Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disney's Animal Kingdom Park Plan

Preface: I've had a busy week filled with computer issues and school commitments, so I was unable to finish up a new content post. So this is the last of the WDW expansion plans that some of you may have seen before, though there are a few differences. I had hoped to save this for later, but I wanted to have something up this week. Also, as you'll see below, I did not develop part of the park but have plans to get back to that soon. So this plan will see another round of development over time.

I also just now realized that today is the birthday of Animal Kingdom. What a coincidence. Well good that this worked out like this then.

The Animal Kingdom is currently one of the most unique theme parks in the world, but one that is unfortunately lacking in content compared to the rest of the Walt Disney World Resort. It is quickly getting better. The additions of more continent based lands, more attractions, and most importantly more animals would make this a complete park.

Outside the park, the Rainforest Café is removed. It does not thematically or tonally fit the park, and the addition of new food locations in the park makes it unnecessary. Inside the park, a significant and unexpected addition is found at the end of the Oasis: a train station. Looking at the expansion possibilities for this park, the most viable option is to expanded north between Asia and Planet Watch. The issue with this expansion location is access and distance, as it would require walking the full distance of the park, which is about two Magic Kingdoms. This is a possible walk but a secondary movement method would help, so I propose rerouting the existing train so that it travels two ways on a single track from the existing station in Africa, around the park, and to a new station in the Oasis. It passes along an enclosed raised track through the backstage areas between the Oasis and the rear of the park. The cars are reconfigured so that all seats face inwards along the journey. The situation is not ideal, but a train between the top and bottom of the park solves a major functional problem of expansion. And more motion and kinetics are always welcome.

On Discovery Island, It’s Tough to be a Bug is removed and replaced by a new movie based on the Disney Nature franchise. This new movie would better represent the entire animal kingdom, not just the narrow view of bugs. Also on the island, an exclusive club is built, looking across the water to Expedition Everest, serving a mix of world cuisines.

There are many additions to Dinoland, including an overarching backstory change. In light of the Dino Institutes successful Time Rover technology, they have begun an ambitious plan to bring targeted animals to the present day to live in their research compound. In order to differentiate this area from Jurassic Park at Universal, the time unique travel element needs to be emphasized. Therefore, the entirety of Dinorama is removed and the plot of Countdown to Extinction receives some subtle changes to fit this new story. Three new attractions are also added.

Near the original Dino Institute building, guests can have a close encounter with recently time displaced dinosaurs in the rehabilitation building. Inside is a large grassy holding area, where two full sized, free roaming animatronic dinosaurs are grazing. Hidden by the grass, the dinos are supported by low profile wheeled bases similar to the designs of the Creature Technology Company. The figures are wire guided and are live puppeteered in order to be interactive. Guests watch from a raised walkway while listening to a guide before getting a closer look when one of the dinos approaches the group.

Taking up the space of Dinorama is the main dinosaur enclosure, evidenced by high walls and fences and the mountain looming beyond. According to the backstory, this area was originally an active dig site for the institute's original research purpose before the time traveling dinosaurs were brought in. The next attraction is a coaster through the former dig site, hevaily based on the Excavator coaster that was originally planned for Dinoland. The queue and load area are built behind the current Dig Site area, and the coaster passes above the walkway for a fast trip through the dig. The last attraction is a major flume that takes guests through the enclosure and mountain tracking a missing dinosaur before encountering an active geyser that propels the boat to the top of the mountain. The only way down is by plunging down the large waterfall. The large boats pass through extended outdoor segments and past many large dinosaur animatronics on the adventure.

In the expansion area next to Expedition Everest, an indoor Polar themed land is built. Inside the polar cave entrance is a large simulated outdoor icy clearing, with the aurora borealis projected above. In the clearing is a tea cups style ride, featuring large sliding ice blocks, and a small counter service location. Off the icy area is the animal trail area of the land, featuring Arctic Foxes, Penguins, Seals, and Polar Bears. There is also a family dark ride/spinning coaster that follows a polar bear family through the adventures of polar life.

