Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Explorer's World Exhibition: Ideal Buildout 5th Gate Challenge

I want to start this by saying that fundamentally, I do not see the need for a 5th park and don’t believe there ever will be a need for one. Four fully built out parks seems to me to be enough and that another park would just hurt the others. However, I wanted to enter the 5th Gate Challenge hosted at Ideal Buildout both for the challenge and as a lead in to this website. So I looked at this park as a focused niche park, maybe a “boutique park,” which would serve a small number of predefined guests each day along with some other major operation differences.

I wanted this park to offer a different experience to the other four and contrast the hectic attraction based touring necessities of the existing resort. This would be a total experience based park, built on unique experiences that weren’t just traditional rides. Theme wise, the Explorer’s World Exhibition idea came quickly as I have always wanted to do a park based on SEA. The world’s fair structure came about due to some lucky inspiration: it was the topic of last week’s modern architecture history class.

The park differs operationally from the others. It is only open from approximately 4:00pm to 1:00am, adjusting some seasonally so as to not cannibalize the other parks. Guests must also pre-schedule this park as part of their vacation package and attendance is strictly limited each day. The admission also includes your dinner at one of the four table service restaurants. There are no early reservations, just day of reservations once in the park.

When looking for some different inspiration, I began to discover many large scale interactive art installations that could be adapted to these settings. Each pavilion features one of these installations as well as a single major attraction.

The goal of each pavilion is to create the distinct world of each explorer, feature interactive elements for repeatability, and to promote a more focused, exclusive, and relaxed park experience to contrast the often hectic touring of the other parks.

The entire park is in a sense just one land, the fairgrounds of the Explorer’s Exhibition, and is generally neoclassical/early modern in design. The buildings are large and impressive with classical influence as well as unique touches for each explorer corresponding to their background and theme. The park is set in the early 1900’s, right in the heyday of the explorers. At this worldwide gathering, many of the significant members of SEA have set up pavilions, displaying the results of their exploration and inviting their guests into a once of a lifetime adventure.

Guests park in the new deck, which is the same size as the new Disney Springs decks, and then make their way to the entrance plaza filled with immaculately manicured landscapes and active fountains.

The Crystal Palace is a modified retail corridor entrance of the park. I don’t know how well known the original Crystal Palace is to many of you, but it is highly regarded in architecture and an arguable beginning to modernism, so I’ve always wanted to include it somewhere. It is entirely glass and steel (the original was iron), creating a grand covered entryway. Inside, the pathway runs left and right, with shops, restaurants, and exclusive displays.

The adjacent hotel is among the most exclusive and sophisticated of the resort, matching the class and theme of the other deluxe hotels. Also neoclassical, it is themed as the residences of the explorers during the exhibition, so the different wings and floors are dressed to the personal taste of the different members, though definitely in a high class and refined style. The hotel has its own parking deck as well as at least one table service restaurant looking out into the park.

Through the Crystal Palace is the main lagoon with the iconic observation tower across. The 300’ “iron” tower fulfills the tradition of iron structures at world fairs after the Eiffel Tower and the Ferris wheel were icons of the 1889 and 1893 World’s Fairs. Elevators in the 3 tripod legs take guests to the second level, where there is a restaurant. Another elevator ride then takes guests to the top, either on a slow standard elevator, or on a more exciting speed elevator. The top observation level would be the highest non-Orlando Eye location in the city.

Around the base of the tower are docks, where a series of staged boats from around the world are positioned, as if they are the transportation of many of the explorers at the exhibition.

To the right is the Adventurer’s Market, which is the main shopping and dining area of the park. As members of SEA traveled to the fair, they brought goods and food with them, so this market hall has been set up to sell these wares from around the world. This would absolutely be unique merchandise with not a single generic Disney Parks item to be found. The first pavilion is The Scientist’s, who is modeled on a cross between Edison and Tesla. He is an electrical genius, experimenting with current in his work to bring power across the world. An electrical tower rises above the building, periodically sparking with power. Inside are his large generators, providing power to the fair and his infinity light rooms, based on the Mirror and LED Light Installations of Yayoi Kusama.

While guests are observing an experiment, the grid mysteriously overloads, forcing the Scientist to trek into the depths of the generator and he decides to take us along. The ride is an EMV based trip through the electrical system, featuring close encounters with spinning turbines, sparks, and the blinding power of the scientist’s work.

The Biologist’s pavilion is inside a large octagonal Victorian greenhouse, filled with exotic plants and animals. She travels the world collecting rare specimens, but more significantly then works to recreate them in her lab by crossing existing plants. The results are on display inside, including a small field of flexible but sturdy “organic” rods, a cross of grass and bamboo. This is based on the piece “Sway’d” by Daniel Lyman.

The main attraction is a large white water raft ride through the exotic jungle that the biologist planted for the exhibition. The twist is that it is filled with her bio creations, like giant snapping fly-traps, animated vines, exotic fish and insects, and beautiful but mysterious blooming flowers. Guests free float along on a three row, 12 seat, forward facing raft, encountering the beauty and danger of the jungle, including an indoor segment, all leading to a final splashdown.

