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. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sydney Disneyland Park - Collaboration with WDW Magic Imagineering Forums

This post is a little different from normal because this project is not solely my work.

Instead, this is a collaboration with a group on the WDWMagic.com Imagineering Forum, who decided to collaboratively design a new resort. Though I was not heavily involved with coming up with the concept, I shared some ideas as it went along and then offered to make a park plan for them once it was all done.

That is this post. This thread on the forum most succinctly describes the concept and all the individual attractions they designed along the way: http://forums.wdwmagic.com/threads/sydney-disneyland-resort-a-project-by-club-32.928583/

But since my process of turning their concept into a map changed a few things, I am going to give a brief text walk through to supplement what they have there. 

This is a traditional castle style park to start off the resort but there are some different lands here than other Magic Kingdom parks.



Instead of Main Street, there is Fantasia Gardens. Fantasia to some extent is an overarching concept in this park.

The entrance to the park is actually through a "concert hall" where the score is playing, leading us into the world of the film. The town square analogue is a roman forum, echoing the Greco-Roman scenes of Fantasia, but there are references to all of the segments around. Ahead, the path splits to two gardens on either side of the main corridor. And at the center of the park is a small lagoon with a continuous fountain show to the sounds of Fantasia, with an organic Fantasia themed castle beyond with a stage at the base.



Going clockwise, the first land is Pacific Wharf, based on a turn of the century San Francisco.


The Tower of Terror with an original ghostly story is the icon, sitting on a cliff over the waters edge, and city spreads out below it. It includes a Fisherman's Wharf area at the north of the land, with a walk through Museum of the Weird and some unique food options, a Chinatown area with an exciting dark ride and restaurant, a Barbary Coast street area with unique retail and a saloon, and a wild Lombard Street coaster that takes you on a street race just as an earthquake starts to hit the city. The force perspective streetscape with Lomdard Street winding down the middle forms a back berm to the land. The train around the park also passing through the scenes of this coaster.

A ferryboat makes a loop around the last portion of this land, Convict Island, and then drops you off on its dock. Based on the idea of Alcatraz, the island is an explorable play area with a lot of escape themed games and challenges. A cable car also runs through the middle of the land, and an abaondoned cable car by the wharf side barn has been turned into a taco car.



Next is Frontierland, which is a large land with a couple of different zones.


Starting at the hub is New Orleans, which includes a Princess and the Frog dark ride, Tianas Palace restaurant, and plenty of themed retail. A paddleboat sits along the river, marking the end of New Orleans and the start of a more rustic bayou section of the land, where there is a new large Splash Mountain that is pretty unique. The attraction is divided on two sides of small river, with the load and final scenes on the path side, and the mountain and main showbuilding on a island. The flume takes us under the river to start and end the ride. The actual exterior of both sections is redesigned to fit a more bayou theme instead of the red clay Georgia look of the original, so that it fits adjacent to New Orleans. There is also an adjacent nature trail area that passes through a fort and looks out to the body of water.

The last area of the land is a frontier mining town, where a small collection of buildings sit in the rocky landscape. The land includes Big Thunder Railroad, canoes that loop the island with Splash Mountain, a saloon, a ship walkthrough, a train station, and more dining and retail. The biggest attraction is a new Western River Expedition which is actually not a boat ride. The suspended conveyance mining equipment of an abandoned mine has been turned into a hanging gondala system that is now used to transport people into the hills of the mine, right across the train tracks. Guests load into the hanging cars and are carried right into the showbuilding and a trip through the spirit of the old west.



Adventureland is next, and it is a smaller land compared to the rest in the park.



There are two areas, a Pirates fort and a Polynesian Village. The Spanish fort entrance to the Pirates ride includes a table service resturant and a lounge in the caves below the fort. There is also a kids play area with a pirates ship adjacent to the fort, which has a Peter Pan theme to transition to Storybookland just across the path.

