Monday, October 9, 2017

Magic Kingdom 2017 Plan: A Realistic Approach

Today is Part 1 of my new plans for the Walt Disney World Resort. These are my for fun, hypothetical plans for how I would expand and improve the 4 parks of the Resort. I last published plans for these parks 2 and a half years ago, and a lot has changed. New attractions have opened and are coming soon to the parks, and I think I have improved as a designer as well. Plus the maps are a jump in quality.

For each of the parks, I am actually planning to do multiple versions that explore different goals. At the least, I plan to do a realistic plan that looks at what I think could really be done in the next few years and a dream buildout plan where I go full bluesky with no limits.



This first post is the realistic approach to the Magic Kingdom. The corresponding dream plan will follow in just a week or two. There's some elements from this plan that will be repeated there, but plenty of new as well. So let's jump into what I am proposing for the immediate future of the Magic Kingdom.

Including the real things that have been announced, this plan features 13 additions or changes on a variety of scales. In this plan, I really tried to focus on adding or refurbing, not removing attractions unless they are already on the decline. And these are all things that I think could really happen. 

First, outside the park, I show an expanded Monorail Station. The Monorails and the rest of the transportation system from the TTC to the park have somewhat of a capacity and reliability problem. An obvious solution is new Monorails that are larger and longer to hold more guests. I show the station being extended by one car length for this hypothetical updated system. Transportation is a huge focus right now and this seems like a great first step to work out this problem. 

Inside the park, the upcoming Main Street Theater is shown on the East Side Street. The theater shown is the same size and scale as the Hyperion in California Adventure. 

In the Hub, I have replaced the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant with a new Table Service/Club 33 style restaurant, called Walt's. The architecture is altered to place the restaurant in Main Street, not Tomorrowland. The facade is loosely inspired by the Saratoga Bottling Plant in Saratoga Springs, New York, the city that inspired the architecture style of the parks Main Street. The rooms are based on the history and lands of the park, and the main room overlooks the Hub with prime views to the castle. We know that the parks are wanting to add Club 33 style locations and more high value dining, and this is an unused prime space, so this seems like an obvious addition to me. 

Moving to Tomorrowland, the Tron ride is shown adjacent to Space Mountain. In this plan, I suggest refurbing the existing Autopia with electric vehicles, which would be an improvement in efficiency and long term cost, plus improve the surrounding environment by eliminating the gas smell and loud noise. This is something that seems like an obvious long term benefit if the Autopia is to existing long term. 

To replace the basically dead Stitch attraction, my plan proposes restoring the guest favorite Alien Encounter, reworked to be somewhere between the two versions on the intensity scale. I never saw the original, but I know it was popular and scary and would be celebrated if brought back. This would be a relatively easy restoration, because so much of the infrastructure is still intact between versions. 

The major addition to the land in my plan is a new dark ride based on Big Hero 6 to replace Carousel of Progress. This is the best remaining expansion space on this side of the park, so realistically, I think it will eventually be taken at the expense of the attraction currently there. I still believe the best plan for the Carousel of Progress is for it to be relocated to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The new dark ride could be based in a science showcase setting, which would fit into Tomorrowland well. Using the futuristic science and tech frame to get into the attraction, it could then expand into a more adventurous story about the Big Hero 6 team using the technology of the future. The science showcase area could also feature a new meet and greet with the team and Baymax, relocated from EPCOT. We know that there is the goal to add more IPs to the parks, and this is one that actually could fit well in Tomorrowland, so I think this is a great solution to expand the land. 

In Fantasyland, there is not much space for easy additions. Plus, it is still relatively fresh from the recent Fantasyland Forest Addition. The one addition I have in this plan is a new circus themed dark ride to the north of the land. This would only require shifting the backstage road and relocating the meet and greets in the current tent. The new attraction entrance and queue would be in that tent and the meet and greets would be in the unused small tent to the right. The ride would be a Mickey led trip through the wonders of the circus, with a variety of characters performing acts. This is of course based on the never realized dark ride developed for Disneyland. This is an easy expansion pad with a potential theme that we know has been developed, so I could see this happening successfully. 

