Actually, I am revisiting the Footrot Flats Theme Park. Also known as the Footrot Flats Leisure Park, and Footrot Flats Fun Park.
In April of this year, I discussed Murray Ball, author of “Footrot Flats”, “Bruce the Barbarian”, and “Stanley.” I recently came across some items from the Footrot Flats Theme Park from a February of 1986 visit. The park had started out as a driving course where young New Zealanders could practice driving. The course made up a large portion of the park. At the time of my visit, the ‘cars’ seemed to be converted golf carts. Certainly not Go Kart variety.
From a publication, Cartoon Quarterly, Volume 1 Number 1, Winter, 1988, we have an article by John Cawley about animation in New Zealand. He talks about Murry Ball, the Footrot Flats strip, and a recent (then) animated movie, Footrot Flats—a Dog’s Tail. At that time it was the highest grossing film in New Zealand’s history. It opened in 28 screens, and in twelve days had taken in over $1,000,000. Since the article appeared in a US publication, and used a dollar sign in front of the amount, I assumed it was in US dollars. Since this blog is mostly about the theme park, I am enclosing part of one page of the article, which shows the front of the theme park. In this photo, it is called a “Fun Park.”
I have a short video from my trip in February 1986, which shows the entrance sign stating, “Footrot Flats Leisure Park.” See the following frame grab.
During the visit I was told that they had great plans to make the park into a destination attraction. As you can see in the video, they had marked off areas for future development. I did a quick and dirty cut on this video to meet the fifteen minute Youtube limit. I probably spent more time on the cars than was necessary, at the expense of some of the other rides. However, I think you will get a feel for what was there on our visit.
There were two gentlemen working at one of the rides who related their experience driving on an LA freeway, and losing a tire. There they were, searching for lug nuts as the traffic whizzed bye. Guess it helped them later in the frantic pace at the park.
I came across a reference card from the Auckland Libraries, indicating that in 1988, “Safari Land” was moving to Footrot Flats Fun Park. I could find no further reference to “Safari Land”, either by itself, or rolled into Footrot Flats Theme park.
Today, the only record of Footrot Flats Theme Park is its entry in defunct amusement parks. Footrot Flats Theme Park is one of three listed for New Zealand. ‘Safari Land’ is not mentioned as one of the defunct parks. I wonder where it went, or if it is still in existence.
Interesting legal wrangling over the area in and around the old theme park. Evidently in the 1950s, the land was ‘acquired’ from various owners for a port, but never developed. The document mentions (Discussion item 8) that at one time in the 1980s, part of the area was used for the Footrot Flats theme park. It makes no further reference to the park. It goes on to say that in the early 1990s portions of the land were developed for housing with the rest held for recreation. From this, I surmise that the park went out of business late 1980s to early 1990s.
There was a website for Footrot Flats memorabilia. Just like my old Mad comic books that my mother threw away when I was off somewhere. Don’t you wish you still had yours. Look at the prices now for Footrot Flats stuff. Unfortunately, this link is no longer active (thanks to Chris for this information) but if it becomes active in the future I will re-link it. (updated 1/1/13)
There is a website which purports to be site for Footrot Flats theme park photos. Well, there are a few, you just have to wade through the site as anything with ‘theme’ in the title shows up there.
Courtesy of my obligatory visit to the gift shop, I have place mats, a birthday card, and a sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is interesting as it is mostly black, with the dog and Wal in white outline. The Dog has a red tongue. Unfortunately, over the last 26 years the sweatshirt has shrunk. Of course, maybe it didn’t shrink, maybe I filled out. Anyway, it fits my wife, so here she is with the shirt.
And, from the visit the the gift shop here are various items.
Cooch, gotta love ‘im.
I could just never bring myself to use the card for anyone.
On the wall of my office–
I have another one of Cooch, holding a flounder in his toes. At least I think it is a flounder. However, two posters is enough.
Now, on to the place mats. If I ever entertained formally, I would have these bracketed by the six forks, stemware, and napkin rings. However…
Well, I hope that those of you who visited this park during its short existence enjoyed this brief visit to that time.
PS. The Gisborne Herald has an article on the town’s efforts to erect full size Footrot Flats statues. You can see a photo of a scale model of Wal and the Dog in the article.
PPS. On July 29, 2014, 3news in Auckland, NZ, had an interesting story by Tristram Clayton, a reporter for that station, on Grisborne’s statue effort. Sounds like the project is moving ahead.
PPPS. See also comment posted 14 May 2015.
PPPPS-A followup on the Grisborne statue effort. Interesting story. Beautiful sky.
PPPPPS-A story in scoop independent news, on how the sculptures were made.
And another news article, this one with a photo of Murray Ball’s grandchildren standing with the figures. Interestingly, the photo was by Pam Ball.