Taiwan’s Disneyland Leofoo Village Theme Park

Located in Hsinchu County, Taiwan, Leofoo Village Theme Park is currently celebrating its 35th birthday with a celebration called 35 Colorful Year [sic]. The obligatory celebration merchandise and promotional events are all there, including a giant birthday cake, but nothing rivaling the Magic Kingdom’s Pepto-Bismol pink castle cake.

35 Colorful Year

Photo by Sean Graham.

Owned by the Leofoo Tourism Group, Leofoo Village Theme Park opened in 1979 as Leofoo Village Wild Animal Park. Covering 180 acres, at the time it was Taiwan’s largest and only wild animal zoo. Visitors boarded coach buses and rode through a savannah environment viewing animals in their “natural habitat.”

Leofoo Village Wild Animal Park, Charter bus

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Ten years later in 1989, Leofoo Village Wild Animal Park was renamed Leofoo Village Theme Park and implemented a new business strategy: To not only be an animal habitat, but also a theme park. Preparation begin in 1990 and in 1991, the American theme park and entertainment design company Battaglia Inc. was brought on board to begin design work on the project.

Copyright Battaglia Inc.

Copyright Battaglia Inc.

Founded in 1973, Battaglia Inc. was named after its founder, Richard J. Battaglia, a former member of Disneyland’s project development team. Then called World Adventure at  Leofoo Village, the theme park was one of its early projects.  The park would encompass 122 acres and cost $200 million to build.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

In addition to the theme park, Battaglia was also hired to design World Adventure Resort Complex at Leofoo Village, a 62-acre, $175 million resort complex. Although part of the overall resort’s plan, the Adventure Resort Complex never materialized. However,  the Leofoo Resort at Guanshi openedin 2010. The resort is an African-inspired hotel offering rooms overlooking an African savannah complete with animals (sound familiar?).

Copyright  Dolly L Photography Black & Momo Travel.

Copyright Dolly L Photography Black & Momo Travel.

Battaglia went on to design and install Lotte World in Korea, Maine World Africa USA (now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California) as well as take on the roll of master planner for the 1986 Word’s Fair in Vancouver.

Photo by SJ Yang. Courtesy Wikimedia.

Lotte World. Photo by Yoshi at Flickr. Courtesy Wikimedia.

Leofoo Village Theme Park was to showcase famous landmarks and locations from around the world. Four themed lands were to be completed when phase one of the project was finished, including:

 Wild West

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

 

South Pacific

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

 

 Arabian Kingdom

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

 

 and the African Safari which included the original Wild Animal portion of the park.

Photo by Terry.

Photo by Terry.

As areas of the park were completed they would subsequently be opened to the public. In 1994, the Wild West opened, a year later the South Pacific area opened to visitors, four years after that came the Arabian Kingdom. The final piece of the first phase of the project was completed in 2005 when the park’s original Wild Animal Park was re-themed and re-designed to become the African Safari.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Now, lets head into the park. An adult ticket will set you back $33 USD. If you purchase your tickets at the gate, you are given a Taiwan uniform receipt as your admission ticket. No fancy ticket stock here. However, in Taiwan, uniform receipts are part of the country’s tax lottery. Every two months, the tax bureau releases numbers for the receipts. If any of the receipts you have collected over the past two months match more than three numbers, you can win different amounts of money all the way up to $33,000 USD!

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

The park also offers similar to FastPass service for an additional fee. The service provides front-of-the-line access to five attractions. The service is also offered to guests staying at the onsite hotel. Although I have never found it necessary to use the service during any of my visits, I am sure during busier holidays it is a great convenience.

Photo by Sean Graham

Photo by Sean Graham

Leofoo uses a hub-and-spoke design, but unlike walking down a central promenade to the hub, Leofoo’s entrance corridor is to the right of what would be the park’s center line.

Courtesy Googlemaps.

Courtesy Googlemaps.

