Friday, March 10, 2017

EPCOT Center

Drawing and discussing EPCOT Center is both bittersweet & therapeutic for me.  I was fortunate enough to have had my formative theme park experience take place during EPCOT Center's "Golden Age".  It was a place that inspired me and was probably the greatest, highest-aiming theme park ever produced.  In my estimation, EPCOT Center in its original form was made possible by two complex, now-lost factors: one inside the Company, the other outside.

The first was that Walt Disney Productions in the late 70s/early 80s was populated by a group of executives and designers who were True Believers in the School of Walt.   CEO Card Walker and Parks & Resorts chief Dick Nunis placed operating by Walt Disney's tenets (Innovation, Quality will Out, etc.) as the primary mission of the Company and ahead of executive or shareholder enrichment (or that the latter would arrive because of the former).  The Company was a lot smaller and leaner than today's massive conglomerate and could focus its energies on a few key endeavors.  

The Imagineers responsible for EPCOT Center were not creating Walt's original vision of an actual, working city of the future, but their decades with the Company and personal connection to the Disney Brothers made them well-versed in the principles behind that vision.  In many ways, the art of the theme park design has improved since those days.  However, theme parks are most often used today as a means to an end: that end being synergizing with or marketing some other type of saleable media with much higher margins or a built-in audience.  But EPCOT Center eschewed all of that.  It was the end in itself.

The second, outside factor that created EPCOT Center was the zeitgeist of the period: it probably only became clear in retrospect, but a renaissance in the American spirit & energy was underway that would manifest itself with the re-birth of the idea of American Exceptionalism and the high-times of the Reagan Years.   The blue chip corporations that would sponsor the various pavilions were still viewed with pride by the public and became important partners in EPCOT's earnest and patriotic vision of American innovation.  This collaboration was right up Walt's alley.  

Personally, EPCOT Center was the focal point of our family WDW vacations in the 80s and 90s, with MK becoming an afterthought.  The scale of the entire park was mind-blowing and the standard ride on display was characterized by being slow-moving, highly-detailed, lengthy, having a recorded-spiel; multi-media; multi-sensory; audio-animatronic-filled; intellectual; past-present-future-based; musical; optimistic; featuring no-IP.  This is type of attraction held particular appeal to my young self.  Some of my all time favorite E-tickets were in close proximity: Horizons, World of Motion, The Living Seas and Spaceship Earth, along with a favorite D-ticket: Maelstrom.   From this list you, can understand my sadness and bitterness about the evolution of the park.   Parks evolve... sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. 
It is the great attribute & drawback of the artform.

Suffice it to say, even though a significant amount of physical EPCOT Center still exists as it did in the Golden Age, somehow that original Spirit & Soul that made it my favorite park has been amputated (although vestiges can still be felt in small, overlooked corners such as the ascent scenes of Spaceship Earth).  This illustration shows my vision of EPCOT Unspoiled.  It is how, if history could be re-written, I might like to see EPCOT Center developed over its 35 year history:

The fountain hub of the park would be clean and uncluttered and put a heavy emphasis on Nature, framed by spare, monumental CommuniCore buildings.  The CommuniCore interactive displays, shows and exhibits could be regularly-updated by the Company and its partners to reflect a myriad of future developments in technology.

For me, if an attraction attains a certain level of excellence and Classic status (e.g. DL's Haunted Mansion, MGM's Tower of Terror, Paris' Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.) you can make some enhancements and technology upgrades, but you never mess with it too much - particularly when there are so many better options to create new audience attractors (i.e. in place of non-classics or expansion areas).  You need to keep what makes a great attraction, great.  Two EPCOT attractions in Future World East easily deserved this untouchable status but are now gone.  In my illustration they proudly endure.    

For me, the first cracks in the Company's approach to EPCOT Center appeared with the Wonders of Life icon. This is a small thing, but I've always wondered why its Vitruvian Man icon didn't match the simple but ingenious style of all the others of the park.  It seemed something was askew.  Regardless, this plan leaves out the Wonders of Life (maybe a future development) and moves its cabin simulator style ride across Future World.

Universe of Energy could get a completely new show 10 years after its 81 debut (sans Ellen).

I've never been a fan of the low, hexagonal architecture that marks Tomorrowland Terrace and the Odyssey Restaurant.  So it gets torn out for a natural arboretum featuring the flock of pink flamingos that once populated this area.


