Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Year in Review and What's Ahead

To finish up the year, I want to look back on some of what happened here and in the theme park world in 2016 and briefly look ahead to 2017.

This post therefore comes in three parts:

Part 1. The Year in Imagineerland

This was the first full year of the website, and some big projects were posted. Since many of you may have joined along during the year, you may have missed them along the way, so I want to give a quick recap. Go back and check them out, leave a comment on what you like if you want. I'd be happy to go back and discuss anything from the past year with you.

In attraction plans, the year started with the first of two plans for Tangled dark rides, this one for the Magic Kingdom to replace Peter Pan's Flight.

Later, I followed up with a Fantasyland Expansion plan for Disneyland that included a Frozen boat ride and the second Frozen ride, this time trackless.

I also posted a concept for a fake "trackless" suspended dark ride with UP for the Animal Kingdom.

I also posted multiple major park plans this year. We started with my first non Disney project ever, with a new expansion plan for Islands of Adventure. This is a plan that I will definitely be revisiting with an update in the future, but I am happy with this first version.

The middle of the year, I posted a huge 9 part series for the complete expansion of the Disneyland Resort, inspired by my first trip there last December. In the project, I set up a phased expansion plan for the resort, transportation, and parks, adding two hotels, a lot of parking, and dozens of attractions to the parks. I am really happy about how this turned out.

And most recently, and the post that brought a lot of you here, is my second version of the Disney Studios Paris park, where I proposed a huge expansion to the park, basically tripling the size and number of attractions.

I also started producing essays about various themed design topics this year.

I posted three entries in a sporadic series I am doing on the environmental design elements of theme parks: The Urban Plan, Visual Sequence, and Physical Paths. These are my attempt at reconciling my architecture and urban planning background with the design of the parks in order to discover the rules that make great themed spaces. More of this later.

I also had some standalone essays. I wrote one comparing Disneyland, The Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland Paris, the three castle parks I have been to.

Another essay set up my personal rules for using IPs in the theme parks. Spoiler: I think Star Wars is ok, but Guardians of the Galaxy is bad placement. I really try to stick to these rules in all my work.

Soon after, I wrote an analysis to try to find the meaning of the theme of Disneyland, which was a bit of a follow up to the previous essay. My real goal was to personally decide if Star Wars fit in the theme and organizational structure of the park.

I also have posted some progress updates on the Third Gate plan I am slowly working on. More on that in the next year. I am finally making significant progress there.

I am pretty happy with the amount of content I have put out this year and plan to keep up the pace in 2017! More attraction plans, probably more existing park expansion plans and updates, and definitely at least one completely new park, the third gate for Disneyland. Maybe even more!

Part 2. The Year in Theme Parks

This was also a big year in theme parks, and I realized that I never really talked about many of the additions and new items. Now this isn't the time for full reviews, but I want to share some quick thoughts related to some particularly interesting new items.

The big development was obviously Shanghai Disneyland. This is a mixed bag, but I'm not going to pretend that I don't definitely want to visit. The successes seem to be some of the new innovative attractions, specifically Pirates and Tron. Also of note is the incredibly thorough detailing and design of some of the lands, like Adventure Island, which features that incredible mountain, waterfalls and rivers, and the super cool ropes course attraction that weaves through it all. Tomorrowland also looks great, especially at night with the lighting package. Those two lands should be a model for all design going forward. One of the issues that I see, which may be less of an issue in real life, is the huge scale of the public spaces and the buildings, which makes them a little less personal and intimate in favor of crowd flow and impressive architecture. Its the opposite of the charm of the scale of original Disneyland. But again, I should experience it before more heavy judgement.

The other biggest resort opening was the complex of parks that just opened this month in Dubai. I have to give them credit for the ambition to open 3 parks at once and their goal to disrupt the market. I haven't seen a huge amount from the parks yet and a lot of it isn't quite open yet, so I look forward to seeing more before full judgement. The dark rides that were open looked a little rough, especially that Ghostbusters one, but some areas and rides looked like solid average themed design. And I am pretty interested in the idea and execution of the Bollywood park. That's a theme that is totally foreign to me, and it looks pretty well done. It will definitely be interesting to continue to watch the developments of Dubai parks in the future, since they will continually be opening new stuff over the next few years.

Back in Orlando, this was meant to be the year for Animal Kingdom to finally break the half day stigma, but things didn't go well with the indefinite delay of Rivers of Light. This makes me sad, because I have always loved the park and wished that people appreciated its detail and beauty more. The park appears to be beautiful at night and the added minor entertainment is great, but it needs the full experience with the show to really work. I really appreciate the mature and realistic style and tone of the Tree of Life Awakens shows and what we have seen of Rivers of Light and hope that sticks. Its important in my mind to use this realistic style to differentiate the park and support its more noble message. The reviews of Rivers of Light sound like exactly what I want, a artistic and impactful show, but I understand that they want it to be a little more exciting and story based, so I hope they can fix it soon and get everything going in the park. Plus, then we will have Pandora and its own night time environmental experience. So maybe next year will really be the year of Animal Kingdom.

At Universal, the big addition of the year was Kong. I have not ridden it yet, but from the videos it seems to be a good but not great attraction. I just wish there was more innovation past the Hollywood version. I definitely appreciate the queue and the ride vehicle tech and the exterior place making scenes, but it would have been such a better ride if there was more than just the same video in the middle. Still, solid addition to a resort that is constantly adding at this point. Related to this, if it is true that The Fast and the Furious attraction is also a Hollywood copy with the same video tunnel scene, that will be particularly disappointing because the original experience is inferior to Kong and it will just seem lazy to build the same ride system back to back. The Fast and the Furious could be used for so much more, something with a lot of movement and speed like the test track system, so a stationary video tunnel is just an unfortunate choice if they have full freedom.

This was also the year of Frozen finally getting permanent representation in the parks, and the equal reduction of all the temporary special event things. Frozen Ever After is a really good Fantasyland dark ride in a really bad location. I know realistically that World Showcase can't avoid IPs, but can't they at least keep it to properties from real countries that reflect something about the culture of the pavilion? Frozen also came in musical form to California, replacing the super good Aladdin musical. Sad to see Aladdin go, but at least Frozen looks well done. With these new attractions, Frozen has coincidentally begun to be less of a focus in the parks, with the weird Frozen Summer stuff over and the dominance over every night time show apparently ended. I mean we got 3 new Christmas shows this year, all without Frozen. These are good things. Let Frozen be just a good regular property in the landscape of the overall parks, not the overused main draw.

Ok this is a very minor development of the year, but something I feel strongly about: the upcharge additions of cabanas and express transportation. I've never complained about upcharges before and honestly they normally don't bother me much because they are usually extra things that only minorly impact the experience of the guest. That's not universally true, but nothing before has bothered me as much as these two because of how they fundamentally change how the theme parks are experienced. For the cabanas, the complaint is the huge amount of public space that is permanently dedicated to these areas that only some guests experience. If rumor is true that these will go in to all the parks and greatly expand the size and numbers, then suddenly huge portions of the theme parks are inaccessible, and odds are creating these isolated areas is going to cause sightlines, crowd flow, and theme issues since the parks were not designed for these huge spaces. Maybe it will work in new construction at least. And for the express transportation, the idea of boarding buses backstage and then arriving midway into a park is horrible to me because of the destruction of theme and sequence. I'm sure there's no second thought for most if transportation can be faster, but the parks were originally designed to be experienced in one primary entry sequence that builds anticipation and immersion, transporting you slowly into the final themed environments deep in the park. A bus that drops you off at the back just undoes all that process based design, and accidentally shows you a huge amount of the backstage that the parks so carefully try to hide at the same time. I hate it, especially because it unfortunately is convenient and fixes the problems Disney has with their transportation system, meaning its going to be popular and stick around.

Just this month, the first real Marvel theme park ride finally opened, after way too many years. Its a simple ride with an old ride system, but I like it because it effectively tells its story and is the first step to the larger Marvel land of the park. Not every ride needs to reinvent the ride system or push boundaries. Standards are reused because they work if done well, and I think this was done well. The bigger issue for me is why we had to wait 7 years from purchase to the first real Marvel ride. That's just too long and we are still years away from it showing up in Disneyland. Its an instant money maker, give it the opportunity to draw a crowd. Should have showed up in DCA years ago.

