Monday, July 25, 2016

The Meaning of Disneyland: Does Star Wars Land Fit?

This post is an unplanned part 2 to the last discussion post, this time specifically focusing on the question in the title: Does Star Wars land fit in Disneyland Park?

So in the time since writing that last post, I have seen new argument online that the rampant questioning and criticism of Guardians of the Galaxy in EPCOT should apply equally to Star Wars, that it is an equally bad placement, and it should be equally criticized. A specific quote is that the inclusion of Star Wars dilutes the value of the Disney park identity.

As I explained some in that previous post, I disagree. I think that it fits in the thematic structure of Disneyland because it is being defined as its own land and not being shoehorned into a contradictory setting. But I wanted to prove it to myself by actually writing out an argument. So that led to the desire to write this post.

I know and you know that I cannot definitively prove my hypothesis, because we all have varied opinions, and to be honest, this is not a topic that can ever really have an answer. But I am going to convince myself, and hopefully that will pass on to you too. You are still free to disagree, just as I am allowed to agree with the decision.

To support the question of if Star Wars fits, I need to find the meaning (or theme) and the organizational strategy of Disneyland. Those are two completely different qualities of the themed design, but both import for defining the character of the types of lands that belong.

The theme of a park is the simple, one phrase description, often a category, the organization is how the category is presented. Animal Kingdom is about animals, and is organized by continents. EPCOT is themed as Worlds Fair, and is organized as pavilions, set up like a fair. Tokyo Disney Sea is themed to ports of call on the sea, and is organized as.. ports of call on the sea. They can be the same thing sometimes, but both factors are needed to understand the validity of a new land in an existing structure.

So where to start. The original primary source, or the opening day dedication seems like a perfect place. So let's read it.

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

It is such an iconic quote, but one that is extremely open ended and can have many meanings, unique to the reader. In my personal interpretation, it breaks down into four key ideas. But I am going to work with them a little out of order

1. "Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America"

At first glance, this is the closest we get to a real description of the parks meaning. It is meant to be a uniquely American park, based on uniquely American social influences (how weird that the same model has been transported to four other countries without much change...). The park is based on the social culture that created America. This makes alot of sense when you look at a few of the lands. Frontierland is clearly where America was and Tomorrowland is clearly (or at one point was clearly) where the country is going. But Adventureland and Fantasyland have no relation to this literal interpretation. So, instead of being a dedication to the actual realities of the creation of America, this has to be a more metaphorical and refined meaning. So maybe instead of history, its the culture that created the history. That could work, but we need more analysis and evidence.

2. "Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future."

In the past, I always saw this as referring to guests experiencing the lands set in the physical past or future, which aligns well with parts of the park, but again this doesn't really work universally. Who has fond memories of trekking through a jungle or sees becoming a princess as a challenge of the future? Here I had my first breakthrough. What if the reflection of the past and the promise of the future is the same thing? My proposition is that this is referencing the state of childhood and the act of growing up. Growing up is the past of age and the future of youth. So with this plus the conclusion from part one, this is a park that reflects the cultural influences of childhood and growing up.

3. "with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

This is possibly the least important to the meaning and the most obvious, but this tells me that the results of the theme of Disneyland are to be joyful experiences that add new experiences and fulfillment to our lives. Also, because it provides inspiration to all the world, it has to be a universal experience. It may be American in roots, but it is worldly in result. Therefore, the park should be formed of the fun and happy cultural influences of childhood. Pretty obvious, but important.

4. "Welcome. Disneyland is your land."

This is a understated line that I almost passed over, but when looking at the whole picture, it is an important clarification. Disneyland is formed of OUR collective identity, and the universal influences that create the event of growing up. This is not a personal story, but a societal story, so it must be formed of common and popular influences, not the kind of influence that could only resonate with a few. This is a park of popular influences.

So my conclusion from the Disneyland opening day dedication is that this park reflects the joy of the universal culture of growing up. That's my view. Your interpretation may be different, because it is definitely open ended.

So now I have a rough concept of the theme of the park, but I need to understand the organization and how Star Wars could possibly fit into it.

The organization is a little simpler because we can actually observe it. So instead of analytically finding the organization, I am going to present what I (and many others) think it is and defend it from there.

I think it is simple to see that the lands of the original and current park are genres of storytelling. Common to movies and literature, these are fairly traditional categories of stories, or at least were in the time of the parks opening. Animated Fantasy, Adventure, Westerns, Science Fiction, Americana.

I think that the organization needs to be thought of as more than just genres though because in each case, the land is presented as a cohesive single idea, a single setting, as if it is a hypothetical representative film of the genre. This single environment is a highly themed and immersive world that displays the best characteristics and ideals of the genre by putting you the guest right in the highlight experience. For instance, the Adventure genre spans far more than the jungle, but that was chosen as the representative ideal and iconic setting that the rest of the adventure genre is applied to. So these are genre influenced themed worlds.

In addition to being stories, these genre based environments are (or were) stereotypical childhood fantasy settings. Cowboys and Indians, Pirates, Spacemen, Princes and Princesses. These are all common dreams of childhood, the kind of settings and roles that children play pretend in the backyard. I think this is an important distinction vs other common storytelling genres which were not present in the original Disneyland. Comedy, Mystery, Drama, and History are examples that did not have their own land because they don't have the same kind of childhood impact, so were folded into the existing more common childhood fantasy genres.

This focus on childhood fantasies I think is important to the overall theme of childhood and growing up, because the realization of dreams is one of the reasons for and results of growing up. We grow up when we move past our childhood dreams, by either forgetting them or actually living them. Disneyland allows the latter. As a kid you dream of being a pirate. At Disneyland, you actually are a pirate. Getting to live out your childhood fantasies in real life is the ultimate manifestation of growing up and fulfills the promise of the theme and organization of Disneyland.

