Our Trip to World Joyland (a.k.a.- A Chinese Rip-Off of Islands of Adventure)

I mentioned in my last post that I was needing a little distraction from my job-application blues, so I promptly planned a trip to Changzhou to visit World Joyland! I’ve been wanting to visit this place ever since we first arrived in China, due to their extensive advertisements on bus-stop billboards and TV commercials. However, I was a little dubious about how good it would be, considering the only pictures I’d ever seen of the place were computer-generated. But Xixigu (pronounced “she she goo,” the Chinese name for the park) actually ended up exceeding my expectations.

I did a little bit of research about Joyland before our trip, to figure out how to get there and to make sure it was really worth going. I was surprised to discover that Joyland is a World of Warcraft themed park, and that die-hard gamers all over the world have been saving up their money and dreaming of making a trip there.

If you don’t know what this is, that’s okay. It’s probably because you HAVE a life…

I wouldn’t recommend this park to those gamers, though, because there wasn’t really a strong World of Warcraft presence there. In fact, I think I saw more Hello Kitty than World of Warcraft…sorry to disappoint the uber-nerds out there. At one point, Justin was searching the gift shops to buy a WoW figurine to bring home to one of his gamer friends, and he only found two in the ENTIRE park, both of which were a little too big for our suitcases (and too expensive!).

But if you’re like me and you’re just looking for some thrill rides and some fantasy/sci-fi atmosphere, then Joyland will not disappoint. Also, if you’re like me, and you’ve frequented the theme parks in Orlando quite a bit (especially Islands of Adventure), you’ll notice some striking similarities.

Start with the logo:

It’s a blatant copy, right? And when we first stepped into the entryway of Joyland, I definitely felt like I was in Islands of Adventure:

Joyland’s entry is on the left, Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry is on the right.

Some Chinese executives who were a little more than ordinary tourists have definitely taken a visit to Islands of Adventure. And they took some EXTENSIVE notes while they were there. Every time I turned a corner in the park and saw something new, I was amazed (and impressed) by how similar the two parks are. So as far as copyright infringement goes, nice work guys! You did a pretty decent job. Here are some of the major similarities I noticed:

Both parks contain several “islands,” each with their own theme, arranged around a big lake in the center. Joyland’s map is on the left and Islands of Adventure is on the right.

Here is Islands of Adventure’s Seuss Landing…

….and its Joyland counterpart, Mole’s World, complete with fuzzy lollipop trees and everything.

Here is Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure…

..and here is Comic World at Joyland. They even have the dogs around the fire hydrant!

 

Superhero-themed restaurants: Joyland’s on the left and Islands of Adventure on the right.

 

They even stole the Epcot dome?! Though it’s obviously much smaller than the real one, pictured on the right.

From an engineering standpoint, Justin was pretty impressed with the structure of the buildings in the park. They did have all of the signs of being hastily constructed, but he was half-expecting to see cardboard cutouts of buildings instead of real ones. Everywhere we looked, we saw castles and spaceships made out of real stone and plaster–so they did a pretty nice job! Here are some ride comparisons:

Joyland’s “Anger of Thor” on the left, and Islands of Adventure’s “Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall” on the right. Though the only real comparison here is the happy blue Orlando sky to the dismal gray Chinese sky…

Joyland’s river raft ride on the left, and Islands of Adventure’s Popeye river raft ride on the right. We can hardly call this copyright infringement though…nearly every theme park has a ride like this now. I love how the Chinese tourists are all suited up in blue ponchos!

Joyland’s “Splash of Monster Blood” ride, a copy of the Jurassic Park ride at Islands of Adventure. The drop on this one was not quite as far, and the buildup to the drop was not as dramatic, but the splash was pretty big!

The last ride pictured, called “Heaven Ride of Demogorgon,” didn’t even come close to the quality of the Spiderman ride. They were really trying their best to copy Spiderman, with the way that our little cart would whirl and spin from one movie screen to the next; however, there was definitely something lacking. For one thing, they didn’t really add much decoration to the tunnel that we were traveling through. A couple of times we saw some spider webs and some shabby cloaked skeletons hanging from the ceiling, but for the most part, we were just traveling through a lackluster brick tunnel. There was also either something wrong with my 3-D glasses or something wrong with the movie screens inside of the ride. Every time a monster would reach out towards my face, I would see five fragmented arms coming my way. It made me feel a little cross-eyed, and I kept having to remove my glasses because it was giving me a headache. Also, the ride was really lacking a storyline, which is something I’ve really come to expect after growing up going to Orlando theme parks my whole life. It was difficult to determine who was a bad guy and who was a good guy, and what either group was attempting to accomplish in regards to the city we were “traveling” through. Between the strange lack of dialogue (all evil laughter aside) and the excessive slow-motion effect (applied every time a character decided to throw a knife through the air, or every time a glass window was shattered into a million pieces), when the ride finally came to a stop, I was left in complete confusion, wondering, “What just happened?”

