running long enough that people are bored by dinosaurs (that they can only see at this one park in the whole damn world). For the record, I don’t buy for a second that people are bored by dinosaurs and thus attendance is dropping. People aren’t bored by freaking Space Mountain yet, and it’s been around for many decades and isn’t a giant-ass dinosaur. Jurassic World needs to learn about making tiny changes from Disney. They could just add a new track to the monorail and bump attendance rather than creating a whole new dinosaur.

Anyways, back to the topic…competition. I further don’t buy that not a single competitor park has opened somewhere else in the world. Wouldn’t it have been more believable that Jurassic World was creating Indominus Rex because “Dinosaur Land” was going to open off the coast of Taipei that fall with more space and more dinos and they needed to give a reason for people to keep coming to their smaller park?

Evacuation/Emergency Handling

This theme park has been operating for years. You cannot tell me that they have not needed to evacuate before now. It’s an island off the coast of Costa Rica. Have they never had a major storm coming in? No earthquakes? Heck, a super-cell thunderstorm would be enough to shut down their ferry service and thus a reason that they’d want to get guests off the island in advance of its occurrence. Among the many things I don’t buy, I don’t buy that they would have had so much trouble evacuating or handling a shutdown. As mentioned up above, they probably need a 10-ferry fleet to handle park open and close traffic. 10 ferries could have gotten most of that 20K of people off the island in a matter of hours. We’re fed that the COO (or director of Ops or whatever she was) doesn’t want to evacuate because of a fear that people won’t come back. Bullshit. Cruise ships have people going in droves, despite all the problems they’ve had. Disneyland had a measles outbreak. The big thing that COO would have to worry about is someone dying, not people being forced to leave due to a temporary and unexplained closure. Besides, as mentioned, given their location and mostly outdoors attractions, they would have to shut down due to weather periodically. They could have just messaged the park guests that a storm was coming in and they were advising everyone to a) return to their hotel room or b) get on the ferry. Then, start shutting down attractions, and believe me, people will leave. Guests do not hang around a park when everything is shut down. They do not sit down all over main street (as was shown). They queue up for the transportation (ferries) or go to their on-site hotel. Some of them might have flooded the restaurants.

It bums me out that the COO, who was shown as incredibly competent throughout, ended up seeming incompetent in service to the plot in two ways, this being one of them. That’s a separate post for another time, though, should I get around to it.

In Closing…

Well, this has been quite an essay. I look forward to Touring Plans‘ Jurassic World edition. In the meantime, if you have any other theme park nitpicks I missed, feel free to post them in the comments. 🙂

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