Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sydney Summer: New York Harbor

Part 2: Theme Park Overviews
Part 3: The Resort Outside the Parks
Part 4: Main Street and Fantasyland
Part 5: Adventureland
Part 6: Discoveryland

Now to the last land of the park, one that is new to the Disneyland model but heavily based in the style of the urban lands of Tokyo Disney Sea. 

First, I am going to bring up why this land and why here. The short answer is that I needed a new land for the Haunted Mansion since its always in a different land. Just kidding. 

I decided to introduce a new urban based land to the park so as to increase the diversity of settings to the small park and allow for some attractions types that wouldn't fit as well in the other lands. An urban setting worked perfectly. Visually, it also works out because the buildings can be taller and larger here, acting as a visual "berm" to the water and city just beyond. Lastly, the icon of a steamship at dock has always been a favorite, and I imagined that it would be a strong visual draw to the park because it would be highly visible to all passing by the site by road and water. 

The American Waterfront land of Tokyo Disney Sea is an extremely strong variation on this idea already. This is very similar, but different formally because it is not based around the waterfront. It is instead a self contained city square and system of streets set in the 1920s.

There are two access points into the land, from the Wonderland area and from the Pirates area of Fantasyland. Both paths transition from fantasy-rustic urban architecture to American urban architecture by passing under a lowered bridge, compressing and restricting vision into the next space as it changes time and style. The streets lead directly to a main public square of the land. The Pirates side street has retail locations on both sides and a snack location farther down on the left. The buildings grow in height and detail down the street, from the 30'-35' height average of Fantasyland to a 45'-50' height average of the city. 

At the intersection of the streets, most of the land is visible. The steamship sits looming above the harbor square, next to the decrepit colonial mansion of the ships owner. To the north, an elevated train track winds through the narrow and darkened street, signaling the darker crime noir area of the land.

There is a consistent backstory in the land that guides most of the attractions and is tied into the mythology of SEA, one of my all time favorite theme park concepts. Set in an industrial harbor neighborhood of the late 1920's, the land is a bustling city shrouded in mystery and crime. The harbor industry had been dependent on the shipping activities of the mysterious SEA organization, but that economy had disappeared in recent years, especially after the disappearance of the local SEA representative, who lived in the largest house on the square. After returning from a foreign port with a ship full of goods, he vanished, leaving his house and his ship to the city. Because of the loss of economy, the city had to find ways to take advantage of what he left, so the house, the ship, and the local SEA office have recently been opened for tours. Parts of the city have also fallen to crime as a result. Today we visit of the 6th anniversary of his disappearance. 

Time to walk through the land, starting at the first intersection. By the intersection is a covered outdoor market, selling fresh items and drinks. The East Egg mansion sits beyond, with a covered pavilion queue to the right of the private pathway leading to the porch. This Haunted Mansion uses the same track, though the entire building is mirrored. The scenes and story inside are adapted to reflect the SEA background story, but it is fundamentally the same attraction. Instead of a graveyard however is an interior warehouse scene, where the doombuggies travel through the haunted treasures of SEA. The attraction exits into a large warehouse giftshop, themed as the receiving area of the harbor complex.

Next around the square is the ship itself. The steamship sits behind a grand brick entrance building, with large glass windows revealing the stairs and escalators inside that lead up to the second floor. The second floor path leads over the backstage road and into the ship. It is a predominately industrial ship, but with high class finishes and international details, fitting the SEA mentality. To the right is the entrance to the attraction in the ship while straight down the corridor is the grand hall of the ship, with a circular staircase up the next floor. Behind the staircase is the first lounge/bar of the ship while the second floor has a high class restaurant and a second bar, the Captains's Lounge. All have views out of the park towards downtown Sydney.

The attraction is the shooter ride of the park and is a hybrid of both Toy Story based rides, so features both screens and physical sets. We have been invited to tour the treasurers of the ship at our own risk, possibly leading to us discovering the mysterious reason behind the backstory of the land. The entrance to the attraction takes us deeper into the industrial storage areas of the ship, as the queue takes us through crates and boxes and under a ceiling of creaking and steaming pipes. The queues make it to a nook where a large map is displayed, recounting the recent trips around the world and displaying pictures of the most recent acquisitions. They then lead around a corner to a large staircase up to the next level. There is also a break off for both an elevator and a side path directly to the exit area for disabled loading. Upstairs, the queues immediately lead out into the upper level balcony of the main loading hall. Guests see the vehicles cycling through load and unload below and then begin down a long ramp to the loading dock, where they are distributed to one of the three loading vehicles, or the separated disabled loading dock. The fastpass queue is 660' long and the standby queue is 1025' long. The vehicles are almost the same as those on Toy Story Midway Mania, except both rows face the same way instead of back to back. The vehicles leave loading and pass by a projected set extension, creating the illusion of a much larger warehouse bay in the ship.

