Sunday, June 11, 2017

Beastly Kingdom

Every time I have asked for suggestions on what to work on for future posts, I inevitably get the suggestion from multiple readers for Beastly Kingdom.

I always have said that I am putting it on the list, and I'll get to it when some inspiration comes to me. The truth is that I wasn't all that sure if I would ever really get to it because I was hesitant to make an attempt at something so iconic and frankly I wasn't sure how to do it and not seem like I was just copying the original design. I didn't have the mental strategy for how to design my own Beastly Kingdom instead of just redesigning the unbuilt plans. That was always a much less interesting challenge for me, so I wasn't sure how or if I would ever get to it.

But recently, I decided that this would be a good time for it now that Pandora is open, so I sat down to really think about what I wanted out of this land to see if I could make progress.

And, as you can see by this post, I figured something out. The key for me was when I thought about the hypothetical lands relationship to the core values of Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom may be essentially a park about animals, but the deeper message is one of conservation by way of animals. This is emphasized in all the original lands and even more in Pandora, where they could have gone in a completely different direction but doubled down on what makes Animal Kingdom. That was something I knew I needed to do here as well.

So now I faced the question of how to make mythical creatures fit the idea of conservation. Its not a clear solution at first, but when looking at lists of mythical creatures, I realized there was a path by what animals I included. I decided to exclusively focus on mythical animals that were thought to be real but were actually based on misunderstandings of real animals. That way, the land can tie into how we understand and mythologize the animals we have, and how the animals we fail to protect become a part of legend.

That list of legendary creatures helped me figure out a design strategy that made sense to me, and the land quickly came together. Ironically, its still a little similar to the original design, but I reached that point by way of my own process, so I see that as ok, and maybe a sign that the original would have followed a similar concept.

The land developed into two halves, though not the light vs dark concept of the original, but a geographic split between Medieval Europe and Ancient Greece, two of the common mythical settings.

Some thoughts about the attraction mix before I start. Because of the huge variety of subjects I could use, I wanted to do multiple attractions for each area. I also wanted to include an animal trail to complement the existing ones in other lands. I don't know if they would still build new animal trails now, but I like them and wanted to try to make them work. And I also wanted to try to include an IP in the same way as Lion King in Africa: in theme and with realistic detail on the outside, and true to the IP on the inside. And most of all, I wanted to make sure I didn't just do exactly what the original plan had.

The land begins with the bridge crossing the river, the existing dragon rocks to the right, foreshadowing whats coming. Through the trees, we can see a medieval castle straight ahead, up on a rocky base. We walk along a raised stone pathway through the forest, and if we look down, there is a moat of crocodiles below to the left. As we come closer to the castle though, we notice that is it not intact. Sections are crumbling and burnt away and constantly smoking, and most startlingly, there is an occasional small blast of flame and smoke coming out of an upper cave opening below the castle. The stone castle walls continue beyond, built up into the mountain side, which grows to be a small range in the distance. This is the central icon of the land and the main element of the medieval area, which has the bulk of the attractions.

First, just after crossing the main bridge, on the right is the entrance to the animal trail. The path slopes down and runs along the river, down to a lower level below the main path. The idea for the animals in this trail is to focus on animals that were either once thought to be a myth, animals that were the inspiration for mythical creatures, or animals that are just bizarre. Each exhibit includes educational information about the history of the animal and its mythical relationship plus conservation information. First is a Reptile house, themed as a stone lodge in the forest, which has a collection of odd snakes and reptiles. Next is a small habitat for the Platypus, which was thought to be a myth for many years. Following that is a large pool for a small group of Manatees, the original mermaids, which spills over into the river beyond. The adjacent stone building is used for animal care for the Manatees. The path then leads under the main walkway of the land and finds the pool of Crocodiles, a possible dragon inspiration. Next is a small grove of Okapi, another once mythical real animal. Finally, there is a habitat for Komodo Dragons along the rocky cliff side by the castle. The path leads out at the base of the castle after passing through the dragons cave.

The entrance to the main ride of the land is also just next to this, and enters into the north side of the castle mountain. The queue leads through the dungeons and caves of the destroyed castle and leads to a castle dock where we board large boats for a trip through the forest and caves. This is the same system as Pirates in Shanghai. The large and long ride takes us through a dark and mysterious but magical forest, passing unicorns (inspired by rhinoceros horns), centaurs (based on horses), and griffins (inspired by dinosaur bones), and eventually leading back into the castle caves where we meet the huge dragon who has destroyed and then taken over the castle. This would be a large figure that would shoot flames at us for daring to approach it, sending us back over a waterfall drop and the conclusion of the ride.

The ride exits on the south side of the castle, where there is also an entrance to an interior counter service restaurant, set in the burnt away great hall of the castle. Logically, this should serve grilled and roasted meats, right?

Next to the castle is a second walking trail attraction, but without real animals. This would be pretty similar to the unicorn trail from the original plan, just not as a maze. The idea is a exploration area where guests can learn about and find some real mythical creatures. The path includes a look into the show building forest, a close up encounter with a unicorn that you can greet and touch, a herd of centaurs in a clearing, and a finale exploration of the cave of a pair of griffins.

The next area and attraction is a bit of a transition between the two stylistic areas. From the path by the castle and the bridge over the lagoon, guests attention is drawn to a focal waterfall along he opposite side of the water. In front of this waterfall is an occasional eruption of splashes and bubbles, as if something large is swimming just underneath. The entrance to the attraction is just by the castle, by a small boathouse, and leads down to the waters edge and behind the waterfall. The attraction inside is a dry for wet suspended dark ride through the world of the sea, just like the attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea. Guests board primitive submersible vehicles, made of wood and leather, and journey underwater, passing mermaids (based on manatees), a fleet of hippocampuses (literally seahorses), many other exotic plants and fish, and finally the kraken (based on the giant squid). The ride exits on the Greek side of the lagoon.

The Ancient Greece area is smaller and has two attractions. Standing at the base of the castle and looking west, the most visible thing is two large stone feet, ruins of a an even larger statue that has fallen away. Behind is a low range of rock, water flowing down to a small pool that feeds into the main lagoon and river. But more iconically, right behind is the huge head of the statue, crashed into the stone. This is the home of Philoctetes, the trainer of Hercules, and the entrance to a Hercules dark ride. Like I said, the exterior and queue is fully real and in theme to this mythic world while the actual attraction has the more lighthearted cartoon style. This would be a classic dark ride through the trials of the hero, narrated by the Muses, and focusing on his interactions with mythical creatures, such as Pegasus, Phil, and the Hydra.

The rest of the area holds one final original attraction. This is a coaster on the scale of Big Thunder Mountain that explores a mountain inhabited by a cyclops group (which were inspired by dwarf elephant skulls). Very loosely based on the story of the Greek Hero Odysseus and his encounter with a cyclops, the coaster winds through the Greek hills before first encountering and then escaping from the huge creature. After an interior portion where this happens, the cars are launched straight out of the cave towards the river beyond and then wind their way back through the rockwork.

Beyond the attraction, along the river, is a large Greek boat, docked along the path. Also nearby is a Greek ruins shack that is a snack and drink location.

As for retail overall in the land, the main location is at the exit of the castle ride, plus a very small area in the caves of the underwater attraction and fully themed retail carts outside of the exits for Hercules and the Cyclops coaster.

The land would be able to transform a bit at night, focusing on the ruined castle. At night, by way of special lighting and other effects, it could be permanently ignited, glowing from the remaining embers of the fire created by the dragon inside. The water effects in the lagoon could also be joined by a variety of moving light sources under the water, showing creatures moving about.

