Monday, April 23, 2018

How I Make My Posts: The Design Process

Last year I wrote a post about the technology process of how I make my posts, specifically the park maps.

I had said then that the eventual plan was to do a part 2 to go over the design aspect of the maps. And now so many months and many projects later, I have gotten back to that post.

This is going to be a bit different than the last one though just because of how technology is precise but design is subjective. I can't say that there is a right way to do any of this. And it even feels a little weird for me to say that I have any kind of authority to talk about how to design as someone without real training and doing this just for fun. But I'll try to share some ideas.

So what I am going to do is just describe what I do and what I think about with my maps, not the end all guide to how to design a theme park. If you want to know that, start turning to many many books on the subject and all the real experts. The following steps and tips are just some of the things I have picked up from both my architecture school training, all the books on the subject, and things I have just figured out as I went along.

To walk through this, I'm using the last post, the Hollywood Studios Plan, as the main example, so it helps if you've already looked at that and are familiar with what I tried to do.

First step for this plan and for all the expansion plans for existing parks is to identify the areas for potential expansion or replacement. Anything that I think might be worth improving or changing. I need to get an idea of what I have to work with before really starting. Here's an image of when I diagrammed that out for Hollywood Studios. Obviously a lot of space to work with in this case, but in others I get as specific as individual attractions that I think could go.

Diagram of potential expansion area

Once I see the potential space, I start to put a plan together for what lands or big moves I want to make. This doesn't happen for all parks but most have included at least one new land or big addition.

In the case of this park, I knew I was going for the obvious Marvel, Pixar, and Animation trio to be my big additions, so this was not that difficult compared to other parks. Along with this step of figuring out the lands, I also try to figure out the idea of the park, the concept that I am aiming for. Knowing my goals early helps the decision process for what big moves to make. In the case for this park, the idea was obvious, but for a park like EPCOT for instance, this was a crucial step. I needed to make the decision about the tone and style at the start before getting detailed.

Then in cases where I am adding new lands, I start to rough in where the new lands will go. This step requires me to try a bunch of different options, but because I am just doing quick studies, it does not take much time. Things to consider include how the lands will work with existing attractions, how much space I anticipate needing for the land, the flow between lands, and the goals I have for the park. It doesn't have to be binding, I changed the diagram below a little after getting started, but the general guiding idea still worked.

Rough layout of how the lands could fit together

Important in this step is to consider the traffic flow through the park and the general form of the pathways. Here is where I start to figure out if I can work in a hub and spoke plan or a loop or something else. This shows how I was seeing the loop plan that this park developed. Well, loop with some offshoots to the right.

Diagram of main pathway

The next really big step is to start to work out the attractions list. This takes some time and is basically always a different process for each park. Sometimes I am trying to pick out attraction concepts to replace a specific attraction, sometimes I am picking out attractions to develop a whole land from scratch, and often it is both. This step really happens at the same time as the last, laying out the lands, as I think about the amount of space each land should need.

I try to work out a full list of all the attractions I want to add, both by theme and ride system, to start. The types of ride systems is something I really focus on, trying to bring balance of types of rides to the park. I like each park to have some big E ticket rides, some coasters, some classic dark rides, some flatrides, and some unique elements. I really try to make sure I don't end up with a park of 80% dark rides. Some times I will actually make a list of the types of rides I want to add before even thinking about the themes or characters. In the case of this park, I made a list of ride systems and a list of themes and then worked through many options of bringing the lists together until I was happy with the direction I was going. I used this same process with EPCOT, where I was adding many attractions. I may revisit the land layouts once this list is together to make sure it all looks like it will work.

At this point I have the ideas for the lands and the attractions and I have not started drawing anything yet. Its all in lists and diagrams.

Once I am settled on the plan, I start the drawing file for the new park plan. First step is to delete everything that I plan to demolish and start to look at what I have to work with. I also start copying in attractions from other parks that are either clones or similar to what I am adding. These are to help judge the amount of space needed early on. You can see here that I copied in Pirates, Forbidden Journey, Haunted Mansion, Pooh, and some flatrides. That's a pretty good group to show different attraction scales. Large boat ride, big E Ticket, moderate size dark ride, small dark ride, spinner. I can get a lot of reference from a group like that.

Park in early progress

I now start to really get into laying out the lands. This begins really with a lot of placeholder boxes and text to start to shape the space. I want to see how the elements of the land will relate to each other and the existing park before really putting anything permanent. For this park, the shot below shows that early step for the Marvel land. Bonus, you can see when I was exploring including a giant helicarrier in the land. This is like how I blocked out the lands of the park to start, now I block out each individual land, getting more focused each step.

