Thursday, December 31, 2015

Library of London: A Classics Adventure

Happy New Years Eve! One more post before the New Year with an all new, all original attraction!

This post will detail an original attraction that I have designed for the UK Pavilion in EPCOT. If you have seen my EPCOT expansion plan before, you will have already gotten a quick description of this attraction. If not, you click here to go over to that post to look around my vision of a new EPCOT.

As part of my mission for my expanded EPCOT, I wanted to have an attraction in each and every pavilion, so the UK needed something. Luckily there was a pretty good sized plot on the south side of the back square that was always meant for an attraction. So location was not an issue with this project.

But more importantly, I wanted the elements of each pavilion to better focus on the culture and historical contributions of each region to the world. I am a big proponent for no Disney characters in World Showcase. I'm actually pretty ok with them in most other situations within reason, but not in World Showcase, because of its intended cultural diversity, mature tone, and focus on representing the reality of the world outside the parks. It isn't just another backlot to fill with animated characters and IPs, it has a more noble purpose of education and globalization. So, I set these standards to myself when approaching this attraction.

The best way to describe how I thought about what stories should be told in the attractions of World Showcase is that I aimed to demonstrate the significance of the contribution each pavilion has made to global culture. Easier in some cases than others, but for the UK, I had some great options.

Among some other possible topics, I came to realize that British Literature is a huge topic that has obvious impact (even if just by defining a high school literature class). This was a theme I saw alot of potential in, most notably because I could draw on literally centuries of defined characters and settings to have immediate emotional connections. And since they are literary characters, not visual, there is no real required look or style, so the characters could be manipulated to align into a common visual language. Plus many of the stories are in the public domain, so it would be completely reasonable for them to be used in an attraction. Its almost like the perfect way around my previous no characters statement: gets the benefit of previous knowledge and emotional connection with a character and represents the true identity of the country without being out of place or a misplaced animated property.

So I had a general theme and a few ideas about how to formulate a collection of British Lit highlights into a dark ride. I also took a bit of inspiration from some other well regarded Disney attractions when it came to the overarching plot that contains the scenes.

So now, I'll begin the walk through, starting outside in the square.

The charming square at the rear of the UK pavilion is completed with new buildings on the south and west side, replacing the gazebo, which is moved just east, to the garden behind the existing retail building. Just barely visible from the main promenade of the pavilion, the full extent of the new addition is only visible once you round the bend in the road heading towards the square. The building on the west, straight ahead from this road, is a double level Georgian style museum facade, matching the style and time period of the rowhouses on the north side of the square (If you are not aware, Georgian here refers to a popular architectural style from the time of King George, not the state). The brick and stone facade takes inspiration and some detailing from Sir John Soane's Museum, though is not a replica. Trees behind the small building continue to attempt to block the event center beyond.

To the left of the museum however, is the main building of the expansion, also a somewhat Georgian style facade, but much more detailed and ornate. The design is reminiscent of the real London Library in Westminster, though again, not an exact replica. Steps lead up the three oversized entrance doors, and bronze lions, modeled on those at Trafalgar Square, sit on the stone plinths. Plaques identify the building as the Library of London at Regency Square, which is the name of the square in the pavilion. Four or five trees sit around the main facade, between the square and the main building, forming a small shady garden, filled with flowers and hedges. 

The entrance is not through the main doors however. To the right of the facade is an outdoor section of queue through the exterior garden, with ornate wrought iron handrails. The queues begin at a stone plinth with a bronze attraction title plaque and wait times. The fastpass+ and standby queues have multiple switchbacks through the garden before approaching the side door of the main facade.

Inside we are immediately in the formal Statue Lobby of the museum. The closed main doors are to our left while a marble pedestal on our right holds a brass statue of an unidentified man holding an open book in the air triumphantly. Above, a domed classical ceiling mural shows a beautiful blue spiral pattern that fades into pictures from a variety of British Literature classics. An ornate floor to ceiling bookcase forms the rear and side walls of the tall space. The fastpass continues into a room labeled "South Stacks" while the standby line turns back to the "North Stacks".

The north room holds two sets of switchbacks nestled into tall full height bookcases, filled with books, statues, and mysterious objects. The first clues to the mythology of the library are in this room, and some of the objects are labeled as being significant items from famous books, such as Sherlock's violin. The queue passes back through the lobby and into the south room.

