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8 Strange Amusement Parks From Around the World

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http://www.wunderlandkalkar.eu/en

In the six years since we wrote about some of the weirdest amusement parks on Earth, many other strange parks have opened, so it seemed fitting to do a follow-up. While these parks may not be the happiest places on earth, they just might be some of the weirdest.

1. Wunderland Kalkar, Germany

In 1973, construction started on a nuclear power plant outside of Dusseldorf, but it never went online due to construction issues and protests. The system did actually go into partial operation for about a year, but the nuclear materials did not yet arrive, and after 1986's Chernobyl disaster, the project was cancelled altogether.

When the property was sold off in 1991, one Dutch entrepreneur saw a perfect business opportunity. He purchased the property and converted it into an amusement park that features more than 40 rides—including a swing ride and climbing wall, which are both built on the iconic cooling tower.

2. Išgyvenimo Drama, Lithuania

If you've ever wondered how well you'd survive in an oppressive military prison, here's your chance to find out: Išgyvenimo Drama doesn't offer any spins or drops like your favorite rollercoaster, but it will probably give you more chills than any ride ever could—because this attraction puts you right inside a Soviet-era prison.

The bunker dates back from the USSR occupation of Lithuania, and those who choose to experience the drama are treated to a terrifying historical reenactment. Visitors to the survival experience are first forced to surrender all of their possessions and change into Soviet coats. They are then ordered to put on gas masks, learn the Soviet anthem, eat a typical Soviet meal, submit to a medical exam, and undergo a Gulag-style interrogation by employees who were previously employed in the Soviet army (many of whom were even interrogators in their positions). Those who survive are given a shot of vodka to help calm their nerves before returning to regular society again.

3. Action Park, New Jersey

It seems anyone who lived in New Jersey between 1978 and 1996 has memories (or nightmares) of the legendary Action Park, a place with a reputation that would put any imaginary horror park to shame.

Thanks to poorly-designed, shoddily-constructed rides, ambulances were a common sight at the park. In fact, Vernon Township, where Action Park was located, had to buy more ambulances (nicknamed the "Action Park Express") solely to keep up with the park's injuries (including six fatalities). The park was so infamous that it inspired its own short documentary.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Action Park, though, is that the company that owned it and helped earn the park such a fearsome reputation recently repurchased the park and re-opened it under the same name this summer.

4. Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, China

Wikipedia user Dyliu714

In what could easily be called the Copyright Infringing-est Place on Earth, visitors are invited to enjoy a suspiciously familiar-looking castle and to take photos with characters that strongly resemble Mickey Mouse, Shrek, Hello Kitty, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Betty Boop, Winnie the Pooh, and other famous trademarked characters, which the park owners claim are all based on Grimm's Fairy Tales. If that all strikes you as mere coincidence and not serious copyright infringement, consider the park's old slogan: "Disney is too far to go, please come to Shijingshan!"

Unsurprisingly, park owners have been sued multiple times, but the park remains open although they do seem to periodically discontinue using particular icons—for example, some of the Disney-inspired statues were torn down over the last few years and costumed characters seem to have largely disappeared from the park. Asia Obscura has a great, photo-filled article from a 2011 trip to the park after many of the changes took place—copyright infringement is still pretty evident, though, as is the odd mishmash of cultural icons.

5. World Joyland, China

Flickr user Jeremy Thompson

For those who prefer copyright infringement involving video games, Changzou's World Joyland offers all the real world fun you'd expect of a World of Warcraft or Starcraft, without all those pesky licenses. It also happens to be one of China's most popular theme parks—particularly among cosplayers who enjoy showing off their creations to visitors.

Enjoy the fantastical Terrain of Magic or the high tech Universe of Starship, or get a bite to eat at a noodle house that just happens to have a mascot of a jovial, cartoon panda practicing kung fu.

6. Love Land, South Korea

Wikipedia user gdimension

South Korea's Jeju Island has been a popular destination for newlyweds ever since the Korean War. Many of the couples were joined together in arranged marriages and the partners never received sex education. In 2004, Love Land opened on the island as a sort of sex-ed park that features statues, films and interactive exhibits based around sexual activities. It takes about one hour to go through the whole attraction, which is only open to those 18 and over.

7. Ferrari World, UAE

Flickr user Aziz J. Hayat

If you want to make a splash in the UAE, the rule is "go big or go away." Ferrari World is no exception: The attraction is not only home to Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster, as well as the world's largest Ferrari logo—but the park itself is the world's largest indoor amusement park, covering over 2 million square feet.

