Monday, January 30, 2017

Updates for Future Projects

For the post this week, I ran a quick poll on Twitter to ask what you wanted me to write about. (Go follow me on Twitter if you don't already so you can vote next time!)

Out of four choices, the leading answers were an update on future projects and a guide on how I make my design posts. The other choices were another environmental design essay, which will be coming soon anyway, and some kind of top list, which also may be coming eventually.

So this week, updates on future projects, and next month the process guide!

So what I am going to give you right now is the lineup of what I'm working on, what I will be working on soon, and what I hope to do in the upcoming year. Plus feel free to give suggestions on what you want to see in the comments. Be specific and creative! Maybe I'll be inspired!

As I write this, I just today finished a major project that I've talked about over and over for months, my third gate design for the Disneyland Resort. The park is centered on the Disney created Society of Explorers and Adventurers, and is thematically and organizationally a cross between World Showcase and DisneySEA. The park has 11 lands based on real world locations across the continents, each expressing some form of adventure and exploration. Each also ties to a single IP that exemplifies some aspect of the corresponding real world culture. This was a challenge but at this point I like the result. That will be up next month, giving me some time to step back from it and review the results. Look for that the second week of February.

The next major thing that I am starting to work on is updates and revisions to most of the existing park plans that I have put up over the last two years. Just as I did with the Paris Studios Plan a few months back, I want to see what can be improved upon. In some cases, I'll update for what's happened in the real world, some of it will be edits based on popular taste, and a lot of it will be just me wanting to try some alternative choices. These will definitely not be as drastic as the Paris Studios version 2 revision, because I am fairly happy with all of the version 1 designs came out, unlike the Paris Studios version 1. But still, new versions of those old plans coming soon.

In the same vein of these updates, I want to try to do some alternate reality plans within these parks, where I try some alternates to what has actually been done in the parks. The two that come to mind are a different Fantasyland Expansion, and Beastly Kingdom instead of Avatar. But I am sure there will be others that come up.

And along with these new versions of real park plans, I am going to try to do a round of super realistic, what could actually happen in real life in the near future style plans, tied to an attempt at setting up a budget for the expansion. Basically, if I was making the decisions right now, but still had to stick to the a real budget and timetable.

As for new parks, I am entirely out of parks that I can design expansion/updates for that I have actually visited. That's somewhat of a rule of mine, so that I can best understand the way the park works and how it can benefit from changes. I broke that rule for Paris Studios, and I think that partially led to the issues with version 1. However, I might break that rule again and start working on Universal Orlando park because I am pretty familiar with it already. So that might happen, but it will take some time. Possibly mid to late 2017. Maybe I'll visit by then too.

There's also the possibility that I'll start up another original resort and park, but don't count on it soon. There's a specific international destination and park concept that I worked on years ago, struggled with before I had more experience, and have continued to think about, so I might get back to that if inspiration hits. If I go down this path with any success, I'll let you know.

Moving down from the park and resort scale, I'm going to do some more detailed plans for specific lands. These would be more involved and hopefully include more visual information than just a plan that better explains the vision I have. The one I most want to work on is my concept for Tomorrowland at Disneyland since I like the concept I have and it most needs a refresh. I want to get down the to elevations, the details, the materials, and the experience of the land in a way that an aerial map will never show. If there's any lands that I have done that you want more information about, suggest it. If it's a land that I have compelling ideas about, I might do it.

Next, I of course want to continue to do attraction plans. These are particularly fun yet challenging, and some of the projects that I love the results of most. The Indiana Jones project I recently posted is probably now my all time favorite attraction I've done. I currently have at least 10 attraction plans down on my list to work on soon. Without spoiling all of them, since some are in the project you haven't see yet, it includes Peter Pan's Flight in the Disneyland plan, Spiderman from the Paris Studios plan, the Animation ride for California Adventure, and Mission: Mars at Disneyland. Again, let me know if there are any specific rides you want to see more on. If it's something that I have ideas about, I'll add it to the list.

And finally, more essays and text posts like the one you are reading. I know they don't do as well and don't get the same view and comment numbers, but they serve an important function. They allow me to expand on some of the theoretical and technical ideas behind the designs and they also allow me to bring you smaller posts between the major design posts. It keeps me from disappearing for a whole month between main design posts.

