Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Islands of Adventure Park Expansion Plan

This week, I bring you a new park expansion plan that’s a little unlike anything I have done before. For the first time, I have gone to work on a Universal park, specifically Islands of Adventure, the only Universal park I have actually visited in person.

In the past, I had said that I was likely not going to design expansions for Universal parks because of how active and successful Universal Creative is at making changes to the parks. If the parks were constantly being improved, I didn’t see the point in making my own plans. That frantic pace of additions is still the case, but I recently was inspired to take on this particular park once I realized how much potential it has as a themed environment.

One of my favorite things about Islands of Adventure is how unique its original thematic concept was. Self-sufficient “island” lands based on adventures from varied literary worlds is a strong and compelling theme park structure. It has a well-defined urban plan sensibility that allows for immersive themed spaces and the literary concept allows for a lot of variety of subject matter while still sticking to the big picture.

Plus, the park as it is now is in the unique case where is has some super highlight attractions and world class themed environments, yet also has an incredible amount of expansion or redevelopment space that can be brought up to that new higher level of quality. Ideally, there are two whole existing lands of the park (Toon Lagoon and Lost Continent) that can be replaced entirely, and each of the other four main lands has expansion potential. This was a challenge I wanted to work on.

Before getting to the specifics of each island, I want to note the strategy I used to strengthen the concepts of the overall park. I most importantly wanted to maintain the original concept and structure.

First, I made sure to keep distinctly divided islands. Some of the island transitions had existing water barriers, but some did not, so those were introduced so that guests always cross water to travel between islands.

Second, in my choice of additions, I stuck to the literary source theme and actually began to set up a structure of literary relationships between islands. This is something that isn’t supposed to really be evident, but helps me, the planner, understand how the park is structured.

The situation of the park presented me with two major holes on opposite sides of the park, surrounded by established lands. In general terms, the left is action/sci-fi comic books, a void, and then sci-fi/thriller fiction. The right is whimsical fantasy children’s fiction, another void, and then contemporary high fantasy fiction. The left is adventure, the right is fantasy. I attempted to keep these trends with my selections. Additionally, I knew realistically that nothing would be added to this park if it was also not based on a film property, so that further limited my possibilities. I’ll get to what I selected as we walk through.

Last, I think the really unique part of this plan vs my other Disney plans is that this could realistically happen. Yes, its a lot of renovations and construction and would likely be a 15 or 20 year plan. But that kind of drastic change is exactly what the Universal Studios park is going through in the last 5 years and into the future.






First, Port of Entry has practically no changes. This is already possibly my favorite entrance corridor for a theme park, so I don’t see much that can be changed. Since the port island is meant to have design elements and artifacts from the residents of all the islands, the only additions are props to better reflect the two new lands, as well as the Wizarding World, since props were not really added with that expansion.



Across the water from the entry is a small new island. I always thought it was strange that the Discovery Center was the weenie across the water, because it does not represent the entire park, nor is it as impressive or iconic as it could be. I included a new island here to do just that. Sitting at this terminal view is a Victorian observatory and library on a rock cliff with a fully rigged sailing ship sitting in the water below. In the observatory is a high class restaurant overlooking the lagoon. The island is also involved in the nightly show set on the lagoon. The other reason for this addition is to provide a more themed bypass pathway around both the Wizarding World and Jurassic Park, the two most popular areas of the park. This permanent loop around these islands I think would help crows flow, especially during the busiest times of the year.



Starting to the left, the adventure side, is Marvel Super Hero Island. The architectural style of the land is updated to reflect a more realistic city, so the oversized comic book characters are removed and actual materials replace cartoon materials. It is still clearly a comic book land, but just with a higher level of detail to help match the quality of the hyper realistic areas of the rest of the park. This is a move throughout the park. The Wizarding World lands have set a new benchmark for thematic detail in this park and resort. If possible, I think the rest of the land should attempt to follow suit to a lesser degree to make a more cohesive park.

The Hulk is slightly modified. The rear area of the attraction behind the land is rethemed and the track is partially enclosed. Trees and façade flats surround the track area to reshape it into a city park that the Hulk speeds through. Then, after the brake run, the track dives into an enclosed building where the Hulk barrels through destroyed office and lab interiors in the dark. The final brake runs and track back to the station are enclosed and themed as the lab where the experiment went wrong. Again, this is a move to up the immersive quality of this area.

