Monday, February 27, 2017

How I Make My Posts: The Technology Process

A while ago I asked what kind of text posts you wanted to see soon, and the leading answer was a tutorial on how I make my posts. Not surprising based on the number of comments over the years asking what programs I use. So this is going to be the definitive answer to how I make what I make.

We're going to start with the technology.

I draw in SketchUp, and I make the posts with Adobe Illustrator. SketchUp is free, Illustrator is not. But there are viable substitutes for both of these programs, and I'll mention them as we go.

To draw the maps and plans, you have a lot of options. I use SketchUp, I know other online designers use AutoCad, you could use Photoshop or Illustrator if you have access, you could use any kind of free graphics software, and technically you could even use Microsoft Paint. In fact, Paint is where I started so long ago. It works to start, but lacks precision. Of these, AutoCad would definitely be the best alternate to SketchUp, but it is not free unless you are a student.

I specifically use SketchUp for a couple of reasons. First, its just what I was most comfortable with when I started, so it was an obvious choice. Second, the ability to draw with measurement is really helpful, actually almost vital, to be able to understand the scale and relationships of space. You could also do this in AutoCad, but not any of the others. And last, SketchUp ties into Google Earth and allows you to import snapshots of a selected area as a base to draw on. This makes it even easier to start a park by tracing the existing map and then comparing to existing space. This is something you would have to do manually with any other program by exporting from Google Earth and then placing and scaling in the graphics program.

So if you are already familiar with another graphics program, definitely stick with what you know and see if you can make it work, but my suggestion is Sketchup. Can't beat a free program really.

Get it here:

So once you have the program, now what do you do with it.

It depends on what you are doing, but with the hypothetical case of a park plan, I start by adding the location and getting the Google Earth into the file. By the way, I'm not going to go into extreme detail about the specifics of using SketchUp, but there are a lot of really great resources online. It's also a very easy program to learn, so don't worry about having trouble getting started. I add the Google Earth imagery of the specific park or area of a park I want to look at and then begin tracing. Quick tip: if you add the imagery with just a single overall image, it is too low resolution, so zoom in and add a bunch of individual images that cover the same area.

Google Earth Images Placed

If I am making a new park from scratch, I start by tracing the entirety of the existing conditions. This is annoyingly time consuming, but I need it as the base to later make changes. I use the full variety of line, curve, and freehand drawing tools to make the base map, depending on the building or path or feature that I am tracing. As I am going, I'm also adding on the color scheme that I set up. When I started posting, I picked the color scheme that you are now familiar with, and have not seen any need to change it. The idea with the colors is to be diagrammatic while still being obvious what it is, such as light green for grass and blue for water.

Start Tracing Buildings and Paths

Color Scheme on Finished Map

Then when the base is done, I save off to another file (in order to keep stages of process as different files) and begin work on the actual design. This part can take as little as a weekend to 6 months depending on my inspiration and if there are any challenges that come up. I often reference other parks that I have drawn or open up new Google Earth shots to compare the sizes of public spaces, showbuildings, and paths to make what I do as accurate feeling as possible. This is where a program with real scale measurement is incredibly useful. A 20' path and a 40' path look really different and have really different functions, so seeing real scale is nice.

How I actually do the designing is a topic bigger than a single post because there is not a single process. The Environmental posts I have been writing are the closet thing to a guide for that step of the process. Those posts discuss a few of the rules that I keep in mind as I design. I am constantly thinking about and checking sightlines and views as I draw for instance. Of course there are countless other things I am thinking about, many of which I'll talk about in future Environmental posts. Or maybe there will be a part 2 to this post with some thoughts on how I specifically design.

So once the design is finished, the next step is adding the trees. I do this on a separate layer that floats above the ground level that the drawing is on, just like trees covering the paths. I make the tree cover by copying a variety of tree sized circles in a random pattern to fill the areas that are planted. It's the best way to accurately recreate the pattern of the edges and gaps in the tree cover. I like the look.

Adding Tree Layer

Once this is all done, I can export the image. If you have the paid SketchUp, you can export as a vector drawing, so that you can edit the lines in another program. The free SketchUp only lets you export as a jpeg. Either work, and I've done combinations of both before. Just make sure if you export as a jpeg that you bump the resolution up much higher than default.

Now, the next program. For me to make the kind of formal presentation drawings that I show here, I need to be able to format it on a sheet. If you are just creating for yourself or don't care about the format, you can probably be done after you export from SketchUp.

I use Illustrator, because I had it already from school, but you can use anything that allows you to edit, resize, and add text to an image. A lot of programs can do this, so just search around. Photoshop, Indesign, free image editing software, Microsoft Publisher, and I guess even Microsoft Word could work (though really, find something better than Word). It really all depends on what kind of text and diagrams you want to put on your image, what kind of quality you want, and what kind of experience you have with formatting images.

In Illustrator, I use a template document that I created and add the exported image to the sheet. That's new for the update this year. The consistent template means all project images are the same dimensions, have the same text elements, and carry all stylistic elements from project to project. Highly recommend templates. I change the text on the footer, add any kind of diagramming lines or shapes, and add the text labels on the actual drawing. Export one more time, then upload, and then that is it.