So that means I want to write more environmental design posts where I analyze and explain the different design tricks that make the parks work. Future topics include music, water, and transportation, plus an analysis of the physical forms of theme park lands. And like I mentioned at the top, I also want to write some top lists, but something more theoretical than a generic list of my favorite 10 rides of something. I want to do more thoughtful analysis of the best of various theme park things, plus comment on what I personally favor. Subjects like top immersive lands, top entertainment elements, top restaurants by food and theme, and even top bad rides that need to be improved.

So that is basically the expanded form of the sticky note I have running, listing what I want to work on soon. No guarantees on order or when something will come, because its all too dependent on inspiration and time.

But suggestions and comments will steer me to prioritize what you want to see. And with suggestions, the more specific and creative you can be, the better and more likely I will do it.

So leave a comment, follow on Twitter so you can catch future polls, and check back next month for that Third Gate post!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Indiana Jones Adventure: Lost City of the Gods

The year is 1937, soon after the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Inspired by his recent successes, Doctor Indiana Jones has been brought to the city of Rome to unearth a long lost ancient temple, buried layers deep in the catacombs and caves below the historical city. Legend has that the temple is part of the first Roman city and may hold artifacts thought to be lost to history as well as the grand treasure of the international Roman Empire. He is not the first to attempt this search, but his skills and experience may just make him the most successful.

Indiana Jones and his team have come to a Basilica on the edge of the city, long thought to mark the entrance to the lost realm. They have excavated the ruins below the 12th century church to uncover the mysterious remains of an earlier 4th century church. But there is still more to explore, as the team has opened up a tunnel into the complex catacomb system below, stretching miles under the roads and buildings of Rome. The Lost City has been well hidden. That brings our reason for being here. As his archaeology students, he is sending us out in teams to explore the diverging paths and find the trail to the ultimate goal. We ride on specially built amphibious vehicles, allowing us to float through the underground rivers until we need to venture onto the rough and rocky land. Indy himself left in the team just ahead of us, so if we run into trouble, he is just a radio call away.

Of course on our adventure, that is exactly what happens as we quickly find an un-mapped temple, disturb a Roman protector spirit, and are swept away into the dark depths and dangerous traps of the Lost City. With Indy's help, we escape by going deeper into the mysterious darkness and, after a few more unexpected adventures, ultimately find the rumored treasure room before being swept away one final time and back to the safety of the ruins we began in, triumphant in our search, though it was a little more adventurous that expected.

This proposed attraction for the Disney Studios Paris Park is something I have been thinking about and working on for a few years actually. The first version was for Hollywood Studios Park and had a South American temple theme. For this park, I shifted to the Roman theme because I wanted to give some variety from the typical Indiana Jones jungle setting. It was also directly inspired by a church that I visited when I visited Rome a few years ago. The Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano is exactly what I described, a Middle Age Church built on top of a 4th century church, built on top of Roman ruins that include what is believed to be a small ancient Roman temple. I also visited some of the catacombs on the outskirts of the city and the extensive catacombs of Paris, inspiring this combined setting. They all felt exactly like places Indiana Jones would explore.

The creative innovation that has kept me drawn to this project has always been the ride system. Originally, I faced the option of bringing Indiana Jones into a hypothetical park plan by copying the existing ride or doing something new. Even though the original is in my opinion the best ride I've ever been on, I felt like I couldn't just copy something that was 22 years old. I wanted to try something new and to top the adventure and immersion of the original.

I quickly decided on trying something similar to the EMVs but doing it in water and including a flume element. This ended up making the most sense as a water coaster with a motion capable vehicle. I am no engineer, but after studying a lot of examples, I think what I have makes sense. The benefit of this system would be a huge variety of ride experiences in one vehicle. The attraction can have guests float calmly through a river, speed through choppy water (simulated with the motion capabilities), drive onto rough land and encounter obstacles, race along traditional coaster track elements, and fall down a controlled and smooth flume drop. That's like combining a few good rides into one great ride. This potential is what made me excited to keep working on this ride over a long development period. I'll give some more specifics about the vehicle later down the post.

I'll start by walking us through the queue and then the plan of the attraction.

The land is an authentic early century Roman streetscape, centered around a church, with a park like area across the road, bordered by high ancient Roman stone walls. The road leading from the Hub to the Church and entrance to the attraction is basically all themed retail. There is a street style Pizzeria, a high class Italian restaurant, and two other attractions. One is a family friendly exploration zone through a church and its catacombs and caves, built under the park berm, and the other is a special effects and animatronics show in the local Museum, featuring Dr. Jones collection of mystical artifacts that somehow come to life. The main church and its obelisk are the focus and the center of the land. It has a Baroque facade, similar to Santa Susanna below, but much smaller, and a bit less ornate to fit in the theme park scale.

