Monday, October 9, 2017

Magic Kingdom 2017 Plan: A Realistic Approach

Today is Part 1 of my new plans for the Walt Disney World Resort. These are my for fun, hypothetical plans for how I would expand and improve the 4 parks of the Resort. I last published plans for these parks 2 and a half years ago, and a lot has changed. New attractions have opened and are coming soon to the parks, and I think I have improved as a designer as well. Plus the maps are a jump in quality.

For each of the parks, I am actually planning to do multiple versions that explore different goals. At the least, I plan to do a realistic plan that looks at what I think could really be done in the next few years and a dream buildout plan where I go full bluesky with no limits.

This first post is the realistic approach to the Magic Kingdom. The corresponding dream plan will follow in just a week or two. There's some elements from this plan that will be repeated there, but plenty of new as well. So let's jump into what I am proposing for the immediate future of the Magic Kingdom.

Including the real things that have been announced, this plan features 13 additions or changes on a variety of scales. In this plan, I really tried to focus on adding or refurbing, not removing attractions unless they are already on the decline. And these are all things that I think could really happen. 

First, outside the park, I show an expanded Monorail Station. The Monorails and the rest of the transportation system from the TTC to the park have somewhat of a capacity and reliability problem. An obvious solution is new Monorails that are larger and longer to hold more guests. I show the station being extended by one car length for this hypothetical updated system. Transportation is a huge focus right now and this seems like a great first step to work out this problem. 

Inside the park, the upcoming Main Street Theater is shown on the East Side Street. The theater shown is the same size and scale as the Hyperion in California Adventure. 

In the Hub, I have replaced the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant with a new Table Service/Club 33 style restaurant, called Walt's. The architecture is altered to place the restaurant in Main Street, not Tomorrowland. The facade is loosely inspired by the Saratoga Bottling Plant in Saratoga Springs, New York, the city that inspired the architecture style of the parks Main Street. The rooms are based on the history and lands of the park, and the main room overlooks the Hub with prime views to the castle. We know that the parks are wanting to add Club 33 style locations and more high value dining, and this is an unused prime space, so this seems like an obvious addition to me. 

Moving to Tomorrowland, the Tron ride is shown adjacent to Space Mountain. In this plan, I suggest refurbing the existing Autopia with electric vehicles, which would be an improvement in efficiency and long term cost, plus improve the surrounding environment by eliminating the gas smell and loud noise. This is something that seems like an obvious long term benefit if the Autopia is to existing long term. 

To replace the basically dead Stitch attraction, my plan proposes restoring the guest favorite Alien Encounter, reworked to be somewhere between the two versions on the intensity scale. I never saw the original, but I know it was popular and scary and would be celebrated if brought back. This would be a relatively easy restoration, because so much of the infrastructure is still intact between versions. 

The major addition to the land in my plan is a new dark ride based on Big Hero 6 to replace Carousel of Progress. This is the best remaining expansion space on this side of the park, so realistically, I think it will eventually be taken at the expense of the attraction currently there. I still believe the best plan for the Carousel of Progress is for it to be relocated to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The new dark ride could be based in a science showcase setting, which would fit into Tomorrowland well. Using the futuristic science and tech frame to get into the attraction, it could then expand into a more adventurous story about the Big Hero 6 team using the technology of the future. The science showcase area could also feature a new meet and greet with the team and Baymax, relocated from EPCOT. We know that there is the goal to add more IPs to the parks, and this is one that actually could fit well in Tomorrowland, so I think this is a great solution to expand the land. 

In Fantasyland, there is not much space for easy additions. Plus, it is still relatively fresh from the recent Fantasyland Forest Addition. The one addition I have in this plan is a new circus themed dark ride to the north of the land. This would only require shifting the backstage road and relocating the meet and greets in the current tent. The new attraction entrance and queue would be in that tent and the meet and greets would be in the unused small tent to the right. The ride would be a Mickey led trip through the wonders of the circus, with a variety of characters performing acts. This is of course based on the never realized dark ride developed for Disneyland. This is an easy expansion pad with a potential theme that we know has been developed, so I could see this happening successfully. 

