Sunday, January 2, 2022

Storyland Studios Design Challenge Entry - The Time Network //// Into the Past


Last year, I submitted a project to the Storyland Studios Design Challenge. Now that the winning projects have been selected, I wanted to share my project here for a wider audience. 

I tried something unusual with this concept, going for something that isn't really a ride or a park like I normally do. It didn't place in the competition, but I am really proud of how it turned out. The basic summary is Meow Wolf + Back to the Future. That's enough of a description for now. 

The formal entry begins below and includes text, images, and two videos. There is also a pdf presentation deck linked at the bottom. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge: Bluesky Expansion Concept

Galaxy's Edge is great. My one and only visit was back at the end of 2019, what seems like so long ago now. I enjoyed the rides, but I particularly loved the level of detail and texture in the land, making it really transformative in a way that wasn't previously found in Hollywood Studios. I found it so inspiring that, as I often do, I immediately began to imagine ideas of what to add to it if anything was possible. These bluesky ideas have been swirling around in my head for over a year, and I was unsure if I would ever do anything with them. 

Eventually, the decision to put together a plan and share won out, and that lead to this first new post in a long time. 

This is a completely bluesky, big concept take on adding to the land, devoid from the kinds of real life limitations like budget, schedule, or logistics that the real land was developed under. Who knows, maybe many of these same ideas were thought up for real and decided as impractical or impossible for some good reason. But in the case of this completely unrestricted hypothetical plan, I've just gone for it. I've still made an attempt at practicality, but it is likely more imaginative than is really possible. The goal was to think up plusses to the as built land to add the kind of experiences I wanted to see while maintaining what is great about what is already there.

The overall concept adds 2 major attractions, 3 minor attractions, two food locations, and a variety of minor additions across the land. I'll step through the elements one by one, with everything labeled on the plan below. New additions are in light blue-grey. The majority of the additions come in the two expansion plots, so I will begin with those. 

First, the green planted berm area to the north of the Resistance Forest is developed to create a ruined Jedi Temple complex with 3 attractions. The story of the land expands to include the idea that the Resistance arrived on the planet because of a lost Jedi Temple that was written about in the Jedi Texts. They found it and set up their encampment nearby the crumbling structure in the forest. A spire sticks up above the treeline to guide Jedi towards it, and sits right in the line of sight of guests who enter the main portal into the land. 

The first of the three attractions here is a relocated Jedi Training Academy, held in a courtyard at the base of the structure, right behind the existing ruins where the A-Wing is parked. It is organized by members of the Resistance in an effort to recruit and rebuild their ranks. A mysterious Jedi figure emerges from a cave opening to lead the instruction and is soon joined by an Inquisitor who challenges the Jedi and the students. But just like in the current show, they are just a force projection from the temple and the students ultimately win. 

The other two attractions in this area are held in the temple and are two forms of a similar experience. The entry hall inside the main temple building has passages leading left and right. The left leads into a kyber cave and into a minor walkthrough attraction. The right continues the ruined stone passages of the temple and starts the queue for the main attraction of this addition. 

The kyber cave walkthrough is meant to be a free parallel experience to the lightsaber building experience that hits some of the same elements in a more accessible setting. In the cave filled with shimmering lights, a series of ghostly force voices tells about the role of the crystals and the power of the Force, ending with a "holographic" appearance of a rotating selection of Jedi heroes. 

The main attraction takes guests into the inner chamber of the temple for a 20 minute special effects/stunt/multimedia show. The queue and holding rooms pass through a separate series of kyber caves that ultimately lead through large stone doors and into a grand hall. Rows of aged stone and wood benches face forward towards a huge stone gateway, filled with deep darkness. Guests are there to join the Resistance and learn about the legend of the Jedi, but it quickly becomes an action packed trip through the history of the Force when the portal suddenly expands, pulling the whole hall and its guests into it. This show is based on the World Between Worlds and the Trial of the Jedi, introduced in Rebels, and is a way to bring characters from the other trilogies into the land in a story appropriate way. 

The resistance fighter who originally was there to teach us about the Jedi becomes the protagonist of the story and comes face to face with a series of villains as the temple steps through time, trying to present him and the guests with the biggest fears and failures of the Jedi. The show features lightsaber stunt fighting, pyro, wind, fog, and a 360 degree LED wall that "transports" the room from story to story. Adversaries include Darth Maul, General Grevious, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and Kylo Ren. The resistance fighter, revealed to be sensitive to the Force, ultimately faces the trial without fear and emerges back to the temple hall with us. As we exit, we receive a parting message from Yoda and other legends of the Force. 