And the last thing I want to mention is the Hong Kong and Shanghai expansion plans. Toy Story Land for Shanghai, Frozen land, Marvel land, and a new castle for Hong Kong. So I both think these are mostly good things because of the hopeful innovation and additions of capacity, and at the same time somewhat concerning things because of the trend in theme. These are all single property lands that are large and immersive and multi attraction. Now that has been done well before and seems to be a good thing, but it is concerning if that is all that is built from now on for a couple reasons. The single property lands often do not blend and transition as well as more general lands that hold many properties because they are more specific, making the organization of parks more difficult and likely less clean and logical. Single property lands also by definition deny original designs and concepts which I obviously disagree with. If its all just IP lands, its all just a movie park to me. But the biggest issue to me is just that single property lands like these take up a lot of space for just one film, which logically means that were going to end up with less variety of themed spaces and films. The space for the future Frozen land in Hong Kong could have been 2 or 3 films, and the future Toy Story Land in Orlando could have been 3 or 4 Pixar movies. I understand the single property land for the big impactful things, like Harry Potter and Star Wars and even Marvel, but not everything needs this treatment. Just my personal opinion at this time, maybe it will change.

And Part 3. What's Next?

2017 is going to bring some changes to Imagineerland, but overall, its going to be the same goal and the same approach to themed design. New posts roughly once or twice a month, with a mix of design projects and essays, and potentially some new kinds of content. If you have any suggestions, I'm open to hearing them. Long time readers will know that I have attempted to promise schedules many times and never can really keep them, so I'm going to avoid commitment. The projects take too much time and are too dependent on when inspiration and free time coincide, making it difficult for me to keep a promised schedule. But definitely count on me to be back with something every couple weeks, at least once a month. And follow on twitter, where I immediately post when a new project goes up, so you can stay up to date.

Also, at the start of the year, there is going to be a big graphics update to the website so watch out for that, and ignore any weird formatting changes that happen in the next week or so. Along with the graphics change will be another change or two, but I will mention those later on. Over time, all the past projects will slowly be updated to the new graphics standard, but for now, there will be a bit of a mish mash when you look back in time.

In the next year, I also have the serious goal of growing both the audience of Imagineerland and the engagement with those of you who already are fans. There has been a lot of progress just in the past few months based on great reception to some projects, so its obvious to me the best way to do this is to bring great content. But it will always help for you all to share Imagineerland however you see fit and comment with whatever ideas, suggestions, comments, or complaints you have. I'm happy to talk about the theme parks as much as you want.

The first big post will be out at the start of the second week of January and its a good one with a major attraction from my Disney Studios Paris plan. So check back then to see the new post starting out the great new year! Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Third Gate Progress: An Update

I decided that I should give you a quick update on the Third Gate for Disneyland that I have been working on.

This has been the most challenging project I have worked on. I've been mentally stuck for a while, keeping me from making significant advances in the design. It's been a combination of the challenging site, formulating a logical themed story to connect the lands, and figuring out the lineup of attractions that are both realistic and cutting edge enough for a modern landmark theme park.

But things have started coming together and I have reshuffled my plans, partially based on the comments you gave in the previous posts and a lot of evaluations.

So the big change is that Zootopia is out, Star Wars is (possibly) back in, and I have doubled down on the international structure for the park to strengthen the relational logic between lands.

Eliminating Zootopia was difficult because I think it would make a perfect themed environment, but I was never able to reconcile it with the thematic structure I set up for the park. The reason for that in my mind, and the reason Zootopia is potentially a bit of a challenge anywhere, is that it is a fully realized world where humans do not exist at all, not even, as far as we know, in an alternate world, like Monsters Inc, or outside the world, like Wreck it Ralph or Inside Out. If the park at all relates on a logical story level to the human world, Zootopia just makes no sense, because there is no story loophole to allow us humans into the world.

Of course this is not always an issue. Zootopia would work just fine in a studios based parks, or likely in an animal park, where the logic is a little less rigid. Actually it would probably work everywhere except EPCOT (or at least what EPCOT should be) and the park I am setting up here because there are some thematic rules that relate to humanity. So Zootopia is possible for somewhere else. I am considering some options to add it back into the resort somewhere else in a future revision to the existing parks. I have a cool idea.

Next, Star Wars is potentially back in directly because Zootopia was out and I believe I have room for one more land. I previously set out the reasoning why I believe the resort would want Star Wars in more than one land and that is still true. And it both does not have the humanity problem and is directly related to exploration and adventure, so I think I can make it work. I am pretty confident I will end up with room for this land, so assume it makes the final plan.

And last, I am maintaining the international based land but simplifying to one country and one IP per continent-land. The hope is for larger single environment areas instead of a collection of loosely related smaller areas.

So that means that the land lineup is now as follows.

The Village - The entry land, directly based on Greenwich Village in New York, but with a fantastic world exploration twist. A diverse and eclectic cityscape home to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

Mexico - A colonial town square featuring the future Pixar film Coco, where we explore folk culture here in the festival of Dia de los Muertos.

Greece - The ruins of a great civilization, where we explore mythological history, featuring Hercules.

Saudi Arabia - A Middle Eastern marketplace and the surrounding desert, where Aladdin and the stories of One Thousand and One Nights explore storytelling and legend.

(If you noticed, those three are grouped together into a kind of cultural exploration area, and are also all placed close together.)

Star Wars - An alien planet home to the world of Star Wars, where we explore the depths of space.

Kenya - An African preserve, featuring the Lion King, focusing on zoology and conservation.

Samoa - A Polynesian village at the base of a volcano, based on Moana, exploring both geography and geology of the land and seas.

Brazil - A rural mining town plus the rainforest, where we explore inventions and innovation with the characters from UP.

(Those three similarly are adjacent and share exploration of the natural world.)

New York City - The urban city of the Marvel superheros, exploring, well, super human abilities and societies. This is directly adjacent to the Village, so the city to city transition holds.

China - The city of modern China, exploring art and telling the story of Mulan.

The Grid - The digital world of Tron discovered by Flynn, where we explore the digital frontier. This is also adjacent to the Village, and entered through the arcade.

That's where it stands now. I think this all makes more sense that previous versions and I can make this work. Now that I am over the mental roadblock of setting up this structure, the actual drawing will go faster. In fact, the first few lands are roughly completed.

As a preview, here's where we stand now:

The transit hub, Hotel, The Village, The Grid, and Mexico are basically set up, and the other lands are placed. The rest, coming soon.

Also coming soon, that Indiana Jones ride from my Disney Studios Paris plan. This is going to be a good post, with a pretty cool video element that I have put some time into. So keep checking back and staying connected on twitter.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Paris Studios Plan Epilogue

This is a quick follow up to the plan for my expansion of the Disney Studios Paris Park that was posted last week. Based on the response, I wanted to address a few things.

First, thanks for the great response and for sharing and commenting. The audience grew by a lot that day, which is great and hope you come back for future posts, even if they will not always be that big or about the Paris parks.

I've tried to have regular posting schedules from time to time but I never can stick to anything since it takes significant time commitment to design the project and then create the post. But my goal is to have at least one or two new posts up every month. Sometimes they are big park expansion plans, sometimes individual attractions, sometimes they are essays about theme park design, and sometimes they may just be random thoughts related to Disney and theme park news. So keep up with me on twitter and check back periodically for new stuff. 

Next, I wanted to address a few comments I got.

The main comments were about the selection of properties for the Disney Studios area of the park. Since I left some expansion pads, I got a lot of suggestions for other choices. There were also a few thoughts about the choice to do the live action remakes vs the originals which I found interesting.

So there's a few reasons I chose the live action fairy tales.

I wanted some differentiation from the Disneyland Park, which is already heavy with classic animated films. And I definitely didn't want any repeats between the parks, so many of the popular and obvious films were out.

I wanted to use properties that could somehow still fit into a cohesive style and location idea, which became the "Fantasy Forest" kind of idea, versus disparate large themed areas that can't really transition.

I recognized that animated films could be grouped into a miniland based on the shared medium like they have done before with the Animation Courtyards.

And honestly, when you look at the filmography of the Walt Disney Pictures brand, leaving out Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation Studios, the only films that have had significant success recently are the live action remakes. Consequently, those kinds of films make up the majority of the lineup for the next few years.