This version of Beastly Kingdom is definitely different that what we know of the original, but I hope it has the same spirit and style plus a compatible tone with the rest of the park. After a year of not thinking I would be able to make something that I was happy with, this quite suddenly came to being and I think it is a success. 

That's not to say that what we got instead isn't also great for the park. Can't wait to see Pandora as it looks incredible and appears to fit in the park so well. So either way, I think Animal Kingdom is doing all right. 

So. Let me know your thoughts about Beastly Kingdom, this version and the original. What attractions from the original do you still wish I had included? Leave a comment and lets discuss what could have been great about the original, what you like about this concept, and even your thoughts about the land we got instead. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Disneyland's Tomorrowland: A New Vision

Tomorrowland is my favorite land in the castle style parks. Actually, let me rephrase that and be more honest. Tomorrowland is my favorite by potential of the theme. In actual practice, it has some issues that keep it from being the top. The issue that stands out to me, present in every single Tomorrowland/Discoveryland, is that there is just too much contradiction present from years of IP additions and a lack of singular vision. It may be Tomorrowland, but it does not reflect Tomorrow. As has been said many times before, building the future is hard in comparison to lands that predominately look to the past, so it is to an extent understandable. But that doesn't mean there can't be another try at it. 

So this plan, which is elaborated from the expansion plans I proposed for Disneyland last year, is my attempt at completely starting over with the land and developing a new identity for Tomorrowland, just like has been attempted in real life a couple times before. 

Instead of aliens and sci-fi or looking to the past, I decided to follow the model of what I see as the most successful attempt at building the future: EPCOT, with a particular focus on space. I wanted to follow a realistic but optimistic guiding principle of building a better future, even as we travel to new frontiers. 

I really see this as the most clear fulfillment of the original purpose of the land. The core childhood fantasy that defined the world of tomorrow has always been the fantasy of becoming an astronaut and going to space. This is the land where we look to the future and to the stars, always optimistic for a better tomorrow. So that was my core philosophy and guiding principle for the following design.

As you continue reading this post, it might be valuable to have some background music. So here's a playlist with a couple of tracks I put together that fit the style I imagine for the land. 

Before getting to the actual design, I want to start with the varied sources of inspiration.

One of the biggest inspirations for the subject, the tone, and the style of the land comes from the above series of NASA posters which show our universe as a series of travel destinations. These are so well designed and optimistic, suggesting a time where the universe is accessible and a part of human society. I like that idea for Tomorrowland. Specifically, I am using The Grand Tour to suggest the setting of the land. This Tomorrowland is a space travel station on Earth that is celebrating the alignment of the planets for the Grand Tour and inviting us guests to learn about and ultimately travel to space.

The next primary inspiration, like I mentioned, is EPCOT from the early years. The inspiration is less of the style but absolutely the tone and specifically the Horizons attraction. The realistic hard science approach of EPCOT stands is opposition to the fantasy style of many of the existing Tomorrowlands, but I am confident it could work. Especially because of the success of so many space science movies over the last few years. If entertaining, real science doesn't drive people away. So EPCOT and its attractions are a big element here. More on that later.

And finally, I have to mention the Tomorrowland movie. Though I don't reference it explicitly in the design of the land, again the style and philosophy are a big factor. Getting architecture specific, that means that the highly organic architecture of Santiago Calatrava is present in the inspiration imagery. Overall, the idea is clean and white, organic and sweeping, dense but open, and monumentally impressive. 

Now to the overall concept of the design.

Like mentioned, this is a futuristic space travel station on Earth where the optimistic ideals of space travel are idealized. There is no overly complicated story or definite setting besides the general theme of the future.

The land is divided into three districts. Future Tech at the entrance to the land, Future Life to the north of the land, and Future Frontiers to the south of the land. At the center, forming the thematic core of the land is a new Horizons attraction, which ties the ideas of the three districts together into a single concept.

The significant element of the renovation that needs to be mentioned first is the addition of a second level to the land in the form of an organic sweeping walkway that connects many of the existing buildings. There's a couple reasons for this addition. Logistically, existing Tomorrowland is tight and when it is crowded, it's not fun. The second level, and the decision to place some of the attraction entrances on the second level, is an attempt to spread some of the crowds. But aesthetically, I think there is something interesting about the visual density and kinetic value of two levels of pathways. There is density, but organized density, and the visual of guests walking above or below you suggests there is more to be seen. The upper level has a staircase and elevator tower on either end for access.

Future Tech is focused on how technology creates a better future and includes both real life and slightly fantastical examples of the cutting edge of science and technology.

This district starts at The Hub. The Astro Orbiter is removed from the front of the land and moved back to the central tower. So to replace it is a new fountain, called the Fountain of the Worlds, sitting at the same spot as the original Clock of the World. Behind, the Peoplemover track is adjusted. The central run is removed to allow for better crowd flow and the second level addition, but the track is adjusted to cut straight across the path from building to building, so it is still able to be a kinetically dynamic entrance element to the land. Ahead, the second level and the exterior glass elevator tower is visible. There are staircase access points in both the buildings on the left and right, where new occupiable second levels are constructed.

The Future Tech district has four attractions. To the left is a replacement for Buzz Lightyear, which does not fit in the theme. To the right is a replacement for Star Tours, which also does not fit theme. And above on the second level is the entrance to the new Peoplemover and the relocated Astro Orbiter.

Replacing Buzz is a dark ride based on Big Hero 6, which I believe has the same positive science and technology philosophy as my idea for the land. Like I have said before, I am not opposed to IPs if used properly. in my opinion, Big Hero 6 fits the setting and tone of the land, so it's perfectly ok here. The dark ride uses the same track and similar omnimover vehicles for a tour through the Big Hero group technology workshop, set up like the lab scene in the film. We tour through a series of labs, guided by Baymax, where each of the team members demonstrates some kind of futuristic technology they are working on, created with practical interactive effects. Things like electromagnetic levitation, high tech robotics, laser technology, and of course microbots are demonstrated in a fun and entertaining way. The main lab scene is open to both the accessible second level above, where the staircase comes down to the ground level of the lab, and a large curtain wall looking out to the main pathway. I want the crazy technology lab setting, filled with movie robots and lasers and experiments to be highly visible.

Across the main path is the replacement for Star Tours. Ideally, it should close as soon as Star Wars Land opens and the new attraction will retain the simulator system. To reflect the Future Tech concept, the new attraction shows the future of transportation in the form of an ultra high speed public transport train that gives a tour of the future world of tomorrow. The exterior is redressed as a transit station, with locations and times tickering by on update boards. The glass curtain wall looks into the waiting room queue with an exposed upper level mezzanine.

The trip take us through first the immediate area of Tomorrowland, expanding the scope of the land, and then high speed jumps across the country and world, showing us what could be the world of Tomorrow, like a version of London where a rocket dwarfs Big Ben. This is a little inspired by the dynamic train trip in the Tomorrowland movie and therefore passes some similar visions before expanding around the world. It could be possible to have multiple different itineraries just like the current version.

The upper level to the waiting room is the queue for the Peoplemover, reinforcing the transit theme of the building. The Peoplemover follows the same track, minus the central section that I already mentioned. It goes counterclockwise around the land, looking into many of the attractions and explaining the Districts organization and overall theme of the land.

The Astro Orbiter is now up on the upper level in its original position, and its queue is on the middle level below it. There is a new elevator tower built adjacent as well.

Next, the Future Life District is actually just existing attractions and locations in a new grouping. The concept of the district is the future of life on Earth, showing a high tech civilization that better lives on and with the natural world.

