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!

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