Over in Liberty Square, The Hall of Presidents is refurbished into an attraction more like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The bigger addition is a Haunted Mansion themed restaurant. With the recent success of themed dining, and the huge popularity of Haunted Mansion, this seems like a completely obvious addition. I did not want to remove Columbia Harbor House for it however, so I placed it to the north of the Mansion along the river. A new path could be built along the water to the Mansion Side House, set next to the graveyard, where there is a perpetual haunted Dinner taking place. The expanded interactive crypts are removed for this to work. 

The only alteration in this plan to Frontierland is to refurb Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so it has the explosive finale from the Disneyland version. The development is already done, so I don't know why this hasn't been done. 

Last, Adventureland has the biggest addition in my proposed plan. To balance the big addition of Tron on the other side of the park, I suggest the addition of the Indiana Jones Adventure to the south expansion area of Adventureland. Again, since this is an existing attraction, the development would be minimized. And we know this is a popular and high capacity attraction that would bring the crowds and be highly successful. It would be the biggest investment of everything I have in this plan, but if done a few years after Tron, it would be a great addition to the park. The queue would weave along the Jungle Cruise river towards a temple in the jungle. Inside the cave queues would look into the jungle cruise river and feature many scenes similar to the Disneyland Version. Instead of going underneath the train tracks, here the path leads above to a camouflaged rocky bridge to the showbuilding. 

The final addition is a ropes course attraction like the one recently opened at Shanghai Disneyland. This would fit perfectly into the space adjacent to the Swiss Family Treehouse, and would be a low cost but super unique addition to the park. 

Below are some enlarged views of the additions to the park. 

Again, these are all things that I really think could happen in the next 5-10 years and would benefit the park. The dream plan that is being worked on and will be posted soon is quite a bit bigger and more ambitious. 



So while we wait for that next post, let me know what you think about this strategy of realistic and dream plans. And leave a comment about what in this plan do you most wish would really happen. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My EPCOT City Model

Here's a different kind of post.

So I like to build models. I learned to build models during my recent years in architecture school and over the 5 years, I built a lot of them. I had access to a laser cutter, so I was able to build some pretty cool things that I would never be able to do by hand. I realized before leaving that I needed to take advantage of that access and make something that I always wanted. 

So I lasercut and built a model of EPCOT City.




Why the original EPCOT City? Because besides being a legendary part of Disney history, it is a really fascinating example of urban planning theory and I often wonder if it would have actually worked. It's very closely related to the Garden City concept by Ebenezer Howard, a 19th century urban design philosophy of planned cities formed of concentric zones of use, all surrounded by a green belt. 

The overall concept was a melding of the benefits of town and country in one city. The urban core was the best of city life, and the surrounding radial parks, green belts, and suburbs allowed residents to escape and relax. The idea was that the city would be a limited size and then instead of growing, a new city would be developed nearby with all its own infrastructure and systems. The cities would then be linked into a network of equal and complimentary garden towns. A few garden cities were built, but they were never embraced on a large enough scale to really be tested or perfected, so the concept never spread.

This concept is astonishingly like at we know of the original EPCOT concept. Walt apparently looked into the research of Howard, so it is not surprising that he went this route. I believe his vision was for it to be a real scale, modern test case of his own urban city concept. It was an idealistic and utopian plan to make the perfect city, and the first was meant to be in Florida. But we know the history, and again, it has to remain just a theoretical concept. 

So that's the big reason why I am really interested in the original EPCOT City, aside from the original EPCOT Center park. It's fascinating architectural theory and a huge what if situation. 

As you know from this blog, I also like maps, so decided I wanted a map model of the original City concept. Imagineering Disney had built one a few years ago, and made a post about theirs, but that one was a bit more complicated and realistic than I wanted. I wanted something that really showcased the diagrammatic pattern of the city.




The process here was simple. I found a bunch of images online of the original city plan and various photos of the original model for reference. I then traced the plan in Autocad. There are minor discrepancies between many of the images I found online, so there's a bit of combining in some places, but what I drew is as true as I could get to the original concept.




Then I set up the plan with all the layers I would need to build the model and laser cut it. Assembly was quick as it is pretty small and formed of only a couple layers for the most of it.



