A cold war dream come true! | Daily News


 

A cold war dream come true!

A young girl finds a magic necklace made of mushrooms, but then an evil gnome steals it. Adventure ensues. According to her creators, Alfreya, the hero of a new children’s book who was conceived for Russia’s first theme park, is “an ordinary girl 10 to 12 years old with large, thoughtful eyes.”

One thing she is not is a Disney character. Opening a real international Disneyland in Moscow would be out of the question amid the current political standoff with the United States. But Russia’s decades-long quest to build a theme park, which began during the Cold War rivalry with the United States, is finally reaching its fairy-tale ending.

The $1.5 billion Dream Island, when it opened early this year, may certainly remind some visitors of Disneyland. In place of Elsa from “Frozen,” there will be the Snow Queen, and in the Russian version of “The Jungle Book,” the jungle is populated by talking dinosaurs. Developers say the park will be inhabited by dozens of fairy-tale characters, all domestically produced.

Dream Island doesn’t mind if you invoke Disneyland to describe the park, but will point out that it has no connections to the Happiest Place on Earth.

“The word Disneyland is on people’s tongues,” said Alena Burova, a publicist for the site.

“In Russia, we say Disneyland when we mean just a theme park.”

The park has been built only now because it will benefit from something more essential than snow queens and fairy princesses: a large pool of middle-class consumers in the Russian capital, something that was missing when two previous attempts failed.

For Amiran Mutsoev, a former shopping mall developer who is the park’s owner and director, the site is a major bet that middle-class purchasing power will hold up despite Western sanctions and low prices for oil, a major Russian export. That the opening coincides with the coronavirus outbreak, when some people may want to avoid crowds, is another concern.“Will people come, or will they not come?” Mr. Mutsoev asked. “Of course, we are worried.” The New York Times


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