Monday, October 24, 2016

UP UP and AWAY Attraction Plan

This week I have an attraction plan that was actually completed a few years ago and that I have been holding in reserve. This is my design for a suspended dark ride based on UP to be located in a new South America land in Animal Kingdom. The post for that park is here.

Set after the movie, guests are given the opportunity to take a tour of the jungles around Paradise Falls, led by the Wilderness Explorers group. As a project to gain a badge, the group of explorers has constructed a fleet of balloon vehicles for our adventure filled trip.

The queue begins in the jungle near the house and leads to a meandering switchback queue through the brush where the Wilderness Explorers have set up camp, passing seemingly occupied tents. Interactive noises and shadows in the tents lend to the illusion of life. Both the Fastpass+ and Standby queues then lead into the rockwork caves. The queues pass through their workshops where they have been building exploration balloons, which we will be riding on our journey through the jungle. We pass boxes of parts, spools of rope, and tanks of helium along the way. We find their work table with the blueprints for the vehicle and then a finished vehicle prototype before we round the corner and reach the load area. There is a projection effect of an opening in the rockwork where we can see the balloon periodically sail by, filled with Wilderness Explorers.

The wicker and metal exploration balloons are two rows seating 2 or 3 in each row and are suspended from a large clump of “balloons” which cover the track above. I wanted to make this more than a traditional suspended dark ride, so I attempted to emulate a “trackless” ride in a suspended dark ride form. To create that effect, the darkride has two separate tracks that pass through the scenes in completely different ways. The vehicles on each track are identical but mirrored, cantilevering out from each track by 1’ towards the center. At load and unload, the two tracks sit parallel and 2’ apart so that the vehicles suspended from each track form a straight line. The tracks also come together for two track switches, where large overhead turntables send the vehicles to the backstage maintenance bays.

Guests load on their exploration balloon vehicle and float out into the jungle. We start out in search of Kevin, but first find Doug and the rest of the dogs that live in the Jungle. Doug sits up on a rock perch to the right of the two tracks, talking to us as we float by, while the other dogs are at ground level around the track. Farther ahead, we discover Kevin standing on his own rock formation, squawking at us. We float past and into a cave, which is where the first track switch is located. This is the remnants of Muntz’s cave, evident by a perpective projection of Muntz’s dirigible to the right side of the track, making the cave seem much larger than it is. On the ground, Muntz’s equipment and furniture are scattered. We float out of the cave and right over a lagoon, with gushing waterfalls to our left and right, threatening to splash us but just missing. We turn and pass through a rocky opening, and see another floating balloon ahead of us, with Carl and Russell inside. We float around it, while they wave goodbye to us and wish us a good trip back to the camp. We float ahead, passing Kevin and Doug again, and enter another cave, where the second track switch is located. We turn left, and arrive at the unload station. Guests exit the vehicle and walk through the small gift shop before making it back out to the house.

Guests are able to freely explore the house before or after their ride. Russell and Carl could also do meet and greets outside the house during the day.

This would be similar to the attraction I am currently proposing in my third gate design for the Disneyland Resort, set in a similar South America rainforest.

So as I said, this is an older plan, about 4 years old actually, that I have saved back. I didn't want to make you wait another week without a new post, especially because I know that I will not have one next week, so now was the time to use it. I may have 1 or 2 more old attraction plans that I could share in future gaps, but I hope that will not happen soon. I'll be back in two weeks with something new, and hopefully soon, an update on the state and future of the blog. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Third Gate Progress: The Attraction Lineup

Back with another update on the 3rd Gate Project! At this point, I have fairly thoroughly transformed the rough concept and property goals I discussed in a previous post into a line up of lands and attractions.

I have also started to diagrammatically work out the layout of the lands, but it is still flexible and in progress. It is more of just an arrangement of the network of lands and the start of ideas of how attractions fit into the site.

So in this post, I am going to give you the basic network layout and the mostly developed land and attraction list. I have alot of thoughts for the story as well, but don't want to spoil all that quite yet. That story is mostly the concept of the individual members of SEA and how they are involved in the various lands and tie back together in the main organization. Therefore, I am leaving out some of the original attraction ideas because they relate to these unique members.

