Monday, November 28, 2016

Paris Studios Plan Epilogue

This is a quick follow up to the plan for my expansion of the Disney Studios Paris Park that was posted last week. Based on the response, I wanted to address a few things.

First, thanks for the great response and for sharing and commenting. The audience grew by a lot that day, which is great and hope you come back for future posts, even if they will not always be that big or about the Paris parks.

I've tried to have regular posting schedules from time to time but I never can stick to anything since it takes significant time commitment to design the project and then create the post. But my goal is to have at least one or two new posts up every month. Sometimes they are big park expansion plans, sometimes individual attractions, sometimes they are essays about theme park design, and sometimes they may just be random thoughts related to Disney and theme park news. So keep up with me on twitter and check back periodically for new stuff. 

Next, I wanted to address a few comments I got.

The main comments were about the selection of properties for the Disney Studios area of the park. Since I left some expansion pads, I got a lot of suggestions for other choices. There were also a few thoughts about the choice to do the live action remakes vs the originals which I found interesting.

So there's a few reasons I chose the live action fairy tales.

I wanted some differentiation from the Disneyland Park, which is already heavy with classic animated films. And I definitely didn't want any repeats between the parks, so many of the popular and obvious films were out.

I wanted to use properties that could somehow still fit into a cohesive style and location idea, which became the "Fantasy Forest" kind of idea, versus disparate large themed areas that can't really transition.

I recognized that animated films could be grouped into a miniland based on the shared medium like they have done before with the Animation Courtyards.

And honestly, when you look at the filmography of the Walt Disney Pictures brand, leaving out Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation Studios, the only films that have had significant success recently are the live action remakes. Consequently, those kinds of films make up the majority of the lineup for the next few years.

So that made my choice. However, even though I have reasons, I am not heavily committed to that selection because, for this land in particular, the contents are less important than the structure that holds the properties. I think the IPs could be subbed out pretty easily along the main spine path if a better argument can be made for other films and transitions somehow developed. Some interesting suggestions were Wreck it Ralph, Zootopia, and Moana, which would probably mean this transforms into an animated based land, since there I don't think I would want to mix animated and live action remakes.

The only other comments were about how people wish this would happen for real. 

So from those comments, I want to discuss the potential of this park with a good deal more realism, especially in light of the huge expansion plan for Hong Kong Disneyland that was announced just the day after my post went up. 

First, I think it is obvious that the plan I posted last week is way too elaborate to ever happen in its entirety at once. It would be an unprecedented expansion that would give the park more huge E ticket attractions that nearly all existing parks. And based on the spending habits of the resort, it is just impossible. 

But I still think that this could be used as a guide to how the park should and really could grow in more reasonable expansion phases, similar to what is happening to other world wide parks. Hong Kong is a great example. It started as an under-built park, then a major expansion in 2009 brought 3 new lands with a few major attractions, then a few individual attractions over time, and now another major multi-land expansion. Yes its basically a 15 years time frame of improvement. But at least its happening.

And I think you can do the same to the Paris Studios Park. To start, I am going to talk general, not super specific to the actual attractions I proposed. More in terms of lands and general attraction ideas.

I think the key is to start with the infrastructure and organization that would then be expanded over a few big phases. This means the place making work at the front of the park, and I think the Hub and icon layout that defines the center of the park. Organization in a theme park will dictate the future success.

Also I think it is important to realize that in my plan, 3 of the 5 lands use a lot of existing infrastructure and also contain a solid number and variety of attractions. Hollywood, Pixar, and Marvel all are formed of careful additions into the existing landscape. Regardless of the specifics of the additions, the park could make some major improvements without having to completely tear down and start over. Start with what they already have.

And last, even though in my design, I basically went for all original designs, it should be understood that cloning attractions from other resorts makes them cheaper and therefore more likely to be built. That could help a lot here, since these are the kinds of attractions that Disney is currently already designing. This approach could bring some big attractions to the park.

So from that, I'll outline a quick idea for how to make something like this happen.

Major Phase 1:

Improve the place making of Hollywood - the interior of Stage 1 would be renovated in some way, the streets, planters, trolley tracks, and facades of Hollywood would be added, new retail and dining would open, and the Hub and Chinese Theater facade would be built, regardless of if there is an interior. This would also allow for the immediate start to a new night time show.