Diagramming out a land

One thing I will frequently do that I didn't do on this park is actually do some diagrammatic drawing on a blank site plan. These examples were done with a digital tablet. I usually do this when I am starting completely fresh with a park or a land. Without context to start to work from, like existing buildings and attractions, I have a lot more options of how the land develops. So it helps to really quickly sketch through a lot of plans to explore relationships, sightlines, scales. Here are two examples, from Beastly Kingdom and the park I did for WDWmagic forum last year. It's messy sketching, but helps me think through issues before I make them permanent.

Beastly Kingdom diagram sketch

WDWMagic forum park diagram sketch

Once I am happy with a layout, I start to draw the buildings and roads and other elements. Still starting rough and boxy, but that is all I need to explore the way the land could develop. At this point, the process is just refinement and adding detail. I don't work straight through from diagram to finished product at once. Its really rounds of detail as I get more comfortable with what I have. And I may get to the point that I decide to start over with a land once I discover something in how I am drawing it.

Eventually, I am happy with the layout and the buildings and add final details. Rooflines, planted areas, trees, other kinds of landscape features. That really helps sell it as an aerial, not a diagram. Then I reach the finished product.

Land in progress of refinement

As I design and refine, there a many things I consider, but here are a couple of the most important.

Sightlines are incredibly important, both in making sure that you see what you should and that you don't see what you shouldn't. The main use that I consider is how sightlines can draw guests towards an element and how sightlines can create a sequence of movement. I have talked about both of these ideas in the past in short essays on this blog, found here. There are three ideas I focus on with this.

First, a big goal is to create a sequence of interesting landmarks or elements that guests want to walk towards and explore. And then once they get to that element, there is another element that keeps you moving deeper and deeper into the park.

With sightlines, I also want to make sure that attraction entrances and major elements are placed so that they are the view terminus to a path instead of being on the side of a path so that they are emphasized. This is a Space Mountain vs Stitch Great Escape situation. One you walk towards and is much more popular, and one you walk by and may not notice.

And I also want to use sightlines to keep you from seeing something until guests get to a particular reveal moment, like the train station tunnels hiding the castle, or in the case of this park, the tunnels that hide views into Galaxy's Edge, Toontown, and Pixar. In all of those cases, guests can see into the tunnel and see that there is something beyond, but can't get the full picture until you enter, moving guests forward. In Pixar Place, you can see the start of Monstropolis through the tunnel straight ahead, but are blocked from seeing Monsters Inc. until you are in the land.

Considering scale is also important. There is less of a rule here or guidelines to follow besides just that I try to be conscious of fitting into the scale of the context. Like I said, I considered building a giant helicarrier for the marvel land, but it would overpower Hollywood Boulevard and the center of the park, which would hurt the overall park. The new element should naturally fit in to the land and park. Unless of course it is meant to stand out, and then playing with scale can be useful, like how Pandora is over scale to the park, making it even more impressive and other wordly.

For an example in this park concept, I decided to scale down the rockwork of Radiator Springs compared to the California version because it is the backdrop to a much smaller and more intimate land, and I did not want it to be overtly visible from the other Pixar mini lands. Original Radiator Springs would be visible from the whole park, but that would not work.

Compression and expansion is a frequent tool as well and is basically the idea of alternating the experience of space to create transition, sequence, and enclosure. I wrote about that too in one of the essays linked above. Among the benefits are that compression and release encourages movement as you feel the need to continue to expanded areas, like the narrow Main Street funneling you towards the open hub. Also, the technique can create "rooms" out of the open park, better creating individual themed worlds. That was the idea for the individual worlds in Pixar Place. Create compression moments between the areas and then expand to a wider specific world.

Last element to think about is how the lands and spaces of the park are connected. I look at the node diagram of the main gathering spaces and pathways of the park to see how they flow and how they balance. You don't want many dead end nodes or areas that are too dense with pathways. And you want the pathway network to be clear and obvious. Guests shouldn't get lost or stuck in one area of the park. Ideally, you want the hub to be the core connecting zone of the park that your nodes branch off from in a simple diagram.

Node diagram of the park

So this post is a really quick guide to my process and what I think about. For those of you who make your own projects, I hope this helps and I also hope that you find your own best way to work, because not all of us will have the same process. Ask questions in the comments if you have any.

I am currently starting work on the Animal Kingdom plan for this series. Hope to have it for next month, but no guarantee. 

Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Disney's Hollywood Studios 2018 Plan

Next up in the series of plans for the current Walt Disney World Parks is a dream plan for the park currently known as Hollywood Studios.

This follows up my pair of plans for the Magic Kingdom and a trio of plans for EPCOT, posted in January. 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.

While I have done multiple versions of plans with the last two parks, this park just gets one dream version. The reason I am not doing a realistic plan like I have typically done is because I feel like the projects that are already happening, Galaxy's Edge, Toy Story Land, and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, are likely enough for the next couple years. I don't imagine any other large additions in the immediate future after all this is done. Unless of course Galaxy's Edge causes such crowd control problems that they immediately need more interesting capacity in the park to draw guests away. But I'm going with the assumption that the real life plans are enough for a realistic plan.

So that means that I am just going to be presenting my dream plan for the park, what I would like to happen in the years after the current phase of expansion, even if its a bit ambitious and unlikely.

Though I will say that because of the nature of the studios park model and the fact that I really entirely focused on IPs and franchises, I think this is far less unlikely than my all original EPCOT dream plan. I really tried to look at properties and concepts that would actually be popular enough to lead to being included in an expanded park.

Before getting to the specifics, I'll start with the structure of the park, both physically and logically.

Many think the existing park is confusing. The layout is irregular because it was not meant to all be a public theme park. It does not follow the standard hub and spoke style, or really any other style.

It seems to me that the park is in the process of changing that with the two big lands that are being added. Instead of fitting into the spiderweb structure of the current park, the new lands fit into a clear loop. One entrance on either side, lands connected end to end. If that was expanded to the rest of the park, which I think it can, the park layout could end up being a bit clearer. It's still not a perfect path, but closer, so I followed this concept with the lands I added.

For the logical structure of the park, I also followed the system the new lands are setting up. These are highly immersive single setting lands, which is the new style for theme parks. Whether or not you think that is a good idea in general, it definitely works in a studio park setting, so I went with it. But I also wanted to explore how these diverse single setting lands could tie together into a bigger setting and transition across the park, so that became a goal.

Also, I should mention that I decided to approach this with reality with respect to the Marvel situation. I only wanted to use properties and characters that Disney can actually use right now. That was of course limiting, but I wanted to lean into it.

And last, with respect to the types and amounts of attractions, I decided to go for fewer attractions overall but attractions that are of bigger scale instead of going for more attractions that are smaller scale. The movie theme for the park and the comparison to the two mega Star Wars attractions means that I think it would be more important to do big and exciting and really immersive attractions instead of doing more lesser quality attractions. So in my plan, the total count for the park is still below the other park totals even though it definitely is jump up from the current park.

I will start with a diagram map of the lands so you can understand the loop pattern that I talked about.

And here's the map with all the text labels. For reference, CS means counter service, TS means table service.

The entrance are core of the park remain the same in this plan, with the addition of Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. This is the ideal view of golden age Hollywood, leading towards the Chinese Theater at the center of the park. At this center point, the park experience branches in opposite directions, left and right from the center, beginning the formal loop that makes up most of the park. Technically, the area of Echo Lake is absorbed into this land, no longer standing as its own area. The path branch from the hub towards the current ABC Commisary is closed as as backstage area to clarify the main pathway into the land on that side, forcing guests to take the path on along the lake.

In addition to the Mickey ride, there is one other attraction in this central area. Replacing the Frozen sing along is a new version of the Cinemagic film from Paris, filling the need in the park to represent the history and importance of cinema. Since The Great Movie Ride is gone, I think the park needs something like this to reinforce the core concept at the heart of the park.

Moving on to the left of this entry/hub land and passing Echo Lake, guests enter the first big new land of the park: Marvel City. We also leave Hollywood and enter a newly defined New York area, the natural setting for this land. The background trees of Echo Lake become a Central Park like area, bounded on all sides by the facades of the city. The land extends all the way back to where Grand Avenue starts, including the former ABC Commissary. The new construction also means that the 50's Prime Time Cafe and Tune in Lounge is removed, but I think that is a concept that should be recreated at Disney Springs.

Starting on the left side of the land and the central park, the first big attraction is marked by Dr. Strange's iconic Sanctum Sanctorum. The attraction inside is a kuka arm motion dark ride across space and time. I feel like the motion and the disorientation possible with the ride system could play into the theme really well and create a mind bending experience. The queue takes you through the entry hall and the gallery space of the sanctum before you step right through a portal ring in a preshow room and travel to another dimension for your training session.