First, Nemo is removed from the Subs. The new attraction retains the subs and infrastructure, but now is dressed as high tech research vessels that explores life underwater while on a trip to SeaBase Pacific, an underwater futuristic community. The trip includes exotic fish, encounters with a whale and a giant squid, and ultimately a trip through the futuristic world of civilization underwater, passing by other high tech water crafts and divers. It utilizes the same screen technology as the existing version, plus more sets and limited real figures in SeaBase Pacific. Back outside, there is also a bridge built over the corner of the lagoon to resolve another bottleneck and allow for cool visual connections into the lagoon.

The Autopia is slightly shortened and there is an additional indoor scene built, but it is essentially the same. The Monorail is also rerouted slightly to stay out of Fantasyland. Both of these moves were done to open up an expansion plot for Fantasyland. The Train is also in this area, and also gets a bit of change. 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, like the rest of the land. 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 for this area, the Tomorrowland Terrace is renamed and the covered area is expanded into a new organic based restaurant. Reflecting foods grown on earth, the new menu would be an attempt at something healthier and more diverse. Just to the south, by the Astro Orbiter, is an outdoor garden area, showing many of these Earth grown foods.

The final district, Future Frontiers, is all about space travel, and is centered on the existing Space Mountain.

The 3D theater at the base of Space Mountain is removed and replaced with a better entrance way to Space Mountain, a new attraction, and a new post show area for the two attractions. Anchored by a giant modern 45' rocket (reminiscent of the original one from Tomorrowland), guests enter a new space flight concourse, where they can turn left to enter the existing queue system of Space Mountain, or go straight to enter the new attraction, Mission: Mars. The right leads to the post show from both attractions, which expands into the Starcade.

Mission: Mars is new iteration of the space flight simulator attraction, combing elements of Mission: Space and the original Mission to Mars. The attraction is based in a theater in the round underneath a spherical projection dome, but the theater is not stationary. The attraction uses a custom motion base system and has two identical theaters. The round theater seating platform is on a full motion base and can rotate and slightly pitch in both directions under the seamless projection dome.The entire base can also rotate along one horizontal axis 30° forward and 15° backward. The seats also recline to about 10 degrees so that you have a great view looking up into the dome. The diagrams below explain this a bit better.

This motion would allow for some slightly realistic show action to coordinate with the rocket flight and trip through space. Guests launch from the Tomorrowland Spaceport, stop off at a massive Space Station, showing life in space, and then rocket on to Mars and land at a station right above the Red Planet. The spinning motion of the theater during launch would simulate minor g forces of launch and flight, and the pitch would be able to simulate some interesting floating through space, disorienting your true gravity. Here's a video showing how the theater could move.

The post show from both attractions would be set in a Space Station and feature astronaut games and panoramas looking out to the alien world.

Rocket Rods Pizza Port next door is renamed and redressed to fit in with the Space Port look and theme.

Finally, the attraction at the center between the three districts is a new version of Horizons that ties themes from all three areas together into one vision of the future. Occupying the entirety of the former carousel building, it can be a pretty large attraction. The entrance is on the upper level, and on the lower level, there is a small home of the future style walk through, where you get to actually step into one of the sets along the ride path.

That describes the complete attraction vision for the land. But text doesn't really convey the visual style that I have in mind. So I decided to built it. The whole land. That's why this post took extra long. Enjoy the design below, ending with a pretty exciting flythrough of the land.

So that is my Tomorrowland. I am really happy with it and hope you do too. 

Let me know what you think! And I would really appreciate any kind of sharing! 

Tomorrowland Architecture Image Credits
1. The Octopian
2. All Ears
3. Disney by Mark
4. and 5. Google Maps

Tomorrow World Transit Image Credits
1. Daily Mail
2. Londontopia
3. Futuristic News

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Top 10 Theme Park Design Books

So I have a pretty extensive theme park book collection. I am sure that many of you have some kind of collection as well since we are lucky that so many good books have been released in the last decade. Amazingly, theme park design books are actually a popular genre of large format books, with a few good new ones just about every year, covering basically everything to do with Disney parks. Imagineering as a topic, each individual resort, books by famous Imagineers, books on individual disciplines, and collections of art are all widely represented.

And I have a lot of them. Books like this are really my primary collection, which I enjoy because the books have real use and value. They are great sources of information and inspiration for how theme parks are designed.

So this week, I want to start a potential series of Top lists by sharing my favorite theme park design books with you.

These are my Top 10.

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making Magic Real

I'm starting here with one of the first of the now popular genre of theme park design books, and possibly one of the best. This is organized along the design process, from inspiration to construction and includes literally hundreds of great photos and pieces of concept art that you may have never seen before. This is the book that starts it all and really reveals in detail how Imagineering works. Just looking at all the images in detail can take hours, plus the text is incredibly informative. 

This was the first book about Imagineering that I had and likely the first to make me aware that designing theme parks was something you could actually do. So I guess this books a little important to how you are reading this.

Definitely worth having if you want to know more about the general idea of Imagineering. There appear to be some used versions on Amazon for ok prices. A great book to start with.

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real

And then came the equally great sequel. Since this is much more recent, it is able to expand on how Imagineering has changed over the years with new technology, new rides, and new parks. This one is instead organized into the theory of design and the tools of design, but still covers the same expanse of topics with all new photos and art. Especially great is all the art and photos of the more recent international parks, including everything before Shanghai. A lot of this stuff I had never seen before.

This is another great general overview kind of book. If you want to start a collection, these two books are where to start because of their availability and their look at the entirety of Imagineering's projects and processes.

And this one is still available on Amazon for a good price, so a perfect place to start. 

Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance

This book begins to look at the design of parks from a more theory heavy perspective, and therefore is much less of a picture book and more like a text book about theme park design. This is by far the most analytical of the books I have and takes a deep look into the architectural and planning design of the parks and the effects they have on the experience. Its thorough. But has great information if you want to have a better theoretical understanding of why the parks are designed like they are. 

This one is available used for good prices, but this wouldn't be my first suggestion for starting a collection. Pick this one up when your ready for a more involved look at the parks. And when you are ready for a long read. 

Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show

This is a smaller book but it makes the list because it was written by John Hench and shares a lot of his personal strategies about design along with a lot of his great art. Plus I am partial to all his work on Tomorrowland, and this is filled with those images. I also really appreciate that part of this comes to design from an art perspective, with chapters focusing on the art of visual storytelling and the art of color. By the portfolio of projects he left us, we know that he knew what he was talking about, so I see this as an especially valuable book. 

I believe there are two versions of this book, with varied price levels on the used market. If you can get it, its a great book, but if you can't, the more general Imagineering books are an acceptable substitute. 

Walt Disney's EPCOT: Creating the New World of Tomorrow

Moving on to the section of park specific books, this is the ultimate document of the design and construction of original EPCOT. With sections on each pavilion and country, this is filled with photos and art of how EPCOT was and should have been. There is so much stuff that I had never seen before in this book since I never saw original EPCOT.

Plus it is just incredible to see all the alternate concepts that never were. EPCOT by far had some of the best concept art used in the design of the park and a lot of it is in this book.

The only pitch this book needs is that if you love EPCOT, you need to see this book.

This book again has multiple versions. The two I have are one that is the thick complete book and one smaller condensed edition. There are used listings online for really good prices, but I don't know how to tell between the two versions because they have the same cover and title. The ISBN for the better version is 0-8109-0819-0 if that helps find it.