My initial thought in drawing this park was to put in the much more interesting-looking concept for a crystalline pavilion (above) with a balloon ride over various biomes in place of what became The Land.   Additionally, Soarin' has never fit the actual theme of The Land (Agriculture and the Environment), but I think if a dedicated aerial film were made over the earth's various biomes (e.g. Tundra, Boreal, Savanna, Rainforests, Deserts, etc.) as well as agricultural and damaged areas, then it would be a fitting substitute for the Balloon Ride.   The focus of the pre-show and ride film would need to be on the natural environment as opposed to human landmarks such as the Taj Mahal or Great Wall to make it work within the pavilion. 

Journey to Imagination goes back to its classic original form, with regular technology upgrades to the ride, ImageWorks and Magic Eye Theater.  No brainer.

The Living Seas also returns to its original, toon-free form.  From Seabase Alpha, much like Soarin' today, Guests could decide to queue through a bridge to a new simulator building for a semi-thrilling scientific expedition to the ocean depths.  One enters and exits the pavilion through Hydrolators once again.


 The first thing you may notice is that I left a number of Country Pads undeveloped.   I did this because I like greenspace in theme parks, and because with everything I've added, combined with live, cultural entertainment in each pavilion, EPCOT Center is already a multi-day park without filling up World Showcase.  While I didn't add big E-tickets such as Mt. Fuji or the Matterhorn as I have in past plans, each pavilion gets a D-ticket level attraction on the scale of American Adventure or Maelstrom.  

As in the Golden Age, there are no M&Gs or toons of any sort in this version of the Park, save for park-originated ones like Dreamfinder & Figment or perhaps the circling OmniBus of general characters.   EPCOT Center aims higher than being "a Disney Experience" as the Company defines it today, and as such, distinguishes itself from Magic Kingdom or the Studios.   I may eventually draw a version of the Coming Epcot, where each country features a ride based on the most closely-associated Disney-Pixar characters.  

Mexico: Reverts to a simpler time with El Rio losing its toons and the waterfront losing the current restaurant for the original small scale Cantina.

Norway: Maelstrom was easily the best ride in World Showcase for me (crushing its only competition, El Rio) and gave me that PotC feeling (AAs, cool environments, drop), but on a D-ticket, versus E-ticket scale.  I would have liked to see it altered to delete the Theater (move the film to the queue) in favor of an additional show scene.  

China: While it would look the same from the outside, I opted to change out the CircleVision theater (maybe for the 25th Anniversary of the park) and adapt its queue to a new darkride that examines China's history and landscapes in the stylized storybook view of a Panda named Pagoo.  This would be another park-originated character like Figment.

Russia: Since sub-Sahara Africa is well-represented in Harambe, I opted for the Russia pavilion, as designed by WDI, for the only new country.  It has a multi-media show similar to American Adventure, dining & cultural venues and a C-ticket darkride based on a Russian folk-tale.  This Pavilion could come online in 2010.

Germany: Again, I added the intended-but-never-built Rhine River Cruise.  I have tried to vary the show mechanisms (e.g. small flume, omnimover, boatride, darkride) for each of these proposed additions so that one style doesn't become overly represented.   Ride added to the pavilion in 1995.

Italy: The rear of the pavilion loses the pizza restaurant in favor of a roman facade that leads to a suspended darkride (DaVinci?) that showcases some major eras of Italian history (Etruscans, Roman Empire, Renaissance, Papal States, etc.).  The height of the showbuilding is masked by a reproduction of the dilapidated Coliseum (akin to France's Eiffel Tower).  Ride added in 2015.

American Adventure: Added restrooms gone in favor of old herb garden.

Japan: Japan currently beats out the Tangled Bathrooms for "Coolest Facade with No Attraction Behind It".  Here, I assigned a darkride that looks at the Shogun/Samurai period of Japanese history.  Ride added in alt-universe 1993.

Morocco is a brilliantly-rendered environment and in this version of EPCOT gets a darkride to accompany it.  The ride would look at the North African desert culture and folklore.  Ride added in 2012.  Also, the waterfront is returned to its original form with irrigated citrus grove.

France: France gets a boat ride that takes riders into the famous Catacombs of Paris to have encounters with some literary characters and moments made famous by Victor Hugo.  Ride added in 2000.

United Kingdom:  A large showbuilding disguised as the Crystal Palace hold an American Adventure style show on the long and varied history of Great Britain.  Ride added in 1997.

Canada:  Once it finishes its 12-year run, the original CircleVision theater would be replaced with a small-drop-flume that mirrors Maelstrom, re-adapting the rockwork and waterfalls out front.

Again, these additions and changes would take place steadily over 35+ years, so the park would constantly feel like it is growing and improving with age. 


MAP OF THE MONTH CLUB: If you have any inkling to support the work you've seen on this site, consider it art, want to see the details not visible in the online versions, and/or want more maps made available in the future, you may consider buying a canvas print for $50 (not including printing & shipping, which can add quite a bit (at least $30 (discounted) to print an 11'x14' canvas)).  