The Polynesian Village area includes a Lilo and Stitch treehouse, a large Tiki Room dark ride with the traditional theater show as the preshow, dining and retail including Dole Whips, and a Moana themed show along the river. A force perspective volcano sits above the stage where a live presentation of the story of the show takes place a few times a day. Part of the show can take place on boats in the water as well.



Storybookland is the parallel to Fantasyland and has many similar attractions. It's the largest land in the park as well. 


Behind the castle, there are a few attractions in a castle courtyard village setting. There is a large Fantasia dark ride with the Sorcerer's Apprentice, a carousel with Fantasia animals, Dumbo, and an enchanted dining room restaurant. A small Peter Pan area is along the path, with a restaurant and a larger form of the attraction that exits out on the Adventureland side by the play area.

A forest themed area is on the north side of the land, and in the heavily wooded natural areas there is a Tangled trackless dark ride, a trackless Aquatopia style canal boats ride, a princess meet and greet chateau, a Mr. Toads Wild Ride attraction, and a Casey Jr. Train that travels around the land and passes through a few attractions. There is also a unique train station that is inside the Seven Dwarfs Mine, which Casey Jr. also passes through. Last is Belle's village, which is the entrance to a Beauty and the Beast carousel show that retells the movie.

The last area is a London town square with a large Mary Poppins dark ride, a Mary Poppins themed tea cups style ride, and retail and dining.



The Shadowlands is the partner to Storybookland and is the home of the Villains of the park.



It also has a London area, a Forest area, and a Village area, directly paralleling the adjacent land. The London area is a much darker and rougher and treeless street that includes a Cruela de Vil dark ride. The Village area includes a Villains meet and greet, a dark ride through the Villains Academy, and a pair of restaurants, Gaston's Tavern nearby to Belle's Village and Ratigan's Pub by the main square.

The Forest area features an abandoned castle at the base of a mountain that the Villains have taken over. A boat ride initially starts calm but then becomes a fast paced coaster as we try to escape Chernabog who lives at the top of the mountain.



Last is Tomorrowland, which is fairly traditional.



From the Hub, the path leads to the main plaza, with the Rocket Jets raised at the center and the Peoplemover running along the edges. The plaza is raised on the second level of the land with an organic vegetated landscape below. On the edges of the plaza is a large theater space with futuristic themed shows, Space Mountain, a robotics restaurant, and a Time Machine themed theater show. Straight behind the Rocket Jets and the Plaza is the main attraction inspired by Horizons. Starting in a domed theater preshow, the attraction takes us into the possibilities of the future.

Off the plaza and along the path to the north, there is also a restaurant and a Big Hero 6 dark ride. Across the path is the transportation hub, which includes the train station and a new electric form of the Autopia that winds its way through the trees and along the lower level under the plaza.



Other notes:

The parade route goes from the gate in Shadowlands, down to the hub, around the lagoon, then up through Frontierland and towards Adventureland, and ending at the gate between Adventureland and Fantasyland.

The park could have a standard night time fireworks/projections/fountains show at the hub. There's plenty of place for fountains in this version, so the show could be heavy on that effect. Something like World of Color in the central lagoon plus castle projections and low level fireworks. I tried to give plenty of viewing space in the center of the park, so hopefully it would be realistic.

There is so much more detail and thoughts in the forum post that I linked above, including detail about most of the attractions, so go read that if you are interested. It's long, but adds more to this design.



I am really happy with this plan and think there's some great ideas in it from everyone at WDWMagic. So thanks to them for the good ideas, and thanks for reading!

Let me know what you like and what you think about this somewhat different Magic Kingdom style park!

Also, I am thinking about returning to the Walt Disney World parks for some posts in the near future now that we have heard about all the additions coming soon. I am thinking about doing realistic 50th anniversary parks plus my idealized versions of the parks that include all the new stuff coming. Let me know if that is something you want to see!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Theme Parks as Art and How They Change

So odds are good you are aware of the news from this week.

Well specifically the Pirates of the Caribbean news. In Paris, California, and Florida, the classic Auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean will be replaced with a new scene that turns the situation around and makes the Redhead a Pirate, leading a new auction of loot.