Additionally, this genre world organization allows for the other points of the theme derived from the dedication speech. Childhood stories are usually fun, are popular, and tell universal stories that resonate with all of society.

So, Disneyland is organized as genre influenced themed world that relate to the common fantasies of childhood. That makes sense, fits the theme, and aligns with the existing park.

As a summary, I believe Disneyland is the real life manifestation of the dreams of childhood.

So does Star Wars fit into this theme and organization?

Yes and No. I would be inclined to believe both answers. I know, that's not exactly what I started out with the intention to do. But that is where the results led me. 

I believe it absolutely fits the theme. Just like how being a pirate or a princess was (and is) a common childhood fantasy, being a Jedi absolutely is a modern fantasy. Star Wars is enough of a cultural icon that it has become a part of common fantasy, and with the prevalence of upcoming films, it will continue to be most kids dreams. It is joyous, it is universal, and it is uniquely American ultra pop culture. Kids now and for the foreseeable future will grow up where Rey and Finn and Luke and Han Solo and Leia are the icons of adventure and exploration, and they will absolutely want to step into that world. 

I am less convinced that it fits the organization, but I think it essentially works. And it is the best option as far as I can see.

The potential issue is that Star Wars is not a genre, but a specific film, so its land is not genre inspired, but film inspired. That makes it analytically different than any other lands.

But because of how the rest of the lands are single environment expressions of genres, experientially Star Wars Land has the same effect. It is just a real property standing in as the hypothetical genre land. It appears from the concept art to be a land built as an amalgamation of the best characteristics and elements of the Star Wars Universe (or genre), much like the other lands. Plus, much of it is unknown new environments related to the Star Wars universe. I think this is very important because this helps from making it feel like a one note film recreation, but more of an interactive, exploreable world that has it own unique identity separate from the films. Because of this, I think it substantially is similar to the organization of the rest of the park. 

As for where the land actually goes in relation to the organization, this was the right choice.

It absolutely does not fit as a property in any other land. It would have been disastrous as a retheme or subland of Tomorrowland, because it would contradict the setting and the theme, rules 2 and 3 from the last post. So it has to be it's own land. That makes a huge difference. And its location, most closely in relation to Frontierland and Fantasyland makes sense by theme because those are the ideals that Star Wars shares. The fantasy of the great unknown.

It could have gone in California Adventure, but they have less available land for expansion and it would potentially have trouble fitting in that parks organizational structure. The only place it could go is Hollywoodland, but that land should frame attractions as the creation of film, not the immersive experience of a specific movie. And there is no way that they were going to wait for a third park for Star Wars.

So this is the best solution. I am convinced of that. And effectively, I think it could be seen as analogous to the genre based lands of the park because it exemplifies a childhood fantasy world and presents it as a single immersive world. It is not perfect, but I think it fits.

For the very last topic, I want to mention why I think people believe it does not fit. There are at least a few reasons, some of which I understand, some I do not. This leads to one last point about the theme and organization of the park, which I think solidifies my decision. 

For some, it is a fear of change thing, especially for regulars to the park. This is a massive change and brings a lot of destruction and redevelopment to the park that already was perfect. These people disagree with Star Wars land because it destroys the original state of Disneyland and forever changes the physical reality of the park. I totally get this frustration, and seeing the aerial views of the massive cleared site gave me pause and a little depression. That is a lot of Disneyland changed. We just have to count on it being changed for the better. 

Another reason may be those who have their own belief about the theme of Disneyland and that Star Wars does not fit in their personal view of the park. It is only fair that since I have my analytical view, I respect those who have contradictory analytical views on Disneyland. If it is reasoned and thoughtful. I enjoy reading those opinions.

Many disapprove because Star Wars is not Disney originated, so it does not deserve to be in the parks. I really don't have a response to this because I disagree and have no problem with this. I welcome the well thought out inclusion of outside created properties as long as they follow the Disney spirit and fulfill my rules for IPs. I think Star Wars (and Marvel, the other controversial addition) can do this. I have no guess as to why I don't have this issue, so I'll just move on.

Last, a strong reason for disagreement appears to be a uniform rejection to more IPs taking root in Disneyland. I understand this argument but do not agree. 

Disneyland has always included IPs through its whole history, since Walt opened the park. Many attractions that we see as original have roots in specific properties that Walt owned. Adventureland as a whole was originally thought of as True Life Adventureland, based on Walt's series of documentaries. Fantasyland was all Disney IPs. Frontierland was the land of more True Life Adventures and Davy Crockett, another Disney made TV show. Tomorrowland cycled through sponsored showcases, the corporate cousin of an IP. All were attempts to bring to life some aspect of exterior media or culture.

Disneyland has always been a presentation of the cultural media that defines the childhood fantasies that the park is centered around. Walt collected and created the best of media and entertainment, presenting it in a uniquely Disney way, and then bringing it to life in the park. That is the Disneyland formula. Star Wars is just a new evolution of that process because it has external origins and then was acquired. Yes that makes it different, but it is effectively similar to me because it, as I have hopefully proved, satisfies and celebrates the same identity of childhood joy that Disneyland exhibits. 

So in my personal conclusion, Star Wars land fits in Disneyland park.

I have convinced myself. Have I convinced you? Let me know in a comment and share your personal view on these subjects.

As a side note, I believe I am going to attempt to stick to this schedule of alternating weeks of Design Posts and Discussion Posts with maybe the occasional skipped Design Post. The reasoning is that I can produce a Discussion Post much faster than the Design Posts, which are long term projects. This way, I can continue to bring new content to you as soon as possible.

The Disneyland expansion plan is still actively being worked on with the goal of bringing you the second phase of the resort in a post next week. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Disneyland Resort Phased Expansion Plan Part 4 - Phase 1 of the Parks

This week I bring you the first phase of my expansion plan for the parks of the Disneyland Resort.