This main room of the queue is far more filled than the previous, as it has a second floor mezzanine on the opposite side of the door and a staircase in the very center. It also has more strange objects and a more disorganized feel. The ceiling is also even taller here, and the bookcases fade into the darkness, as if its infinitely large. The two queues pass by a non-accessible switchback staircase up to the second floor before passing into the next room. Here is another staircase, though now there is a flight going both up to the mezzanine and a flight going down to a darkened floor below. The back wall of the room is filled with paintings of all different sizes instead of books like every other wall. The paintings all show scenes from British literature in a variety of styles. At the end of this room, the fastpass and standby queues are merged. During high crowds, this merged line can then turn left and out to a covered overflow queue. If not, the merged line turns right, and back between two tall bookcases towards the load room.

We reach another door, this time labeled "Private Collection Stacks". Of course, we enter and the queue turns into one final dark room of books, except now with a row of book cart vehicles running through the middle of the room. You are distributed to one of eight rows, each with three guests. Four vehicles load together for each load cycle. The book cart vehicles are wood cars with brass details and are meant to look like very aged library carts. The floors of both rows are flush with the load and each seat has an individual lapbar.

The vehicles follow a standard busbar track but the upper seating portion can rotate 360 degrees on the tracked base. The vehicles also have a surround sound audio system.

After load and seat check, the group of four vehicles move forward, under an opening in the bookcase wall and towards a door in another wall. Through the door, we enter the Private Collection and the mysteries of this special library. Immediately through the door, we see the reason we have made it this far with no trouble: a deeply sleeping security guard, oblivious to our passing. We also see the main character of our adventure: a light brown library cat named Eliot.

Similar to Albert in Mystic Manor, the inclusion of a recognizable animal as the main character is an attempt to bring a recurring element into an attraction based on mostly disconnected scenes. Additionally, the animals are highly personified and characterized so as to be identified with and thus serve as stand-ins for the experiences we can only have inside the car. So here, I used a highly animated brown cat that will follow the story with us and represent our actions and reactions to the events of the scenes. 

Back to the ride. We pass the sleeping cat and guard, but Eliot is awoken as we pass, curiously looking at us. The cars turn the corner and rotate right to face aisles of books, which seem to go on forever. These endless bookcases are somewhat like the endless corridor in the Haunted Mansion by using a mirror and layers of scrim. The private collection is larger than we anticipated. Eliot (in projected form) runs across one of the aisles as we pass. We turn back to the left towards a projected set extension of a long and wide hallway, bookcases on either side and orate light fixtures spaced to provide just enough light, but not much. It appears as if this is our path. 

Projections that extend the sets past the buildable scale are used frequently in this attraction. To make the library really feel endless, we have to see more than just the real sets that are 5-10 feet away. These projected scenes blend into real set pieces to make them appear real. 

Just as fast as we see this hallway, we turn away to see a large wrought iron gate that has been swung open. A brass sign on the door says "Special Library Collection - Do Not Enter". Again, our car passes through the gate and down the narrow book aisle. Now things begin happening as the music swells. The books around us begin to shake and sparks of energy pass over them randomly (by power of projection mapping). Ahead of us, the stone fireplace begins to grown larger and larger as we accelerate towards it. The fire falls away to reveal a rear projected swirling blue vortex behind the growing fireplace. Its as if we are being pulled into it. By the fireplace, Eliot stands on a reading chair, trying to hold on. We spin out in a puff of smoke and rotate 180 degrees to a projection surface where we see the vortex filling our vision, as if we have been sucked in. Eliot and various books fly by. 

We continue sideways through an open blackout door into an projection room and stop once all four vehicles are in the room. As we moved into the scene, the sound of rushing wind has overpowered our senses. It then stops with a thud as we stop, and from the darkness, we begin to see a projected scene of the library filled with books flying into their places on the shelves. Eliot suddenly lands on a chair in a panic along with stacks of books all around. At the same time, energy sparks wave over the books, startling the cat, and transforming the stacks of books into real live figures. Just as this begins, the door to the next room opens and we start sliding away and rotate to the left.

Through the door, we first see a bookcase on the right, waving with energy, as the first tease of this new world. We rotate left to the first real scene, Romeo and Juliet. This begins the bulk of the attraction, scenes of different books come to life. The entirety of the sets through the ride are built of books and bookcases, but formed into scenes appropriate for the scene. It is as if the books have rebuilt the library into scenes from their books. Juliet is standing on a balcony of books, above the longing Romeo. Books are textured to approximate a detailed stone wall, and ivy grows up the side. This is the first example of the introduction of Eliot to this adventure. Instead of noticing Romeo below, Juliet is petting the cat upon the balcony ledge, frustrating Romeo below to no end. 

