Part 1: What's the obsession with theme parks?

I loved theme parks when I was a kid. Actually, I still love going to theme parks, especially the ones where there's this magical atmosphere. The only theme parks I ever went to, had themes like fairytales and cartoon animals. These were the only themes I could imagine for a genuine popular theme park, but it occurs that there are plenty of other (unexpected) themes.

I did some research and found some theme parks with extremely strange themes. Themes of which you think "Are people really willing to go there?", or "How did they come up with that?!", or just "What?!".
But besides the weird subjects parks choose, there's a seconds odd thing...Namely, I found so much articles about abandoned theme parks all around the world. How could this be? There are theme parks which nobody wants to visit anymore and which look like scary horror movie sets and meanwhile, people are building all kind of new theme parks with crazy themes of which you think nobody would like it. I find this contradiction very interesting and that's why I decided to do some more research.

Because I found A LOT, I decided to divide my story into two parts. This way, it won't be a too long story to read and this way, I could emphasise the difference between the opposite theme parks better.

(Nara Dreamland, Japan, source)

I would like to begin with the abandoned theme parks. There are some famous avoided theme parks, which all had a different reason to close, but which still exist. Of course, visitors can't ride the attractions anymore, but some of them are still regularly visited, just because the parks look spooky.
A famous example of an abandoned theme park is Shijingshan Amusement Park in Beijing, China. The park is still open for business, but there are hardly some there. This amusement park opened in the 80's and shamlessly copied Disneyland features. At first it was popular, but when Disney found out that Shijingshan was breaking the rules, the Chinese park had to remove all their attractions, buildings and look-a-likes which had something to do with Disney. So, only a few things remained. The park is still open for business, but it's boring, the staff is sleeping and broken attractions aren't fixed anymore.
The picture above is of a building in Nara Dreamland, Japan. Same thing over there: they copied Disneyland and Disney wasn't pleased with it. Nara Dreamland had to close and now it's even guarded, so that curious tourists aren't able to enter the park.

(Pripyat amusement park, Ukraine. Picture bij Justin Stahlman)

The story of Pripyat amusement park is a little more sad than the other ones. This amusement park in Pripyat, Ukraine, was built in a city right next to Chernobyl. Unfortunately, a few hours after the park opened its doors for the first time, they had to evacuate everyone because the day before the 'famous' Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant disaster occured. Everyone left and due to the fatal levels of radiation, no one was allowed to go back anymore. Nowadays, Pripyat looks like the scary image of someone's worst nightmare. Even scarier is the fact that some people try to sneak in and put old dolls and stuffed animals in the cabins of the ferris wheel...
Six Flags Orleans had to close their doors due to a disaster as well. In 2005, people had to evacuate the area due to hurricane Katrina.The park got destroyed for the biggest part. Nowadays, filmmakers love the atmosphere of this destroyed and sad place, because the park is being used as a movie set.

 (Joyland amusement park, Kansas, source)

So we saw the copycatting of Chinese and Japanese theme parks and  theme parks closing their doors due to fatal disasters. There's a third category in this list of reasons why theme parks get abandoned: getting ancient. Not just old, but ancient. Joyland amusement park in Kansas, USA, first opened doors in 1949. It had been a very popular theme park, but in all the 60 years the park existed, it hardly ever innovated. They decided to stick with their 'old, but appreciated' attractions. Yes, they got old an no, therefore they didn't stay appreciated. The park got too boring for the audience and closed it doors at 2004. Was it the head of the park who was too stubborn to change anything? Was it the atmosphere they tried to create which didn't fit the 21th century anymore? Only thing I know is that they started doing some restorations in 2006, but that the place got ignored in the end and now is the victim of vandalism and neglection.

The only thing I ask myself after discovering all this: why do they decide to leave things like this? The only answer I could think of is: money. If you want to restore your theme park, it costs money, if you want to remove all of it, it costs money, if you want the audience to come to your park again, it costs money. So the owner leave their parks just the way they are. I understand cases like the park in Ukraine, because it is dangerous to go there, but why letting your park 'rot away' while at the same time you try to guard it, like the park in Japan? But therefore I like the fact that some parks are renting their place as movie sets. This way, they could still make some money.

The presence of the economic crisis is still present, but I think this could be a great opportunity for theme parks to immerse themselves in the world of trends. Theme parks might find the trend Experience Economy very interesting. Why not invite your visitors to come and enjoy your run-down but scary theme park in the middle of the night, to give them an experience of a real-life nightmare? That would be genius!

In part two I will show some theme parks with weird themes and I will tell you why I think this great
difference between theme parks exist. Stay tuned!

(Articles used for this post: MichaelJohnGrist, ViceNL, Wikipedia, Mother Nature Network)

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