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Thu 25 Jul 2019 09:57 AM

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Where are they now? The Herbie Theme Park

Herbieland was to include original cars from the classic Walt Disney movies

Where are they now? The Herbie Theme Park
A general view of the Croisette during the 58th International Cannes Film Festival May 13 2004 in Cannes France

As part of our ongoing summer series, we will be looking back at some of the most colourful and extraordinary proposals pitched in the UAE and the wider Gulf and investigating what happened to them.

In the last few days, we have looked at plans for an underwater tennis stadium pitched by a Polish architect, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s ideas for a series of environmentally-friendly projects, a Swedish firm’s designs for a moving statue and a Chinese team’s ambitions for a technologically advanced neighbourhood in the shape of a globe.

We also covered a Hong Kong designer’s hopes for a heart-shaped water park containing the world’s highest water slide, a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia’s dream of a city with towers shaped like a chessboard, plans for an underwater TV studio and a crystal ball-shaped football museum in time for the 2022 World Cup and a tower in Abu Dhabi with a futuristic exterior that changes with the surrounding environment.

Today, we are looking back at a proposal for an amusement park themed around Walt Disney’s famous Herbie the Love Bug movie franchise.

Herbie the Love Bug was a fictional 1963 Volkswagen Beetle car which expressed strong feelings for its owners and other cars around it and got into various adventures around the world. It was the star of six Walt Disney movies between 1968 and 2005.

The idea for a theme park based on the movie series was pitched eight years ago by a Dubai-based architect who sought financing for the project after initial plans to build it in Abu Dhabi fell through.

“The people in Abu Dhabi weren’t terrible supportive so we want to bring it to Dubai,” architect Graham Henderson told Arabian Business in October 2011.

“I have a consignment of the original Herbie cars which are coming from a private collector… I think it would work really well at Dubai Autodrome. They can’t finance it but there is certain land available on the track we could use,” he added.

Original Herbie cars

The car collection Henderson hoped to include in the theme park included the original vehicles that appeared in the 1977 movie ‘Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo’ and the most recent 2005 movie ‘Herbie: Fully Loaded’, which starred actress Lindsay Lohan.

“Imagine if you could pay for a lap in the Autodrome in Lindsay Lohan’s car,” Henderson said enthusiastically. “It is better than Ferrari World.”

Initial designs for Herbieland included a central building in the shape of a giant baseball, which would house a museum, a workshop and a café.

Fast forward to June the following year and Henderson admitted that the proposal had failed to attract interest from investors in Dubai and the project was likely to be relocated to the United States.

“HerbieLand is still waiting to happen, the only question is where,” he said.

“The collector who owns the cars took them off the market when he saw the sort of response we were getting - he now wants to keep the cars in the USA and build something similar in Arizona in the district where he is retiring to,” he added.

“We weren't able to finance the project in Dubai so he's now looking for finance and land from his local country officials and also has found the original Fonz's motorbike from [TV show] Happy Days to add to the attractions,” he added.

“If we could find someone here [in Dubai] with both cash and land then we might still be able to pull it off but I gave the idea as much of a push as I could and wasn't able to make it work in the current economic market,” he conceded.

Arabian Business made various attempts to contact Henderson to get an update on any new progress on the project but was unable to track him down.

Coming up next week: The Snowflake Tower, a Pamela Anderson Eco Resort, the Universal Studios theme park, the Smurf Village and the Steven Gerrard Tower.

Check out the other projects in the series:

Dubai’s underwater tennis stadium

Brad Pitt's eco-friendly Dubai projects

Dubai's moving statue

The Technosphere 

Dubai Heart Water Park Resort

International Chess City

Underwater World Cup TV studio

Abu Dhabi’s Bionic Tower

The Crystal Ball Museum (below)

Are there any projects from the past you would like Arabian Business to investigate? Contact us with your suggestions at

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