 Printing on canvas gives a nice painterly/watercolor effect to the plans, forgoes any need for framing, and the larger sizes (11x14, 16x20) show a good amount of the minute detail I put into each.  Each month, there will be a new map released and I may also be open to releasing some maps of the last year or so (going back, but not prior, to this post) for purchase.   Email (at left under About Me) for orders or inquiries. 

Here's an unboxing video of this Month's map:

video video

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Freeflow Design: DisneySpires (Concluded)

I'm back a little sooner than expected with Part II of this exercise.  You can find Part I here

The large Star Wars land featured here is inspired by the numerous pieces of glorious concept art for the under-construction land(s) - particularly the earlier pieces that showed saucers embedded in the upper-reaches of the giant rock spires.  Having just seen 'Rogue One' last month (and having loved it), I wanted to bring Star Wars into the park.   The real-world SW land is physically all about natural spires, so it would make sense to include it here.

In an ideal world, rather than clones, I'd like to see each park that gets a Star Wars Land get its own unique planet environment, one not featured in the movies (i.e., Orlando and Florida get two new, distinct planets/lands).  So I do somewhat regret drawing a 3rd version of that verdant, rock-spired outpost here.

While the style and feel of the land is based on what is being built, the attractions here are not.  One section of the land is dedicated to the Dark Side where the E-ticket ride gives guests the viewpoint of being part of the Empire(or First Order).  At the opposite end of the land is the Rebellion(or Resistance) Side where the 2nd E-ticket ride is located.   Between these factions are the more independent, diverse areas, with features such as a spacer Cantina, a dinner show featuring AA alien acts and a Bounty Hunter walkthrough-meets-shooting gallery.


 This is a mini-land, on the same scale and vein as Mystic Point.  Blackwater Manor is the next-gen Haunted Mansion for the park.  Its exterior is that of a 1880s Gilded Age seaside manor in the Shingle Style.  Its master, Cpt. Edmund Blackwater III had some villainous but wealthy pirates as forebearers, who now haunt its hallways.  It gives the classic Haunted Mansion a nautical flavor, just as Phantom Manor gave it an Old West one.  The caretaker's house has been converted to an eatery.


 Medieval China, like Renaissance Italy, is a rich source to mine for theme parks for which the surface has only been scratched (e.g., the recent Tea House in SDL).  The land is built around a large-scale flume attraction, Yulong Mountain, which I imagine could take on the more-realistic, adventurous tone of a PotC (versus a Splash Mountain).  Balancing it, I envisioned a D-ticket musical darkride that could be original in nature or incorporate the animated feature Mulan.  Dragon Boats are another attraction in this land that give passengers and tour around the perimeter of the park's lagoon.

The majority of this land's dining & retail take place in a building designed to feel like a chaotic Chinese market, with a series of winding indoor streets under invisible glass roofs (like DLP's original Adventureland Bazaar).  Numerous food stalls and merchants would be held within, creating the authentic feel of historic streets and alleyways.


The entirety of the park is designed around a very large, elaborate, SFX-filled lagoon theatrical experience.   There could be a major day show, a major night show and intermittent, smaller-scale, Bellagio-like shows, featuring only music and dancing fountains.   

Hundreds of water fountains/canons would be on a WOC like platform below the lagoon's surface (Dragon Boats hug the coastline for this reason).  The rocky center island contains animated SFX apparatus and powerful spotlights.  Rockwork and buildings around the lagoon's edge hide more show equipment which would automatically rise into position for showtime, as in DisneySea or EPCOT.    

The Great Spires themselves are integrated into the show, as the image above shows.  The backstories to the lands can also be integrated. Viewers in each section would have a different show experience and represent a different faction in this 360 degree extravaganza: the climax of a day at the park.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Freeflow Design: DisneySpires (Part One)

Laying out a theme park can be a left-brain, technical process.  I find a more enjoyable approach is to use the right-brain and 'freeflow', painting a site plan like an artist might paint a landscape.  A park plan created through freeflow, rather than being a mechanical assemblage of pre-designated parts (attractions/lands) more easily turns out to be a natural, cohesive whole. 

This is a current example of that process (I'm about 2/3 through it).  I began with one idea: A park with a castle overlooking a very large lake or coastal bay, sitting atop a rocky point (an iconic fantasy image) and that this castle should be at the front of the park, so that the view from a resort hotel on the far banks - or from passing/approaching ships - is of the great, full-scale fantasy citadel dominating the coastline.  

I didn't give too much thought to what I wanted to include in the rest of the park, or what the over-arching theme might be until after that entry area had been drawn.  I just drafted counter clockwise, land by land, letting the park unveil itself to my imagination.  Even now, I could go any number of different paths for the final lands.  I decided to make it a 'Disney' park because I find it helpful to include real-world reference points in parks that will exist solely in the imagination.