Moving towards the outpost, the next added area is a junkyard right across from the marketplace. A junked ship sits on top of a raised work platform at the entrance of the yard, occasionally starting up with light and sound, but then stalling in a puff of smoke. Inside the yard is a unique type of spinner attraction. I felt like a spinner would add good kinetics and variety of intensity of experience to the land, but I wanted it to feel fully in theme and appropriate to Star Wars. 

Therefore, instead of the typical arm spokes from a rotating hub, I have it set up so that the support arms are actually dressed as hanging mechanical ducts that appear to be trailing below the flying vehicles instead of supporting them. Added dangling wires add even more to the look. The story is that the attraction is a test corral for ships under repair, but as they are not 100% fixed yet, they are connected to a central power spoke while we take our test ride. The motion of the vehicles would be somewhat visible through the trees towards the resistance forest, adding some motion to draw guests in that direction. 

The other expansion area is to the northwest of the outpost, where there is currently a backstage maintenance building. I am not 100% sure this building can be replaced, so this is a case of my plan being more bluesky than might be possible, but it is the only other obvious place to expand. I am developing this area as a darker side of the marketplace. This is the less desirable part of the outpost and currently the home of the bounty hunters of the planet. It felt right to give them representation in the land since many of the other major groups of the saga are represented in other attractions (Jedi, Resistance, First Order, Smugglers and Pirates). 

The area includes one small counter service location themed as a bounty hunters guild canteen and one retail shop where the hunters sell off the various surplus items they "collect" from their targets. The area includes a relocated creature stall that features many more animatronic creatures and a huge Dewback-like creature in a pen that occasionally looks around at guests while it is resting, similar to the dragon figure in Paris. The idea is to make the creature shop more of a experience than just a store. 

Behind the streets of this little market expansion is a hangar building with two large open service bays, elevated over the street and ready for ships to land for repairs, and a couple of adjacent landing pads. The First Order presence in the outpost is reinforced by a Tie Fighter parked on one of the pads right behind the existing Tie Echelon. 

The main attraction of this added area is a EMV dark ride that uses a scaled down kuka-like motion base to simulate a jet pack flying vehicle. Guests stumble into the Bounty Guild and accidently get enlisted into partnering up with the fiercest hunter on Batuu, whether they want to or not. The mission is to find a rogue smuggler on the planet who has stolen a Mandalorian artifact and recover it at any cost.  The trip flies guests through the ship yards and alleys of the outpost before venturing to the forests and caves of the planet, ending with a shootout in the skies above the city. The dark ride would be 2 levels and set up much like Transformers with a mid ride elevator. It would use a combination of physical sets, screen extension, and projection domes to create the action filled adventure. 

After those two big expansion areas, there's a collection of smaller additions across the land. 

The largest is the addition of the originally planned table service restaurant in the yard behind Oga's Cantina. This is a large dining space, so it could be set up as some kind of a dinner show like originally rumored. I think the land really could use something like that. 

Next, a minor change is the redressing of the small courtyard by Droid Depot to be a enclosed droid test and play yard. I felt like there should be a defined area for guests to play with their new droids in a controlled space since that isn't possible anywhere else in the land. There could be an interactive animated droid figure located there to interact with guests and their new droids. 

The remaining additions are all similar in that they are an effort in adding some kinetics and traveling ships to the land. The existing soundscape simulates flying ships surprisingly well, but if this is a bluesky concept, I decided to go for a bigger and more complicated solution to visually show traveling ships. I've tried to do this 2 ways, with moving ship props and with large outdoor screens that blend into the world and show a sky with traveling ships.

For the physical ships, I've included 3 that are all a little different. One would be a delivery type ship on top of the new restaurant that would travel back and forth on a track at random times of the day. At it's farthest point, it would be out of view from anywhere in the land. This would primarily be visible along the stretch from the Millennium Falcon to the Tie Echelon. 