Santa Susanna Facade
Notre Dame Architecture Library
San Clemente Basilica Interior
Michael Foley

The entrance to the actual attraction is to the right, where there is a truck unloading  pile of crates and barrels, all apparently Indy's equipment. There is also one of the amphibious vehicles on the back of a flatbed. The boxes hold the marquee for the attraction and form the start of the queues that then lead into the side door of the church. Follow along the queue on the plans below.

Inside the church, the queues turn right and proceed down the right aisle, past the empty church, and then through more doors and into the next room. The church interior is again similar to a Baroque church, like the interior of San Clemente, but again much smaller and less detailed, instead just giving the impression of an ornate church. The queue barely spends any time inside the space, because I think it works better for it to just be a quick image, and it felt more right to leave it as an open space. The queues then enter a kind of Church museum gallery, which is something I saw in multiple churches in Rome. The queues wind around display cases and paintings, all appearing to be very old and special. Then they pass down a gallery hall where there are large paintings about the history of Rome, setting up the story about the current church being built on top of an older church and Roman ruins below. The queues cross a hallway, with a window to the light on the left, and enter the small library research room. Book cases on every wall frame a large desk, where Doctor Jones has apparently been working. Books on the desk are open to historical maps and drawings of the cave system, and notes describe his plan of exploration. The table in the middle of the room holds a large paper map that he has drawn on, and sketches for the ride vehicle. 

San Clemente Basilica Diagram
Valerio b. cosentino

Sant'Ivo alla Sapien Cloister

Back across the hallway, we exit the building to the ground level of the church cloister. The cloister is an enclosed courtyard with covered colonnades on all sides. We walk along the exterior of the grassy center courtyard, looking up at the empty second level balcony and the sky above before reentering the building, into Indy's work room. Boxes and crates are on our right and we begin to hear the audio narration that instructs us of our job here. In the next room, there are two blackboards, one with a chalk map and had written directions to us, the archaeological volunteers, and the other with a flickery black and white video reel, showing off the brand new vehicles that we will be riding, also doubling as the safety instructions. The projector is perilously stacked on barrels and boxes in the middle of the room and a gramophone sits on a footlocker to the side. We finally reach the point that we will descend, by stair or elevator. The queues lead down the staircase, turn, and then descend into the dark and damp ruins.

Under San Clemente Basilica
Holly Hayes
Under San Clemente Basilica
Holly Hayes

Mithraeum Under San Clemente Basilica
Allie Caulfield

The queues turn left and weave between hefty rough stone pylons, what appear to be remnants of a structure from the past, some kind of chapel maybe. The rubble have begun to take over though, and through some gaps we can see the river beyond with ride vehicles swiftly passing. Imagine the setting like the picture above, but a little more disheveled and damp, like an active archaeological site. We pass through a lowered tunnel, and look down into an enclosed pit to our left where there is an ancient stone Roman altar in the process of being excavated, like the one above. The tunnel opens up into the main room of this lower queue, the historical church, where there are more thick stone supports holding up the shallowly arched roof. This is an impressive space. The queues weave between the pylons and piles of rubble and then reach the front of the room, where a cross vault spans over the river loading and unloading area. There are two loading docks to the left that load simultaneously and then both vehicles move up to two seat check stations. They then dispatch individually into a cave opening and the attraction beyond.

Back to the vehicle. It is a very detailed and complicated ride vehicle that seats 16 total. As for the look, it's easier to just let you look at the image collection below.

The main body is surrounded by a padded float and the tops of the non functional wheels just peek above the water line. The back holds a random assortment of boxes and supplies as well as extra tires. Each of the 4 rows has a storage bucket in front of them, which has a waterproof seal. The sections above show the mechanics of the system below the water. 

The standard coaster track starts below water and a pretty standard chassis frame rides on that track. On this chassis is a 360 degree turntable which supports the lower half of the motion vehicle. This component is basically a basin with high walls on all sides, with all the mechanical equipment to create the motion sunk in the basin. The high side walls are able to slot into the vehicle above, so that the tops are actually above the water level, keeping the mechanical equipment out of the water. A bellow gasket along the high walls connects to the upper vehicle and helps to keep the water out of the lower vehicle basin. The upper vehicle, the show portion of the vehicle, then sits on top and overhangs the rest of the components below to hide them in the dark water. Guests actually ride above the water through the whole ride but the vehicle has enough bulk that this is not apparent. 