Some long-time readers may recall the "Forgotten/Lost Portal" parks I have conceived & drawn.  The idea is, like the existing Castle Parks, to provide a loose umbrella theme under which one can include anything one can imagine.  This ends up being a blend of the Lost Portal and the classic castle parks.  I call it 'DisneySpires'.  Each land will be marked by a central, tall, iconic structure.  The Spires and the lands themselves will be woven into the cental lagoon show, especially the end-of-day spectacular, and a connective thread can be sewn throughout the park this way.  


Castleton, the entry land to the park, is another name for fantasyland.  Of the myriad potential of themes, there are handful that have been built really well, multiple times (e.g., 1920s pulp adventure, the American Western, and Storybook Fantasy).  When I draw parks, I like to avoid things that have been done already and put in themes that have only been built well once or twice (or better yet, never).   But here I hypocritically go against that guideline and include the quintessential disney land, though in a unique form.  One enters asymmetric, 'narrow' village streets of half-timber shops, eateries & facilities, all the while seeing the massive citadel looming above. 

The citadel itself is a multi-attraction facility, housing a signature restaurant, show-scenes for the 'Once Upon a River Adventure' and elaborate walkthrough/exploration areas: Dungeons, Dragon Lair, Throne Room, Armory, Chapel, Wizard's Workshop, Royal Apartments, Griffin Roost, etc.).  The citadel features one tower taller than all the rest and that is this realm's Spire. 

There was once a site on the web dedicated to a ride concept called "Mr. Toad's Motor Mania."  I'd link it, but it appears to have been taken down by its creator.  The artwork on that site inspired this attraction.  The queue winds through the various rooms of Toad Hall, before emerging to the Carriage House where boarding takes place.  This is a 21st Century Autopia wherein riders have some degree of control over their motorcars' speed and steering, but computers & LPS technology keep them on the track, avoiding collisions and moving along, as well as triggering effects as the vehicles pass through an English Village, abandoned castle, train tunnel, etc..

Another walkthrough attraction is the ancient oak grove which features, fountains, games and a character meet & Greet at each of the massive hollowed out trunks of an ancient grove of giant oak trees.


Renaissance is a history-based theme that has been done wonderfully-well one time - at DisneySea, and this would be its sister land.  The aesthetic is a 1500s Mediterranean port, with a fortress-like guildhall guarding the entrance and a very large carrack docked nearby to explore.  There is a DaVinci Flying Machine aerial spinner.   the massive show-building, disguised as the port's buildings and ramparts, houses a 15-minute long, AA-based, multi-media omnimover, "the Age of Discovery", which could cover the rise, fall and re-rise of Western Civilization, concluding with the flowering of the Renaissance and the Discovery of the New World.

My happy place with respect to theme parks is late 1980s to mid 1990s EPCOT Center Future World, with its great series of omnimoving edutainment attractions (Horizons, World of Motion, Spaceship Earth, Living Seas were my four go-tos).  Combining a variety of types of presentation in each ride, great music & narration and an inspirational tone, these attractions awed and left an imprint on a young me like no ride has since.   So I wanted to include an attraction of this style in the park.

This land's spire is a massive campanile/lighthouse marking the anchor attraction.  There would also be a theme-appropriate animated diorama for the train that passes behind this land.


The second idea that generated this park concept (after the castle-on-a-cliff) was my desire to illustrate plans for a pulp adventure-based coaster.  Big Thunder Mountain is the quintessential themed coaster and I wanted to draw (and probably will in the future) attraction-level art for its equivalent in the pulp adventure versus old-west style.  Having just listened to the original audiobook for King's Solomon's Mines, that classic book became the theme for the attraction.

There are some different interpretations of the locale of this mythical place, but I went with that of Nubia, just beyond the edge of the Ancient Egyptian Upper Kingdom(modern Sudan).  This location would also allow other parts of the land to reflect a geography/culture that is more commonly depicted (that of Thebes, Memphis, etc.) in pop culture.  King Solomon's Mines loosely interprets the book's story and locales with many of the landmarks and characters present - entered through the native village kraal, past the villains plotting, including an AA witch Gagool, the silent watchers, sprung booby traps, etc.   The coaster would be a train of ancient mining carts through the diamond caverns and burial chambers, often going outside and hugging terrain as the track dips and twists around the rocky African landscape. 