So that made my choice. However, even though I have reasons, I am not heavily committed to that selection because, for this land in particular, the contents are less important than the structure that holds the properties. I think the IPs could be subbed out pretty easily along the main spine path if a better argument can be made for other films and transitions somehow developed. Some interesting suggestions were Wreck it Ralph, Zootopia, and Moana, which would probably mean this transforms into an animated based land, since there I don't think I would want to mix animated and live action remakes.

The only other comments were about how people wish this would happen for real. 

So from those comments, I want to discuss the potential of this park with a good deal more realism, especially in light of the huge expansion plan for Hong Kong Disneyland that was announced just the day after my post went up. 

First, I think it is obvious that the plan I posted last week is way too elaborate to ever happen in its entirety at once. It would be an unprecedented expansion that would give the park more huge E ticket attractions that nearly all existing parks. And based on the spending habits of the resort, it is just impossible. 

But I still think that this could be used as a guide to how the park should and really could grow in more reasonable expansion phases, similar to what is happening to other world wide parks. Hong Kong is a great example. It started as an under-built park, then a major expansion in 2009 brought 3 new lands with a few major attractions, then a few individual attractions over time, and now another major multi-land expansion. Yes its basically a 15 years time frame of improvement. But at least its happening.

And I think you can do the same to the Paris Studios Park. To start, I am going to talk general, not super specific to the actual attractions I proposed. More in terms of lands and general attraction ideas.

I think the key is to start with the infrastructure and organization that would then be expanded over a few big phases. This means the place making work at the front of the park, and I think the Hub and icon layout that defines the center of the park. Organization in a theme park will dictate the future success.

Also I think it is important to realize that in my plan, 3 of the 5 lands use a lot of existing infrastructure and also contain a solid number and variety of attractions. Hollywood, Pixar, and Marvel all are formed of careful additions into the existing landscape. Regardless of the specifics of the additions, the park could make some major improvements without having to completely tear down and start over. Start with what they already have.

And last, even though in my design, I basically went for all original designs, it should be understood that cloning attractions from other resorts makes them cheaper and therefore more likely to be built. That could help a lot here, since these are the kinds of attractions that Disney is currently already designing. This approach could bring some big attractions to the park.

So from that, I'll outline a quick idea for how to make something like this happen.

Major Phase 1:

Improve the place making of Hollywood - the interior of Stage 1 would be renovated in some way, the streets, planters, trolley tracks, and facades of Hollywood would be added, new retail and dining would open, and the Hub and Chinese Theater facade would be built, regardless of if there is an interior. This would also allow for the immediate start to a new night time show.

Add attractions to Toy Story Land - expand Toy Story Land to the north like I have with the addition of a clone of Toy Story Midway Mania and at least one more flat ride/spinner.

Renovate Pixar Place Overall - general work to the facades and planting to make it more cohesive, such as new Crush's Coaster facade and addition of meet and greet building.

Create Marvel Studios - renovate the existing buildings on the south side of the park into Stark Expo, including re-themes of Armageddon and Rockin Roller Coaster. Construct a clone of one of the Marvel attractions already in plans at another park. Either one of the HK attractions or the one in plans for DCA. Something that they can share development costs on that can be the headliner of the expansion. This attraction should also begin to define the expansion potential of the land deeper into the park.

That is all totally reasonable, adds or reworks 6 attractions, and begins to start a solid organization for the park. This could and should happen as soon as possible, especially since this whole phase doesn't even include any major brand new attractions, only clones. This would be a easy and effective start to fix the park.

Intermediate Additions

Add an attraction to Pixar Place - move the wardrobe and cast building and replace with a new D ticket level dark ride of a significantly popular Pixar story.

Put something in the Chinese Theater - put something significant in the icon, either an original attraction, an animation miniland like I have, or something like that Mickey Mouse dark ride. Something fitting the icon status.

Add an attraction to Marvel - either the secondary of the HK attractions, another clone from DCA, or something original. A second and final big attraction to expand the land and increase the park size.

Those are three solid additions that could sustain attendance to the park over multiple years, each phased to continue to draw crowds to come back for something new.

Major Phase 2:

Bring Star Wars - clone the entirety of original Star Wars land, which would now the the third and likely the easiest to build because there is no river or major demo to work around. (It would also make sense logically to do this earlier on, in phase 1 maybe, but I pushed it here so that I could have balanced phases and focus the first phase on rehabs to the existing park.)

Develop the start of the 5th and final land - whatever this would be, live action fairytales like I suggested, animated films, or something completely different, develop the first pocket or two of this land off the Hub and connect it to the other lands to create a full hub and spoke based loop. In my plan, that would be Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid, but could be whatever is popular at this point.

Those are two more huge but reasonable additions that would bring the park to a scale rivaling the other international parks and basically builds it out to a respectable scale.

Final Periodic Additions

Complete the 5th land - finish whatever land was started previously to bring it to the scale of the other lands.

Adjust for what becomes popular - if the 5th Indiana Jones movie becomes a hit, embrace that. Or expand more Star Wars, or Marvel, or live action, or anything else worth building.

These could be long range moves just to complete the organization and balance of the park while also allowing it to respond to trends.

That outline breaks down the overly ambitious plan that I presented into manageable, though significant, chunks of development that are not impossible. It could and should happen to make this the preeminent film park of Europe.

If you like what your reading, continue to like and share so that the audience can keep on growing, and if you have a suggestion or idea, leave me a comment here or on twitter.

Not sure what I'll have next for you, but look for something in mid December.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Disney's Hollywood Adventure Paris Park Plan

The Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-man, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Robbin Hood, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, Ratatouille, Inside Out, Finding Nemo, plus Disney Animation Studios, the Twilight Zone, and classic Hollywood cinema. That' s the outline of this new version of an expansion plan for the current Disney Studios Paris. It's a big lineup that makes this a true top tier movie park.

I posted a version of this plan a year and a half ago, a version that was admittedly under developed. I wanted to leave plenty of expansion area and I had already committed some big properties, including Star Wars, to the Disneyland Park, so the plan was light, and therefore, under received.

Since the result of that post, my plan was to come back with a larger and more ambitious design that includes the full spectrum of the film properties that are in the Disney company. That meant moving Star Wars and Indiana Jones to this park to consolidate the IP heavy hitters and save the Disneyland Park for more original areas. This is a firmly Hollywood IP style park, and should be, so I have no issue using almost completely IPs to create immersive worlds from the best films of the Disney family.

So I decided to structure the park around the big four film families of the company plus a entrance land based on classic Hollywood, all set around a modified hub and spoke that utilizes a good portion of the existing park layout and infrastructure.

Now for the details.

Old Hollywood is the substitute Main Street but is more substantial with multiple attractions. I kept the forecourt, water tower, and Stage 1, which I know many have suggested removing, but I believe it is an effective sequential entry path in this design, and personally think it is necessary to the park.

Stage 1 serves the same purpose as the Train Station by compressing the visual distance at the entrance of the park and creating a series of thresholds and steps to the ultimate experience of the inner park. The problem is that the existing park tries to make it the Train Station, Town Square, and Main Street all in one space, which does not work both because of crowding and density, and just because it does not make sense. If the interior space is not treated so heavily and instead can just be a transition space, really just a tunnel through to the other side, and not somewhere where guests are encouraged to linger, I think it can be a successful step into the real Main Street that I add ahead, and succeeds in blocking the view to the central park from the exterior park.

So the inside of Stage 1 is redressed as a classic golden age Hollywood set in the middle of filming, maybe a 1950's New York street, dressed for the big Singing in the Rain style musical number that is perpetually about to be filmed. The lights are on, the sound is rolling, and we have entered the idea of Hollywood. So now that we are not lingering in here to shop or eat, we move out of the building on the other side and find ourselves back in time in the streets of the ideal Hollywood. We pass under another studio arch, showing that we are now exiting the "studio" and entering the "real city". A roundabout, with Partners in the center, branches left, right, and straight ahead. Realistic city facades surround us, no fake studio style buildings visible except the one we just exited. Imagine the architecture style of Buena Vista Street for all this. The area that is currently just concrete wastelands is planned with streets and plenty of planted areas with trees.

Right is a short street that leads to Pixar Place, with a new large facade with retail on the existing theater and new facades on the current animation building. The Crush's Coaster building that terminates the street is rethemed as a classic aquarium, so the architecture blends into the Hollywood city style.