Next, at the rear of the land is an attraction that is a bit undefined at this point, because the movie for the character has not come out yet. Captain Marvel is one of the few characters that can be used in the resort, and I am making an assumption that it will be a big success, so I have called out a space for this character in this land. My vision for the attraction is a coaster/shooting dark ride hybrid, which I think could work for the character since the story is apparently about the Kree-Skull War. Sounds like something with a lot of fighting that our ride could join in on. 

The last attraction of the land is a rethemed Star Tours, now set as a downtown SHIELD base. The exterior is built up as a modern and high tech building, fitting the style of SHIELD, and is topped with a hangar and landing platform with a full size Quinjet. The attraction inside is a flight on a SHIELD jet through the city, featuring Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Falcon. This is where the inability to use many of the more high profile characters is a disappointment, because this could be much more with the main characters involved. But with so few that are available to Disney, this is the best I could do. 

On the right of the land is a side street that leads towards the Commissary and the path towards Grand Avenue. The buildings here hold retail and the Commissary is rethemed as a classic New York City diner with a super hero twist. Pictures and news clippings and memorabilia on the walls document the various Marvel characters of the city, including as many as Disney can include and many that are just comic characters, not movie characters. The Sci Fi Dine In is rethemed to be a restaurant in an old New York City Broadway house, showing movie clips that feature the city. Same concept, new setting.

The streets of Marvel New York transition to Grand Avenue, which is also rethemed to now be set in New York. The idea is that this half of the park is all set in New York City so there is some continuity. That shouldn't be that difficult since the facades were meant to be New York anyway. This street serves the purpose of primary entrance and waiting area for Galaxy's Edge. Muppet Studios sits just off the street and is expanded with one more attraction at the rear of the courtyard. Now that the Great Movie Ride is gone, there's no problem to build its Muppet themed parody. This would be a classic omnimover dark ride through the active Muppet Studio where plenty will go wrong. Elsewhere in the land, Mama Melrose is rethemed with a Muppets concept and live entertainment is added in the windows adjacent to Pizzarizzo, like the current show in Liberty Square. The tour bus for Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem is parked below in the courtyard to provide some musical accompaniment for the entertainment. The Muppet Labs show is also relocated here to centralize this land as the hub for Muppet activity.

Galaxy's Edge follows this land, and is presented as my best guess of how it will end up. It sure is a big land, but I have to assume it will be great and worth the space and the wait for it. I also didn't even attempt to represent the adjacent hotel or how that will be connected. I will update in the future as more information comes out.

For the transition to Toy Story Land, I have added a tunnel element, themed to an abandoned structure on the Star Wars side, and a cardboard toybox on the Toy Story side. Is it too on point to make it a Star Wars playset box? The land remains as is, except for the entrance on the other side. Instead of leading towards the path along the side of Midway Mania, it now leads into the expanded Pixar Place land. The transition is also through a large cardboard box tunnel that is wedged through an opening in the fence that borders the land.

To describe the rest of Pixar Place, I am going to start back at the hub by the Chinese Theater. This larger Pixar land takes up all the space that was formerly Animation Courtyard, the Animation building, and the backstage parking deck. Space is a premium in the park, so all those backstage functions needed to be relocated to make room for this land. I wanted to make sure that this Pixar land had real variety, not just Toy Story, which I feel is a little big for the limited space of the park. I ended up deciding on adding 3 more smaller areas to the existing largerToy Story Land: Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, and Cars. These were the properties that I felt deserved to be in parks but were not included somewhere else in my complete set of dream plans.

The path from the hub leads straight towards what was Animation Courtyard and the large archway and walls are completely removed. City street facades that could blend into the Hollywood style form the edge of the land, but the street branches in two directions into the different themed areas. The current Playhouse Disney theater is rethemed as Pixar Studio, where inside there is an interactive exhibit type space about making animated films and a theater showing the shorts, plus meet and greets for other characters aside from the 4 properties selected here.

The street continuing straight ahead leads into Monstropolis. The city is formed of a couple intersecting streets and the Monsters Inc factory beyond. The streets include a variety of themed retail, a snack location with monster frozen drinks, and two small counter service locations. One is a monsters farmers market with monster themed traditional meals and the other is Harryhausen's, serving sushi and Asian specialties. 

Inside the factory building is a large suspended family coaster dark ride. This would be a large and heavily themed E ticket ride through the world of the factory, ending with the door vault scene.