I had a good time reading the signs posted around the park in all their Chinglish glory, describing different rides and attractions. The sign in front of the “Heaven Ride of Demogorgon” read: With thousand years of unstopped wars, this place is forbidden to losers and cowards. We are looking forward to a hero to bring back peace with his sword! We also enjoyed the chance to take some pictures with some World of Warcraft-looking stuff:

Throughout the entire day, as always, we had tourists in the park pointing at us and screaming, “Laowai!” (“foreigners”) and taking photos of us, all of which we handled with dignity and grace (for the most part). So I was a little bit peeved when I finally spotted a park employee wearing a pink wig dressed as a video game character, and I wasn’t allowed to take her picture. I politely approached her and asked if I could have Justin take a picture of the two of us together, and she muttered, “Buyao,” (“Don’t want”) and walked away from me. Um…isn’t that what they’re paying you for? Whatever.

Many of the gift shops around the park were selling generic items and were completely bereft of people. We saw several store cashiers throughout the day glumly leaning over on their cash registers and playing games on their cell phones, looking hopelessly bored. I put it down to the fact that they haven’t tried hard enough to create a unique storyline for any of their attractions. People go to Universal Studios because they want to “ride the movies” and then buy memorabilia from the gift shops to take home. People don’t want to buy from the gift shops if they don’t connect with what was happening on the ride. So to generate a little more income for their gift shops, the Joyland executives decided to do this:

They’ve done so much copyright infringement already, what’s a little more, right? I’m sure Disney would be upset if they knew that Joyland was selling their beloved characters without paying for the rights and without selling them at “Disney” prices (the animals on these shelves were all $10 or less, except for the giant Mickey). Pictured on the right, they also hijacked Pluto, colored him white instead of yellow, and started calling him “Bobdog”–something they’re marketing as their own original Joyland character. These were only a few of the characters they were selling without the rights; I also saw Winnie the Pooh and all his friends, Warner Brothers characters like Tom and Jerry, Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and several popular Chinese cartoon characters.

Justin holding a pillow that says “R.I.P. Steve Jobs 1955-2011” with the famous profile/apple silhouette pictured on the back. Chinese people love Apple products!

There were several aspects of the park that were not copyright infringed, however, and Justin and I were pretty impressed.

This castle tower is the main feature of Joyland, pictured on every poster and every TV advertisement. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went. Now I’ll never know what secrets lie beyond those doors!

This was our favorite ride in the park, a roller coaster called the Sky Scrapper (obviously, it’s supposed to be named “Skyscraper“). There wasn’t a huge line for this ride, which is always a big plus. We also had the opportunity to sit in the very front of the coaster (everyone kept giving us front row seats on every ride, all day long!), which had Justin really jazzed. Most of the Chinese tourists were flocking to the less intimidating kiddie rides instead. I’ve noticed that Chinese people tend to scare easily–it doesn’t take much for them to shriek, “Wo hai pa!” (“I’m scared!”) and go running in the other direction (which we saw many people do while they were standing in line, creeping ever closer to their turn on the roller coaster).

As you can see pictured on the right, this roller coaster was different than anything else Justin and I had ever ridden. They actually situate riders so that they’re facing the ground, flying like Superman! We’ve been through drops, loops, and corkscrew turns before, but everything felt more intense when we were riding suspended to the track with our bellies facing the ground. The ride lasted just long enough too–any longer, and I might have passed out from all the blood that was rushing to my head. It was a physical relief when the attendants put our seats back into the vertical position. As I exited the ride, I saw that I wasn’t the only one wiping snot and tears from my face, and that’s really the trademark of an excellent roller coaster, isn’t it?

Another feature in the park that Joyland executives came up with all by themselves were some of the strangest characters I have ever seen. In the late afternoon, they put on a show using the lake in the center of the park, complete with pirate ships, dragons, and someone in a giant Hello Kitty costume operating a jet ski! The opera singer who rose up out of the island in the center of the lake was a bit too-high pitched for my musical taste, but I think she did help them achieve the dramatic effect they were going for. Overall, it was a pretty impressive display:

Justin and I both give Joyland an A+ for decor and atmosphere, but only a B- for rides (which is pretty generous since half of the rides were closed when we visited). It’s an interesting place to check out, but if Islands of Adventure in Orlando is closer for you to visit, you would probably be better off seeing the original. 😉

I’ll leave you with a fun instructional video about safety while riding the “Heaven Ride of Demogorgon.” Justin and I got a kick out of it:

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