Straight ahead is the more normal Main Street section, but a little flipped. The current animation building with all new facades becomes exclusively retail as the main "Emporium" of the park. Beyond that on the right, replacing the Green Army Men Parachute ride, is The Brown Derby with outdoor seating looking to the Hub. The left side of the street has a new retail building in front of the Tower of Terror, and a small bakery building in the shadow of the tower. The Hub itself is similar to the traditional, and actually matches the dimensions of the Disneyland Park Paris Hub. The icon is the Chinese Theater, because what else says Hollywood. I mean, except the actual Hollywood letters, but making a hill an icon doesn't really work. I tried.

To the left is the most substantial area of this land with three attractions. Around another larger roundabout is more city facades, including the existing Cinemagic with a new facade and retail and the existing Tower of Terror which absolutely does not get rethemed. Even if the Twilight Zone theme leaves, it stays as a golden age Hollywood story. The new attraction replaces and reuses the Playhouse Disney building to create a modern attraction in the spirit of The Great Movie Ride, similar to what I proposed in my plan for California Adventure. The actual building is a movie theater, much smaller than the Chinese Theater, set for a Hollywood premier. Instead of just a tour through significant films, the attraction has the more interactive goal to put us in the movie making process as the stars of Hollywood instead of just being bystanders. This attraction is on a long term list of attractions to develop in the future. There is also a Red Car Trolley that runs through the land.

Pixar is the least affected of the lands but still gets changes. Like I mentioned, half of the existing Toy Story land is removed so that the Hub and the pathway into the Pixar area can be developed. The path leads to a central generic Pixar open area between the four film specific areas. Adjacent to this area is also a Pixar Cafe counter service location, with the same style as Pixar headquarters, and a meet and greet building and adjacent gazebo at the former animation building. Ratatouille is unchanged.

The Toy Story area extends north and includes three new attractions in the oversized toy world. There is a carousel where guests ride on a large toys, a balloon race style spinner, like Fliks Fliers, and a new big version of Toy Story Mania, set in an oversized board game box. The ride uses the same idea as the existing, but I would like to see a version that combines real sets and triggered effects and the digital game scenes, so that is what I propose here. Digital scenes are interspersed with larger than life toy sets that are filled with triggers and a few animatronic figures of the main characters.

I decided on Inside Out for the last expansion area, replacing the costuming building, and let this be a traditional dark ride through the world of the inner mind, using the train of thought as a ride vehicle.

The Finding Nemo area includes Crush's Coaster redressed and themed as an aquarium, with a larger interior aquarium lobby with limited example exhibits and a version of Turtle Talk.

Across the park, Marvel also reuses a few existing buildings. There are two areas in this land: Stark Expo, which uses Rockin Roller coaster, Armageddon, and the restaurant building, and New York, which is new construction. Thematically, these choices seemed obvious. Because of the extreme variety of characters and locations in the franchise, this needed to be a kind of median space where all the stories could come together, and that seems to often be New York. Coming from the left side of Hollywood, guests come down a promenade between modern and high tech facades on the existing buildings towards a large rotating video sphere at the end of the road, marking the Iron Man exhibit at the Expo. The existing restaurant building stays as a high tech counter service location, and the Armageddon building becomes a technology showcase area, with cool interactive technology games and exhibits about Iron Man and the Avengers. Rockin Roller Coaster is redressed as a Stark flying vehicle prototype attraction. The queue moves through preshows of Tony showing off his suit and the new vehicle we are getting to test and then we board for a flight around the Expo. This is done with both some physical sets that we fly by inside the dark building, and some projections along the side of the track, like in the Tron coaster and Hyperspace Mountain.

The New York area begins at the Hub and leads down a street, also towards the Stark Expo icon sphere. Limited retail on the left and right lead down to the intersection with the New York streets on the right. These are much larger facades to hide the large showbuildings. To the right is a Spider-man dark ride that uses a new or custom system to bring the swinging and height to the adventures of Spider-man. I am thinking something similar to the fabled Pandora's Box ride system that never really happened, where the ride vehicle is able to traverse through scenes both on the ground and up through the air. Spider-man deserves to be able to leave the ground. Across the street is the large Avengers attraction, which is some kind of motion based media attraction and would feature the entire Marvel roster, since this is the premier attraction of the land and the IP. Retail and a snack location or two fill in the facades.

The Lucas Studios land is two areas with two of the most popular stories of all cinema: Indiana Jones and Star Wars. The Star Wars area is a copy of what is coming to the American parks, and the drawing itself is based on my best interpretation of the art. I also included the possible future 3rd attraction, though I do not know what it is.

The Indiana Jones area is a little different that the other Indiana Jones theme park lands. Those are all jungle and temple themed, and those definitely work, but I wanted to try something a little more urban and play into another area that Indy has explored and add variety. I decided on creating a thrilling adventure through the underground catacombs of Rome, so the land is formed of an intersection of history-rich Roman streets and an open hilled park sitting along the crumbling Aurelian Walls, which is the border to Star Wars.

The land begins at the Hub and passes through a bit of a transition to move us from the Hub to Rome. The corridor between the Spider-man and Chinese Theater showbuildings is dressed as a backlot that gently fades into the real treatment of Rome, as if we are stepping onto a set and then into the film. Therefore, along this leg of the path, the facades are a little more fake and there is a Backlot Express counter service location. But turn the corner and it is full Rome, and once you are on this section of the street, the backlot theme is not visible at all.

The main attraction is on the right side, and begins in a historic church. The queue takes us through to the second level of the cloister, modeled on Bramante's Cloister in Rome and then down through the entrance to the ancient ruins below the church, where Indy is exploring for a lost ancient relic. The attraction is a new version of an EMV/water coaster hybrid that I am developing. Expect a post soon. The attraction floats us through a river of the catacombs where we encounter a lost Roman city in ruins, leading to dark ride and coaster portions of the attraction, before a final splashdown drop back into the catacombs river. This concept is based on some real Roman churches that I visited, specifically the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano which is a 12th century church on top of a 4th century church on top of 1st century Roman ruins that includes a Roman cult temple. Literal layers of history the deeper you go, and somewhere that Indiana Jones would definitely explore.

Across the street is a pizzeria and retail, and the other side is an obelisk and the Roman Forum park, gently sloping up to the massive walls, blocking Star Wars. There is another smaller church building along the park, on the path leading to Star Wars. This is another entrance to the catacombs, but this is more of an exploration walk through attraction where you can explore a little area built under the sloping hill. The final building on the other side of the park holds a fine dining restaurant on the second floor, looking over the land, and an attraction on the ground floor set in an Antiquities museum. This is more of an animatronics and special effects show where we find some mysterious artifacts that Dr. Jones has recently found.

The last land is Walt Disney Studios and is the most diverse. I was a little unsure of how I wanted to go with this and what films to represent. I decided to do a single animation based area because so many of the animated films are already in the other park, and multiple individual areas based on the top live action films. The animation went in the Chinese Theater and attached interior space, which I think is a nice reminder of the central importance of the animated films to the success of the Disney company. Inside the interior land is a interior animated courtyard like the one in DCA, meet and greets, animation studios and interactive classes, and a new 360 degree version of Philharmagic, which uses the CircuMotion theater design.

For the other areas, I had to decide what films to represent. A look at the recent live action releases of the studio that are not Marvel or Lucas shows that the only thing that has shown real success is the live action classic animation films, so that was my direction. This was actually considered last time too, but it wasn't as definite that they were going to have success. I decided to set this up as basically a live action Fantasyland Forest, so the films needed to fit that feel. Also I wanted to do 3-4 lands now and leave room for 2-3 based on what finds success. So my picks: The Jungle Book because of its strong international success, Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid because of their success potential based on how loved the classics are, and for the last slot, I'm making a prediction with Robbin Hood, which is supposed to be in the same vein as Pirates of the Caribbean. I think all of those have the potential to be popular and enough and an interesting enough themed environment to warrant space in the land.

The main entrance from the Hub moves along a long forested path, with the animation building on the left and Toy Story Land on the right. Once past Toy Story, we are in Belle's Village, with her cottage on the left and the village on the right. The cottage is a meet and greet, the village holds a large Gaston's Tavern and retail, and beyond is the Castle sitting on the rocky hill. Paths lead over a stream and through the woods towards the rock entrances to the undergrounds of the castle. Inside is a version of Be Our Guest but in a Ballroom that is even more regal based on the film design, and a large traditional dark ride through the story of the film.