Replacing Storm Force and Fear Fall is a new large dark ride based on the X-Men family. The entrance is to the left of the dining location, which is also rethemed to the X-Men, and exits to the alley between attractions where there is also a permanent meet and greet building with Marvel heroes and villains, supplementing those that meet on the streets.



Next is the land replacing Toon Lagoon, which needed to be based on adventure literature, and also needed to be able to transition from city to jungle. After looking at a lot of possibilities, I decided on a land based on horror literature, because it can tie into the Universal Monsters Universe that is being created. I see this as the perfect fit for this park. Unfortunately, it is hard to design a land based on films that are years away from reality. I have no idea what the time period or visual style of the movies will be. All I know is that the lineup will include the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Van Helsing, which are the properties I ultimately selected because I could realistically see them being set in similar environments. That is why I declined to choose the new Mummy movie, because desert just would not be as successful a transition between lands.

Guests cross a new water way separating the two lands and enter a forested modern Eastern European village area. I'm just assuming they will keep the traditional Eastern European setting for these kinds of monster movies, but alternately, this area could be any kind of village. Three of the retail and dining buildings from Toon Lagoon are salvaged and redressed as the village. To the left, on a rocky plinth, is a stone fortress that sits overlooking the village. Inside is the main Van Helsing attraction, a trackless Haunted Mansion style attraction that is heavy on animatronics and special effects. The main village is made of retail and dining facades as well as a small attraction for the Invisible Man. An interactive special effects walk through show lets us meet the Invisible Man in person as the props of the room come to life. This would take advantage of Musion effects, live actors, and a lot of automated effects.

The rafts attraction remains, but is rethemed. The reason I did not remove it like the other attractions of the land is because I think it is too highly integrated into the waters edge. Also, I think it could be reworked into an attraction for the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The village transitions to a jungle expedition camp, so the vegetation of the area around the rafts is built up. The existing queue buildings and infrastructure are maintained and rethemed. The actual track is the same but more of it is enclosed in rockwork caves so that there can be more indoor show scenes for encounters with the Creature. The ship playground is removed as well. The final lift building is reworked as a cave and a new indoor section after the splashdown features the final scare from the Creature before unload.

The third and final area replaces Ripsaw Falls. The heavily wooded area is the home of the Wolfman and a wooden family coaster. The queues travel through the woods and reach a ranger station loading building. The coaster begins with an extended indoor dark ride style section in the building at the rear of the site. Then, after a face to face attack with the Wolfman, the coaster is launched outside for a winding trip through the forest.

These predictions and design may prove to be completely inaccurate to the character of the final films, but these are my best guess for an area that would work in Islands of Adventure.



Jurassic Park is next. Honestly, I think the placement of Kong is a mistake for the thematic consistency of the park. It looks to be a fantastic attraction, but it does not fit the island. If this was built in the Studios and this plot saved for Jurassic Park, I think it would be a much more successful attraction from a thematic standpoint. But that’s not something I can change, so I’ll move on. The area of Camp Jurassic and Triceratops Encounter is the main area of change since thats the only space left. The existing Discovery Center is removed and replaced with a new smaller and more modern building that is on line with a new main street through the land. Inside the Discovery Center is interactive exhibits, like in the original, but also a Dinosaur Rehabilitation Exhibit, which would feature a sophisticated animatronic like the original Triceratops Encounter. Unlike that version, it would be live puppeteered and more interactive, and more visibly located.

To the right is a new dark ride, which is based on the gyrosphere attraction from the movie. However, the gyrospheres are also reworked into a public transportation style attraction through the Jurassic park, so the attraction begins with an elevated run along the new main street, like a people mover, with narration describing the marvels of the park. Then inside the building, the spheres pass through the simulated jungle and look ins to various dinosaur habitats, culminating in a fast paced outdoor section through the Camp Jurassic area. Also in Camp Jurrasic, Pteranodon Flyers is rebuilt with higher capacity vehicles.

Across from this attraction, a new retail and dining structure is built to replace the smaller individual structures. It includes a second interior dining location for the land. Behind the Discovery Center is one final retail building.