Continuing the northeast Nubian aesthetic is the central explore zone, akin to Camp Jurassic or Tom Sawyer Island.  Book-ending these wilds are the more urban parts of this extensive land.  The area to the east (near Porto) represents Egypt of the 1880s-1920s (train station) and could house major dining and a theatrical attraction.  At the top of the park, marked by this land's spire -an enormous obelisk - is a Pharaoh's palace area that goes back in time to Ancient Egypt and features the land's 2nd E-ticket.  Here I'm imagining an elaborate shooter based on the Egyptian Pantheon (borrowing a title from the 2016 movie).   

I will conclude this park in a few weeks time.  Happy New Year! I wish all readers good luck, health and happiness in 2017!

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Way DLP Ought to Be

DLP is one of the unfortunate ironies of the theme park world:  As designed, a work of consummate genius by the (arguably) Greatest Generation of Imagineers.   And, over its lifetime, the most neglected of all the top tier parks.  It is incredible to think that the last ride added to the park was 20+ years ago in 1995 (excluding conversions/ replacements, eg Visionarium).  And it looks like many more years before another attraction will be put in.  I find myself wishing  that TDL and DLP had been switched at birth... with this park sitting alongside its equal, DisneySea, cared for by the OLC and adored by the Japanese park-goer.   Alas, it was not to be.

Thankfully, a good amount of the genius of DLP endures.  That it has continued to be a draw for decades without a real new attraction is a testament to how beautifully executed the original vision of Walt's DL for European Audience was.

Drawing this plan allowed me to look at some of the woulda, coulda, shouldas I had in mind for this park.

FANTASYLAND: Whether it was the popular Lion King show in Discoveryland or the currently-playing Frozen show in Frontierland, DLP has a long history of not giving a turd about whether its live shows reflect or support the land's theme. 

 The first step in correcting this problem is to remove the temptation: the theaters in Frontierland and Discoveryland go away, as well as the now-ill-fitting Meet Mickey area (leaving the charming Fantasyland Train Station intact) for a new path that leads under the tracks to a catch-all, indoor Fantasy Forest Theater at the top of the park.  A forested berm goes in to help hide the theater building (and PotC).  A new quick service eatery is built next to this Theater.  Now, whatever live show du jour can go here, and more often than not, fit with the theme of the land.

Since Princess M&Gs are so popular, a cousin of Anaheim's well-detailed Fantasy Faire is built south of Mad Tea Party, so the half-assed conversion of the IaSW post-show building to a Princess Pavilion can return to something like its original incarnation.  

The major ride added to Fantasyland is a D or E-ticket LPS based on the Little Mermaid (sharing the name, but the not the ride system, of the MK's attraction).  Its showbuilding occupies the space currently taken by the Videopolis/Jedi Training (which get razed, though Hyperion Cafe would remain).

ADVENTURELAND: Almost everyone has seen the site plan for the Indiana Jones Adventure that has circulated online for years.  I transcribed it here, completing the Indy-in-1930s-India sub-area (begun with the coaster) with numerous ancient temples added in various states of dilapidation.  The setting and storyline would distinguish itself from the existing rides in Tokyo and Anahiem (a different region of India; Hindu vs Buddhist pantheon, perhaps).
Artwork by Ragu

Small Details: Adventureland would be scrubbed of UCI (Unnecessary Character Infusion).  The Carl from "Up" statue gets removed from the waterway.  Restaurants that were needlessly given Disney Toon monikers go back to their original, unique names.    As with all the Idealizations of my imagination, retail undergoes a watershed change so as to be more sophisticated, interesting and reflect the land's theme (no more stands of pink cinderella dresses shoved out into the middle of the Bazaar).   The once wonderful indoor Bazaar could return, ousting the Aladdin-named restaurant.  Signage in and around restaurants always defers to the tech level of the period: no tacky photo-shopped posters of food outside restaurants.  No LCD menu boards inside.  Exit signs in the proper font and casings.  Lighting appearing to be of the appropriate period and no harsh LED bulbs.  You've heard it all here before.

FRONTIERLAND: The McPochahontas Playground goes away and the much cooler canoes make a return (re-opening the Pueblo Traders). 

 Crossing from Thunder Mesa into Cottonwood Creek sub-area, passing the restored Critter Corral and Woodcarvers Hut, there is a new mega attraction based on my favorite movie (no joke) of recent years: Gore Verbinski's "Lone Ranger."    The outdoor queue is based on the Reid Family Ranch and the attraction's weenie is another tall sandstone butte (bookending Big Thunder), but topped with the Cherokee Resurrection Platform from the film.  As all movie-based attractions ought to do, this one avoids giving a book report of the film, but takes riders alongside familiar characters on new, original adventures.    