Disneyland Inside Story

The Disneyland specific book on my list is included for its photos of Disneyland construction and the early days of the park. It covers a good bit of Disney history, heavily focusing on the creation of the park and the years before Walt's death, ending in the mid 80's, where a chapter describes Tony Baxter as part of the new generation of Imagineers.

It's probably the best Disneyland general overview book you can get besides the famed and extremely expensive Nickle Tour book which I don't own. But that's ok, this still has an amazing collection of classic park photos.

This one you can get used for pretty good prices online and is worth it for the images and history lesson.

Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality

This is another very well known book that for a while was reaching crazy resale prices, but has returned with a second printing. This is the best book about Disneyland Paris and fantastically shows off the details and beauty of the park. There are hundreds and hundreds of photos of the Disneyland Park and the overall resort. 

The most amazing part about this book, and what makes this completely unique among the books here, is that it is a fan created and published book, not directly created by Disney like every other book here. It's an incredible feat and is worth getting if you want to see more about Disneyland Paris. 

The author and publisher put out a second printing for the 20th anniversary of the resort 5 years ago, and amazingly still has some copies for sale from his website here. Its a little expensive, but if its your kind of thing, it is worth the cost. And available in French and English editions. 

One Day at Disney

This book makes the list for me because I think it was the first time that I realized there were multiple Disney parks all around the world. This book, like the title suggests, shows the events of a single day around the world, at all 4 resorts that existed at the time. 

It is not as spectacular as some of the other books here, but I found it incredibly cool to see the parks around the world and more interestingly see a look into how they work. Since its one day around the world, it includes pictures of how the parks and cleaned and maintained over night, which I found really cool. There's some great candid photos in the book as the focus of the book is not really the image of the parks but how guests and cast members use the parks. So its a good contrast to the architecture heavy books around this. 

This book seems to be a bit more expensive online than I would say it is worth, but if you see a deal, its a pretty neat and unique book especially if you are interested in the logistics of the world wide Disney operation.

Building a Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture

This book is here because of my specific background as an architect. There's some good information about the general design of the parks from an architectural perspective. But way more interestingly, the parks are only about 1/4 of the book, with the rest about nearly everything else Disney touches. Hotels worldwide, Disney corporate offices, the Town of Celebration, Downtown Disney, Theaters, and even the Cruise Line are covered, though the majority really is the hotels.

There's a lot of great images of all the hotels with good theory commentary about how they were designed. It definitely was written for readers who can understand and appreciate the architectural design practice of the included projects but the images are plenty if that isn't for you. 

This is yet another book with multiple versions. The one above is more recent and includes more recent projects. Between the two versions, there are a huge variety of prices online. I have to laugh that currently Amazon has listings for both at less than $30 AND over $1,000 simultaneously. If the great pictures of the hotels and resorts or the architectural theory are your interest, this book is probably worth it for the right price.

Maps of the Disney Parks
And last, the most recent of the books in my collection, and maybe the most specialized. This book has an assortment of maps, art, and concept pieces of all the parks around the world. Maps, as I am sure you can tell by reading here, are my kind of thing, so I was definitely into this book just from the name. 

The best part of this book is just the sheer amount of high res concept pieces there are on alternate versions of the Disney parks we know today. Organized by each park and including Shanghai, this gives new information about basically every park. If you like maps, this is your book. 

It's just less than a year old, so you should have no problem finding this one. 

Last, two special mentions that I did not include. The Art of Disneyland and Art of Walt Disney World books are really great collections of concept art for both resorts. They are both extensive and show a lot of stuff that is not found in any other book. They are really among my favorites, but I didn't include them because they are both out of print and therefore really expensive on the resale market, at least $200 or so. Everything else I listed above should be quite a bit cheaper than that. If you can get these and like concept art, they are worth it. 

So that's my Top 10 Theme Park books. Just a small part of my collection, but some great pieces. 

So, how many of these do you own? What are some of your favorite pieces of you collection? Let me know with a comment and we can talk books!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Islands of Adventure Park Plan v2

This month brings an updated version of the Islands of Adventure park plan that I posted just about a year ago.

This, along with the two Paris park plan revisions posted in the last few months, begins in earnest the effort to publish updated versions of many of the existing park plans from the first year of the blog. So that means that thought is starting to go into revisions to the four Walt Disney World parks and possibly minor revisions to the Disneyland parks from last summer. These are some of the most popular posts for a reason, so I want to keep them current in regards to real life developments and just changing ideas. I think I have some good ideas going, so they should be good posts.

And to start, I return to Islands of Adventure, a really fantastic park in its current state that has a lot of expansion potential.

First, a bit of theory that guided my planning. This is somewhat repeated from the original plan, but it all still holds true.

Islands of Adventure was originally designed with a really unique theme and organization of a ring of separated "islands" based on literary property genres, tied together with the conceit of an entry port where the residents of all the islands intermingle. That is a pretty well defined concept that almost technically still holds true so many years later. That's unique among theme parks, where generally the theme and organization dilutes over time. It was finally broken with Reign of Kong just last year, but I'm kind of ignoring that.

The other unique thing about this park is just how much of it can be replaced right now. Each land has at least one expansion area, and two whole lands could be entirely replaced right now for the better of the park. That's a lot to work with.

So with these possibilities, I had some personal goals. Overall, I wanted to maintain the original concept and structure because of how well it was originally defined.

First, I wanted to make sure to keep distinctly divided islands. Some of the island transitions had existing water barriers, but some did not, so I want to make it so that guests always cross water to travel between islands. Logically, that makes sense to repeat the bridge transition.

And second, in my choice of additions, I stuck to the literary source theme and actually began to set up a structure of literary relationships between islands. This is something that isn’t supposed to really be evident, but helps me, the planner, understand how the park is structured.

The situation of the park presented me with two major holes on opposite sides of the park, surrounded by established lands. In general terms, the left is action/sci-fi comic books, a void, and then sci-fi/thriller fiction. The right is whimsical fantasy children’s fiction, another void, and then contemporary high fantasy fiction. The left is adventure, the right is fantasy. I attempted to keep these trends with my selections. Additionally, I knew realistically that nothing would be added to this park if it was also not based on a film property, so that further limited my possibilities.

But still, these goals are a great place to start and I think my plan successfully expands the park with the original intent intact.

And now, walk through the park starting at the entrance.

No changes to Port of Entry, besides adding prop and text references to the characters of the new lands. This is already a great entry land, so no need to try to improve it.

However, there is an ideological expansion to the land across the lagoon. I always found it odd and unfilfilling that the Jurassic Park Discovery Center acted as the practical weenie for the main entrance corridor. It felt off to me to base it on a single land and it wasnt as grand or impressive as it could be. So, just like in my last version of this plan, I decided to include a new individual island across the lagoon to provide for the view terminus of Port of Entry. Aligning with the literary theme, the island holds The Library, a large structure with an impressive facade that is a cross between the eclectic Mediterranean style of Port of Entry and a more traditional Beaux-Arts Library, like the New York Public Library. It is meant to fit in with the style and view of this entry land, but also be able to be its own thing. The idea is that The Library has always been there, and that over time, the beloved stories that emerged from it populated the Islands of the park to create what we have today.

The interior therefore includes a grand entry hall with references to the books that created the park, a large retail space that is designed as the book stacks, a counter service resturant with outdoor patio on the right side, and a second level table service restaurant that looks back out over the lagoon. The book stacks retail would be dressed as if the elements of each story began to grow out of the bookcases, and now the themed merchandise specific to each land has filled in the space.

This concept of adding this neutral land may be a bit impractical, but I like the idea with respect to the thematic concept and the balance of the park. It would create some nice symmetry and finally give the park an in-park icon to pair with the lighthouse.