The Wizarding World has a few big additions. First, to the left of the castle and Forbidden Journey is a Great Hall dining experience. The path along the greenhouses lead to a cave entrance that is themed to be the side entrance to the kitchens. Inside, by magic, we are transported to the entrance hall of the castle, and then into one of two Great Hall dining rooms. I included two so as to allow for good capacity and a high amounts of theme. The dining rooms are on the second floor, above the kitchens.

The other significant change to the land is the complete removal of Dueling Dragons. Even if it is a good coaster, it does not match the high realism of the land, and there are better uses of the land. This area becomes an expansion of Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest. A second backstreet of Hogsmeade has more retail and relieves congestion on the main street. Near the village is a new small permanent arena venue for the Triwizard Rally. This would be larger and more out of the way, and have light towers and designs based on the Quidditch stadium.

Back by Hagrids Cottage is the entrance and queue for the new Forbidden Forest attraction. This area is the stables for the variety of animals he cares for. The queues wind through the roughly constructed paths and stables to the load building, which is the Thestral stable. This is nearly perfect, because it means that the ride can use autonomous vehicles but still be in theme. The ride is a carriage ride through the magical and terrifying forest, beginning with an outdoor section that crosses over a stone bridge and then inside the show building. The scenes inside are heavily based on animatronics and environmental special effects. This is a much more family friendly attraction than Forbidden Journey.

In the next land, the theater is removed, so the forest surrounding the train station is grown so that the land is better isolated.



The next land is the second void. I like Lost Continent, but as it has been shrunk, its lost effectiveness and the remaining attractions are lower quality. This new land needed to align with the fantasy literature theme of this side. I decided to look through future film releases by the studios that Universal often work with. After some searching, I found the perfect option. Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur will be released by Warner Brothers in 2017, and is meant to be the start of a franchise. This fantasy history property fits perfectly. But again, I do not know much about the plot or visual style of the movie. I removed all the attractions and buildings of this land except for Mythos.

The land is small, so I decided on one main attraction. Looking at the attraction types at the resort, I saw that a large scale boat ride was missing (except for Jurassic Park River Adventure, but that is high thrill). Set behind a façade of waterfalls and cliffs, the boat ride explores the world of knights and castles.

The main area of the land is set up as a Medieval knight’s fair with small retail and dining, and a large tent arena where there is a tournament stunt show. The show features sword fighting and battle skills, but it does not feature horses, since the resort does not have horse care infrastructure.

Mythos is reworked into the location where Arthur found Excalibur, or some other location from the films. Again, this is all a guess based on my assumptions for the style and locations from the film.



Last, Suess Landing only has minor changes. The One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish spinner is moved to where the play area is now. The expansion plot becomes Whoville with small retail buildings and an indoor family coaster/dark ride through the story of the Grinch.



The park day culminates in a new fireworks and media show on the lagoon. I believe that the park was designed for this all along because each land features existing viewing areas on the water edge. Like other 360 degree shows, it would feature mainly low level pyro launched from a barge at the center of the lagoon as well as some prop elements, like the sailing ship.



And thats it for Islands of Adventure. Leave a comment if you have any suggestions or ideas for how this already pretty great park could be improved. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Comparing Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris

Having now visited three of the soon to be six castle parks of the world, I thought that it would be interesting to write a formal comparison of the parks, based on both general observations as well as more analysis of the urban plan strategy.

So to do this, I have decided on 10 qualities that I see as important. For each, I'll give some thoughts about how each park measures and decide on a winner.

Without getting into the analysis, my prediction is that the results will show that Disneyland is the most well rounded castle park, Magic Kingdom is the largest castle park, and Disneyland Paris is the best designed and most beautiful castle park. We will see if the below breakdown shows the same idea.


The Size and Scale of the Park

This category is to analyze not just the physical size of the park, but how well the park design responded to that size in the scale of its public spaces, buildings, and features.

Comparing the size of these three castle parks, they are actually not as drastically different as expected. Yes Disneyland is the smallest and most compact, but the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris are just a little bit bigger, with Magic Kingdom as the largest based on my drawings. This honestly surprised me before I checked because Disneyland has a reputation for being so small. It appears however, that this misnomer comes from the extreme density Disneyland has because of it's
 years of constant expansion versus the Magic Kingdoms relative slower pace of additions and Disneyland Paris's unfortunate lack of real expansions. This density has ramifications in many other categories below.

