Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Magic Kingdom Park Plan

This first post starts us off in the place that first inspired my love of theme parks. It is also a plan that many of you may be familiar with if you followed along with my previous blog. There are only a few content changes but I did evolve the graphic style a bit with realistic tree canopies and roof lines.

Below is a short descriptive walk through of the changes I propose to the Magic Kingdom and why.

Transportation to and from the entrance of the park has become a major issue at park open and close. Steps have already been taken to solve this problem including the expanded bus stops and extra ferry docks. Other steps I propose in this plan are to lengthen the Monorail stations to handle a train with an extra passenger car and to run both Express and Resort service trains on the resort beam during peak times. These small additions would not solve the problem, but would start to make a difference. Also in this plan are an added queue space on the north side of the station for the long queue that forms at park close time and a second Express queue ramp on the south side for when trains are running both Express and Resort on the same beam.

Starting in Main Street USA, the first change is the addition of a fully themed East side street, themed to turn of the century London. The addition of this bypass or street allows for better crowd flow during busy portions of the day such as parades, fireworks, and park close. At the intersection of this east street and Center Street is a new Mary Poppins dark ride. Guests board a carousel that literally unravels on a musical journey through Mary Poppins Jolly Holliday, riding through highlights from the film like “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

Continuing on to the Hub, the only significant change is the renovation of the Tomorrowland Noodle Station into Walt’s, a fine dining restaurant that tells the story of Walt and the creation of the park, much like Walt’s Restaurant in Disneyland Paris. The dining rooms are themed to different lands and periods of Disney history with the highlight being the large central rotunda dining space with prime views to Cinderella’s Castle.

In Adventureland, there are a few major additions. Next to the Swiss Family Treehouse, an indoor theater is constructed, the Deep Jungle Theater, themed as a large canvas expedition tent, hidden away in the dense vegetation. Inside is a high energy musical performance of Tarzan, featuring Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics and a live band performing a rock influenced score. This is an important addition to the park because it expands the theater capacity of the park, something that is currently lacking. The Flying Carpets of Aladdin are removed to open up the walking space of the land. A new expanded dock is also built for the Jungle Cruise for dedicated wheelchair and disabled loading, preventing delays at the main dock and creating a more effective Scene 1.

The main expansion pad to the south of Pirates of the Caribbean is utilized to create a new mini-land for Adventureland. A smoldering volcano looms over the deep jungle and a path between the Jungle Cruise and the Pirates fort leads right to it. Guests enter a dark cave opening to find themselves inside the large cavern of the volcano, home to an early 19th century scientific mining operation. The main attraction of this area is a Journey to the Center of the Earth coaster/dark ride hybrid that takes guests to the depths of the volcano before escaping back to the surface. The cavern is full of kinetic motion as the Jungle Cruise, the Train, and the drilling car ride vehicles for the attraction all pass through it. On the water’s edge is a new table service restaurant, Vulcania Market Table, serving Caribbean cuisine, and the eating area for the Expedition Food Truck, serving snacks and drinks. This dark, mysterious, and heavily themed cavern fully builds out Adventureland.

Frontierland and Liberty Square see infrastructure and pathway changes with a new permanent bridge across the Rivers of America, resolving the bottleneck by Big Thunder Mountain and allowing access to the new expansion pads to the north. Therefore the Liberty Belle Riverboat will cease operations. This decision was difficult, but one that will eventually be necessary for crowd flow and safety. Movement is maintained on the river however with the return of a fleet of modified keelboats which can pass under the new bridges as well as the rafts which will continue operation even though the islands are accessible by path.

The Frontierland addition in the north expansion area is a massive stagecoach motion base ride. At the north end of the river, reached by path through the Island or by keelboat, is a small abandoned sheriff’s office. It begins a path that leads through the woods to a rocky cliffside, covering the train tracks and hiding a smugglers camp. Inside, just after passing under the train tracks, guests find themselves back outside at twilight in an abandoned western town. The sheriff has invited us to go out on patrol with him in search of the smugglers that used the cave as a base, leading us on a fast paced adventure through the dangers of the old west.

