Ju Palace, Phantasia Land
all know what you get when you cross a dark ride with a living tableau
demonstrating the ethnicity and ethos of other countries and cultures in
the world – It’s a Small World.
you throw stories of jealousy and deceit into the fray of an idyllic
civilisation culminating in a sweet – if predictable – happy ending
you’re likely to end up with an episode of Emmerdale, but sprinkle in
a bit of black magic, and you’re left with what should be the perfect
plot for a dark ride, say, a haunted swing.
behold – Feng Ju Palace – a story of good prevailing over evil and
love triumphing over hate with a little bit of fantasy thrown in for
the design stage, Feng
Ju Palace was originally known as Thunder Temple, a ride that was to
tell the story of five gods who co-existed in perfect harmony until one
of the gods disappeared ruining the balance between them. Like Feng Ju
Palace, Thunder Temple was to be a battle of good and bad, through which
inevitably good would prevail and through an elaborate display of
special effects you would reach a happy ending.
this general plot as a backbone, Feng Ju Palace uses a far more
domestic, yet no less exotic backdrop of China to tell this story. And
like all great stories of good versus adversity, love would be the
pivotal catalyst behind this battle between two extremities of passion.
Ju Palace overlooks a neatly manicured lawn festooned with bonsai and
oriental topiary along with the park’s flagship Chinese restaurant and
the exquisitely themed Phantasia Land Hotel.
Asia is a well-regarded country in terms of architecture, art and
culture, a surprisingly small number of parks have risen to the
challenge of theming areas after Asian countries and provinces.
had an admirable stab at it a few decades ago, an effort accomplished by
Port Aventura again in 1995, yet Phantasia Land’s is lavish, brim full
of charm, and is like a swan in the midst of chickens.
you doubt this swan for an ugly duckling, look no further than Feng Ju
Palace. The screen-fronted building is basked in shades of maroon with
intricately carved solid wood pillars reaching up to a beautifully tiled
roof complete with gold-trimmings and dragon gargoyles.
you’re greeted with an enormous porcelain mosaic depicting two dragons
swirling around in combat before you turn left and walk down a corridor,
lit with Chinese lanterns, decorated with yet more mosaics.
a wait, the doors swing open and you enter the octagonal pre-show room.
Like the rest of the building, it is beautifully decorated, lit with the
subtle glow of lanterns with statues inset into four of the walls
representing the four elements; earth, wind, water and fire.
the side you entered there’s a stage, and as the doors shut behind
you, the lights dim and as the sound of a gong echoes around the room,
the pre show begins.
pre-show introduces the main characters of Feng Ju Palace – Hsiautsai,
a beautiful princess and the object of affection for Akang.
Unfortunately for our friend Akang, Hsiautsai is set to marry the Demon
of Hell himself, Yanluowang. Boo, hiss.
I say the show introduces these characters, it does so on the most basic
level possible. Presumably to increase international appeal, the
pre-show tackles the problem of language barriers by using no dialogue
what so ever.
the general gist is that Yanluowang (boo, hiss) challenges our plucky
friend Akang to fight for the affections of Hsiatsai. The stage erupts
into a colourful display of martial arts with the two Romeos fighting it
out for our pretty Juliet.
display is all done via a projection, which is all very lar-de-dar, but
let me tell you, the quality is absolutely remarkable to the point if it
wasn’t for the rather audacious stunts Yanluowang and Akang perform,
you’d be hard pushed to even believe that there aren’t real
performers on stage.
fighting continues, punctuated by interceptions by the four statues
depicting earth, wind, water and fire. Every so often, with a crack of
thunder these statues are lit with colourful hues and come to life,
animating a basic action – such as playing a pipa (oriental
the fight ends with Yanluowang the victor. The battle may be over, but
the war has yet to be won as we continue deeper into the palace.
take our seats in a large hall. Compared to the last room, the décor is
far more basic, but not much less beautiful. Swathes of colour light up
the stone walls and screen windows, with slender pillars reaching up to
the panelled ceiling high above our wooden pews.
hall holds nearly eighty people who sit in four rows facing the middle
of the room, and once everyone is seated, the lap bars drop and the
wooden doors slide shut.
dull murmur of expectation is silenced when the sound of a gong once
again echoes around the room before the battle continues. With Akang
defeated, it is left to the spirits of earth, wind, fire and water to
battle the evil warlord Yanluowang.
lights dim, there’s a crack of lightening and you can feel these
benevolent forces at work. You are clearly moving, although there is no
way to tell, and with frank words exchanged between the spirits and
Yanluowang, the room begins to move around you, the whole floor
seemingly a gondola moving in time to the rolling melodies of a
spectacular Chinese soundtrack.
the floor becomes the ceiling, revealing a large, white expanse elevated
high above your heads, lingering, before the room once again rolls
around with the distant sound of wind and the flickering of lightening
through the windows.
the room tumbles around us, lights go out with a crash of thunder before
once again, the room is turned upside-down and the elevated floor turns
into a swirl of orange and blue clouds, the shielded face of Yanluowang
vanishing into the distance and Akang and Hsiatsai running towards each
other and embracing as the image fades, the music climaxes
and the ride slowly but surely concludes.
with all this said and done, this has the potential to be the best Mad
House in the world. It has all the ingredients – a good story line,
great theming and – something many similar rides neglect – an actual
there is quite a fundamental problem. It’s actually quite boring.
think much of the problem lies in the hands of the pre-show. In an
effort to make the show multi-lingual, the show, despite it’s
technical achievements, it basically four minutes of fighting.
I am well aware Chinese martial arts are an artform, but considering the
purpose of the pre-show is to establish the plot for the ride, as far as
even German visitors are concerned, it is two grown men having a good
old scrap at a young girl’s expense.
more inexplicably, is the introduction of the four elements of earth,
wind, fire and water. These aren’t introduced as much – you’ll
only know these statues’ identity if you know the storyline before
animation of these statues is comically basic. Think It’s a Small
World and you have the idea. Of course, being statues, I don’t expect
them to get up and run across the ceiling as if they’re in Crouching
Tiger Hidden Dragon, and their basic animation is obviously through design,
but to punctuate this high speed and dynamic fight scene with a statue
with a static statue with a rotating hand (in one example) is a bizarre contrast to say the least.
inside the main room, the lavish scenery continues, but the ride is
equally as disappointing. The lighting effects are good, although pale
compared to Hex, and the flat white floor that is revealed once the ride
starts moving is an unsightly intrusion.
the end of the ride, it does serve a purpose as a projection screen, but
until that point, it is like a blank canvas hung up in the Louvre - Certainly
not worthy of celebration.
House veterans may also be disappointed with the programme used for this
Mad House. Feng Ju Palace seems to build up to a full revolution through
a series of swings like any other Mad House, but leaves the room
inverted twice, the first time without any real reason which exposes the
white floor mentioned above for no real reason.
between this and the finale, there is a series of fairly non-descript
moves with it taking what seems an eternity to line up for the final
projection before spending a surprising amount of time up-righting again
at the end of the ride.
hate to come across too negative. The theming throughout the ride is
wholesome and extravagant and the music used throughout the ride
wouldn’t be out of place in the finest Wu Xia film. In fact, the whole
ride oozes this lavish sense of fantasy as these films, yet the entire
attraction is far too passive to feel completely indulged in this sense
25 March 2005
▪ Amazing quality of theming
▪ Original theme
▪ Great music
▪ Poor programme used on actual
▪ Pre-show is too repetitive and ambiguous
▪ Projection screen on ride is ugly until such a time it is used