So with the actual physical size of the park not a huge differentiation between the three, we can turn to scale to set some comparisons.

Again, there is some reputation here. Disneyland has smaller buildings, which this time is a true fact. Both the Magic Kingdom and Paris have a larger scale, but it is much more noticeable in Orlando. I am specifically thinking about Main Street and the Castles of each park, because they are most directly comparable, but the lesson applied to the design of the whole park. All Main Streets technically feel realistically scaled by the evidence of their existence, but Disneyland most feels like real buildings in a real town, which helps with the immersive theme. Likewise with the castles, only one of them feels proper in scale to me. I grew up with Cinderella's Castle, so that was my ideal of a castle, but now after seeing the others it appears to be obviously over sized for the sake of being big, where as the others are more representative of reality. I see it as an issue with suspension of disbelief. Both Sleeping Beauty Castles are smaller, so to me, appear as if they could actually be real. But Cinderella's Castle is now so large and impressive that it reads as fake in comparison.

The scale of castles is also an issue because of their need to function both up close and far away, and again, this idea of scale having to work on multiple levels applies to the whole park. My specific thought is how each castle has to be iconic on the front facade yet not overpowering on the castle courtyard size. This is a challenge that only one succeeds at in my opinion. Cinderella's Castle succeeds at the front facade, but not the rear. Disneyland's is perfect as a castle courtyard facade, but is maybe a tad small on the front. But the castle of Paris had a bizarre and impressive effect to be iconically large to the front but much smaller to the rear. It works as the perfect scale in my opinion, so I see it as the most successful of the three.

These observations of scale apply to the philosophy of the whole park. Many elements of the Magic Kingdom feel larger in order to be larger, even if it doesn't help, such as the Rivers of America versus Disneyland's version. The positive of this is that the public spaces and walkway widths are much more reasonable for a functioning theme park, a major positive. However, Disneyland Paris also has these better planned public spaces without the oversized scale.

I think this category may end as a three way tie, for different positives of each park, but that is ok since this is a pretty big first category. Disneyland's size and scale may be smaller, but since it was first, uniformally feels the most natural. The Magic Kingdom is the largest, which means it has the largest and most impressive buildings and well structured crowd flow. Finally, Disneyland Paris has the best of both. Makes sense, as it was built from the knowledge of three previous parks and was able to improve, and possibly perfect, the size and scale issues of a castle park.


The Detail of the Park

Building on the idea of scale, this category looks at the level of detail found in the design of the park and is very dependent on the detail of the story lines and theme that define the areas of the parks.

All three parks are fairly successful here, but again Disneyland benefits from its density and origin and Paris benefits from its predecessors, while Magic Kingdom is just a bit behind, but improving. Detail is important because it creates the illusion of life, separating an obvious set from the illusion of the real world.

I see this as a question of the richness of decoration and depth of theme that creates the lands. It also happens to be a question of age, because many older areas of each park just do not have the same level of detail as a modern designed area. Less rigorous themeing was sufficient, such as original Fantasyland of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland has been improved so as to move past many of these rudimentary areas, but unfortunately Magic Kingdom still has many, such as Fantasyland with the tents and parts of Tomorrowland that are basically just white buildings. Disneyland Paris benefited from not really ever having these issues of underdeveloped areas and was always designed with a higher level of realism.

A separate part of detail comes from the thoroughness of theme that creates a land. Main Streets have always been very detailed because they are recreating a once real world, based on a real place with real life. Other lands didn't originally have this detail because they were merely a generalized impression of an environment, such as the jungle or the old west. At Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, this was quickly changed as added details artificially created the world of the land. Disneyland Paris took this a step farther with highly detailed themes for the land, in some cases actual stories, that defined many of the design choices.

Maybe it is something that not everyone notices, but this attention to detail in worldbulding at Disneyland Paris really ties the park together into a series of cohesive and immersive environments. Therefore, I give the detail category to Paris, but Disneyland is close behind.



The Beauty of the Park

Similar to the detail of the park, the beauty of the park is closely tied to the visual design of the themed spaces.