Over in Liberty Square, The Hall of Presidents is refurbished into an attraction more like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The bigger addition is a Haunted Mansion themed restaurant. With the recent success of themed dining, and the huge popularity of Haunted Mansion, this seems like a completely obvious addition. I did not want to remove Columbia Harbor House for it however, so I placed it to the north of the Mansion along the river. A new path could be built along the water to the Mansion Side House, set next to the graveyard, where there is a perpetual haunted Dinner taking place. The expanded interactive crypts are removed for this to work. 

The only alteration in this plan to Frontierland is to refurb Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so it has the explosive finale from the Disneyland version. The development is already done, so I don't know why this hasn't been done. 

Last, Adventureland has the biggest addition in my proposed plan. To balance the big addition of Tron on the other side of the park, I suggest the addition of the Indiana Jones Adventure to the south expansion area of Adventureland. Again, since this is an existing attraction, the development would be minimized. And we know this is a popular and high capacity attraction that would bring the crowds and be highly successful. It would be the biggest investment of everything I have in this plan, but if done a few years after Tron, it would be a great addition to the park. The queue would weave along the Jungle Cruise river towards a temple in the jungle. Inside the cave queues would look into the jungle cruise river and feature many scenes similar to the Disneyland Version. Instead of going underneath the train tracks, here the path leads above to a camouflaged rocky bridge to the showbuilding. 

The final addition is a ropes course attraction like the one recently opened at Shanghai Disneyland. This would fit perfectly into the space adjacent to the Swiss Family Treehouse, and would be a low cost but super unique addition to the park. 

Below are some enlarged views of the additions to the park. 

Again, these are all things that I really think could happen in the next 5-10 years and would benefit the park. The dream plan that is being worked on and will be posted soon is quite a bit bigger and more ambitious. 

So while we wait for that next post, let me know what you think about this strategy of realistic and dream plans. And leave a comment about what in this plan do you most wish would really happen. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My EPCOT City Model

Here's a different kind of post.

So I like to build models. I learned to build models during my recent years in architecture school and over the 5 years, I built a lot of them. I had access to a laser cutter, so I was able to build some pretty cool things that I would never be able to do by hand. I realized before leaving that I needed to take advantage of that access and make something that I always wanted. 

So I lasercut and built a model of EPCOT City.

Why the original EPCOT City? Because besides being a legendary part of Disney history, it is a really fascinating example of urban planning theory and I often wonder if it would have actually worked. It's very closely related to the Garden City concept by Ebenezer Howard, a 19th century urban design philosophy of planned cities formed of concentric zones of use, all surrounded by a green belt. 

The overall concept was a melding of the benefits of town and country in one city. The urban core was the best of city life, and the surrounding radial parks, green belts, and suburbs allowed residents to escape and relax. The idea was that the city would be a limited size and then instead of growing, a new city would be developed nearby with all its own infrastructure and systems. The cities would then be linked into a network of equal and complimentary garden towns. A few garden cities were built, but they were never embraced on a large enough scale to really be tested or perfected, so the concept never spread.

This concept is astonishingly like at we know of the original EPCOT concept. Walt apparently looked into the research of Howard, so it is not surprising that he went this route. I believe his vision was for it to be a real scale, modern test case of his own urban city concept. It was an idealistic and utopian plan to make the perfect city, and the first was meant to be in Florida. But we know the history, and again, it has to remain just a theoretical concept. 

So that's the big reason why I am really interested in the original EPCOT City, aside from the original EPCOT Center park. It's fascinating architectural theory and a huge what if situation. 

As you know from this blog, I also like maps, so decided I wanted a map model of the original City concept. Imagineering Disney had built one a few years ago, and made a post about theirs, but that one was a bit more complicated and realistic than I wanted. I wanted something that really showcased the diagrammatic pattern of the city.

The process here was simple. I found a bunch of images online of the original city plan and various photos of the original model for reference. I then traced the plan in Autocad. There are minor discrepancies between many of the images I found online, so there's a bit of combining in some places, but what I drew is as true as I could get to the original concept.

Then I set up the plan with all the layers I would need to build the model and laser cut it. Assembly was quick as it is pretty small and formed of only a couple layers for the most of it.

The most detail is at the center of the city, with the massive enclosed core with multiple towers rising above. There's a few different versions of this area in the various images and models, but this is my interpretation of how it could have worked based on that information.

