By Sarah Sekula, Special to USA TODAY
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — In the sleepy town of Winter Haven, about 45 minutes from Orlando, an animal tribal battle involving lions and crocodiles is in full swing. Inside of a mystical land, no less.
Translation: The World of Chima (pronounced Chee-mah), based on a new line of Lego toys and a Cartoon Network show, is coming to life very soon. It is set to open July 3 in Legoland Florida and will be the only place in the world where guests can enter this whimsical land.
USA TODAY got an exclusive look inside the new 3-acre area, which will add 2 million lego bricks to the park’s existing 56 million. Here, guests can let loose in an interactive splash-battle water ride, water play area, 12-minute 4-D movie, gift shop and an area for racing mini-cars.
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For all you Chima newbies, here’s the lowdown: This is a fictional land where all things revolve around chi, an energy source that gives the animals extraordinary powers. However, the crocodiles are duking it out because they want the chi to themselves.
“Chima was researched better than anything Lego has ever done, which is why we had a bit of confidence to move forward,” says Adrian Jones, Legoland Florida general manager. “The initial risk for us is that we’re at such an early stage, nobody really knows what it (World of Chima) is.”
Once you get into this new section of the park, however, it all becomes clear. The 4-D movie with wind, water and smoke effects will have the whole family up to speed in a matter of minutes. (Warning: Keep your cellphone and camera covered; the water effects are heavy.)
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A few steps away, through the Lion Temple, a massive stone-and-moss covered entryway, is the base of the 45-foot-tall Mount Cavora, which seemingly floats on a fountain of water. Inside is the centerpiece of the new attraction: the “Quest for Chi,” where guests should prepare to be soaked.
While standing in line for the ride, parents will appreciate the fact that the interactive queue is entirely covered from the Florida rays, is well equipped with fans and has flat screens throughout. Better yet, it also has an attached play area where kids can roam until it’s time to board.
Each slow-moving, jet-propelled boat has eight water cannons so riders can shoot water at targets, including guests in line who, by the way, may also be firing back. The goal is to help the hero Laval the Lion Prince defeat Cragger the Crocodile King in a quest to return the chi stolen by Cragger.
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Around the bend at Speedorz Arena, kids can race mini rip-cord vehicles. At Cragger’s Swamp, there’s another cool-down opportunity. Here, little ones enter the Croc tribe’s hideout and find a foggy swamp full of bubbles, water spouts and interactive elements.
To top it off, kids get to meet Laval and Cragger, the rock stars of the Chima world, at daily character meet-and-greets.
If you go …
Getting there: If you are coming from Walt Disney World, plan for a 45-minute drive.
Cost: $79 for adults ages 13-59; $71 for children ages 3 12 or seniors 60 and older
Coming soon: Legoland Hotel near Legoland Florida
Bonus: Annual pass holders will have early access to The World of Chima from 8 a.m.- 9:30 a.m. daily from July 8 -19.