This is an easy one. Of course all three are beautiful parks, as they are flagship Disney theme parks. I am considering more than just the baseline beauty and upkeep of a Disney quality theme park, but some kind of innate beauty in the total design. Disneyland has alot of special moments that are beautiful, as well as the Magic Kingdom in a few spaces, but the obvious winner is Disneyland Paris. This ties into the scale and the detail I just discussed.

It might also be the European audience of the park. Many times, I've heard commentary about how the park had to be extra beautiful to match with a continent of real castles and the worlds best architecture. It worked. This is a pretty personal opinion category, so you may disagree. And I could believe Disneyland as the answer here too I guess. Disneyland gets a lot of beauty from its age and nostalgia. The grown in vegetation, the compact architecture, the iconic sights, all come together for some special areas.

But as a picturesque park, Disneyland Paris is my personal favorite.



The Urban Planning

This category looks at a bigger picture idea of the urban plan for the park, specifically the arrangement and flow of public spaces.

This is the category that brings the original Disneyland down for me. Though it was a revolutionary design that created the modern theme park, it was an experiment and always has had crowd flow issues. Many pathways are just not wide enough and there still exists many pinch points that become miserable with even moderate crowd. The highlight of the urban plan however is the success of the visual icons and hub and spoke system, which carried over to the other parks. That system creates some special moments of visual structure that are not found in other parks. I also have to admit that the smaller scale of paths is also a positive, because it feels more realistic and less formally planned.

Alternately, the Magic Kingdom was designed to be big enough for real crowds, so the paths are much better spaced out while still having the benefits of the visual structure. The problem is the super wide stretches of concrete, specifically the path of Frontierland, which is extra wide for the parade. It just does not seem realistic or in theme. As an urban planning analysis though, it is not that big of a problem.

Similarly, Disneyland Paris has proper spacing and sizing for crowds, and actually is quite generous because the crowd level is unfortunately the lightest. There might also be less awkward, obvious planned moments here, likely because of the use of much more organic vegetation and water elements, like Fantasyland, which does not have large open stretches of concrete.

Here, Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris tie just because they were planned large enough so that they can be enjoyed in a crowd.


The Overall Attractions

The next few describe the attractions of the parks, and this on in particular looks at them as an overall park wide collection of experiences.

As a general statement about the amount of attractions of each park, I would have to say that Disneyland is exceptional, Magic Kingdom is sufficient, and Paris is relatively lacking. That's unsurprising, based on a lot of the factors I have already talked about.

I don't want to only mention quantity, but quality is a more subjective idea.

Each of the three parks have a solid set of headliners and a collection of great supporting attractions. All three have many of the iconic attractions that define the idea of a Disney parks, though Paris lacks a few of them, such as the Jungle Cruise. The lack of the iconic headliners was disappointing, but the total reworking of the park makes it understandable, and other attractions step up to be highlights.

In the specific case of a few attractions at Paris, there are a few attractions that are total re imaginings of the original, which is really appealing for someone traveling to all three. Without yet making a quality judgement of the changes, just the fact that it is different, not just a copy, is a big positive. Luckily, a few of those re worked attractions are actually better than the rest, like Big Thunder and Space Mountain, which are among the best of the type.

The attractions of Disneyland are the best maintained and are generally the most frequently updated, which is very valuable. The Magic Kingdom attractions are known to have more issues and additions are rare events, just like at Paris. Thats a major plus for Disneyland. But again that is a necessity for the type of audience at Disneyland.

I also wanted to consider variety. Variety automatically comes with quantity, so this may end up going for Disneyland. All three parks have the basic requirements of family friendly dark rides, flat rides, higher thrill rides, and media based rides.

In my view, Disneyland has more simple dark rides and classic family friendly attractions, Magic Kingdom has an even balance between types, and Paris has more thrill attractions.

If I try to think about the total impression of the attractions, I try to separate the numbers, but I think it automatically biases me to saying Disneyland has the most successful roster of overall attractions, even if the other two parks are plenty good for different reasons.


The Unique Attractions

This category specifically looks at the attractions that make each park unique because of their weird, unexpected, or cool design.