Around the corner, the vehicles wait for the elevator down to the basement level, which is next to a dedicated service elevator to the maintenance bay. The dark and rickety elevator opens into the abandoned storage level of the ship, filled with the treasures found just before the disappearance. We stop and turn to the right to face the first screen. Each of the screens in the attraction are disguised in stacks of boxes and realistically extend the scene in accurate perspective based on the movement of the vehicle. So not a flat cartoon like Toy Story. At this first screen, we are greeted by the timid guide, eager to send us off so he can leave the dark warehouse. He instructs us on how to use our flashlights that are built into the car. We are to use them to illuminate the objects along our path and to scare away the mysterious forces. Around the corner is the first large scene, filed with practical sets and effects that activate when we illuminate them. So this is a shoter attraction with less of a focus on score and more on finding hidden effects. To make it repeatable, many of the objects have special reactions for different patterns of illuminations, such as a special effect if every light of the car is focused on it. The big element of the room is a large crate that is lowering to the floor on a rope pulley system. The crate is actually just an L shaped flat so that it doesn't take up as much space on the floor above. At the end of this scene, each car discovers a golden idol hidden away that comes to life, spurring the plot of the second half of the attraction.

The idol chases us forward with flashes of light and smoke, leading to a series of three screen scenes. In these, we encounter more objects and idols that are now coming for us, trying to chase us away. Our flashlights push them back. During the third screen, we hear the guide we met before yelling for us to get back to the elevator. We see him up on a balcony in the projected extension just around the corner. There are additional physical props in front of and below this screen. We turn to one more screen scene, where it seems like we are almost through the danger before turning into a dark tunnel. This blackout tunnel features projections on both sides and above us. The force of the idol surrounds us but the guide yells to us to focus our lights on the center of the idol. It moves around from side to side, our vehicle turning to follow it as we illuminate it. At the end of the tunnel, the vehicle escapes out of the darkness and from the idol to pass one more screen where the guide frantically ushers us towards the elevator. We make it into the elevator and have finally escaped.

Back up on the main floor, we emerge from the elevator to find a final screen where the guide greets us and congratulates us for escaping. Around the corner is unload. We exit into a gift shop and then to the main hall of the ship. The track is 1360' long with 2 elevators.

Back outside, the next thing visible from the square is the Broadway Theater at the end of the street, complete with a large marquee towering over the sidewalk. An outdoor covered queue sits to the right of the theater. Not really sure what goes inside, I have decided that is not one of my strengths. Thematically, it should not be based on Disney characters so that makes it a little difficult.

The last building on the square is split between retail and the SEA offices. The offices are the last interactive explorable attraction of the park and includes game based exhibits on the history and members of SEA.

The north of the land holds the darker crime ridden subarea of the city. The elevated train tracks are a major element and provide cover and shade to the area. Coming from that first intersection, the first element of the land is a speakeasy on the left. Accessed through a darkened alley, the large counter service location is broken up into many rooms of different character as if assembled into one underground complex. The restaurant serves a limited menu of international New York standards like Italian and Chinese food. It shares a kitchen with the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall.

Down the street, under the train tracks, is the entrance to the first major attraction of the area. The attraction was originally conceived as a way to add the visual kinetic of the moving train through the street. Guests load into the full sized train cars on the second floor for a leisurely trip across town. Each train includes a live guide. The train passes through the enclosed backstage elevated tunnel between the main show buildings and then into a large simulated outdoor streetscape. This streetscape is also the queue and ride track of the large EMV attraction, so there is a layering of experiences here. As we go by, we are able to look both into the scenes of the attraction and into second floor spaces, showing the life of the city. The guide points things out and includes the info that this isnt the greatest part of the neighborhood. The train then goes outside along the exterior track. After returning into the first building, the train turns left into a tunnel and stops between two street facades. The guide says it is just a temporary stop until the previous train leaves the station. But then a live gangster performer on one of the facades notices us and gives us trouble, saying that we better get out of here now. Suddenly we hear cars skid in below us and the beginnings of a shoot out. We become trapped in the middle of a gangster battle, only to escape in reverse and back to the loading and unloading dock.

The other large showbuilding holds the largest attraction of the park, an EMV dark ride through the crime filled streets. The queue leads us through the office of a private detective and then back out into the simulated street. As the train passes overhead, we load into a slick black car for a night out with the detective. The motion based attraction includes both physical and projected scenes of gangster shootouts, car chases, and daring escapes.

The entertainment in the land includes a jazz trio that regularly plays in the square and gangster streetsmosphere characters as well as the show in the Broadway Theater.

The backstage elements of the land include the large dock for receiving goods for the resort as well as two warehouses on the north side. There is also a helipad in this area.

Ok so that covers each of the lands for this park. Still to be covered is the infrastructure and design for the night time fireworks show, but I believe I will be covering that very last, after we go over the Hollywood Adventure park. That way I can combine both park's fireworks into one post.

I am going to take an extra week break between parks, so the start of Hollywood Adventure will be in three Tuesdays. I need to do this because of a week of travel to a conference in California plus time in San Francisco, which is going to include the Walt Disney Family Museum. Can't wait!

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sydney Summer: Discoveryland

Part 2: Theme Park Overviews
Part 3: The Resort Outside the Parks
Part 4: Main Street and Fantasyland
Part 5: Adventureland

This post is a little lighter on drawings than last weeks unfortunately, but just as interesting I hope. I had planned on an elevation, but didn't have time to finish it up in time.

