Artists remake the world’s wonders in lilliputian scale

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MILES O'BRIEN: Finally, from Venice to a tourist destination of a different kind.

In tonight's NewsHour Shares, the world is a big place, but a new attraction in the heart of New York City has managed to shrink it down to size.

The NewsHour's Julia Griffin explains.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Brazil's Copacabana Beach, Rome's Colosseum, or India's Taj Mahal, pick one for your vacation destination, or see all three in one afternoon on a much smaller scale.

EIRAN GAZIT, Co-Founder, Gulliver's Gate: We wanted to give the impression that, even though we are dealing with very small things, this is huge.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Eiran Gazit is the co-founder of Gulliver's Gate, a world of miniatures the size of a football field in New York City's Times Square.

EIRAN GAZIT: I believed that the way to create the experience properly was that each area would reflect its own flavor, tastes, smell and the things that are important to that area.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Achieving that required a team of 600 artists from eight countries. Gazit's partner, Michael Langer:

MICHAEL LANGER, Co-Founder, Gulliver's Gate: In Russia, it was building the Russian section. In Rimini, Italy, they were building the European section. And by doing that, we not only got the authenticity, but we also got a diversity of design.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Among the highlights?

MICHAEL LANGER: I'm very fond of the Panama Canal. I love how the water functions and runs through the Amazon and turns into a waterfall at the end.

EIRAN GAZIT: Grand Central is one of my favorites, because you see the layers that go between the subway, the regular train and the entrance. And if you actually look at the ceiling, you see that no detail was left behind.

ADRIAN DAVIES, Head of Model-Making, Gulliver's Gate: I think the volcano in South America is just really staggering.

JULIA GRIFFIN: For design team head Adrian Davies, the massive miniature world is a feat of engineering and coordination.

ADRIAN DAVIES: We have model makers, we have sculptors, we have writers, set painters, movie effect guys, architectural model makers and train nerds, for want of a better word.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Indeed, Gulliver's Gate is a mecca for model train lovers. Everything in the exhibit from the slopes of Sochi, Russia, to Stonehenge is built in the industry's one-to-87 scale, 300 scenes are home to 1,000 trains, 10,000 vehicles, and 100,000 people.

And unlike some of their real-life counterparts, those drivers actually use their blinkers. The exhibit also offers interactive experiences. Turn a souvenir key to trigger the Loch Ness Monster in the Scottish highlands, or a carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro.

Guests can even have 3-D printed figurines of themselves placed among the exhibit.

MICHAEL LANGER: If you had proposed at the Eiffel Tower, you can go ahead and recreate that moment and permanently place it at the Eiffel Tower.

JULIA GRIFFIN: And while it's a big miniature world out there, visitors might be most amused by the movie moments and pop culture references hidden among the landmarks, if they can spot them.

EIRAN GAZIT: It just makes you smile. And that's the whole idea. We wanted to create a place that would make people really smile all the time, and the smile just gets bigger and bigger as they go around.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Smiles he hopes will last for years to come.

For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Julia Griffin in the big — I mean little apple.

MILES O'BRIEN: That is so cool. I got to check that out.

There's more to explore online. You can virtually experience Gulliver's Gate. Take a 360-degree video tour on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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