The second would be a Tie Fighter located right behind the First Order Cargo that would lift off to be visible above the shop and then "fly away" by sliding quickly out of view. It could then do the reverse and land, repeating this cycle at various times through the day. This would primarily only be visible inside the courtyard by the Tie Echelon. I think it would be an incredibly cool sight to see a huge vehicle lift up just behind a building. 

The third physical ship is actually inside Rise of the Resistance, specifically the outdoor holding area between the preshow and the transport. In the area that is now vegetation, I am adding a service area and an X Wing that takes off to hover a few feet above the ground while guests are waiting to load. The base of the vehicle, where the mechanics that lift the vehicle are, would be hidden by the mess of equipment and a service catwalk. Droid run back and forth along that catwalk, adding more kinetics. The idea is to add more frantic and exciting activity to this area of the attraction, as if there really is a group of ships about to take off. 

The other way of showing ships with large screens is more complicated. I thought a lot about this idea over the year. It was actually the first idea I had, days after visiting the land. I can't be 100% sure it would work, but I think there's a way this could be possible. The important part about the location of the screens is that they need to be well framed to blend in and they need to be inset deep into the frame so that the perspective can be controlled to just a straight on view. If you could see the screen from 180 degrees, the perspective would be off on the edges. But if it is limited to just the front, it would look more realistic. I think this could work. With advancements in computer rendering, I also believe that it would be possible for the video to live match the sky color and weather pattern behind, creating a hopefully seamless effect.

In this plan, I am locating the screens in two places. First, screens could be built into natural stone arches in the rockwork above the Millennium Falcon. These would mostly just be visible from this courtyard area and could show steady traffic flying by in the distance. 

The other location would be built into the raised service bays above the new bounty hunter attraction. The rear face of the framed bays could show ships periodically landing and taking off and occasional traffic in the distance. The depth of these framed bays means that these screens would only be visible straight on from the main corridor along the north of the land. 

Lastly, entertainment is important in this bluesky plan. We all know that entertainment was likely planned to be more involved in the original concept for the land, but it was cut back for a variety of reasons. In this hypothetical plan, where I don't have to deal with budget or staffing, it is easy to dream up the ideal entertainment scenario. My best case ideas for entertainment would be formed of 3 groups- musical entertainment, character entertainment, and creature/walker entertainment. 

For the musical component, I am imagining the kinds of buskers you would see in a real marketplace, such as a solo exotic instrument player and a guitar and horn duo. I also imagined a droid band built into the bed of a transport cart, playing a variety of  weird percussion instruments and accompanied by a live singer and bass player. 

For characters, the plan would be to do exactly what they have now but expand the variety of characters. In an ideal situation, I would like to see Rey, Chewie, Vi, C3PO, R2D2, resistance pilots, rebels, Kylo Ren, Stormtroopers of various types, First Order Generals, aliens, smugglers, bounty hunters, Mandalorians, and droids. There are many natural stages and performance spaces already built into the land, so it would be fantastic to see those used by a large cast of characters that inhabit the land and act out a real interactive story. It would also be great to have some stunt performers that can have occasional minor fights through the land, like lightsaber battles or shootouts on the rooftops. I know all of this was in the original plan, and would love to see it. 

For the creature component, I think it would really add a lot to the land to add some walking creature and vehicle costumes. I imagined a stilt based First Order walker costume that patrols the streets, a stilt based Blarg costume that pulls a cart across the land occasionally, and a walking Bantha costume that slowly wanders the outpost, like Universal has done with Triceratops costumes in many parks. 

That basically covers all my thoughts on additions to the Hollywood Studios version of Galaxy's Edge. This was done out of appreciation of the existing land, with a lot of passion and imagination on how to plus it as it grows while building on the great land that was built already. After this year, I can't wait to get back to Batuu eventually!

Thanks for reading if you've made it all the way down to the end. I'm not sure what a next post on here would be or when it would come, but I'm not completely abandoning this site. Still, best to follow on twitter to see updates and posts about other things that may not make it to this page. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

New Frontiers

Last year, I developed a couple new projects for my professional portfolio that I then posted over on my other website, I decided to share those projects here as well since a lot of people still check out this website. Some of these may look a little familiar, but there is a lot of new work in these posts. I have 6 posts with these portfolio projects coming up through the next few weeks. 

This is an original attraction concept for an interactive sci-fi ride into the future of humanity. The attraction uses a trackless ride system to allow for a variety of ride paths and experiences while traveling through the space so that each vehicle can experience a unique story, custom to their chosen interests and ideals.