Paths continue to the next area and transition to the jungles of the Jungle Book. This is much more densely vegetated to transport us deep in the jungle. The main attraction is a large classic boat ride through the world of the film, including sets and mixed media scenes. There is also a chain swing ride themed as swinging vines and a retail location inside a ruined temple.

Next, around the bend of the path, is The Little Mermaid area. We cross a bridge and look out over the new lagoon with Eric's castle on the other side. Ahead is a fishing village style area with a full size sailing ship that can be explored. Aside the castle is the entrance into the attraction, which is a "trackless" suspended dark ride like my proposal for UP that is also similar to the Tony Baxter Little Mermaid attraction concept. The ride exits to a large under the sea post show area. Inside the expansion on the showbuilding is Ariel's underwater kingdom with interactive play space, meet and greet, and retail.

Last is the Forest of Nottingham, where guests find a small town square in the woods with a castle looming above. In the town is a Nottingham Tavern that is seedy and mysterious. The castle is the entrance to the ride, which is some kind of large action filled media ride, with carriage ride vehicles that explore the exciting world of Robbin Hood. Back in the forest is a ropes course attraction high above the forest floor. Again, this area is based on a movie that is years away and I can only speculate that it will be successful because of its comparison to the Pirates franchise.

And this area loops back to the Indiana Jones Rome area, completing the park.

There is also a new parade route, which is noted with the red dash on the plan. It is approximately the same length as the castle park routes, matching the Magic Kingdom route closest. It stays in the front half of the park where there are the best defined paths instead of the back area which is too densely vegetated for a parade to really work.

There is also extra room in front of the Chinese Theater for roll out stages like Hollywood Studios has done before. I think this is a better option that a permanent stage.

And finally, for the nightly event, there is infrastructure includes for both projection and limited fireworks. Towers are included in the Hollywood architecture to project on the full Chinese Theater facade and the entire height of the Tower of Terror, creating more space for the show to be seen from. There is a main fireworks launch on the Indy building and smaller side launches behind and to the side as well as to the side of the Tower of Terror. The main launch could handle 3" shells with minimal closed fallout area, basically just part of Rome and the rest would just shoot low level pyro effects that don't require large fallout. If really needed, a large launch site could be located behind the park, past the public space, but night shows are getting lighter on fireworks, so I do not think it is necessary. Low level and projection effects should be enough.

This plan brings the park up to having 29 attractions vs the current 16 or so. Amazingly there are only 7 attractions that are not substantially changed, so it is an addition of 22 attractions. Only 4 see absolutely no change: Tower of Terror, Ratatouille, and the two remaining rides of Toy Story Land. This is alot of change for this park that makes it a real top level themed environment. I am much happier with this plan.

So what do you think about the plan? Did I include the films you wanted? Any suggestions for those last few expansions? Let me know!

Monday, October 24, 2016

UP UP and AWAY Attraction Plan

This week I have an attraction plan that was actually completed a few years ago and that I have been holding in reserve. This is my design for a suspended dark ride based on UP to be located in a new South America land in Animal Kingdom. The post for that park is here.

Set after the movie, guests are given the opportunity to take a tour of the jungles around Paradise Falls, led by the Wilderness Explorers group. As a project to gain a badge, the group of explorers has constructed a fleet of balloon vehicles for our adventure filled trip.

The queue begins in the jungle near the house and leads to a meandering switchback queue through the brush where the Wilderness Explorers have set up camp, passing seemingly occupied tents. Interactive noises and shadows in the tents lend to the illusion of life. Both the Fastpass+ and Standby queues then lead into the rockwork caves. The queues pass through their workshops where they have been building exploration balloons, which we will be riding on our journey through the jungle. We pass boxes of parts, spools of rope, and tanks of helium along the way. We find their work table with the blueprints for the vehicle and then a finished vehicle prototype before we round the corner and reach the load area. There is a projection effect of an opening in the rockwork where we can see the balloon periodically sail by, filled with Wilderness Explorers.

The wicker and metal exploration balloons are two rows seating 2 or 3 in each row and are suspended from a large clump of “balloons” which cover the track above. I wanted to make this more than a traditional suspended dark ride, so I attempted to emulate a “trackless” ride in a suspended dark ride form. To create that effect, the darkride has two separate tracks that pass through the scenes in completely different ways. The vehicles on each track are identical but mirrored, cantilevering out from each track by 1’ towards the center. At load and unload, the two tracks sit parallel and 2’ apart so that the vehicles suspended from each track form a straight line. The tracks also come together for two track switches, where large overhead turntables send the vehicles to the backstage maintenance bays.

Guests load on their exploration balloon vehicle and float out into the jungle. We start out in search of Kevin, but first find Doug and the rest of the dogs that live in the Jungle. Doug sits up on a rock perch to the right of the two tracks, talking to us as we float by, while the other dogs are at ground level around the track. Farther ahead, we discover Kevin standing on his own rock formation, squawking at us. We float past and into a cave, which is where the first track switch is located. This is the remnants of Muntz’s cave, evident by a perpective projection of Muntz’s dirigible to the right side of the track, making the cave seem much larger than it is. On the ground, Muntz’s equipment and furniture are scattered. We float out of the cave and right over a lagoon, with gushing waterfalls to our left and right, threatening to splash us but just missing. We turn and pass through a rocky opening, and see another floating balloon ahead of us, with Carl and Russell inside. We float around it, while they wave goodbye to us and wish us a good trip back to the camp. We float ahead, passing Kevin and Doug again, and enter another cave, where the second track switch is located. We turn left, and arrive at the unload station. Guests exit the vehicle and walk through the small gift shop before making it back out to the house.

Guests are able to freely explore the house before or after their ride. Russell and Carl could also do meet and greets outside the house during the day.

This would be similar to the attraction I am currently proposing in my third gate design for the Disneyland Resort, set in a similar South America rainforest.

So as I said, this is an older plan, about 4 years old actually, that I have saved back. I didn't want to make you wait another week without a new post, especially because I know that I will not have one next week, so now was the time to use it. I may have 1 or 2 more old attraction plans that I could share in future gaps, but I hope that will not happen soon. I'll be back in two weeks with something new, and hopefully soon, an update on the state and future of the blog. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Third Gate Progress: The Attraction Lineup

Back with another update on the 3rd Gate Project! At this point, I have fairly thoroughly transformed the rough concept and property goals I discussed in a previous post into a line up of lands and attractions.

I have also started to diagrammatically work out the layout of the lands, but it is still flexible and in progress. It is more of just an arrangement of the network of lands and the start of ideas of how attractions fit into the site.

So in this post, I am going to give you the basic network layout and the mostly developed land and attraction list. I have alot of thoughts for the story as well, but don't want to spoil all that quite yet. That story is mostly the concept of the individual members of SEA and how they are involved in the various lands and tie back together in the main organization. Therefore, I am leaving out some of the original attraction ideas because they relate to these unique members.

When formulating the attraction line up, I wanted to be realistic with the scope of an opening day park, so I analyzed the last few opening day line ups. The best comparison is Shanghai Disneyland, because the previous opening parks (Hong Kong Disneyland and California Adventure) were intentionally underbuilt.

By my count and interpretation of the following categories, Shanghai Disneyland opened with 20 attractions (not including meet and greets or simple exhibits, but definitely including walkthrough and exploration areas) and 3 dedicated theater shows (not including street based shows or the castle show, parade, or fireworks). The attractions fall into the following categories: 7 non IP attractions, 4 major E ticket attractions, 12 minor attractions, such as walkthroughs, exploration areas, and spinners, and 6 attractions that could be considered a dark ride.

I set my goals with similar numbers, with consideration that this is a smaller and more IP focused park. At least 20 attractions and 2 shows, at least 5 non IP attractions, 5 E ticket attractions, 10 minor attractions, and at least 6 dark rides.

Now I'll very briefly walk through the network of lands and mention most of the attractions that I have planned.

First, outside the park is a 3000 space parking deck on the north west side of the site, an adjacent transportation hub with multiple bus stops and the peoplemover station. On the opposite north east corner is the hotel area, which includes underground parking and sits adjacent to the park, possibly with ground floor retail in the park like the Mira Costa in Tokyo Disney Sea.

Adventure Harbor

The first land and entrance corridor is the central harbor of the worldwide SEA organization and therefore includes their storage warehouses, archives, clubhouse, and most iconic, their steamship, which is the central icon of the park.