DISCOVERYLAND: Eschewing the incoherent mix of Star Wars, Toy Story and Steampunk it has been for much of its existence, for the first time the entirety of Discoveryland would be dedicated and themed to the Science Fiction visionaries of the late 1800s Europe (George Lucas has never been in that category, so Star Wars gets bounced to a nearby park).  Buzz Lightyear would be the same track, but redressed as a stylized, kid-friendly shooter (targeting Morlocks) based on HG Wells' "The Time Machine."   Another HG Wells creation, "The Invisible Man", gets a SFX Walkthrough/Theatrical attraction, located on the far side of a new, landmark train station for the land.   Space Mountain reverts to something based on Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon".   The final major addition to the land is a Hot Air Balloon omni-simulator based on Verne's classic "Around the World in 80 Days."


Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Animal Kingdom

It's been a while since I've shared an Animal Kingdom plan on this site:

The drawing includes all the recent and upcoming changes, including Pandora (some guesswork involved), Harambe Marketplace, the Harambe Theater district, Rivers of Light Amphitheater, and the new additions to Discovery Island.  

Now, on to the Ideal Build-out changes... 

- I think Brian K. was the one who suggested changing the current Dinoland, USA to a South American land (and moving dinosaurs elsewhere), featuring the natural re-theme of Dinosaur to Indiana Jones Adventure.  While I wouldn't pick Indy to take over the EMV ride
(it's not a property that is Animal/Nature-centered enough for this park, IMO), I like general idea of a South America re-theme.  I don't think it would take too much work to change Restaurant-o-saurus to feel like an Amazonian outpost as seen in DisneySea (art by WDI Phillip Freer):

-The crocodile exhibit could be changed out for caimans.  The Boneyard would become a Rainforest Explore Zone, featuring huge tree trunks (artificial) and canopy rope bridges.  

-Dinosaur would use the same underlying ride system and track, but be re-themed to an invented ancient lost civilization in the Amazon and would be centered around the wildlife they revered: a giant Anaconda, jaguar, etc..  It's exterior would be marked by a Mayan-esque temple half-reclaimed by the jungle.

-The less foreboding part of South America would be based on the colorful Bahia region of Brazil and feature a carousel, new restaurant, shopping and a long, indoor musical boat ride (original attraction).  This is the park's much-yearned-for, climate-controlled, high-capacity, kid-friendly attraction.  The Mata Atlantica (not to be confused with the much larger, more famous Amazon Rainforest), one of the most biodiverse and endangered ecoregions on the planet, would serve as the setting for the attraction (art by Nathan Fowkes for "Rio").


-In Africa, Asia and South America, I think it is crucial to staff the lands (entirely) with College Program & older Cultural Representatives who hail from the regions represented (Africa, Nepal & India, Brasil, etc.), just as in EPCOT.   It makes the experience vastly more authentic, interesting and credible for the guest.  

Kilimanjaro Safaris:

-The Safari loses all traces of the Wild Africa Trek (which, ironically, has made the area look/feel much less wild).  

-All the currently-visible man-made fencing is eliminated/disguised/hidden (e.g. Okapi paddock, Hyena paddock, Cheetah paddock, etc.).  The park as a whole needs to return to its roots of making animal barriers naturalized and invisible - this for me was/is its greatest asset. 

-The domesticated Ankole cattle are removed.

-A more dramatic story/script/soundtrack is re-introduced, including, potentially, a professionally-narrated, recorded spiel.   Bring back and improve the rough, speedy ending.  I'm imagining a safari experience that has an aural impact similar to the Serengeti imax film:

 -At the northern part of the attraction, the flood control canal is re-shaped into a naturalistic "Masai River".   And beyond, in the distance, are seen larger herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffe or other ungulates in what is currently the acclimatization paddock.   Having large numbers of animals in the fore-, middle- and distant- ground makes for an awe-inspiring visual experience, that one typically would only see in the real savanna.

- When the safari trucks turn Southward after this view of herds on the far riverbank, an even greater visual appears, a giant, snow-capped volcano - Mt. Kilimanjaro - and forms the distant backdrop to the Rhino paddock and Lion Kopjes:

Wildlife Express
    - This attraction becomes story-based and "on-stage".  It no longer violates the land's theme by showing the backstage areas.  The African Station and train itself are already well-themed.  In this build-out, the ride includes numerous sights worth seeing.  It takes passengers on a journey across the plains of India (where such trains were common), into caves where mysterious creatures dwell, past a wild African setting (via an SFX diorama) and into a Lost World where prehistoric giants still thunder on.

- A forested berm forms the backdrop to the Tiger paddock.  It is the new route of the Wildlife Express. The Express passes through a cavern scene where Indian troglobites dwell.

-The huge volcano has several facets based on one's viewpoint: when seen rising up behind Maharajah Jungle Trek, it is India's extinct volcano, Dhinodar.