We turn around the corner, passing a wall of books and then a set extension of characters from other Shakespeare works interacting, such as Antony, Cleopatra, Bottom, and Puck. In all cases through the ride, the literary characters are aware of themselves as characters and know characters in their own novels, but have no knowledge of characters from other works. They are interested to explore the new worlds of the library however. We continue and pass Hamlet standing among the books, holding a skull and attempting to recite his famous line. Eliot sitting next to him however apparently makes him sneeze, interrupting his line time after time.

We pass under two book arches and into the next time period. Immediately we see an extremely oversized man on the floor, surrounded by dozens of tiny Lilliputian figures, holding him down and threatening with tiny spears. This is Gulliver's Travels. Eliot on the mans chest hisses at their advances and bats away one brave Lilliputian climbing up. Behind is a set extension projection of an aisle of books, with more Lilliputians climbing up the walls. We rotate to a projection surface of a wall of books. Quickly it begins to snow in the projection, supplemented by practical soap snow above us. The books then blow away in a gust of wind and snow, showing darkness as we continue through a low opened door into the next period.

The next scene is the largest and requires our set of vehicles to momentarily stop for a show scene. We are in A Christmas Carol, and have entered Scrooge's bedroom in the moment that the ghost of Marley has arrived. Scrooge sits cowered in his chair while the cat watches from the mantle, trembling. Scrooges large curtained four poster bed just to the right. The ghost is a large oversized figure that hovers just off the ground and is both physically animated and supplemented with projection mapping to look ghostly and intimidating. After his message, the vehicles continue moving right so that the four poster bed blocks Scrooge and the light goes out on Marley. We then see a projection of the shadow of Scrooge and the cat jumping into the bed and then immediately being visited by the next ghost in a flash of light. On the right wall, we see a projection if their shadows flying away, hand in hand.

We are moving backwards away from this scene, and pass under two book arches and rotate left to the next scene. It is especially dark and lightning periodically flashes. A dark arched tunnel is ahead of us, but a projection surface at the back of it shows a dimly lit library hallway. Low fog lingers in the tunnel and a menacing and misshapen shadowy figure stumbles by through the mist. It is Mr. Hyde. The cat stands in front of the tunnel, alarmed by the environment. Just past the tunnel is a set of three windows in the bookcase wall, and as we pass, we see the shadow of the figure transform into a man as it walks behind the windows. The car turns right to finally see a figure of Dr. Jeckyll, in his lab, standing by rows of vials of formula and a painting of himself. When the lightning flashes, both his eyes and his painting transform into Hyde.

We leave the darkness and pass through another opening in the book wall and see The Time Traveler sitting at his Time Machine. The invention is an ornate Victorian one-seat vehicle, with plenty of dials and levers and lights. Eliot is sitting on the edge, trying to jump off just as the Machine begins to levitate and glow with bright flashes of light.

We rotate left to a projection surface where we see an extension of a long library hallway. In the center, the Time Machine repeatedly appears and disappears in a flash of light, each time bringing back new characters of objects from different popular books. This is also a chance for some randomness and repeatability. There could be a large variety of characters that appear here. Some suggestions: The Mad Hatter and Alice, Frankenstein, Dracula and a swarm of bats, The Ghost of Christmas Present and Future, Shere Kahn, Long John Silver, The Invisible Man, Aliens from The War of the Worlds, Hercule Poirot and Hastings, and Captain Hook the Crocodile. It appears as if it is chaos in the library now that the multitudes of characters that have been discovered are coming together.

We rotate right 180 degrees to a penultimate scene with one of the most famous yet to be seen characters. Sherlock Holmes and Watson stand on the left side of the scene with a set extension projection at the rear, showing the library in chaos with characters all over the place. Characters are exploring and interacting and therefore changing their stories in flashes of energy. Sherlock, the ever observant, remarks to Watson that this chaos could destroy the Libraries Collection and that this all started when we, pointing to Eliot, entered. Watson wonders how it can be solved, prompting Sherlock to suggest the obvious solution. We have to leave the Library Special Collection. They point us away and we swiftly pass into the next room. A bookcase blends into a set extension projection, showing the books again alight with energy and Sherlock bidding us farewell. We move backwards and through the open Special Collections gate, which is on our left, and rotate 180 degrees to the last scene. An opening in the book wall shows a bookcase perpendicular to us that runs into a set extension projection that continues the bookcase. As we pass, characters are sucked into the wall in flashes of blue sparks. We turn right one last time to see the still sleeping guard and Eliot looking relieved.

