SAN DIEGO - Legoland, in its biggest expansion yet of the Carlsbad theme park, announced last week that it will open next year a brand new land devoted entirely to the popular Lego movies - complete with a new 4D-style ride.

The Lego Movie World, as it's being called, will encompass a little more than two acres of the park, occupying the former Lego Friends Heartlake City area.

Located in the far west side of the park, the area will be entirely reimagined to give park visitors the sense of being immersed within Lego's cinematic universe - more specifically, "The Lego Movie" and "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part." Key to that will be its signature ride, Masters of Flight, which will transport its passengers to the Lego movies' memorable lands, aboard title character Emmet's triple decker flying couch - or at least that's what it will feel like.

Along the way, mists of water, puffs of air and a marshmallow-like scent in the hidden realm of Cloud Cuckoo Land will enhance the interactive feel of the ride, housed in two three-level theaters. Earlier this year, the Florida park debuted its Lego movie land, which is about 1.5 acres.

"We're seeking to take our guests from the film to the theme park, so when a guest goes through the land, they'll feel like they're in Lego Movie and Lego Movie 2, traveling in downtown Bricksburg," said Project Manager Thomas Storer. "We'll be building off the success they've already experienced in Florida with Lego Movie World, like with the Masters of Flight. So ours is twice as big. Rather than having one theater, the Masters of Flight has two back-to-back theaters with 12 gondolas."

Legoland, as it always does with its various attractions, ties them to popular, high-profile Lego-branded merchandise that youngsters and their parents can easily identify with. With this new land, Legoland owner Merlin Entertainments is capitalizing on the enormous box office success of the first Lego movie, which domestically grossed more than $257 million. The more recent "Lego Movie 2," which Legoland's new attraction will also draw from, was not quite as successful, bringing in nearly $106 million domestically.

Lego Movie World, which will open next spring, represents the largest investment in the Carlsbad park since the debut last year of Lego City Deep Sea Adventure, a submarine ride that traverses a 300,000-gallon aquarium populated with multiple species of sharks, rays and tropical fish. While Legoland never divulges the cost of its attractions, the park confirms that the new land is also Merlin's single biggest investment made within any of its Legoland parks.

"This will be significantly higher than the submarine ride," said Legoland park General Manager Peter Ronchetti. "This is part of our strategy - putting in these substantial rides to drive more capacity so that we can have a thousand guests per hour. It helps us drive down queue lines and drive up guest satisfaction.

"This constant drip feed of major attractions has been a consistent strategy, and we're already planning for the next 10 years. The phase we're in now is infill development because the major parcels have been used. But it's also extracting lower capacity rides and attractions and putting in more efficient, modern and higher capacity attractions."

As competition in the Southern California theme park mark intensifies, it makes sense that Legoland is upping its investment in new attractions, says analyst Bob Boyd of Pacific Asset Management.

"If you look at the amount of investment Disney is making, which is at record levels, Knotts Berry Farm is quite close to its record levels of investment and SeaWorld is investing pretty heavily too, they're all doing well and spending a lot to stay competitive," Boyd said. "All those parks, though, have also benefited from the festival activities that tend to be pretty alcohol-driven and that's not something Legoland can compete with so you have to invest in the core of that business."

The premise of Masters of Flight, outfitted with 10- to 12-seat gondolas that rotate, is a thrill-seeking, 4 1/2-minute-long adventure that re-creates familiar lands from the movie - Cloud Cuckoo Land, Middle Zealand, Pirate Cove - aboard Emmet's triple decker couch.

The ride starts with an unexpected move, as the gondolas, facing away from a curved, domed screen, rotates 180 degrees and gives passengers, once they face the screen, the sensation of hanging over the edge of a deck and soaring in space. While the scenes throughout the ride are new, the landscapes will be familiar to anyone who has seen the Lego movies.

In addition to Masters of Flight, the new Lego Movie land will include Unikitty's Disco Drop tower, which launches kids to the top of Cloud Cuckoo Land and then drops, spins and bounces them back down the tower. Also planned is Benny's Play Ship, a 34-foot tall play structure that includes slides and climbing ropes, and a re-theming of the park's existing carousel that will feature horses that are in the films.

Finally, there is Emmet's Super Suite, a meet-and-greet spot where youngsters can see what Emmet's apartment looks like and take pictures with the character.

The new Movie World will be included in the price of a park admission, unlike Legoland's Sea Life Aquarium and Water Park, which come with an extra charge and are not located within the park.

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