Monday, August 29, 2016

Third Gate Progress: The Theme of the Park

This week, I am going to talk a little about my planning for my design of a Disneyland Resort 3rd gate. As I have said before, this plan is going to take me much longer than the expansion plans for the existing parks, but I still want to keep you updated with my process and the progress of the plan.

So I have decided that the every other week text posts will periodically be used for updates and explanations of what I am doing. Design posts will continue on the other weeks with updates to other projects.

At this point, I have roughly decided on the properties and the theme of the park, but have not started actually laying the park out on the site.

This first time, I am going to give an overview of the properties I selected and how that defined the theme.

So first, it has to be understood that realistically, this will be an IP heavy park. That's what Disney would build today and what will make the park popular. Additionally, the modern trend of parks is single property immersive lands. That trend, started by Harry Potter, allow guests to step right into the movies that they love and creates more transformative environments. So I wanted to at least make an attempt at this strategy.

However, even with these realities, I want to find a way to incorporate these elements into a cohesive and immersive overall theme, comparable to the rest of the Disney parks. This will not just be IP kingdom.

The other part of my strategy, which I had discussed in my post about how IPs should be properly used in the parks, is that the Disneyland Resort needs more variety of themed settings so that a larger variety of IPs can fit. The existing parks cover a good amount of settings, but there are multiple environments that major Disney films are set in that are missing.

So with these goals, I turned to a list of Disney films and began to mark potential IPs.

My first pass was for anything that I think is popular enough to be in a theme park OR anything that I think could make a good themed environment. A lot of things here.

I eliminated things that I don't think Disney would build anymore because they are too old or unpopular, and things that have an obvious place in the other parks, just don't actually exist.

From that, I made a top list of things that I wanted to try to get in this 3rd gate.

Here's the list, in chronological order or release:

Mary Poppins
The Lion King
Wreck it Ralph
Inside Out
Moana (future release, but looks worthy of the parks)
Coco (same)
Gigantic (again, same)

Plus, I previously decided that Marvel would be located in this park since the Marvel area I proposed for DCA is rather small.

And I could realistically see the same being done with Star Wars by having a second land in this park, just like Universal has done. Spread the crowds and add a new, differently themed world.

That is a good sized list, but reasonable for this park. Now to transform that into a theme.

I spent a week or two or three looking at the list and thinking about how they could work together.

I discussed before in my theme of Disneyland post that a park both has a theme that defines what is in the park, and a structure that frames how the elements are presented. I will be looking for both here, and they will influence each other.

First, I considered the existing theme park themes heavily.

I thought about a Hollywood Studios park. That would be easy to fit the properties in, but would be redundant to the Hollywood area of DCA, and frankly would be too easy.

I thought about DisneySea. It successfully made single theme environments based on existing films. But I wasn't convinced I could make all the properties I selected work in this theme. Plus, this theme requires a lot of water, which takes up a lot of valuable space, which would not work in a park that has to be on the small side.

I thought about EPCOT, or WESTCOT. But since they can't seem to figure out the EPCOT they already have, I don't think this could work. But this inspired part of the final solution.

When I looked at the films I selected and thought about why they did not fit in the current resort, I realized that many of them have very specific international locations, where the film really depends on that foreign setting in a way that is different than many of the classic animated films that could easily be transposed to a generic Fantasyland setting.

This international mindset combined with the success of EPCOT and the goal of making more focused lands centered around a property led me to investiage the idea of an international park, framed around a series of "worlds" that correspond to real life locations around the world.

Almost a IP World Showcase. This is especially ironic, since this is exactly what I am against in the real EPCOT. However, that is not because of the validity of placing IPs in international settings, but because of the more realistic and mature tone of EPCOT combined with its history as an edutainment park. So, in this new park, I think it could work because it is not being framed as real representations of countries, but as fantasy worlds inspired by real life.

The majority of the films in my list easily fit in this theme. Some are a little more complicated, but can still be structured as individual "worlds" that we travel to in this array of foreign settings. Zootopia and a Star Wars world essentially have the same international relationship to what we are familiar with, just imaginary fantasy worlds instead of fantasy inspired real settings.

So I think this can work for a park. However, this is the structure of the park, not the theme of the park. What ties together this idea of international worlds? EPCOT is structured as a World's Fair of international countries, but is themed as an expression of the progress of man.

To be honest, I think just saying international worlds could work. It's not a comprehensive theme, but it is unique and explains the properties and the structure of the properties. This is probably what would actually happen.

A better solution would be to tie a secondary theme or story that explains why we travel to these foreign worlds. There could be many solutions here, but I have decided to latch onto one particular idea that Disney has already invested development in and that I know is known and popular.

That is the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Potentially the premier modern theme park story that is underused, S.E.A. is used around the world to tie together a group of attractions and fictional people who all strive to explore the wonders of the world. It's being used more and more frequently now, with even the recent announced addition to Typhoon Lagoon using the S.E.A. theme. It is obviously a favorite concept among the imagineers in power right now. So I am doubling down on it to be a whole park.

I think this could perfectly tie together our trip around the world, and it doesn't even need to be heavy handed. It does not have to be called the S.E.A Park, or even branded with S.E.A. The elements of the park just need to reflect this sense of exploration and adventure, and some specific attractions and settings should include the group and its members.

So my plan for the third gate of Disneyland Resort will be a theme park about the worldwide (and universe wide) travels of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

I think that is a solid concept for a complementay park for the resort and I am excited to start developing it soon!

I don't really know a timeline, because developing a whole park can take any amount of time. But my plan is to give you updates as the plan develops.

If you like this concept, let me know in a comment below, and let me know what IPs you wish I included that I didn't mention. If its a good idea, I might be able to fit it in!

I'll be back next week with the last part of the main park expansions.


  1. A Fun Park Concept. I'm looking forward to future posts! Thanks for keeping us in the loop.

  2. Really great at increasing my anticipation for your plan! So excited for it! Can't wait!