Back to the front of the park, the land next to Port of Entry, Marvel Super Hero Island, gets just a few alterations and is the same concept from my original Islands plan, because I still think it is the best concept for the plan.

The architectural style of the land is updated to reflect a more realistic city, so the oversized comic book characters are removed and some actual materials replace cartoon materials. It is still clearly a comic book land, but just with a higher level of detail to help match the quality of the hyper realistic areas of the rest of the park. This is a move throughout the park. The Wizarding World lands have set a new benchmark for thematic detail in this park and resort. If possible, I think the rest of the land should attempt to follow suit to a lesser degree to make a more cohesive park.

The Hulk is slightly modified. The rear area of the attraction behind the land is rethemed and the track is partially enclosed. Trees and fa├žade flats surround the track area to reshape it into a city park that the Hulk speeds through. Then, after the brake run, the track dives into an enclosed building where the Hulk barrels through destroyed office and lab interiors in the dark. The final brake runs and track back to the station are enclosed and themed as the lab where the experiment went wrong. Again, this is a move to up the immersive quality of this area.

Replacing Storm Force and Fear Fall is a new large dark ride based on the X-Men family. The entrance is to the left of the dining location, which is also rethemed to the X-Men, and exits to the alley between attractions where there is also a permanent meet and greet building with Marvel heroes and villains, supplementing those that meet on the streets.

Next is the land replacing Toon Lagoon, which needed to be based on adventure literature, and also needed to be able to transition from city to jungle. After looking at a lot of possibilities, I decided on a land based on horror literature, because it can tie into the Universal Monsters Universe that is being created. I see this as the perfect fit for this park. Unfortunately, it is hard to design a land based on films that are years away from reality. I have no idea what the time period or visual style of the movies will be. All I know is that the lineup will include the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Van Helsing, which are the properties I ultimately selected because I could realistically see them being set in similar environments. That is why I declined to choose the new Mummy movie, because desert just would not be as successful a transition between lands.

Guests cross a new water way separating the two lands and enter a forested modern Eastern European village area. I'm just assuming they will keep the traditional Eastern European setting for these kinds of monster movies, but alternately, this area could be any kind of village. Three of the retail and dining buildings from Toon Lagoon are salvaged and redressed as the village with expansive changes to the facades and interiors. To the left, on a rocky plinth, is a stone castle that sits overlooking the village. Inside is the main Dracula vs Van Helsing attraction, a trackless Haunted Mansion style attraction that is heavy on animatronics and special effects. The main village is made of retail and dining facades as well as a small attraction for the Invisible Man. An interactive special effects walk through show lets us meet the Invisible Man in person as the props of the room come to life. This would take advantage of Musion effects, live actors, and a lot of automated effects.

The rafts attraction remains, but is rethemed. The reason I did not remove it like the other attractions of the land is because I think it is too highly integrated into the waters edge. Also, I think it could be reworked into an attraction for the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The village transitions to a jungle expedition camp, so the vegetation of the area around the rafts is built up. The existing queue buildings and infrastructure are maintained and rethemed. The actual track is the same but more of it is enclosed in rockwork caves so that there can be more indoor show scenes for encounters with the Creature. The ship playground is removed as well. The final lift building is reworked as a cave and a new indoor section after the splashdown features the final scare from the Creature before unload.

The third and final area replaces Ripsaw Falls. The heavily wooded area is the home of the Wolfman and a wooden coaster. The queues travel through a gypsy camp in the woods. The coaster is mostly indoors, where is speedily weaves through the forest, avoiding the attack of the Wolfman, and ending with an outdoor loop by the main path.

These predictions and design may prove to be completely inaccurate to the character of the final films, but these are my best guess for an area that would work in Islands of Adventure.

Jurassic Park is next. This version is completely different that the first Islands plan, just because I decided that the popularity of the Jurassic franchise warrants something big and better. Therefore, this plan proposes the removal of Jurassic River Adventure, Camp Jurassic, the Discovery Center, and most of the intermediate buildings. Basically, just Thunder Falls Terrace remains intact. I removed all this because I decided that I could get more attractions and therefore more capacity and more impactful experiences in the same amount of land. The River Adventure too up a huge amount of land, and you will see that I subbed that out for two attractions, so I am happy with the decision.

Side note about Kong: it's incompatibility with the franchise and the literary model put me in a difficult place to decide what to do about it. At one point, I considered not including it as a hypothetical situation, or maybe retheming it to Jurassic Park, but I decided to most realistically let it be, but separate it from the main land and let it kind of just be its own thing on its own island. So Skull Island exists as an unofficial island, with a water transition to both other lands. Best I could do.

The land of Camp Jurassic is basically replaced by a shifted path and Jurassic Park gate, so that Kong can be isolated. This leads right to the clearing ahead of Thunder Falls Terrace, just as now, and past that is a similar body of water with a boat flume runout. Right is the path through the jungle, but a new Discovery Center is visible straight ahead. Also visible is three different transportation system attractions, all winding their way through the land.

On the right side is a new suspended family coaster, replacing Pteranodon Flyers, but using basically the same queue and load building, because it is well ingrained into some nice rockwork. This would be not just a kids ride, but a longer and higher capacity family friendly coaster that windows over the right side of the land. It's still short, but with larger vehicles, it would at least have a reasonable capacity.

Also on this right side, in order left to right, is a mini Camp Jurassic, a Raptor meet and greet like they have now, and a Dino Encounter pavilion, where you can seen an animatronic dinosaur up close.

The left side is the main attraction, a very large boat ride. I had a unique idea to split the ride into two buildings, with an outdoor segment in the middle. The dinosaur scenes are always going to look better inside because the figures can be better maintained, but I definitely wanted to keep an outdoor element. It loads outside in a similar building to the existing, and into similar boats to the existing. But then the interior showscenes are simulated jungle, not industrial space like the current ride. There, we have better encounters with dinosaur figures and the expanse of the park is increased with projected vistas over the valley. The transition outdoor segment leads us into the second half, where things eventually get darker. A more prolonged and intense encounter with a T Rex (or similar large terrifying dino) leads us over a waterfall. I think the value of the T Rex encounter isnt in passing it quickly, but in staring it down eye to eye, so I would like this to be a longer moment. The waterfall leads to a splashdown in the outdoor lagoon, though it is a more reasonable and minimal fall, like those in Pirates of the Carribean, not the huge fall there now.

The Discovery Center straight ahead is the load for the last attraction, an overhead peoplemover style ride that uses Gyrosphere bubbles to ride along the track. It loads on the upper floor of the Center, above the great hall, and then takes a loop first through the area of the coaster, passing the raptors, then crosses the path and goes over the river ride, and finally into the same two showbuildings. The idea is to get a second view into those scenes as well as some individual scenes for this attraction. The Discovery Center also has a small counter service location, with patio seating under large canopies.

The path then leads under a second Jurassic Gate and to the rear courtyard of The Library.

Next is the Wizarding World, where there are two big additions. First, to the left of the castle and Forbidden Journey is a Great Hall dining experience. The path along the greenhouses lead to a cave entrance that is themed to be the side entrance to the kitchens. Inside, by magic, we are transported to the entrance hall of the castle, and then into one of two Great Hall dining rooms. I included two so as to allow for good capacity and a high amounts of theme. The dining rooms are on the second floor, above the kitchens. Magical effects above entertain during the family style meal.

