Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mary Poppins' Jolly Holiday

Now we get to the first of hopefully many attraction concepts. As much as I love designing the overall site plan for a park, getting more specific with an attraction is even more fun. I have developed this attraction very thoroughly over the last year because it is one of my favorite concepts. I'm going to start with a walk through of the entire experience, and then end with some comments about my design choices.

Along the new side street of Main Street, guests are invited to join Mary Poppins on a musical journey through the city park and beyond.

The façade of 17 Cherry Tree Lane sits at the end of Center Street, with unassuming building facades on either side, including a Kite Shop on the left. The queue entrance to the right of the house leads either into the house or down along an exterior extended queue switchback, which is partially covered. Temporary queues can travel down the street and back.

Both the Fastpass+ and Standby queues lead through a side door of the house, passing through the entry hall and taking Fastpass+ guests through a hallway of the house filled with family photos and Standby guests through the children’s playroom, filled with boxes of toys. Both queues lead out of the house and into a simulated outdoor garden, filled with meticulously manicured hedges and colorful flowers. Just before entering this garden, guests meet a cast member who asks if guests prefer bench or horse seating and give them a card displaying their choice. The queues both reach the load distribution point, just after a split off from each queue that leads to a dedicated wheelchair loading line. There is also an covered and outdoor overflow queue for standby guests. At distribution, guests give their card to the cast member and are sent to one of the 20 loading lines, labeled with 'chalk' art. A full height wooden garden gate separates each line from the center load room. The intent is that guests do not see the ride vehicle until the moment it is time to board.

The vehicle in load form resembles a carousel, with alternating rows of horse and benches. The benches sit 3 each, the horse rows have 2 one person horses, and each carousel has one wheelchair bench, with a flip up bench seat that allows for one wheelchair and one seated passenger. The bench seats use a lapbar restraint system while the horses use a custom seatbelt system. The horse seats will consequently only be available to those above a certain height, hence the card system to ease loading.

Each row of the carousel is its own independent trackless vehicle, which are linked together into longer sections. Each 'train' is actually two separate and independently moving linked sections of vehicles, the first made of 10 passenger vehicles plus a header vehicle and the second made of the remaining 10 passenger vehicles. That allows the carousel to unwind from its original shape and follow the undulating track. In order to maintain the carousel look during these turns, the floor pieces are oversized and vertically offset so that they can slide above and below each other, always forming a solid floor. This is best shown in the elevation and plan below.

While waiting in the load lines, guests hear Mary and Bert on the other side of the gate talking about taking a trip to the park. The gates then open and cast members and 'chalk' lines guide guests to their row. The carousel vehicle sits at the center of the room, with a false stationary carousel roof canopy and ornate center piece completing the illusion. The vehicle is level with the ground for ease of loading, so the vehicles sit in a channel below grade.

After loading, the carousel begins to slowly spin as we hear Mary and Bert again, talking about the park and suggesting that we come along too. At that point the carousel travels straight ahead, out from the canopy and through a large iron garden gate and into the next scene. As soon as that carousel exits the room, an empty vehicle from the unload station comes into the room, gets set in place, and then the loading process begins again. Ideally, this would be a 2 minute load to load cycle.

As we pass through the gate, we begin to hear the song 'Jolly Holiday' and find ourselves gliding right through the fanciful park. Physical trees and flowers pair with projected backdrops to create the environment. We pass a combination of projected and animatronic animals, including squirrels, butterflies, farm animals, and of course a group of dancing penguins. The vehicle makes a complete circle, the first of many, and then passes straight into another circle with a smaller four horse carousel in the center. The carousel spins in the same direction, carrying animatronic figures of Mary and Bert. 'Jolly Holiday' ends as we move ahead out of this circle and into the next.

The halves of the train separate and stop opposite of each other, surrounding a small double sided bandstand and a ring of animatronic pearly musicians. Each side of the bandstand has a Musion surface where the dancing Mary and Bert are projected, while the ring of moving musicians rotates. We stay stationary for the beginning of 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', while Mary and Bert sing and dance. Soon, we make a full rotation around the scene before continuing on. We pass out of the park and into the city as we hear 'Step in Time'.

The carousel is now traveling between the rooftops of London, filled with the silhouettes of dancing chimneysweeps. The chimneysweeps are Musion projections on glass panels all around the rooftops. The carousel makes two separate circles around the rooftops before turning away and passing one last roof. It turns to the left, passing Mary and Bert sitting on the roof edge, waving goodbye. Just through the door is the unload area, where guests exit the carousel while in straight train form, and then exit to the gift shop, themed as a kite store, as 'Let’s Go Fly a Kite' plays.

