The first thing you notice is the huge Batmobile sitting outside the ICON Orlando 360 complex. It’s big, and it’s rugged, and it’s direct from the 2017 film blockbuster Justice League. It makes for the first (of many) memorable selfies, but you’re going to have to work hard for them, as this is no ordinary Tussauds exhibit. Oh no, not by a long chalk. Because this is an all-new experience. An interactive experience – and YOU will be the heroes.
Okay, backing up just a touch here for anyone new to the Orlando story, Madame Tussauds is just one of the three main elements of ICON Orlando 360 (formerly I-Drive 360, which we’ll explain in a minute), along with the fab SeaLife aquarium and the ICON Orlando itself, the 400ft observation wheel at the centre of the complex.
All three can be combined on one ticket (which is great value for a full day at this exciting venue in the heart of International Drive, and as the current special offer with Attraction Tickets Direct), or as individual elements. And then there are another five separate experiences you can also enjoy here, including the unique Skeletons exhibit and the massive new StarFlyer – the world’s tallest chair ride at fully 450ft – that opens on June 1.
But this week is all about Madame Tussauds or, more correctly, Batman and Co. In keeping with their style for always adding something new to their attractions, Merlin Entertainments has teamed up with Warner Bros. and the DC Entertainment company (publisher of the DC Comics franchise) to create a unique and compelling addition to their lineup of hugely popular waxworks.
And this is no ordinary exhibit. As general manager James Paulding told us, “This is something completely new for Merlin Entertainments and Madame Tussauds. We’ve been talking to Warner Bros. for several years about creating something along these lines, and it has been a very exciting collaboration.
“It has been in the works for a while now, but we wanted to make sure we had created the exact environment it needed to really wow our fans. It is an adventure unlike any other, and it calls for something completely different in the world of Tussauds. We think it’s a game-changer for us, and people are going to be blown away by it.”
With that build-up, we were definitely excited to be in line for the media preview on May 22, as James and five specially-invited guests from New York, London, Toronto, Atlanta and Orlando – Justice League fans who had helped to track down the key ‘Mother boxes’ that harness the power of the League – started the countdown to the opening of Justice League: A Call for Heroes.
And, sure enough, in a welter of dry ice, fog and other special effects, we were off into the backstreets of Metropolis and Gotham City for a hands-on adventure in this super-hero world.
This is where you learn you are on a four-mission quest to help the Superhero team in their bid to save the world from an experiment by the LexCorp that has gone badly wrong and threatens to run amok.
First up is Wonder Woman, where you have to harness all the energy of her power gauntlets to avert the initial surge of danger (with more special effects, of course). Then you have to team up with Superman to prevent a helicopter crashing on to the streets – and you really need to push, alongside the Man of Steel, to avert the crisis!
Then, as you transition to the rooftop of the Gotham City Police Department, it’s time to summon the Batman with his special searchlight signal and, finally, save the day by counter-acting the effects of LexCorp’s evil AI programme (hint: it’s a job for two people).
It all takes place in a wonderfully immersive environment, with great use of the lighting and special effects and, in the case of Superman, a figure that actually moves (!) as you battle to lift the stricken helicopter. It is good enough to be an attraction in its own right, but the fact it is just one of the many different scenes inside Tussauds Orlando adds even more value – and sheer fun – to this excellent venue. We love the many selfie opportunities that it presents, but this new element is strikingly different and is sure to please both fans of the Justice League characters as well as those who like a hands-on approach to their entertainment.
And now, a quick word of explanation about the new ICON branding, which happened earlier this month. For the first three years of its existence, the whole I-Drive 360 complex was managed by Merlin Entertainments, but owned by a separate company, IDL Parent.
As of May 9, IDL Parent also became the managers of the complex as a whole, although Merlin will continue to manage their two international brands, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife. For all practical purposes, there should be no obvious difference, especially as the owners will continue to invest in new attractions, like the huge StarFlyer. The new name reflects their hope that the observation wheel will be seen as the genuine ‘Icon’ of Orlando.
“Since opening three years ago, the observation wheel has become an instantly recognisable part of the Central Florida landscape and a catalyst for growth along the I-Drive corridor,” said Cindy Campbell-Taylor, vice president of marketing, sales and public affairs at ICON Orlando 360. “As such, the new ICON Orlando name makes perfect sense as we introduce some key changes and position this iconic structure for the future.”
And that is the full story for now. A new name, a new style – and a new level of excitement, thanks to the Justice League.
Book your Disney Ultimate or Disney combo ticket before the 31st May and get FREE tickets to Madame Tussads Orlando plus The Coca Cola Orlando Eye and Sealife Orlando. Click here to learn more.
PS: The Batmobile will only be in place until June 1, so be sure to head to ICON Orlando 360 soon if you want the best selfie in town!
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