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!


  1. Cool! Very well done and a perfect fit and natural expansion to the park. I'd also be interested in a expansion for the other park as well.

    1. That might happen, but I have never actually been to that park, plus it is in such a state of change right now (Nintendo, Fast and Furious, and more) that I don't know what can be changed and what can't.

    2. True, though you could always create a expansion for the current version and then go back and do one in a few years time taking into account those new updates.

      By the way, will we get a plan based on a what-if Third Disney park in California? Ideal Buildout had his own interpretation a few years ago and I'd be interested to also see your own. Also I know you aren't sure about it, but I'd still like to see your version of Ideal Buildouts Fifth Disney World park idea, Mythica.

    3. Yeah, that could happen. It all depends on the inspiration and the amount of free time I have. This plan was fast, I put it together in about a month (2 weeks to draw the existing plan, 2 for the changes). The studios park is also a pretty simple aerial plan, since its mostly soundstages and regular buildings, without the more complicated themeing that makes a more complicated drawing. So it could happen.

      The priority now is to work on the existing plan for the Disneyland resort, so the current existing parks. Then the expansion plans for those two parks, and then a third gate out there. I have alot of ideas, but its taking alot of time to draw out. As I just said, a more complicated and themed park takes more effort to draw, and Disneyland is the most complicated park out there. So its taking time, but its going to happen.

  2. Sounds pretty well rounded to me, though the original Universal Monsters could be utilised if you struggled with the new films. Oh, and would the Thestral stable be empty since they can only be seen by those who have witnessed death?

    1. True, thematically, it would work just as well (maybe better) to do the classics. But I'm sure Universal would only go with a project that ties into the modern IPs. The classics sure did have a recognizable, and theme park worthy, style though. If the modern versions do well, I am positive they will show up in a park sooner of later. Too good of a property to be left out.

      Correct, the Thestral Stable would be used as the queue and loading area, with some props and themeing to fill it out. There could also be some set up effects to show the invisible creatures, like the current scene by the Hogsmeade Train Station, with the rolling cart.

  3. Will any new plans be coming up soon?

    1. Yes, still working on some new things. I'll be back mid May after school calms down. Thanks for reading.

  4. Are you really going to remove one of the greatest coasters in Orlando?, you don´t have my vote...

    1. To be fair to TRF, there are actually quite a few rumors that Universal are still looking to expand the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with the two most common and likely rumors being a Ministry of Magic ride replacing Fear Factor in Universal and connecting to Diagon Alley, and that Universal are looking to replace Dueling Dragons in the future with a new ride.

    2. Sorry you do not agree, but I would bet money it will happen eventually. Its prime expansion land for Harry Potter and it hasn't been nearly as popular since its retheme and redevelopment somewhat hid it from view. Plus it doesnt even duel anymore, taking away one of its most effective traits. So in the long run, I see the land as better use for a highly themed Harry Potter expansion than keeping a good, but not as great as it was coaster.

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  6. So I went to Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure (it was rainy and the parks were empty to the point that we were able to go to Diagon Alley, go on the Gringotts ride, board the Hogwarts express, and then go on the Hogwarts castle ride, all in less than 30 minutes.)

    Anyways, in hindsight of that there are a few things I'd like to suggest. As I was leaving Hogsmede and entered the Jurassic Park area, there was a point that I was able to actually see the Herbology part of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey queue (it's the area in Jurassic Park where they have a still dinosaur, the one from Jurassic Park 3.) I bring this up because It made me realize just how close both paths are, and it makes me think that if you put a path in between them it would be a tight fit, and the sounds of people talking from the path might disrupt the atmosphere of the Harry Potter rides queue.

    Perhaps the Great Hall Resteraunt can be moved north-east, closer to where the Hagrid ride is and the exit to the Harry Potter ride? You would have to move that ride a bit as well, but overall I think it's doable.

    Speaking of which, is there really no way the King ride can't be moved to its own land at the Studios park? They don't even need to replace anything there, as there are two potential big expansions areas that the Studios park don't use, the area behind the Rip Ride Rocket and behind the Blue Man Group show is an area of old soundstages that's never used anymore, and the area south of the Men in Black ride and west of both the Simpsons and Kids Play area. While the first area might not work, the second might.

    1. Sounds like a fun trip. Amazingly, I still have yet to go to the Studios park and see Diagon Alley. Maybe this summer.

      Yeah, that top of park area probably needs some refinement because its all a little tight. I have on my project list to do an update to the Islands plan, so I'll remember to look at this area. I think I want to to a different version of the Jurassic Park area, so that may help. I'll probably get to that in the first half of this year.

      For Kong, in any realistic approach, there's no way it would ever move parks. The building is too elaborate. In the conceptual sense that none of this is ever going to really happen really, then maybe I would consider it. So I'll think about it, but only if I can really make it make sense in the new park and have something great to replace it.