So I hope you enjoyed the trip I described through the attraction.

This ride has had a long development process for me. I guess I drew an attraction in on Main Street for the first time about 4 years ago, but didn't get to developing it until 2 years ago. It was always Mary Poppins though. My reasoning for wanting to include a dark ride based on Mary Poppins was entirely the music, so I made that the focus. A ride based on memorable song can cause problems though because it very easily leads to the film summary dark ride, which sometimes works, but alot of times doesnt. I'm going to talk more about that once I get around to the next attraction plan: A Tangled Tale. I knew that the songs were to be the focus but that the story that tied the songs together wouldn't be modern darkride friendly because of its age and scope. I wanted a narrow focus. So, in the tradition of classic attractions, this was meant to be an environmental ride. The entirety of the story is that Mary and Bert are going to the park and we are invited on a fantastic musical journey.

The choice for the unique and admittedly unrealistically low capacity ride vehicle is from internet rumor that Tony Baxter worked on an attraction much like this with a somewhat similar vehicle idea. In fact, I believe that concept was also called Mary Poppins' Jolly Holiday, but its a pretty natural attraction name. In a park that is full of standard dark ride vehicles, I thought that something unique would be welcome and that this was a concept worth exploring just for the design challenge. And it was definitely a challenge. The attraction footprint that I could realistically fit into the east parking lot dictated the size of the show scenes, which dictated the turn radius, which dictated the size of the vehicle. It's a little lower capacity than I would like, but it's the best I could work with.

Lastly, I debated heavily if there should even be an attraction on Main Street because of crowd flow patterns. And I'm still not convinced it would be a good idea. I gave it the primest location possible, terminating the view of Central Street to draw crowds. I image though that it would be lightly attended during the early day as guests spread out from Main Street and then more popular around parade time and late afternoon as guests return to the front of the park. That would probably be considered a failure by those in charge, but I think it would add a new dimension to the land.

An attraction specific discussion question this week.

This is a dark ride based on a property 51 years old. The current Disney company would likely never build this now because it doesn't have the kind of synergy, marketing, and merchandising they would like. In your opinion, should those factors be important to the selection and design of a theme park experience? 

This time, I'm not going to type out a complete answer for this. I'm going to give quick thoughts and then likely elaborate in the comments.

Short answer: I don't know. Classic and successful original attractions don't have the traditional synergy that is now so desired. Modern attractions (which is hard to qualify since we've barely gotten any in the last decade plus) are either heavily IP based (Toy Story Mania, Cars Land, New Fantasyland, etc.) with built in audience or thrill based (Everest, Soarin, Test Track, etc.) with heavy marketing schemes. The original or not super IP based dark ride is hard to find now. Mystic Manor is an outlier (and oh look, its successful and fantastic!) but even it came merchandising friendly with the Albert character. It seems that for a ride to be built, at least in the US parks, there needs to be a built in fanbase that loves the property, not the attraction.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Disney's Hollywood Studios Park Plan

Time for a Bonus Post! I've decided that since I have a little bit of a backlog of projects that I have previously shared, I'm going to occasionally post those in between the regularly scheduled new projects. So first: a plan for Disney's Hollywood Studios thats fairly similar to the previous version, but not exactly the same.

The Disney’s Hollywood Studios has the potential to become the most popular park of the resort with the addition of highly themed lands based on blockbuster film franchises in order to more directly compete with the Universal Orlando Resort. The park as it is needs some reconfiguration but it would be possible to double or more the attraction capacity of this park, creating a studio that celebrates classic Hollywood and the movie making process.

The recently removed Hat is replaced with a permanent stage complete with retractable light towers, which is hopefully what will be added in real life very soon. The Great Movies Ride is updated with new scenes including Star Wars, James Bond, Gone with the Wind, and Vertigo, giving a more comprehensive overview of movie genres and including more iconic and recognizable films. The empty American Idol Theater is converted to the ABC Production Stage, an interactive production show that is also equipped for actual live production. This allows for special events and TV shows to broadcast from the park throughout the year.

