From Asia with Life

Trans Studio Cibubur is Indonesia’s newest theme park and probably one of Asia’s best indoor parks. A very interesting case study for which direction should indoor entertainment take in Asia. Here is a review of the park – which is still in soft opening – where I try to explain why it is making a difference.

Similar to its sister parks in Bandung, Makassar and Bali (opening soon), Trans Studio Cibubur is located at the top of Trans Mall Cibubur and part of a massive mixed-use development including residential and hotels, still under construction.

Here, the footprint of the mall being smaller than Bandung, the park occupies the top two floors (9m height for the lower one and 17m for the top one) with its entrance located in the main F&B area of the mall. This makes for an interesting “apocalyptic” experience as visitors have to climb up 9 meters to the top level using escalators flanked by old containers: a good transition from the mall to the park.

I didn’t plan much so I had to buy my ticket on the spot and the experience was pleasant, staff is well trained and informed me some of the rides where still being tested so they wouldn’t be available (the Vekoma launch coaster, which is very similar to Bandung and iFly, which is not included in the main entrance ticket anyway).

I was amused to see massive advertising for on the ticketing counter. Times have changed since attractions were fighting with online retailers. Here in Indonesia, the likes of and traveloka are so aggressive it is worth working with them rather than against them. I guess here made a big move to try and grab most of the sales.

Once on the main floor of the park, a big open space featuring retail, F&B outlets and a few small rides (e.g. wave rider from Zierer) under a “blue sky” are surrounded with themed gates to all the main attractions. Walkways and queuing areas are generous; the park is expecting attendance of 1.5m+ p.a. I am told.

Under the “blue sky” the theming is a mix of space/futuristic, beach/Bali (bamboo pavilion) and odd stuff such as King Kong or the Orient Express train. A lot of the surfaces are just printed graphics. Overall it does the job but not sure how it will age and clearly not the most amazing theming. But that’s not what you want to come here for. It’s for the rides, and believe me they are worth the visit!

Starting with Pacific Rim, my favorite: a brilliant idea, well executed. Definitely world class and possibly a game changer, this ride combines an Oceaneering dark ride and a walk through with live actors. The perfect family attraction with super smooth ride systems and a great sense of adventure and group bounding. I won’t spoil the surprise but expect a whole new experience playing with your senses and keeping you on the pulse. From the escalator going down among gravel to the use of Jakarta skyline in the background animation, Pacific Rim is very well executed.

Next in line is Jurassic Island: a very clever mix of indoor flume ride and 3D immersive tunnel. Flume rides – and water rides in general – are making a big entrance in indoor attractions; it is a great idea to mix it up and this 3D immersive tunnel by Simworx combined with wind and rain effects is perfectly matched, giving the ride a totally new dimension.

Zombie Wars is another example of giving a twist to a more conventional attraction. Here, the traditional laser tag is turned into a zombie shooting walk through. Another great idea and so much cheaper and immersive than a shooting dark ride by Triotech for example; all it needed was an adaptation of the software from Battle Company, a bit of haunted house theming, some animatronics and a handful of live actors. I really like how this attraction combines the competition element of a shooting ride together with the screaming of a haunted house; very suitable for the Asian teens, who love a good haunted house and a group experience.

Formula Kart is a very solid attraction too: a massive indoor electric go-kart circuit by Sodikart, which can handle up to 20 drivers at the same time. High ceiling, good theming, friendly staff: perfect for father & son!

The Science Centre is one of these odd attractions you find in Asian theme parks to target school groups with “educational” content. You will find the same in other Trans Studio parks and Jatim Parks. In reality it is more like a kids playground featuring a gravitron attraction, digital aquarium, water play zone and giant insects zone with slides.

On the list of so-so attractions is Alien Taxi: a not-so-smooth indoor spinning coaster with theming limited to bright planets in the dark, and the 4D Experience featuring Wonder Woman by SimEx: a poor 3D movie made of action-packed extracts from the movie together with basic effects (lightning, wind) and average seat moving synchronization.

Moving on to the shows, Trans Studio Cibubur offers two shows in the main square (as opposed to one in Bandung): a spectacular multimedia show and a stunt show. I was only able to watch the 30-minute multimedia show, which is a combination of video mapping, giant LED screens, acrobatics and glow in the dark. Following a simple storyline (think save the world, fall in love, etc), the show alternates in-trend styles from video game live stream (action/fights) to Cirque du Soleil (poetic/love). In my opinion, the amazing quality of visuals (by Sembilan Matahari) does not quite make up for the poor acrobatics skills, baggy costumes and loud action movie music. Can do better!

And lastly a few words on the retail and F&B. Well, not much really, it’s all coming from other business units of Trans Group (Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Baskin & Robbins franchises, merchandise sourced by TransMart). But this is not new, as we know it is very hard to do retail and F&B in indoor parks, especially when there is a whole mall below full of great brands and restaurants.

Let me leave you now with a few thoughts I had after my visit. The first one is on the use of IP’s in theme parks; something I find very relevant at a time when licensors are re-evaluating their relationships with our industry (cf. Disney/Fox vs Genting, DreamWorks vs Movie Animation Park Studios, etc). This park shows 2 examples of IP application: one good and one bad.

The good one first is how Legendary (Pacific Rim) worked closely with Trans to adapt the animation with Jakarta city skyline and to be creative working with off-the-shelf ride systems but packaged in a brand new way. The bad one is the 4D Experience where the park abuses a DC license through a SimEx attraction; the ride does nothing but belittle the IP.

The second thought is how the park is being a game changer in combining different ride systems/concepts for the first time in the same attraction to make the experience longer, more immersive and more suitable for groups; exactly what you need in Asian markets. Disney understood it a long time ago; Pirates of the Caribbean is a perfect example of such mix. But what Trans Studio Cibubur demonstrates is that it is now accessible to smaller parks with much lower budgets, if they dare to be creative. I believe we are about to see some great walk through attractions in the region. IP owners and designers, this is all up to you now!


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