by Joe Kleiman, InPark News Editor
For three generations, the Fong family has been a driving force in California’s wax museum industry. They owned and operated the Fisherman’s Wharf Wax Museum in San Francisco for fifty years, from 1963 to August 2013, and Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, CA from 1985 to 2005. The family has now entered into an agreement with Merlin Entertainments for two attractions, Madame Tussauds San Francisco and and the San Francisco Dungeon at Fisherman’s Wharf, both of which reflect a $35 million investment by Merlin, to be built on the site of their closed wax museum. The new attractions are scheduled to open Summer 2014. This marks the first of Merlin’s Dungeons confirmed for the Western Hemisphere.
“It’s hard not to wax nostalgic about our half-century mark,” said Rodney Fong. “Without exaggeration, the Fong family and the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf helped create the tourist industry along our waterfront. Now, the wax mold is being passed to a new generation.”
“The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf will be a hard act to follow but we believe we can build on its success, and complement and enhance all the other amazing things on offer here,” said Merlin’s Midway Managing Director Glenn Earlam. “Like all Merlin’s attractions both Madame Tussauds San Francisco and the San Francisco Dungeon will be unlike any others, reflecting the unique culture and excitement of the City, each in its own special way representing the true ‘face of the place’.”
Four hundred miles away, in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 20, 2013 saw Madame Tussauds Las Vegas open its newest attraction, the Marvel 4D Theater. Taking the first ride – Marvel legend Stan Lee, who also cut the ribbon of the newly reopened attraction on the Vegas Strip. The 4D theater is the culmination of a journey through the newly redesigned wax museum, which includes not only wax figures of celebrities, but interactive adventures. Guests become part of the Wolf Pack from “The Hangover” by visiting Bradley Cooper inside the infamous hotel room. They become an instant celebrity while sitting in the hot seat during a Jerry Springer taping. They can take a place among NASCAR royalty next to Dale Earnhardt or sing for Simon Cowell— but be ready to be critiqued—or just sing along with musical icons such as Katy Perry, Rihanna and Madonna.
After visiting with life-size characters from around the Marvel universe, guests enter a 70-seat theater for the Marvel Super Heroes 4D film, which includes effects such as water sprays, smoke clouds, and tremors beneath guests’ feet.
The film was created by one of the leaders in CGI feature films and 4D attractions, Threshold Animation Studios. For the theater experience itself, Madame Tussauds Las Vegas worked in partnership with SimEx-Iwerks, which specializes in designing, building and operating special F/X driven cinematic attractions that feature blockbuster content from the world’s major film studios.
The Marvel Super Heroes figures were created by Madame Tussauds’ creative team and brought to life by a team of sculptors who worked closely with Marvel. The creation of the figures began in 2012 and took “nearly countless hours” to complete. As with all Madame Tussauds figures, the Super Heroes are “true to life” to the dimensions of the actors and costumes featured in the Marvel blockbuster films.
This is the third Marvel Super Heroes 4D Experience. The first opened in 2010 in a digital fulldome theater formerly known as the London Planetarium at Madame Tussauds London. A second location, with a short 3D film, opened at Madame Tussauds New York in 2012.
A day after Madame Tussauds Las Vegas held it’s grand reopening, on November 21, 2013, Merlin announced that a new LEGOLAND Hotel would be joining the theme park and waterpark at its LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Garden, FL in 2015.
“The opening of a LEGOLAND Hotel will transition LEGOLAND Florida from a single-day visit theme park to a multi-day resort destination,” said Legoland Florida General Manager Adrian Jones. “This will serve as a catalyst for future economic development in Polk County.”
Welcoming guests with a multicolored exterior and entrance, the four-story LEGOLAND Hotel will immerse families with young children in the world of LEGO, as an extension of the vibrant and interactive theme park experience. Created to bring children’s imaginations to life, the LEGO-themed hotel will feature 152 brightly colored and highly themed rooms and suites, LEGO décor; interactive play areas; a pool and a restaurant.
LEGOLAND Florida Hotel will add 250 construction-related jobs during the construction, and another 250 jobs to its employee base to staff the new hotel upon completion.
This will be the fifth LEGOLAND Hotel in the world joining LEGOLAND California, LEGOLAND Windsor and LEGOLAND Billund hotels. LEGOLAND Malaysia Hotel will soon open its doors.