If you missed it or forgot, this first phase is targeted to be completed in 2020, and includes both things that Disney has already announced and smaller scale projects that can be completed in the shorter time frame. Obviously Star Wars is the focus for Disneyland park, but there are some good additions to California Adventure that build up the placemaking and organization of the park.

Disneyland Park

This is the least impressive phase of expansion for either park just because of the sheer scale of Star Wars Land and the fact that most resources in the next 4 years will be focused there.

The only other widespread project in the park is located at the front of the park, where a real bypass is built for Main Street. On the east side, a fully themed and detailed street corridor is built. What this includes are additions onto the rear of the two existing buildings to form the west side and a combination of a real building and empty facades on the east. The additions on the west side hold the relocated lockers and guest services while the new building on the east side holds the first aid. The reason for the empty facades that make up the rest of this side is to leave room for parade float parking. The new public area can be closed down by gates at all 3 entrances if needed for daytime deliveries or access to the primary Main Street buildings, though I imagine this would rarely be needed. The bypass could be used as a permanently open side street or have controlled access during rush hours on Main Street. Either way, this would be a better themed and more appropriate solution than the tunnel they have now.

Next project is at the Hub, or actually Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is going to get alot of work in Phase two and three, but there is one first move that happens as soon as possible. The Astro Orbiter is moved back to its perch at the center of the land immediately fixing one traffic issue. In its place is a sleek modern fountain, maybe reminiscent of the original Tomorrowland World Clock. Behind it, the central People Mover track is removed, opening up the ground path and improving traffic. Though the People Mover is not brought back yet, the track is filled in to cross from building to building. Again, this is the first move for Tomorrowland, alot more will be coming in future posts. This land gets the most change in the entire park over the extent of the whole plan.

Back to Adventureland, the empty restaurant location next to the Jungle Cruise becomes the Skippers Terrace, based on the Magic Kingdom location. Honestly, it feels like it should have been here all along. It is directly adjacent to the Jungle Cruise and is even visible from the ride, so the story of it being run by off duty Skippers makes much more sense.

Next, while the Rivers of America is closed and under renovation, Tom Sawyers Island is refreshed and the Pirates elements are removed. I think and hope that this s actually in progress right now. Also while the river is down, the pathway on the New Orleans Square side is widened about 12' into the river. When visiting, this was the worst pinch point of the park, so I believe this is needed. The additional 12' helps relieves the strain while not drastically changing the character or flow of the space.

Also, while the train is closed down, I have included a refurbishment of the train and the show scenes behind Tomorrowland. Maybe controversially, I propose the complete removal of the Grand Canyon Scene, to be replaced with a scene that shows a diorama of a vista over an expansive and active Tomorrowland. Showing a large and busy city, the view would include ships and Monorails and cars flying by, both physically and projected. The style would be clean, bright, and optimistic, previewing the style Tomorrowland will take in future expansions. The transition between this scene and the next has the train pass through a series of strobing laser fields, to suggest some kind of teleportation into the past of the next scene. The Primeval World show scene would get a thorough refurbishment to update the figures and effects to act as a fitting and thrilling finale to the Grand Tour.

Last, Star Wars Land is built to the north of the River. This drawing is based on the MiceChat drawing, descriptions from WDWMagic, and alot of analysis of the concept art aerials. I think this is roughly accurate. The main mixed media trackless dark ride is located to the left while the Millennium Falcon simulator is at the rear, adjacent to the Millennium Falcon is dock. An expansion pad is to the right. The two buildings to the front are the retail and dining market place areas, which look to be very immersive. I'm still not super clear about what happens on the left half in front of the main showbuilding, but this is close enough. The rockwork separation hides a large storage area for Fantasmic and the train tracks which pass through a crystallized tunnel.

The next phases bring major additions to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, which need capacity and clarity.

Disney's California Adventure

This phase includes a few mid sized additions and is the start of a reorganization of the structure of the park. Thought it will not be fully realized until later phases, I feel that I need to describe the extent of the new structure now so you can understand where the moves are leading.

After a lot of thought about how to incorporate the existing elements of the park into a more complete and unique identity, I decided on structuring the park around a trio of California ideals, which I call the three Spirits of California: Adventure, Life, and Creation. These similarly reflect to the past, present, and future of California and each reflect a specific way of life. I try to move away from a park built on a variety of real locations of California, because that is less interesting to a local crowd and more limiting, instead choosing to work with these big picture ideas that define lands.

These three Spirits roughly correlate to the existing main lands of the park. The Spirit of Adventure includes Buena Vista Street and Grizzly Peak National Park, is set in the past, and celebrate the adventure of exploration and of the unknown. The Spirit of Life includes Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, and part of Cars Land, is set in the present, and celebrates relaxation, fun, and the international identity of California. The Spirit of Creativity includes Hollywood Pictures Backlot and the rest of Cars Land, focuses on the creation of the future, and celebrates innovation and film making.

The existing elements of the park do not have to change much to align with this new organization, and additions would be carefully structured to create and strengthen this three part statement about the ideals of California.

So in this first phase of expansion, I focused on the two Spirits that need the least work, Adventure and Life. Creation will have a lot of additions in the following phases.

The projects in Grizzly Peak National Park are all about adding capacity and variety of experiences since this is currently a very limited land. The recent refurbishment of the land already reaffirmed its National Park setting and the period setting, so those already align well with the final plan. I think this is currently a very strong land and reminds me alot of parts of Disneyland.

Biggest, the Redwood Creek Trail area is removed and replaced with a large dark ride. The building is built right up to the hotel wing and has the same architectural style. This is a Park lodge where we set off on a tour of the National Park environment, featuring the return of the Country Bears, who are our guides. This would be a musical adventure through a world of animals and plants, reflecting the adventure of the great outdoors.

Nearby, the existing White Water Snacks in the hotel is expanded into the park to become a new counter service and snack location. There would be a new ordering and small indoor dining room split from the existing snack location and would also have an outdoor patio in the trees.