Illustrator Template File

The drawing is done, I write the text, which in of itself can take a couple hours to write, and then I publish the post right to you.

That is a really basic summary of what I do, but I hope that I was specific enough with the software and the general work flow. If you have questions, leave a comment. And let me know if any of you try to make your own projects. I'd love to see what you make with this method!

Be back next month with a Version 2 of Disneyland Paris Park. I'm retaining a few things from the Version 1 from a few years ago, but also making a bunch of interesting changes to complement what I did for the Studios Park. Check back second week of March!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Disneyland's Third Gate: Disney's Worlds of Exploration

And after literally 6 months of talk and previews, the 3rd Gate is finally here. At least I almost beat Rivers of Light...

Disney's Worlds of Exploration, my proposed 3rd Gate for the Disneyland Resort, could be summarized as 1/2 World Showcase, 1/2 DisneySEA, plus moderate and logical IP use, and, unfortunately minus a lot of water. Sorry, blame the small site.

If you have followed along in the last half year, you have seen the progress of my process, starting with discussing the theme, picking and diagramming the site, proposing an early attraction lineup, and finally one update once the plan started taking shape.

Now the thing about showing you that much of the conceptual process is that a lot of that has changed. The theme remains and the site is unchanged, but the lands and attraction lineup changed a good amount, partially based on your comments and ideas. So I appreciate those.

So since some things have changed, I'm going to go through a summary of that information, hitting the important parts. This is a long post, but I promise there is good content all the way through.

First the theme and organization of the park.

My approach to setting up a park is to always be as realistic as possible and to embrace some of the logistical requirements that a real park would have. So for this park, I decided to do what I assume all modern parks will require: a moderate to heavy amount of IPs from all the Disney brands, set in highly immersive single property lands, tied together with a loose theme. At the same time, I wanted to select films that I think are either under represented in the parks, or would make compelling themed environments that are missing in the resort. There's no need to build a second Fantasyland. I wanted to bring some thematic diversity to the resort.

Because of the variety of properties that I eventually selected, which I'll mention later, it became obvious to set up the park with an international organization, with each land as a country and featuring a single IP that ties into and reflects the culture of the land. That's where the half World Showcase, half DisneySEA idea comes in.

So that's the organization. For the theme, I wanted to create something a little more interesting than just an "international" park, so I turned to my favorite fictional theme park organization: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers. This works perfectly with the variety of world wide locations I decided on and allows for a good amount of original storytelling within the same IP heavy structure.

I think this concept showing the worldwide adventures of the members of S.E.A has some promise.

Next, the site. I decided to follow the actual Disney plan for 3rd Gate expansion and use the current Toy Story lot and adjacent Disney owned land, located here.

Some research into this site brings some interesting facts and realities to consider. First, I have seen information online that suggest that Disney owns more land around this lot than we actually know. I am referencing a post on WDWMagic by a knowledgeable member (Additional land owned by Disney in Anaheim?) that claims that Disney potentially owns multiple of the apartment complex lots surrounding their parking lot, held through anonymous third party companies.

Also, that same poster suggests that there might be issues with the city that could make this lot problematic in another post (Predicting DLR in the decades to come), saying that the city has eyes on extending Gene Autry Way through the Disney owned property, potentially using eminent domain to destroy the chances of a third park. There is even an official City of Anaheim planning document that shows the road extended right through the parking lot. So that could be an issue.

I decided to embrace this head on and incorporate an extension to Gene Autry Way through the park I was designing. Hypothetically, I decided to work with the city in exchange for them giving Disney some of the additional land parcels around the parking lots by way of eminent domain. It makes sense and I thought it would be a bit of a fun challenge. Well it definitely was a challenge.

So the resulting unified property, with the additional parcels minus the road is approximately 86 acres, about the size of California Adventure by itself. Unfortunately, because this site is remote from the main resort, it also need some other facilities on the lot. A parking deck, a transportation hub, a Hotel, and backstage facilities are all required around the park, so the actual park area is a little smaller than the others. But if I focus on density and effective theming, it is still manageable for a full park.

Before I start walking through the areas and design of the park, I want to mention my strategy for setting up the lands.

Like I said, each is a single country with a single(ish) IP. Each is also focused on a single member of S.E.A who specializes in a unique field of study. These diverse fictional members would add some character to the lands and the fields of study would be able to play into the unique natures of the different countries. The three elements would work together to create a distinct impression of the real place. With each land, I'll note the name of the member and the field.

My goal was also to include at least one original attraction in each land that better reflects the culture of the country and the S.E.A. member. These attractions add variety in a sea of IPs and I hope add some dynamic and unique experiences to the theme parks.

And each is based on a real life location in an effort to bring some authenticity and detail to the worlds. The idea is definitely not for the lands to be a collection of animated and exaggerated Fantasylands, but real representations of the world, like Animal Kingdom, that happen to each include an IP component. As I discuss each land, I have an inspiration sheet with some images of the real place that inspired my plan. Use these to supplement your mental image of what I describe. Credits for the pictures at the end of the post.

