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There's magic in miniatures.
Many of us are most familiar with playthings including Hot Wheels and Legos, but the medium extends beyond mere toymaking. Before the CGI revolution, Georges Méliès used miniatures to create the primitive visual effects in his groundbreaking Trip to the Moon. Likewise, many of the spaceships and set pieces in the original Star Wars movies were small models made life-sized through camera tricks. The same was the story with the cities destroyed in the original Godzilla films; Tokyo, after all, had to be small enough for a guy in a lizard suit to stomp on.
One of those folks with the vision for miniatures is Eiran Gazit, the brain behind a vast tourist attraction soon to make its debut in Midtown Manhattan. Based on Jonathan Swift's 18th Century novel, Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver's Gate will be a “tiny, scale version of a world that’s both real and fantastical,” as told by its Kickstarter campaign. The main means of constructing Gulliver's Gate will be 3D printing—considering Gazit's plan to fill a 40,000 square foot space, Gulliver's Gate is one of the more ambitious 3D printing projects on record.
Gulliver's Gate looks to craft a fictional world that very closely resembles our own, from under the ocean to above the atmosphere. It will host representations of world landmarks, and even the International Space Station. There will also be a high level of interactivity, allowing visitors to do more than just stare at the detailed models. This entails remote and voice control of boats, trains, and other vehicles as well as, in the cryptic terms of the Kickstarter campaign, “embedded cameras.”
The Kickstarter campaign itself has a level of interactivity, as backers of the right bracket can pitch additions to the park, and even get modeled as permanent residents. The campaign is still a long way from its $20,000 goal, but if you do choose to back the project, realize it's a significantly sounder investment than Neil Young's infamous acquisition of the failing Lionel Trains company.
Over email, Gazit states that it will be a “game-changer in the maker community,” as the fabrication team behind Gulliver's Gate will have to innovate new methods of modeling and production to make this massive endeavor work. Gazit suggests that there will even be new technology created for this project, bringing to mind Fred Kahl's invention of the Scan-O-Rama while modelling and 3D-printing Coney Island's old Luna Park.
How does one devise a plan like Gulliver's Gate? Gazit claims inspiration from Hamburg, Germany's Miniatur Wunderland, the world's largest model railroad installation, which attracted a total of 1.2 million visitors last year. Indeed, miniature parks are nothing new—not far from my childhood in New Jersey was Northlandz, a 52,000 square foot building housed a model train installation comprised of eight miles of mini-tracks—but that doesn't take anything away from their spectacles.
Likely some version of the classical carnivalesque ringleader, Northlandz' founder, Bruce Williams Zaccagnino's obsession made for an experiential indulgence whose duration merits the online warning, “children should use the rest room before beginning.”
Gazit himself is well-versed in the creation of these strange little worlds. His most notable work is Jerusalem's 14-acre large Mini Israel, which he oversaw from start to finish. After its construction was paused during Israel's First Intifada, driven by an evident passion for really small things, Gazit “consulted for many miniature parks around the world,” including Madurodam, Paris' Miniature France, and the coming America in Miniature in Phoenix, AZ.
In its Kickstarter video, Vice President of development, Michael Langer, calls Gulliver's Gate “A love letter to the world, it's a love letter to the tourists coming from across the country. This is our love letter back.” So while Jonathan Swift's original novel, Gulliver's Travels, was a biting critique of government, and of man's propensity for corruption, Gazit's concept of Gulliver's Gate is straight-forward and innocent enough. What lingers in collective memory is the fantastical conceit of a regular-sized man stumbling into a miniature world—indeed that's what Gazit and company are latching onto.
To learn more, visit Gulliver's Gate on Kickstarter.