When formulating the attraction line up, I wanted to be realistic with the scope of an opening day park, so I analyzed the last few opening day line ups. The best comparison is Shanghai Disneyland, because the previous opening parks (Hong Kong Disneyland and California Adventure) were intentionally underbuilt.

By my count and interpretation of the following categories, Shanghai Disneyland opened with 20 attractions (not including meet and greets or simple exhibits, but definitely including walkthrough and exploration areas) and 3 dedicated theater shows (not including street based shows or the castle show, parade, or fireworks). The attractions fall into the following categories: 7 non IP attractions, 4 major E ticket attractions, 12 minor attractions, such as walkthroughs, exploration areas, and spinners, and 6 attractions that could be considered a dark ride.

I set my goals with similar numbers, with consideration that this is a smaller and more IP focused park. At least 20 attractions and 2 shows, at least 5 non IP attractions, 5 E ticket attractions, 10 minor attractions, and at least 6 dark rides.

Now I'll very briefly walk through the network of lands and mention most of the attractions that I have planned.

First, outside the park is a 3000 space parking deck on the north west side of the site, an adjacent transportation hub with multiple bus stops and the peoplemover station. On the opposite north east corner is the hotel area, which includes underground parking and sits adjacent to the park, possibly with ground floor retail in the park like the Mira Costa in Tokyo Disney Sea.

Adventure Harbor

The first land and entrance corridor is the central harbor of the worldwide SEA organization and therefore includes their storage warehouses, archives, clubhouse, and most iconic, their steamship, which is the central icon of the park.

The land is entirely original, no IPs, and includes retail, food and beverage including a table service restaurant in the clubhouse, a interactive park wide game organized from the clubhouse, and a VR explorers game in the ship.

North America

This continent is represented by San Francisco, transitioning from the urban harbor area into the streets of the city. There are two distinct areas and properties in the land: Tron and Inside Out. Tron is an interior land reached through Flynn's arcade and includes an interior Grid environment and an EMV coaster attraction. Inside Out is a shooting dark ride where guests send memories orbs to headquarters to balance the emotions. The land also includes retail and small food, including the required pizza location adjacent to Riley's house.

South America

This continent has two area, one set in the deep rainforest jungle, which includes Mystic Manor and a suspended dark ride based on UP, and the other in Mexico featuring a boat ride based on the upcoming Coco. I know Mexico is actually North America, but it fits better here aesthetically and I use it as a transition from San Francisco to the rainforest. The Mexico area would include significant retail and dining.


This is a single property land just because Zootopia set up such a complete and interesting environment that could make a great themed environment. The land at least one flat ride spinner as well as a larger family coaster dark ride through the various areas of the city. There is also (hopefully) a cable car transportation attraction between the rainforest of Zootopia and the rainforest of South America. These shared rainforests are the transition between lands.


This land is a tropical aquatic environment, transitioning from the aquatic area of Zootopia, and features a lava flowing volcano that forms a secondary icon for the park. The volcano holds a spinning family coaster and Moana is represented in a large trackless water dark ride.

Star Wars

This second Star Wars land is smaller than the first and holds a distinct environment from the Disneyland version. Possibly something aquatic to be a transition from Polynesia. The attractions would include a media/water coaster, and an animatronics based show. This is less defined since I don't know much about the first land.


This is a larger land, but is also loosely defined at this point. For transition and thematic reasons, it makes sense to relate it to space instead of a city based location, so it could possibly include the upcoming Infinity Wars events, the Thor universe, Guardians of the Galaxy universe, and maybe even Dr. Strange since it is mystical instead of realistic. The possible Dr. Strange area could be used to transition to Asia and Thor could transition to Europe.

Africa, Asia, and Europe

These lands are really more of a combined area and are smaller than the other main lands. They tuck against the hotel and possibly include thre ground floor of the hotel building. There are a variety of small areas.

Africa is represented with a savanna city and including a Lion King flume ride. The Middle East features an Aladdin based flight simulator as well as retail and dining. The jungles of India hold a Jungle Book based acrobatics show and a Chinese area features an attraction based on Mulan. Finally, Europe has a Spain inspired area with a Gigantic dark ride, and a Greece area with a Hercules maze and exploring attraction.