The first of the power franchise lands is Indiana Jones Outpost. Set in 1937, just after Raiders of the Lost Ark, guests find Indy’s camp set up deep in the South American jungle, just in the shadows of two large Mayan inspired temples. Makeshift structures fill the land and props and vehicles add character to the jungle. The highlight attraction, The Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Lost River is a large watercoaster EMV hybrid where guests follow Indy on an adventure to find a mysterious river treasure. Boobytraps and spirits force a swift escape, leading the raft to both a coaster drop through jungle and a flume drop to the base of the river. The watercoaster EMV hybrid vehicle allows for a wide variety of attraction experiences in one ride: coaster, flume, slow float through show scenes, fast simulator style motion scenes, and the ability for unique transitions between scenes. More to come about this attraction in a later post.

The other attractions of the land are a new stunt show and a walkthrough experience through Dr. Jones’ artifact warehouse. Built of canvas and scraps, the stunt theater faces a small clearing below the temple, with a small waterway passing through. The show would be narrative based, not a behind the scenes style experience like the previous show. Highlights would include seeing Indy rappel down the temple above, a motorcycle chase, a fight on top of a moving truck, high dives, explosions, and more. Personally, I love the current stunt shows and appreciate what they contribute to the park, so this was a somewhat selfish addition. Across the main path, the walkthrough experience takes guests on a guided tour through the artifact warehouse, storing many of Indy’s prized finds. Something goes wrong and one of the artifacts mysteriously comes to life, causing chaos before the tour guide is able to get things under control.

Next door is the largest and likely most popular land of the park, Star Wars Spaceport. The jungles of South America transition to the forest of Endor, where the entrance to Star Tours is redesigned so that it no longer shows a film set, but the actual world. To the left of the building is a wide street, leading straight to the iconic Millenium Falcon, sitting in the middle of a spaceport. Shops line each side of the futuristically designed street, with the walkthrough Falcon, a new exit for Star Tours, a recreation of the cantina, and a new indoor Jedi Training Academy at the end. The cantina is a counter service location that utilizes the RFID ordering system so that there is no need for a large and out of theme ordering counter. With seating split between two levels, this large location serves a variety of specialty exotic inspired foods and drinks. The new Training Academy is a special-effects laden show including an interactive Yoda animatronic figure that guides young padawons in the ways of the force.

Just off this area is the entrance to an indoor hangar, a large, covered, and heavily themed area, where a variety of Star Wars Universe vehicles are parked, including an X Wing, a Tie Fighter, and Slave I. All around are locations for meets and greets with the large cast of Star Wars Universe characters. Just off the main hangar bay, there is a X wing spinner where the vehicles rise up into a projection dome for a trip through the stars, a table service restaurant that overlooks a projected Coruscant skyline, multiple large shops including one that sells custom and collectible items, and the entrance to the main attraction of the land. Just next to the X Wing, guest enter the secret hangar bays of the Rebel Alliance in preparation for an attack on the Death Star. After passing through the headquarters of the rebels and through the briefing room, guests climb right into an X Wing fighter for a trip into the battle. The X Wing cab sits on a multi axis motion arm on a moving base that travels through large detailed sets along with multiple projection domes. The highlight of the attraction would be a trip right into the trench created with projected walls, lighting effects, and a trio of prop Tie Fighters on their own motion arms.

This land has a large expansion pad connected to the hangar as well as an expansion path to the other side of the backstage road for an future major expansion.

The next land of the park is Muppet Studios, built around the existing Muppet area. Pizza Planet and Mama Melrose are replaced by Muppet themed restaurants and a new large dark ride through the Muppet Studios is built. This tour takes guests through the movie making process at Muppet Studios, demonstrated by some favorite Muppet characters, including costuming with Mrs. Piggy, Set Building with Sweetums, Special Effects with Dr. Benson and Beaker, Props with Fonzie, and Catering with the Sweedish Chef. The main scenes of the ride take you right into the filming stage, where the vehicle passes by large active sets populated with Muppets. Scenes include the Happiness Hotel, Pigs in Space, and more. Outside in the Studios courtyard, guests could find interactive characters performing small shows, like the Muppet Mobile Lab or the Electric Mayhem Tour Van.

The Streets of America remain, though not locked to any land. The forced perspective flats at the end are removed because this is no longer meant to be a set, and replaced with a permanent concert stage for Mulch Sweat and Shears, special parties, and events. The Backlot Theater also remains landless for use during special events.