Between Liberty Square and this new Frontierland addition is a new land, New Orleans Harbor. A geographical and chronological transition piece between the New England of Liberty Square and the Old West of Frontierland, the land includes the permanently docked Liberty Belle Riverboat, a bakery, a table service recreation of Tiana’s Restaurant, and the Bayou Theater, home of a live musical production based on Princess and the Frog. The show uses a mix of puppetry and illusion to tell a condensed version of the musical, accompanied by a live jazz band. The highly atmospheric land comes alive with musicians and artists during the day and a bayou of simulated glistening fireflies at night.

The only addition to Liberty Square is the permanently docked and fully explorable sailing ship HMS Columbia. This ship functions as a dynamic icon for the land while also acting as a visual barrier separating Fantasyland and Frontierland, specifically blocking the view of Rapunzel’s tower from Frontierland.

Continuing to Fantasyland, there are some big additions. First Peter Pan’s Flight is replaced by A Tangled Tale, completing the Tangled inspired area. This classic dark ride tells a condensed version of the film, featuring all the musical highlights including a major “I Have a Dream” segment filled with singing thugs. Next door, Mickey’s Philharmagic is relocated to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and replaced by a large interactive trackless dark ride through the world of Frozen. This film’s instant and massive popularity makes it an easy choice for this large open spot in Fantasyland. Though it does reduce theater capacity in the park, it is a necessary sacrifice. If Frozen maintains its massive popularity, it could alternately warrant a full mini-land in the near future, possibly replacing or adjacent to Storybook Circus.

Moving on to Fantasyland Forest, some of the recent additions are expanded. Story Time with Belle is adapted into a full scale animatronic experience with the addition of two small rooms after the libraries, small enough to not impede the utilidor access area, bringing the total number of scenes in this experience to five from mirror room to exit. The focus of each room moves to animatronic heavy storytelling instead of meet and greet. The existing Wardrobe converses with new Babette and Mrs. Potts figures to set up the story. The libraries are redressed as the dining room and new figures of Cogsworth and many supporting characters are added for a large scale production of Be Our Guest. In the following new rooms, guests pass through the library where they meet Belle and listen to her and the enchanted objects discuss becoming human again. Guests then exit on the south side of the cottage.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is also expanded with an additional indoor mine scene on the east side, creating a longer ride. The track is reconfigured so there is still a significant outdoor portion above the new indoor scenes. This is a complex addition logistically, but could realistically be added during a major track replacement refurbishment after many years of operation to refresh the ride experience. Storybook Circus also gets a new major ride, an LPS dark ride through Mickey’s circus featuring animated characters from the entire Disney cannon placed into circus situations.

The final additions to Fantasyland create an urban environment for this side of the land. Behind a fantasy inspired London facade, a new E Ticket version of Peter Pan’s Flight is constructed, where larger capacity flying ships take guests through a longer and more detailed version of this classic attraction, complete with sophisticated animatronic figures and modern effects. Attached to the ride is a meet and greet with Tinkerbell, set inside the drawer in the Darlings’ house, filled with oversized objects. Nearby, an Alice in Wonderland area is created with the addition of Alice’s Curious Labyrinth and a retheme of Cosmic Rays Starlight CafĂ© as the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. To complete the land, a new walkthrough nearby takes guests into the Dragon’s Crypt, home to a slumbering dragon, similar to the amazing experience at Disneyland Paris.

Between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland is the second new land of the park, Discoveryland, built on the site of the Speedway. This is a transitional space, designed as a fantasy-future steampunk environment, home to just one attraction. The docked Nautilus marks the entrance to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a simulator attraction that dives to the depths of the sea for an adventure with Captain Nemo. A counter service location themed to Around the World in 80 Days sits in the hangar for the iconic Hyperion balloon, forming the border between this land and Tomorrowland.

