As any good Disney fan knows, the road Disneyland took to become the first “theme park” was not an easy one. Between Walt’s “crazy idea” for a family -friendly park to people predicting it would be a fail and closed within weeks, the biggest challenge was that our beloved park was something groundbreaking and something no one had seen before or really understood. Now we fast forward to 63 years later and not only is Disneyland one of the most visited place in the world bit it has also inspired parks all around the world — which leads us to beautiful Pleasant Grove, Utah (30 miles south of Salt Lake City) and Evermore Park.
For more than a year I have been doing my best to describe Evermore Park to friends comparing different things like a Renaissance Fair and Lord of the Rings, without really any idea of what to expect so when I received the invitation to the Grand Opening of Phase 1 I knew I had to be there!
But first “What is Evermore?”
This entirely new Park is designed as an old-world, gothic-styled European village. Nestled among beautiful botanical gardens, visiting explorers will be transported to a place of discovery, imagination and wonder. Evermore comes to life through theatrical performance, cinematic quality costuming, state of the art effects, and cutting-edge technologies.
At the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, an evening panel took place with Josh Shipley, Chief Creative Officer, Ken Bretschneider, Founder/CEO, and Logan Long, Studio Director with Josh kicking off the panel asking “who can describe what Evermore Park is?” Just as the panel expected, no one really had an idea but they went on to give us an idea of what to expect with the term “immersive” being used a lot but still hard to explain to the crowd. That was until Josh Shipley, former Walt Disney Imagineer, said two words “Adventurers Club.” If you were never lucky enough to make it to the Adventurers Club on Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World, basically you walked into New Years Eve 1937 and the members of the Club brought you into the story they told throughout the venue. But in the case of Evermore you, as the World Walker, would pick how involved in the story as little or as much as you felt like. Coming out of the panel I felt I had a good idea of what to expect…I was wrong.
Pulling up to a small industrial park in Pleasant Grove, Utah with just a small sign in the traffic circle to mark the park’s entrance, we had arrived. The entrance area, much like many other amusement/theme parks, had a beautiful area with ticket windows and a handful of guests getting there early for the opening night.
Once inside we found that the detail continues into the entrance courtyard where we were met by many of the inhabitants of Evermore all gathered to see the “opening of the portal that brought all these World Walkers into they land.”
After words of welcome to the crowd, Ken Bretschneider took the microphone to share “why he created Evermore Park” and then it was time for the official ribbon cutting to open this new concept in immersive entertainment.
Once the ribbon was cut, the chance to explore this beautiful park before guests started to venture out was hard to turn down. As Ken said the park is still under construction, much like Disneyland on July 17, 1955, but even with areas not complete the attention to detail was simply breathtaking.
Now that you have seen the beauty of this park it is time to actually try and explain what Evermore is, let’s look at the “theme” for this opening season of Evermore, Lore.
Evermore is host to three major seasonal events throughout the year. Inspired by Celtic Lore, the LORE event transforms the park and its residence in to a haunted village for the Autumn celebration. The mysterious portal has opened in Olde Towne, allowing a parasitic force to begin corrupting the forests of Clawthorne Hollow. Those who venture in to the woods do not return the same. They are changed… infected. Help the townsfolk of Evermore discover what is becoming of their once peaceful world.
But to expand Lore, there is the “Magical World of Lore” that runs from 6:30pm – 8:15pm and “Cursed World of Lore” which closes out the rest of the evening. The “Magical World” is more of a trick ‘r treat time for families to explore Evermore and get to know some of the more friendly folk. But once the sun goes down and the “Cursed World” moves in, the park becomes darker as the “darkness” as the residents of Evermore call it, arrives.
Evermore has over 70 residents including imps, dwarfs, goblins, and gypsies all of which are not simply “characters” to take pictures with, they live and breath the story. This is the part where I try to explain was Evermore is, without much of a starting point other than encouragement to talk to the inhabitants of this magical world, you start to learn of the “darkness” that has started to overtake this world.
The best way to describe what you are paying for a ticket into Evermore is – you are becoming a character in a living story. As a “World Walker” you have crossed over via a portal and it is your job to learn from those that live in Evermore and help them “keep the darkness at bay,” walking the world you encounter many characters and it was up to me to find how I could help them. During my few hours, I was put on quests to become a hunter by proving my archery skills, help young Nettleten by seeking out a cure for the darkness that is overtaking him, and help the Crooked Lantern Tarven barmaid Nora by retrieving part of her necklace from some thieving goblin. If you have ever played a Role Playing Game, you will pick right up on the quests and start to talk to everyone and if you haven’t, as I encountered during my time in the park, the best tip is to start with the first character upon your travels and let them point you where to go next which may entail acquiring something from one character to give to another. The park is the game board with different locations playing a part where you will be sent to find whom you seek to gain a clue or item. Some locations such as the Mortlock Mausoleum, home of vampires that are immune to the darkness, actually works as a “haunted house” giving a scare as you walk through looking for help in your quests.
When you have completed a quest (that can take you interacting with one or maybe a few of the residents of Evermore), you are awarded with collectable cards and then sent off to help on another quest.
Going to something on opening night is always a challenge because, just as heels sinking into the hot asphalt at the opening of Disneyland, things may not be ready. But even with areas under work, I became so lost in the quests and the world around me the exposed fencing and construction areas all faded into just being “part of the world.” I had a blast getting into the backstories of some of the characters such as Harvey and Harriet, a bother sister duo of ghosts whom have secrets that I didn’t get to explore, because I get that the more you want to be part of this world they more they will bring you into it but I can see guests not wanting to explore and just wanting to be “feed” what they need to know. Overall, there were some challenges like when it came to quests due to the fact that to get clues you had to visit key characters — which in turn became long lines — but the cast was so on top of things they started to rewrite their own stories to help guests with what they were looking for on the spot. I left with the feeling that when I come back in a year, not only will the world have expanded well beyond what I experienced via the characters but with new buildings and areas complete I will want to spend a few nights exploring Evermore.
For more information on this amazing new experience, please visit: www.evermore.com
Our main correspondent for Walt Disney World and the Orlando area and a heck of a paleontologist if he does say so himself.