At the end of the Streets of America is the next major land, Marvel City. Currently, the Orlando theme park rights to Marvel lie at Universal, but I designed with the assumption that one day the rights to the Avengers characters could be obtained. Alternately, a land based on the few characters that Universal does not have the right to could be possible, including Guardians of the Galaxy. A forced perspective skyscraper sits the end of the street, marking the entrance to the secret SHIELD Headquarters. Inside the sleek lobby are the entrances to two attractions, a motion base action adventure ride that follows the Avengers out to battle and a SHIELD test vehicle themed coaster. In the main ride, we are debriefed by Agent Fury and told will follow the Avengers while riding in a specially build hovervehicle. Primarily a screen based attraction, our vehicle “flys” through the streets of New York while it is under attack, letting us witness the Avengers in action. An encounter with a full sized and very angry Hulk animatronic figure precedes the explosive finale to the mission. After successfully saving the city, we are made honorary SHIELD agents. The coaster begins on the second floor of this building, in the SHIELD vehicle testing lab. It is a high thrill floorless coaster that begins in this building, passes across a bridge to the southwest Streets of America building, dives under the street to the northwest building for the majority of the attraction, and then back across a bridge to the main building.

The northwest building is also the home of the Avengers Training Labs. Inside the now real facades is a modern double level training hall, where there is a counter service location serving healthy meals, space for meet and greets with the Avengers, a series of interactive Avengers training games, and an Iron Man Suit animatronic experience. The interactive games let guests become their favorite hero by completing a series of tasks in front of a projection screen. Guests actions are tracked by a motion capture system so that their actions control the interactive training exercise. Guests fly with Iron Man, shoot lightning with Thor, use a shield to block objects with Captain America, and shoot targets with Hawkeye. The Iron Man Experience is an animatronic show where the suit becomes the focus. After a preshow in the suit storage room, guests sit in a small round theater, with a stationary suit at the middle. Agent Coulson remotely controls the suit through a series of demonstration, including target practice.

This land also has a large expansion pad, accessed by the eventual removal of the Backlot Theater.

The last new franchise land, The Land of Oz, fills a need for more greenery in the back sections of this park and adds elements of family friendly fantasy. Regardless of the success of the film, I believe it has a beautiful design that could create a fantastic environment. A small park pathway leads to a dark tunnel, with Oz just on the other side. Guests emerge into the courtyard of the Emerald City, regal green buildings all around. On this square are shops, a large counter service dining room, and an interactive experience with the Wizard inside the palace straight ahead. The throne room is accurately recreated and doubled for capacity. Inside, a large group of guests get to have an audience with the wizard, created with special effects, real time motion capture of a live performer, and a large fog screen that the wizard is projected onto.

Outside the city gates is the poppy field and the dense forest, where there are two more attractions. In the woods along the yellow brick road is a tea cup style spinner, themed to a machine the Tinkerers built. Farther along the road is the city of Munchkinland, acting as the entrance to the main attraction, a large boat dark ride through the world of Oz. The boats travel past Oz’s crashed balloon, through the crystal forest and China Town, into the dark forest, and finally towards the Emerald City. The boats exit the show building for a float through the outdoor river, passing the Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road and many animated and prop flora and fauna.

A vastly expanded Pixar Place is next. A Monstropolis area is first, which includes special shops, a snack location, and the Scare Floor Express, a family suspended coaster through the door warehouse. Guests enter the main entrance of Monsters Inc and queue under the dome before passing through the first scarefloor and then loading onto a modified door carrier. Mike and Sully have lost Boo, so we follow along on their search passing first through darkride scenes of the factory before we chase Boo into the door warehouse, for an exciting coaster section.

Around the corner, through the rockwork arch, we find a clone of Radiator Springs Racers including the Courthouse and Lizzie’s Curios. The rockwork is scaled down and partially replaced by a thick forest that the cars race through. Next to that is Remy’s, a counter service/table service restaurant that operates just like Be Our Guest. Across the street is a relocated It’s Tough to Be a Bug, adding some greenery to this area. On this north side is an expansion plot, a new larger Pizza Planet restaurant, and a Pixar behind the scenes showcase that gives guests a look into the history and process of the work. This also includes a large auditorium that shows a loop of Pixar shorts and is used for special events.

The highlight addition is The Incredibles. Set in the super hero museum, guests have won the chance to follow the Incredibles for a day. Guests board a LPS vehicle for a trip into the city to fight crime, dispatching as a group of four vehicles. After meeting the Incredibles, the vehicles split to either encounter Bomb Voyage or the Underminer before reuniting again for a final battle with an Omnidroid.

The back street of Pixar Place is built so that the Block Party Bash can return as it thematically fits this area better than Hollywood Boulevard. The existing floats are reused along with new floats for the Incredibles, Cars, and Ratatouille so that each property on the street is featured.