This category was honestly included so as to give credit to the weird little experiences that don't get much credit but I see as special to the total experience of the park. There are a few big examples of this in each park. At Disneyland, the variety of transportation attractions and the few originals from opening day. At Magic Kingdom, some old school attractions only found here. And at Disneyland Paris, the selection of fantastic environmental walkthrough attractions.

Disneyland's unique attractions are some of the unheralded opening day or early park attractions that are purely transportation systems. Walt's original park was a collection of transportation systems shaped into theme park attractions. The steam trains, the Mark Twain and the Columbia, the Autopia, the Horse-drawn Carriages and Main Street Vehicles, the canoes. All are attractions that are not big name draws but add alot to the park, specifically kinetic motion and activity. Of course some of those were copied to the other two parks, but they are unique here because they are the original, before they were seen as part of the expected castle park roster and became theme park attractions. At Disneyland, they were real life transportation.

The Magic Kingdom honestly does not have that many unique attractions. But what it does have is a few older attractions that no other park has: the Peoplemover, The Country Bears, and The Carousel of Progress. I would say these are cult attractions whose fan bases really appreciate their history and their unique place in the development of theme parks. Many other unique attractions have been forced out for cuts or for things anticipated to be more popular, such as Alien Encounter or the Timekeeper, which are among the most in-theme of all past and present Tomorrowland attractions. The other parks of course have cult attractions but not like these.

At Disneyland Paris, there actually are a good number of attractions that no other park has and they are even more unique because they are walk throughs, which most other parks have abandoned. The Dragon's Crypt and the Nautilus are the best examples, because they have the production quality and story of full fledged attractions, but are reshaped into totally immersive environments. Walkthroughs are often impractical, but it creates a more effective experience, I think because we no longer have to suspend disbelief due to a ride system or a queue. It is a real world that we are able to stand in and explore in all reality. There is a more authentic connection, and makes these unique attractions really special.

I believe that this is the attractions category where Paris finally wins. I just love those walkthroughs too much.


The Lands of the Park

The next two categories get more specific into the best individual elements of each park. This category compares what I think is the best example of each land type.

At Disneyland, as I mentioned, I think is the best example of the Main Street type, likely because of its history and scale. This is the land that most feels like walking right through a real small town in turn of the century America. Both lands in the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris at times feel like reconstructions of the original, which is exactly what they are. That doesn't mean they are bad, but Disneyland is the prime example.

The Magic Kingdom has what I think is the best Adventureland. To really show the mystery of the jungle, the land needs to be constricting, but endless, as if it just keeps on going. The land is the Magic Kingdom does this far better than the too small Adventureland in Disneyland or the very large and open Adventureland of Paris. I like the winding path through the multiple sub areas at the Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland Paris has the best Frontierland, because of its size and detailed theme. It feels like a complete world, compared to the other two which are either very small at Disneyland, or a little misguided at Magic Kingdom. The detailed storyline that ties into every attraction, store, and restaurant is unique among castle park lands, and it really works well here.

Equating Liberty Square and New Orleans Square, the Disneyland version is likely better due to its size, history, and attractions. Liberty Square is an under appreciated land, but does not compare to the original example of highly immersive land building.

Fantasyland is a difficult decision between Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. Disneyland Paris is far more beautiful, has strong attractions, and is the ideal vision of fantasy, but Disneyland has an innate history that give its strength. Both far surpass Magic Kingdom, though the recent expansion helps. The rest of the areas of this land though read as old and under developed, such as the remaining tent facades and the lack of a Small World facade. I think I may give it to Disneyland for history, but both are valid decisions in my view.

Finally, the Tomorrowland/Discoveryland combination. If all are seen as equal, Discoveryland is the far superior version because of the unified (mostly) theme and the strong consistent design. However, I think thats not fair to the other two since the lands have different thematic goals. Therefore, I have to see the Magic Kingdom as the best Tomorrowland, and that is again because of the attempted visual consistency versus Disneyland which is a little bit of a mess. Plus it still has the Peoplemover, so easy decision.

Based on those decisions, it appears as if the best of the best are actually distributed pretty well, which is not surprising as these are three high quality parks.


The Attractions of the Park

Similarly, this category compares some of the best attractions in each park.

To be fair, I am going to cover the attractions that are both consistent to all three yet not exact copies from park to park. I decided on a group of four big ones: Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Small World.