With these strategies in mind, I set out to plan the park that I'll now walk us through. Here's the full plan. Zoom in to see the details and follow along.

We start with the public elements outside the actual park.

The car entrance, bus entrance, and PeopleMover entrance (from the transportation hub I previously proposed) are all on the north side and all lead into the parking deck/transit hub on the site. The parking booths and multiple bus stops are all on the ground floor of the 6 level deck. The People Mover loads and unloads from the second level of the front building on the deck. The busses and PeopleMover are an attempt to better connect this park to the resort and lessen stress on the parking deck. All levels lead down to the wide first floor arcade through the center of the building and out towards the security lines.

So security is absolutely the big flaw in this plan now that we see how Disney is trying to isolate security screening away from the parks. Logistically, I just couldn't make that work here. But anyway, just wanted to point out that I recognize that issue.

Through the security is a shaded plaza entrance area, with the main gate, a guest service building, and a secondary entrance to the hotel, which I'll get to later.

Past the main gate is the facade of a wing of the hotel, 4 stories tall, taking the spatial place of the train station and forcing us through tunnels on either side and leading us into the park and the first land. Here's a plan that breaks out the lands and the borders.

The Village

The entrance land to the park is modeled on Greenwich Village in New York. The architecture is a scale up from Main Street and a bit more urban, reflecting the eclectic and diverse style of the members of S.E.A. This is meant to be their home and where they come back between explorations, and is meant to feel like a real city.

Through the tunnels is a small square offset from the road leading ahead. An elevated train crosses the path ahead, adding kinetics to our first view of the park. As with all parks, the right building is some specialty retail and food, and the left building is the main retail location. The road here is lined with medium scale trees that frame our view to the icon ahead, the S.E.A. Clubhouse. Modeled on the Jefferson Market Courthouse in Greenwich Village (Image 3 and 4), the Gothic brick building is anchored by a clock tower on the Hub. The Hub is offset from the main road as well, which was necessary for spatial planning reasons. Adjacent to the icon building is really another icon: a massive hot air balloon tied down in place, as if it just landed. Fitting the exploration and adventure idea, the balloon is the pride of the S.E.A. transportation fleet. The balloon's real purpose is for the night time show, but I'll get to that later.

The building to the north, the right side of the main street, has the necessary Bakery/Starbucks and an Ice Cream Shop, but with a variety of exotic flavors that the members have discovered around the world. There is also a second floor counter service rooftop bar that looks over the Hub. The building to the east of the Hub also has another counter service location, a restaurant set inside an airplane hanger, currently not in use because the owner and his plane are out exploring. The second floor of the main icon building has a table service restaurant, serving an international menu, where we are nightly welcomed by the current S.E.A president, Sutter Bestwick.

As for attractions, there are a few here. The elevated train leaves from the front square, passes over the street and then past some staged rooftops and into a tunnel to the next land. It runs two ways from this station and has two other stops. Inside the icon building is the registration for a parkwide digital collecting game that asks guests to find and document information about all the S.E.A. members around the park for the society's record books. And finally a restructured Mystic Manor, but not called Mystic Manor, is on the west side of the Hub, set in the S.E.A archive building. Modeled on the Hoboken Train Station (Image 2), the exterior features an Easter Island statue by the main entrance. The attraction is the same track, same vehicle, and same concept, but with some plot changes. We are to be led on a tour of the archives by Henry Mystic, the most recent member to bring in a new object. But as we know, Albert causes trouble and we mystically explore the varied rooms of the archives and experience similar scenes as the original. A small museum on the north side of the building shows some fictional prizes of the society.

From the Hub, there are 4 paths to further lands, including one path east that forms another roundabout and splits again. We will go counter clockwise from the top left.

The Digital Frontier
Kevin Flynn - Digital Exploration

Ok we quickly jump into the IP here so first some comments. First, I love TRON and its design aesthetic so I want to bring it to the American parks. Second, I personally feel it fits the adventurous spirit of the concept and think that Flynn is just as much an explorer as any other fictional member. And Third, the park needed a technology/Tomorrowland/urban counterpart to the very historical/cultural/outdoorsy style you will see in the rest of the lands. So I decided to go for it and make Flynn this lands member. So timelines are not to be kept consistent here. That's actually pretty freeing.

This land is primarily indoors and I did that because TRON works best in the dark and because I needed an indoor land to sit against the tall parking deck. Straight on from the spoke of the hub is a curved facade reminiscent of Flynns arcade but instead of abandoned, it has been redesigned as the welcoming gateway to a digital universe. Inside, there is basically a preshow to the land, where the concept is very briefly explained, and we are digitized with some laser special effects. The room suddenly opens up to the triple height interior land, heavy with bright neon and geometric patterns. Inside are Tron city facades on the edges of the public space, which hold small retail and the End of Line counter service restaurant. A side area has a collection of VR games in the world of TRON. The elevated train also passes through the land and is able to look down into the Grid interior.

