The world’s first themed land dedicated to the “Lego Movie” film franchise will drop visitors into the quirky, manic and frenetic world of Emmet, Wyldstyle and Unikitty when Lego Movie World debuts at Legoland Florida.
I recently took a behind-the-scenes construction tour of Lego Movie World with Keith Carr from Merlin Magic Making, the creative arm of the theme park company. During my visit, construction crews were pouring cement and laying irrigation lines in the new land’s central hub. Bulldozers were moving dirt near the Unikitty drop tower. And plumbers were installing fire sprinklers inside the Masters of Flight flying theater. In all, as many as 90 people work on the construction site depending on the day.
Kids point of view
Carr and his team of magic makers often view the construction site from a crouched position in order to get a view of the land from a child’s perspective.
“We are built for kids,” says Carr, project director for Lego Movie World. “Everything is from the eyes of child. Everything is from those sightlines and how kids will interact with it.”
Like the rest of the theme park, the Lego brick-like buildings in Bricksburg are built on a scale that’s 25 times larger than a standard Lego brick. The goal: make Lego Movie World feel like something a kid could build at home.
“All the stuff that you see is truly scaled up. So kids can feel like they’ve taken the play set and they’ve brought it to life in the real world,” says Carr.
Carr immediately knew the “Lego Movie” could become a themed land when he saw the first film in theaters.
“There was just so many cool things you could pull off,” he says. “The mind starts creating. What can we make a ride out of that? How could we turn this into a different type of attraction?”
The popularity of the first film and the relatability of the characters helped push the project from the blue sky phase to the planning stages.
“When the first film came out, there was definitely interest in building a Lego Movie land,” Carr says. “When they first announced that they were going to look at doing a second film, that’s when we started having conversations about incorporating the land.”
The look of the land
Lego Movie World offers visual nods to the first two movies. It also allows for room to grow if the film franchise rolls out additional sequels.
“It’s not an actual street within Bricksburg,” says Carr. “It’s more of a mash-up of different buildings and things that you’ll see. The street facade itself will have a very Bricksburg feel to it. It will feel like downtown Bricksburg.”
The project continually evolved during the three-year creative process, says Carr. Merlin Magic Making worked closely with Warner Bros. Studios to make sure Lego Movie World had an evergreen look that would remain relevant as the film franchise progressed.
“Some of the early on concepts that we were working against, some of those characters have been written out or changed,” he adds. “We had to be very careful about what we picked. We could’ve designed a whole thing around a character that’s not in the movie anymore. And we were very close to going down that line.”
The Lego Movie World attractions play off of the personalities of key characters from the film like Emmet Brickowski, Wyldstyle, Unikitty and Benny the spaceman.
“We start with the personalities and characters,” says Carr. “Then develop off of those how we can incorporate them into the land.”
Masters of Flight
The new Masters of Flight flying theater coming to Lego Movie World will put riders in a triple-decker flying couch as they travel through the “Lego Movie” universe projected on a domed screen. The new ride replaces the former Speedorz Arena building.
One challenge the Merlin Magic Makers faced was how to dress the facade of the massive flying theater building that looms over the new land. The solution: turn the exterior into the pink, purple and green giant dog where the Lego master builders gather during the films.
Similar to Disney’s Soarin’ attractions, Masters of Flight will feature a flying theater system built by Brogent Technologies. Once riders are loaded, the seats on Brogent’s M-Ride system will rotate 180 degrees to face the domed screen.
From Bricksburg to Middle Zealand
Riders on Masters of Flight will run into familiar faces; like Emmet and Wyldstyle (voiced by Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks in the theatrical movies). New characters from the movie sequel will also pop up in the ride; including Sweet Mayhem (voiced in the sequel by Stephanie Beatriz from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”). The new flying theater attraction will feature the voices of Alison Brie (“Glow,” “Community”) as Unikitty and Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”) as Metal Beard.
The 4 1/2-minute flying theater film will take riders on an airborne journey from Bricksburg to Middle Zealand; Captain Brickbeard’s pirate lair, Cloud Cuckoo Land and outer space.
Riders will sit in one of 66 seats on three floors within the flying theater. After visitors are seated, the gondolas will rotate 180 degrees and then project out 5 to 7 feet toward the domed screen.
A flying theater experience unlike another
“Guests won’t be able to see the screen or anything until it actually spins around,” says Carr. “These armatures will actually have you out over the open pit. When guests look down it feels like you are flying in space.”
During the ride, the gondolas will pitch up, down, left and right. Overhead canopies on the gondolas will be equipped with wind and mist machines. Riders will smell scents like pine, cotton candy and cannon gunpowder during their flight.
During my visit, we walked through the flying theater where workers were painting the gondolas and installing heating and air conditioning ducting. Seeing the 100-foot-wide by 80-foot-tall concave screen for the first time was jaw dropping.
Not one bad seat in the house
Merlin Magic Making has been working for a year with Warner Bros. on the development of the flying theater.
“We’ve worked hand-in-hand with Warner Bros. as well as the producers of the first and second films to make sure that we’re holding true to what their intent was with the films,” says Carr.
Carr rode a test version of Masters of Flight in Taiwan where Brogent has a test facility.
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” he says. “The way that we designed it with the screen and the placement of the gondolas was that all guests would get the same experience.”