The entrance to the attraction is through a modern transit hub where passengers can dispatch to the future of their choosing. The queue is entered through a glass walled pavilion. The queues continue to wind through the transit station and view a futuristic vehicle display, destination and arrival boards, informational exhibits, and modern waiting areas. Guests then pass through a transit gate and enter a preshow space that introduces the concept of the attraction. We are in a round room where the walls wrap up to form a seamless dome above us. This is used as a projection space to show a continuous video loop about the possibilities of the future. It specifically highlights a selection of focuses that we can choose to explore on the way to our future: transportation, health, technology, and culture.

The queues lead through a arched tunnel that continues the video presentation and then arrives at the loading platform. Four trackless vehicles load at one time, each seating eight guests. When dispatched, the vehicles rotate and enter a set of intro rooms, two vehicles in each. Here we are asked to choose our future, referencing the focuses introduced in the queue. A thin linear touch screen panel in front of each row lights up with stylized buttons for each choice. All eight passengers get to choose, and the computer complies the results to customize the attraction for the opinions of the group. There are 165 different combinations of results that could all lead to a different custom attraction.

The pair of vehicles then slides out through a door that just opened and into a video dome that shows an introduction movie. The central space of the attraction holds a carousel of 4 video domes that sets of vehicles can slot into as it slowly rotates. The domes are sized to able to fill the full horizontal field of view and the majority of the view above. The movie shows an exciting montage into the idea of futurism, including views of what we thought the future could be in the past and what we think it could be today. It ends with us being invited to travel into our own idea of the future. At that moment, we dive down into the darkness of the ocean and our pair of vehicles move back away from the screen and through an opening door.

The vehicles turn to find themselves inside a modern scientific submarine. Narration lets us know that we have arrived in the future we selected. At this point, the two vehicles begin to follow their own unique ride path. The in-vehicle audio and media elements in the set change to tell the vehicle specific story. There are a couple primary show locations in each scene. In the sub, there is the front control panel with a view out to the ocean beyond, the research station desk on the far side of the sub with smaller windows to the ocean, and the center of the sub where there is a suspended robotic viewfinder to interact with. The ocean is dry for wet and uses lighting effects and rear screens to simulate our trip underwater.

A vehicle that was mostly interested in transportation might go to the front controls and learn about the engine of the sub and how fast it can travel. For technology, they might interact with the viewfinder, or for health, they might go to the research desk to see progress on underwater health experiments. The idea in each scene is not to be overly educational and information heavy, but just to briefly present an inspiring view of the future.

There are a couple human figures in the space, working at the other desks of the sub, but we do not interact with them. These human figures are included throughout the attraction to add life and activity. Another common element through all the scenes is the inclusion of robots. Nearly every scene includes some kind of robot that performs a utility to assist the residents of the future. We often can interact with them, if they are relevant to the story of our vehicle.

The sub soon docks and our vehicles exit through the opening rear door and slide into the dock. This is a circular space with glass walls that look into the dark and deep ocean. There is also a central glass lockout tube, where we can see diver swimming up. We hear narration that tells us we are in an underwater research base that is like its own little city. Our vehicles can either go left or right around the tube and then travel into one of two research base rooms. The left room is a lab space with windows to the ocean and a variety of science experiments that are being monitored at the work stations. The right room is a control center with a large desk and display panels where the operations of the subs and underwater base are being monitored.

The two vehicles rejoin and move into a restaurant space, with narration telling us about the food of the future and the importance of aquaculture. Robotic chefs work at a counter and a huge funnel shaped glass tank fills the space above us. Server robots deliver trays from the chefs to the tables of the restaurant. The vehicles then move around a corner and into a darkened hall. Narration tells us that underwater isn’t the only place we can go in this new future. Our vehicles back up onto one of a pair of elevator platforms. In time with the sound of a rocket launch, we are swiftly lifted up into space and the scene above.

When we arrive at the upper level, the two vehicles slide forwards and turn down a futuristic looking hallway. We approach an opening and the scene ahead of us is revealed. We are on a spacestation and ahead of us is a huge window that shows the stars beyond. The space we are in is unique because it is actually mirrored above us. In this spacestation where gravity is artificially modified, both the floor and the ceiling are used by occupants. The vehicles can turn to the left or right to head to different scenes. On the left is a kitchen scene and on the right is sunken seating area that looks out to space, the ship control station, and a look into the power system. Another window on the interior of the curved space show a projection of the rest of the spacestation we are in.

