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Movieland Wax Museum from Hollywood makes home on Jeju

Characters from Disney’s “Frozen” are on display as wax figures at the Movieland Wax Museum in Jeju. (Yonhap)
Characters from Disney’s “Frozen” are on display as wax figures at the Movieland Wax Museum in Jeju. (Yonhap)
Standing face-to-face with Hollywood stars and well-known politicians may be a lifelong dream to some. Those wishes may be partially achieved when in Jeju.

The Movieland Wax Museum, which has on display some 150 wax dolls that resemble global celebrities and beloved animated characters, opened in Jeju Island’s Jungmun Tourist Complex, Jan. 6.

The MWM, the oldest and largest wax museum, opened in Buena Park, California, in 1962. During its four decades of operation before shutting down in 2006, the museum attracted more than 10 million visitors.

Yang Dong-hee, a journalist-turned-entrepreneur, acquired the Movieland Wax Museum through an international bidding, along with the museum‘s trademark rights, and permanently relocated the museum to Jeju.

“Working as a reporter in the 1980s and 1990s, I had frequent opportunities to travel to the US,” Yang told The Korea Herald Tuesday. “In California, I was mesmerized by the sight of the Movieland Wax Museum, and so I visited the museum more than 10 times.”

The museum is composed of five sections -- Hollywood Legends, Hollywood Superstars, International Legendary Singers, International Sports Stars and Global Leaders and Politicians.

The key to designing the wax museum, according to Yang, is staging the lifelike figures with lively facial expressions against a background from their heydays. Visitors can feel as if they are inside a film scene, or stepping on the red carpet next to their favorite stars.

Yang has given some fun twists to the sets to make subtle imaginary connections between two well-known figures. Korean actor Sol Kyung-gu, who played a legendary ethnic Korean professional wrestler in 1950s Japan in “Rikidozan,” watching wrestler Hulk Hogan from outside the ring is one example. 

Yang Dong-hee, owner of the Movieland Wax Museum in Jeju, poses with the wax figure of Jackie Chan. (MWM)
Yang Dong-hee, owner of the Movieland Wax Museum in Jeju, poses with the wax figure of Jackie Chan. (MWM)
Many of the clothes worn by wax figures in the Hollywood Legends section are donations by film studios, or by actors and actresses to Movieland. Such details are noted on the “Wax Fact” sheets on display.

In addition to the original 101 wax figures and props from Hollywood films and animations, Yang purchased 30 custom-made wax figures created using the latest 3D methods over the past three years. “Producing a single wax figure used to be a year-long process by a sculptor, and cost over $100,000 on average,” Yang said. However, with the use of 3D technology, the production cost has gone down by one third, according to Yang.

Aside from Hollywood stars, a wax figure of US President Joe Biden on duty at the White House, as well as former presidents of South Korea, including Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, are figures visitors should not miss, Yang pointed out.

Coming attractions at the museum may include wax figures of K-pop superstars BTS and Blackpink, for which talks are underway, according to Yang.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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