Plans for Napoleon Bonaparte theme park move forward

John Laurenson Feb 28, 2012

Adriene Hill: Like theme parks? Love history? You could be in luck. The French are considering building “Napoleonland.” I’m serious.

In Paris, John Laurenson reports.

John Laurenson: Drums, canon smoke and people in anoraks taking photos. At battle re-enactments like these, plenty of people already spend their weekends pretending they are members of Napoléon’s Grande Armée.

Now parliamentarian Yves Jégo wants to use simulation and 3D technology to bring the experience to many more so they can follow in the footsteps of the Emperor.

Yves Jégo: It’s a journey that’ll take us to Egypt and the West Indies. We’ll be able to follow the soldiers through the snows of Russia! With the sea battles, we’ll be able to explore the underwater world. We’ll have real re-enactments but also places where images will give visitors the impression that they’re at the heart of the battle.

Jégo says it’ll get one and a half million visitors a year, sustaining 3,000 jobs. He’s counting on the government building a high-speed rail link to Paris and $330 million of private investment. He has a good chance of success, thanks to Napoleon’s lasting popularity with French people like Anne-Marie Drouet.

Anne-Marie Drouet: It was a great man who had a vision of the future. A great man like we can’t see anymore today.

Judging by the success of the Napoleon video game “Total War,” which depicts him as a merciless killing-machine, others have a darker attraction.

And some point to the terrible casualties of his wars — one and a half million Frenchmen alone — or his re-establishment of slavery in the French West Indies. But the theme park’s supporters have an answer to that.

Charles Napoleon is a descendent of Napoleon’s younger brother Jerome.

Charles Napoleon: The main purpose of the park is to let the people understand history. Understand first and then judge.

Napoleon hopes that the theme park honoring his much-loved, much-loathed relative will open in 2017.

In Paris, I’m John Laurenson for Marketplace.

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