Next around the park is Animation Courtyard, where a new entrance plaza is built. In the plaza are a set of statues of significant characters in the history of Disney animation. A stylized hat marks the entrance to the indoor section. Playhouse Disney is replaced with the relocated Mickey’s Philharmagic, the Little Mermaid Theater is removed, and the Animators Palate Restaurant is put into the current One Man’s Dream exit theater. The current animation tour area is completely enclosed and a video courtyard is added, showing montage shows of animated features. Also, a carousel featuring animated animals rotates in front of a curved video screen of a constantly moving and transitioning landscape. The animation tour returns in a shortened self-guided form. The major addition is an omnimover dark ride where guests follow Goofy’s quest to learn how to be a movie star, styled after his series of animated shorts. The attraction takes us through scenes from animated films where Goofy learns lessons about gaining and maintaining fame, including “Festival of Fools”, “Zero to Hero”, and “A Star Is Born”.

On Sunset Boulevard, working trolley tracks are installed, new side streets are created, and a small park with a gazebo is added. The west side building is extended with a counter service location on the ground floor and an exclusive Hollywood Club on the top level. The Theater of the Stars is enclosed and renamed, and a new Broadway quality revue style show is introduced, including many popular songs from Disney films. A permanent onstage exit from Fantasmic is also added to improve the placemaking and guest flow of the area. The façade to Rockin Roller Coaster is redesigned and the guitar is removed so that it now fits in the unified time and location of the land. Aerosmith is therefore also removed for thematic consistency. At the north end of the park, a dedicated events building is constructed, featuring two large event halls for use during the many special events during the year.

The last additional land to the park is a new iteration of Toontown, this time a very urban city based on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The land includes a Gag Factory themed shooting gallery, a meet and greet location for a rotation of rare animated characters, an interactive Toon Comedy Club, much like the current Laugh Floor, a café, and the main attraction, a medium speed dark ride through the street of Toontown. Guests board a yellow taxi for a tour of Toontown, beginning in the Acme factory. After accidentally setting off gag fireworks in the factory, the cab rockets out for a wild and high speed trip through many iconic locations of the city, ending in the Toontown Hotel. The cab, unable to stop, flies out a window only to be safely caught by Roger on the ground.

Not shown on the map, special events become a major aspect of this park, more so than any other park. Following the Star Wars Weekend model, a series of new events are created. Pixar themed weekends early in the year featuring special meets and greets and lectures with Pixar creative. A classic Disney Animation celebration in the spring featuring animation seminars and live orchestral performances of selections from Fantasia. Marvel weekends include special fireworks, characters, and merchandise. I intentionally increased the theater capacity of the park for these events. There are 10 theaters of various size in the park plus the event halls so that events can be spread out and have a higher capacity.

The biggest event is a long Halloween season, which features a seasonal land. Halloweentown is built in the Event Halls, recreating the town square and including a small temporary simulator attraction where guests ride Jacks latest iteration of his sleigh. An after-hours Halloween party is introduced, which featured exclusive shows, meets and greets, fireworks, and four Halloween mazes: a maze through Oogie Boogies Lair in Event Hall A, a maze featuring the Marvel villains in a tent in the expansion area of Marvel City, a maze filled with classic Disney Villain in the animation tour area, and a maze through the haunted halls of the Hollywood Hotel Convention Center built in Event Hall B. None are significantly based in horror, but still significant enough to make this a more teen and adult oriented party.

Since this is a bonus post, the question is a little less thoughtful and a faster answer.

I heavily focused on special events when planning this park. Do you think special events and upcharge events add to your overall experience of the park, or do they not do anything for you?

This is prompted by both the ridiculous amount of upcharge events that have been added in the last year and the changes that have been made over the last few years to the premier special event: Star Wars Weekends.

Some special events in the past and present have bothered me alot in a design sense because they sometimes sacrificed design and placemaking for the goals of the event. Prime examples being the Hoopla show making the ugly temporary stage a necessity, the many out of theme dance parties and DJ's in every park, and the unthemed party lighting rigs that show up all over hours before the event even starts. Luckily, some of this is improving. I sincerely hope DHS gets a permanent stage on the former hat site, and some of the dance parties, though fundamentally annoying, are at least starting to be themed. The nature of the events also seem to be changing to spread out the demand loads on the park, which in turns means less intrusive infrastructure is needed, i.e the stage is not as crucial to the event.