The next steps: completing construction on the massive screen and adding power to the rotating gondola seats. Testing will allow Merlin Magic Makers to fine-tune the ride for Legoland Florida’s core 4- to 12-year-old audience.
“It could be too intense,” says Carr. “We can just dial it back a bit.”
Battle for Bricksburg
The Battle for Bricksburg water ride will take riders in a construction vehicle through the flooded streets of the movie town. If that’s not strange enough, riders will fire water cannons at invading Duplo aliens. The quirky new attraction transforms the existing Quest for Chi boat ride as part of the Lego Movie Land expansion.
The Splash Battle interactive boat ride was built by Germany-based Mack Rides. The renovated attraction will feel like an outdoor shoot-em-up dark ride; with riders shooting at targets that trigger watery responses.
“The Splash Battle rides are great.” says Carr. “You have that same feel as a dark ride except you’re actually shooting real water instead of a laser beam. If you’re hitting the target, you’re getting somebody wet.”
The theme of the re-skinned ride draws from a post-apocalyptic scene in the sequel involving an invasion by giant Duplo aliens.
“It made perfect sense to tie it into the alien invasion,” says Carr. “So we can actually fight off the alien invaders. You can shoot kragle at them; freeze them in place and make sure we stop them from destroying Bricksburg.”
The re-themed ride follows the same track layout of the World of Chima water ride. Water cannons were added along the perimeter of the attraction to allow for more interaction between riders and spectators. With Lego discontinuing the Chima product line, Carr mentioned that it made sense to transform the popular water ride with the “Lego Movie” theme.
Unikitty’s Disco Drop
Unikitty’s Disco Drop will lift riders to the top of the kiddie drop tower before sending them bouncing and spinning back toward the ground. The attraction is set in Unikitty’s universe of Cloud Cuckoo Land. The ride cycles through the many personalities of the short-tempered hybrid cat-unicorn Lego figure.
The 10-seat Zierer tower ride will drop riders 35 feet. During my visit, water dummies were in the seats following testing of the attraction.
Adding the Unikitty theme to the drop tower was a natural fit, says Carr.
“The whole idea is that she bounces around everywhere,” he says. “This whole attraction as it comes down bounces and spins. That’s her personality in a nutshell.”
It didn’t hurt that Carr is a “huge Unikitty fan.”
“Her personality is fantastic,” he says. “Unikitty has all these different emotions and moods. She’s all over the map. She’s bubbly, she’s energetic. I relate to her.”
The mood on Unikitty’s LED face at the top of the ride tower will change as the ride progresses.
“As you’re pulling up she’s all happy, bouncy and cheerful,” Carr says. “As you start to drop, you’ll see her facial expression turn. At the end, she’ll turn green and queasy. We’ll see this transition of Unikitty as if she were experiencing the attraction with you.”
The Central Hub at Lego Movie World
The central hub will be dominated by a 30-foot-tall replica of Benny’s spaceship, which will double as a play structure. Benny’s Playship play area pays tribute to the bright blue Lego minifigure spaceman from the movies.
Nearby, a red-and-white crane being assembled by Lego workers will eventually dangle a Lego Movie World sign over visitors’ heads as they enter the new themed land.
A character meet-and-greet area will be set up in Emmet’s Super Suite; the hero’s downtown Bricksburg apartment. The indoor meet-and-greet area will take visitors into Emmet’s apartment for a photo op with the minifigure hero and his double-decker couch. A second green screen area will allow Legoland to change the photo background for seasonal and special events.
The new land will also feature a Taco Everyday restaurant and Awesome Shop gift store. The restaurant will be easy to spot with a 10-foot-wide Lego taco on the roof. A door next to Taco Everyday plays a series of knock-knock jokes when kids knock on the door.
Legoland Florida is jumping on the biggest trend in theme park development with an entire land dedicated to a single film franchise; in this case, “The Lego Movie.” The goal: create walk-through versions of the universes fans see in popular franchise movies, TV shows and video games.
Expect to see more themed lands dedicated to a single franchise coming to Legoland parks in the future.
“I think that’s going to be a continuing trend that you see us push for,” says Carr.
Universal Studios has had tremendous success with lands themed to the Harry Potter franchise. Disney has followed suit with lands dedicated to “Cars,” “Avatar,” “Toy Story” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” and soon “Star Wars” and “Frozen.”
The new themed land at Legoland Florida is timed to the launch of “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”. It opened in theaters on February 8. The sequel follows Emmet as he sets out to rescue Benny, Unikitty, Brickbeard and other Lego characters after they are captured by a new villain.
Lego Movie World is Legoland Florida’s largest investment since the Winter Haven theme park opened in 2011. It replaces the World of Chima themed land that opened in 2013.
Plans are already in the works to build additional Lego Movie World theme lands at other Legoland parks around the world, according to theme park officials.
A New Hotel at Legoland Florida
As part of the expansion, the Legoland Hotel has added Lego Movie World themed rooms with kids bedrooms modeled after Benny’s spaceship. Legoland Florida will offer Lego Movie themed rooms at the existing Legoland Hotel beginning April 8. The Lego Movie rooms will take over space on the pirate-themed floor of the hotel in anticipation of the new Pirate Island hotel opening next door in 2020.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, Blooloop staff writers may receive free food, lodging or travel for the purpose of reviewing those services. However, these perks will not influence the coverage on Blooloop.
Images courtesy of Legoland Florida except where otherwise stated.