Paultons Park has opened Peppa Pig World, the first ever theme park land dedicated to the cartoon pig and her friends, in time for the 2011 Easter holidays. Can it possibly meet the lofty expectations of Peppa's legions of young fans?
Thousands of families descended on Paultons Park on April 9 for Peppa Pig World's opening day, making it one of the most successful in the park's history. Theme Park Tourist joined them, to see whether Peppa Pig World is worth making what for many will be a lengthy journey down to Hampshire to experience.
The new land features a host of attractions designed to recreate Peppa's adventures in the smash-hit cartoon series. Watch our video review below, then read on to find out more about what awaits parents and their little ones now that Peppa Pig World has thrown open it gates.
Who is Peppa Pig?
If you have young children, Peppa Pig is likely to require no introduction. Launched in 2004, the TV series revolves around the life of Peppa, as well as her family and friends. It has sold over 3 million DVDs in the UK to date, appealing to parents as well as pre-schoolers due to its humorous elements and strong moral messages.
Paultons Park has secured an exclusive licensing deal to use the Peppa Pig characters in the UK and Ireland, and has invested £6 million in creating Peppa Pig World. It hopes to replicate the success that other UK theme parks have had with children's areas based on licensed characters, such as Drayton Manor's Thomas Land. In the interview below, the park's Commercial Director Stephen Lorton discusses its plans for Peppa Pig World:
Peppa Pig World
Peppa Pig World spans a 3-acre area of Paultons Park, and includes a diverse selection of brand-new rides, alongside indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a toy shop, a cafe and a handful of other attractions. You can see a full walkthrough of the new land in the video below:
Just like the programme, Peppa Pig World's attractions are aimed at children aged six and under. However, Paultons Park has been careful to ensure that parents can join in the fun. Every ride is able to hold adults as well as kids, allowing families to enjoy them together.
The 7 rides in the land are all standard "kiddie" rides designed by German firms Metallbau Emmeln and Zierer. Fortunately for Paultons Park, each fits perfectly with an episode of the Peppa Pig TV series, making them instantly recognisable.
Entering Peppa's universe
Unlike areas aimed at toddlers in many other theme parks, which feature a selection of lightly-themed rides scattered around a patch of tarmac, Peppa Pig World is a truly immersive experience. From the moment guests enter the new land, they are completely immersed in the universe seen in the TV series.
Every building and landmark seen in Peppa Pig World appears almost identical to its TV counterpart, right down to the wonky edges and unusual hill-mounted locations. The attention to detail is stunning, with even the land's benches becoming a part of the scenery.
Children will have a great time spotting characters from the show, models of which are dotted liberally all over Peppa Pig World. We witnessed shrieks of delight when kids noticed other small details, such as recreations of the duck pond and campervan seen in the series.
In addition to the impressive visuals, Peppa Pig World also features a continuously-playing soundtrack of recognisable tunes. Combined with the bright colours seen everywhere, this creates a happy, relaxed atmosphere even when large crowds are present in the area.
Peppa's Big Balloon Ride
The centrepiece of Peppa Pig World is Peppa's Big Balloon Ride, which draws excited children towards it like a magnet. The ride consists of six baskets located around a tower, each of which can carry up to 4 adults and two children (children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult).
Though those with a fear of heights may be put off, most kids will be eager to recreate the Balloon Ride episode of the cartoon. Parents will have fun as well, being able to enjoy great views across the rest of Peppa Pig World and beyond. For those who don't mind feeling dizzy, there's even the option of using a wheel in the centre of the basket to make it spin.
Peppa's Big Balloon Ride is very popular, and deservedly so. It takes a long time to load and dispatch each ride, and queues are likely to be lengthy for much of the day - so arrive early if at all possible. If you have to queue, though, it's worth the wait and the ride is fun to watch from the ground.Rating:
Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Ride
Fans of Peppa Pig will known that Miss Rabbit has an incredible CV, having taken on almost every job possible during the series. She appears at Peppa Pig World in her guise as a helicopter pilot, lending her name to what is essentially a miniature ferris wheel attraction. Up to 4 passengers can pile into the ride's vehicles, with children over 8 years old able to ride unaccompanied.