In Tomorrowland, the tone of the land is refined into an intergalactic world fair. Stitch’s Great Escape is replaced with a redeveloped version of Alien Encounter and the Laugh Floor is replaced with a motion base/3D-movie hybrid of the Time Machine where guests board an experimental machine for a disastrous trip through time. The existing round theater space is reconfigured into four individual simulator rooms with a preshow space in the center and uses a mix of projection mapping on physical sets and HD 3D projections along with a vehicle on a motion base to create a dynamic travel experience. The Carousel of Progress is replaced with an E Ticket Tron attraction on the first floor, expanding into a new showbuilding behind, and a transportation restaurant on the second floor. The ride takes us onto the grid where guests must evade the evil programs and find a way back home. Tomorrowland comes alive at night with kinetic motion and neon, creating the future we have always imagined.

Back in the Hub, a new fountain and projections package is installed for use during a new nightly castle show.

Now I want to quickly do something a little different. As I keep on saying, I want this to be more than just a place I share my work. I want to use these projects to prompt quick and informative discussions about themed design. So with each post I'm going to share some thoughts about a particular subject related to the project, and I encourage you to comment with your views. This will probably start pretty slow since the website is just starting up, but that is ok.

For the Magic Kingdom, I originally wanted to discuss the complex and controversial debate about IP placement in the park, but I think I will save that for later. Instead, I've decided on debating the value of the walk through attraction. In the above plan I've proposed, I added two standard walk through attractions (The Labyrinth and the Dragon's Crypt), increased access to Tom Sawyer's Island, and turned a meet and greet into an animatronic based walk through. I personally like what walk throughs do for a park because they add a deeper layer of experience that reinforces the entire park as an attraction, not just the rides. All good walk throughs supplement a thematic experience of a land or area and allow the guest to travel one step deeper into that themed world.

The best application of walk throughs in a theme park is definitely Disneyland Paris Park, which has 5 distinct and wonderfully designed walking experiences. I visited the park last year and I have no trouble saying that some of these attractions, namely the Dragon's Crypt and Alice's Labyrinth, were among the highlights of an already great park. As much as I enjoyed them, they were also very lightly attended. Many times, my group were the only guests in them.

From some research, it seems that the common design thought is that walk throughs don’t work. Theme Park University has a story about the failure of the Goddard Group designed Baltimore Power Plant project and highlights the failure of the walk through as a reason for its closure. Environments that depend on a walk through as the main draw do not succeed for some reason. My best guess is that guests feel like a theme park is for attractions, not walking and looking. This is a problematic thought to a designer, because it suggests that in a sense the whole park walk through experience is unimportant when compared to the attractions in the park.

Overall however, I see place making value in the walk through attraction even with its attendance and capacity issues. It's never going to be the big draw or even hold a line, but it invaluably supports the thematic design strategy of the park. Not every guest will figure out its value, but it just makes a park that much more special to those who do.

What are your thoughts about walk through attractions in theme parks? Do you enjoy them and do they add to your overall experience or are they just something you skip? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading! 


  1. Amazing! Simply Amazing! Will you be add more detailed posts about the park concerning each area as you did in your last blog?

    1. No, I will not have post about each and every attraction like the last blog. I realized later that doing that spread me too thin and kept me from fully developing any one attraction. Instead, I have designed a few attractions at this point in much more detail and am much happier with how they turned out. They are listed on the Design Inventory page above and will be posted later on.

    2. I can't help but feel that the empty space north of It's a Small World, Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid could easily be used for more rides and the like. In a future update, I would suggest perhaps adding a Frozen ride in that area, moving your current Frozen ride to there(perhaps using the old Mickey's Phillarmagic area for a Sleeping Beauty ride), and maybe also having a Aladdin ride as well.

    3. I have looked at that area many times over the years and considered expanding there but I keep running into a few issues with it. First, its too close to the fireworks launch and fallout. Structures there would constantly catch fire, just as the new Fantasyland buildings periodically do now. Second, it is hard to access. New Fantasyland effectively built a solid wall preventing expansion in that direction. The only seemingly possible access point is through the center of Gaston's Village, but that would be a 15' or less pinch point that would cause nightmare traffic flow, especially if anything popular was placed back there. The path to the right of Little Mermaid would be difficult also, because that is the only large backstage access point on that whole side of the park. It could maybe be done, but would present major logistical issues. Thirdly, I just don't believe the Magic Kingdom needs that much expansion. I approach these theme park designs realistically, and the Magic Kingdom as it is now is honestly close to built out. The focus on new attractions should be going to the other three parks, which are not yet fully developed.