If you are in any way involved with an online Disney community, and since you are here, you likely are, then you have seen the complicated and passionate reactions. Twitter has exploded in debate, taking both sides. The Disney Parks Blog comment section is quite frustrated. And I don't even dare check the thread on the WDWMagic Forums. That's probably not a fun place right now.

There's a lot to talk about in relation to this. Why the change now? Is the new scene as good? What about all the changes Pirates has already endured over the years? Is this ruining a great attraction? Why should Pirates be politically correct? What will they change next?

I am going to talk about none of those.



I am really only interested in the debate that has come up about Theme Parks as an Art Form and what the rules are about changing that Art.

I was going to just comment on this news with some tweets, but I realized I had more to say after reading a really good blog post about this at Disney Tourist Blog. In his commentary about this news, he talks about how art doesn't change and should be "confronted on the terms of its day". I left a comment there, which I then felt I wanted to expand on, and that leads to where we are now.

The below might be a little rambly, because I am trying to assemble a complicated set of ideas into an overall argument, but it makes the point I want to share. Overall, I try to identify the characteristics of Theme Parks that make them an art for and then present my personal opinion about how that Art Form can change.



Are Theme Parks Art?

Well simple answer is yes, of course it is. Its a designed creation that is enjoyed by patrons, inspires emotional and mental reactions, and can be interpreted by the observer to understand its meaning. 

But what kind of art is the more complex question. I've seen many comparisons to paintings and movies so far. But to me, that is a too simplistic view.

Though so many of the traditional Theme Park design metaphors are based on filmmaking, there's just as much a case for theme parks relating to theater. Both in the design and how the two art forms are meant to be experienced.

A painting or a movie may be really intended to be experienced in a specific setting with a specific audience, but it can be observed as a primary document anywhere, anytime, with anyone. You can see a picture of the art or a copy of the film, and it really is the same thing however you experience it. Yes, real fine art vs a picture is different in how you can appreciate it, but the form of experience doesn't change. 

But with theater, and Theme Parks, the experience of the art has to take place in the moment, at the particular location, in the world that the artists intends. Its a live medium. Any other way you appreciate it - pictures, videos, recordings - are secondary sources of the art. A reduction in both quality and experience. This also explains why Theme Parks are so special for so many of us, regardless of how many times we've been or how many videos we've seen. The personal moment of experience is by far the most rewarding way to experience a theme park. You just have to be there.

To an extent, the metaphor also means that the effect the creation has on you is the art and the element to be appreciated, not the actual physical characteristics of the production. I don't think this is quite true for Theme Parks, because we can definitely appreciate the production design, architecture, and visual design as an art. But the effect the story has on us is just as important. 

This theater metaphor works for me to begin describing the art of parks. Really Theme Parks are their own completely unique art form but this is a good enough jumping off point. The main difference in my view is the interactive nature of the parks, but really some forms of theater do that as well. So its a solid comparison in my view. A Theme Park is like a perpetual work of theater, with the same physical elements creating a new production for new guests every day. 


Can Art Change?

This is more complicated. I've seen many jump quickly to saying that no, art is permanent and should never change. Comparisons are often made to paintings being changed or a movie being re-edited, which shouldn't really happen. I definitely agree there. However theater changes a lot and it is completely accepted. If were going with theater as the closest Theme Park analogue, then let's talk about that. 

The core elements of theater is the story and the meaning that the story is intended to convey. Originally, a production is created with an assemblage of design elements to create this meaning. These designed pieces, all themselves works of art, are put together to be understood by the cultural context of the audience for that production so that the story and meaning come through clearly.

But productions do not run forever, they close and maybe eventually are revived. It's still the same story and the same meaning, but as it is revived and readapted over the years, basically everything else is subject to change. Sets, costumes, casting decisions, even the music and order of songs and script. These changes are made to translate the original design into how the new audience understands the meaning. Or even to add new dimensions to the the process by which the audience interprets the work. Things change so that the story has the same impact for the new audience.


