This past weekend at their annual D23 Expo, a veritable Comic-Con devoted to all things Mouse House, Disney unveiled plans for Star Wars Land—a pair of elaborate theme parks that will transport visitors to the land(s) of Star Wars, replete with a Millennium Falcon simulator, a plethora of cosplaying characters, and—yes—a full-service Cantina.
But if getting wasted on intergalactic booze, starting static with a costumed Greedo, and throwing your hard-earning money at a corporate giant isn’t your thing, then perhaps Dismaland is the place for you.
Dismaland is the name of Banksy’s gloriously subversive theme park that is heavily rumored to be opening this weekend—that is Friday, August 21—in the UK. Pictures of its mysterious construction in the seaside resort town of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, England, began surfacing online late last week.
According to the Bristol Post, the amusement park is being billed as a “sinister twist on Disneyland,” and includes a pink dystopian version of the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle, a horse-like sculpture, an S-shaped gas tanker, and various other oddball attractions. The mammoth structure(s) is being built at the Tropicana, a 10,200-square-foot lido site that’s been abandoned since 2000, and the area’s reportedly been closed off for the past several months under the guise of a Hollywood film shooting there called Grey Fox. The construction site had signs reading “Crew Notice Grey Fox Productions” put up around it to distract onlookers, and the so-called film project claimed it was produced by Charles Roven’s company Atlas Entertainment—behind the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice—and directed by Declan Whitebloom, whose representative denied he was in Weston-super-Mare, according to The Daily Mail. Banksy’s representative Jo Brooks could not be reached for comment.
Suspicions were raised when no camera crews were seen on the site and the shadowy street artist’s rumored manager, Holly Cushing, was spotted at the Dismaland construction site in early August, which sent the Banksy message boards into a tizzy. Cushing is one of the producers on Banksy’s Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, and the Bristol Post reported that “financial records show she also set up a limited company called Dismaland Ltd. with Simon Durban, who is thought to be Banksy’s accountant, on May 1.” Online speculation claims that the exhibition is opening Friday, August 21, and that the Weston-super-Mare city council will be making a formal announcement later this week.
Back in 2013, The Daily Beast captured a picture of a man thought to be Banksy working on his immersive month-long New York City exhibition Better Out Than In, and the graffiti artist/activist, whose identity is unknown, is thought to be from Bristol, which is about 18 miles southwest of the Dismaland site in Weston-super-Mare. Banksy began his artistic career in the early ’90s as a member of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew (DBZ), operating as a freehand graffiti artist before moving over to stenciling. Furthermore, one of his pieces, “Weston Super Mare,” was set in the remote town, and exhibited in Severnshed, Bristol, in 2000.
The name “Dismaland,” meanwhile, comes from a Banksy-authored piece of graffiti that’s from as far back as 2012, which may indicate that this project has been in the works for quite some time:
This also isn’t the first time Banksy has trolled Disney. Back in 2006, Banksy inserted a life-sized inflatable doll dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee (orange jumpsuit, black hood, handcuffs) in the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. According to BBC News, the figure remained there for 90 minutes before being removed, and a spokesman for Banksy claimed “the stunt was intended to highlight the plight of terror suspects at the controversial detention centre in Cuba.”