Back behind the Grizzly River Run main building is a new parachute drop ride, reclaiming some forested area between the flume and the mountain. Jumpin Jellyfish is removed, so this is somewhat a replacement, but on a bigger scale more appropriate for a land of adventure. There would be three towers, each of a different height, so different thrills. Grizzly Peak itself is 110', so I image the three towers could be 100', 75', and 50', the current height of Jumpin Jellyfish. This would allow for the taller two towers to have some real drop. Obviously, this would be themed to parachuting and the towers would be themed as converted fire lookout towers.

Next, the area by the hotel to the north of the land is the new location of the adventure trails. I think these are a valuable and interesting element to a land like this, so I wanted to replace what I took and make it better. I actually managed to make two trails here. The monorail is enclosed in this area in a wood trestle bridge to allow for the attractions to work around it safely. The first trail, the Rocks Adventure Trail, is like the one I removed. It is ground based, includes a small climbing wall area, a campfire meeting area, pathways through caves and by waterfalls, and a few rope bridge type paths to add to the adventure. The second trail, the Ropes Challenge Trail, is more high thrill, and is a controlled ropes course like the attraction that just opened in Shanghai Disneyland. I think this is a super cool idea if done with a high level of themeing. There are two parallel tracks with different obstacles. The trail begins on the south side of the path, crosses over the path, and then follows a series of bridges and other challenges, all elevated about the lower trail. It includes a walk around a waterfall inside one of the caves, which looks down to the other trail.

To finish out the changes to the land, I am undoing a recent change. the Soarin over California film will return (maybe one theater for each film?). This film perfectly shows the Adventurous Spirit of the state. Finally, the Monorail is also enclosed in front of this building, just to maintain the theme a little better.

Moving on to Paradise Pier, I decided to redevelop the area around Paradise Garden Grill into a subland that focuses on the international identity of the California way of life. California's diversity is a major defining characteristic, so I felt like it needed representation, and this was the perfect place to put it since this is where the cultural festival special events are already held. The redevelopment of this area includes two new attractions and an expansion of the food service to represent more cultures. This is a very EPCOT like area.

First, the main attraction replaces Goofy's Sky School but keeps the basic premise of the Goofy How to shorts. I've always loved the idea of a dark ride based on these classic shorts, so that is what I did here. The attraction would be in a This ride would show us Goofy traveling through and experiencing the different cultures of the state in fun and lighthearted scenes. I thought that using an animated and more family friendly style would be a more successful approach to a more serious topic of cultural diversity.

The second attraction is across the path and replaced Jumpin Jellyfish. The International Showcase Theater is a modern version of a Circle Vision 360 attraction, now a completely seamless 360 degree theater that places you right in the middle of the action. The theater would show a short film that explores the real life cultures of California. It would include scenes from the different International districts in the big cities, like San Francisco's Chinatown, and special cultural events like Oktoberfest. In addition to the film, there would be in theater effects, like suspended Chinese lanterns, twinkling stars, and smells. The idea is to bring exposure to and immersion in the unique cultural identities of the state.

Last, the food. The existing two buildings can serve as four separate stations and a fifth can be built into a new gazebo building on the north side adjacent to the new dark ride show building. I quickly decided that the five stations should serve Italian, Mexican, Greek, Chinese, and German food, but I would imagine it would be possible to sub out the menu from each individual station for special events of celebrations.

Moving south from this area, there are two more additions at the boardwalk area. The smaller addition is a meet and greet facility in the vacant west loop of the coaster, extending into a backstage building behind the track. Themed as a Magic Sideshow, guests can meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald in unique sideshow settings, like they do in the Magic Kingdom. Mickey would have multiple private rooms while the other characters would be in the open space of the sideshow. In the building by the pathway, there would also be a small Magic performance area and shop, drawing pedestrians in.

The main addition to the area is a massive boat dark ride behind the coaster track that takes guests through the history of California. This is a very classic style dark ride, with slow moving boats going through large detailed scenes, accompanied by a musical score. The entrance and queue would be in an addition in front of the current Game of the Boardwalk area, themed as a classic boardwalk dark ride, with a grand marquee. The load would be in the existing building space, though one level below ground level, so that the boats can pass underneath the boardwalk for a quick loop through the lagoon to start the ride. The boats then pass through a tunnel under the coaster tracks and into the main building. The boat would pass through scenes that roughly correlate to the history of the state as well as a tour of some major landmarks, like floating through the Missions of San Diego, along the cliffs of La Jolla, passing surfers, drifting through the Redwood Forest, passing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog, and finally floating along the Santa Monica Pier before returning back to Paradise Pier. This may be a high concept dark ride that would never actually get built, but I think it is a necessary keystone attraction to explain the identity of a park that celebrates California.

The next phases of expansion for the park work on the east side, where there are many more projects needed to define this new organization.

And that is my plan for the next 3.5 years of the Disneyland Resort. I think this is all possible in this time frame. It may not happen, but it could.

The next phase will focus on adding capacity to both parks, specifically an expansion for Fantasyland and major additions to Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Check back soon for that post!

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Rules for IPs in Theme Parks; or Why Guardians in EPCOT is a Bad Idea

In the last few weeks, there have been a lot of online rumors about some future attractions and experiences at theme parks based on film properties as well as some notable recent openings, all of which are based on IPs.

IPs in theme parks are controversial and lead to fierce disagreements about if they belong, how they should be used, and what deserves representation. These new rumors and openings are no different. The specific things I am talking about are the opening of Frozen Ever After, the rumor of a Muppets show in Liberty Square, and the rumor of Guardians of the Galaxy in EPCOT.

Reading these rumors and the online fury that accompanied them led me to really analyze my opinions on how IPs should be used in the parks, and I decided to formulate my views into some guidelines that I want to share here.

