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.


  1. How dare you make us wait 2 weeks for a new post! hah

    Its all about the Merch for me for "success". Wonderland will be absolutely gorgeous- much more than an urban city environment- but it's clear which will sell truckloads of merchandise and which one won't sell much at all. So having a nice marriage of all is ideal- but outside of princesses, star wars, and Cars- nothing really checks all the boxes. Thats why Cars Land was so successful IMO. It was a commercially successful movie, that has a large following for merchandise sales to little boys, and has a gorgeous design aesthetic. Marvel is marketable and successful and ugly. Wonderland is beautiful and cult popular but not that marketable.

    I think a large market that Disney isn't capitalizing on in the parks is the Fairies brand- whether it be through pixie hollow or a larger land w/ neverland. That could also check all the boxes easily for young girls- something this park doesn't lend much to.

    This is a park I'd love to attend as-is.

    1. Merchandising, definitely a solid reason that I didn't mention. It's somewhat unfortunate how important that is now, but it makes sense and it ties into measuring popularity with concrete values. Also, it seems like that consideration goes all the way up to deciding what films get made, i.e. Cars 2 and 3 over originals. It rules everything.

      I am not in the target market for the Fairies brand, so I always forget that it was built up to be a big franchise. That could work. I can really see Neverland working well for that other expansion plot. I can only imaging were going to get (another) live action Peter Pan eventually that would stylistically tie into Wonderland. I like it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Obviously Frozen, Cars, Marvel, and Star Wars are the big cows to milk so at least one of them would pop up in the park (if not all four). I adore Oz so that would be a BIG yes for me (did you know there actually were plans to make a Disneyland-sized Oz resort at one point by the Goddard Group, but it was hanged by stupid senators).

    The Muppets deserve their own expansion or land within the studios - I'd put them in the western corner where the Disney Jr. building is. In the corner of the Toon Studios there is a background of a street leading to Toontown, and I feel inclined that it should be added as an actual land, perhaps a mirrored version of the Anaheim's for easier crowd control, and more space for new attractions like a Gummi Bears ride (which I co-created for Ideal Buildout's 3rd Gate charrette).

    I'm kinda developing my own take on the Studios Park with Pixar, Marvel, the Muppets, Toontown, Oz, and Studio Ghibli getting lands.

    1. Sounds like that could be a solid park. I'm a big fan of Oz in a theme park too, it seems like such a rich visual environment to explore with a lot of potential. I nearly used that here, but Alice in Wonderland had a stronger UK and French box office, and I wanted to work out something new since Oz is already in my DHS plan.

      If you want to share your park once you finish it up, I would love to see.

    2. Plus, Alice is a British work of fiction so that is also a plus, since DLP is more European-based than American.

      Alas, drawing is not a strong point of mine.

    3. As for the expansions, I believe the Guardians of the Galaxy and the more sci-fi Marvel properties could be placed in the northern one. Leave Star Wars as an adjacent to Discoveryland, it looks good there, and since Star Tours was a part of Discoveryland since the park's opening (even if it doesn't 100% match the theme) it might as well stay. I'd mix Thor and Guardians together.

      I'd move the Iron Man Experience over to the Stark Expo in an adjacent building. The Armageddon attraction in my version is rethemed into a Hulk ride where SHIELD is trying to contain the big brute. The Spider-Man ride would be an issue due to Universal's licensing agreement, so as a counter, perhaps a reimagining of Adventure Thru Inner Space featuring Ant-Man, and using similar technology to Mystic Manor and Pooh's Hunny Hunt - though it depends on the box office in the UK and France when it comes out later this year. Captain America could get a mini-museum which doubles as a M&G.

    4. I've been leaning to Guardians and other space related Marvel properties for the left expansion also. Needs to be a different environment than the city, and it could make a nice organic transition into the fantasy Wonderland.

      As far as I know, there would be no issue with a Spiderman attraction in Paris, because Universal only holds the theme park rights on the east coast in the US and in some capacity in Japan. There are no licensing deals for Europe yet. As far as I know.

  3. You’ve done a great job! My idea would have just included a bulldozer but you’ve actually provided a valid and realistic redevelopments and expansions. I think the park is so flawed that I would need to see a completely reimagined entry avenue and hub as well, similar to what was done with California Adventure. I understand the idea of housing it indoors giving visitors a brief feel for ‘night time on Hollywood’ while providing shelter, but it doesn’t work because it feels like you’re in a building rather than the setting they were trying to pull off. Plus I’ve heard people describe Studio 1 as a bottleneck, so I’d open that area up. Tbh all the studio buildings all need to go! Toy Story is one of my favourite franchises and I love the take you have made to an extremely popular ride.

    Do you have anything in mind for the expansion plots? One thing that came to me was star wars but in the same way Universal Orlando resort tackled it. You have already got Coruscant in Disneyland Parc and another planet could be chosen for WDS with some sort of spaceship transportation service linking the two. Though the position of Discoveryland makes this difficult to happen.

