It has been said, “Technology has made the world smaller.” In some instances, Gulliver’s Gate in particular, technological advances—including 3D printing and video-mapping solutions—have made it possible for artists to pack cities into an area the size of a football field.
“Times Square is the epicenter of diversity, and we knew we wanted people from all over the world to have the chance to experience Gulliver’s Gate, so it seemed like the ideal location for what we were looking to achieve,” said Michael Langer, one of the founders of Gulliver’s Gate, an all-new miniature world tourist attraction, which opened in May in the heart of Times Square.
Named after Lemuel Gulliver from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, an 18th-century adventure story, Gulliver’s Gate, an exhibit comprising miniature-scale models of places from the real world and fictional worlds, cost $40 million and took 18 months to build. A group of private investors led by Michael and Irving Langer, president and founder of E&M Associates, a Brooklyn-based real estate investment and management company, where the former is still involved, funded the ongoing venture.
Langer met Gulliver’s Gate’s other founder, Eiran Gazit, an Israeli, on a rooftop on a mountain in Costa Rica. That’s when the American learned about one of Gazit’s previous projects, “Mini-Israel,” a 14-acre park containing scale models of sites around Gazit’s native country. The tourist attraction, located near Latrun, Israel, in the Ayalon Valley, consists of more than 350 large models of notable buildings. Eventually, the duo decided to team up on their own project, bringing what’s now known as Gulliver’s Gate to New York City. Gulliver’s Gate’s founders have been working on the concept for more than four years.
“One of the key things is to be able to transport ourselves, and the people that come over, into another time within the model,” Langer pointed out.
Gulliver’s Gate’s worlds—all connected by train tracks and highways—feature various forms of transportation, including horses, elephants, hot air balloons, jet planes and space shuttles. The project expects to eventually have 1,000 trains with about 12,000 wagons. The longest track at Gulliver’s Gate will be 475 ft., which is the scale equivalent of about eight miles.
Gulliver’s Gate challenged its model makers with packing each of the worlds with action, humor and surprises for tourists. For example, there are timely touches: Most recently, the model makers scattered spooky figures throughout the exhibits for Halloween. Horror film serial killers Freddy Krueger, Leatherface and Jason Voorhees lurked about Gulliver’s Gate for their next victims as Scooby-Doo and his crew toured the attraction for clues with the Mystery Machine.
The artists themselves interpreted their assigned regions. Take the New York City model, for instance; the model makers wanted to create a “city of light,” the pillars of light being the skyscrapers. Not only are there landmarks in the Big Apple’s model, there are also interactions: firefighters high-fiving each other, trapeze artists on a flying trapeze and graffiti artists tagging a wall. In this particular exhibit, which took 358 days to create with 16 artists, there are 311 buildings, 600 windows, two bridges, 33 yellow cabs and 47 pizzas.
Discover Chinatown, Brooklyn and Little Italy while in Times Square. There’s even a life-size MTA MetroCard hanging out at one of the stations.
Other exhibits currently on display at Gulliver’s Gate include Europe (which was built in Rimini, Italy, by 31 model makers); the Middle East (which took 124 days in total to create with 19 model makers); Russia (which took 64 model makers 200 days to build); Asia (which was built in Beijing by 47 model makers); Latin America (which was built in 189 days by 15 model makers); and New England (which was built in Brooklyn, NY, by 12 model makers.
Not all figures are fictional. Early visitors to Gulliver’s Gate can become “citizens” by going through a scanning process at the facility. Each citizen will be recreated as a figure in the display and receive a special passport. Most exhibit elements are in HO scale, a scale used in model railroading, which is 1:87. A figure representing a 6-ft.-tall citizen will be 0.8 in.
“People are amazed by what they see when they visit Gulliver’s Gate and they love to feel like they’ve traveled the world in 90 minutes,” Langer explained. “We love hearing guests comment on the places they see within the miniature world, that they’ve actually been to on their travels.”
The project couldn’t have succeeded without a dedicated team, and that’s what Langer took away from developing Gulliver’s Gate: “How possible it is to attain the impossible with an amazing inspired team of people,” the executive said. HB