The other significant change to the land is the complete removal of Dueling Dragons. Even if it is a good coaster, it does not match the high realism of the land, and there are better uses of the land. This area becomes an expansion of Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest. A second backstreet of Hogsmeade has more retail and relieves congestion on the main street. It is on this side street that the first of the new attractions is located.

I originally decided that I wanted to add in a dark ride through the environment of the castle, since Forbidden Journey is so quick and expansive. But then I had to do some logical planning with the rules of Harry Potter to understand how I could explain a ride through the castle. Luckily, it worked out perfectly by taking advantage of the secret tunnels out of the castle. There are multiple that we don't know where they end, but the Weasley twins know each and every one. The conceit of this attraction is that the twins are operating an unofficial tour of the castle, sneaking guests in through a secret tunnel from a shop in Hogsmead, and then guiding us through many of the more interesting spaces of the castle. This would be a true dark ride with all physical sets and a lot of effects.

Back by Hagrid's Cottage is the entrance and queue for the new Forbidden Forest attraction. This area is the stables for the variety of animals he cares for. The queues wind through the roughly constructed paths and stables to the load building, which is the Thestral stable. This is nearly perfect, because it means that the ride can use autonomous vehicles but still be in theme. The ride is a carriage ride through the magical and terrifying forest, beginning with an outdoor section and then inside the show building. The scenes inside are heavily based on animatronics and environmental special effects. This is a much more family friendly attraction than Forbidden Journey.

Near the village is a new larger permanent arena venue for the Triwizard Rally. Also, in the next land, the theater is removed, so the forest surrounding the train station is grown so that the land is better isolated.

The next land is the second void. I like Lost Continent, but as it has been shrunk, its lost effectiveness and the remaining attractions are lower quality. This new land needed to align with the fantasy literature theme of this side. I decided to look through future film releases by the studios that Universal often work with. After some searching, I found the perfect option. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will be released by Warner Brothers this summer, and is meant to be the start of a franchise. This fantasy history property fits perfectly. Now there is a good chance this will flop and the franchise hopes will die. But I'll reconsider the land once that happens, though I don't see as obvious of a future film for this area. Oh well.

I removed all the attractions and buildings of this land except for Mythos. The land is small, so I decided on one main attraction. Looking at the attraction types at the resort, I saw that a large scale boat ride was missing (except for the Jurassic Park boat ride I added, but that is a bit different). Set behind a castle facade across an elevated bridge, the boat ride explores the action filled world of the Knights of the Round Table.

The main area of the land is set up as a Medieval village with small retail and dining around main town square. On the other side of the elevated bridge, there is a small area and stage for periodic knight shows, which would feature swordfighting and other showmanship skills.

Mythos is reworked into the location where Arthur found Excalibur, or some other location from the films. Again, this is all a guess based on my assumptions for the style and locations from the film, but from the trailer, I have a pretty good idea.

Last, Suess Landing only has minor changes. The One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish spinner is moved to where the play area is now. The expansion plot becomes Whoville with small retail buildings and an indoor family coaster/dark ride through the story of the Grinch. The mountain sits high above the land.

The park day culminates in a new fireworks and media show on the lagoon. I believe that the park was designed for this all along because each land features existing viewing areas on the water edge. Like other 360 degree shows, it would feature mainly low level pyro launched from a barge at the center of the lagoon as well as fountain effects. I drew in a 360 degree fountain screen, which could be used to cool effect.

That completes this updated version of this park. Overall, it adds or changes 11 attractions and expands every land substantially. And from the last version of this plan, one entire land is a different concept, and the execution of the concepts for three other lands moderately changed. I think it is a much better overall vision and I am happy with the result. 

Let me know what you like or don't like about it. And suggest an alternate to the King Arthur land in case that soon proves unrealistic. I would love to hear your ideas about a different direction for this land. 

Next month is what I meant to have this month, a detailed plan for my new Tomorrowland at Disneyland. I put a lot of work into it, but needed more time, so I moved this up instead. Tomorrowland is going to be a really good one, with a lot of design for the overall land plus one new attraction design. 

Check back soon and follow on Twitter to keep up. Thanks for reading! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Weekend at Walt Disney World without Visiting the Parks: A Quick Trip Report

Last weekend, I spent 3 days at the Walt Disney World Resort and I never stepped foot in a theme park. However, I still had a full and eventful weekend, including some significant Disney events, so I decided to write a quick trip report to share some thoughts.

If you follow me on Twitter (and you should!), I tweeted all weekend about what I was doing, so this is going to be an expansion of that.

So if I wasn't there for the theme parks, what was I there for? Well it actually happened to be a complete coincidence. Aside from my interest in theme parks, I am also a baseball fan, specifically the Braves. And the Braves just happen to play their Spring Training games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. And it worked out that this year, I could go spend a weekend watching some Spring Training Games. So that led me to a weekend in Orlando with no plans to go into the parks, because my days were all busy at the games.

But the two nights I had in Orlando let me do a few cool Disney things that I want to mention and share some thoughts about.

So this quick trip report/thoughts from places comes in 4 parts: ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney Springs, the Polynesian, and Celebration Florida.

I start with ESPN Wide World of Sports (which I will now call EWWoS since its shorter) since it was the real reason to be there for the weekend. I've been to WDW 6 or 7 times before this and never visited EWWoS before because, well, if your not there for a sports event, there's not much of a draw. However, it is much nicer that I anticipated and really enjoyed the days spent there. So some thoughts below.

First, it is a surprisingly huge complex. I already knew that since I love looking at maps, but it was still impressive to be there. The vista of full soccer fields made EPCOT look small in comparison. Ok not really, but you get the idea. And its only getting bigger with the addition of the huge multisport gym they are building. That thing looks massive, which is has to be if it is in fact going to replace the Indy Arena for Cheer leading events. That place is only going to bring more youth groups in. Which is my next point.

For a place that previously I and most Disney fans have never visited, it was pretty crowded. Yes, it was a weekend in the Spring Break period and each day had a Spring Training game, but I was impressed with the draw. A lot of youth teams, a lot of fans, a good diversity of types of guests that I didn't exactly expect for EWWoS. In trips in my youth, we always stayed at the All Stars, where a lot of the youth teams stayed, but this definitely looked like even more of them. They could probably do a whole hotel for youth teams at this point to be honest. (Side thought: why have they not actually done that and placed it on the EWWoS grounds? I'm positive that place would be popular.)

And it makes sense because my last point is that EWWoS is actually a really nice and well maintained place that is obviously top tier for organized sports complexes. Where the function of the complex could have existed without any kind of style or theme, the existing buildings all shared a nice coastal Floridian/Spanish style that unified it clearly. Spanish tile roofs, tile accents, open breezeways, and a lot of yellow stucco. Design wise, the entry corridor into the central square of the complex had a great symmetry and sequence that I really appreciated. The three major buildings have similarly structured facades with the fourth side open to the vista over the fields so it really feels like the heart of the complex. Everything is happening here. It's obvious standing in the center that similar levels of thought as the theme parks were put into the design of this complex. I have doubts looking at the rendering of the new arena that it will match, but its a ways outside of the center, so that may be ok. The one restaurant was passable for Disney and conveniently used the the puck ordering and deliver to table method, which was cool. Also, it was incredibly impressive how many cast members were staffed here. Remind you that Disney is a huge place past the parks.

Overall, EWWoS is a nice place. I wouldn't visit if I wasn't there for an event, but if you have a reason to go, do it and experience a bit of outside the park Disney.

Next is the main thing to discuss. This was my first visit to Disney Springs. Last time I was there was before construction had started and before it was even going to be Hyperion Wharf I think. So I was excited to see so much change. Overall, just like EWWoS, I loved it.