If we go back and look at the park’s logo, we can see the Sultan’s Palace of the Arabian Kingdom is used as the park’s landmark with a Chinese-style gate in front.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

The original design for the park was to have a Chinese-style main entrance and can be seen in the model below. A grand Chinese main entrance complex would have welcomed visitors and had been a sort of Chinese “Main Street U.S.A.,” with shops and restaurants lining the walkway down to the hub and the Sultan’s Palace.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

While part of that Chinese theme is used at the park’s current entrance, it has a very temporary feel, nor is it lined up with the Sultan’s Palace as in the model. However, I have been told that the current entry plaza was the park’s original entrance when it was Leofoo Village Wild Animal Park.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Going back to the park’s model, we can see that where the main entrance currently sits there would have been a medieval or European-themed area. Another attraction we can see in the photo of the model is what appears to be a mountain themed coaster attraction directly behind the African Safari at the top of the photo.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

The possibility of a Chinese-themed entrance seems all but impossible now as Leofoo has built a Greek-themed water park directly on the land where the entrance complex would have been built, directly in front of the hub.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Speaking of the hub, here we can see the different themed lands of the park as well as the back of the Greek water park. The hub itself is surrounded by small ponds with fountains installed, although I seldom see them used. This could be because Hsinchu County is known for its strong winds and the constant use of fountains might drench the entire hub area, or it could be they are only used during select times to cut down on wear and tear. In the center of the hub is a floor fountain that has a show each hour, programmable fountains of water shoot into the air as “New York, New York” plays.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Moving to our rear and left is the Wild West.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Here there is a live bird show, a live dinner show (on hiatus during my visit), a few flat rides and a Intamin twisted impulse coaster,

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

A river rapids ride…..

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

……and a smaller Vekoma junior coaster.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

The Wild West is well themed, even down to its flora. Sure enough the Wild West has cacti (technically it is an Indian Fig, or so the sign next to the plant told me).

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Such a feature would come to many Western visitors by surprise. In recent years, theme parks in the U.S. have spent a lot of money altering the facilities to ensure there will be as few accidents as possible. You would probably be hard pressed to find a cactus that sticks out into the promenade like this one in the U.S.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Leofoo Village also offers seasonal celebrations and overlays. However, the majority of this theming tends to be found in this section of the park. For Christmas and Halloween they combine the two celebrations into one creating to me something reminiscent of  “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” It sure is one way to kill two birds with one stone; it reduces the cost of having to spend money on two separate holiday overlays when you combine them into one. Both Christmas and Halloween are Occidental holidays are not really celebrated in Taiwan, so the combination seems trivial to Taiwanese. Still, companies take advantage of these holidays to create special promotions to entice consumers to try their Christmas/Halloween themed products.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

The park even offers a themed parade complete with a show stop to invite guests to come out on to the street and dance. Afterwards, guests are given the opportunity to take photos with the parade’s performers and the park’s two mascots, Happy and Hunny.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Next door to Wild West is South Pacific. The two main attractions here are a drop tower…

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Roller Coaster Philosophy. Courtesy Wikimedia.

…and a double drop flume ride complete with dinosaurs .

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

One unique feature of the log flume is a sitting area between the load platform and a section of flume after the first drop. You can literally reach out and touch riders as they float by while never having to leave your picnic table.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Reach out and touch someone.

“Reach out, reach out and touch someone!”

Another interesting feature that can be seen in the above photo is the lack of any barriers between the promenade and the water. Only a yellow line and warning separate you and making your own impromptu water park.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

South Pacific also has a small catamaran ride that uses a cable system similar to Disneyland Paris’ Storybook Canal.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Moving on from the South Pacific, we enter Arabian Kingdom. This land features a theater based motion simulator attraction, a carousel, and a dark ride aboard a flying horse which meanders its way in and out of the show building.

One thing visitors will quickly recognize when they enter the land is the familiar tunes playing as the land’s BGM. Selections from Aladdin serenade guests as they enjoy the land’s attractions. Apologies for the quality, this clip was taken from a few years ago.

 

The theater based motion simulator is called, “Dynamic Motion Theater” in English (no joke), although a better transition might be, “The Magic Palace: Princess Rescue.” The characters found in the attraction appear to be heavily influenced by Disney’s Aladdin.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Here is a clip of the the pre-show and the attraction’s safety video.

However, the true gem of the Arabian Kingdom is Sultan’s Adventure, an Intamin high-speed jeep ride very similar to Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland. Here you can see some footage of Intamin testing the ride vehicle. Entering through the main gates of the Sultan’s Palace we travel through a well themed queue showing off the treasures the Sultan has obviously collected over the years.