    Regarding choosing properties, I generally base it on a mix of popularity, relevance, quality of the thematic landscapes that could be created using that property, the quality of attractions that could be made using that property and my (biased) connection to that property. Also maintaining a good mix of landscapes throughout the park is important. Using pixar as an example, Toy Story ticks nearly all the boxes, but the creating a landscape is difficult in my opinion unless you went down the Disneysea route. Bugs Life could work very well if enough money is spent, but is it popular or relevant enough? I personally wouldn’t use The Incredibles as I haven’t been able to think up any attraction based on that film. I think a balloon adventure would work for Up but I don’t like the film so naturally I wouldn’t want to see it in a park. While I’ve never been interested enough to watch Cars, the possibilities for attractions and the aesthetic of Radiator Springs is great.

    Popularity is a good factor for success, but unless the attraction is of interest to people who aren’t necessarily interested in the property, it will become more unpopular over time. Radiator Springs racers is not a success because it’s Cars.

    1. I'm sure many share your bulldozer opinion. I kind of wish I saw just how bad it is.

      I've heard that about Stage 1 being a bottleneck a few times. I nearly replaced it but decided to leave it for a 2nd phase of development. I'll include that in the future.

      I have a few thoughts for the expansions but am not set on anything yet. The rough idea was more Marvel to the left, and more fantasy to the right, but thats negotiable. A comment by Andy suggested a Neverland area, which I really like the idea of.

      I'm also really tempted by that Star Wars idea. The left expansion could use Guardians of Galaxy as a transition to a Star Wars area above Marvel. But like you said, the placement of Discoveryland makes this pretty difficult. Still something to think about.

      I like your points about variety of landscape and personal bias, because I definitely use those too. The variety of landscape was the prime reason for Wonderland, because I wanted a dense and organic forest to contrast the rigid urban streets of the rest of the park. I also kind of like Toy Story Playland for the variety, though I haven't judged it in person.

      And personal bias is definitely how I choose some attractions. The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar movie, so I somewhat selfishly put it in nearly all my projects. But it's a solid way to narrow down properties.

  4. Really good plan. I've never been to the actual park itself so I can't tell if the changes were the best ones to do, but I think it could work. Well Done.

  5. Always enjoy seeing what you come up with, TRF.

    -Expanding Crush into an aquarium is a cool, original idea.

    - Since 3/4 lands represent genres/studios (Hollywood/Pixar/Marvel), the more specific Wonderland seems like odd man out. If you were to fill its neighboring expansion pads with live-action Disney fantasies (e.g Oz) it could be its own "Walt Disney Pictures" area...

    -I think Disney should try to establish their own Middle Earth-style high fantasy franchise via the Prydain Chronicles, since the studio already has a history (albeit a troubled one) with those stories

    -With Wonderland occupying this park does it make sense to re-theme/re-place the teacups/maze of the animated version with something fresh in DLP?

    Look forward to seeing your build-out of the park.

    1. I am starting to really lean towards a nonspecific Forest that features all these darker and realistic live action films that were getting. Wonderland, Oz, Maleficent, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, the inevitable Peter Pan. Those could work.

      This park has really challenged me past the obvious Marvel and Pixar additions. Star Wars and Indy are in the other park. Classic animation is well covered in Fantasyland. Plus my unfamiliarity with the existing park and what is popular is France makes me second guess these decisions more than normal.

      I definitely think this park needs another round of development. Considering I refined the WDW plans for nearly 2 years before posting, this needs a little more time. So I will probably come back to this later in the year.

  6. iIt's not mean feat, it's no easy task make the most ugly Disney Park on beauty park. California Adventure he did it. Good idea for add trees and other. On the park, all the guests stay on the left side of the park with "Ratatouille" and "Toy Story" because it's new and more cleany. Or the guests ride Rock n'Roller Coaster and leave Backlot, not seat or stay lol.

    Why change all Toon Studios on Pixar Studios, you can keep Art of Disney Animation (he has one of three multiplan camera), Tapis Volants and Animagique. And you create an arch like Disney's Hollywood Studios for Pixar Place. Turtle Talk has a same attraction on Studios already, the name is "Stitch Live". Your new costuming is on Frontierland lol. Yeah the forest is protected.

    Good idea for delete Studio Tram Tour, the ride is one of shame of the resort.

    Other ideas is very good but for Wonderland is not good, the movie has no success on France, the better is Toontown. Disneyland Paris miss many characters and it's the good choice of merchandising.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Since posting this plan, I have decided I want to do a second version at some point in the future, so I'll consider some of your suggestions.

  7. And i have another question, how can you do that? With the real master plan of the park? You can take a HD picture of satellite view? I try to make a Master Plan of Warner Bros Movie World Australia (if Universal buy the park), but i can"t take a HD satellite view of the park.

    1. I make these in sketchup, which is connected to google earth. you can import a satellite view image and then I trace over that. its not hd, but good enough.

  8. You can send a tutorial for that please. I try but don't work.