The most detail is at the center of the city, with the massive enclosed core with multiple towers rising above. There's a few different versions of this area in the various images and models, but this is my interpretation of how it could have worked based on that information.




I've wondered if I should paint it, but I think I would ruin it. I think I prefer it as the diagrammatic model that shows the pattern of the city. That's the important part to me. Also, maybe I'll make a bigger and better version in the future. Tracing the file was actually the most involved part of this. The model now sits on the wall right above my desk as good inspiration. This is the only Disney related model that I have built so far, and now that I no longer have access to a laser cutter, it is a bit more difficult. But maybe there will be more one day.

What kinds of Disney related models would you want to build? I have a couple others in mind, but want to hear your thoughts.



Monday, August 7, 2017

D23 Site Plans


The D23 Expo a couple of weeks ago brought a lot of exciting announcements about the future additions to the Disney Parks. It also brought a lot of confusion about where some of these additions are going to go and how they would work with the existing elements of the parks. To figure this out, I decided to try to decipher the concept art pieces that they gave us and draw my interpretations of the site plans.

Even though there were a lot of announcements, there are only 3 that would include significant changes to the site plans of the existing parks: Ratatouille in France, The Main Street Theater, and TRON in Tomorrowland. The rest are either too unclear at this point, or using existing buildings.

All three of these plans are based on my interpretations of the concept art, comparisons to existing attractions, and the hints from some of the more knowledgeable posters on Disney forums. They are probably not completely accurate, but I think they are close. Or at least as close as the concept art will really be to reality.







For the addition to France, it is pretty clear by comparing the art to the existing building that this addition will go behind the existing pavilion, saving Impressions de France and the rest of the current country. If you need proof, look at the back of the pavilion in 3D in Google Maps, and then look at the art above. The access would be around the side of the pavilion, along the waterway, leading to a new tree lined street and courtyard. At least this is what the art show. It makes sense to make this back side nicer because it will be visible from the new Skyliner gondola system. 

The addition appears to include new facades along the backside of the existing pavilion, the main attraction, and some small covered pavilions on the opposite side of the courtyard. It looks like the attraction will not include the attached restaurant or the rest of the facade from the Paris original, which makes sense for the already dining dense pavilion. 

Other things of note: there is an existing electrical transformer pad right in the middle of this area, but I think that it will be incorporated into the new construction. That is the walled in rectangle just by the attraction entrance in my plan which I think will be disguised with facades to blend in. You can see a mass in the same space in the concept art. The covered path exit from the attraction passes just by it and to the larger covered pavilion, which could maybe be the gift shop. 

Also, the concept art shows the Eiffel Tower moving, but I don't think that is actually going to happen. It may look a little weird in this addition though because the perspective will be all off.








The Main Street Theater is a bit more straightforward. Although many suggested that this was replacing the Town Square Theater and Tony's, there have been enough people online say that this is not the case, and that it will go off of the Main Street bypass and connected to Center Street. 

I copied the same size theater as the Hyperion at California Adventure for this site plan and altered it to match the facade of the art. It fits perfectly with an access gate on either side. I also maintained the planted edge of the existing bypass but opened up Center Street to look towards the new theater facade. For crowd flow and access to the theater, I assume that this area will become a permanent pathway instead of a controlled bypass, but I don't know if that would also mean that we would get more substantial facades on the backside of the existing Main Street Buildings. I didn't draw them with new facades, but I could believe it. 








TRON in Tomorrowland is the largest of the new site plans. The entire showbuilding sits beyond the train tracks and fits into the remaining space by Space Mountain perfectly. The art shows the canopy spanning over the train tracks and sitting just next to the existing Speedway. The art actually shows the speedway with a different track layout, but I assumed that it was just an artistic mistake, not that the attraction was actually changing. 

It looks like escalators take guests up to a raised path above the train track and then into the attraction showbuilding, which is an exact copy of the one in Shanghai. The access to this new area is to the side of the arcade/exit building of Space Mountain, which really looks like it could be a pinch point to get to such a major E ticket, so it will be interesting to see how that works out. 