I've wondered if I should paint it, but I think I would ruin it. I think I prefer it as the diagrammatic model that shows the pattern of the city. That's the important part to me. Also, maybe I'll make a bigger and better version in the future. Tracing the file was actually the most involved part of this. The model now sits on the wall right above my desk as good inspiration. This is the only Disney related model that I have built so far, and now that I no longer have access to a laser cutter, it is a bit more difficult. But maybe there will be more one day.

What kinds of Disney related models would you want to build? I have a couple others in mind, but want to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 7, 2017

D23 Site Plans

The D23 Expo a couple of weeks ago brought a lot of exciting announcements about the future additions to the Disney Parks. It also brought a lot of confusion about where some of these additions are going to go and how they would work with the existing elements of the parks. To figure this out, I decided to try to decipher the concept art pieces that they gave us and draw my interpretations of the site plans.

Even though there were a lot of announcements, there are only 3 that would include significant changes to the site plans of the existing parks: Ratatouille in France, The Main Street Theater, and TRON in Tomorrowland. The rest are either too unclear at this point, or using existing buildings.

All three of these plans are based on my interpretations of the concept art, comparisons to existing attractions, and the hints from some of the more knowledgeable posters on Disney forums. They are probably not completely accurate, but I think they are close. Or at least as close as the concept art will really be to reality.

For the addition to France, it is pretty clear by comparing the art to the existing building that this addition will go behind the existing pavilion, saving Impressions de France and the rest of the current country. If you need proof, look at the back of the pavilion in 3D in Google Maps, and then look at the art above. The access would be around the side of the pavilion, along the waterway, leading to a new tree lined street and courtyard. At least this is what the art show. It makes sense to make this back side nicer because it will be visible from the new Skyliner gondola system. 

The addition appears to include new facades along the backside of the existing pavilion, the main attraction, and some small covered pavilions on the opposite side of the courtyard. It looks like the attraction will not include the attached restaurant or the rest of the facade from the Paris original, which makes sense for the already dining dense pavilion. 

Other things of note: there is an existing electrical transformer pad right in the middle of this area, but I think that it will be incorporated into the new construction. That is the walled in rectangle just by the attraction entrance in my plan which I think will be disguised with facades to blend in. You can see a mass in the same space in the concept art. The covered path exit from the attraction passes just by it and to the larger covered pavilion, which could maybe be the gift shop. 

Also, the concept art shows the Eiffel Tower moving, but I don't think that is actually going to happen. It may look a little weird in this addition though because the perspective will be all off.

The Main Street Theater is a bit more straightforward. Although many suggested that this was replacing the Town Square Theater and Tony's, there have been enough people online say that this is not the case, and that it will go off of the Main Street bypass and connected to Center Street. 

I copied the same size theater as the Hyperion at California Adventure for this site plan and altered it to match the facade of the art. It fits perfectly with an access gate on either side. I also maintained the planted edge of the existing bypass but opened up Center Street to look towards the new theater facade. For crowd flow and access to the theater, I assume that this area will become a permanent pathway instead of a controlled bypass, but I don't know if that would also mean that we would get more substantial facades on the backside of the existing Main Street Buildings. I didn't draw them with new facades, but I could believe it. 

TRON in Tomorrowland is the largest of the new site plans. The entire showbuilding sits beyond the train tracks and fits into the remaining space by Space Mountain perfectly. The art shows the canopy spanning over the train tracks and sitting just next to the existing Speedway. The art actually shows the speedway with a different track layout, but I assumed that it was just an artistic mistake, not that the attraction was actually changing. 

It looks like escalators take guests up to a raised path above the train track and then into the attraction showbuilding, which is an exact copy of the one in Shanghai. The access to this new area is to the side of the arcade/exit building of Space Mountain, which really looks like it could be a pinch point to get to such a major E ticket, so it will be interesting to see how that works out. 

We will see in a couple years how close I am. Even though I feel like I matched the concept art as well as possible, there is a good chance that things will change in the 3+ years before these open, so the site plans may end up being completely different.

As for what posts are next, these site plans are the first step for me in drawing new baseplans for the Walt Disney World Resort parks. Amazingly, the existing plans that I have been using as the start for my designs were drawn about 7 years ago, so they are both out of date and incredibly inaccurate. I can now draw more detailed and true to life plans. So that is what I am working on right now, which will lead to new versions of all 4 parks sometime this fall.