      As for your suggestions, I am working on an much larger alternate Frozen proposal for Hollywood Studios, which could really use a major crowd draw like Frozen. Aladdin on the other hand is a property that I have never really brought into my designs. I love the movie and the design sense, but its very hard to integrate into the thematic worlds that are already established in WDW. It's only two theme park appearances, Adventureland in Disneyland Paris and Arabian Coast in TDS (I'm not counting MK Adventureland since I removed it in this plan) are both done very well. I will have to look more into bringing Aladdin into some future works, likely in original parks.

      Thanks for the continued discussion.

  2. I think walkthrough experiences are fantastic and a lovely, low-key way to flesh out small areas or add some variety to a park. Unfortunately, mainstream guests don't seem to share this interest. Perhaps with the right theme - a Frozen ice maze? - this sort of attraction could catch the eye of the masses.

    Great ideas in the buildout! It's probably just me, but with Tomorrowland now having an "intergalactic World's Fair" theme, it feels like all the more reason to keep the Carousel of Progress, considering its routes. At the same time, that poor gem is treated terribly by guests as it is, and is ignored more than walkthroughs.

    1. Ah good idea with a frozen maze, that would bring the people in. Yeah I agree, the right theme could make a walk through much more popular.

      I've realized though since posting that maybe the lack of intense popularity is part of the appeal of a walk through. The sparse crowds and possibility for personal experiences maybe adds to the charm. Like I said, when in Disneyland Paris, there were many moments where my group were the only guests in one of those attractions and it was one of the most bizarre and immersive theme park experiences I've ever had. Standing completely alone in the Salon of the Nautilus was a memorable experience.

      Removing the Carousel of Progress took alot of thought but in the end, it takes up too valuable of an expansion space, so I decided it should go. Anyway, in my mind, the Carousel of Progress gets relocated to the Walt Disney Family Museum in SF as a tribute to Walt and the World's Fair.

  3. I really enjoyed this expanded Magic Kingdom Design. I was wondering why there wouldn't be a side strip on either side of Main Street, USA. To me it looks a little lopsided. If you were to design a street left of Main Street, what would it look like and what would be incorporated?

    For me, Walkthroughs are not a major attraction. For example, since I walked through Tom Sawyer's Island on my first trip to Walt Disney World, there is no draw for me to take the boat ride over in return trips. In my Opinion, a strong IP would be necessary to create draw.

    Thank You! Keep up the excellent work.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah Main Street West could potentially be developed and may have to for crowd control reasons eventually. I didn't do it for this plan because the left side backstage area is a lot more complicated than the right side: it has the parade gate, parade staging areas, Main Street Vehicle parking, and the jungles of the Adventureland, whereas the right side was a clean slate with room for an attraction.

      I'll admit, its been way too long since I've been over to Tom Sawyer's Island myself. It's a difficult trip but worth it.

  4. Walkthrough attractions don't work? What nonsense. They work perfectly fine and can be really lovely and quiet compared to the chaos of major park attractions. I live in southern England, and on the Isle of Wight there is an old theme park called Blackgang Chine. About 99% of its attractions are walkthroughs - the park has been around for over 140 years. It must be doing something right.

    1. Thanks for a great example of a different kind of park. Sounds like an interesting place.

      I want to reiterate that I absolutely thing walk throughs work in a design sense and make amazing immersive attractions. It is operationally that some say they dont work, including a few Imagineering legends mentioned in the article I linked above.

      Also, I think its really cool to have a reader in England, so thanks for commenting! I made it to London for a few days while I was in Rome for a semester last year and loved it.