We will see in a couple years how close I am. Even though I feel like I matched the concept art as well as possible, there is a good chance that things will change in the 3+ years before these open, so the site plans may end up being completely different.

As for what posts are next, these site plans are the first step for me in drawing new baseplans for the Walt Disney World Resort parks. Amazingly, the existing plans that I have been using as the start for my designs were drawn about 7 years ago, so they are both out of date and incredibly inaccurate. I can now draw more detailed and true to life plans. So that is what I am working on right now, which will lead to new versions of all 4 parks sometime this fall. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sydney Disneyland Park - Collaboration with WDW Magic Imagineering Forums

This post is a little different from normal because this project is not solely my work.

Instead, this is a collaboration with a group on the WDWMagic.com Imagineering Forum, who decided to collaboratively design a new resort. Though I was not heavily involved with coming up with the concept, I shared some ideas as it went along and then offered to make a park plan for them once it was all done.

That is this post. This thread on the forum most succinctly describes the concept and all the individual attractions they designed along the way: http://forums.wdwmagic.com/threads/sydney-disneyland-resort-a-project-by-club-32.928583/

But since my process of turning their concept into a map changed a few things, I am going to give a brief text walk through to supplement what they have there. 

This is a traditional castle style park to start off the resort but there are some different lands here than other Magic Kingdom parks.



Instead of Main Street, there is Fantasia Gardens. Fantasia to some extent is an overarching concept in this park.

The entrance to the park is actually through a "concert hall" where the score is playing, leading us into the world of the film. The town square analogue is a roman forum, echoing the Greco-Roman scenes of Fantasia, but there are references to all of the segments around. Ahead, the path splits to two gardens on either side of the main corridor. And at the center of the park is a small lagoon with a continuous fountain show to the sounds of Fantasia, with an organic Fantasia themed castle beyond with a stage at the base.



Going clockwise, the first land is Pacific Wharf, based on a turn of the century San Francisco.


The Tower of Terror with an original ghostly story is the icon, sitting on a cliff over the waters edge, and city spreads out below it. It includes a Fisherman's Wharf area at the north of the land, with a walk through Museum of the Weird and some unique food options, a Chinatown area with an exciting dark ride and restaurant, a Barbary Coast street area with unique retail and a saloon, and a wild Lombard Street coaster that takes you on a street race just as an earthquake starts to hit the city. The force perspective streetscape with Lomdard Street winding down the middle forms a back berm to the land. The train around the park also passing through the scenes of this coaster.

A ferryboat makes a loop around the last portion of this land, Convict Island, and then drops you off on its dock. Based on the idea of Alcatraz, the island is an explorable play area with a lot of escape themed games and challenges. A cable car also runs through the middle of the land, and an abaondoned cable car by the wharf side barn has been turned into a taco car.



Next is Frontierland, which is a large land with a couple of different zones.


Starting at the hub is New Orleans, which includes a Princess and the Frog dark ride, Tianas Palace restaurant, and plenty of themed retail. A paddleboat sits along the river, marking the end of New Orleans and the start of a more rustic bayou section of the land, where there is a new large Splash Mountain that is pretty unique. The attraction is divided on two sides of small river, with the load and final scenes on the path side, and the mountain and main showbuilding on a island. The flume takes us under the river to start and end the ride. The actual exterior of both sections is redesigned to fit a more bayou theme instead of the red clay Georgia look of the original, so that it fits adjacent to New Orleans. There is also an adjacent nature trail area that passes through a fort and looks out to the body of water.

The last area of the land is a frontier mining town, where a small collection of buildings sit in the rocky landscape. The land includes Big Thunder Railroad, canoes that loop the island with Splash Mountain, a saloon, a ship walkthrough, a train station, and more dining and retail. The biggest attraction is a new Western River Expedition which is actually not a boat ride. The suspended conveyance mining equipment of an abandoned mine has been turned into a hanging gondala system that is now used to transport people into the hills of the mine, right across the train tracks. Guests load into the hanging cars and are carried right into the showbuilding and a trip through the spirit of the old west.



Adventureland is next, and it is a smaller land compared to the rest in the park.