But the main attraction is Grid Racers. So I debated if I should just put the Light Cycle coaster here, but decided to propose something different for now. However, the building I included is the Light Cycle showbuilding, so really you can imagine it as either, with the exterior portion racing above the enclosed Grid land. Grid Racers would be more of an EMV coaster type ride so that there could be some more substantial show scenes along the coaster. I want to be chased by a Recognizer that descends towards us, and speed by physical light cycle opponents, not just zoom through fast coaster section. Similar idea, but even more to it.

Yaun Leung - Ancient Art

Down the path along the side of the Tron showbuilding, we can see a bit of urban Asian inspired architecture ahead under a bridge. This corner transitions from Tron to China with a few more modern urban Chinese facades, including an electronics market, which is a second entrance to the interior Tron land.

But to the left, we find ourselves in what we think of a more traditional Chinese city, specifically based on the Old City area of Shanghai (All Images). Contrasting areas of tight streets and open courts, rich reds and golds, steep pitched roofs, and a peaceful garden with a ornate double level carousel beyond. From where we enter the land from the Tron area, we can see both left to the main court of the streets and directly through a low passageway to the kinetically rotating carousel, drawing us in both directions.

The streets area is formed of a few individual buildings connected in a grid of pathways. The main building on the east side holds the main attraction, a Mulan dark ride. Set in a Chinese Art Museum with a facade like Image 1, we ride through a special exhibition of art pieces about the legend of Mulan, curated by Yaun Leung, the S.E.A. member. Starting more realistic and referencing the real cultural story with real cultural art, it transitions into the animated story as the art begins to come to life. Not in the magical way like Mystic Manor, but more like we are stepping into the world of the art and becoming immersed in the story. The focus is on portraying the cultural element of the story by way of the animated and musical element of the story.

The other smaller buildings of the streets area include a small counter service location and a street snacks stand, plus a lot of small specialty retail. Immersion over selling generic Disney food and merch. The train runs above this area, over the pathways in an enclosed tunnel. Ornate screens allow for a view from the train down to the land, but prevent the train from being too prominent in an area that it does not make thematic sense.

The garden section opens up from the tight streets to a wide plaza, bordering a small body of water with a large double level carousel in the center. A tea house on the right holds a table service restaurant that seats on two levels, and the actual gardens are to the rear (Image 6). Real Chinese gardens are actually a pretty remarkable piece of urban planning and spatial design. They are like a very peaceful and contemplative walk through maze that is set up with a variety of planning rules. Since this is conceptual, I did not really follow those that closely, so don't read too much into it besides the idea. The walled in garden would include a progression of settings through individual gardens, passing through small courtyard buildings, past waterfalls and around to the tea house (Image 4). This should be used as part educational opportunity and part peaceful break from the busyness of the park.

There is one more attraction to the land that is totally unique because it exists in two lands, this and Marvel City. It is a Doctor Strange attraction, set in the Sanctum Sanctorum, which has one entrance in China and another in New York. The Chinese Sanctum facade leads into a bridge over the road holding the queue, which is also the train bridge, and then into the show building on the Marvel side. So more about that in a minute.

Marvel City
Bruce Banner - Superhuman Ability

Another IP land and another IP based member. I debated if I wanted to use an original character who just studies superheroes but I decided that having it be a hero would make more sense. As for who would be an adventurer, well really any of them could be in some way. But since the exploration here is about super human abilities, in my mind it made sense for Dr. Banner, and the scientists of SHIELD, to be scientifically exploring the genetic makeup of a superhero. Sure, he is not a conventional member of S.E.A. but he explores the unknown.

The land itself is based on Midtown New York city, and, in both real life and the park, connects directly to the Greenwich Village area. It is fairly open in the middle, where the roads intersect in front of a very small Flat Iron like building (Image 1, 2, and 5). The buildings are a little taller and more modern, which helps to disguise the taller convention center right across the street. There are three significant attractions plus a counter service location, a Captain America themed diner with 40's and 50's decor, and SHIELD themed snack location.

First, the Dr. Strange attraction is inside the New York Sanctum, a very ornate gothic building, and has a separate queue (Image 3). Each of the two queues actually has a separate attraction room but both exit into New York. The attraction is a two scene special effects show, with the first in the entry hall of the Sanctum, where Dr Strange (in projection form) arrives through a special effects portal, and the second main scene a theater in the round where time and space is manipulated around us. Projected windows show as we jump around the world, physically moving elements of the set transform as if refracting like in the movie, and projection mapping, smoke, lasers, and slight motion to the theater manipulate our senses.

The next attraction is an Avengers ride, but told with the perspective of Dr. Banner testing out the abilities of the team. The dark ride passes through the SHIELD labs and then into "hover" vehicles, that are trackless motion vehicles. The ride has 4 unique profiles because when we board, SHIELD assigns us a pair of Avengers to track. Each go through the same story and scenes, but focusing on different characters, so many scenes are projection based. Fundamentally, super hero fighting scenes just work best digital because there are no limits. So I don't feel bad doing that. Anyway, we follow the Avengers into a New York Battle versus some generic villain that they eventually defeat.