Space Mountain is drastically different at the three, specifically in level of intensity which makes a big difference. My decision is split. I think that Paris is the best themed while Disneyland is the best coaster. The Discoveryland visual style and the exterior launch are very cool elements of the Paris attraction which make it a real iconic element. The design at Disneyland is not as unique, but the coaster is smoother and more fun, which is important. Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom is far behind the others, but still fun. Space Mountain is an important comparative attraction because it is really the quintessential Disney coaster. It's nature of being enclose and in the dark gives it some legend. I think the quality of the three reflect their audience as well. Magic Kingdom is the tamest because it has the status of many's first real coaster at a more family friendly park. At Disneyland, the local dynamic requires it to be a bit more developed. And at Paris, Europeans are used to more thrills from their rides.

The Haunted Mansion is much more similar, using the same track and many similar elements across the three. Here, it is pretty uniformly agreed that Magic Kingdom has the best Mansion, though Phantom Manor is quite unique and the Hatbox Ghost is very cool. The Mansion at the Magic Kingdom just feels the best maintained and the most clear of the original intent, a surreal environmental trip through the world of ghosts. I also only was able to see the Disneyland version with its overlay, which I expected to enjoy but actually didn't that much. It just feels like the original attractions is at such a high level that it doesn't need to be reworked or overlayed. Original is best.

Pirates of the Caribbean is the same way. The original at Disneyland is mostly the best, because it was the original vision, is the longest, and is in the best land for it. The Magic Kingdom version is an obvious cut down, but is still good enough. The Paris version however tried something different, which I give it credit for. The restructured ride flow kept my attention and put me more into the action of the ride. Plus it is the last without Jack, for now at least. I think there are a good deal of attractions with this same case. The original at Disneyland set the quality bar. The Magic Kingdom version either cut it down or failed to improve on it. And then the Paris version tried something different.

Last, Small World is obviously lacking at one location. The lack of facade at Magic Kingdom is incredibly disappointing after seeing the versions at the other two parks. The attractions inside are basically the same, so no need to comment there. The Paris version also seemed to be better integrated into Fantasyland versus Disneyland where is almost has its own unique area.

So like the last category, I think this shows that there is actually a good distribution of quality through the parks, even if some other factors relating to attractions are not even.



The Night-time Entertainment and Environment

Finally, this category looks at the character of the park at night including the night time entertainment of each park.

This is my excuse to comment on how far behind the Magic Kingdom is with its night events. In my opinion, Disneyland has the best parade, Paint the Night, and Paris has the best fireworks, Disney Dreams. Both Magic Kingdom attempts are out of date and disappointing by comparison. Disneyland gets extra points because it also has Fantasmic and great fireworks. I see these nighttime events as being very important to the overall experience of the day because it is the grand finale.

As for the nighttime character of the parks, both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom do well at this because they have long hours and plenty of attractions to keep the park active. With my experience of Disneyland Paris, most of the park began to close and was emptied with the darkness, leading guests to wait for Dreams. That was a shame because I the special detail of the park extended to the lighting, and I had hoped to be able to see how the park responded to the darkness. I was only able to see Discoveryland and Main Street in lights, which were really well done areas.

My favorite area of the other two parks at night is Adventureland, because the low level lighting in the jungle sets a intense mood of adventure.


Conclusion - An Overall Opinion of the Parks

To sum the above comparisons is difficult. All three parks have their own value and I really enjoy them all. Additionally, my bias may affect my views, because Magic Kingdom is the standard to me while Disneyland and Paris are the cool new parks to me.

For the design and beauty of the park categories, I believe it is tied between Disneyland Paris and Disneyland, because of both their actual design and the history.

For the attraction categories, I think it is obvious that Disneyland is the best because of both quantity and quality.

But for the best of categories, my analysis shows that the quality is spread well through the three parks.

What this means to me is that all three have the potential to be great and to improve.

Disneyland's lacking is the urban plan and the issues caused by its density and age.

Magic Kingdom is lacking in some detail and beauty, but it is being improved as attractions and lands are added.

And Paris can built upon its excellent design and beauty by adding more attractions that fill in the variety of experiences that make a great park.



So now, what do you think about the comparison between the three parks? If you are familiar with the three, I would love to hear your views about qualities I set up above.