Next is the Collector, who we know as Harrison Hightower pre-disappearance. He brought his entire cargo ship to the exhibition, docked just behind the icon tower. Inside the hold, besides the crates of objects he has collected, is a landscape of cargo nets, woven together into a floating explorable maze, based on the piece “Net Berlin” by Numen.

The attraction is a large shooter dark ride that could be called a cross of Toy Story Mania and Mystic Manor. Guests ride through the collection rooms and holds of the ship, through the cases and boxes of artifacts as they mysteriously come to life. We must shoot our flashlight at them to discover what is happening and return everything to normal before we lose control of the entire ship. There is also a restaurant in the top level of the ship, looking over the park.

We also know the inventor, Henry Mystic. He also collects, but his main contribution to the society is his cutting edge inventions, which he uses to further explore the world. His building is anchored by a massive cannon under construction, angled to the sky. He has brought his test vehicle for a rocket to the moon to the exhibition, and invites us to take a spin on his test track. This ride is a serious indoor roller coaster on the level of Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and includes an inclined launch and a fast flight through the simulated space trip Mystic has put together.

He also has a display room of his other inventions, including a massive kinetic motion machine that requires guests to operate it. A series of swings and pulleys around the room directly manipulate the machine and something special happens when those participating can swing in a set pattern. This is based on the piece “the event of a thread” by Ann Hamilton.

The Meteorologist has one of the largest pavilions. A custom weather balloon dirigible is tied down on a platform over the water. With it, the meteorologist has harnessed the power of the weather and brought it to the exhibition. Inside the hall behind is both a rain room and a snow room, where guests walk right through the falling weather without getting wet. This is based on the “Rain Room” by rAndom International. This instillation is what originally inspired this strategy and then the entire project.

The meteorologist invites us on a trip into a weather system on a personal weather balloon. This is a massive Kuka based attraction, though heavily featuring physical sets and special weather effects during the trip into what turns out to be a hurricane. Wind, water, lightening, and dynamic movement combine to put guests right into the storm.

Last is the Explorer’s Archives, the official records hall of the society where guests can learn information about SEA and its members. Inside is a maze made of books and boxes, holding the secrets of the group, waiting for guests to discover them. This is based on the “aMAZEme Labyrinth” by Marco Saboya & Gualter Pupo.

The hall also has a high quality theater for productions featuring the members of SEA, retelling many of their most exciting adventures in high quality interactive productions.

It is quite possible that in the coming weeks I will furthur refine this plan and put in in Sketchup. If so, I will update this post later on. For now, I would really appreciate any comments with thoughts or ideas about the project. I would love to be able to start a discussion on themed design and architecture below.

Thank you for coming over to this new website and reading up on my work. I will be promoting more heavily in the coming weeks and will be putting up the next post sometime next week. In the meantime, please follow on social media to stay up to date with Imagineerland.


  1. I really enjoyed this entry on the IdealBuildout site, in fact it was my second favorite one, with the Mythica park idea being the first. I really enjoyed your Disney World Expansion's from two years ago and I can't wait to see what you have in store next!

  2. Thanks. I agree, the Mythica park was interesting as well as the time travel concept, but I've always loved the idea of time travel.

    Over time, I will be posting updates to those WDW plans as well as some attractions and other resorts. I've made changes and improved the graphic style, so I'm really happy with how they have developed.

    I'm really looking forward to sharing these projects I've worked on and to start some interesting discussions about the creative process of theme park design.

  3. I really like the concept of this park and kudos for only incorporating the characters directly made from the parks (Henry Mystic, Mr. Hightower, SEA). This is a park I'd like to visit. As much as I love Disney, plastering their merchandise everywhere is not a necessity, and you definitely have a winner here. The layout is nice, the story offerings and attractions are inventive, and this is my favourite of the proposals in the Ideal Buildout charette. The comment above says you did WDW expansions. Where might I find these?

    1. His original expansion plans were at http://themeparkplanning.blogspot.com/, there really amazing and well done. I can't wait to see his updated versions.

    2. Hey thanks for the comments. I agree with alot of what you said there, that a Disney park doesn't have to be overly Disney to work. I designed the kind of park I would love to visit.

      As Nerdman said above, I posted a series of expansion plans about a year and a half ago on a different blog that I ran. They are still there if you want to look through them, but I will be posting somewhat updated versions on this blog over time. In fact I plan on posting the Magic Kingdom Expansion plan right here tomorrow night, and will continue to post new works about every other week.

      Thanks for visiting and hope to see you in comments later on!

    3. Can't wait to see it! Concerning a question I asked on Twitter, will you possibly consider adding Horizons and perhaps even World of Motion and Greece between Italy and Germany to your Epcot Expansion plan? Horizons I felt was missing in the original expansion plan. A suggestion would be to use the small path between Mission Space and Test Track and have it lead to a World of Motion Ride, which could replace the cast member parking lot. You could also perhaps replace the showcase plaza with a new Horizons ride, and have the lake wrap around it, and put a new smaller showcase plaza behind it somehow.