The area between Africa and Asia is reconfigured to allow for the path to the north expansion area while also adding an attraction to Asia, a dark ride through the Jungle Book. Following the precedent of the new Harambe Theater, the park uses the philosophy of animated films placed into the appropriate geographic lands in realistically designed and detailed settings. The outside reflects the mature and realistic design of the appropriate land while the inside portrays the animated world. Set in an abandoned temple, this is a classic dark ride through the story and environments of the movie. The current Flight of Wonder Theater is removed but a new iteration is built across the path, this one built to present shows that feature more than just birds but all animals. The path north slopes up to pass over a backstage support road and then comes back down to level.

The first new land found is Adventurers Paradise, home to The Adventurers Society. The land holds a modified copy of Mystic Manor, now with a prominent animal appreciation theme, a table service Explorer’s Club, and a spinner themed to the flying inventions and artifacts that the adventures have collected.

The path splits to Australia on the right and South America on the left. Through the trees, we immediately see two large hot air balloons marking Australia and the entrance to the main attraction, a balloon flight simulator. A large “basket” filled with seated guests lifts into a 360 degree projection sphere for a balloon flight over the outback of Australia. In the land is also a new iteration of a Finding Nemo darkride, with emphasis on the Australian reefs. The animal trail of the land features koala, emus, and kangaroos.

South America represents a much less urban take on Brazil than the one in EPCOT. The land is mostly filled with vegetation with only small, almost temporary looking structures. In the land, there is a large counter service location and a realistic Jungle Cruise style boat ride through the jungle, passing real animal habitats before traveling through a series of indoor scenes. Carl Fredericksons house marks the entrance to UP UP and Away, a suspended dark ride utilizing a multitrack system to create the illusion of a trackless suspended ride through the jungles near Paradise Falls. The animal trail of the land features owls, howler monkeys, capybaras, frogs, llamas, sloths, and jaguars.

Last, North America is represented in a redwoods national park themed area, including a carousel, a counter service restaurant, and the animal trail featuring raccoons, beavers, otters, elk, and grizzly bears. A canoe dark ride takes guests just around the riverbend through the story of Pocahontas. Lastly, inside the great lodge of the national park, guests board a jeep for an adventurous trip through the park. Passing through active hot springs, rock slides, and encounters with the animal inhabitants of the park, the jeeps eventually make it back safely to the lodge. A new train station served both North America and Planet Watch.

This plan was designed during the development of the World of Avatar but before its opening, so the south west corner of the park is left vacant. I will likely work out one or two other proposals for this corner, including Beastly Kingdom, at some point in the future.

I wanted to give an update on what is going to be happening with the blog soon.

Right now I am in the last weeks of the semester so am extremely busy. I had hoped to do a new project this week and save Animal Kingdom for later on but didn't have the time to write and edit the work for a new post. But soon I will be a little less busy and will be able to start something new. I have a list 20 or 30 projects deep of things in progress or that I want to work on to put up here so it becomes difficult to figure out what should come next. But I have tentatively set out the next few months of work, and I believe I have given myself realistic time frames to get it all done.

If all goes according to plan, over the summer and fall, I will be going in depth on an original resort plan, including attraction plans and elevations, as well as a few more WDW attraction plans that you have not seen before. I also want to try to get more into analyzing the architectural and cinematic tools that make a successful theme park design by writing a series of posts about significant design elements. That will be near the end of the year. I also plan on making some edits to my presentation drawing style soon, so all the existing plans will be replaced over time.

Leave a comment with thoughts or suggestions about the plan, and please share it with anyone who would be interested. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Disney Studios Paris Park Plan

I want to introduce this post with the disclaimer that this is the first park I have ever designed an expansion plan for without visiting it. I went to Disneyland Paris but skipped the Studios, and I don't regret the decision. But that just means I had to make some educated guesses about how the park works, so there may be some mistakes or issues. Please let me know if there are any glaring problems.