In my view, the thing that separates the ok parks from the great parks is the rules of organization that define the themed environment. This was one of the many innovations of Disneyland compared to previous amusement parks, and is now a defining characteristic of the theme park mode. Usually. Each land has a setting with a purpose and a meaning that expresses itself to the guests through the selection of attractions and design elements. These chosen elements must work together as a unit to immerse the guest in the foreign, but completely believable and comfortable environment.

The organization of what makes up the themed environment is something that may not be obviously important to the regular guests, but its value is clear when compared to less rigidly structure parks, like Universal Hollywood of the last decade, the regional parks like Six Flags, and, to an extent, Disney Studios Paris and original California Adventure. If the lands are not allowed to properly express their identity and are forced to blend together and absorb foreign elements, the land looses its power and its point.

This is both the power and the threat of IPs. If properly used, they can immediately strengthen the identity of the environment. But similarly, they can immediately destroy the cohesive meaning of the environment.

So to attempt to find how to properly incorporate IPs, I have set up my personal three rules to decide if the placement of an IP is appropriate. All three should be met for it to be a successful themed attraction the builds up a themed environment.

  1. The property needs to have staying power, an emotional impact, and/or cultural relevancy. For the amount of investment (money, valuable space, and resources) a modern attraction requires, the property needs to be able to draw a crowd now and for the long term. This rule is usually always followed.
  2. The setting of the property needs to be consistent with the land it is to be placed in, by the physical location or environment, the time period, and the visual/architectural/thematic language. The property needs to belong to that land and not obviously stick out. This is mostly followed, but there are some notable issues.
  3. Finally, the property and the story the property tells must have consistency with the intention, character, and meaning of the land. This is the most challenging and is often ignored, but helps to make the overall land more coherent with a single unified thematic philosophy. 
I think these are simple rules. They literally break down to questions about if the property is popular, is it located in the same place as the land, and does it have the same meaning as the land.

Also, notice that these rules don't even go so far as to say that an IP can never belong in a certain land. That is the opinion of many, and something I have said before, but I think that is too oppressive of a statement. Some say IPs should only belong in Fantasyland for instance, but that would prevent the Indiana Jones Adventure, which I think is the absolute perfect implementation of an IP that strengthens the surrounding themed environment.

Plus, I think it would be physically and thematically impossible to limit IPs to a certain land or park. With a realistic view of how theme parks work now, that is just impossible.

Overall, I think these rules are not overly difficult and in fact are met by the majority of attractions. 

Now to analyze the recent rumors, openings, and some other examples to see how well they meet these rules. 

Indiana Jones Adventure

I am starting with this successful attraction as an example of my application of my three rules. 

First, Indiana Jones definitely has cultural relevancy. A financially and critically successful franchise that is still being talked about and may be continuing with another movie. It's popularity, sense of adventure and mystery, and period setting make it an obvious theme park choice.

Second, Indiana Jones as a franchise is lucky enough to have many settings and many time periods, so it really can fit into many settings. Actually, it could likely fit equally well in Adventureland as Frontierland, just with a change of setting and story. In actuality, it fits perfect into the jungles of Adventureland and much effort was put into melding it with the surrounding area, making it seem like its always been there. 

And third, Adventureland is obviously a land that celebrates adventure and the unknown, manifested as the depths of the tropical jungle. The Indiana Jones Adventure absolutely supports this adventure. The land and the IP share their core identity, so its a perfect fit. 

Frozen Ever After 

Now a more controversial attraction. 

First, Frozen has the cultural significance and impact to warrant a full size, newly imagined attraction. It definitely deserves more than it got. So this is not the problem.

Second rule. Frozen is not set in Norway. It's good enough for most guests though. Visually, it actually probably passes, because the style is very close and many guests will never know the geographic technicality that Arendelle is not a real place in Norway. So this is a slight issue with the IP placement, but is not the deal breaker.

The third rule is the problem. The purpose of world showcase is to educate and celebrate the unique cultures of the world. Fundamentally, the Norway pavilion should reflect Norway, and the Frozen attraction does not attempt to do that.

To an extent, this attraction could fit if the total idea of World Showcase is changed, to a international Fantasyland, which I think is unfortunately happening. Each country gets an IP, and suddenly, the World Showcase has a completely different character.

Muppets in Liberty Square

Here's the first rumor, which is strongly supported on WDWMagic forums. The idea is that Muppet characters, possibly Sam the Eagle, will be appearing in upper windows to interact with guests below, and possibly teach some American history. 

First, the popularity of the Muppets could be debated. I think they are extremely significant and worth the inclusion, but the failures of the recent movie and tv show paired with their age give an argument that they are losing cultural impact. Still, for just an entertainment experience, they are definitely popular enough. 

Second, the setting is more difficult because it is a less intrusive entertainment addition, and because the Muppets kindof don't have a defined setting. They have successfully transformed themselves through settings and time periods to provide family friendly entertainment. It would be easy to image them fitting into colonial America with no problem. Plus, because this would apparently be entertainment, not an attraction, it does not have the same kind of visual impact on the land. Attractions come with architecture, graphics, costuming, and other major intrusions into the visual language of the land. Muppets in the windows of the existing architecture is not nearly as intrusive, so I do not think this is a problem based on what we know now. That may change once it actually debuts. 

And third, the Muppets entertainment could possibly be able to align with the identity of Liberty Square, which is a realistic representation of Colonial America. If the entertainment is truthfully based on the ideas of colonial life and is educational, then I believe it could work. There is a good possibility that it will not though, so we will have to wait and see. 

Finding Nemo at Tokyo Disney Seas

Jumping resorts for a second, this attraction is a retheme of StormRider, an original simulator in the Port Discovery land of Tokyo Disney Sea, to some kind of Finding Nemo attraction. 

First, yes, Nemo is popular, though I do not know much about its success in the Asian box office. I assume though that it did just as well there as here. 