Again, I am not an engineer, but I think this works and can provide a good amount of ride profile elements. It can pitch and roll from the upper motion components and the entire body can rotate 360 degrees as needed. Here's two video clips of this in action, animated and rendered in Blender.

This shows a rough approximation of the vehicle simulating swift rapids, the most active of the motions required in the attraction. 

Back to the ride.

The vehicle launches from the seat check station and enters a dark cave opening. Even though the vehicle is able to move smoothly through the water since it is on a coaster track, the motion systems can give it a little bounce and rock as we pull away to make it more authentic. The dark cave is lit by just a trail of lanterns hanging from the stone, leading us right. As we enter, we get a radio call from Indy, telling us that were set to explore the upper river system while his group is in the lower catacombs. After we turn right, we encounter a shallow waterfall that we approach and then drive up. It is still dark, so we can't really see our path ahead. We can just tell from the sound, the mist, and the motion, that we are climbing a rough slope. On this drive up, Indy give us our final instructions: look for a temple at the mouth of a twin waterfall and let him know if we get into any trouble. At the top, we drop back into the river and begin our peaceful float exploration. At first, these are just normal catacombs, or as normal as catacombs can be. Rocky tunnels guide the river and portions of the walls are lined with bones to create intricate patterns and structures. We turn a bend and continue through these mood setting scenes. 

But ahead we can see a set of Doric columns, standing proud in the water, reaching the high rocky ceiling. We float towards them, and notice that a waterfall sits on either side of the path. We turn to see the full temple, a grid of the same columns and a stone altar facade on the left side. We have found it. But before we can do anything, a flame erupts from the torches at the altar and a spirit voice warns us that we have made it too close to the lost temple. To our right, the water quickly bubbles and a geyser shoots off, causing us to speed up as we get away. The water around us is getting violent and we are rocking a lot now, of course simulated by the vehicle. As we race out of there, the vehicle and track actually rise up just enough so that the vehicle is completely out of the water, so that it can create more drastic motions without the resistence of the water. We are swept away and pass a projection surface on our right that seamlessly joins the cave set, showing a huge flood swiftly approaching us. 

We out of control float left and enter a projection tunnel setup. The vehicle moves along between the two surfaces, which show the catacombs beyond engulfed in fire and being destroyed by the quickly rising tides. The vehicle spins and rolls like it is caught in rapids, rotating a full 360 degrees out of control. Controlled water splashes and mist adds to the effect. Another smaller boat zooms by, with Indy on board, telling us that we really found some trouble, and that we need to escape to the lower catacombs with him. We bank around a left turn and plunge down a slope in darkness to the level below, splashing down in the base of the quiet river. We escaped, for now. 

At the bottom of the falls, we see the boat Indy was on, crashed into the rocks. We turn the corner and leave the river, roughly driving up onto land. As soon as we are up, we get another radio message from Indy, saying he is clearing the path ahead, but watch out for traps that he missed. We begin slowly driving through the caves, over a lot of rough terrain simulated with the motion vehicle. Quickly, the first trap comes at us from the left, as a huge column topples directly in our ride path, forcing us to swerve out of the way just in time. A second comes from the right, forcing us to speed away around the corner, but we immediately face a huge swinging hammer in front of us, stopping us in our tracks and then stuttering as we time our race through the path. A second of the swings is permanently propped up on the side, suggesting Indy already encountered that one. To the right is a nook of skulls and bones around a pit of lava, with a small fireball erupting just as we pass. We swerve left into a narrow path, where we quickly feel darts shooting past us. Air jets simulate the feeling and prop effect darts pop out of the side walls. We make it through the tunnel and see Indy at the end, standing on a a few small crushed stone balls. We slow and pause as he congratulates us for making it through the traps, but complains that we had to cause so much trouble. He points us on, and we speed around the corner and enter the largest space of the attraction.

This double level space that we have opened into features a 180 degree hemispherical screen ahead of us, blending into real rockwork on the edges. In front of the screen is a set of tall Roman columns, matching the curve of the screen. Between the center columns is a ledge a section of real rockwork, holding a few pieces of glistening gold and glowing stones. We are driving on a rock "bridge" over water on either side, gently bubbling. As we enter and approach the center of the room, we see projected Indy climbing the rock wall between two of the columns, trying to get to the treasure at the center. As he approaches, the room suddenly is overtaken again by the protector spirit, causing the bubbling water to begin flaming, and a column of steam shoots up in front of center columns. An abstract face appears on the steam, warning us to abandon our search. Indy jumps away just before all the walls begin to crumble, and one of the columns actually starts to crumble and tilt towards us, threatening to crush us. Through this whole scene, we have been slowly moving along the curved track, but the vehicle has always pointed forwards, so we are now really facing backwards. Just as the rock walls begins to fall, we start to slip away backwards and then go down a small dip backwards into the darkness.

