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!


  1. Interesting that you've combined Tommorowland with your concept of your Magic Kingdom's version of Discoveryland. Well done.

  2. As usual, really enjoying the use of space. You have created such lovely kinectic motion with the Cruisers, the rockets, Journey, etc. It's a great way to give depth to the space allocated and works nicely here. I also really like the Aqua Cruisers concept, especially because it isn't confined to a show building.

    My biggest issue relates to the land's look. You say that there are "no preconceived styles that come with these stories" but when it comes to Verne, I think there very much is. He was a very visual writer, and his stories lend themselves to a future that developed from the technology, inventions and look of the Victorian era. While I personally also love the aesthetic of the recent Tomorrowland film, and of Calatrava, it would feel jarring. I am interested in how you've incorporated this style, but right now, I'm finding it difficult to imagine walking into an area driven by the stories of Jules Verne that is glimmering and white. Perhaps some more visuals (or visual description) of what you had in mind might help clarify for me?