Second, the setting is a little difficult. The Finding Nemo universe is set in the ocean. There is realistic potential that the simulator will take us into the ocean, which is even visible from the public space of the land. So this could maybe work. It all depends on the logistics of the story, or how we travel from the land to the ocean. Plus, I imagine that the building will be nearly unchanged on the exterior, so the visual compatibility is no issue.

The third rule once again may be a problem. The Port Discovery land is a technological and scientific research station that studies weather. It is based in retro futurism, and therefore has an optimistic tecnhological philosophy where the attractions should be fantasy takes on real scientific ideas, like the current attractions. Finding Nemo does not have this same spirit of scientific discovery. However, the attraction could easily feature a storyline about oceanographic research that happens to feature Nemo. That might work, but is a bit of a stretch by applying a new scientific meaning to the overall Nemo property. So this is again something that will really depend on the finished project.

These last two, Finding Nemo and the Muppets, bring up an interesting trend and story concept where IPs are potentially used as a method to teach about the core meaning of the land. This has been done before in educational like settings (basically EPCOT), like the Seas with Nemo and Friends, Ellen's Energy Adventure (maybe a stretch to call Ellen an IP, but same process and result), alot of Innoventions, and the Three Caballeros boat ride in Mexico. Each to a different extent uses the IP overlay to describe the bigger concept of the land. Some I would say are successful, some not. It depends, to me, on the extent of the overlay and which element, the characters or the land, is the real priority. The Seas with Nemo I think is too far, because it is so heavily Nemo, while rest hit the balance pretty well, as long as the rules are still followed. Though a version that is IP free would be preferable, this strategy can be ok. 

Secret Life of Pets

Here's another rumored attraction in a different resort, this time at Universal Orlando. There are strong rumors online about a dark ride based on this animated film that will be constructed somewhere in the resort very soon. There is some question about where, and recent rumors suggest it will go in Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure, instead of the New York area of Universal Studios. 

First, we can't really know the popularity, but based on reviews and hype, it looks promising. Plus same studio as Minions, so they can likely build this up just as well.

Second, the location, which is the baffling part to me. The movie is clearly set in New York City. There is a land in the Studios park that is New York City. There is room for an attraction in this land (end of the main street, library facade area.) But the rumors say it will go in Toon Lagoon, an area set in the world of Comic Strips. This is the clearest example so far of inconsistency in setting. The visual language of comics and the visual language of animated New York do not match, so the attraction is going to stick out of place.

To be honest, this is a problem that Universal has with many new attractions. Transformers, Minions, and Skull Island do not match their settings at all. The two in the studios park attempt to get by with the movie studio premise and Kong is impressive enough and in enough jungle that it at least somewhat relates to Jurassic Park, but all have strong visual language inconsistencies that draws us out of the themed environment. However, the upcoming Jimmy Fallon ride and Fast and Furios do appear to better fit in their surroundings, but we have to wait and see. Hopefully, things will change and Secret Life of Pets will also find its proper home in the New York area of the park.

The third rule is harder to comment on at this time. Plus, in my view, the lands at Universal Parks are a bit less defined with their identity, instead just being a strict location or collection of properties. There is less interpretation past just the physical location. If the attraction ends up in Toon Lagoon, well it does not fit the identity of immersing guests in the world of comic strips. If it goes in New York, then it does succesfully take guests into the world of a movie set in New York. So this rule is basically tied to the second rule.

Star Wars

Now a big one. I am specifically talking about Disneyland with these comments.

First, it is obviously popular enough. No issue here.

The second rule has to applied differently here since it is existing as its own land and does not really have to fit in with something existing. With a new land, the visual contradictions between new and old are removed, at least should be. We will have to wait until construction is over to see if the borders are really as clean as they appear and should be. This would have been a major issue if the land had been built into Tomorrowland like many believed it would. That would have caused major visual clashes.

Rule three is also different because it is its own land. I believe that since it is a new land, the responsibility to fit the thematic philosophy is upgraded to fit the meaning of the entire park. This definitely could be debated, but I see Disneyland's identity as the realization of childhood dreams of adventure and fantasy. It is honestly a very loose organization guideline, but it works. Just like the old west and being a pirate was (and still is) a fantasy for so many, the world of Star Wars is now an ultimate fantasy and a world that people want to explore and have adventures in. This overall park meaning requires that the lands are realistic and highly immersive, as opposed lands in other parks that do not create the illusion that you are actually transported (Hollywood Studios). There is more discussion that could happen here, and some could definitely disagree with my view that it fits. But I want to keep this short and just say that I believe Star Wars land fits with the identity of Disneyland.

Guardians of the Galaxy

And last, the rumor that really started me thinking about this. If you have not heard, strong rumors say that a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction will replace the Energy Pavilion in EPCOT. This is the most distressing rumor in a while.

First, Guardians of the Galaxy probably has the popularity for an attraction, but that is not a definite. It did well financially and commercially, but as the Marvel Universe grows and evolves. there's no way to know how this one story will be remembered. But still, good odds to deserve an attraction right now.

Second, the setting does not match at all. EPCOT's Future World is modeled on a Worlds Fair and should be based on a pavilion model, each focusing on an idea or industry. As the rumor leads me to believe, this attraction would be set in space and themed to the world of the film. It is possible that the property could be used in some kind of space pavilion setting, paired up with Mission: Space, but this seems like a disappointing resolution to the development of EPCOT.

Third is where I have the main problem. The traditional purpose of EPCOT and Future World requires it's contents to be elevated above just productions of IP worlds. The individual elements of EPCOT each must reflect and inform some element of the progress of humanity. The pavilions should be like pavilions of a Worlds Fair, each with a clear identity that teaches some concept that is important to social progress. The existing Future World pavilions each have this clear identity, but this addition of Guardians of the Galaxy undermines the entire existing organization. This is the most drastic example of a compatibility issue with the identity of the land and the IP. Obviously, I sincerely hope this does not end up happening but fear it will.