Add attractions to Toy Story Land - expand Toy Story Land to the north like I have with the addition of a clone of Toy Story Midway Mania and at least one more flat ride/spinner.

Renovate Pixar Place Overall - general work to the facades and planting to make it more cohesive, such as new Crush's Coaster facade and addition of meet and greet building.

Create Marvel Studios - renovate the existing buildings on the south side of the park into Stark Expo, including re-themes of Armageddon and Rockin Roller Coaster. Construct a clone of one of the Marvel attractions already in plans at another park. Either one of the HK attractions or the one in plans for DCA. Something that they can share development costs on that can be the headliner of the expansion. This attraction should also begin to define the expansion potential of the land deeper into the park.

That is all totally reasonable, adds or reworks 6 attractions, and begins to start a solid organization for the park. This could and should happen as soon as possible, especially since this whole phase doesn't even include any major brand new attractions, only clones. This would be a easy and effective start to fix the park.

Intermediate Additions

Add an attraction to Pixar Place - move the wardrobe and cast building and replace with a new D ticket level dark ride of a significantly popular Pixar story.

Put something in the Chinese Theater - put something significant in the icon, either an original attraction, an animation miniland like I have, or something like that Mickey Mouse dark ride. Something fitting the icon status.

Add an attraction to Marvel - either the secondary of the HK attractions, another clone from DCA, or something original. A second and final big attraction to expand the land and increase the park size.

Those are three solid additions that could sustain attendance to the park over multiple years, each phased to continue to draw crowds to come back for something new.

Major Phase 2:

Bring Star Wars - clone the entirety of original Star Wars land, which would now the the third and likely the easiest to build because there is no river or major demo to work around. (It would also make sense logically to do this earlier on, in phase 1 maybe, but I pushed it here so that I could have balanced phases and focus the first phase on rehabs to the existing park.)

Develop the start of the 5th and final land - whatever this would be, live action fairytales like I suggested, animated films, or something completely different, develop the first pocket or two of this land off the Hub and connect it to the other lands to create a full hub and spoke based loop. In my plan, that would be Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid, but could be whatever is popular at this point.

Those are two more huge but reasonable additions that would bring the park to a scale rivaling the other international parks and basically builds it out to a respectable scale.

Final Periodic Additions

Complete the 5th land - finish whatever land was started previously to bring it to the scale of the other lands.

Adjust for what becomes popular - if the 5th Indiana Jones movie becomes a hit, embrace that. Or expand more Star Wars, or Marvel, or live action, or anything else worth building.

These could be long range moves just to complete the organization and balance of the park while also allowing it to respond to trends.

That outline breaks down the overly ambitious plan that I presented into manageable, though significant, chunks of development that are not impossible. It could and should happen to make this the preeminent film park of Europe.

If you like what your reading, continue to like and share so that the audience can keep on growing, and if you have a suggestion or idea, leave me a comment here or on twitter.

Not sure what I'll have next for you, but look for something in mid December.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Disney's Hollywood Adventure Paris Park Plan

The Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-man, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Robbin Hood, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, Ratatouille, Inside Out, Finding Nemo, plus Disney Animation Studios, the Twilight Zone, and classic Hollywood cinema. That' s the outline of this new version of an expansion plan for the current Disney Studios Paris. It's a big lineup that makes this a true top tier movie park.

I posted a version of this plan a year and a half ago, a version that was admittedly under developed. I wanted to leave plenty of expansion area and I had already committed some big properties, including Star Wars, to the Disneyland Park, so the plan was light, and therefore, under received.

Since the result of that post, my plan was to come back with a larger and more ambitious design that includes the full spectrum of the film properties that are in the Disney company. That meant moving Star Wars and Indiana Jones to this park to consolidate the IP heavy hitters and save the Disneyland Park for more original areas. This is a firmly Hollywood IP style park, and should be, so I have no issue using almost completely IPs to create immersive worlds from the best films of the Disney family.

So I decided to structure the park around the big four film families of the company plus a entrance land based on classic Hollywood, all set around a modified hub and spoke that utilizes a good portion of the existing park layout and infrastructure.

Now for the details.

Old Hollywood is the substitute Main Street but is more substantial with multiple attractions. I kept the forecourt, water tower, and Stage 1, which I know many have suggested removing, but I believe it is an effective sequential entry path in this design, and personally think it is necessary to the park.