To the north of the Hub is Discoveryland, which is a relatively new stylistic version of the Tomorrowland model. Though it shares a name and source material with the Paris land, it does not share the style or story. Discoveryland depicts a hyper futuristic city of scientists and inventors that are pushing the boundaries of their known world. So less scifi space-and-aliens, more fantasy-science Future World. 

The land's attractions are loosely based on the classic stories of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and the Time Machine, all stories of innovation and exploration. However only the rough concepts are used in this land, not the settings, times, or details, so that these stories can be brought into a modern land. There are no preconceived styles that come with the stories. The land treats these stories as if now is the first time they have ever happened. Based on those stories, transportation is the key theme of the attractions through the land. 

The land's architecture is closely inspired by the Tomorrowland movie style, specifically the work of Santiago Calatrava (his City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia was an actual filming location for the film). The style is organic and almost skeletal and features predominate use of white concrete, glass, water, and organic material. Honestly, this description reminds me alot of the early years of Disneyland's Tomorrowland. The overly clean and stylistic design strategy is fairly contradictory to the Buck Rogers neon of the current Magic Kingdom and the Vern based Paris Discoveryland. This is the predominate style for the main buildings on either side of the land entrance, but the style devolves towards the volcano and the buildings by the water. These buildings are less organic and more utilitarian as well as starting to add a more materials to the palate because they begin to reflect the character of each scientist and story. For instance, the 20,000 Leagues building incorporates more dark metallics and industrial-nautical detailing.

From the Hub, guests walk between two mirrored buildings toward the spinning Astro Orbiter upon a rockwork plinth. The buildings of the land radiate out from this central plaza, highlighted by the steaming volcano to the left and the water to the right. The buildings on the left and right have a ground floor colonnade of organic white columnal forms supporting a second floor balcony. The building on the right holds a double level retail location and Space Flight, an attraction based on the original Rocket to the Moon from Disneyland. This new version incorporates 3D video effects and motion base seats to tell an original story about a rapid trip to the moon.

The left building holds a number of pieces of program grouped into a single complex called the Tomorrow Institute. The Institute is a large double story interior space with The Hall of Science, an Innoventions type space on the ground floor, a counter service location on both floors, and small retail locations on the edges. The Hall of Science has interactive exhibits on both real science topics and fantasy elements that support the storyline of the land. The Hall also includes a time travel demonstration, which leads into the Timekeeper at the rear of the building. This is a 360 degree Sphereon theater movie where the audience is led on a exciting trip across time as a demonstration of the new technology.

This building dies into the rough rockwork of the volcano base, which overtakes the rest of the land. At its peak, the volcano is 95' and has three separate levels of activity, so this is a pretty complicated structure to describe. At ground level, a path leads around the small caldera rim. The entrance and exit retail spaces for Journey to the Center of the Earth is on the left side of caldera. The attraction portrays a modern mining adventure through the volcano. After loading, the vehicle enters the drilling shaft where high powered lasers blast a new tunnel to be explored. The test drill today leads deeper than ever explored before, leading to a beautifully unexpected world of magma deep in the earth. However, the danger of the depth forces us back to the surface, ending with a high speed escape from the oncoming lava eruption. Instead of the Test Track style ride system of the original, this is a more conventional roller coaster/dark ride hybrid.

On the other side of the caldera is the entrance to Aqua Cruisers, a LPS water ride through the land. The loading and entirety of the ride is one floor below ground level, at the level of the water, which matches the bay, as if it is one continuous body of water. This attraction is unique because it has 24 unique paths due to four different track splits. The aquatic vehicles randomly follow one of these paths. This is at its core a dark ride through the different labs and caverns of the volcano, but does feature an extended outdoor segment. We load and are then introduced to the creator of the vehicle and its self driving ability in the first dark ride scene. The vehicles then split for the first time and travel outside where they must avoid whirlpools and bubbling geysers in the small lagoon. Then back inside, we float through a series of environmental scenes of the activities in the volcano, but each path has a slightly different view of the scenes, promoting rerideability.

Also on this side of the caldera is an exploratory cave system, like the Adventureland attraction, a snack location, and the entrance to the Rocket Jets. This spinner is meant to be a step up in thrill from Dumbo, but still family friendly. It sits 15' up on a rock plinth, and then rises another 40' up into the air while it is spinning, giving a great view of the park.

Last, in the water across from the Volcano is the Nautilus, though slightly modernized to fit the land. The standalone building nearby is a copy of Stormrider from Tokyo Disney Sea, rethemed for 20,000 Leagues. The raised walkways around this area provides views out of the park to the bay.

The land is light on entertainment but the main draw is an small group of interactive robot street characters, guided by their lab technicians. This is like the Living Character Initiative attempts like Lucky or the Muppet Mobile lab, but with new original figures.

And that is the end of Discoveryland. I wish I had more time this week to get an elevation together, but your not missing anything significant.

In two weeks will be the last land of this park, New York Harbor, which comes with a new attraction plan!