There is one question that remains as a result of the application of my rules. What happens if there is no land or location for a property to satisfy rules two and three?

Well there is no easy answer here. If the rules are to be used, they really must be followed as strict as possible, so there may be times that there is just no solution. Just by scanning a list of all Disney movie, I picked out Hercules, Mulan, Zootopia, Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Pocahantas, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, UP, Monsters. Inc, The Princess and the Frog, Wreck it Ralph, Inside Out, and the upcoming Moana as properties that could maybe warrant place in a park but do not have an obvious location.

Interestingly, it seems that the list is majority animated films and the majority newer films. This may be a reflection of the quality of the Disney's live action films outside of Star Wars and Marvel, which do have place (Star Wars Land and a future Marvel Land). It also is a reflection of the recent diversity in setting and theme for Disney films, going away from the traditional European fairy tale style, which fits very well in Fantasyland (where films like Frozen and Tangled would go). So many recent Disney and Pixar animated films have explored new worlds that are just not as cleanly compatible with the existing parks.

There are ways to fix this with new additional lands and reworkings of current themes, but it is not perfect. I have proposed some possible solutions here in the past and have some new thoughts:

Animal Kingdom should be expanded to have lands based on all continents so that any film related to nature or animals would have a correct setting. For instance, UP and Pocahantas could fit here well, and Hercules would have been perfect in a mythology based section. Even Zootopia could work if a new land is properly developed.

Hollywood Studios and Disney Studios Paris should expand on a studio or genre model, so that attractions and properties could be included on the merit of being a film instead of the merit of location. For instance, the expansions should have developed a Pixar Studios land, allowing for any Pixar film regardless of setting to be grouped together, instead of a single property land.

The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland style parks should continue to expand its Fantasyland to allow for more future properties and potentially diversify the setting away from European forest to allow for different IPs, like Princess and the Frog, Mary Poppins, and Moana.

Those parks that have a Critter Country should also open that up to more IP attractions, since it is a fairly animated based land already. Again, many properties based on animals could work here.

Other secondary parks in each resort, like Tokyo Disney Sea and California Adventure, should carefully and calculatedly expand to include specific areas that best align with properties that will have the most success. TDS appears to be doing that with a Frozen port.

Last, the inevitable third gate to Disneyland and all other future parks world wide should also be carefully developed to include a variety of settings that are completely unlike those in existing neighbor parks. These expansions would be an opportunity to diversify the future potential of applicable attractions while still staying in the rules.

Some of these will happen, some of them I know will not. But I think it could work, especially in conjunction with the proper application of the rules I have developed.

So what do you think about my suggested rules for IP placement? What are your rules?

And can you think of any other attractions that fail them or any other deserving properties that do not have a place?

Leave a comment with your thoughts and I will get back to you soon to discuss your ideas!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Disneyland Resort Phased Expansion Plan Part 3 - Downtown Disney

This post completes the design of the additions to the Disneyland Resort outside of the parks by detailing the design and contents of the expanded Downtown Disney.

As I have mentioned before, I decided on a theme of Anaheim of the 1950’s so that I could incorporate a few things that I think make a successful themed space while still allowing for retail. Those things include a defined story about why the area exists, a distinct style, in this case a period of architecture, that is out of the ordinary and transformative, and the possibility of a sense of life in the space, as if this is a real inhabited environment we have walked in. These are all characteristics of the best areas of Disneyland, like Adventureland, and I think these should be applied to Downtown Disney as well. Disney does history well, and the 50's is a very popular and iconic time period, so I decided that this could be a successful concept.

So my strategy was to start by reflecting the history of Anaheim and the parks by centering the expansion around an orange grove. The orange grove is the heart of the expansion area, called the Orange District, and the city builds around it, growing as we move through the existing Downtown Disney and towards the parks.

The architecture of the Orange District is based on a variety of building types and historical buildings that support the story. I did my best searching for actual photos of Anaheim from the 50’s and found a good amount of pictures perfect for this project. Below is a reference board of those photos. You will recognize many of these buildings by the end of the post when you compare them to my final designs.

So building out from the orange grove, the surrounding structures are smaller in scale and relate to the function of the orange farm, so are designed to resemble a Farm House and Produce Stands. The House acts as guest services and restrooms, while the Stands are Disney owned retail, since they have a prime location to the entrance from the parking deck.

The Orange Grove is surrounded by a “road,” just delineated by pavement changes, not a curb, and the city begins just on the other side. To the north is the hotel, which unfortunately has to be a bit larger scale than the Orange Farm area, but it mostly works out. This area represents the city of Anaheim that grew out of the orange production, leading to the city we have today. The hotel towers are designed as a classical brick skyscraper, directly modeled on an existing Anaheim tower. The retail on the ground floor extends out from the tower and is modeled on a traditional retail street, with each retail establishment having a unique character. The street level also has access to two restaurants in the upper floors of the hotel. There is also a standalone retail building, modeled after a department store photo from above.

To the south of the Orange Grove is a different type of architecture that is also related to the orange production. These two buildings are packing houses and warehouses, again inspired by existing Anaheim buildings. These two buildings are mostly dining, with Disney owned dining in the west packing house, and original food in the east warehouse.

That completes the main section of new buildings, but the rest of the Downtown Disney complex is redressed and put into this theme.

The first few buildings are the most challenging. The ESPN Zone gets a new façade that dresses it as a Googie style sports arcade. Rainforest Café is much more of a challenge, but could probably work if redesigned as a Tiki modernist restaurant. Some changes on the inside and a lot of changes on the outside would transform this temple into something that might actually fit in 1950’s Anaheim. The AMC also gets a new façade with a traditional neon movie marquee that acts as a beacon down the street. Next to the movie theater is a new building that extends the small scale retail style and creates a defined street corridor towards the Disneyland Hotel.