As you may guess, the rides and attractions tend to be Ferrari-themed, but even those who aren't car crazy will still likely enjoy themselves on the flume rides, roller coasters and other traditional amusement park attractions.

8. Parque Jaime Duque, Colombia

Flickr user Rosalba Tarazona

What do you look for in an amusement park? If your answer is "naked, gender-swapped versions of famous statues," then you need to head down to Colombia's Parque Jaime Duque, where you can enjoy a massive, nude, male version of the Statue of Liberty—and that's only one of the park's 700 strange sculptures. The park also offers a miniaturized version of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and "Dante's Castle," a magical boat ride based on Dante's Inferno.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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15 Things You May Not Know About Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

We are not alone. Here are a few facts about Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO classic, on its 40th anniversary.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY A VERY DIFFERENT FILM.

Spielberg’s initial story outline involved UFOs and shady government dealings following the Watergate scandal, which became a script entitled “Watch the Skies.” The idea involved a police or military officer working on Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s official study into UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s, who would become the whistleblower on the government cover-up of aliens. There were numerous rewrites—Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader even took a crack at it, penning a political UFO thriller titled “Kingdom Come” that Spielberg and the movie studio rejected—before the story we know today emerged.

2. IT’S NAMED AFTER LEGITIMATE UFO RESEARCH.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg partly based his idea on the research of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a civilian scientific advisor to Project Blue Book who eventually admitted that 11 percent of the study’s findings about unidentified flying objects could not be explained using science.

The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.

3. THERE’S A CAMEO FROM THE GODFATHER OF UFO RESEARCH.

Hynek, who also served as a technical advisor on the movie, makes an uncredited cameo in the final scene of the movie. You can spot him pretty easily—he’s the goateed man smoking a pipe and wearing a powder blue suit who pushes through the crowd of scientists to get a better look at the aliens.

4. NOBODY WANTED THE STARRING ROLE.

Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Columbia Pictures

The director first offered the part of Roy Neary to actor Steve McQueen, who turned it down because he said he couldn’t cry on cue, something he saw as essential to the character. Spielberg then went to Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and James Caan who all turned him down as well before asking his friend Richard Dreyfuss, who previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws, to take the part.

5. BUT IT WASN'T THE MOST DIFFICULT ROLE TO CAST.

Spielberg approached French actors like Lino Ventura, Yves Montand, and Jean-Louis Trintignant to play Claude Lacombe—who was based on famous UFO researcher Jacques Vallée—before settling on director and sometimes-actor François Truffaut. The initially skeptical Truffaut, who was nervous about appearing in a big budget Hollywood movie, accepted the role because he wanted to compile research for a book about acting (he never did write the book).

6. MERYL STREEP COULD HAVE PLAYED ROY'S WIFE.

Many actresses—including a then-unknown Yale Drama School grad named Meryl Streep—auditioned for the part of Roy’s wife Ronnie, but he ultimately cast actress Teri Garr because he saw her in a coffee commercial and loved the way she was able to convey a wide range of emotions in a 30-second clip.

7. THEY SHOT IN A DISUSED AIR FORCE HANGAR.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg wanted to shoot in real suburban locations rather than studio backlots, but the production had trouble finding locations. The biggest question: Where could Spielberg shoot the climactic canyon sequence with the mothership?

The production looked for huge indoor enclosures that would allow for the massive scale of the scene, though they only found ones with center support dividers that spoiled the openness Spielberg wanted for the UFO runway. The only location producers found without center dividers was a 300 foot by 300 foot disused hangar that had been used for dirigibles during World War II at Brookley Air Force base in Mobile, Alabama.

8. THE TEAM BOUGHT A HOUSE FOR THE PRODUCTION—AND SOLD IT FOR A PROFIT.

The Nearys' house, which is located at 1613 Carlisle Drive East in Mobile, was actually purchased by the production for $35,000 so they could do whatever they wanted with the interiors. It was later sold for $50,000 after production wrapped, netting a $15,000 surplus that went back into the film’s budget.

9. THE MEMORABLE 5-NOTE TONES TOOK A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT

Composer John Williams worked with Spielberg to come up with the movie’s distinct five-note musical method of communication between humans and aliens—which Spielberg partly based on the Solfège system of musical education—a year before shooting began.