Back by Pixar Studio, the road to the left leads into Metroville from the world of the Incredibles, specifically the Metroville History Museum and an adjacent city park. This isn't a setting from the film, but I am expanding the world by suggesting that the Incredibles are being honored with an exhibit about their superhero feats after they saved the city from the Omnidroid. The logic here may change after the upcoming sequel is released. I wanted to do something besides another generic city though and include some greenery, so this plan made sense to me.

The main attraction in this area is a large mini-kuka dark ride where we are lucky enough to get the chance to follow the Incredibles out on a night of crime fighting. Across the road is a second attraction, a spinner themed to the remains of the Omnidroid. After the Incredibles defeated it, the city repurposed it as an art piece in the park.

Paths from both Metroville and Monstropolis lead into the third and final area of the addition, Radiator Springs. Because there is less space, this is not a full recreation like in DCA. It is instead just the four buildings at the main intersection, plus the town hall, which is the entrance to the main attraction, and a much smaller rockwork landscape behind. The main attraction is a dark ride similar to Radiator Springs Racers, but without the racing element. The ride starts with an outdoor section behind the town hall, then inside the building for a drive through the town, meeting all the locals.

Flo's V8 Cafe is a similar counter service restaurant to the California version and the rest of the buildings are retail.

From Radiator Springs, the path to Toy Story Land leads into a rockwork cave and then out in the oversized lawn.

The path structure through Pixar Place therefore takes you though either Monstropolis or Metroville, then by Radiator Springs, and then into Toy Story Land and on to Galaxy's Edge, maintaining a rough loop layout.

The last additions to the park are down Sunset Boulevard, which remains set in Los Angeles. Structurally, that means that the right side of the hub is Los Angeles, the left side is New York, and the back of the park is fantasy settings.

The big addition here is a brand new land replacing the Beauty and the Beast theater and all the land behind it. This is Toontown, based on the version from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and is meant to be set adjacent to golden age Hollywood. This is where every animated character can live in this park, no matter the theme or setting, because by definition of being a toon, it works here. This is the perfect conceit for this park and really should have been done already.

Toontown is accessed through a pair of tunnels off of Sunset, transitioning to the fantasy toon city where everything is exaggerated and comical. The land is formed of a main street that branches and rejoins at the far end, where the entrance to the Fantasmic theater is located. This is the densest land with attractions in this park, partly because I think of this as the parks Fantasyland, so it has some smaller scale dark rides. It also has a variety of themed retail and plenty of spaces for meet and greets with literally any animated character.

The first attraction on the right as you enter is set in Scrooge McDuck's Bank and is a classic suspended dark ride themed to Ducktales, featuring Donald and his nephews on an adventure. Across the street is a Toontown apartment building, which is the primary permanent meet and greet facility for the park. Mickey, Minnie, and a rotation of a couple other most popular characters could have multiple rooms in this building, all well themed to the toontown style.

The next attraction down on the right is a toontown taxi tour attraction that is kind of a overview trip through the city on a wild taxi dark ride. It features a lot of cameos from all kinds of characters as we race through different settings, like the streets, a toon comedy club, a theater, an apartment building, and a market, all filled with gags.

Farther down at the end of the street is a small toon park, which includes a carousel with a variety of animated animals, and a garden area for meet and greets. Next to it is the entrance to Fantasmic, which is now the Toontown Amphitheater. This seems like a natural relationship to set the events of Fantasmic inside toontown, explaining all the variety of characters and events. It would make sense to do a major refurb and rewrite of the show with this new setting to modernize it.

The last attraction is the largest, and set inside the Sorcerers Workshop. This is a boat dark ride using the Shanghai Pirates system and takes us through the Sorcerers Apprentice Fantasia scene and then uses that to lead us into a couple of scenes from other animated films. Similar to Philharmagic, but without the music concept.

The last additions to the park are back out on Sunset Boulevard, and in a way represent the very last major Disney studio that has not been included so far. That is live action that is not Star Wars or Marvel or Animated remakes. To be honest though, there is not a ton of options left. Original live action movies have really struggled in the last many years, so not many great choices for the park. So that means that the remainder of Sunset Boulevard is speculative for future films in the live action studio.

First, I think it makes total sense for Disney to eventually attempt a live action Tower of Terror inspired movie that the attraction could then relate to. I know they want to lose the Twilight Zone attachment so they do not have to license it anymore. I think it could be the perfect property to try to turn into a successful movie, especially if they went a little more PG-13 and scary with it to match the tone of the ride. So I am hypothetically assuming that happens and that it is able to work in theme of golden age Hollywood.