The final attraction is a Spiderman ride that I have proposed before for the Disney Studios Park. The builiding is a little rougher, because this is the ride about real gritty New York, not high tech SHIELD New York (Image 4). This is something in early development, but the idea is to have a dark ride that moves in three dimensions, or that it moves up and down as well as side to side. To follow the swinging adventurers of Spiderman properly, we have to be able to go up and down through the streets of the New York. Still working on the specifics.

Finally, inside the Flat Iron building is a Marvel meet and greet. Moving around this building, we find a transition into a more park like area, like Central park, where there is a large iron greenhouse visible just through the trees. This transitions us to the next land.

Cecilia Gallo - Botany and Conservation
Around the bend, the park transforms into the rough paths of the rainforest of Brazil. Immediately around the clump of trees, we see Carl Fredricksen's House to the right, in a clearing at the edge of a rocky outcropping. This marks the entrance to the UP themed "trackless" suspended dark ride, like the one that I proposed for Animal Kingdom. I might make a second version of that attraction, but same concept and system. We board mini balloon vehicles built by the Wilderness Explorer's for a trip through the jungle, hitting many highlights from the film and getting in some adventurers along the way. The house is also explorable and leads to a meet and greet behind the house.

Also adjacent is the train station. The elevated train glides from the city and into the jungle, riding on rough and rusted trestles over the path towards the second level train station. The train swerves around through the trees and into a valley between the rockwork of two showbuildings and then into a tunnel.

Under the train track, the path leads to the main area of the land, where the S.E.A. botanist has set up a greenhouse complex in the ruins of former colonial buildings in the rainforest. This is based on the real ruins of Paricatuba, a former school near the Amazon River that has been reclaimed by the jungle (Images 3, 4, and 5). This main area includes three attractions and a snack location. The most significant attraction is the treehouse, which is a large, multi level and multi tree system of catwalks and elevated rooms to climb through. The other attractions are a pretty standard kids coaster through the forest, and an interior Greenhouse play area, with climbing, slides, games, and interactive exotic plants. The greenhouses that pop out of the jungle ruins are much more victorian and ornate ti show an interesting contrast (Images 1 and 2)

A winding path through the trees leads over the road and back to the Hub of the park.

Hana Cahill - Geology

The right side path from Brazil leads through the trees and towards a tropical waterfall coming down from the start of a mountain. This is now Oceana, representing the region of Polynesia and specifically based on the geography and architecture of Samoa. Above the waterfall, we can periodically see a coaster car speeding above through the greenery of the mountain. The mountain, really a tropical volcano, looms above the land and unlike other very rocky Disney volcanoes, this one is entirely green and tropical, with waterfalls spilling down to the base (Image 5). To the left, we see traditional Samoan structures surrounded by palm trees at the base, serving as the entrance to the main attraction, the one in the volcano (Images 2 and 4)

Geology researcher Hana Cahill has moved into this village at the base of the long dormant volcano to study it in depth. The structures, starting the exterior queue, are the living areas of the researcher and the village team, and we quickly venture into the caves of the mountain to continue the queue. The labs are in the depths of the caves and hold geological samples and seismographic equipment all around. At some point in the caves however, the equipment starts going off, signaling some kind of deep geological event in the volcano. We are quickly dispatched in coaster cars to gather measurements about the event, and take a speedy and lava filled adventure through and around the volcano.

Back outside, there is a small tropical lagoon in the shadow of the volcano, holding the outdoor portion of a trackless Moana boat ride (Image 1). The queue is also in a set of village buildings, leading to a dock in the cave, where we board small boats for our journey. The ride starts with a "free floating" trackless segment out in the lagoon, following a variety of random paths around the two islands. Back in the showbuilding, we meet Maui and Moana for a journey through the world of the ocean. There is also a meet and greet set up in one of the village buildings in this area.

This side of the land is also bordered by a huge green mountain, hiding the showbuilding of the next land. Across from the Moana village area is the main modern architecture area of the land, a set of buildings that hold retail, a snack location, and a table service location on the second balcony level (Image 3).

Otis T. Wren - Zoology

The possible smallest land of the park is reached from the spur off the hub, and leads right into a small village on the edge of a forested animal preserve. The area is based on the city of Nakuru and the adjacent Nakuru National Park in Kenya. From the hub, to the right is the National Park (Image 2). Since this is a small park, there is really no way to accurately show a African park, so it is more represented by a show and its surrounding outdoor queue area. The show is Festival of the Lion King, but ideally much different than the Animal Kingdom version. Since it would be original from the start, I would like it to abandon the parade float/musical style and switch to a more permanent/Cirque du Soleil style. Instead of the 4 quadrant seating, it would be more of a 270 degree in the round with a raised stage and acrobatic effects above. The show would be similarly a musical celebration of the movie, but more realistic style to African culture and with acrobatic acts.

The other half of the land is the city area and is a wide street lined with buildings on one side and trees on the other (Images 1 and 3). The attraction in here is a Hot Air Balloon flight simulator, slightly like Soarin, but totally original, that takes us over the animal filled Preserve (Image 4). The attraction references Zoology studies of S.E.A. in the city, and back outside of the attraction is a zoology and conservation information center on the main street. Retail and a snack location fill the rest of the building.

