Towards the end of his life, Walt Disney began thinking about the problems plaguing American cities. He saw a sharp contrast between the idealistic, controlled environment of Disneyland and the disorganized, hectic modern city. The Florida Project offered him a chance to build a massive urban complex the way he envisioned. However, Walt passed away before the first shovel hit the Florida soil. The Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971 with a theme park and recreation facilities, but the ambitious EPCOT project Walt dreamed of would live on only in concept art and sketches. 44 years later and half a world away, the E United Group in Taiwan has built an echo of what Walt Disney originally planned. E-DA World in Kaoushiung County, Taiwan is a 90-hectacre, 1.6 billion USD integrated community development with retail, recreation, hotels, real estate, medical centers, grade school, university and the E-DA Theme Park. Join TPU as we examine what one of the newest theme parks in Asia has to offer and explore the larger E-DA World.
E-DA World’s founder Lin Yi-Shou set out with the ambitious task to transform a rural area of Kaoushiung County into Asia’s premier shopping and entertainment destination; “Taiwan’s Disneyland” as Lin Yi-Shou refers to it. In a market where theme parks have had little serious competition, Lin’s decision to build such an ambitious resort complex is a conscious effort to raise the standard for theme parks and attract the visitor. Sound familiar? For many years, theme parks in Taiwan were little more than amusement parks with cheap props thrown in for “theming,” if even at all. Torpid employees, dirty walkways, chipping paint and questionable maintenance were par for the course during a visit to a park. E-DA World set out to provide a different experience.
Despite all it accomplishes, however, its biggest flaws are the first thing visitors encounter: how to get into the damn place. As human beings, we depend a lot on visual cues to help us in our day-to-day lives, particularly in unfamiliar places. A well designed public space, whether it is a theme park or an airport, should feel intuitive. It should naturally guide the visitor to their intended destination. Poor design fights this, and at worst creates confusion. Whether arriving on E-DA’s buses or driving there on their own, visitors arrive across the street from the park. The intrinsic atmosphere of a theme park naturally attracts your attention and the visitor is drawn to it as their intended destination. The Grizwolds did not park their car and run away from Wally World, but towards it. However, imagine that instead of finding the park closed, Clark hears, “Sorry folks, this isn’t the entrance to the park. The entrance is across the street at the mall you just parked your car at. Sorry, ahuck, ahuck, ahuck.” Sure enough, the entrance to E-DA Theme Park is not located at the park, but across the street inside the E-DA Outlet Mall. While there is signage directing visitors to the entrance, they are still naturally drawn across the street.
After traversing a number of escalators and through the 190,000 square meter mall, (Main Street, eat your heart out) visitors finally reach the entrance of E-DA Theme Park. A shrewd businessman might set up a stall with theme park essentials, but here the stores sell kitchen appliances and bedsheets.
The entire area resembles something more akin to a movie box office than the entrance to a theme park. E-DA offers six different ticket options which include the standard adult, student and child tickets. The park also has unique options like priority, disabled and evening tickets.
After purchasing your pass and going through the turnstile, visitors cross a narrow, 20-foot wide bridge into the park. But the visitor’s trials are not yet through. Guests must then descend via staircase down to the promenade level of the park. For those traveling with wheelchairs, ECVs, or strollers, enjoy the wait for the elevator.
If you take the stairs, you’ll find yourself migrating through the park’s enclosed shopping and dinning area. After escaping the labyrinth, you finally make it out to the promenade, the gateway to accessing the entirety of the park.
The promenade, known as the Greek Road, is where E-DA’s larger attractions that couldn’t be encompassed indoors are located: a Vekoma Big Air coaster, flume ride and other attractions. The Greek Road is one of the park’s only outdoor areas.
E-DA Theme Park’s has an all encompassing neo-classical theme and contains three different lands: Acropolis, Santorini and Trojan Castle. The Acropolis building with its neo-classical architecture acts as the parks primary food and retail area. Also located here is the 1,800 seat E-DA Royal Theatre, which currently hosts a Cirque du Soleil style show, but can be used for separately ticketed events.
Santorini is modeled after the recognizable architecture of the Greek island by the same name. This area of the park is extremely popular with visitors who model and pose in front of the iconic buildings for photographs. Walking Santorini’s smaller streets and entering and exiting buildings is an exercise in dodging photographers and their subjects. After becoming popular with young couples, E-DA offers wedding photography services for those who wish to take photos in an exotic Greek setting without spending the money of traveling to Greece.
The Trojan Castle, located at the end of the park, is a building featuring numerous flat rides, carnival games, children rides and one of the park’s more signature attractions a Soarin’ style ride over Taiwan, which will be the subject of a future article at Theme Park University.
Here the park’s design accommodates Taiwan’s weather. Summers in Taiwan are absurdly hot and humid, beyond anything Florida can dish out. Taiwanese winters on the other hand are gloomy, rain-filled days. The expansive Trojan Castle and Acropolis building were built to ensure year-round operation and ensure weather hampers operations as little as possible.
Having entered the park and taken a look around, it is time to check out what E-DA’s attractions and shows. Join us next time as we look at the main attraction for many Asian theme parks: shows. Including one where the King of Pop himself makes an appearance. Until then, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Have you ever visited E-DA World or a similar theme park in Asia? What are your stories of frustrating theme park design?