The land is entirely original, no IPs, and includes retail, food and beverage including a table service restaurant in the clubhouse, a interactive park wide game organized from the clubhouse, and a VR explorers game in the ship.

North America

This continent is represented by San Francisco, transitioning from the urban harbor area into the streets of the city. There are two distinct areas and properties in the land: Tron and Inside Out. Tron is an interior land reached through Flynn's arcade and includes an interior Grid environment and an EMV coaster attraction. Inside Out is a shooting dark ride where guests send memories orbs to headquarters to balance the emotions. The land also includes retail and small food, including the required pizza location adjacent to Riley's house.

South America

This continent has two area, one set in the deep rainforest jungle, which includes Mystic Manor and a suspended dark ride based on UP, and the other in Mexico featuring a boat ride based on the upcoming Coco. I know Mexico is actually North America, but it fits better here aesthetically and I use it as a transition from San Francisco to the rainforest. The Mexico area would include significant retail and dining.


This is a single property land just because Zootopia set up such a complete and interesting environment that could make a great themed environment. The land at least one flat ride spinner as well as a larger family coaster dark ride through the various areas of the city. There is also (hopefully) a cable car transportation attraction between the rainforest of Zootopia and the rainforest of South America. These shared rainforests are the transition between lands.


This land is a tropical aquatic environment, transitioning from the aquatic area of Zootopia, and features a lava flowing volcano that forms a secondary icon for the park. The volcano holds a spinning family coaster and Moana is represented in a large trackless water dark ride.

Star Wars

This second Star Wars land is smaller than the first and holds a distinct environment from the Disneyland version. Possibly something aquatic to be a transition from Polynesia. The attractions would include a media/water coaster, and an animatronics based show. This is less defined since I don't know much about the first land.


This is a larger land, but is also loosely defined at this point. For transition and thematic reasons, it makes sense to relate it to space instead of a city based location, so it could possibly include the upcoming Infinity Wars events, the Thor universe, Guardians of the Galaxy universe, and maybe even Dr. Strange since it is mystical instead of realistic. The possible Dr. Strange area could be used to transition to Asia and Thor could transition to Europe.

Africa, Asia, and Europe

These lands are really more of a combined area and are smaller than the other main lands. They tuck against the hotel and possibly include thre ground floor of the hotel building. There are a variety of small areas.

Africa is represented with a savanna city and including a Lion King flume ride. The Middle East features an Aladdin based flight simulator as well as retail and dining. The jungles of India hold a Jungle Book based acrobatics show and a Chinese area features an attraction based on Mulan. Finally, Europe has a Spain inspired area with a Gigantic dark ride, and a Greece area with a Hercules maze and exploring attraction.

Like I said, that does not include everything. There are somethings that I have thought out already that I just don't want to share yet and there are plenty of things that haven't been developed at all. The real specifics will happen once the layout starts to finalize. I am in the process of starting to lay that out so we will see what's going to happen.

But for now, this is the general scheme for the park.

So are there any attractions or properties that you think should fit in these lands? Did you have any different ideas about how to include a certain IP? Let me know with a comment. Thanks!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Theme Park Environment: Physical Paths

And back with another short environmental post this week after the big double attraction plan post last week.

The first post of the series at the start of the year discussed the concept of the significant of the urban plan to the experience of the theme park. The second post this summer discussed weenies and visual sequence and how they keep us moving in the park.

This time I am going to briefly mention the pair concept to the visual sequence of the paths, the physical sequence of the paths.

This is more than just the concepts discussed in the previous posts because those detailed both the overall planning layout of the paths and the visual effects of the paths, not the actual layout and experience.

There are two major elements I want to mention. The effect of physical compression and release and pointless paths and nooks, as well as one less used element, parallel paths.

First, the effect of compression and release is overwhelmingly similar to the visual compression and release that I discussed last post, but is about how you feel, not what you see. Admittedly, they are basically the same result. When space compresses around the path you are on, you want to keep moving to the adjacent open and released area. One of the best examples is the entrance to Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. The exact sequence takes us through the compressed turnstiles, the open plaza in front of floral Mickey, the compressed train tunnels, the open Town Square, the compressed Main Street, and finally the open Hub. This alternating character of space directs us and influences our movement. We are not really meant to stay in the compressed moments of the sequence and we physically do not want to when that nice bright and open space is just ahead.

This tool should be used throughout parks to create individual spaces and promoted movement. I dare to say it can't really be overused as long as it does not becoming an overtly repetative sequence of similar spaces. The distribution of scale and scope, like the vastly different spaces along that entry sequence I mentioned, help break us the intentional design choices and make it less obvious that we are being affected.

This is key to the environment, and something that is basically prevalent in every single theme park, regardless of how intentional it is, because it is just a basic element of architectural and urban design. Streets and traditional architecture do the same. Public plazas and squares share sequence with the narrow roads that lead to them. Foyers and hallways mediate the movement through a house from main room to main room. Its a fundamental experiential design tool.

Next, my concept of pointless paths and nooks references the many side areas and lesser used paths of the parks that are unique. Everyone has their favorite little side path of the parks, a lesser populated area that has its own unique character. The former Court of Angels, the Frontierland Boardwalk, the Rose Garden, the depths of the World Showcase pavilions. These minor elements of the circulation system of the park would be very easy to leave out in favor of running every guest through the main wide pathways. Logistically, that would probably be the obvious approach but it prevents diversity of experience and complexity of environment.

Also, an environment with a single path logically does not make much sense in relation to the reality of the spaces they are emulating. We forge paths and cut corners around the main thoroughfare all the time, so the thematic spaces should do the same. But the more important consequence to these side areas is that they help give the illusion of the increased space and depth to the world we are exploring. Every time we see a path break off we are inclined to believe there is more world beyond and more to explore. If we all walked down the same single path from point a to b, we would have seen it all and known that we saw it all. These side spaces are key to the illusion of the themed space being real.

In addition to those two tools, there are a few others that are somewhat less used. My favorite is the idea of parallel paths, that there can be multiple parallel paths of movement through a space that can all look to and reference each other. The best example is along the Rivers of America in both American parks. In Magic Kingdom's Frontierland, there is the storefront path along the buildings, which is separated from the main pathway through the middle, which is separated from the boardwalk along and over the river. At Disneyland, there is the path along the border of New Orleans Square, separated from the tiered walkways along the river, each separated from each other. In both cases, it works just like the pointless paths premise but creates the illusion of choice and diversity while keeping us moving on the same path. We can see others on the other pathways and understand that as diversity of experience all in the same setting with the same start and end.

So based on those ideas, I am interested in what your favorite little side area of the parks is? What pointless path do you enjoy exploring the most while in the parks? Let me know with a comment below. 

Next week I am going to try to be back with another attraction plan post. Let me know what you want to see next. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Disneyland Fantasyland Expansion Plan: Frozen Ever After and A Tangled Tale

This post will be hopefully the first of multiple detailed plans based on the Disneyland Resort expansion I just completed.

This time will be the north Fantasyland expansion that I proposed, formed of an Indoor Arendelle area, a Frozen boat ride, and a Tangled trackless dark ride. I'll start with a walk through of the area before we enter the attractions.

The addition begins as a forest path coming from the train bridge underpass, splitting left for Frozen and straight ahead for Tangled. The area also connects to the expansion area replacing the Fantasyland Theater, where the new Peter Pan's Flight is located.

Each of the two attractions have architectural icons that we can see from this path. To the right, through the trees, guests can see a forced perspective Rapunzel's Tower in a distant cleaning, surrounded by a rockwork wall with a waterfall behind. Guests cannot get all that close to it, so it should be able to stay in perspective as being far away. The entrance to the Tangled attraction is straight ahead and the queues lead into the rockwork wall and then into an interior simulated exterior forest.

The Frozen side of the forest path, the left side, features a stone tower with a wide eight sided roof as the icon, beckoning guests to the cave path to Arendelle. The tower is covered in snow and displays banners for the kingdom, welcoming us to the Winter Festival of the newly opened city. The train station is also redressed with Arendelle inspired architecture to further tie the area together. It is not removed or replaced, but the exterior architecture is redesigned. The train station remains on the second floor while the ground floor below becomes restrooms and a gift shop that opens to the north side, holding merchandise for both properties.