Deep Space
Chilton Thompson - Space Travel

Next is another potentially odd fit that I have worked into the park. I decided early on that I was going to try my best to get Star Wars in because I believe that if a new park were actually under development, Star Wars would definitely be included like the obviously successful Harry Potter Model. Since space is a real place that could be explored, I felt pretty ok about how to make this work as long as I could tie it into S.E.A. and the overall tone and style of the park. I definitely didn't want to do like I did for Marvel and fit S.E.A. into the IP world. That just didn't feel right because of the location and fantasy of Star Wars. So my goal was to bring in a real world space exploration element that transitioned into Star Wars.

The actual land is almost entirely indoors and is mostly Star Wars. But on the north side, transitioning from the Middle East land discussed next, is a very small area based on the Lebanon and the Lebanese Rocket Society (Image 4). In the area technically over the road, there is a rocky cliff with a large rocket on top, the train passing by just in front and underneath. The building by the cliff is the offices of a fictional rocket exploration group, lead by Thompson, with the goal of launching to the depths of space. Inside is a very traditional dark ride roughly along the story of A Trip to the Moon, as if it is what people who have not been to space yet image the trip to be. Boarding the rocket, shooting into the stars, landing on the moon, and exploring the exotic terrain are the highlights of the ride. Imagine a classic blacklight dark ride.

The exit of the ride leads right into the interior Star Wars section, which is also accessible from a side entrance. Inside is a very urban Star Wars area, the city of Coruscant, or similar. It is multilevel, dark, and exotic (Images 1, 2, 3, and 5). The interior maze of streets and levels includes explorable areas, interesting retail, a snack location, a upper level restaurant looking down into the streets, and two attractions.

The first smaller attraction takes place in the buildings of the lowest level and is a large interactive shooting dark ride through the underworld of Coruscant. Bounty Hunters and Stormtroopers are our targets in our trip through the streets. It would be a mix of screens and sets.

The other attraction is a dark coaster like Hyperspace Mountain, but custom and more extreme. I definitely hope and expect that Hyperspace Mountain will be removed when Star Wars Land opens, but I think its actually a pretty cool and effective ride. And I think that if it were a custom track, it could be even better. So in this attraction, we launch from Coruscant for a speedy trip through space and accidentally find ourselves in a big space battle. The showbuilding is tall and large, hidden by the mountain facades from Oceana.

The Middle East
Fletcher Hodges - Archaeology
The rocky environment of the small Lebanon area blends right into the next land, which has 3 individual areas. This Middle East based land is more predominately based on Damascus, Syria but generally follows the sites and architectural styles of the region. First, blending into the sandy desert style is an excavation site surrounded by rockwork and ancient structures in a dug out pit (Image 5). An impressive looking cave mouth faces us, vaguely resembling a Tiger Head. This is the Cave of Wonders, but rendered as a realistic cave that could actually exist.

Queues lead through the excavation and down towards the cave, where we enter through a side opening, continue through the archaeological excavation, and eventually enter an empty treasure room for the preshow, holding a single lamp. Up until this point, it has been very realistic. In the preshow however, the lamp comes to life with a Musion projection of the Genie, who jokes with us momentarily, says he is vacationing back in the cave, and invites us to go on a tour of the cave with him and Carpet. But he decides to use one of our wishes to bring us back to when Aladdin first found the cave, because that would be more fun for him. Suddenly, the room is filled with treasure, we are back in time, and we exit the room to the load area. We ride individual coaster cars themed as magic carpets for a family dark ride/coaster through the cave. This includes beginning with scenes meeting Aladding, the song Friend Like Me, and then a coaster portion as we escape the swiftly crashing caves.

Just outside and around the corner from this excavation area is a main square (Image 1). One side holds the elevated train station and retail, including Fletcher Hodges archaeology office, which is the end of the line, another has a table service restaurant on the ground floor, actually partially underneath the train barn, and the third is the entrance to the market area, of the souq (Images 3 and 4). Flanked by stone columns, the high covered arcade holds highly themed retail on either side and a small double level counter service location on the left side (Image 2). The second level looks down into the souq. On the right side, in the market is the entrance to the other ride, a large classic dark ride through Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves, done in the style of Sinbad's Seven Voyages at Tokyo.

The exit of the souq is also formed of large stone columns, but they are now Greek and we are in the next land.

Sheila Griffin - Mythology

Coming out of the arcade, we see a colorful garden ahead and a spinner attraction on a stone plinth (Images 1 and 2). The elevated spinner is surrounded by a Greek column colonnade and the vehicles are all mythological birds of flight. The entrance is through the rocky base, but the queue immediately takes us up to the upper level to board the ride. Just past is the entrance to a hedge maze that explores a variety of mythological stories and creatures. There are 3 mini scenes along the path that have an animatronic creature that we encounter. At the final, we are by the rock base of the spinner and face a waterfall that opens up to let us enter. Inside, under the spinner, is a Siren's grotto, the finale to the maze.