There are two areas, a Pirates fort and a Polynesian Village. The Spanish fort entrance to the Pirates ride includes a table service resturant and a lounge in the caves below the fort. There is also a kids play area with a pirates ship adjacent to the fort, which has a Peter Pan theme to transition to Storybookland just across the path.

The Polynesian Village area includes a Lilo and Stitch treehouse, a large Tiki Room dark ride with the traditional theater show as the preshow, dining and retail including Dole Whips, and a Moana themed show along the river. A force perspective volcano sits above the stage where a live presentation of the story of the show takes place a few times a day. Part of the show can take place on boats in the water as well.



Storybookland is the parallel to Fantasyland and has many similar attractions. It's the largest land in the park as well. 


Behind the castle, there are a few attractions in a castle courtyard village setting. There is a large Fantasia dark ride with the Sorcerer's Apprentice, a carousel with Fantasia animals, Dumbo, and an enchanted dining room restaurant. A small Peter Pan area is along the path, with a restaurant and a larger form of the attraction that exits out on the Adventureland side by the play area.

A forest themed area is on the north side of the land, and in the heavily wooded natural areas there is a Tangled trackless dark ride, a trackless Aquatopia style canal boats ride, a princess meet and greet chateau, a Mr. Toads Wild Ride attraction, and a Casey Jr. Train that travels around the land and passes through a few attractions. There is also a unique train station that is inside the Seven Dwarfs Mine, which Casey Jr. also passes through. Last is Belle's village, which is the entrance to a Beauty and the Beast carousel show that retells the movie.

The last area is a London town square with a large Mary Poppins dark ride, a Mary Poppins themed tea cups style ride, and retail and dining.



The Shadowlands is the partner to Storybookland and is the home of the Villains of the park.



It also has a London area, a Forest area, and a Village area, directly paralleling the adjacent land. The London area is a much darker and rougher and treeless street that includes a Cruela de Vil dark ride. The Village area includes a Villains meet and greet, a dark ride through the Villains Academy, and a pair of restaurants, Gaston's Tavern nearby to Belle's Village and Ratigan's Pub by the main square.

The Forest area features an abandoned castle at the base of a mountain that the Villains have taken over. A boat ride initially starts calm but then becomes a fast paced coaster as we try to escape Chernabog who lives at the top of the mountain.



Last is Tomorrowland, which is fairly traditional.



From the Hub, the path leads to the main plaza, with the Rocket Jets raised at the center and the Peoplemover running along the edges. The plaza is raised on the second level of the land with an organic vegetated landscape below. On the edges of the plaza is a large theater space with futuristic themed shows, Space Mountain, a robotics restaurant, and a Time Machine themed theater show. Straight behind the Rocket Jets and the Plaza is the main attraction inspired by Horizons. Starting in a domed theater preshow, the attraction takes us into the possibilities of the future.

Off the plaza and along the path to the north, there is also a restaurant and a Big Hero 6 dark ride. Across the path is the transportation hub, which includes the train station and a new electric form of the Autopia that winds its way through the trees and along the lower level under the plaza.



Other notes:

The parade route goes from the gate in Shadowlands, down to the hub, around the lagoon, then up through Frontierland and towards Adventureland, and ending at the gate between Adventureland and Fantasyland.

The park could have a standard night time fireworks/projections/fountains show at the hub. There's plenty of place for fountains in this version, so the show could be heavy on that effect. Something like World of Color in the central lagoon plus castle projections and low level fireworks. I tried to give plenty of viewing space in the center of the park, so hopefully it would be realistic.

There is so much more detail and thoughts in the forum post that I linked above, including detail about most of the attractions, so go read that if you are interested. It's long, but adds more to this design.



I am really happy with this plan and think there's some great ideas in it from everyone at WDWMagic. So thanks to them for the good ideas, and thanks for reading!

Let me know what you like and what you think about this somewhat different Magic Kingdom style park!

Also, I am thinking about returning to the Walt Disney World parks for some posts in the near future now that we have heard about all the additions coming soon. I am thinking about doing realistic 50th anniversary parks plus my idealized versions of the parks that include all the new stuff coming. Let me know if that is something you want to see!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Theme Parks as Art and How They Change

So odds are good you are aware of the news from this week.

