The making of a dream

In a way it began with Yogi Bear Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera together they are Hanna-Barbera, the creators of Yogi and Fred Flintstone and a thousand other characters - have a long association with Australia.

It is more than 35 years since Bill Hanna set up an Australian division in Crows Nest which produced many of the animated television shows seen around the world. And in 1983 it was Hanna Barbera who believed firmly that Sydney was crying out for a large world-class themed amusement park Bill Hanna’s enthusiasm flowed on to others and the research, according to Wonderland’s managing director at the time, Keith James, proved Bill Hanna right.

“The surveys indicated a significant market demand for entertainment attraction and encourage tourism from throughout Australia and overseas, ” Mr James says


And what a challenge the project represented 219 hectares of pasture land with extensive trees near the junction of Wallgrove Road and the F4 Freeway had to be converted into the most spectacular themed amusement park in the southem hemisphere.

On 8 June 1984, the NSW Premier, Mr Neville Wran launched the groundbreaking ceremonies on the Minchinbury site. The theory work was about to be converted into practice Nearly 500 jobs were created in the western suburbs overnight. Cars, trucks, graders tractors, bulldozers and machinery began pouring on to the site “The park was a reflection of the tremendous enthusiasm shown by the State Government and the Blacktown Council as well as the partners,” says Mr James.

The project needed a vast area of land to create its vast fantasy environment. . . another world, if you like. It also needed land to establish what was at the time, the largest car park in this hemisphere, with nearly 30 hectares catering for 6,000+ vehicles and it needed to be near Sydney's population centre. Minchinbury gave all that. The west is a tremendous growth area with a livewire population and a pride in the community. . .

Australia's Wonderland brought a new dimension to entertainment in the region. Another major attraction was the family lifestyle in the west. Above all, Australia's Wonderland was a themed park devoted to family involvement. The park was dedicated to providing total family entertainment, something for everyone from toddlers to grandparents. Their aim was to make everybody smile — as the advertising said: "The greatest fun you'll ever have!" And with the fun came safety. It was a number one priority!

Back in 85 Some of the installations at Wonderland required all the skill of an-army manoeuvre. . such as the day The Buccaneer was swung into place. The ship, a make-believe version of the tall vessels that first moored in Sydney Cove over 200 years ago, was 18 metres long and had masts 20 metres high. The Toohey's Tall Ship, as it was first known, cost $350,000 and took six months to build. It was the fantasy stage for an action-packed pirate show five times a day. And the day it arrived at the park. on a cold late-winters morning in 1985, was action-packed itself.

At 4 am it left its 'home' in Granville and 'sailed' down the Parramatta Road. In the pitch black it tacked down the highway, reaching the park at dawn. Nervous park staff and curious contractors watched as the ship was gently eased from its two giant semi-trailer beds with one of Australia's largest cranes into Endeavour Bay, just inside the entrance to the park in the Medieval Faire area. A successful launching — all it lacked was the champagne.