And then for Rockin Roller Coaster, I decided to retheme it to another potential film that is also set in golden age Hollywood: The Rocketeer. I know this is a reboot that has been in the works for a while, so I am hoping it will happen and that this retheme could work, just because it would fit the setting so well. The attraction could be set in some kind of workshop where we take a ride with the Rocketeer as he or she learns how to fly.

Next to The Rocketeer, the current Sunset Showcase is rethemed on the exterior to the South Seas Club from the original movie, and is now used as a table service club style restaurant and for special events. This ties the area together well to end Sunset Boulevard.

Last, back on Sunset Boulevard, half of the existing outdoor counter service is replaced with a new building that holds retail and an indoor counter service location.

And that completes the additions to the park in this hypothetical dream plan. But that is not all that I have for this post.

I'm going to do something I haven't done before and mention a couple of ideas that I had that I almost included in this plan but decided against for various reasons. I am doing this because I think they are actually pretty cool ideas and I was seriously tempted to do them.

First, while I was thinking about how much space Toy Story Land takes up, I strongly considered retheming part of the land to another Pixar property so that I could fit more characters into the Pixar Place land I defined. What I almost did was retheme the new coaster to a Bugs Life, making it into Flik's Flying Machine traversing through the overgrown grass of a Bugs Life themed area. The track would be hidden as best as possible with built up rockwork and vegetation. I thought it could blend well up against the oversized Toy Story Land. But I decided against this just because it made more sense to leave the brand new land alone for now and just add more Pixar to the available land next to it. 

Second, I strongly considered making a drastic move for the Marvel land and building it all inside a giant to-scale helicarrier that would replace basically all of Echo Lake. I just thought it would be super cool and impressive to make up for the fact that the characters available for use would not be. But it became a scale and sightline issue. To make it seem "realistic" it would have to be massive, and if it was massive it would overtake the view from Hollywood Boulevard. And if I made it small enough to not stand out, it would be comically small. So it ended up being just an idea. 

Next, I had a different idea to retheme Rockin Roller Coaster: Wreck it Ralph. The vehicles could be rethemed as the train between the games and the queue and load would be inside Game Central Station. Guests would then be launched into the worlds of the game, flying through a variety of super colorful game worlds and transitioning through portal tunnels. I thought it would work perfectly. But I decided against it just because it would end up sort of standing alone and out of theme on a street themed to Hollywood. And I wanted to try to define a bit of a live action area, so decided to go with the Rocketeer. 

And last, the big one that I was most tempted to go with. A retheme of Tower of Terror to something Marvel, but not Mission Breakout. Instead, I seriously considered retheming the tower as Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. So much made sense. Dr. Strange is master of space and time, so it made sense in a way to be in golden age Hollywood. The exterior of the Sanctum is elegant and photogenic, so would not be an eye sore at the end of the street. The up/down/forward/backward makes perfect sense in the space and time bending story. It would be something new and exciting for the park, and it would be all Disney, not an outside property. But it would be at the sake of the Tower of Terror, which was just honestly something I wasn't willing to do. I like the existing attraction too much. But I thought it was a cool idea, so that is why I am talking about it.

So that is what I have for this post, which although is being posted in April, was meant to be the post for March. Sticking to my goal of one post a month, that means that I'm planning to have another post up later this month, and it is likely going to be a follow up to my "How I Make My Posts" instructions, this time going over the things I think about when designing these plans, using this park as an example. 

So check back soon and follow me on Twitter if you don't already to keep up with what is coming next. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

My WDW Attraction Rankings

After my trip to Walt Disney World to start the year, I started debating with myself what my favorite attraction in each park was. So I decided to sit down and formally decide by making a list of attraction rankings.

That was obviously a challenge. There's both a lot of attractions and a lot of ways to consider the relative value of each attraction. I would like to say that this ranking is super scientific and perfectly accurate, but really it was a bit more instinctive based on how I feel after the most recent trip. But there were a couple big things I considered: if it is fun, if it is innovative or unique, and if its theme fits its location. So a good attraction could be boosted by being one of a kind, or penalized if I think the theme doesn't work well. I think that forms a pretty good general value system for attractions.

So I'll go through each of the 4 parks and then do an overall ranking of my top attractions. Let's go.