-This new land is dedicated to extinct kingdoms: both from the Age of Dinosaurs and from the Age of Mammals.  These animals have somehow survived through epochs and live in this secret, hidden valley/island (a zoological Shangri-La).

-The Volcano not only serves as a visual backdrop to Africa and Asia, but also as a massive show-building for the two major indoor-outdoor E-tickets in this all-original land.  DinoStorm is a long, high-speed darkride focusing on the giant lizards of 100 million years ago.  The River Voyage is a water adventure featuring mammals from 50,000 years ago, including giant sloths, mastodons and sabre-tooth cats.

-The tech-stetting of the land is a 1950s scientific expedition.  All technology/architecture conforms to this period (or earlier) and - because this is a place discovered by scientists - has a "Popular Science/Mechanix" flavor to it.

-The pedestrian path to this land dips into a cavern that hides/passes below the (raised) train tracks.  The second access point is the Wildlife Express station at the northern end of the land.  

-PlanetWatch is no longer accessible to regular guests, but could be used as part of a "Behind the Scenes Tour" like those EPCOT used to run.  


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

SDL - Expansion Plan

Before getting to the latest buildout I've drawn for Shanghai, you may enjoy this stand-out presentation that PJ Butler created for the charrette:


My goals for this version were to try out some new concepts based on both recent and forthcoming blockbusters, add some very big thrills (simultaneously giving the park huge rockwork berm 'mountains' and structures to help insulate it), and inject a significant amount of unique, original content.

Mickey Avenue  This area sees a new square and a Flemish brownstone apartment complex added.  It is where the core characters can meet & greet in their various themed flats.  This allows the removal of the current Meet Mickey tent in the Tomorrowland expansion pad.

Adventure Isle  The small expansion pad is used to add to the Arbori mythology present throughout the land.  I used a similar concept in the DHS plan several posts down: the general idea is to disguise a thrilling flatride (e.g. a Topspin) as an ancient, stone machine or temple.  This one could be disguised as a threshing device and/or a temple to the Arbori God of the Harvest.

Treasure Cove  The areas currently used as picnic lawns are leveled and turned into an elaborate expansion of the ramshackle pirate town.   Here the emphasis is on non-PotC-movie content in order to underscore the land's broader theme (Golden Age of Piracy versus the specific PotC-only filmic world).  I'm thinking it could include a musket range (shootin' gallery) as conceptualized for DLP, Long John Silver's tavern/eatery and an interactive, indoor walkthrough inspired by the original pirate concept for Disneyland (Rogue's Gallery).  

Fantasyland  The third picnic lawn gets turned into a landmark (larger, taller, higher-capacity than DLP's) Old Windmill (Ferris Wheel).  Another flatride is placed in the northern, forested part of the land: Mater's Jamboree whip ride re-themed to fit the Tangled sub-area.  The major addition to the land is marked by an enormous beanstalk which rivals the castle and Roaring Mountain in height and size.  The stalk conceals a showbuilding housing a mixed media attraction based on the forthcoming animated feature.  The giant beanstalk is also used to obscure the next door theater building.

Tomorrowland  The areas currently occupied by Meet Mickey and the Marvel exhibit would be replaced by permanent facilities (ride, dining, exhibit) reflecting real-world, techno-optimistic futurism (since not many of the land's current attractions focus on Original TL's core principle).  When it came to giving this park a Haunted Mansion, I thought I'd put it in Tomorrowland.  That idea morphed into an attraction that is thrill/horror, but not really a version of the humorous and musical HM - this is more of a distant cousin to Tower of Terror.  I imagined a vertical drop darkride that would look like a mix of Gaudi's never-built hotel for NYC and the mysterious abandoned spacecraft from 'Alien.'  The research base and gantry around it are the sleek, metallic, human architecture as seen in the rest of TL, but the ship itself would be very different: an unsettling and Alien-esque bio-mechanical design.  The TL research team that entered the Derelict (nod to Zoolander) ship never returned.

Gardens of Imagination  There is an addition of an elevated railway station.

Zootopia  In place of the rumored and possibly-underway Toy Story Land is a new mini-land themed to the smash movie.  The aforementioned elevated train takes visitors on a trip similar to the one seen at the beginning of the film (as well as adding to Tomorrowland's visual interest).  The el train is similar in scale to the one at DisneySea.  It travels on the inside of the parade loop so as not to interfere and also provide cover for parade viewers.  Zootopia the land is enveloped by a long, splash-mountain-scale flume ride that traverses condensed versions of three of the major city environs seen in the movie: Rainforest District, Tundra Town, Sahara Square.  The icy pinnacles of Tundra Town house (in addition to queue/boarding for the flume below) a restaurant based on Mr. Big (upper level).  The train station is in the central desert district.  The rainforest district also features a giant swing spinner themed to a rainforest tree and its vines and lianas. 

