By: Ian Stalker
John Phillipson is preparing for the opening of an attraction that will eventually enable visitors to experience Canada from sea to sea and its northern expanses as well without leaving downtown Toronto.
Phillipson is vice-president and general manager of upcoming Little Canada, which is slated to open on Canada Day and will take “guests of all ages on an immersive journey through Canada in miniature, offering them a rare opportunity to explore the beauty and diversity of our country in just a few short hours… Little Canada is a vast, highly detailed and animated miniature world brought to life by 21st century technology.”
The launch will showcase five Ontario and Quebec destinations: Little Niagara, Little Toronto, Little Golden Horseshoe, Little Ottawa and Petit Québec, and another, Little North, will be under construction. More regions will follow.
Phillipson says the project will be able to familiarize Canadians with aspects of their homeland they may not know a great deal about, touching on geography, history, art, science and culture.
“People know a lot about their home community and where they live,” he says. “But Canada is a vast country of incredibly diverse communities. We believe that everyone should travel across Canada at least once to discover the many different wonders and experiences of Canada. Our goal is to help people to see and learn something new that will connect them to Canada, whether they are new to the country or have lived here their entire lives.”
A vast journey in miniature
Phillipson continued: “Little Canada is a journey through the captivating vistas, famous landmarks, iconic cityscapes and little stories of Canada in miniature scale, a 21st century miniature world, with a 15-minute day, where the sun sets and rises every 15 minutes, the Little Toronto skyline lights up with 30,000 LED lights, little cars and trucks drive across the Skyway Bridge and on our (Ontario’s) 401 highway, guided by their little headlights, and a 50-linear-foot Little Niagara roars as you walk up to the head of the falls.”
And he pointed out: “Guests can visit this vast, immersive, miniature world in just a few short hours. It’s a place for residents and visitors to experience and connect with the wonders and stories of this great country, all under one roof, experiencing Canada in a whole new way.”
Visitors will also be able to, in Little Canada jargon, be “Littlized” in the Littlization Station, which is where the attraction will “shrink” guests.
Phillipson explains: “Guests stand in the centre of our 3D scanning booth and strike their favourite pose. They then have the option of choosing from any of our Little Me packages. You can get yourself Littlized into 3/4 of an inch, and anywhere up to 9 inches.”
And he adds: “Guests will also have the chance to place their 3/4” Little Me somewhere in Little Canada and live there forever.”
Safety the biggest pandemic challenge
Phillipson concedes that building the attraction during the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges, prompting his team to put a safety plan in place he says exceeds provincial guidelines, with staff having adjusted to the necessary restrictions such as working from home and working with limited space and social distancing.
“Our biggest challenge will be to help our guests feel safe and comfortable,” he says. “When we open, our team of guides and makers will be ready to make our guests feel at home in Little Canada. Our team is putting a tremendous amount of effort into making sure our guests feel safe and cared for from start to finish — which would be from Customs to Little Bites Café in Little Canada.”
“Customs” will serve as the entry into Little Canada. After guests purchase Little Canada tickets, they’ll wait in a “customs” line before being met by Little Canada experience guides to start their journey.
Little Canada will open with what’s described as a timed-ticket, guided, small-group experience of about 90 minutes, keeping guests safely apart and able to comfortably enjoy the attraction.
When the pandemic is fully over, it will become a free-flow experience, with guests able to wander through at their leisure. At that point, it will also introduce walk-up tickets for added convenience
And Phillipson promises that the attraction will continue to add new regions of this country, eventually showcasing Canada Ad Mare Usque Mare.
Planning for the future
“Canada wasn’t built in a day, and neither is Little Canada,” he says. “The country is so vast and diverse, it takes time to get it right for each destination we build. Little Canada will open with five little Destinations, with a sixth, Little North, under construction for all to see. Then we’ll continue to open new destinations, like Little East Coast and Little Rockies, every year or two until Little Canada stretches from coast to coast to coast.”
He continued: “When Little Canada is complete, we will represent all 13 provinces and territories. From the shores of the East Coast to the mountains in the West and up to the tundra of the North, Little Canada will touch every part of Canada, its beauty and natural diversity.”
“It’s not necessarily that any area is less known then another,” Phillipson observed, “it has to do with people not having the opportunity to visit other parts of Canada. Canada is so massive, there is so much to explore and experience that it’s hard to do in a lifetime. We hope that our experience offers visitors the opportunity to learn the many amazing things about Canada under one roof.”