We turn left out to the unload area. We pass under two more bookcases above as we hold and then slowly approach the unload station. Eliot sits there purring as we exit.

We walk down a hallway from the station that is filled with paintings of characters from British Literature. Except now, some things are changed, some more subtly than others. We turn right into the retail for the attraction, which is in the museum building on the west of the square.

The rest of the museum building holds a small British Gallery, with interactive, fun, and informative exhibits on each of the countries of the region.

So there is the complete text of the walkthrough.

Now that I have described my vision, three quick notes. First how I selected the main works to be in the ride. I specifically wanted well known stories that had characters that could have a recognizable visual. Pride and Prejudice wouldn't be as recognizable as Romeo and Juliet. I also wanted to not do stories that had become Disney films, so no Peter Pan, Alice, or Jungle Book. I felt it might be too much conflict between the animated visual style and the attraction style. Last, I tried to select an example from different time periods, and actually managed to place them in chronological order in the attraction. Plenty of other characters could be featured as background elements. 

Second, all the human figures in the attraction are realistically portrayed while Eliot is a bit more exaggerated, though not quite a caricature of a cat. This is mostly so that the cat is more recognizable in the attraction and so that it doesn't feel as strange for it to be as highly personified. Plus, makes for better merchandising, which is obviously important now.

Last, the actual mythology of the ride and specifically how I hinted it but didn't explain it. That was on purpose. In the same way that Haunted Mansion doesn't really explain the reason for the ghosts, I didn't want to burden the ride with over explanation or detail as to why this was happening. I just wanted it to be a simple environmental experience that makes an enjoyable ride.

"Mysterious library comes to life when guests accidentally enter a closed off special collection. As more and more characters come to life, chaos takes over the library, threatening to rewrite the classics." No unnecessary complicated backstory or logic to why. 

So now that you have read the entire attraction synopsis, I have an extra surprise. 

I decided to try to made a animated video of the entire attraction.

So I wanted to try this out for a while with a few projects but this one seemed to be a good choice since it was original. This is a very rough animatic of the ride, with very little detail but just the general massing. It shows the general vision of the environment and how the vehicle would move, but again, is rough. The Sketchup flythrough animation is not precise and is pretty jumpy, but that is ok for something like this. And materials are general and it is obviously missing the projections and environmental effects.

Eliot and the animatronic figures are included as translucent scale figures. The white walls are projection surfaces. Notes on the screen describe which scene we are in. Reference the text again if necessary to fill in the details.

And thats it! If you liked the attraction concept or the video let me know in the comments below.

Also, as I said last week, leave me suggestions for what kind of projects you want to see more of. Be as specific or general as you want, and I might decide to put it in my schedule for this next year!

Thanks for reading!


  1. This is great! I could actually visually imagine the ride as I read it, and the video that came with it is good too! I will say this ride slightly reminded me of the Pagemaster movie, which had a character also entering the world of books, but this did the concept much better. Overall well done and I'm excited to see what you have in store next.

    See you next year!

    1. Your right, it is a little like Pagemaster. I had forgotten about that movie since you mentioned it, but I used to love it. Ha I guess some subliminal influence.

      Thanks and happy new year!

  2. Hey, I'm not the only person getting vibes from The Pagemaster (my favourite film ever). The similarities are uncanny - magic library that takes you to the book worlds. This is a very creative idea for an attraction and I've been looking forward to you expanding on it. I do like the idea of missing out the Disneyfied novels, since most people know of their versions the most. Would there be an actual library facility in the attraction? Perhaps a small quiet reading area linked to the gift shop?

    1. I forgot to mention that the ride also reminds me of a former walkthrough attraction here in the UK. In Weymouth, there was a feature in the old brewery featuring cats guiding people through a time travel walkthrough of Weymouth's history. A bit of an odd comparison, but I'm weird.

    2. Agreed, I thought it was a natural concept for an attraction. Funny that it has some similarities to existing things, like that movie. The brewery sounds like another interesting comparison. It seems all share some core elements of successful attraction storytelling such as journey through unfamiliar world that is made of familiar elements and the use of a recognizable real world guide to provide continuity.

      Its possible that the retail spaces could serve some library purposes, especially by selling more books than the normal gift shop.

  3. Wonderful post, this would be the perfect fit for World Showcase. Just wondering, why did you take down your original blog? You had some more great ideas there.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I took it down because just about all the work is out of date and I wanted to consolidate my work into one location. Some of the good stuff will be redeveloped and posted again. Some of it will not because I don't think its quality is a good representation of my design skills. The worthwhile things will eventually find a way to return.