Stage 1 serves the same purpose as the Train Station by compressing the visual distance at the entrance of the park and creating a series of thresholds and steps to the ultimate experience of the inner park. The problem is that the existing park tries to make it the Train Station, Town Square, and Main Street all in one space, which does not work both because of crowding and density, and just because it does not make sense. If the interior space is not treated so heavily and instead can just be a transition space, really just a tunnel through to the other side, and not somewhere where guests are encouraged to linger, I think it can be a successful step into the real Main Street that I add ahead, and succeeds in blocking the view to the central park from the exterior park.

So the inside of Stage 1 is redressed as a classic golden age Hollywood set in the middle of filming, maybe a 1950's New York street, dressed for the big Singing in the Rain style musical number that is perpetually about to be filmed. The lights are on, the sound is rolling, and we have entered the idea of Hollywood. So now that we are not lingering in here to shop or eat, we move out of the building on the other side and find ourselves back in time in the streets of the ideal Hollywood. We pass under another studio arch, showing that we are now exiting the "studio" and entering the "real city". A roundabout, with Partners in the center, branches left, right, and straight ahead. Realistic city facades surround us, no fake studio style buildings visible except the one we just exited. Imagine the architecture style of Buena Vista Street for all this. The area that is currently just concrete wastelands is planned with streets and plenty of planted areas with trees.

Right is a short street that leads to Pixar Place, with a new large facade with retail on the existing theater and new facades on the current animation building. The Crush's Coaster building that terminates the street is rethemed as a classic aquarium, so the architecture blends into the Hollywood city style.

Straight ahead is the more normal Main Street section, but a little flipped. The current animation building with all new facades becomes exclusively retail as the main "Emporium" of the park. Beyond that on the right, replacing the Green Army Men Parachute ride, is The Brown Derby with outdoor seating looking to the Hub. The left side of the street has a new retail building in front of the Tower of Terror, and a small bakery building in the shadow of the tower. The Hub itself is similar to the traditional, and actually matches the dimensions of the Disneyland Park Paris Hub. The icon is the Chinese Theater, because what else says Hollywood. I mean, except the actual Hollywood letters, but making a hill an icon doesn't really work. I tried.

To the left is the most substantial area of this land with three attractions. Around another larger roundabout is more city facades, including the existing Cinemagic with a new facade and retail and the existing Tower of Terror which absolutely does not get rethemed. Even if the Twilight Zone theme leaves, it stays as a golden age Hollywood story. The new attraction replaces and reuses the Playhouse Disney building to create a modern attraction in the spirit of The Great Movie Ride, similar to what I proposed in my plan for California Adventure. The actual building is a movie theater, much smaller than the Chinese Theater, set for a Hollywood premier. Instead of just a tour through significant films, the attraction has the more interactive goal to put us in the movie making process as the stars of Hollywood instead of just being bystanders. This attraction is on a long term list of attractions to develop in the future. There is also a Red Car Trolley that runs through the land.

Pixar is the least affected of the lands but still gets changes. Like I mentioned, half of the existing Toy Story land is removed so that the Hub and the pathway into the Pixar area can be developed. The path leads to a central generic Pixar open area between the four film specific areas. Adjacent to this area is also a Pixar Cafe counter service location, with the same style as Pixar headquarters, and a meet and greet building and adjacent gazebo at the former animation building. Ratatouille is unchanged.

The Toy Story area extends north and includes three new attractions in the oversized toy world. There is a carousel where guests ride on a large toys, a balloon race style spinner, like Fliks Fliers, and a new big version of Toy Story Mania, set in an oversized board game box. The ride uses the same idea as the existing, but I would like to see a version that combines real sets and triggered effects and the digital game scenes, so that is what I propose here. Digital scenes are interspersed with larger than life toy sets that are filled with triggers and a few animatronic figures of the main characters.

I decided on Inside Out for the last expansion area, replacing the costuming building, and let this be a traditional dark ride through the world of the inner mind, using the train of thought as a ride vehicle.

The Finding Nemo area includes Crush's Coaster redressed and themed as an aquarium, with a larger interior aquarium lobby with limited example exhibits and a version of Turtle Talk.