Williams initially wanted a seven-note sequence, but it was too long for the simple musical “greeting” Spielberg wanted. The composer enlisted a mathematician to calculate the number of five-note combinations they could potentially make from a 12-note scale. When that number proved to be somewhere upwards of 134,000 combinations, Williams created 100 distinct versions, and they simply whittled the combinations down one by one until they had a winner.

10. SPIELBERG USED TRICKS TO GET THE PERFORMANCE OUT OF HIS CHILD ACTOR.


Columbia Pictures

Cary Guffey, who plays little Barry Guiler, had never acted before, so Spielberg set up ways to coax a performance out of the 3-year-old. To get a shot of Guffey reacting to the aliens first approaching the Guiler house, Spielberg slowly unwrapped a present for the young actor just off camera, making him smile. Guffey even exclaims “Toys! Toys!” in the final take.

To get the boy to react to the aliens offscreen, Spielberg had Guffey walk up to his mark where—unbeknownst to the little actor—two crewmembers were dressed as a gorilla and a clown standing behind cardboard blinds. When Guffey entered the kitchen, Spielberg dropped the first blind revealing the clown to scare him, and then dropped the other blind to reveal the gorilla, which scared him even more. The gorilla then took off his mask, revealing the film’s makeup man, Bob Westmoreland, who Guffey recognized, causing him to laugh and smile in the final take.

11. THE MOVIE NEARLY FEATURED VERY EARLY CGI.

Spielberg originally toyed with the idea of using computer generated images to create the aliens and their ships, even going so far as to have animator Colin Cantwell create a CGI test of three UFOs floating over a stadium. The single-shot test, which took three weeks to complete and was one of the first computer generated images ever created for a film, proved to be unfeasible for the whole movie—so the idea was dropped.

12. THERE WERE SOME UNORTHODOX IDEAS FOR CREATING THE ALIENS.

Spielberg wanted the aliens to be non-human beings that glided instead of walked, and he had a weird idea to pull it off: An orangutan dressed in a specially-made suit. For a screen test, the production team outfitted an orangutan in grey spandex and strapped it into roller skates. The orangutan immediately took off the skates and crawled to its owner, so a full test couldn’t be completed, and the team scrapped the idea. The majority of the small aliens in the final movie were played by local elementary school girls from Mobile in specially made grey suits and masks who were heavily backlit to create the final alien silhouette effect.

13. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS FEATURES A PRECURSOR TO E.T.


Columbia Pictures

To create the alien who bids farewell using the musical hand signals at the end of the film, Spielberg enlisted the help of Italian special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, who designed a fully articulated steel, aluminum, and fiberglass animatronic puppet that Spielberg nicknamed “Puck.” Puck’s expressions were based on photos of Guffey. The puppet was operated by a crew of seven puppeteers, with Spielberg himself controlling the final articulation before the alien leaves to go to the mothership.

Puck would help inspire E.T. after Spielberg asked himself, “What if this little guy didn’t get back on the mothership?” Rambaldi would also go on to design the character of E.T.

14. SPIELBERG BET AGAINST HIS OWN MOVIE—AND REALLY CASHED IN.

Spielberg and his buddy George Lucas both had new movies coming out in 1977; Lucas’s was a little movie called Star Wars. Lucas thought his ramshackle space movie wouldn’t make back its budget, and he knew his friend’s new movie would break box office records just like Jaws had done, so he offered Spielberg a friendly wager. Both agreed to give the other 2.5 percent of the profits of their respective films. Lucas grossly underestimated his movie, which went on to become the second highest grossing movie of all time if adjusted for inflation (in comparison, Close Encounters is #71). The difference ended up being $40 million.

15. SPIELBERG DIDN'T LIKE THE VERSION THAT WAS INITIALLY RELEASED.

Spielberg wanted to release Close Encounters in the summer of 1978, which would have given him ample time to edit the film and finish its special effects—but Columbia Pictures, which was going through major financial troubles, insisted he have it ready for a November 1977 release, leaving the director with a final cut on a movie he didn’t feel was completely ready. 

Three years later, the company allowed Spielberg to “finish” the movie under one condition: That he show the inside of the mothership, which would give the studio’s marketing department an angle to sell this new version. The director capitulated, adding new scenes and cutting others to create a “Special Edition.” The director was unhappy with the scene, though, and later cut it for the Collector's Edition home video release.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:Blu-ray special features; Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Classic FilmClose Encounters of the Third Kind Diary.

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