Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Post-Studio Era

Movie parks around the world are moving inexorably away from sound-stage-filled “Studios” with movie-making at their heart and towards recreating filmic worlds, as exemplified by the new Place de Remy at WDSP and Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.  These transporting areas show how positive this movement can be.   My main reservation about the Post-Studio Era continues to be in the macro scope: I'm wary that the individual parks, including non-studios, lose something of their unique identities as these filmic world areas continue to be placed in every type of park, so eventually they all will feel like quasi-filmic-worlds parks.  In the individual park- and near-term, however, it is exciting to see these areas realized so well.

 I had collaborated with Brian Krosnick before on his idea for a theme park in the shape of the earth’s continents.  This time, Brian contacted me with an expansion/revision plan for WDW’s DHS.    He had some pretty cool and unique ideas for the park, including:

-    An entirely color-less land based on the early Walt Disney black-and-white cartoons.
-    An exotic tropical land, inspired by Mystic Point, that is home to a retired, eccentric Hollywood starlet (thinking Norma Desmond)

-    A hillside featuring the Hollywood sign over and behind the Chinese Theater.
-    Making Midway Mania part of an actual boardwalk midway (TDS).


This park mixes several lands that are focused on Classic Hollywood and film-making, along with a number filmic worlds, making for a pretty neat Movie Kingdom.

Brian mapped out his vision, an essential first step for any collaboration:

And I adapted it, removing almost every trace of the original Studio Backlot and putting in a family coaster situated on Syndrome's Island in The Incredibles area:


Brian has put together a very descriptive walkthrough of his Ideal Buildout of “Hollywoodland” which you can read on ThemeParkTourist.

***


Saturday, June 21, 2014

3D Modeling

I was flattered to be contacted by designer Raoul van Kammen (website) who took it upon himself to digitally model the Leonardo's Workshop attraction for DisneySea that I had drawn and posted here a few months ago:


And here is the progression of Raoul's stellar modeling work:




I think he brilliantly captured what I was trying to communicate for this environment.  Thanks, Raoul!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scenic Plan - Daark Valley Orphanage

UPDATE: Video at end has new scene added.

Professional illustrator Kevin Karstens has pulled off a pretty remarkable piece of ‘home-imagineering.’  Inspired by the Haunted Mansion, Kevin created an attraction called Daark Valley Orphanage – a creepier, more horror-oriented, FX-based omnimover. 

He came up with an elaborate backstory, a scene run-down and illustrated storyboards for the ride.  Then he built physical models of each scene, put together an audio soundtrack/narration and filmed a ride-through with a mini camera, complete with working special effects!  How he accomplished all of this can be seen in detail on his site.

When I came across this project, I contacted Kevin to see if he wanted to collab on a schematic for the ride, specifically an illustrative scenic ride layout.  He did, and what follows is my interpretation of the attraction:

And here is a scene-by-scene description, paraphrasing Kevin’s much more detailed synopsis.

QUEUE 0: COURTYARD: Exterior of the attraction is the once grand, now abandoned Victorian Orphanage, weeds choking the fountain, gate falling off its hinges, old gazebo.


QUEUE 1: PATH DOWN TO CELLAR: I imagined the path winding down past the rockwork cliff towards the cellar entrance.

QUEUE 2: EXHIBITS & ARTIFACTS:  In the dank cellar, the fictional TV show ‘Spectre Seekers’ has put together some exhibits and original artifacts from the tragic history of Daark Valley.

PRE-SHOW 1: SCREENING ROOM:  Here the full history of the Oprhanage (
discussing murderous Headmistress Sally) is set up, as is the Spectre Seekers TV tour.

PRE-SHOW 2: SERVICE ELEVATORS:  Moving through narrow, cave-like cellar passage, visitors will board old elevators for a disquieting FX journey up to the main level.

SCENE 0: LOADING: Straightforward.



SCENE 1: DARK WELCOME: Pitch black; intro narration; walkie-talkie chatter from TV crew.

SCENE 2: PARANORMAL PORTRAIT: Hall with grand portrait of Miss Sally… shadow hands stretch up from the darkness below as the portrait changes into a demonic face, howling in rage.


SCENE 3: SHADOW PEOPLE: An impossibly endless corridor... within the shadows on the floor and walls, figures rise and fall, their red eyes staring out at the living... whispers and mumbling can be heard...