So now that I've said my complaints, I have to turn around and say that I think the principle idea of special events adds a lot to a park environment, specifically those at the studios park. Special events are just that: special. They add unique, exclusive experiences, that further define a park when done properly. Good ones, like Food and Wine and the Harambe Nights are able to add thematic depth by expanding the scope of what guests can experience. The studios glorify Hollywood and its glamour, and special events in this park only emphasize the excitement of Hollywood even more. Movie based special events make this a better movie based theme park.

So, in summary: when done right without thematic sacrifices, I believe special events are a great addition to a park. 

Since this is a bonus post, you will still get a new post next week! The first detailed attraction concept: Mary Poppins' Jolly Holiday. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

EPCOT Park Plan

EPCOT is my favorite park, but has lost its focus. Its theme of human exploration has so much potential, but a fundamental change is how this park is presented is needed to really bring it to what it was meant to be. Originally a park of thematic maturity with a focus on learning, it is now a catch all for technological or cultural properties. This plan restores many of the thematic ideas of the park while greatly expanding the attraction capacity. This plan is my ideal vision.

The Monorail station and entrance plaza are modernized and streamlined and the Leave a Legacy stones are consolidated onto two large stones, cleaning up the entrance plaza. In Future World Central, the canopies are removed and the Innoventions buildings are cleaned and modernized. Both Innoventions buildings are expanded. Innoventions West features all new exhibits by leading technology and science companies, creating an elegant E3 like environment, instead of the current interactive playground. The Innoventions East building now holds an expanded dining room for the Electric Umbrella and a walk through attraction that recalls an EPCOT favorite. Horizons: Living in the Future is an expanded take on the House of the Future styled attraction, but with elaborate walk through show scenes that take us to a variety of futuristic environments, all filled with the future of living technology, some real, some imagined.

The main visible change to Future World West is a new unifying organic mass that ties together each pavilion and acts as a berm for the new construction. The mass is a combination of sleek steel and organic material. Also tying the pavilions together is a focus on interactive learning opportunities, so each pavilion has a “lab” area, filled with exhibits and activities targeted to the whole family, not just kids. The reaffirmed mission of the park means that these new labs are crucial to the full experience of EPCOT.

The Living Seas removes its Nemo overlay with a new omnimover dark ride that takes guests through the beauty and the danger of the sea. The track is reused while the vehicles are rethemed as personal underwater vehicles for a trip to an underwater sea base, passing through reefs, storms, shipwrecks, and more. The Sea Base Alpha theme will be reapplied and this area is used as a model for the rest of the lab areas.

The first new pavilion of the park is Weather Station, centered on a series of biodomes that recreate weather events like heat, snow, and rain. This was definitely inspired by Tony Baxter's original Land concept. The attraction, The Observation Station, takes guest right into the middle of a weather experiment, created with a mix of practical weather effects inside of a 360 degree projection dome. Guests are surrounded by the power of the storm as wind and rain effects fill the theater before the calm returns.

Next door at The Land, a new entrance piece inspired by the Tower of the 4 Winds acts as an icon for all of Future World West. Also, a dedicated entrance for Soarin is build outside of the pavilion, alleviating crowds inside. If the rest of the park is properly expanded, I don't see a need for a 3rd and 4th theater, but that seems to be happening eventually anyway. A lab space is built on the second floor inside the movie theater space, including exhibits on geology and farming.

The Imagination Institute is also reimagined with a new family friendly mini-Kuka based dark ride, seeing the return of DreamFinder and Figment. Guests take a ride through their own dreams along with the duo, literally flying off the track and into the world of imagination. Instead of a new 3D movie in the theater, this becomes the space for the Imagination Labs in the form of a redeveloped Imagineering Open House from the D23 Expo. The diverse talents of Walt Disney Imagineering exemplify the Imagination pavilion, making this a great fit.

In Future World East, there is also elevation work to architecturally unify the pavilions with sleek, industrial elements, like the current facade of Mission: Space. A sleek tower on top of Mission: Space mirrors the other new Future World tower. Light is a major element of these new pieces, so this side of the land is most complete at night.

The Universe of Energy gets new film sections, updated figures, and is overall tightened up to a more manageable length. A new lab area is built on the west side along with two large wind turbines outside of the pavilion.

The second new pavilion of the park is based on computers and our digital lifestyle. With architecture inspired by circuitry patterns, it includes a major LPS ride through a computer, a counter service location, and a digital lab.

Outside of Test Track, the transportation lab area is built, consisting of areas dedicated to rail travel, road travel, water travel, and air travel. Also included is a simulator attraction where guests can pilot a helicopter in a small simulator pod that travels back and forth along a raised covered track. The exterior section of Test Track receives a visual enclosure.