Guests enter The Kingdom of Arendelle through the cave path and find a small Village facade on the left and the Palace gates on the right, which lead into the square of the Palace. The main Palace facade sits ahead, with fountains frozen into grand spirals on either side. Inside the palace is a meet and greet, which has two identical rooms. The short queue passes through the main entry hall, where a large family portrait hangs at the end of the room, into a side room, the library, and then guests are directed down a hallway to one of two rooms where both sisters are waiting.

The left corner of the square facing the palace is the entrance to the Ice Skating, and a small queue leads to a payment and skate rental desk, and then to a seating area for skaters to get ready. Small lockers are available. They then can skate for a 20-minute shift on the frozen lake in the middle of the icy forest. Occasional snow flurries fall on the skaters, and a Photopass photographer is on the ice to document guests experience.

The north corner of the square has snack carts that sell specialty cold and hot drinks, perfect for the theme, and basic snacks. The south corner has a large retail location, operated by Oaken, which can also be accessed through the tower at the exterior of the land.

In the Village facades across the way is the queue for the main attraction. The queues begin on the north side of the building and gradually slope down before entering the ground floor of the building, which is 5’ below the level of the main pathway. The queues pass through various rooms that are the shops of the city. Fastpass goes directly to the load, Standby goes up a staircase to a second floor extended queue, then back down to load. Handicap guests may use an elevator to go directly to the load platform. By the way, I did not design the upper queue, ran out of time, so it is just a blank room for now.

Guests board the large boat and then float away from the dock and into the Ice Forest, where fake trees twinkle with crystals. We pass the ice skating, and then head into a dark tunnel. We emerge into the Ice Forest and immediately see Olaf on the left, greeting us. This would be similar to the awesome walking figure in the existing ride. The trolls are ahead on the right, telling the story of the sisters, but they are found on both sides of the flume. Then on the left is a look into the dark forest where the glowing eyes of the wolves menace. We make it through however and see Anna on her sleigh on the left, greeting us. We float under an snow covered rock arch and come up upon Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post, where he stands on the porch and offers us his winter sale. In the windows, we see projections of his family in the sauna, waving. We float into the barn and meet Kristoff and Sven, and then emerge into the Crystal Forest, filled with pointed ice spikes and Olaf and Anna pointing our way to visit Elsa.

We turn and enter an Icy gateway, the entrance to Elsa Ice Palace, and then go up hill to the mountain. Above us are ornately carved ice arches. At the top, we turn left to a wall of pointed ice arches looking out over the frozen mountain landscape, just as the song begins. Through a swinging set of doors, we finally make it to Elsa’s Ice Palace. In front of us is a large automated set piece of the palace which actually grows in front of us in time to the music, as Elsa, who we see projected in the balconies, uses her powers. We then float underneath it and the huge ice chandelier above, pulsing with the music. Then we continue out of the tower and under the icy arches and to the next scene, where we see Elsa on her balcony completing the song. Then we exit the palace and finally pass Marshmallow, who pushes us down the mountain. We splash down and pass a giant model of Arendelle, snow fireworks exploding above, like in the existing attraction. Then finally we pass the group of characters once again, waving goodbye. Then unload, up a ramp, and back to the public area of Arendelle. We don't directly exit into a gift shop, but there are two nearby.

I have a scene animation created for the Ice Palace effect that I described above. The video shows 4 repeats of the growth and reset cycle. The effect is formed of multiple layers that slide upward around the central tower. The top crown slides up and the points slide out of it, the balcony slides up and the hand rail grows up from it, the inner pointed arches slide down, the stairs slide up with the balcony, the side wall grows up, and finally the rear window arches slide up in two pieces. Additionally, projections are important to the effect. The front faces of the tower and the side rear walls are projection mapped, so that crystalization textures can be added to emphasize the growth effects. Also, the projections fill in the interior space of the tower, showing the Ice Chandalier growing and Elsa walking around, using her power, and causing the tower to grow. The rear walls show views looking out on the icy mountain. The entire process takes about 15 second, begining when the doors open to enter the room, and ending right as the boat enter the interior of the tower. It then all quickly resets for the next boat. The overhead arches on the north side of the tower attempt to block the view of guests on that side of the track from really noticing this repeated transition.

Now on to Tangled.

The Tangled dark ride entrance is outside in the forest path. The queue goes through a simulated interior forest, like the ET dar ride, next to the castle walls and then gets to the load area, where guests board a trackless carriage. The 4 carriages then pass through an open door in the stone wall and into the first scene, where they circle around a platform. Rapunzel and Flynn are at the center, welcoming us to the Festival of Lights, where she will be retelling the story of the lost princess. This is my strategy to somewhat get around some of the problems of the book report dark ride. Because this is a retelling, there is license to summarize and leave out plot elements because Rapunzel is telling a new version of this story. The image below is a rough massing perspective to show the character of the scene.

We then move backwards and turn to a tunnel of projection surfaces on either side, where Rapunzel's paintings come to life with her narration. These are used to summarize and transition between scenes, allowing for quick but logical transitions between the major spaces. In these paintings, she tells us of how she came to be in the tower, and then we enter the tower itself, a large and tall circular set, where she sings “When Will My Life Begin”. We continue through the curtained portal and into scenes of “Mother Knows Best” and Rapunzel interrogating Flynn, all of which technically take place in the same room. The car rotates and shifts as it transitions to hopefully confuse and obscure where we are really going. The first of these scenes shows the dark room, with just Gothel and the Mirror, instructing the seated Rapunzel. The interrogation scene shows Flynn tied up and Rapunzel with her frying pan, agreeing to leave the tower.

Then we leave the tower and transition past paintings showing the descent from the tower. We processed into the forest, where the track splits through the woods, and passes Flynn complaining about his wanted poster, stuck on a tree. Rapunzel frolicks in the distance, in projected form. We then move into the Snuggly Duckling for the largest scene of the ride. The track again splits around a large center table where Rapunzel is standing and singing. In the corner is the Piano Playing Thug, who trades verses with Rapunzel. The highly detailed room is filled with figures singing along, including Flynn pinned to a post. The Cupid thug rotates on a wire above us as well.

Then we move under the balcony to a side room, where we see Maximus and a Guard searching for Flynn, but they have escapes out of the trapdoor by the bar to the side of the room. Mother Gothel peeks through a window to the side. We turn backwards into a transition painting room, where Rapunzel summarizes her journey into the Kingdom walls. This is themost effective use of the transition paintings, because it cuts out a solid 20-30 minutes of less important plot. Then we move into the large scene of the Lanterns on the water. We make a full revolution around the-central boat, surrounding by gently bobbing lanterns, supplemented with projections and mirrors to extend the view. We leave this room through a large swinging door and pass a view into the woods, where Mother Gothel consoles Rapunzel as Flynn sails away in a silhouetted projection through the trees.

We continue back into the tower, and circle around Rapunzel in the center, just at the moment she realizes she is the lost princess. The paintings on the tower walls and ceiling come to life just like in the film with fiber optic and projection effects. The cars move on to a series of small scenes completing the story. First, we see Gothel stabbing Flynn, just in front of the tower window, then a scene of Flynn cutting Rapunzel's hair, and then Rapunzel healing Flynn in a cloud of light. The middle scene uses an update of an old school effect to show Gothel ageing. The figure stands by the mirror, and when the hair is cut, she turns to face the mirror, but we actually see a duplicate aged figure simultaneously turning into view. The ride concludes with another storytelling scene, where Rapunzel completes her story with a happily ever after and everyone says goodbye. The cars then move back out to unload, and guests exit back out into the forest path of Fantasyland, passing a retail cart and eventually seeing the retail ahead under the train station.

This is probably the largest detail plan area I am going to develop, but I want to design many of the smaller additions I proposed. Are there any specific attractions or lands you want to see more detail on?

Thanks for reading and leave a comment!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Third Gate Progress: The Site

This second update post about my Disneyland Resort Third Gate design process is going to give a little information about the site and its limitations.

The obvious third gate site is the current Toy Story Parking Lot and Cast Member Parking Lot located here, which sits in the block bordered by Katella Ave, Oceanwood Ave, Harbor Blvd, and Haster St.

This has been discussed as the third gate site for years, even Disney has publicly advertised this as the third gate location. They even had a domain advertising it and thanks to the Wayback Machine, we can still see it here. Their map at the bottom confirms this as the site.

They are already making moves to replace the parking here, which leads me to believe this site is still in the long term plans. The new transportation hub begins to replace the guests spots, and they have already have land to build an additional cast parking deck off site.