Well specifically the Pirates of the Caribbean news. In Paris, California, and Florida, the classic Auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean will be replaced with a new scene that turns the situation around and makes the Redhead a Pirate, leading a new auction of loot.

If you are in any way involved with an online Disney community, and since you are here, you likely are, then you have seen the complicated and passionate reactions. Twitter has exploded in debate, taking both sides. The Disney Parks Blog comment section is quite frustrated. And I don't even dare check the thread on the WDWMagic Forums. That's probably not a fun place right now.

There's a lot to talk about in relation to this. Why the change now? Is the new scene as good? What about all the changes Pirates has already endured over the years? Is this ruining a great attraction? Why should Pirates be politically correct? What will they change next?

I am going to talk about none of those.



I am really only interested in the debate that has come up about Theme Parks as an Art Form and what the rules are about changing that Art.

I was going to just comment on this news with some tweets, but I realized I had more to say after reading a really good blog post about this at Disney Tourist Blog. In his commentary about this news, he talks about how art doesn't change and should be "confronted on the terms of its day". I left a comment there, which I then felt I wanted to expand on, and that leads to where we are now.

The below might be a little rambly, because I am trying to assemble a complicated set of ideas into an overall argument, but it makes the point I want to share. Overall, I try to identify the characteristics of Theme Parks that make them an art for and then present my personal opinion about how that Art Form can change.



Are Theme Parks Art?

Well simple answer is yes, of course it is. Its a designed creation that is enjoyed by patrons, inspires emotional and mental reactions, and can be interpreted by the observer to understand its meaning. 

But what kind of art is the more complex question. I've seen many comparisons to paintings and movies so far. But to me, that is a too simplistic view.

Though so many of the traditional Theme Park design metaphors are based on filmmaking, there's just as much a case for theme parks relating to theater. Both in the design and how the two art forms are meant to be experienced.

A painting or a movie may be really intended to be experienced in a specific setting with a specific audience, but it can be observed as a primary document anywhere, anytime, with anyone. You can see a picture of the art or a copy of the film, and it really is the same thing however you experience it. Yes, real fine art vs a picture is different in how you can appreciate it, but the form of experience doesn't change. 

But with theater, and Theme Parks, the experience of the art has to take place in the moment, at the particular location, in the world that the artists intends. Its a live medium. Any other way you appreciate it - pictures, videos, recordings - are secondary sources of the art. A reduction in both quality and experience. This also explains why Theme Parks are so special for so many of us, regardless of how many times we've been or how many videos we've seen. The personal moment of experience is by far the most rewarding way to experience a theme park. You just have to be there.

To an extent, the metaphor also means that the effect the creation has on you is the art and the element to be appreciated, not the actual physical characteristics of the production. I don't think this is quite true for Theme Parks, because we can definitely appreciate the production design, architecture, and visual design as an art. But the effect the story has on us is just as important. 

This theater metaphor works for me to begin describing the art of parks. Really Theme Parks are their own completely unique art form but this is a good enough jumping off point. The main difference in my view is the interactive nature of the parks, but really some forms of theater do that as well. So its a solid comparison in my view. A Theme Park is like a perpetual work of theater, with the same physical elements creating a new production for new guests every day. 


Can Art Change?

This is more complicated. I've seen many jump quickly to saying that no, art is permanent and should never change. Comparisons are often made to paintings being changed or a movie being re-edited, which shouldn't really happen. I definitely agree there. However theater changes a lot and it is completely accepted. If were going with theater as the closest Theme Park analogue, then let's talk about that. 

The core elements of theater is the story and the meaning that the story is intended to convey. Originally, a production is created with an assemblage of design elements to create this meaning. These designed pieces, all themselves works of art, are put together to be understood by the cultural context of the audience for that production so that the story and meaning come through clearly.

But productions do not run forever, they close and maybe eventually are revived. It's still the same story and the same meaning, but as it is revived and readapted over the years, basically everything else is subject to change. Sets, costumes, casting decisions, even the music and order of songs and script. These changes are made to translate the original design into how the new audience understands the meaning. Or even to add new dimensions to the the process by which the audience interprets the work. Things change so that the story has the same impact for the new audience.