SCENE 4: HAUNTED HALLWAY: Lightning flashes at the opposite end... along the sides of this hall, small hands can be seen attempting to 'push out' through the walls...they grow out a ways, but then retreat, defeated, as the cart slides along its path... visitors swerve to face the bay windows, long free of glass panes, their shredded curtains rippling inward from the wind of the storm outside...

SCENE 5: ATTACKING APPARITION: A long deserted hall which offers a turn to the left about 20 feet ahead... far off down the corridor a ghastly phantasm appears, roaring down the passage, arms outstretched, its shredded petticoat flapping in the breeze... the cart swerves into the opening, the ghost vanishes, cheated of its prize:



SCENE 6: VALLEY OF DESPAIR:  Three bay windows provide a view outside... visible is a seemingly 'bottomless' mist-filled valley next to the Orphanage... streaming ghost orphans can be seen flowing endlessly up out of the valley into the night sky, as lightning flashes and bolts illuminate the heavy clouds hanging over the valley.

SCENE 7: FORGOTTEN NURSERY: The cart rounds the corner, out of the blackness, and visitors have a clear view of the highly-haunted Nursery come to life.  Dirty, dusty old toys are scattered about, three rusted beds are lined up under the windows.  Situated on the floor in the center of the room, two transparent orphans roll a physically-real ball back and forth between them.


 The bed on the far right shows two alternating 'depressions' that rise and fall, as if two orphans are bouncing up and down on the bed...which they are, to an extent...

Bloody hand prints appear on one wall, letters spell out 'HELP US'...a framed painting, directly above these manifestations, changes randomly from a cherubic-faced Humpty Dumpty to a spiked-toothed nightmare.

SCENE 8: SOULTAKER SALLY:  Rounding the corner, visitors can see an open doorway (on the door, 'MISS SALLY MAPLE - ORPHANAGE HEAD MISTRESS' is visible)… lightning flashes and thunder bellows, as we see a Team Member gasping and his body lurching upward... the ghastly spectre (the same torso ghoul previously seen in the hallway, but now more clearly defined) of Sally Maple flickers into existence above him, seeming to 'pull' his body up...


SCENE 9: THE BONEYARD: Broken French doors lead onto an outdoor landing, where the heavily clouded night sky gives birth to a raging thunderstorm.  The cart moves along the landing, where we can see the former playground down below.   A rusted 'merry go round' sits broken, but this doesn't prevent the ghost orphans from endlessly revolving around in the air, slightly above the shattered device, as they chant a musical nursery rhyme...
 

Further along we see a battered swing set, a teeter totter and a sandbox...the swings rock back and forth endlessly, devoid of any visible riders, as the teeter totter moves up and down... a hopscotch game takes place…
video



SCENE 10: DOORWAY TO HELL: As they re-enter the orphanage, visitors find another TV Team Member slumped over a pile of debris on the floor... the wall behind him cracks and breaks apart... a swirling green blue VORTEX can be seen, as pictures on the wall start to 'swing in' towards the rift, and hanging lights are pulled in that direction, flickering, then going out...  The fallen Team Member's head rises to stare out at the passing visitors, his eyes turn RED, and his jaw unhinges to emit an angry, evil roar… The cart seems stalled, unable to resist the power of the portal... To make matters worse, the ghastly visage of Miss Maple emerges from the vortex, and she speaks for the first time, her attention now on the trespassing visitors...


She cackles a mad laugh, triumphant in her victory...Until multiple small, blue orbs burst forth from the walls surrounding the edges of the scene, swooping towards the evil Mistress.  The lights swirl around as we hear orphans' laughter.  They then converge on the ghost of the old spinster, as she is dragged wailing into the vortex... with a shudder, the cart is free!


[SWW: Since this scene required the cart to feel as if it were stuck or getting drawn in (tilt forward) - and have an important, somewhat lengthy SFX sequence unfold directly before the rider, I put in a carousel system (akin to something like those used on Imagination, Horizons or Harry Potter), where multiple, identical FX sets/screens rotate in sync with each individual cart, giving the illusion of no longer moving.  In retrospect, I think it would be much easier to accomplish this with the rotating set on the interior, rather than on the exterior (as shown) of the ride path, but I hope the idea gets across.]

SCENE 11: TV LOUNGE: Epilogue… An old television, sitting on a broken table, claims the Orphanage is safe for tourists... We know better.