So this site will work. The only problem is that it is rather small compared to the two existing parks. My calculation for Disney plus its backstage areas is about 126 acres, California Adventure is 80 acres, and this site is about 73 acres. But since California Adventure shares a lot of entrance and backstage facilities that will have to be recreated at this new site, there really is a significant difference between the sizes of the parks.

But interestingly, I have seen information online that suggest that Disney owns more land around this lot than we actually know. I am referencing a post on WDWMagic by a knowledgeable member (Additional land owned by Disney in Anaheim?) that claims that Disney potentially owns multiple of the apartment complex lots surrounding their parking lot, held through anonymous third party companies. This could make a big difference.

However, that same poster suggests that there might be issues with the city that could make this lot problematic in another post (Predicting DLR in the decades to come), saying that the city has eyes on extending Gene Autry Way through the Disney owned property, potentially using eminent domain to destroy the chances of a third park. There is even an official City of Anaheim planning document that shows the road extended right through the parking lot. So that could be an issue.

My decision of how to develop the land takes into account both of these factors.

I have decided to hypothetically play nice with the city and develop a third gate theme park over and around a newly extended road, crossing the site. To me, this seems well in the scope of Disney's planning and design skill, especially if they build the road themselves in an integrated construction process, instead of hypothetically building over an already existing road.

My plan is that they build the road so that it steps down below ground level and sits in an open trench between the two halves of the park with a few large and well themed pedestrian bridges crossing the opening. These pedestrian pathways would be wide enough and disguised with architecture and theming so that guests cant even tell they are crossing traffic. Showbuildings and backstage areas would back up to the open trench in all other areas. Guests would absolutely not be able to see the traffic from the bridges and I am sure that efforts could be made to reduce sound. This is basically the same idea as the current backstage tunnel under the esplanade area, but wider and more open. Security would be the only real issue left that I can't address, so I will just have to ignore than concern for the sake of a conceptual design plan.

With this addition of the road through the site, the apartment complexes on the east side will be removed, either because Disney already owns them, or by eminent domain from the city, which would then be given to Disney in exchange for the construction of the road. That adds another 18 acres to the site. Pretty good sized addition.

I decided to make those the only apartment sites I take for the park because I didn't want to be too ambitious, and my investigations lead me to believe that Disney doesn't own the ones on the south side of the block. The south three complexes all appear to be managed by large multi property companies while the three on the east seem to be individually managed or their ownership is unclear. I doubt that if Disney owned them through a third party, that third party would be a huge multi-state company. It would be a small anonymous management group that they can control. But I will plan to consider this area as potential future expansion.

Additionally, I decided that Disney would purchase the small hotel and Avis on the north east corner of the site, just to control more unified land.

So now that is a site that is sized for a theme park and supporting facilities. And here is the site and my diagramming, plus a start at the layout. In my drawing, the open build able land, not including the road, is 86 acres and the bridges would take up about another acre. The road trench takes up the remaining 4 acres. Perfect.

I have not begun to formally plan the site, but I have started to think about it diagrammatically. In my estimation, the site will need to hold 5 elements: the theme park, a backstage facility area, an entrance facility area, a parking deck, and a hotel. It seems natural for the entrance, parking, and hotel to go on the north side and the backstage to likely go on the south side. Plus, in my transportation phases, I suggested a PeopleMover to connect my version of the transportation deck and this park, so that terminates at the north side of the lot, likely inside the parking deck.

Last, I started to think about the layout of the park, and decided to stick with the classic hub and spoke, possibly with a more defined exterior ring path connecting the lands. I have shown the start of that diagram on the site, which shows how the road dividing the site could work. This layout would basically use 6 bridges over the road (2 backstage on the west and east, and 4 in the park). I think this could work, and this is how I am going to start laying out the park.

I am in the process now of formulating an attraction line up and trying to resolve that with the site. This may take a little bit of time, but I will be back with an update on it eventually. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Disneyland Resort Wrap Up

So yesterday, I gave you the last part of my plan for the existing Disneyland Resort expansion.

Today is a recap and my personal analysis of my results. I would love to hear your opinion in the comments too.

So first, the recap of the plans.

I know that because I split all the work between 4 phases, each phase was a little lighter on content than you are used my opinion each phase was still more than is probably realistic for the real life development of the parks, at least at the pace they have been at for the last few years. But now that it is all done, I present the park plans to you with all the changes noted, as if it was all to happen at once, like my previous plans.

Presented this way, it really is alot of change happening to the two parks.

Disneyland majorly renovates or replaces 8 rides, adds 10 brand new attractions, 1 restaurant, and makes significant changes to 3 lands.

Disney's California Adventure gets an all new theme and organization that defines the experience of the lands, adds 19 new attractions, 4 restaurants, renovates basically every land, and  adds 3 completely new themed areas.

If you break it down on a Ticket scale, based on my personal value judgement, Disneyland gets 6 E and D Tickets and 11 C and B tickets. And California Adventure gets 8 E and D Tickets, and 11 C and B Tickets. Both pretty balanced.

A lot of change in a relatively small and already built out resort.

I also have the additions diagrammed by the phases, which I think is really interesting to look at. Red is Phase 1, Orange is 2, Light Blue is 3, Dark Blue is 4.

There's some interesting geographical organization that was not entirely intentional but makes sense.

It is much harder to close down large potions of Disneyland for renovation, so the phases and projects jump around to keep a whole land from closing down. It also spreads the capacity around the existing park.

The phases at California Adventure on the other hand are focused on completely renovating a specific land, which is necessary because in nearly every case, the exterior land is heavily renovated. So it makes sense to rework a whole land at a time to fit the new structure. Plus, the last two phase focus on expanding into new land, so makes sense for it to all happen at once.

As for the analysis of the results, there is one clear fault that I fought with the whole time but I think many successes.

The problem I discovered is just how improbable it is to claim the ability to predict what would be built a whole 20 years from now. I found it comical to be proposing an Incredibles attraction to be built in 2035, or 31 years after the movie came out. It is easy to give a list of Disney films right now that should go in the parks, but hard to know if those same films have the longevity to be built long term. Its even more challenging to know that there will definitely be many films in the next 15-20 years that are popular enough to go in the parks, maybe even a dozen or two based on their recent success. Facing this challenge makes me understand why some times we wait years for attractions, or never see an attraction for a specific popular movie. Investing resources but most importantly real estate to a new attraction requires faith that it is going to be popular and worthwhile.

So that fault caused a little bit of second guessing and alot of acceptance of the fact that this plan really isn't that realistic in that regard.

Additionally, I never managed to fit in a a few of my original goals.

First, I had originally thought that I could fit at least one more dark ride into Fantasyland and had some thoughts about that, but that didn't work out. I decided to go large on the relocated Peter Pan to justify the move instead of trying to fit one more attraction.

Second, it slightly disappoints me that I didnt really touch the left side of Disneyland at all. Thats because there is not alot of room and the existing attractions are all pretty great. I see now that I could have done a lot to Critter Country, but I just completely ignored it. Its the forgotten land. In real life too. Spent 4 days at Disneyland and never made it into Critter Country.

And last, the big planning move that I tried very hard to implement was a bridge and underpass in Fantasyland, at the parade route, so that guest traffic flow could continue under the parade. This was the most unpleasent, crowded, and likely dangerous place in the parks in my experience, as guests pile into the narrow path by the Tea Cups, waiting to cross the route. I worked on this for days, but the space just isn't there.

Still, even with these faults that I can see, I think I was relatively successful at implementing the main goals. Adding capacity to both parks, adding more Disney films represented, adding more variety of themed environments, and adding a real theme and organization to California Adventure.

Personally, I think my additions to Disneyland are good and in the spirit of the park, but I am more proud of my proposals for California Adventure. The theme and organization was a tough challenge to crack, but I am happy with my result.

Plus, I have some favorite attraction concepts in these two parks. I really like my development of Tomorrowland and the northern expansion for Fantasyland at Disneyland. And frankly, just about everything at California Adventure. I will definitely be revisiting many of these attractions soon.

So now that I have shared my thoughts, what do you think?

What attraction or land is your favorite that you want to see more?

What would you have done differently in your plan for the parks?

What do you want to see next, from this park or any park I have designed before?

Thanks for reading, and I would love to respond to your comments, so leave one below!