Even with its limited 39 feet height, many kids are likely to love circling around on Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Ride. However, it shares it one important weakness with other ferris wheel attractions - riders spend more time waiting to board and disembark than they do actually rotating. This can lead to some lengthy queues and, combined with its lack of interactivity makes this arguably Peppa Pig World's least impressive attraction.Rating:
Daddy Pig's Car Ride
No area aimed at toddlers would be complete without a car ride, and Peppa Pig World's is a belter. Up to two adults and two children can board one of its colourful cars (themed to match those seen in the cartoon), before setting off on an on-rails journey around recognisable locations from the show. Riders must be 4 years old to ride without an adult.
Daddy Pig's Car ride is packed with nice touches, from traffic lights and pelican crossings, to a speed camera that doubles as an on-ride photo opportunity. The highlight is a close-up view of Grandad Dog's Garage, where the owner is hard at work fixing up cars. Kids will love driving, while parents can relax in the backseat and ask "are we there yet?".
Given young childrens' fascination with cars, it's no surprise that Daddy Pig's Car Ride is very popular. Unlike some of Peppa Pig World's other attractions, though, it does at least load continuously - so even if you have to queue for a while you will at least feel like you are making progress.Rating:
Grandpa Pig's Little Train
Another ride that closely matches a Peppa Pig TV episode (Grandpa's Little Train), Grandpa Pig's Little Train is a surefire winner with younger children. Paultons Park already features a lengthy miniature train ride (the Rio Grande), so Grandpa's journey is around a fairly short figure-of-eight track.
While short, Grandpa Pig's Little Train's circuit features the same pretty landscaping seen everywhere in the land. The theming is excellent, including a trip past the library and a waving model of Grandpa Pig seated at the front of the train. Though each carriage can hold up to 2 adults and 2 children, one parent may want to watch from the edge as this is probably the most easily photographed ride in Peppa Pig World.Rating:
Grandpa Pig's Boat Trip
Grandpa Pig is rushed off his feet at Peppa Pig World, as in addition to constructing his model train he's also managed to pull together a boat trip. The ride features a number of 4-seater boat vehicles, which rotate on an undulating rail to give the impression of bobbing on waves. Children must be aged 4 or over to ride unaccompanied, with only one adult able to fit in each ship.
At the centre of the pool lies Grandpa Pig's lighthouse, another well-known landmark from the TV series. This adds interest to what is otherwise a fairly basic ride, which most kids are likely to love regardless.Rating:
George's Dinosaur Adventure
George's Dinosaur Adventure, inspired by the love of Peppa's younger brother for his toy dinosaur, is Peppa Pig World's longest and most detailed ride. Similar to the "pony trekking" rides that are seen at other amusement parks, it sees guests hopping aboard a dinosaur which bobs up and down as it moves along 679 feet of track.
George's Dinosaur Adventure is probably the most appealing ride in Peppa Pig World for slightly older children, who have the opportunity to ride free of their parents. The scenery adds a lot to the ride, featuring a host of Peppa Pig characters alongside "prehistoric" elements such as smoking volcanoes.
The main downside to the ride is that it is the only one in the new land to feature a minimum height restriction, with riders needing to be at least 0.9m tall to ride with an adult (or at least 1.1m to ride alone). Given George's popularity with boys who may not yet have reached these heights, this could lead to some long faces.Rating:
The tallest ride in Peppa Pig World, Windy Castle is based on the episode of the same name in which Peppa and her family go on a day trip. It is the first Flying Wheels attraction in the UK, and features two ferris wheel-style rotating sets of vehicles which travel up and down its central tower. Up to 4 people can fit into each basket, while children under 8 must ride with an adult.
Featuring impeccable theming (complete with a waving Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig at the top), Windy Castle offers a dizzying experience. Everything spins - the tower itself, the mini-ferris wheels and even the individual baskets (though this is controlled by riders).
Windy Castle is one of Peppa Pig World's most unique experiences - though kids (and parents) who suffer from motion sickness may want to give this one a miss. Queue times can be long, so try and make this your first stop after Peppa's Big Balloon Ride.Rating:
Peppa Pig's House
Designed to exactly match the house seen in the cartoon series, Peppa Pig's House is a walkthrough attraction featuring an animatronic version of Peppa's family. Using moving limbs and wobbling mouths, the characters play out a short scene about cooking pancakes for breakfast.
Some parents seemed less than impressed at having queued just to see a few models, but most kids seemed to enjoy the brief show. Be careful that you don't miss it - there is a break in-between performances in which the animatronic models appear to be static ones.