The Lost City: Byzantium  The final and largest addition is an original land based on the Byzantine Empire, a distinctive civilization that bridged the Classical and Medieval Eras, and Eastern & Western worlds.  Re-creating things like Byzantium, both accurately & theatrically, is a primary way in which theme parks can educate and enrich whilst entertaining a mass audience.  I've used the example of TDS's Lost River Delta before, which immerses visitors in (seemingly authentic and well-researched) Mayan art and architecture while taking them on a fun, pulp fiction adventure.  The same can be said for any really-well recreated historic, natural or literary environment.  Visitors to this lost city will experience the buildings, art and culture of a great and ancient civilization they may have known little about hitherto, while simultaneously enjoying adrenaline-pumping coasters and state-of-the-art SFX attractions.

The enormous mountain range forms an "L"-shaped backdrop around the land, hiding both the Pirates showbuilding and the backstage/outside world.  The backstage parade route is altered to go around the new land. 

I see two possible ways to theme the land.  The more challenging would be to set the time period in the ancient empire, circa 800-1000AD.  Another route would be to follow the template set by Adventure Isle and make it a 1920s-30s expedition (League of Adventurers) uncovering a lost and ruined archaelogical site: rather than the tropics of the Pacific islands, this a Caucasus Mountains-set Byzantine outpost.  The latter gives the benefit of making it easier to integrate necessary technologies more believably throughout the land. 

In addition to the mountain peaks, the major landmarks include a large domed structure partly inspired by the Hagia Sofia - which serves as the impressive queue and pre-show to the very elaborate mountain coaster that travels to the far edges of the land - as well as a mountaintop tower.  A number of other attractions, dining and retail facilities round out the land.  


I'll be saving the hotel for a future post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Variations on a Theme

***UPDATED(see below) ***

The imminent opening of Shanghai DL underscores the limitless possibilities of the castle-park format.  It can be fun drawing various interpolations of this concept, as well as seeing what others have come up with.  The following Illustrative is my edited interpretation of Vipraa’s dream Texas Disney Resort flagship park, the write-up for which can be found here.

This park concept has taken some inspiration from Shanghai DL, though it retains a more traditional Hub & Spoke layout.  The SDL influences include (i) a Treasure Cove area with similar content as Shanghai's; (ii) a Fantasyland boat ride that travels through the center of that land as well as below the Rose Garden plaza behind the Castle; (iii) a Broadway-scale theater in the entry land (separate ticket required?); (iv) wavy, bulbous glass curtains covering the Tomorrow-based land buildings.

I've imagined topography playing a much more dramatic role than in existing parks (which are limited by water-table).  For example, the Crystal Canyon Runaway Mine Train takes place mostly well below the pathway 'grade' level in a deep artificial canyon.   Similarly, in Fantasyland West, the pathway gradually rises (as the Spaceport pathway descends) so by the rime you enter Spaceport from Fantasyland you are on the 2nd level (the Expo’s 2nd level, StarGazer’s 2nd level, etc. can all be accessed from this skybridge) while the parade route passes below (parade floats would have a max. height req. or need to mechanically transform to make it past the overpasses).

The big question is what should go in the Sixth Land pad...


Now to answer that question.  I settled on a kitsch "Fifties America" in order to give the park another nostalgic American area with original attractions created specifically for the land.

From the hub, one crosses a bridge and passes under a googie land marquee.  On the right is a Mel's Drive-thru type burger joint with metallic arches and neon signage.  

Taking up most of the land are two intertwined automobile-based attractions.  They also share a mountain-clad showbuilding for individual show scenes.  Road Trip, USA is basically Autopia with much more to see.  Drivers control (do a degree) their small 1950s cars (electric but feigned as gas-powered) and pass numerous stylized roadside tourist attractions such as Carslbad Caverns, Mt. Rushmore, dinosaur road-side stands, drive-thru redwood, the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota... you get the idea. 

Rock n' Roll Drag Racers is something akin to Radiator Springs Racers, but without the toon element.  It has a 1950s rock soundtrack, indoor show-scenes and a high-speed race finale.

If Car Culture is one part of the land, 1950s sci-fi is the other.  The major E-ticket ride is hidden behind a crashed UFO flying saucer, where government agents have descended on the town to investigate.   This original attraction might include giant Atomic Ants, Martian Invaders and other monster staples of the time period.  

The town green by the train station reflects the somewhat disapproving older section of town - still enjoying trains and gazebo bands versus newfangled cars and rock n' roll: