Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012

Dickens World

The world has heard a lot about Charles Dickens lately. In anticipation of what would have been the author's 200th birthday, TIME's executive editor Radhika Jones counted down the 10 greatest Dickens novels and the UK held a giant birthday party led by Prince Charles. But for the visionaries who dreamed up Dickens World, Prince Charles seems very late to the party. In the best of times — the tail end of the global financial boom — Dickens World, located in County Kent, England, was a $124 million idea that Sam Anderson wrote in the New York Times magazine "promised to be an 'authentic' re-creation of the London of Charles Dickens's novels, complete with soot, pickpockets, cobblestones, gas lamps, animatronic Dickens characters and strategically placed chemical 'smell pots' that would, when heated, emit odors of offal and rotting cabbage." But Anderson, who attended the delayed opening of the park in 2007, returned in 2012 to find a park wracked by the recession, surviving off of rent from the chain restaurants that abut the village. The park has fallen on hard times, which allowed Anderson a bit of thought in Dickens' fashion. "I found myself fantasizing that Dickens World would be adopted by a wealthier park," he wrote, "And that it would manage to somehow vanquish its villains, overcome the odds, live happily ever after."