Across the park, Marvel also reuses a few existing buildings. There are two areas in this land: Stark Expo, which uses Rockin Roller coaster, Armageddon, and the restaurant building, and New York, which is new construction. Thematically, these choices seemed obvious. Because of the extreme variety of characters and locations in the franchise, this needed to be a kind of median space where all the stories could come together, and that seems to often be New York. Coming from the left side of Hollywood, guests come down a promenade between modern and high tech facades on the existing buildings towards a large rotating video sphere at the end of the road, marking the Iron Man exhibit at the Expo. The existing restaurant building stays as a high tech counter service location, and the Armageddon building becomes a technology showcase area, with cool interactive technology games and exhibits about Iron Man and the Avengers. Rockin Roller Coaster is redressed as a Stark flying vehicle prototype attraction. The queue moves through preshows of Tony showing off his suit and the new vehicle we are getting to test and then we board for a flight around the Expo. This is done with both some physical sets that we fly by inside the dark building, and some projections along the side of the track, like in the Tron coaster and Hyperspace Mountain.

The New York area begins at the Hub and leads down a street, also towards the Stark Expo icon sphere. Limited retail on the left and right lead down to the intersection with the New York streets on the right. These are much larger facades to hide the large showbuildings. To the right is a Spider-man dark ride that uses a new or custom system to bring the swinging and height to the adventures of Spider-man. I am thinking something similar to the fabled Pandora's Box ride system that never really happened, where the ride vehicle is able to traverse through scenes both on the ground and up through the air. Spider-man deserves to be able to leave the ground. Across the street is the large Avengers attraction, which is some kind of motion based media attraction and would feature the entire Marvel roster, since this is the premier attraction of the land and the IP. Retail and a snack location or two fill in the facades.

The Lucas Studios land is two areas with two of the most popular stories of all cinema: Indiana Jones and Star Wars. The Star Wars area is a copy of what is coming to the American parks, and the drawing itself is based on my best interpretation of the art. I also included the possible future 3rd attraction, though I do not know what it is.

The Indiana Jones area is a little different that the other Indiana Jones theme park lands. Those are all jungle and temple themed, and those definitely work, but I wanted to try something a little more urban and play into another area that Indy has explored and add variety. I decided on creating a thrilling adventure through the underground catacombs of Rome, so the land is formed of an intersection of history-rich Roman streets and an open hilled park sitting along the crumbling Aurelian Walls, which is the border to Star Wars.

The land begins at the Hub and passes through a bit of a transition to move us from the Hub to Rome. The corridor between the Spider-man and Chinese Theater showbuildings is dressed as a backlot that gently fades into the real treatment of Rome, as if we are stepping onto a set and then into the film. Therefore, along this leg of the path, the facades are a little more fake and there is a Backlot Express counter service location. But turn the corner and it is full Rome, and once you are on this section of the street, the backlot theme is not visible at all.

The main attraction is on the right side, and begins in a historic church. The queue takes us through to the second level of the cloister, modeled on Bramante's Cloister in Rome and then down through the entrance to the ancient ruins below the church, where Indy is exploring for a lost ancient relic. The attraction is a new version of an EMV/water coaster hybrid that I am developing. Expect a post soon. The attraction floats us through a river of the catacombs where we encounter a lost Roman city in ruins, leading to dark ride and coaster portions of the attraction, before a final splashdown drop back into the catacombs river. This concept is based on some real Roman churches that I visited, specifically the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano which is a 12th century church on top of a 4th century church on top of 1st century Roman ruins that includes a Roman cult temple. Literal layers of history the deeper you go, and somewhere that Indiana Jones would definitely explore.

Across the street is a pizzeria and retail, and the other side is an obelisk and the Roman Forum park, gently sloping up to the massive walls, blocking Star Wars. There is another smaller church building along the park, on the path leading to Star Wars. This is another entrance to the catacombs, but this is more of an exploration walk through attraction where you can explore a little area built under the sloping hill. The final building on the other side of the park holds a fine dining restaurant on the second floor, looking over the land, and an attraction on the ground floor set in an Antiquities museum. This is more of an animatronics and special effects show where we find some mysterious artifacts that Dr. Jones has recently found.

The last land is Walt Disney Studios and is the most diverse. I was a little unsure of how I wanted to go with this and what films to represent. I decided to do a single animation based area because so many of the animated films are already in the other park, and multiple individual areas based on the top live action films. The animation went in the Chinese Theater and attached interior space, which I think is a nice reminder of the central importance of the animated films to the success of the Disney company. Inside the interior land is a interior animated courtyard like the one in DCA, meet and greets, animation studios and interactive classes, and a new 360 degree version of Philharmagic, which uses the CircuMotion theater design.