Like I said, that does not include everything. There are somethings that I have thought out already that I just don't want to share yet and there are plenty of things that haven't been developed at all. The real specifics will happen once the layout starts to finalize. I am in the process of starting to lay that out so we will see what's going to happen.

But for now, this is the general scheme for the park.

So are there any attractions or properties that you think should fit in these lands? Did you have any different ideas about how to include a certain IP? Let me know with a comment. Thanks!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Theme Park Environment: Physical Paths

And back with another short environmental post this week after the big double attraction plan post last week.

The first post of the series at the start of the year discussed the concept of the significant of the urban plan to the experience of the theme park. The second post this summer discussed weenies and visual sequence and how they keep us moving in the park.

This time I am going to briefly mention the pair concept to the visual sequence of the paths, the physical sequence of the paths.

This is more than just the concepts discussed in the previous posts because those detailed both the overall planning layout of the paths and the visual effects of the paths, not the actual layout and experience.

There are two major elements I want to mention. The effect of physical compression and release and pointless paths and nooks, as well as one less used element, parallel paths.

First, the effect of compression and release is overwhelmingly similar to the visual compression and release that I discussed last post, but is about how you feel, not what you see. Admittedly, they are basically the same result. When space compresses around the path you are on, you want to keep moving to the adjacent open and released area. One of the best examples is the entrance to Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. The exact sequence takes us through the compressed turnstiles, the open plaza in front of floral Mickey, the compressed train tunnels, the open Town Square, the compressed Main Street, and finally the open Hub. This alternating character of space directs us and influences our movement. We are not really meant to stay in the compressed moments of the sequence and we physically do not want to when that nice bright and open space is just ahead.

This tool should be used throughout parks to create individual spaces and promoted movement. I dare to say it can't really be overused as long as it does not becoming an overtly repetative sequence of similar spaces. The distribution of scale and scope, like the vastly different spaces along that entry sequence I mentioned, help break us the intentional design choices and make it less obvious that we are being affected.

This is key to the environment, and something that is basically prevalent in every single theme park, regardless of how intentional it is, because it is just a basic element of architectural and urban design. Streets and traditional architecture do the same. Public plazas and squares share sequence with the narrow roads that lead to them. Foyers and hallways mediate the movement through a house from main room to main room. Its a fundamental experiential design tool.

Next, my concept of pointless paths and nooks references the many side areas and lesser used paths of the parks that are unique. Everyone has their favorite little side path of the parks, a lesser populated area that has its own unique character. The former Court of Angels, the Frontierland Boardwalk, the Rose Garden, the depths of the World Showcase pavilions. These minor elements of the circulation system of the park would be very easy to leave out in favor of running every guest through the main wide pathways. Logistically, that would probably be the obvious approach but it prevents diversity of experience and complexity of environment.

Also, an environment with a single path logically does not make much sense in relation to the reality of the spaces they are emulating. We forge paths and cut corners around the main thoroughfare all the time, so the thematic spaces should do the same. But the more important consequence to these side areas is that they help give the illusion of the increased space and depth to the world we are exploring. Every time we see a path break off we are inclined to believe there is more world beyond and more to explore. If we all walked down the same single path from point a to b, we would have seen it all and known that we saw it all. These side spaces are key to the illusion of the themed space being real.

In addition to those two tools, there are a few others that are somewhat less used. My favorite is the idea of parallel paths, that there can be multiple parallel paths of movement through a space that can all look to and reference each other. The best example is along the Rivers of America in both American parks. In Magic Kingdom's Frontierland, there is the storefront path along the buildings, which is separated from the main pathway through the middle, which is separated from the boardwalk along and over the river. At Disneyland, there is the path along the border of New Orleans Square, separated from the tiered walkways along the river, each separated from each other. In both cases, it works just like the pointless paths premise but creates the illusion of choice and diversity while keeping us moving on the same path. We can see others on the other pathways and understand that as diversity of experience all in the same setting with the same start and end.

So based on those ideas, I am interested in what your favorite little side area of the parks is? What pointless path do you enjoy exploring the most while in the parks? Let me know with a comment below. 

Next week I am going to try to be back with another attraction plan post. Let me know what you want to see next.