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. 


  1. Absolutely Fantastic Park! Each land maximizes experience with its limited space! The park celebrates old Hollywood while indulging modern fans through incredible immersive experiences into the worlds we crave. I love special events and building a park that is always ready for one while still looking aesthetically pleasing is outstanding. I so wish Disney took some hints from this page and implement these design ideas. Amazing park, well done.

    1. Thanks for the comment and hope you enjoy the posts.

      That's a good way to think about this park: a park that is a year round special event center.

  2. This is great! While still very similar to it's one you had in your old blog, I think overall it's great, and I can't wait for more. Though since you moved It's Tough to Be a Bug here, I wonder how different Animal Kingdom will be. I still think you should add Beastly Kingdom to Animal Kingdom, but that's just my opinion.

    As for this weeks question, I can't really say. I never participated in any of the special events in any of the parks, except once two years ago for New Years in Magic Kingdom. Still, based on what you wrote I think they would work.

    1. Good catch. Yes Animal Kingdom is the most changed from the last version, specifically with the Up dark ride that was here switching parks.

      That park will be posted in a few weeks, and I may try to get my interpretation of Beastly Kingdom in there if I have time and inspiration but no promises.

    2. If you can't fit Beastly Kingdom in, maybe release a alternate version of the plan which includes Beastly Kingdom after you include the one you release in a few weeks. You can maybe even do another alternate that has Pandora, so people could see both versions.

  3. I think special events work well if they are handled properly by the parks. I hear that the Unleash the Villains event last year and 2013 were very popular but equally chaotic due to a lack of organization on part of the management.

  4. True, that is the prime example of a failed special event. From an outside viewers perspective, the problems were that it was a one night only event that was based on character meet and greets. Thats about as low capacity as you can get. The actual events and shows seemed to work, it just needed better logistical operation.

    All the special events I imagine for this park are multiday, like the Star Wars Weekends. That definitely helps alot.

  5. You should built Maroon Studios near by Sunset Blvd featuring the Toontown Trolley, Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy Ride and Roller Coaster Rabbit.

  6. I was always curious how someone would walk off Hollywood Blvd and step into Star Wars land- keeping Indy there and incorporating that into it w/ a new rainforest ride to transition into Endor is brilliant. Yes, Star Wars land isn't as big- but it has room for expansion and looks like the best solution in a hard area to theme- great job!

    I'd assume with Hollywood & Vine, 50s Prime time, and Min & Bills Dockside stay? It seems like a tough location to blend.
    Also- the Sci-Fi drive in and commissary lane seem like those are challenging locations too.

    I like all those restaurants for what they are- but how do you see them incorporating into your overall design. HS is so challenging because its such a hodge-podge and existing things are thrown all over the place with little continuity. And you're exactly correct- this park- particularly with your layout- could be the most attended park of them all.

    1. You are right, the existing restaurants are a serious challenge to work around.

      The grouping around Echo Lake are retained to buffer between Hollywood Boulevard and the start of the movie themed lands. The back sides of the stunt arena are fully themed facades that complete the classic Hollywood environment and form a solid edge to this land. Dockside Diner and Hollywood and Vine fit fine in this themed area, and likely would be strengthened by having the more enclosed theming. 50's Prime Time is actually removed for the Indy area, which was a difficult decision, but it strayed too far from the Hollywood area and the land was better used by the stunt show. I image it could be relocated to Disney Springs.

      As for the other two restaurants, they both are firmly themed in the real world of film production, which isn't really represented in the park anymore. Though not really elaborated on in the plan, I see Commissary Lane becoming a subland of Hollywood and themed as an 1930's-40's production studio alley that ties back into the theme of Hollywood Boulevard. This allows for the production stage facades to remain and the restaurants to remain with minimal retheme. The Commissary is themed as a period commissary, not ABC specific, and the Drive in just gets a period appropriate redressing and change in film clips to feature Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, etc.

      Thanks again for the questions, I'm really happy to discuss any specifics and design choices that you have questions about. Hope you keep on enjoying the posts!