The Odyssey reopens as an exclusive club serving a mix of favorites from around the park, like its original incarnation.

World Showcase is significantly expanded with some unifying moves. Each pavilion becomes a representative to a geographic region of the world and added in each pavilion is an exhibition space where an interactive exhibit on that region is held. Just like the labs in Future World, the point of these spaces is to expand the educational potential of the park while attempting to add enjoyable and family friendly experiences. By making the pavilions representative of regions, the entire world finds representation in EPCOT. I have to give credit to Peter Schaab's EPCOT Plan for inspiring some of these decisions.

Starting in Canada, representative to the Polar Regions, there is a new major attraction, a raft ride. This raft adventure passes through a new “mountain” of rockwork build behind the pavilion and reuses the circlevision theater space and rockwork as the loading area. The rafts swiftly float through the gardens in front of the pavilion before climbing a hill into the treacherous mountain, where encounters with both wildlife and geography end in a splashdown. The exhibit space for the Polar Regions is built into the existing gift shop area on the second level and is themed as a woodcarving studio.

Next door, The UK also gets a major attraction. Set inside a Victorian library constructed on the square at the rear of the pavilion, guests travel right into many of the classics of British Literature. This classic dark ride takes patrons of this library through the stories Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and more. Behind the existing shops an addition holds the exhibit space for the British Isles themed as a toy store. There is also a British Spy Musuem to complete the square.

Across the water, France remains relatively unchanged with the only addition being the Western Europe exhibit space into the original Boulangerie Patisserie location, now themed as a bookstore.

The first new pavilion is next, the country of South Africa representing the region of South Africa. Designed primarily with influences from the Dutch colonization of Africa, the pavilion begins with guests passing through the entrance to the Castle of Good Hope. A courtyard inside holds a table service restaurant, a small counter service location, and gift shops. Straight ahead however are ruins of traditional African structures, loosely based on Great Zimbabwe, marking the entrance to the attraction of the pavilion, a theater. Inside, storytellers tell a series of traditional African fables accompanied by a cast of sophisticated life sized animal puppets, similar to the style of the Handspring Puppet Company. At the exit from the theater is the exhibit space themed to the ruins for this large and diverse region.

Morocco follows this new pavilion. Behind the pavilion, a large suspended dark ride telling the story of Ali Baba is added. Accessed by a pathway through a market next to Restaurant Marrakesh, guests board a suspended flying carpet for a ride through a large and detailed dark ride, telling a family friendly version of Ali Babba and the Forty Thieves in a style similar to Sindbad in TDS. The North Africa exhibit space is inside the existing gallery space, themed as a carpet and tile workshop.

Next is Egypt, representing the Middle East. Looming over the pavilion, two iconic forced perspective pyramids form the visual icon of the pavilion. At the base of the pyramids is a small village square, where there is a market, the entrance to a restaurant, and an archeological museum, the entrance to the attraction: a tour through the pyramids. Inside the large showbuilding is a large forced perspective scene of the pyramids on the horizon at dusk. Both the restaurant and the queue for the attraction look out to this impressive scene. After entering the museum, guests queue through the showrooms before making it “outside” to board an omnimover trip into the pyramids. Actual spaces from the pyramids are recreated in great detail in the rear section of the showbuilding, giving guests a chance to go right into a world icon that would otherwise be impossible. The exhibit space at the end of the tour is themed as the museum storage room, filled with crates and boxes of artifacts.

Japan is just next door and receives a new version of an attraction that was originally proposed for the pavilion, Bullet Train Pass. Guests board a modern bullet train in the castle station for a high speed trip through the sights of Japan. Primarily a film based attraction, the vehicle leaves the station and travels into a projection tunnel. The projected outside combined with some basic motion to the vehicle creates the effect of high speed travel through the countryside of Japan. The Pacific Islands exhibit is placed inside the castle, themed as the castles map room.

The American Adventure is nearly unchanged. The small existing museum space is expanded and partnered with the Smithsonian to present a rotating collection of historical objects.

Italy next door is significantly expanded with a new Venetian Canal based area, holding a double level masquerade themed carousel, a gelato shop, and the Mediterranean exhibit space themed as a sculptor’s workshop.

Between Italy and Germany, instead of a new country pavilion, an event garden is added. The reasoning behind this is that I did not want to remove the existing train garden, which adds great character to the area. Behind the train area is a small patio and event building for groups to rent out.