For the other areas, I had to decide what films to represent. A look at the recent live action releases of the studio that are not Marvel or Lucas shows that the only thing that has shown real success is the live action classic animation films, so that was my direction. This was actually considered last time too, but it wasn't as definite that they were going to have success. I decided to set this up as basically a live action Fantasyland Forest, so the films needed to fit that feel. Also I wanted to do 3-4 lands now and leave room for 2-3 based on what finds success. So my picks: The Jungle Book because of its strong international success, Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid because of their success potential based on how loved the classics are, and for the last slot, I'm making a prediction with Robbin Hood, which is supposed to be in the same vein as Pirates of the Caribbean. I think all of those have the potential to be popular and enough and an interesting enough themed environment to warrant space in the land.

The main entrance from the Hub moves along a long forested path, with the animation building on the left and Toy Story Land on the right. Once past Toy Story, we are in Belle's Village, with her cottage on the left and the village on the right. The cottage is a meet and greet, the village holds a large Gaston's Tavern and retail, and beyond is the Castle sitting on the rocky hill. Paths lead over a stream and through the woods towards the rock entrances to the undergrounds of the castle. Inside is a version of Be Our Guest but in a Ballroom that is even more regal based on the film design, and a large traditional dark ride through the story of the film.

Paths continue to the next area and transition to the jungles of the Jungle Book. This is much more densely vegetated to transport us deep in the jungle. The main attraction is a large classic boat ride through the world of the film, including sets and mixed media scenes. There is also a chain swing ride themed as swinging vines and a retail location inside a ruined temple.

Next, around the bend of the path, is The Little Mermaid area. We cross a bridge and look out over the new lagoon with Eric's castle on the other side. Ahead is a fishing village style area with a full size sailing ship that can be explored. Aside the castle is the entrance into the attraction, which is a "trackless" suspended dark ride like my proposal for UP that is also similar to the Tony Baxter Little Mermaid attraction concept. The ride exits to a large under the sea post show area. Inside the expansion on the showbuilding is Ariel's underwater kingdom with interactive play space, meet and greet, and retail.

Last is the Forest of Nottingham, where guests find a small town square in the woods with a castle looming above. In the town is a Nottingham Tavern that is seedy and mysterious. The castle is the entrance to the ride, which is some kind of large action filled media ride, with carriage ride vehicles that explore the exciting world of Robbin Hood. Back in the forest is a ropes course attraction high above the forest floor. Again, this area is based on a movie that is years away and I can only speculate that it will be successful because of its comparison to the Pirates franchise.

And this area loops back to the Indiana Jones Rome area, completing the park.

There is also a new parade route, which is noted with the red dash on the plan. It is approximately the same length as the castle park routes, matching the Magic Kingdom route closest. It stays in the front half of the park where there are the best defined paths instead of the back area which is too densely vegetated for a parade to really work.

There is also extra room in front of the Chinese Theater for roll out stages like Hollywood Studios has done before. I think this is a better option that a permanent stage.

And finally, for the nightly event, there is infrastructure includes for both projection and limited fireworks. Towers are included in the Hollywood architecture to project on the full Chinese Theater facade and the entire height of the Tower of Terror, creating more space for the show to be seen from. There is a main fireworks launch on the Indy building and smaller side launches behind and to the side as well as to the side of the Tower of Terror. The main launch could handle 3" shells with minimal closed fallout area, basically just part of Rome and the rest would just shoot low level pyro effects that don't require large fallout. If really needed, a large launch site could be located behind the park, past the public space, but night shows are getting lighter on fireworks, so I do not think it is necessary. Low level and projection effects should be enough.

This plan brings the park up to having 29 attractions vs the current 16 or so. Amazingly there are only 7 attractions that are not substantially changed, so it is an addition of 22 attractions. Only 4 see absolutely no change: Tower of Terror, Ratatouille, and the two remaining rides of Toy Story Land. This is alot of change for this park that makes it a real top level themed environment. I am much happier with this plan.

So what do you think about the plan? Did I include the films you wanted? Any suggestions for those last few expansions? Let me know!