SCENE 12: UNLOAD

POST 1: RETAIL:  At ground level (pre-show screening room shown below).




And for the grand finale, here is Kevin’s video ride-through (work-in-progress, shows through Scene 8) of the model he built for the attraction: 











***




Sunday, April 27, 2014

Adventurers Club


When the rendering of “The Hangar” – a facility at the under-construction Disney Springs - was posted on the construction walls a little while ago, I was reminded of the glow that master WDI artist Bryan Jowers gave to many of his paintings, which were often set in exotic times and places.  This got me thinking: what if a retail/dining/entertainment center like The Landing at Disney Springs had a distinctive theme, that of pulp adventure.   One of the buildings on the Springs model caught my attention when I first saw it:


 The four very tall chimneys give the building a distinctive Victorian look and my mind immediately went to what was once adjacent to this site: The Adventurers Club – the crown jewel of Pleasure Island and one of the coolest entertainment venues ever built at WDW (or anywhere else), filled with incredible theme-ing, details, special effects and populated by an eccentric cast of characters.   For some good information on this lost gem, check out articles on themerica and allears

This Four-Chimney Building looked to me like a good placeholder for a new Adventurers Club Headquarters, so I set about creating the piece of media below.  I saved myself a lot of time by painting over the official Mystic Manor portrait (I think it was by Chris Turner) to show a view of what I imagined as the dilapidated Clubhouse.  Then I painted in one of the Club Members (I believe it was ichthyologist Otis Wren who wore the white suit and red fez) surveying the Club’s new acquisition, along with a telegram.  

This has been my contribution to the cause of resurrecting the Adventurers Club.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2nd Gate - Paris

With its Ratatouille sub-area nearing completion, I decided to take another look at WDSP.   Awhile back I did a radical revision/expansion plan of this park, changing its overall theme to ‘Lost Portal’.  This time, I decided to incorporate more of what is currently standing and keep it based on The Movies, specifically five distinct film-making entities and a sixth area showcasing Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1940s.   I hesitate to title this version “Walt Disney Studios” because only a few pieces represent the behind-the-scenes (studio) film-making process (Entry Plaza, part of the Pixar area) and very little represents Walt Disney Productions.  While the neighboring castle park has a lot to do with the foundation of the Company – DLP being a new vision of Walt’s original park and including attractions based on many of his films – this 2nd Gate is populated by outside entities the Company has since acquired or become associated with: Pixar, Lucasfilm, Studio Ghibli.  




This ‘build-out’ master plan (which actually includes a few sizable expansion pads) increases the on-stage areas of the current theme park by several times, ending up with an overall footprint slightly larger than its neighbor, DLP.   I realize that with such a huge increase in capacity the Studio One entrance/bottleneck would likely need to be addressed (demolished), but for this exercise, it’s nice to be able to reference some standing physical aspects of the park.

Since this is the sister park of Orlando’s DHS, I was inspired by the giant aerial hidden Mickey of the original D-MGM Studios (here the Mouse is lording over all its corporate subsidiaries) in shaping the central lagoon used for daytime fountain shows (Bellagio) and an end-of-day spectacular.



OLD HOLLYWOOD: The entrance to the park is unchanged, but once visitors exit Studio One they step into a highly-detailed, romanticized recreation of 1940s LA.   The Red Car trolley runs up and down Hollywood and Sunset Blvds.   The facades in front of Tower of Terror are expanded into functioning buildings or shops.  CineMagique receives an architectural shell (and interior) of a classic Movie Palace.  Nearby a competing venue houses a new take on the Great Movie Ride: an AA- and SFX-laden EPCOT-style omnimover with a canned spiel (select language in each ride vehicle) telling the story of film, with scenes from pivotal classic movies, not just by WDP.  I have my ideas of what greats should be included, but if anyone wants to list 10-15 movies/scenes in chronological order they think should qualify, feel free to do so in the comments section (don’t worry about acquiring the rights from rivals!). 

MARVEL SUPERHERO CITY:  Urban LA of the 40s transitions into a more contemporary but still densely-built cityscape.  The two existing attractions in this area are extensively re-skinned and re-themed.  Rock n’ Rollercoaster becomes Iron Man themed and the Armageddon FX walkthrough is themed to the Incredible Hulk (containment chamber fails).  Spiderman gets a new original family ride and there is a Dock Ock spinner.  The Red Line has a stop in the urban core.   Moving away from the city and into the greener countryside, there is a playzone (Redwood Creek) based on Captain America.  Finally, a small town gives way to the landmark Xavier School for the Gifted where a major thrill ride based on X-men awaits.