There were so many more people than I ever saw at Downtown Disney and so much outdoor activity. Again, it was Spring Break time, but this was obviously the place to be, and the place I would come to regularly if I was a nearby local. It was so crowded that the garages were even full, so we had to park at the post modern icon that is Team Disney and cross the bridge. Immediately entering, we saw a group performing and saw 4 or 5 more over the night, which added a lot to the environment.

The goal of the night was mainly to explore all the additions that I had never seen and eat dinner. Out of the dozens of options, we went with Homecoming (or Homecomin' but that name just seems weird). Recommend the fried chicken sandwich or the Hamilton burger. Definitely enjoyed the meal and I have a list of 4 or 5 more places that I wish I could have tried.

With respect to the design, there were some positives and some things I was confused about. I'll go district by district.

On the West Side, I really liked the look of the "highline" elements, but really really really wished they were more expansive and accessible. That corridor was packed and a second level could have done so much, plus the views would be awesome. The food truck park looks to be a much better use of that area than just grass, so I like that addition. And it was just a little sad to see Disney Quest basically abandoned down at the end of the street. Good memories from that place, but it should have closed a while ago. Replacing it with NBA City makes no sense to me. Its a large area, and with the expansion areas past the Cirque theater, I could imagine this would be the prime area for a final phase of expansion. Just seems like something better could go there. Overall, the brightness and compactness of this area gives it a pretty consistent urban character that contrasts nicely with the other districts, but I think it could use more to refine this character. Still, good area.

The Landing I think is the best and most consistent area. The design is eclectic and includes a lot of different kinds of locations, but it makes sense as a put together urban district that organically grew around the spring. This area also has the strongest collection of food locations on the entire property I think, so that is impressive. This would be the area I would spend time in. 

The Town Center however is the area I was most confused by, but that might just be because it reminds me a lot of a mall back in my home town. I understand the Spanish revival inspired architecture ties into the story, but the generic European architecture is kind of the trend in mall style right now, and the corridors seemed so overly formal and planned compared to the organic Landing, so it definitely felt like a fake mall. This makes sense though. The Landing was built around a lot of existing buildings and the Town Center was all new. It is still a super nice mall, but feels like a mall. In comparison, the market hall entrance area by Planet Hollywood seemed much more organic and real. Speaking of Planet Hollywood. I don't hate it, but really wish it could look more like a planetarium. It needs more than a grey dome and a lot of lights. I think it could be a super cool icon of the whole Springs if a little more exterior theme was applied. Like add something to the tower. Hope that happens eventually.

One thought about the combined area of the Landing and Town Center. It was totally confusing to walk around and stay oriented. I have a good sense or direction and knew the expansion already, but I could get lost momentarily, so I'm sure new visitors would get completely lost. Compare it to the other two districts. Both are really just a single path, with stores on either side and there is no way to get lost. At first, approaching this from the theme park design ideology, it doesn't make any sense. In a park, you want people to be able to find their way around. But if you think about encouraging shopping and spending, this actually makes sense, so I'll go with it. And it seemed to distribute crowds much better than the single path districts, which were packed. Interesting planning theory really.

Anyway, to complete the Springs, the Marketplace seemed to me to be basically the same as last time I was there, though I appreciated the new bridge that completed the loop. The architecture in this area always was pretty consistent to start, so it still works well. 

Here, I stop for my only comment about the actual shopping at Disney Springs. The favorite shop was the Marketplace Co-op and Twenty Eight and Main because of their awesome collection of parks related products that are actually understated and wearable. So much of the mainstream stuff is so loud and overtly Disney, so I loved all the shirts and home goods that are subtly based on the parks. Though I almost bought a bunch of things, I left with just one purchase: the monorail socks. Couldn't pass up Disney selling nostalgia. Also, I can't believe they managed to make World of Disney bigger than it already was. How is that store possible. 

Anyway, overall I think Disney Springs is an infinite improvement over Downtown Disney and its the kind of place I would definitely visit repeatedly. 

Next is a shorter part. Even though we were not going to the parks, there was a suggestion if we could find a way to see fireworks. I realized that the perfect option was to go watch Wishes at the Polynesian. My point here is just to let you know how cool of an option this is. The beach ended up being pretty packed with people, and the music is played and the view is pretty great. Nice to see Wishes one last time after years and years of seeing it at the parks. 

Also, about the Polynesian interior, since that is such as big subject. I don't think I ever saw the original, so I can't compare, but I like what is there now. Yeah the statue could be a bit bigger I guess but its nice. And I really like the light fixtures above. Those are perfect for the theme. 

I like the Polynesian. Nice place to visit to relax and see fireworks, regardless of what your doing in Orlando. 

And last, Celebration Florida. If you do not know what that is, Celebration is a planned community originally built by the Disney Company just south of the resort, during the time that Michael Eisner was a major patron of modern and experimental architecture. Now it is not connected to Disney in any way but is still a large and active little planned community. Another place I had never been, but it is actually a slightly frequently mentioned design in the architecture and planning industry, so I wanted to see it.

I was impressed by the small town idealism. It seriously reminded me of the Truman Show but in a good way because its obvious that this would be a great place to live if you could afford it. The downtown district by the lake is a great place to walk around if you have some free time. Look at the architecture, stop by one of the restaurants, like the Market Street Cafe, which looked like a diner inside, and appreciate just how sophisticated (and expensive) all the houses must be.

So I had a nice weekend at Walt Disney World without the parks but still had some cool Disney experiences. And those were just a few of the many similar things there at the resort, like all the other hotels, all the other restaurants, and the other outdoor recreation places. Really reminds you how big the resort really is. 

And that's the end. But let me know your thoughts about any of those 3 topics, or if you've done some other cool thing in the resort outside the parks. And follow on twitter so you can keep up with any other trips or events. 

Next post, next month, will be back to a design post, specifically a land and attraction in my version of Disneyland. Going to be a good one. Check back soon! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Disneyland Paris Park Plan v2

Just over 2 years ago, I posted an expansion plan for Disneyland Park Park, where I proposed a few major hypothetical changes to the already great park. And now today I have a version 2.0 that improves on that design.

In the original post, I discussed how much I love the existing park. I was only there a day, but that day left an impression. Frontierland has one of the best overall stories and themes of any land I've been to, Fantasyland is by far the most beautiful example of the type, Main Street is impeccably detailed and lifelike, Adventureland has one of my favorite exploratory areas, and the original Discoveryland aesthetic and concept is just the best ever. More discussion about why the park is great in the original post.

So with an expansion plan like this, the idea is not really to fix the existing park, but to add more to it that hopefully complements whats already there. There are really only a few places that this park can expand, so this plan is a little similar to the previous one. A few of the additions from last time are retained, and the rest of them are replaced with a new idea. So now we will talk a walk through the park, pointing out my proposals.

Just like last time, Main Street is completely unchanged. No way to improve that. Special plug for the great Arcades. Go explore those if your there.

The main area of Frontierland is also unchanged. Its great that the land has recently gotten some attention with the refurb of Big Thunder Railroad and the Rivers of America.

The area farther along the River, by the existing theater, is the first area I changed. When I visited, this area was completely empty because there really was no draw, so I feel like it could benefit from some permanent additions.

My proposal is an American National Park setting, similar in a way to the Camp Woodchuck additions to Tokyo Disneyland, but as a whole land that specifically features the Country Bears. The Bears own and operate the park as a vacation retreat for all their animal friends, so this land can thematically include the large catalog of animal based Disney properties. The setting and style is decisively North American with architecture based on the Yellowstone Lodge style.