This is by far the most drastic park expansion plan I have ever worked on. It practically was designing a new park because of how little there was to it to start. So the goal of this plan was to create a realistic plan that could actually happen as part of a 15 or 20 year improvement plan. That meant that I needed priorities. From my limited exposure to the park, it seems to me that the biggest challenge is placemaking, as in transforming the lightly themed expanses of concrete to a cohesive Disney quality theme park environment. If I didn't add a single attraction, establishing a quality setting would make a superior park. Luckily I didn't stop there and focused on creating new lands based on highly successful IPs. To be realistic, I limited myself to four lands: Hollywoodland, Pixar Place, Marvel City, and Wonderland, with extensive room for future expansions. To size the park, I also wanted to be realistic. Some elements of the park were dimensioned from the Disneyland Park next door, such as matching the distance from frontgate to hub and matching the maximum walking distance from the gate.

I wanted to mention that I put some research into selecting properties for the park, but may have made mistakes here too. Since I am less familiar with the European market, I researched the France and UK box office for the various properties I considered and used their economic success to gauge what characters would be popular here. This may be completely wrong. Let me know.

Now to the park.

The existing studio entry plaza and Studio 1 remain as the entryway to the park, but that is where the studio theming ends. The Disney Studio area is the transitional gateway to the park with a fully themed Golden Age Hollywood on the other side. Just past the other side of Studio 1 is a semicircular studio archway, marking the transition point between the Hollywood studio and the Hollywood city.

This area took a lot of attempts to develop because of the strange layout of the existing buildings, which I wanted to maintain. The main issue was the inability to implement a hub system because of the proximity of the first buildings to Stage 1. There was no main street corridor to bring you to the center of the park. So the park splits off a little earlier than normal. The priority of this area was placemaking and creating a realistic cityscape, not just a concrete field. So that meant the addition of streets, grass, mid growth trees, and more complex period facades. I also included a streetcar line for the kinetic value. The new plan created a multi axis streetscape based on the existing buildings, with new hub like spaces to the west and south. Straight ahead is the Chinese Theater as a new icon to the park.

Another issue to the layout of the park was the protected old growth forest on the north side of the park (I read about this in a comment on another blog, but have never been able to confirm it. Anyone know for sure if this is protected?). It’s placement in relation to the Pixar additions caused a major flow issue that restricts growth of the park in that direction. To somewhat solve this, there is an enclosed bridge pathway from the Playland area towards the back of the park.

Hollywoodland, the entrance land, includes new period facades on the Animation Building and a new retail building across the street to form a corridor towards the theater. Inside the theater is a small Hollywood history interactive space with a plaza and fountain in front of it. To the south is a new roundabout surrounded by new facades and trees. Cinemagique remains but gets a new entry lobby and façade, adjacent to new retail spaces. The Disney Jr building is rethemed as the high class offices of a Hollywood studio and holds a new original attraction about becoming a movie star. In the attraction queue, guests are interactively cast in the studios newest film before taking a ride through the movie making process as Hollywood’s newest celebrity.

Pixar Place begins just past Stage 1 and is an extremely large land. Each of the unique themed areas tie into a common cityscape design, but each have their own unique touches that reference the property. First, Animagique is replaced with an Up suspended dark ride, which includes Carl’s house out front. The dark ride guides us from take-off in the city to Paradise Falls on a tour led by the Wilderness Explorers. Crush's Coaster is reskinned as a large aquarium, including enclosing the current outdoor section of the ride. It includes an aquarium exhibit space and Turtle Talk on the right side and a counter service location on the left side. Across the street, part of the Animation Building becomes the Pixar Studios, where guests can find meet and greets with rotating characters and a small theater showing Pixar shorts.

Farther down the street, where the costuming building is currently, is an area for the Incredibles, featuring an Omnidroid spinner surrounded by a semicircle of just-smashed facades. Inside the Metroville Bank is a simulator attraction based on the exploits of the super family as they foil a plan by one of the city’s biggest super villains. This would be a unique attraction system with a larger theater capacity, unlike the Star Tours simulators in the other park. The costuming facilities are relocated up the road in a new larger building. Last, Toy Story Playland is completed with a major E ticket attraction behind RC Racer. Instead of just putting Midway Mania here, I wanted to include a new take on a Toy Story shooter attraction. Set inside a giant toy box façade, this is a dual track shooter that is based on physical sets and moving props with minimal screens, including animatronic figures of the significant characters. Guests can choose to play for Buzz or Woody as they travel through Andy’s playroom, encountering scenes based on Buzz’s space background and Woody’s cowboy background. This was the reason that I removed Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters from Disneyland Park.