Grandpa Pig's House can also be seen close to the entrance of Peppa Pig World, but is not open to explore (presumably Grandpa is too busy driving his Little Train).Rating:
Mr Potato's Playground
Mr Potato's playground is a beautifully-designed area, themed around the fitness-fanatic potato seen in the TV series. Featuring a range of swings and slides set along a rainbow-coloured pathway, it's a good place for parents to have a sit in the sun while their kids enjoy themselves.Rating:
Tucked away at the back of Mr Potato's Playground is Muddy Puddles, which transfers one of Peppa Pig's favourite pastimes into the real world. Parents will be relieved, though, that rather than jumping up and down in real muddy puddles, kids are instead able to splash around on a soft material which sprays up water when jumped upon. Muddy Puddles is popular, although its relatively small size means that many may head to Paultons Park's existing Water Kingdom area to cool off instead.Rating:
George's Spaceship Play Zone
On hot days, George's Spaceship Play Zone offers the chance for parents to get their kids out of the sun, and to put their own feet up. Located inside the enormous, grass-covered building that also houses Peppa Pig World's shop and cafe, the Play Zone is a large, well-themed area that is likely to keep kids occupied for some time.
The 900-metre-squared playground is divided into distinct areas that are suitable for different age groups. For older kids, there is a rope maze, several large slides and the "Recycling Centre" room that sees foam balls fired out continously. For younger children, the Musical Instruments area features shape games, rockers and a music machine.Rating:
Meet Peppa and friends
While Peppa Pig World doesn't feature walk-about characters (for fear of them being mobbed by groups of tiny fans), they can be seen during regularly-scheduled slots in front of Madame Gazelle's School House. Although the area in front of the School House is mobbed at the start of these periods, the characters generally linger for some time so that everyone gets a chance to get up close.
Feeding the piglets
Peppa Pig World offers a limited selection of food outlets to complement those located elsewhere in Paultons Park. The main source of sustenance is Daddy Pig's Big Tummy Cafe, which sells a limited selection of hot and cold snacks and a tasty range of cakes. On the other side of the land is Miss Rabbit's Ice Cream Parlour, which does a roaring trade on hot days.
The range of food on offer in Peppa Pig World is relatively limited, in common with the rest of Paultons Park. Parents of fussy children may prefer to bring a packed lunch, which can be eaten in one of the park's many pleasant picnic spots.
Stocking up on souvenirs
Sales of merchandise based on the Peppa Pig series reached £200 million in the UK in 2010, double the equivalent figure from a year earlier despite the impact of the economic downturn. Unsurprisingly, Paultons Park hopes to cash in on this trend and has opened the largest retail store dedicated to Peppa Pig goods in the UK as part of Peppa Pig World.
Peppa Pig's Toy Shop features a wide range of licensed toys, games and DVDs, at prices similar to those seen in other toy shops around the country. Currently, the only exclusive items are beanies based on George's dinosaur and Peppa's teddy bear, although a bespoke set of Peppa Pig World merchandise is expected to be released within months. Most parents can expect to leave the park with significantly less cash than they entered it with.
Peppa Pig World features two dedicated photo locations where families can have their picture taken with characters from the show. The first, inside Madame Gazelle's School House, features plastic versions of Peppa's school friends. The second, Peppa's Magic Studio, uses green screen technology to place guests into one of a choice of cartoon scenes. While the results from both locations are good, we found the prices (£7-8 for a single photo) to be a little excessive.
Paultons Park has done a fantastic job of bring the TV series to life in Peppa Pig World, and looks sure to draw visitors from all over the country as a result. The quality and detail of the theming throughout the land is rare for a UK theme park, and arguably matches that seen in much more expensive Disney parks elsewhere (albeit in a smaller area).
While young Peppa Pig fans will undoubtedly get the most out of the experience, there's plenty to enjoy for mums and dads as well. The ability to join their kids on all of the rides is a real strong point, while the mix of rides with large playground areas means that there's a diverse range of entertainment on offer.
The park is quick to point out that Peppa Pig World covers just 3 acres out of a total of 65, but it's worth noting that it can genuinely occupy most of a day for many visitors. The caveat is that much of this time is likely to be spent queuing - if you do visit, make sure that you arrive before the park opens (and preferably outside of the school holidays).
There's room for improvement at Peppa Pig World (particularly in the food selection), but not much. The exclusive deal that Paultons Park has struck to use the characters looks set to establish the family-owned park on a national basis - and we think that success will be well deserved.
To see more photographs of Paultons Park's new land, check out our Peppa Pig World image gallery.
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