After stopping at scenes in this open area of the spacestation, the vehicles head down a hallway and then pass through the bottom of a centrifuge room. We are at the base of what appears to be a huge ring room with windows looking out to space in the center. Mirrors are placed at the edges of the small built section to make the ring appear to continue. Narration through these hallways and the centrifuge would be specific to the interests of the vehicle. The vehicles continue down another hall and enter a space elevator lobby. Doors open up in front of us and each vehicle pulls into one of the elevators.

The vehicles rotate to face a set of narrow windows where we can see the stars. We suddenly simulate a rapid descent down to Mars and the doors on the other side open up to reveal a Mars Base. This futuristic base is formed of cylindrical rooms that are buried in the sand of the planet.

A large window on the far side of the first room shows the Mars horizon and a Rover vehicle parked by the red rocks. The scenes of this area include a storage bay and gym in the first room, a classroom and a rover control station in the second room, and a medical bay and repair station in the third room.

Exiting through an open door, the vehicles enter a transition space and slow in front of large digital screens. Narration now tells us that the future is progressing back on earth too, and the screens show us traveling back through space to our home planet.

We back out through an opening door and enter a modern earth farm. We are in a covered outdoor pavilion that opens up to a large force perspective farm disappearing into the distance. Farming drones hover around above the field. Scenes in this space include a look into a crystal mine shaft, a hydroponics grow tube, and an overlook over the farm fields. All vehicles then pass through a lab space where there is a control desk overlooking the farm. A people mover track runs through upper level of this building and looks into this farm scene.

The vehicles exit the lab and head towards a train parked at the edge of the farm area. The narration tells us that we are now headed to the city. Below is a fly-through schematic animation of the previous two scenes, starting at the space elevator and ending at the train. This model and animation were created to study the interior design and flow of these scenes.

We enter the back of the vehicle and turn to face a set of windows that view a screen, showing the farm exterior. Once the rear door closes, our high-speed train heads from the farm to the city, with the trip shown out the windows. We quickly arrive at the city transit port, and the vehicles turn and exit the train. The transit port is a large multilevel volume with multiple gates on the second level. An opening at the ceiling shows various ships and planes flying by above. This is a dense and active futuristic city.

The two vehicles split up here. One continues through the transit port area and pass a booking desk and a small cafe. The other turns to pass through a market-place, passing a variety of items and foods for sale from robotic salesmen. Both then exit the interior of the transit port building and find themselves on a skybridge between two building facades. This is an elevated public walkway above the city. We see the people mover pass here again in front of force perspective street end. Both vehicles then enter the front door of an apartment. Narration explains that the home is the best example of how the progress of the future benefits modern life. The vehicles make their way through the foyer, where there is a robot butler, and then a pair of bedrooms. The last space of the apartment is the open plan living room and kitchen. Out the window of the living room, we can see a large cityscape scene in the distance. All the rooms of the apartment are dressed with high tech furniture that incorporates all the elements that the attraction has previously covered.

The vehicles exit the apartment and travel into a domed central space, revealing a massive model of a future city at the center of the room. Our vehicle slowly moves around the edge of the city. There is movement all over the city, created by projection mapping and physical effects. The dome above shows the stars and a passing spacestation. The narration here summarized our trip and leaves us an inspiring message about the potential of the future.

Our pair of vehicles back out of the dome room to one of two elevators. Once the vehicles are positioned on the lift, they rotate 180 degrees to reveal a huge city show scene ahead of them, with multiple buildings and a raised people mover track, plus a skyline rising beyond. We are invited to step into the future city ourselves as the elevator lowers us back to the ground level.

At the bottom of the elevator, the vehicles move forward and reach unload. Guests leave the vehicles and can explore the future city post show. This includes an interactive news stand, a robot talent show that uses both physical robots and musion robots, and an information center where guests can find information about any of the concepts or products from the attraction. The exit from this area leads into a retail space and then back out to the park.

The attraction plan was created in SketchUp. All sketches were created in Procreate. The animation was modeled in SketchUp and animated in 3ds Max.