The rest of the buildings towards the parks would only need minor façade additions to work in the theme, and it would make sense for the depth of the 50’s concept to reduce as we move towards the park, since we are somewhat progressing through time to the present state of the parks.

The only other new building is located in the expansion plot between Tortilla Joe’s and the former House of Blues. This was always marked as the location for a Disney Quest, but since that really isn’t a thing anymore, I decided for a 3rd party entertainment and dining facility.

Now that I have described the architectural thoughts, I will present the actual lineup and locations for the retail and dining I am proposing as well as showing you mockup perspectives of the new buildings.

The Orange District

Since this is all new retail, I will just give a quick description about my choices. Most of my retail choices were made by comparing what just opened up in Orlando with what already existing in the Anaheim Downtown Disney.

First, I decided to put exclusively Disney retail in the largest Produce Stand building (3-5) since it had the best location related to the parking deck. I know there is already a World of Disney, but it appears that Disney retail is trying to diversify, as shown in the variety of new stores that have popped up in Orlando. So this has a World of Disney, a Christmas Shop, and Once Upon a Toy. The other Produce Stand has Basin and Lucky Brand.

The retail at the base of the hotel tower has space for 3 (or 4) shops, including Vera Bradley, a west coast version of D Luxe Burger, themed as a 50's burger dinner, and access to Walt's Restaurant on the 3rd floor of the east hotel tower, and to a different original restaurant concept on the second floor of the west hotel tower, both of which look down into Downtown Disney. In a few places, I have space for these original restaurant concepts, which would allow for local famous chefs to create a completely unique location for Downtown Disney. This is obviously better than chains, and is more in character with the environment.

The other stand alone building holds Zara and Fossil and is themed as a very high class department store.

The large packing house building holds a Disney themed food court. This was inspired by the interior of the actual Anaheim packing house, which has a similar setup, and the success of the 2 Disney themed food stands that just opened at Orlando: BB Wolf's Sausage Co and Aristocrepes. I just really like the idea and the puns and inside humor behind these stands and I want to see it expand to a larger facility. The stipulation though is that the food stands inside are only based on films that opened before 1955. The theming is very minimal and in period, not overly animated, but each reference a film or set of characters. I think there is also value here in having a potentially cheaper and sampling size food location compared to the majority table service dining in Downtown Disney. The building also contains a few retail locations, including a Disney retail location that sells kitchen merchandise, which could tie into the names and themes from the food court area.

The warehouse building across the path holds an extremely large original steakhouse concept on the second floor, set among the industrial orange processing equipment. On the ground floor is an original entertainment bar concept based on oranges and the Orange Bird character. The bar would be filled with period appropriate advertising for California Citrus, using the Orange Bird (which was actually made a a mascot for Florida Citrus) as a mascot. There would also be an attached retail location selling Orange Bird stuff.

In the new building by the movie theater is Sprinkles or a different desert concept, since Sprinkles is already know in Anaheim. I think this would be a popular location as it would be visible to those walking back to the parking deck, to the Disneyland Hotel, and those exiting the movie theater.

Town Square

The next new location is in the new building by Tortilla Joe's. Instead of creating a Disney owned location here, I decided on Splitsville since there is already a relationship with Disney from the Orlando location, and because it is pretty much in theme already. I think this restaurant/bar/bowling/arcade combination would help to fill the lack of entertainment options in Downtown Disney.

Next door, to replace the vacant House of Blues, I decided on a fan service throwback that I want to see happen but I doubt ever will. This building Holds the Explorers Club, based on the real one in New York, which was in its heyday in the 50's. It also has connections to SEA, the fictional society created for many Disney park attractions. Now, this has to have a little different structure to not repeat the issues that forced the original to close. First, instead of being a club and bar, it is now primarily a restaurant where guests can dine in many of the exclusive rooms of the club, surrounded by interactive props and featuring periodic encounters with the characters that wander the rooms. Second, the experience still includes a show in the library, but it is now a ticketed event (that is included in the meal) that has better access control to keep a steady flow of guests in and out, instead of regulars staying inside all night. And last, after the show experience, there is a bar/lounge area, which would be most like the original club, but is only accessible either by dining at the club, or buying a ticket to the show. I think these moves would help make this version more successful while still keeping the unique entertainment value of the club.

In the roundabout, which was the former location of the Catal Bar, there are a few new locations. On the south side, Fossil and Something Silver and removed and combined into the Disney Co-op, another concept from Orlando. This would be located adjacent to 3 other Disney owned retail, creating in essence one large Disney store with unique shop areas. Catal Restaurant is replaced with an original restaurant concept, while Ridemakerz across the street is replaced with a double level Cowfish Restaurant. Some elements of Ridemakerz can be combined into the new Disney stores, like Once Upon a Toy.

Market Street

Haagen Dazs is replaced with an original Ice Cream location that is better themed to the location and period. Sanuk is replaced with Sound Lion or another electronics store, which is needed to sell chargers, headphones, and batteries for guests. Last, Quicksilver is replaced with Pandora, which aligns with their many sponsorship in the parks.

So now, finally I present the perspectives and a walk through video of the proposed addition.

This shot is of the Orange Grove, looking north towards the Hotel. 

This shows an aerial view of the Hotel, the Hotel Retail, and the Farm House.

This perspective shows the Orange Grove, the Produce Stands, and the edge of the Hotel.

This shot shows the main Packing House and looking down the street towards the ESPN Zone.

This shows the standalone Department Store building and the Orange Warehouse Building

This shot is an overview of the addition area, looking from the south east. The immediate bottom building is the Monorail Station.

Finally, below is a quick fly-through video of the area,

And now that completes my design of the resort outside the parks. Next time I post, it will be about the expansion of Disneyland and California Adventure. Not sure when that next post will come out, because I start a new job this week after moving this last week, but it should be soon!