Magic Kingdom
  1. Tomorrowland Speedway - It's loud, takes up a lot of space, doesn't look very interesting, and this version doesn't make much sense in Tomorrowland. Easy choice for last place for me. 
  2. Astro Orbiter
  3. Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! Parade
  4. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor - This one gets majorly penalized for being in Tomorrowland. 
  5. Philharmagic - Would have been higher in the past, but the render and 3D quality is so far behind everything else in the resort just because of its age. Needs an update badly. 
  6. Magic Carpets of Aladdin - This starts a chunk of flat ride and kids attractions that aren't exactly bad, but just not interesting for me. Something has to be near the bottom. 
  7. Barnstormer Starring The Great Goofini
  8. Mad Tea Party - Not a fan of spinning attractions, so I've never even been on this. 
  9. Prince Charming Regal Carousel
  10. Dumbo The Flying Elephant
  11. The Hall of Presidents
  12. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  13. Enchanted Tales with Belle - What is just a meet and greet is surprisingly high on this list for me, and I think it is entirely because of the awesome Lumiere animatronic. 
  14. Under The Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid
  15. It's a Small World - The first of a couple attractions that would have been higher before I rode their twin at Disneyland. 
  16. Festival of Fantasy Parade - Really solid daytime parade, and way better than what it replaced. Sad though that this is the only parade I can rank in the whole resort. 
  17. Tom Sawyer Island
  18. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin - Here's a real challenging one. Fun ride, innovative for its time as the first shooter in the resort, but I don't think it fits in Tomorrowland. Hard to balance that, so it ends up middle of the pack. 
  19. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  20. Liberty Square Riverboat 
  21. Walt Disney World Railroad
  22. Peter Pan's Flight - A classic that gets a lot of points for its unique ride system and history. Always try to ride once, but I don't think I would ever actually wait in line for it. 
  23. Swiss Family Treehouse - I'm sure very few people would have the treehouse this high on the list, but I love it and I think its because it combines a bunch of my favorite things: Adventureland, explorable themed design, architecture, and great views of the park below. I'll always climb the treehouse at least once. 
  24. Jungle Cruise
  25. Country Bear Jamboree - Country Bears is so simple but still really entertaining. Higher than I would have expected before this trip. 
  26. Carousel of Progress
  27. Happily Ever After 
  28. Splash Mountain
  29. Pirates of the Caribbean - Another drop versus a pre-Disneyland trip list. 
  30. The Tiki Room
  31. Big Thunder Mountain - Challenging to decide between these coasters. I think Big Thunder might be a better coaster by itself, but the theme and the dark factor of Space Mountain pushed it ahead. 
  32. Space Mountain
  33. Tomorrowland Transit Authority - The peoplemover was close to being top pick for me. I think it says a lot that it was even in contention. But really its so good as everyone should already know. 
  34. Haunted Mansion - Top place for the Magic Kingdom for a ton of reasons. The effects were innovative for their time and still impressive, the theme is thorough and well done, and it is fun. 

  1. Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival - This is just kind of sad that this counts as an attraction. 
  2. Circle of Life - It was open when I was there, so I counted it. But I think I only ever saw it once about 10 years ago. So no loss. 
  3. Journey Into Imagination With Figment - Its sad to put this so low, but it really just isn't that great when you know what used to be there.
  4. Innoventions
  5. The Seas with Nemo and Friends - I miss the hydrolaters. 
  6. O Canada
  7. Reflections of China
  8. Turtle Talk with Crush
  9. Frozen Ever After - Good ride, great animatronics, bad location. So a ranking near the middle.
  10. Grand Fiesta Tour
  11. Test Track - I think Test Track 1.0 would have been higher, which is weird to me. Objectively, 2.0 is better themed and better fits the tone of the park. But I just don't think its as fun. So many blank spaces and screens and projections. Still worth it for the speed run however. 
  12. Soarin - I preferred over California. Wish they could run both. 
  13. The American Adventure
  14. Living with the Land - This is so classic EPCOT and its great that it still exists. 
  15. Mission: Space - It's probably shocking that I put this above the two heavy hitters of Future World, but I honestly think this is a better EPCOT attraction. Innovative and fun ride system tells a story that directly aligns with the concept of EPCOT. I know few will agree, but I appreciate what this attraction tries to do. 
  16. Impressions de France - Best and most timeless of the movies. I think a lot of it is because I don't have to be constantly turning to see it all. And France is a beautiful place, so that helps too. 
  17. Illuminations - Favorite nightime/fireworks show by a lot. I love that its not Disney, and that is what I am most afraid of losing when it is eventually replaced. We've already got Happily Ever After, we don't need it again in another park. 
  18. Spaceship Earth - The top spot for this park is one of the high points of Imagineering. It constantly amazing me still that they built a dark ride in a giant floating sphere, filled it with maybe the most animatronics in the resort, and it still holds up after so many years.