So if this is acceptable for theater, is it acceptable for theme parks?

My theater examples are extreme. You shouldn't redesign all the sets of a ride just because styles have changed. But at the same time, if there is an element in a ride that no longer speaks to the guest in the same way and therefore hurts the understanding of the overall meaning of the story, why not fix it. It makes a better guest experience. 

So my answer is that your shouldn't change the art of a theme park just to change it, but when change is needed to preserve the overall artistic expression of the story. The bigger art concept is more important than the elements that get you there.

Funny enough, Joe Rhode posted something about this on instagram just this week. He says that the boomboxes in the queue of Kali River Rapids were intended to show that the residents were living contemporary lives with real technology. Now it says the opposite, so they really should be replaced eventually to maintain the original concept. Even though that's a small example, that is how I feel about changing the art of Theme Parks. Do it when necessary to better the guest experience.

And the guest experience that needs to be prioritized is obviously the in person experience, not the secondary reproduction of the experience that shows up in pictures or videos or books. It's only about what you experience in the moment, not what you think you should see or what you've seen before. The normal guest does not experience an attraction with the full contextual knowledge of the attraction's history or a detailed description of how they are supposed to feel about something. Its just about what they see in the moment and what that means to them. The history element is more impactful on the secondary form of the experience, plus those of us who do know everything and ride knowing the background information.

Overall, change to theme parks attractions is going to happen because the world around us changes as well. Culture changes, norms change, and generally what guests want to see changes.

Really this has been happening for years and years, but this is the largest and most high profile case, leading to this debate. Flight to the Moon was changed to Mission to Mars because advances in the space program meant that guests no longer could understand the futuristic concept. Carousel of Progress updated its last scene for the same reason. And somewhat similarly, the original Fantasyland dark rides were all changed so that guests better understood their stories. All case where change improved the guest experience.



I want to say though that this is not me falling into the all change is good group. Definitely not. Changes made with good intentions to better the guest experience can significantly hurt the themed design concept, which as a designer, I obviously believe is crucial. Changes for the guests sake can fundamentally change the overall artistic concept, which is against everything I wrote above.

Getting specific, the rumors of what would happen to EPCOT, which maybe making guests happier quickly because of more IPs, would change the whole artistic concept of EPCOT.

Changing tower to Guardians changes the artistic concept of Hollywood Land.

But personally, changing the Auction scene does not change the concept of Pirates of Caribbean. So that's why I can accept it.



Finally, even though I said I would not talk about the specifics of this situation, some comments.

I'm not entirely sure that the change had to be made, but I am not opposed to the change because of what I said above. It's not something that exactly bothered me in the past, but I understand how it could bother others. It's still Pirates of the Caribbean to me.

Yes, its a little unfortunate that its such a recognizable scene is pretty much the most classic and historic attraction in the parks. Nostalgia is a powerful reason to be frustrated about this change and I understand it. But the parks are not stagnant representations of history like I discusses above.

The main argument though for keeping it is that the Pirates are supposed to be bad people and you are supposed to understand that in the attraction. The Auction scene is supposed to be just another example of their faults. The issue with this is that, even if this was the original intent, that's really not obvious now. We've had 5 movies now that show the Pirate life and make them the heroes of the story, guests can learn to be a pirate hourly outside the attraction, the entire gift shop sells Pirate accessories, and the general Pirate concept has been glorified throughout the parks and resorts.

Guests don't come out of that attraction wanting to be the soldiers in the fort or the noble townspeople. We all want to be Pirates. Pirates who do bad things. So in my view, this is just removing the most problematic of the bad things and leaving intact the more culturally acceptable vices and the ones that are most closely aligned with what we imagine as the Pirates life.

I look forward to seeing what the replacement scene ends up being and continuing to enjoy the classic attraction.



I know you may have a different opinion. Maybe you see all of this completely differently. If you have a different idea of the Art Theory Concept or how attractions should change, leave a comment below and lets discuss. 

Thanks for reading. Back with a design post soon.