    2. Thanks. Blackgang is a very quirky place with lots of attractions that are pretty old but have some lovely charm to them - the only attractions that could be considered "e-ticket" level are a rollercoaster and a chute water slide. There is also an outdoor Jurassic Park-esque dinosaur walkthrough, haunted house Rumpus Manor, a Wild West town, the weird Fantasyland, Nurseryland, a hedge maze, the Triassic Club which features animatronics, The Musical Pet Shop, a crooked house, a land dedicated to area's the smuggling history, among others.

      In the UK, we have several major amusement parks - Chessington, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, and Legoland. I live in Poole/Bournemouth and there are two or three amusement parks near me - Blackgang Chine and Adventure Wonderland. The latter is themed after Alice in Wonderland, though it seems to have incorporated other themes too.

  5. Oddly enough I only discovered your previous blog very recently, which I completely admire as well as this post.
    Regarding walkthroughs, I believe they are a very effective medium and in some respect whole Disney parks/lands can be considered walkthroughs (just with shops, restaurants and attractions). However, people are always going to be interested in riding Big Thunder Mountain than visiting Tom Sawyer's Island. Whenever I try to "invent" disney parks in my mind, I often don't create as many walkthroughs as single attractions but try to incorporate them with other attractions. For example, a ride's entrance may be located within a walkthrough of a similar/the same theme or at the other end of a walkthrough. Not sure if I've fully explained this but this way guests may have to experience part of the walkthrough to visit certain places and attractions in the park.

  6. Thanks for commenting and glad you've found my websites.

    I completely understand what your saying and thought alot about that before writing this. I think its not crazy to say that the best walk through attractions right now in Orlando at least are the queues to the two main Harry Potter attractions. I definitely think that incorporating a highly themed walkthrough into a major attraction experience is a valid way to solve some of the current problems.

    In fact, in my Paris plan which I will be posting in a few weeks, I turned one of the walkthroughs into the queue for a completely new attraction.

  7. Curious what your plans were for Tom Sawyer island. Saw some infrastructure changes there- can you elaborate?
    I always thought it could use more (and I dont mean more pirates).

    1. Yes the infrastructure changes include the addition of permanent bridges to resolve the dead end by Big Thunder and to provide better connection to the additions to the north of Liberty Square. The actual content on the islands in this plan is not significantly changed, besides a thorough refurbishment to update finishes and effects. The fort would also be improved and reworked to allow for the new path headed north through the island.

      It seems that alot of people don't make it over to the island, maybe because it is more difficult and time consuming to access. This addition of bridges solves a bunch of these problems, with the only drawback being the loss of the riverboat. That's a hard loss that I considered seriously because it adds such valuable kinetics to that side of the park. But I decided that the crowd flow and safety issues in the growing park would likely force the issue. As shown in the plan, keelboats that can go under the new bridges are introduced to add some motion back.

      That area is closely connected to the added New Orleans Harbor land. I will probably be going into more detail and somewhat reworking that land in the near future, so I may have updates to specifics of Tom Sawyer Island then.

  8. I hate to tell you this, but I have some concerns regarding the location for your Mickey circus attraction:

    First, isn't that entrance to your attraction supposed to be a combination rest area and spot for FastPass machines? Isn't that where they have FastPasses for Dumbo and The Great Goofini? Also, hasn't that same area become a new D-Zone?

    Second, and far more important, from my beyond the train tracks, where the main attraction building is set, is what looks like a body of water. Look here: http://forums.wdwmagic.com/attachments/untitled-jpg.86229/

    You could move through northward into that patch of green jutting out into the northeastern end, but even so, it would still be traversing not one but two sets of train tracks. And it would be almost impossible to get guests back to the exit.

    1. That "D-zone" is just a covered sitting area now because there are no more Fastpass Machines. So no problem turning it into an entrance, queue, and exit to an attraction. A crowd eating attraction is a better use of space than an empty sitting area.

      That is a man made retention pond, which can likely be relocated and developed. So that is not that much of an issue in a hypothetical expansion concept plan. I have developed over retention ponds in many of my plans.

    2. When was that artificial retention pond put in? Where can it be relocated?