Sign In


We Made It Out To This Smurf Park. So How Weird Is It?

Something borrowed, something new, something Smurfy, something blue.
2020-09-01 12:00:00
Photos: Brandon McGhee
"Offbeat" is a column about stuff to look at or do in Shanghai that's interesting or weird (relatively, of course), that doesn't fit anywhere else.
Shanghai has no shortage of theme parks. Andersen Park, The Dinosaur One, the Aircraft Carrier One — definitely missing one, gah, what is it — so the bar is set pretty high. A contender appears!

Presenting the Smurf Land Theme Park (蓝精灵乐园) — sorry, "Dream City" — out in Songjiang. It opened up in late 2019 as part of the greater Shimao Wonderland Resort, which includes that James Bond villain lair-looking hotel in the rock quarry. The story of how the Smurf theme park came to be is, ultimately, unimportant because all you need to know is that Shimao wanted a Disneyland to go with its hotel. That's why this exists.

Why Smurfs? They're one of the most recognizable cartoon characters in the world. Smurfs, known as the Schtroumpfs in French, or Lan Jing Ling in Chinese (or Hupikek Torpikek in Hungarian or Pitufo in Spanish, or one of another 55 other names) were invented in 1958 by some Belgian cartoonists, and have since become a franchise worth an estimated 5 billion dollars in 2011, including three films, two separate television series — oh yeah, and the comics — off the following format:

- Small blue men (and one, maybe two women?) with a smurfing speech smurfpediment.

- A wizard who just wants to eat them, just wants to eat them up so bad.

And you know, it's stupid successful! Who doesn't know what a Smurf looks like?! If you had to pick another cartoon universe with international appeal, this isn't bad.

It's definitely a themepark. 20,000sqm of indoor themepark, hosted in what looks like a failed convention center. There's also an outdoor portion, beyond the carparks and the quarry hotel, but being entirely indoors means you never have to worry about the weather ruining your magical fun-time with the Belgian Blues. They even try to make the most of it, supposedly fiddling with the lighting to look like different times of the day in the Smurf Village. In the couple of hours we spent there, the lighting levels never rose above "fairy murder swamp."

The central atrium, after the entrance, houses a big flying merry-go-round and wings off to the left and right for rides with other miscellaneous brands attached, like the Shimao Wonderland Bears and, for some reason, The Boss Baby.

The Smurfy part of it is at the back, in a custom-built Smurf village.

In here, you've got your mini coasters, your interactive games, your meet-and-greets with the Smurfs, your lightshow games, your photo kiosks, your tea-cup rides...

Love me a good tea-cup ride. Most of the rides are less "rides" that you stand in line for, and more "things for children to run screaming through."

I may have missed the part on the brochure where this is exclusively for kids. I'd say the kid-parent ratio here is a solid 1:1. Fair number of bored dads.

No young couples coming all the way out here to take selfies with Brainy Smurf, or bang their head on the doorframes of little mushroom houses, the way you might see in the other park.

I'm going to have to try harder to blend in. To the gift shop!

Perfect. Best 30rmb I've spent all day. Highlights of the park, in no particular order!

Jokey's Mirror Maze.

This lit-up mini Ferris Wheel.

This tug-of-war between kids.

There's a little fish pond, where children can torture goldfish with tiny nets, right next to Gargamel's Treasure, where you can pan for gold.

Alas. I have come up empty, like Gargamel when he created Smurfette to honeypot the entire Smurf village. That's right! The only grown female in the Smurfverse was created by a wizard who wanted to send Eve into a blissfully homosexual anarcho-socialist commune. The fiend!

I say the only female, but the Smurf timeline has moved on since we were children. They've added an entire village of Smurfettes so the gender imbalance doesn't raise so many eyebrows, and they've expanded it out into a whole universe, which, naturally, has its own wiki. It seems they've quietly decided the live-action film doesn't count as canon.

Can't imagine why.

The main ride in the park, the Smurfberry Roller Coaster, was closed when we went. When would it open, we asked a sheepish attendant? "Uh... next week." Shame, because it looks wonderful. A tight, twisting railroad ride weaving in and out of the process the Schtroumpfs use to refine that thick, sticky Smurfberry goo into pure crystal Smurf dope.

Tweaker Smurf is out of his goddamn mind.

Rabbit's dipping into the stash too. Look at how dilated those pupils are.

This hut has just a single bed, with a lectern. I haven't checked the comics to verify, but I think this is where Papa Smurf reads bedtime stories to Army Smurf, lulling him to sleep when the night terrors take him.

Also where Papa Smurf stores his bodice rippers.

Okay, enough of this kiddy shit, it's time to get dark. Dark Lab, baby!

The haunted house of the park.

Bad touch. Bad touch, Gargy!

Feel like they missed a chance to use the Black Smurfs here, hopping around like jiang shi.

They made do with this vacant-eyed Pinocchio demon instead. Disney's gonna sue!

Bless him. If even Gargy - a man whose defining characteristic, I remind you, is his raging smurfon for eating small blue people - can be redeemed by the love of a child, then perhaps there's hope for us all.

I know there are some among you who revel in China's trademark brand of weird, haunting and/or haunted themeparks — hell, SmartShanghai is probably what got you into it — but this is just not for you. A couple of goofy details does not the insanity factor break, and the high incidence rate of very small children makes it very weird to be an unaccompanied adult in here.

You'll end up like me, looking a smurfing dumbass, smurfing in line with all these kids while their parents try to decide if I'm some misjudged part of the attraction or if I was smurfed on my head as a child.

Ooh look at me, a full adult ironically enjoying an amusement park for kids. This hat is just to cover up my bald spot.

If you have kids under, say, 150cm, who don't mind running around in dark warehouses, bring them on out. It's cheaper than Disney in every way, you'll kill a solid two-three hours in an air-conditioned theme park, and the lines are never more than 15 minutes.

Hey, go check out that crazy hotel while you're out here.

Getting there: The Smurf Land Theme Park is located at Lane 5088 Chenhua Lu, near Dingyuan Lu / 晨花路5088弄, 近鼎源路. It's right by the Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland. A car out from downtown will take like an hour and a half and cost around 150rmb, or you can take the metro to Dongjing Metro Station and get the Line 96 bus to the park, take you two hours plus.

If you're staying at the hotel, there's a little car-train thing that takes you to the park.

Cost: It costs 79rmb for kids to get in, or 149rmb for adults.


Want to check out more amusement parks (of varying degrees of weirdness)? Check out the full list of Amusement Parks in the SmartShanghai venue directory.