We then go through a small coaster portion of the adventure. Still backwards, we zoom around curves through the cave pillars. Then, while we go around a larger curve, we rotate back to forward and continue speeding along the only path we can see. Indy is yelling at us to follow the light, which we can see ahead to the right. But we slam to a stop in a dead end cave, with light flooding to us from above. We are seemingly stuck, but then we start to rumble and shake and then shoot straight up in a cloud of steam and mist as we ride the hidden geyser. We come to a stop at the top and slide out into one last river, but this river is much lighter and more peaceful. We turn the corner and we can immediately see well preserved Roman architecture and a pile of treasure and artifacts. Included are various international objects representing the reach of the Roman empire. As we turn the corner, the water starts to move more swiftly and we begin to float away faster. Suddenly we hear the rush of a waterfall and know what is about to happen. We are quickly drawn forward, turn a corner, and drop down a tall flume and splashdown in a catacomb lit by Indy's lanterns. We peacefully float around the corner through caves and find the final room, the ruins of the original church we found, where Indy stands surrounded by a limited selection of the treasure we found. He says something about managing to get some of the most important pieces out of the lost city and thanks us for out help.

We continue through a final cave opening, through a vehicle holding area, and back into the load/unload room we started in. We unload, walk up a stair case or use an elevator, and exit into a gift shop on the edge of the cloister we passed through earlier, completing the experience.

The only technical detail past the vehicles to point out is the vehicle maintenance bay on the lower level, just past load, which uses a sliding track switch to get vehicles there. It needs to be on the lower level because it should be adjacent to load and the control booths, but this is also a problem because this is the underground level of the attraction. The vehicles also need to be able to leave the building, so there is an included vehicle elevator adjacent to the maintenance bay. The maintenance bay track ends with a sliding platform that can be loaded onto the elevator and rolled out of the building to some kind of transport truck.

And that completes the design I have put together for this attraction!

Even though I designed this specifically for the Roman setting in my Disney Studios Paris plan, I've thought about how this could be cloned to a variety of settings pretty easily. For instance, if this were to be replicated for Hollywood Studios with a Mayan theme, it could use basically the same ride building with altered set dressings and a unique queue and load building. It could even be altered to have a different exterior flume drop because the drop is located at the front edge of the show building section of the attraction. Just cut what I have at the wall between the final drop and the first lift, turn the drop to be exterior, add on a separate queue and load building, and change the architecture of the temple scenes to Mayan ruins. Then it is a different experience and story. It reuses the technical system and layout, but is unique enough to be a different attraction.

So let me know what you think about this attraction concept! Also, let me know what you think about the new look. And make sure to follow on twitter to keep up with what's coming next. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Imagineerland's 2017 Refresh

As I promised at the end of the last post, Imagineerland has now gotten a bit of a graphics refresh. Still similar to the old style, but a little cleaner and with a better color scheme, the refreshed logo references the hub and spoke park layout and the main header now adds the Shanghai castle to the complete roster of worldwide park icons.

The actual color scheme is based on the Disneyland Peoplemover poster. I loved the clean crisp color concept of the poster, so decided to adapt it here. The light and dark blue pairing suggests progress to me, so I thought it was fitting.

The graphics on each and every image that I have ever posted also need to be updated with this new style. That is not something I have gotten to yet because frankly it's going to take a while. So just ignore that incongruity if you look back in the projects. All new posts and new media will use the new style and its going to look great.

I've also added a more complete top posts section to the right. I picked a selection of posts that were both popular and that I think are some of the best work. Those projects also got new logos and will be the first to be updated with the new graphics. So go check those projects out if you haven't already.

In addition to this restyling, I have been working hard on a project that you are getting very soon! Tuesday morning American time will be the first new design post of the year: The Indiana Jones Adventure flume coaster / EMV hybrid that I proposed for the Disney Studios Paris Park.

It is a really cool concept and the post has some video elements that I put a lot of time into and am pretty happy with. Check back Tuesday for that post. Its a great first post for what I hope to be a great year at Imagineerland!