Disney's Hollywood Studios
  1. Star Wars: Path of the Jedi - It's just a movie trailer. 
  2. Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
  3. Star Wars Launch Bay
  4. Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage - This pair of shows are fine for what they are, but have been around unchanged for way too long. 
  5. Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  6. Jedi Training Academy
  7. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks - The only fireworks show that I am ranking that I have not actually seen. But this feels like a good place for it. 
  8. Fantasmic - After seeing Disneyland's, I feel like I can skip this in the future. 
  9. Rockin Roller Coaster
  10. Walt Disney Presents - This ranking is really based on its old version as One Man's Dream, but I think its value holds, even if just for all the cool models. 
  11. Toy Story Midway Mania
  12. Muppet Vision 3D 
  13. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - The original and still the best theme park stunt show. I think it's scale is still impressive for a theme park setting and it really is the only thing left that reflects the original park idea of putting you behind the scenes of the movie making process. 
  14. Star Tours - Even though this is an old attraction and a common ride system, points for it being one of the first and for the randomization of sequences. Adds a lot to re-ridability. 
  15. Tower of Terror - Both an incredibly fun attraction and an example of really great and thorough theming. Basically the only attraction that would make me strongly consider going to Hollywood Studios for a day right now. 

Disney's Animal Kingdom
  1. Triceratops Spin
  2. It's Tough to be a Bug
  3. Primeval Whirl - I used to think this was fun, but my memory of the last time I rode it is that it was pretty rough. Plus, penalty for the area around it. 
  4. Rakiki's Planet Watch 
  5. The Boneyard
  6. Kali River Rapids - Last couple trips have been in winter, when getting soaked was not a great idea, so I don't have the best view of this attraction. 
  7. Finding Nemo: The Musical
  8. The Oasis Animals
  9. Flights of Wonder
  10. Dinosaur - It hurts to ride this and know that it is basically the same thing as Indiana Jones. It's just so dark and rough and empty compared to the better version. 
  11. Rivers of Light - I liked it, loved the idea and the style and the music, but felt it needed something more. Still, good show and middle ranking in a strong park. 
  12. Navi River Journey - That animatronic is super great, but it is only worth like a 20 minute wait.
  13. Maharajah Jungle Trek
  14. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
  15. Festival of the Lion King - This show shouldn't be as good as it is. It's old and uses parade floats, but it is still really fun and entertaining after so long. 
  16. Discovery Island Animals - This wins among the animal trails because of the views of the Tree of Life along the way. There's some incredibly photogenic paths in this area. 
  17. Expedition Everest
  18. Kilimanjaro Safaris - Safe to say this is the most ambitious attraction in all the parks, right? So that gives it a lot of points, plus is a good attraction anyway. 
  19. Flight of Passage - I went into this trip expecting to like Flight of Passage, but didn't really think it could take the top spot. It easily did. 

Top 10 for the Overall Resort
  1. Big Thunder Mountain - I start with a trio of coasters. All really fun, all well themed, all fit really well in their land. Three really solid attractions that I absolutely have to ride each trip. 
  2. Expedition Everest
  3. Space Mountain
  4. Kilimanjaro Safaris - It just amazes me that this attraction exists. It's nearly the size of Hollywood Studios by itself and is so ambitious. I don't think this would ever be built now.
  5. Illuminations - Best way to end a night in the parks I think, and it says a lot that a fireworks show is so high on my list. 
  6. Tomorrowland Transit Authority - It's just so relaxing, and you get great views, plus it makes you feel like your a true futuristic Progress City. 
  7. Spaceship Earth - Here's a pair of really well done traditional dark rides that are the absolute best examples of the attraction type. 
  8. Haunted Mansion
  9. Tower of Terror - This is what I previously thought was my favorite of the resort, making it hard to skip the park all together this last trip. 
  10. Flight of Passage - But because this is the one attraction that even weeks later I most want to ride again, I think that means it is my favorite attraction in the resort. Really amazing overall experience that ups the bar for themed attractions. 
I think it is interesting how I ended up with one from each park in the top 4, but overall more from Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, and less from the other two parks. I foresee though that the list could change at some point in 2019.

So those are the decisions I have come to for my best attractions of the four Walt Disney World Parks and the Resort overall. 

So now that I have shared my list, what about you? Do we share any opinions about the best of the resort?