We then enter the palace’s dungeon, which also happens to be where we board our jeeps. It is an interesting combination of dungeon/loading-unloading dock complete with travelogue posters.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Perhaps the Sultan’s prisoners are brainwashed to be Indiana Jones style archeologists who then travel the world acquiring antiquates to add to his majesty’s collection.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

After loading, we are then whisked away on our journey. The ride itself is a hodgepodge of elements clearly lifted from Disneyland’s Indiana Jones, like darts being shot at the jeep and large knives swinging dangerously close to our heads.  Other scenes, however, are unique: a dessert battle sequence, an exploding mine and escaping from sleeping dragons and demons. It certainly is a fun attraction and definitely worth a re-ride or two, but do not go in expecting any grand narrative. One very intereting feature of the attraction is located in the exit hallway. As visitors exit, they can see concept models of the different animatronic figures they just saw in the attraction.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

While in the Arabian Kingdom I noticed Leofoo Village’s ample stroller parking (at least on a light day).

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Also in Arabian Kingdom guests can find a ECV recharging station.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

The last themed land we come to is African Safari, home to Leofoo Village’s original Wild Animal attraction. Guests can still board charter buses and venture into the park’s animal habitats or they can board the Nairobi Express to view a selection of those same habitats and animals.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

This section of the park also features a petting zoo area where guests can feed goats, birds and flamingos as well ride ponies and camels. Also, just how Arabian Kingdom played Disney’s Aladdin for BGM, here we get The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” on repeat.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

The African Safari also features an Intamin twist-and-turn coaster called The Sahara Twist. The cars are able to spin and therefore creates a unique ride experience as the coaster hurls around the track.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

However, while the name may fit the theme of this section of the park, the train itself does not. It appears to be a meteorite attached to some sort of space claw. Here is my story for the attraction: The meteorite is destined to collide with the Sahara and destroy life on Earth. NASA and other space agencies have worked together to create a space vehicle with a claw that will grab the meteorite and direct it away from the Earth. However, something has gone wrong. Now we are sent to that space vehicle with the task of repairing it and again sending it away from Earth, but not before we are given the ride of our lives. Or, it could just be this attraction was originally called Comet Express and designed for Lotte Park in South Korea and just ported over with no re-theming.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

Copyright Leofoo Tourism Group.

African Safari is also home to my personal favorite, The Monkey Trail. Although it says trail, there are in fact two trails: One is for guests to walk and view the simians; the second is to take a mounted bicycle track and see them entirely on their level, up in the trees. You can take your time as you slowly cycle past each primate and overlook areas of the park.

Before we leave Leofoo though, it is always fun to look at the park’s unique English signage. Whenever you visit a local theme park international guests tend to be an afterthought. The following can be found in the men’s restroom.

I would translate this as, “Although YOU may have confidence in your aiming abilities, it won’t hurt to step closer just a bit.”

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

“Isn’t it better to aim and then shoot, rather than shoot wildly and then having to clean it up?”

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

And if you did not decide to aim then shoot…

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Actually, the translation here would be “Water that drips into the pot, leaves for a dry ground.”

Keep out! Csat Members Only. Wait. What?

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Proudly serving both Blusch Beer and Budweiser Beer.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

In fact Budweiser sponsors their “teacup” ride.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Duff Gardens anyone?

Photo by Sean Graham.

Photo by Sean Graham.

Leofoo Village Theme Park is a great local theme park. It has something for young and old alike. The park’s location in the northern part of the island ensure it gets regular traffic from Taipei residents as well as nearby major cities as well. Have you visited any local international theme parks? Did you notice any unique cultural attitudes while visiting?

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2 Comments

  1. DavidSutton
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. Of all of the Taiwanese theme parks featured on this blog I find this to be the most appealing. I would guess that the age and sentimental history of the park make this a local favorite. This is the same reason why Ocean Park in Hong Kong has more visitors than Hong Kong Disneyland. As the theme park market in Asia expands I think there could be a lot of potential for this park, but it has a long way to go to catch up to the standards of Disney and the Orlando themeparks.

  2. Sean Graham
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Glad you enjoyed the article David. You are absolutely right about the park’s sentimentality among Taiwanese people. In fact, just a few days before I published the article some Taiwanese co-workers of mine began reminiscing about the park. As for the theme park market it Asia, there is a lot of potential and with Disney building in Shanghai, the Dreamworks project, a Universal Studios in Beijing and another one on the horizon, the quote “a rising tide floats all boats,” seems very apt.

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