The rustic redwood camp setting transitions as we pass through a denser forest just past the Big Thunder load building. Straight ahead through the brush is a sprawling fort in front the gentle stream. The fort, which is based on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail from DCA, is accessed to the left, where there is also the existing canoe dock, themed to fit in the land. The fort top offers the best view over the river and the land below.

Crossing the stream leads to the rest of the land. To the left is a version of Junkyard Jamboree, nestled along the river. The vehicles are ranger jeeps that have been repurposed into the thrilling attraction. Adjacent is the existing theater, where animal specific themed shows are presented. Something like Forest of Enchantment with a bit of a Country Bear National Park plot frame would be perfect for the area. The Cowboy Cookout building remains but is redressed as the rustic Camp Mess Hall and the interior and menu are adjusted to match. And finally, next to the train station, is the main attraction, a mid-scale musical dark ride. The building through the trees is a Park Lodge where we set off on a tour of the National Park, guides by the Country Bears themselves. This would be a musical adventure through a world of animals and plants, reflecting the adventure of the great outdoors. This is the same attraction I proposed for DCA.

The next change is up in the expansion area of Adventureland. Again, the main part of Adventureland is unchanged, except the Indiana Jones coaster is removed in favor of my proposed Indiana Jones ride in the Studios park. Replacing this and the expansion pad are two attractions, completing the loop back to the Pirates area. This area is all themed as an African jungle as opposed to the Caribbean and Arabian areas in the rest of the land.

The first is a concept for an indoor replacement for the Jungle Cruise idea. Last time, I tried an actual indoor Jungle Cruise, but I don't think that really works. So instead, here I am suggesting an indoor jeep exploration attraction that uses the Test Track/Radiator Springs ride system. That would allow for both slow attraction show scenes, passing similar gags as the Jungle Cruise, and more fast paced and rough exploration moments through the dangers of the jungle. It would be entirely indoors, unlike the other versions of this system. The load is in an open cave facing out into the land. Additionally, the train would look into the jungle for a quick moment on the back side of the show building, seeing the jeeps pass by.

The other attraction is a Tarzan themed family coaster, something lacking from this park. The two existing coasters are pretty intense, so I felt like something tamed down but still fun would be a good option. The entrance is at the base of a second fake treehouse for the land, this one much smaller, not explorable, and directly based on the ship built treehouse from Tarzan. Ship wreck fragments surround the area, as well as a series of canvas tents, left over from the events of the movie. We load on the upper level of the main tent, and then swiftly speed into the show building. First there are a series of show scenes through the world of Tarzan, Jane, and Turk, and then the coaster portion, which is mostly outside.

The other change to Adventureland is less of a change and more of a return to the original: The Pizza Outpost once again gets talking animatronic birds in the dining rooms, creating a facsimile of the Tiki Room.

Fantasyland has a few additions. The Frozen subland to the north that I proposed last time remains (attraction post here!) as well as the addition of a meet ans greet center in the open spots on the east side of the castle. Around the corner from Small World are two new dark rides.

I has a lot of internal debate for the theme of the first, using the plot across the parade path. But my decision came by realizing I should maintain the geographic distribution of Fantasyland. If you have not noticed, all the existing buildings are grouped by region, which makes a lot of sense for architectural consistency. British Tudor area to the far west, Germany on the west of the castle courtyard, France to the east, Scandinavia with my Frozen addition to the north, and Italian on the far east side, where my addition is. The Pizzeria Bella Notte is definitely a group of Italian styles. Unfortunately, there are no Italian Disney IPs. So I adapted to Mediterranean and decided to propose a Hercules dark ride. That's a property that is under utilized in the parks, so I decided it would be a great idea. The facade would be a Greek Marketplace, attempting to echo the Italian style across in any way possible. Inside is a very traditional musical dark ride, guided by the Muses.

And finally, I am proposing another dark ride in the expansion area outside the berm, anchored by a tall and spindly green beanstalk spanning over the train track. This is obviously a dark ride for the future film Gigantic. This film is based in Spain, also a Mediterranean locale, so I am hoping this could be a complementary style to the area. The entrance path leads under the stalk and the train track to a small village facade and the attraction inside. This would be a much larger dark ride, potentially trackless, through the world of the film. Since it is not out yet and we don't know much, that's as specific as I can be.

The last land, Discoveryland, might have the most changes, but again, not to change the original vision, but to restore it. The concept of the future as imagined by the past is such a cool and unique idea, but like all Tomorrowlands, it is too easy to melt away. I proposed Star Wars for the Studios park intentionally so that I could remove it from this park and go back to the Jules Verne inspired idea.

So first, Buzz Lightyear is removed because it clashes theme and style and replaced by a Time Machine inspired dark ride, using the same Omnimover track. The idea would be to present a fun and colorful journey through some significant times and settings of Europe.

Next, inside the Videopolis, a dark ride is added to align with the theme of the Cafe Hyperion. The bulk of the theater is converted to show space and there is a bit of an addition to the north, all holding a suspended dark ride telling the story of Around the World in 80 Days. Part of the theater remains as the seating for the restaurant, and the balloons load and float along above the seating before starting the adventure.

Space Mountain becomes its original concept and the Autopia is unchanged. Across the land, the current Les Mysteres du Nautilus walk through, which was fantastic but seemed unpopular, becomes the queue to a new attraction. The attraction is a Circumotion Theater attraction by Falcon’s Treehouse, which is a theater in the round simulator under a domed projection screen. Guests load into one of the two Nemo designed observation submarines for an exciting trip to the bottom of the sea. Above, we have a fantastic view into the wonder of the ocean before our required squid attack that jostles us around.

Last, the far east expansion area across the train track is used for another sub land that's a bit different from the rest of the land. Space travel is a common Tomrrowland/Discoveryland theme, but not exploring another planet, so I thought that could be an interesting area.

The existing simulator attraction, currently Star Tours, becomes the launch station of a fictional Verne inspired space agency. Maintaining the style of the rest of the land but a bit more modern, the simulator attraction launches us from Discoveryland straight to a base on Mars, which is the rest of the land. The exit of the ride takes us into a the interior of a futuristic but still Verne inspired base. This is a bit of a fantasy version of how we would travel to and live on Mars, so it matches the adventurous spirit and fun of the rest of the land. There is also a second entrance to the land behind Space Mountain.

Outside the domed buildings is the main area of the land, an enclosed red and rocky valley. Outside in the valley is a Jetpack spinner, like the one in Shanghai and a couple other buildings built into the landscape of the planet. The other main building across the valley is the entrance to the main new attraction, a rover attraction on the surface of Mars. The attraction would use a similar system to the EMVs of Indiana Jones, so that it could travel up and down elevations, drive over rough terrain, and have a relatively hidden track ahead. It would be a completely different vehicle modeled on real Mars rovers. The trip would start simple with exploration across the rough terrain, then journey into a lava tube and down into a undiscovered cave. Since this is a fantasy take on the concept, we ultimately encounter what appears to be an alien civilization underneath the planet.

Last, there is a final time travel show scene for the train, transitioning from the Discoveryland aesthetic back to Main Street.

And back to Main Street, and that is everything I have!

So that is my second version of Disneyland Paris Park. I think it is an improvement from the last version and I am glad that I got to try some things out.

Let me know what you think with a comment! And follow me on Twitter to keep up with progress. I tweeted a few quick polls during designing this to get quick feedback, so follow so you can catch those next time!

Not sure what will be next up for either the text post later this month or next months design post, but maybe I'll let you know soon.