The garden ends and we transition into a more urban area, a city square modeled on the Old Town of Rhodes Greece. This area is nestled into the hotel, with retail and a table service restaurant on the square, plus a snack location. The food and retail locations extend into the ground floor of the hotel behind, except on the right which is the parking deck. There is also an upper level hotel deck that looks down into the land.

On the main side is a 4D/animatronics theater show about Hercules. The show is structured as a presentation about the history of Hercules, but the show is quickly taken over by the singing Muses for a musical retelling of Hercules. It would start with 4D movie scenes, but then start adding more physical figures and effects, including a set of giant Hydra heads that come from the sides of the screen. We exit on the west side of the land, facing an opening in a stone wall that leads into the final land.

Julieta Soto - Folklore

To complete the park, we finally visit Mexico. This is a small colonial town, modeled on Puebla Mexico. From this side, the land starts with a narrow tree lined retail street, with colorful buildings on either side (Images 1, 2, and 5). On this street is a large taqueria counter service location. It leads to the main square, where there is a fountain in the center, retail carts scattered about, a snack location, and a tea cup style spinner set up, but with giant skulls as the vehicles. The square is dressed for the Dia de Los Muertos festival, so there are lights and flags all over the ride, which is meant to look a little temporary, as if just here for the festival.

Also in the square is the main church of the town, with bell tower standing tall (Image 4). Inside is a boat dark ride through the world of Coco, which is also about the Dia de los Muertos festival. The church holds a exhibit on the storytelling and folklore history of Mexico and the festival, curated by S.E.A.

The final element of the land is a Fiesta show in a covered outdoor theater. Through a large gate, we enter a little courtyard set up with facades all around and a canvas cover above (Image 3). This space holds a Mexican Fiesta show featuring the 3 Caballeros. Including a live band, the show would really be more of a interactive party area that is in theme.

The land exit is through a big city gate and back out to the side spur of the Hub.


The final element to mention like this is the Hotel, since it interacts with many lands. I decided an in park hotel was a must and the S.E.A concept could be pretty fun for a well themed hotel. I wanted it to be a pretty high capacity hotel, but not especially tall so that it does not intrude on many lands, so it is long and spread out, with 3 wings from the central lobby. The longest winds east along the park and over the hotel parking deck which also is the pool deck, looking down into Greece and the Middle East. The shortest is a nub to the west and really only looks to the entry area and the Transit Hub. And the other leads over the entrance to the park and looks down over the Village and has the best views.

The hotel lobby is a huge open atrium, themed to a turn of the century Victorian hotel. The entry portico is on one side, another has a little outdoor patio that is really inside the park, and the third has a side entrance and exit into the park, with its own security and ticketing.

The rooms of the hotel are a mix of cultural inspired rooms, referencing different countries, locations, and types of exploration, and more standard Victorian rooms. Upper level suites are based on each individual explorer mentioned in the park.

Off the lobby is a retail location. There are also a few dining locations in the hotel. First, there is a table service restaurant that is on line with the Main Street and looks right down into the park. This would be the most upscale location. There would be a second smaller table service location and bar on an upper level by the lobby, looking down to Greece. And finally a snack/counter service location on a lower level by the lobby,


I planned the park with respect to a parade and some kind of nightly show. All elements are noted below.

The parade route was fairly obvious because it needs to follow on the normal road areas of the park and can't deal with many of the smaller winding paths of the east side of the park. So it starts by the Tron gate and goes under the train track, requiring all parades in the park to be fairly low or height adjustable. It makes a loop around the main Hub and then straight down towards Marvel City, around the corner, and then out by the Spiderman gate. It is a slightly shorter than normal parade route, but does pass through the largest open areas of the park, so viewing shouldn't be a problem. I included a parade staging lineup area behind the Tron building.

Now for the night time show, this is much more complicated. So I knew that there was no way for any kind of centralized show here because there is no where large enough to hold enough people. And because of the site, major fireworks are completely out.

So my only option is to do a show that can be viewed from all over the park and uses other more passive effects, meaning it would likely be projection based. But that immediately introduced a problem, because there is nothing in the park that obviously would be good for projection mapping. After a lot of thought, I decided to try using a balloon to project on. I looked into it, and it appears to have been done, but not on this scale.

In the Hub, the huge hot air balloon is parked by the icon building and is a perfect sphere, like the Characters in Flight balloon. Patterned with the S.E.A. logo, it may periodically rise and fall during the day. At night, it permanently rises and an array of interior projectors starts up, turning the entire thing into a giant screen in the sky. This balloon would be visible from the Hub, parts of the Main Street, the spur hub by Mexico, the outside of Tron, and the main area of Brazil. That's alot of areas, but I could do better. So I decided that it would be supplmeneted by a group of minor balloons that inflate and rise in the individual lands each night. This would allow these other lands to have a more intimate and custom show. These include a balloon in China over the gardens, a balloon over the streets of Marvel City, a balloon over the lagoon of Oceana, a balloon over the square of the Middle East, and a balloon over the square of Greece. These shows would all have unique elements to make each area a unique draw to spread crowds.