Germany also gets a new version of an originally proposed attraction, the Rhine River Cruise. In a new showbuilding, guests take a scenic boat ride through the German countryside before encountering some mythical German fables. The East Europe exhibit area is at the exit, themed to the loading dock of the harbor, filled with boxes of tradable goods.

The large expansion area between Germany and the dock is split into two countries. First is Russia, dominated by a recreation of St. Basil’s Cathedral and filled with architecture reminiscent of the Red Square. St. Basil’s holds a restaurant while the rest of the square is filled with shops and the North Asia exhibit space themed as an art gallery. Also on the square is an opera house, the entrance to the attraction: a dark ride based on The Firebird. Guests enter the workshop of the opera house, passing through costumes and set pieces before suddenly finding themselves right in the story at the load area in a snowy forest clearing. The large dark ride takes guests right through a simplified version of the story, complete with the classic musical score.

The other half of the plot becomes a small Indonesia pavilion, representing South Asia. This pavilion is small and indoors because of the proximity to the service dock. Dominated by the spires of Prambanan, the entrance to the pavilion is through the dense jungle. Inside the temple, guests find themselves in an active “outdoor” market, simulated with dense fabric canopies covering skylights. In the market are both shops and the exhibit space, themed as market stalls. The attraction is a movie of an Indonesian Shadow Puppet show, telling a traditional folktale.

Across the water is China, which is unchanged as it has an existing exhibit space where the Central Asia exhibit is placed.

Norway is also unchanged. The Scandanavian exhibit is placed in the Stave Church. I'm also going to pretend that we still have Maelstrom instead of a poorly placed Frozen overlay.

The last new pavilion is Brazil. Areas based on Brazil are actually added to both EPCOT and Animal Kingdom, but to differentiate between the two, this EPCOT area is very urban, modeled on the city of Ouro Preto, a historic mining town. In the winding streets is the South America exhibit space, themed as the University of the city, shops, a high class steakhouse restaurant with an open kitchen, and a mining company acting as the entrance to the attraction. The Little King Mine Trek is a family friendly indoor coaster through an active gold mine.

Lastly, in Mexico, the Three Cabelleros are removed from the boat ride and a new exhibit space for Central America is built right next to the temple entrance, themed to the temple ruins.

At the center of the park a final addition completes the theme of EPCOT. The EPCOT pavilion is just a large monolithic covered pavilion over the walkway marking the midway point between the two halves of the park. Inside are three main elements: a recreation of The Prologue and the Promise painting, a new companion piece completing the circle, and a large light at the center shooting straight up into the sky that turns on at dusk.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is among my favorite attractions anywhere, so I believe it should remain, but be updated with larger fountains and modern effects.

This week’s question:

It's a simple one. Do you believe the original educational mission of EPCOT can create a viable modern theme park? 

This question is inspired by both my decision to heavily focus on educational areas in my plan, and the recent addition of animated properties that I feel dilute the theme of EPCOT. These two design decisions move the park in fundamentally opposite directions.

I never saw original EPCOT, but as you can see in my plans, I have strong opinions about the maturity of the park and what kind of content should be included. While working on the design though, I often wondered if it could actually work, if the educational areas would be popular, if the maturity would be embraced or if the average modern theme park guest wouldn't understand it. I designed the EPCOT I want, but that includes spending time immersing in culture and technology, not just enjoying a standard theme park. This EPCOT is a somewhat interactive cultural museum about the human race. A big concept theme park that doesn't exactly fit with modern parks.

My personal opinion about the question is that ideally yes, it could be successful in the right situation, but I fear that the park is too far gone. Success would likely require the right attraction mix and a focused branding scheme to make guests aware what kind of park this is becoming.

In the plan, I made sure that the non-educational attraction lineup was expanded in conjunction with the addition of the education spaces. The hope is that successful attractions would be the draw that would lead guests to the cultural experiences. I also made sure that the education was isolated so as to not force it on guests that just wanted a theme park.

Additionally I think if the expansion plan I proposed were to be enacted, a focused rebranding of the park would be necessary to change the public consciousness of the park. Like the Nahtazu campaign for Animal Kingdom, something needs to directly inform the public about the overall purpose and theme of the park. Maybe a huge international one-time-only Worlds Fair type campaign could do the trick.

This is a super fast and under developed idea: 2026 (which is likely how long it would take to build out this plan with the current Disney building speed) is the 150th anniversary of the first World Exposition in the United States. In celebration, EPCOT could host a real World's Fair to both celebrate and to mark the conclusion of the parks transformation.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think the average guest would appreciate a refocused EPCOT or would they pass over it on the way to the next coaster and meet and greet?