So if this is acceptable for theater, is it acceptable for theme parks?

My theater examples are extreme. You shouldn't redesign all the sets of a ride just because styles have changed. But at the same time, if there is an element in a ride that no longer speaks to the guest in the same way and therefore hurts the understanding of the overall meaning of the story, why not fix it. It makes a better guest experience. 

So my answer is that your shouldn't change the art of a theme park just to change it, but when change is needed to preserve the overall artistic expression of the story. The bigger art concept is more important than the elements that get you there.

Funny enough, Joe Rhode posted something about this on instagram just this week. He says that the boomboxes in the queue of Kali River Rapids were intended to show that the residents were living contemporary lives with real technology. Now it says the opposite, so they really should be replaced eventually to maintain the original concept. Even though that's a small example, that is how I feel about changing the art of Theme Parks. Do it when necessary to better the guest experience.

And the guest experience that needs to be prioritized is obviously the in person experience, not the secondary reproduction of the experience that shows up in pictures or videos or books. It's only about what you experience in the moment, not what you think you should see or what you've seen before. The normal guest does not experience an attraction with the full contextual knowledge of the attraction's history or a detailed description of how they are supposed to feel about something. Its just about what they see in the moment and what that means to them. The history element is more impactful on the secondary form of the experience, plus those of us who do know everything and ride knowing the background information.

Overall, change to theme parks attractions is going to happen because the world around us changes as well. Culture changes, norms change, and generally what guests want to see changes.

Really this has been happening for years and years, but this is the largest and most high profile case, leading to this debate. Flight to the Moon was changed to Mission to Mars because advances in the space program meant that guests no longer could understand the futuristic concept. Carousel of Progress updated its last scene for the same reason. And somewhat similarly, the original Fantasyland dark rides were all changed so that guests better understood their stories. All case where change improved the guest experience.



I want to say though that this is not me falling into the all change is good group. Definitely not. Changes made with good intentions to better the guest experience can significantly hurt the themed design concept, which as a designer, I obviously believe is crucial. Changes for the guests sake can fundamentally change the overall artistic concept, which is against everything I wrote above.

Getting specific, the rumors of what would happen to EPCOT, which maybe making guests happier quickly because of more IPs, would change the whole artistic concept of EPCOT.

Changing tower to Guardians changes the artistic concept of Hollywood Land.

But personally, changing the Auction scene does not change the concept of Pirates of Caribbean. So that's why I can accept it.



Finally, even though I said I would not talk about the specifics of this situation, some comments.

I'm not entirely sure that the change had to be made, but I am not opposed to the change because of what I said above. It's not something that exactly bothered me in the past, but I understand how it could bother others. It's still Pirates of the Caribbean to me.

Yes, its a little unfortunate that its such a recognizable scene is pretty much the most classic and historic attraction in the parks. Nostalgia is a powerful reason to be frustrated about this change and I understand it. But the parks are not stagnant representations of history like I discusses above.

The main argument though for keeping it is that the Pirates are supposed to be bad people and you are supposed to understand that in the attraction. The Auction scene is supposed to be just another example of their faults. The issue with this is that, even if this was the original intent, that's really not obvious now. We've had 5 movies now that show the Pirate life and make them the heroes of the story, guests can learn to be a pirate hourly outside the attraction, the entire gift shop sells Pirate accessories, and the general Pirate concept has been glorified throughout the parks and resorts.

Guests don't come out of that attraction wanting to be the soldiers in the fort or the noble townspeople. We all want to be Pirates. Pirates who do bad things. So in my view, this is just removing the most problematic of the bad things and leaving intact the more culturally acceptable vices and the ones that are most closely aligned with what we imagine as the Pirates life.

I look forward to seeing what the replacement scene ends up being and continuing to enjoy the classic attraction.



I know you may have a different opinion. Maybe you see all of this completely differently. If you have a different idea of the Art Theory Concept or how attractions should change, leave a comment below and lets discuss. 

Thanks for reading. Back with a design post soon.




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!