China features a full fountain system in the body of water plus popcorn lighting on the buildings and carousel that come to life. Marvel City, uses some projection mapping on the taller buildings and the train cars that pass by along the track during the show. Oceana features a small fountain system and a moving boat that sails across the lagoon with projections on the sail. The Middle East features lighting and fog effects coming out of the Cave of Wonders and surrounding excavation. Greece features projection mapping along the hotel facades. Additionally, there are small pyro launches all around the park. Large fireworks definitely wouldn't work because there is not enough fallout, but smaller flare and burst style effects should be ok.

As for the content of the show, I don't want to be too specific besides suggesting that it would include segments based on each of the lands and featuring each of the main IPs. Potentially, when referencing each of the lands, there would be special content and effects in that specific land to make the show unique from each location.

Backstage Services

Very last to mention is the backstage and public services that I planned in. Since it is remote from the main resort, it needs a lot of redundant services. Again, check the diagram below.

I studied the aerial view of the existing resort pretty thoroughly to get an idea of what kind of buildings are needed and followed that as a guide. Basically, the main complex of buildings is on the west side, plus a few buildings on the east side, and a few interspersed.

West complex has the main cast center building, which is a large multistory tower with a lot of functions inside. Since there is not a lot of room, things need to be dense. It being a moderate tower here is ok, since it is adjacent to Marvel City, where towers make sense. Inside is all the offices for the park, the cast costuming center, the cast cafeteria, various cast services, and the west side team center, the cast break area, and all on top of an underground parking deck for management. Adjacent is a bus stop that runs between the cast parking location and the park, and a small security office, manning the main backstage gate nearby.

Across the street is the main receiving and distribution warehouse for the park. Truck bays unload all merch and food through here to be distributed in the park. It would also be the west side merch, food, and beverage storage.

With the services that split east and west, The Village, Tron, China, Marvel, Brazil, and Oceana are west. The Village, Mexico, Greece, Middle East, Space, and Africa are east.

To the north, two low buildings hold the central shops for the park, where everything built and maintained, and the parade and entertainment warehouse. The main parade bay holds all large entertainment elements, and adjacent is the multistory entertainment offices, dressing rooms, storage, and rehearsal rooms for the park. There is also a small property control building and storage yard in this area.

Up by the hotel and behind Tron is a few more services. The parade lineup like I mentioned, the main security offices, adjacent to the bag check area, the scooter and WC rental office in the transit hub, the transit offices, and the hotel services and loading area, where laundry and food is loaded and unloaded.

In the public area, there is an in park guest service office under the hotel and an out of park guest service area by the ticket office. First aid for the park is down the street around the corner, fairly centrally located in the park.

Back by Marvel City, there is the west head room, where the costumed characters are stored, and more offices, forming a facade for the land. This area also has the west side chiller plant, plus an entertainment building to service the parade.

On the east side, the east cast center is built into the Star Wars building, under the coaster ride. Across the path is the park fire station, a generic services building, and the east side head room. North from here is the east chiller, the train barn, and the east food and beverage. Finally, both shows of the park have an additional entertainment building backstage.

Who knows if this is enough backstage service for a real park of this scale, but its the best I could make work.

And the walk through is complete! A lot of description, but that's because there was an incredible amount of thought that went into this plan. It's not perfect, but I am really happy with it. 

And I know that I am going to continue to develop some elements from this park. Definitely at least a few attraction plans, maybe a phasing plan (since this is a fully built out proposal, no like what would actually be built), and who knows what else. 

So. Let me know what you think, what you would have done differently, and what you want to see more of! Leave a comment!

Image Credits - Rights Reserved by Original Creator under Creative Commons

The Village
1: Daniel Mennerich
2: Andrew Aliferis
3: Esther Westerveld
4: Chris Ford
5: Daniel Mennerich

The Digital Frontier
1: Jeremy Thompson
2: Natty Dread
3: Daniel SempĂ©rtegui
4: Jeremy Thompson

1: Google Maps
2: Vic Paredes
3: Fabio Achilli
4: kramerzoltan
5: Google Maps
6: Google Maps

Marvel City
1: Google Maps
2: Google Maps
3: Google Maps
4: (vincent desjardins)
5: Roman Kruglov

1: Kurt Bauschardt
2: Joel S
3: lubasi
4: lubasi
5: lubasi

1: Sarah Kelemen Garber
2: Ragnar Schierholz
3: Michael Coghlan
4: Amy~
5: Google Maps

1: Google Maps
2: Matthias Kihr
3: ViktorDobai
4: Wajahat Mahmood

Deep Space
1: BBC - Artist Ryan Church
2: Star Wars Wikia
3: Slashfilm
4: Reorientmag
5: Slashfilm

The Middle East
1: Google Maps
2: Martijn.Munneke 
3: reibai
4: Martijn.Munneke 
5: Klaus Wagensonner

1: Pedro
2: Ava Babili
3: Kirk K
4: Colin Moss
5: Kirk K

1: Google Maps
2: Google Maps
3: Google Maps
4: Russ Bowling
5: Russ Bowling