On the other side of the park is the other major franchise land of the park, Marvel City, which includes areas based on the Star Expo and New York City. Hollywoodland transitions into the Stark Expo along an arcade of trees leading towards the current Rockin Roller Coaster. Filled with futuristic sweeping architecture, the Expo is formed of rethemed existing buildings. Armageddon is rethemed as the Iron Man experience, an animatronic based show that shows the technology and power of Stark’s suit. Rockin Roller Coaster becomes the testing ground of Stark Expo, featuring a high speed flight on the newest Stark creation. And the dining locations are rethemed to the general environment of the technology fair.

Down the street is New York City, a richly detailed big city environment, anchored by the tower of Shield HQ. The city includes a family dark ride based on the Avengers and Shield characters, a major Spiderman suspended attraction that simulated swinging through the city, and a resort highlight Avengers attraction where guests fly along with the Avengers on an effects heavy dark ride coaster. There is also a large counter service location to complete the city.

The west section of the park is divided into three plots, with the outer two saved for expansion. In the center is the Fantasyland style section of the park, meaning a highly vegetated and organic Fantasy based land, which I believe is important to the thematic balance of a Studios park. There were a few possibilities for this, including Avatar and Oz, but based on Box Office results, its upcoming sequel, and uniqueness, I decided on Wonderland from the recent live action franchise. An orderly park transitions from the city to the organic forest of Wonderland. There is a good area of separation here to create the remoteness of the forest. Guests pass under the abandoned gates into the mushroom forest, filled with oversized mushroom canopies and a large carousel. Farther into the forest is the Mad Hatter’s village, including a counter service location and his tea party set up in the shadow of a windmill. This area also has a water based LPS attraction where guests float through the forest spring while trying to avoid the Cheshire Cat’s tricks. At the back of the land is a large boat dark ride through the environment of Alice in Wonderland and a theater with a show hosted by the Queen of Hearts. This theater would likely be removed to access the adjacent expansion plot, so it is a temporary structure.

Expansion pathways are built into this area, connecting the three upper land together and then down to Marvel City. There are a lot of options for expansion so I left them open for now. A likely solution would be for the left plot to become a new Marvel subland and the right plot to be a second Fantasy based land, such as Oz, more Wonderland, or an unknown property, based on the success of future movies.

The plan includes a new parade building behind Stark Expo for a parade that would run from the southeast circle in Hollywoodland, up to the Chinese Theater, and then straight through New York City. Also of note it that I did not include infrastructure for a nighttime experience in this stage of the plan for a few reasons. First, the layout of the park makes it hard to define gathering spaces for an event. There is no natural hub. Also, the scale of the park at this point would probably not require a show, especially since there is the highly successful Dreams just a park away. Last, fireworks would likely require closure of the rear area of the park, which is problematic because that would majorly cut down on the attraction count each day. This growing park can't afford that right now.

So this is step 1 of how this park develops. I plan to make proposals for the expansion plots in the near future, but I am not sure what properties to choose. Any suggestions?

If you were in charge of selecting properties to include in a studios based theme park, what criteria would you consider to assemble the best lineup? Box office, critical reception, cult popularity, design aesthetic? 

I think my thought process above starts to explain my process: its part box office, part design potential. A popular film in an uninspired visual environment isn't going to get you anywhere. It works better the other direction though. If the design can create a strong enough original environment, the source popularity doesn't matter. But it sure does help to have both.

That leads me to a few franchises that I keep on going back to in parks like this: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Oz, Wonderland, Toontown, Pixar. To an extent Marvel, but the generic urban city is not as suggestive of good environments as others. All of those combine general popularity with superior visual design.