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 fa├žade 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.


  1. You underestimate the love and popularity of Mary Poppins. 50 years on it is extremely popular. Pirates is obviously the most marketable/profitable, but Mary Poppins is timeless and one of the greatest family films ever, not to mention Disney's most popular live action movie. My fear is that one day, Disney makes the decision that their IPs are more profitable than the beloved original rides and force the IPs into them. However, I don't think that would happen. Look at the most popular attractions in the resorts - Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, and Pirates - only the latter has been altered to include film characters (though now the ride is more like "Jack Sparrow feat. the Pirates of the Caribbean rather than vice versa). They are still extremely popular and beloved. And if you want an example of something that hasn't had synergy, popularity, and marketing - look at Splash Mountain. It's based on a movie that Disney has never re-released on video, DVD, or blu-ray due to its frankly very minor political sensitivites. The kids are gonna ask what film S.M. is based on but the parents can't explain. If a "shameful" movie can get a ride, I think Mary Poppins can.

  2. Firstly- I absolutely love the ride and design. The limited load capacity is a problem (see: peter pan)- but with the rest of the park layout- ride wait times won't really be an issue.

    A couple of trips back, in September, we looked everywhere for a Mary Poppins outfit for my daughter at the parks and couldn't find one. She is the lead character in the Supercalifragalistic character breakfast at 1900 park fare- along with Alice, Mad Hatter, Pooh, and Tigger. She also regularly appears with the princesses at the Akershus princess banquet- yes- they have her with princesses. Additionally, they just made Saving Mr. Banks- which repopularized the character once again- thought I don't think they needed that.

    They clearly have a desire to push her in the parks- but don't really have an outlet. This would fill that perfectly.

    Now- like you said- it would have to be fiscally responsible to do it. Would expanding Main Street- which would add a couple of small shops and maybe a snack place- as well as a ride that will spark a very minor attendance boost- be worth it? Because of the nature of the ride focusing strictly on music, it will elicit an emotional response with the parents, who would be more prone to buy product from the "kite store" where media, outfits, umbrellas, etc. would be sold as well I presume.

    Iger would say no. Eisner would say Yes. So it just depends on who you have in there. :)

    1. Haha great last line. Yes all of this is my thought as well. The old Disney company would be using the upswing in popularity to lead into an attraction or experience or even a show. The current Disney company would be happy just selling the merchandise.

      Also, yes good point about the music playing into parents emotional bond with the Mary Poppins. I think thats the exact response a ride in this situation needs to elicit.

  3. Out of the ones I've seen, this is one of your very best attraction concepts. Regarding the question, I think that MP does have a large following for a film of that age, though by more adults than other 20th century disney films that have made it into New Fantasyland.

  4. I hate to tell you this, but according to your map, it's at the end of Center Street. According to some maps I found, it's extremely difficult to work back there. It really would be a tight squeeze, and considering there is a lot of important stuff back there, I don't think it would actually work back there. In fact, you admitted as much yourself at the end of the article.

    1. Yes its on center street and yes it is a small area, so I'm not sure what your trying to tell me.

      I studied the programmatic functions that happen behind MS East when planning the original map out. This includes replacing the parking with a 2 level low profile deck; building in limited access gates to the north and south of Center Street to allow those areas to be closed during the day for access to the existing stock rooms; including 2nd level enclosed pathways for permanent access to the upper level offices in the MS east buildings; laying out the backstage street widths to allow for multilanes and truck turning radii; and maintaining the existing outdoor vending building and cast cafe areas.

      Now yes, it is tight and maybe not possible. But this is a theoretical design exercise that is as realistic as I could be.

    2. I also think that they are about to build an overflow passageway behind that eastern end of Main Street, like they did at Disneyland.

  5. Instead of Disneyland, What about Epcot England. There is some space there, but I've heard rumblings of Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland also going there.