L’UNIVERS DE TIM BURTON:  This area brings the worlds of Tim Burton (via several different studios) to life in his very unique, twisted style.   There are several subsections, the linking factor being their similar design DNA (just as Pixar, Marvel, Ghibli each have a similar visual aesthetic style despite different times, places and rules of the individual films – that is how these type of “creator-based” lands can work).  Haunted Hill and Halloweentown would be the ultimate place to celebrate Halloween in the parks, with attractions, retail and dining based on ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘Beetlejuice’, ‘Frankenweenie’, and ‘Corpse Bride’.   To confess, when drawing this I imagined the latter was the pink mansion from ‘Coraline’ but just learned Burton was not involved in the film.   Chris Merritt’s concept for a NBC ride has been floating around on the web for years and could easily find a home here.   There could be a Sweeney Todd barber shop in the central village area. 

The second sub-area is based on Burton’s adaptations of Roald Dahl’s books, with Wonka’s Chocolate Factory being a pretty ideal set-up for a theme-park attraction (Chocolate River indoor flume).  The Giant Peach is an exploratory attraction.   The final Burton movie represented is ‘PeeWee’s Big Adventure’, where his trademark bicycle takes to the water in an Aquatopia-style ride. 

LUSCASFILM (STAR WARS) GALAXY:  Part of the conundrum of developing a StarWarsLand is that, while a lot of Star Wars takes place on planets’ surfaces, the over-arching backdrop to the saga is Outer Space.  To communicate this in this park – and to create shelter from the Parisian weather – I decided that the central part of the land would be a massive, domed ‘space port.’   At the 12 o’clock position, beyond the lagoon, it also serves as the park’s central landmark/weenie.    The Starport divides the planetary sections of the greater StarWarsland: one heavily-forested and occupied by the Empire (reminiscent of Endor); the other based on the dry, barren desert of Mos Eisley, Tatooine.    Through four access gateways, visitors would find themselves inside the central atrium of the Starport, beneath great domed windows with stars, planets and spaceships beyond (via super hi-def screens/projection).  The Starport would house numerous unique dining and retail facilities over two levels, as well as explorable ships on landing platforms, a Rebel hideout (laser tag), a spinner and a shooter darkride.   The Tatooine outdoors section would be home to the Cantina and a high-capacity Stunt Theater (with Jabba presiding).  The Imperial, forested side would house the park’s flagship E-ticket – a new ride through physical sets (and some screens) befitting the “king of movie franchises.”

GHIBLI: THE WORLDS OF MIYAZAKI: There is currently an area with large trees just above the new Ratatouille ride.   I thought that many of these mature trees should be spared and re-purposed, creating the lush Totoro’s Forest entryway to this land.  There is a canopy walk here among the branches of the giant (artificial) camphor trees.  In a clearing is Satsuki & Mei’s country house, which houses access to the gentle Cat Bus Tour around the area, as well as a dining facility.   The next film to be represented is ‘Spirited Away’ with a mountain coaster based on the River Dragon Spirit and a recreation of the Bath House, which holds both dining and an exploratory attraction.  The mountainous backdrop stretches into an area with a large airship (Goliath) docked above and a major suspended darkride into the worlds of Laputa.  The next sub-area of this land is based on the idealized Western European townscapes seen in films like ‘Porco Rosso’ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle', the latter of which would be the subject for an elaborate ride, and the former, a telescoping plane spinner. 

PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS:  The main change to this area is its entry plaza, which here is inspired by the industrial brick facade of the Emeryville Campus.  A giant (animated?) Luxo figure stands outside the Studio exhibit/tour.   The Aladdin spinner is re-themed to Up, with the balloon house in the center.  Crush's Coaster, with its rockwork and visible ‘soundstage’ building is indicative of the transition from ‘Studio’ portion of the land to the ‘Cinematic Worlds’, such as Andy’s Backyard or Remy’s Paris (and the rest of the park).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Elevation and Colorboard

Tokyo DisneySea's Mediterranean Harbor has several sub-sections based on Italian geography.  Closest to American Waterfront are the Canals based on Venice.   In the center, where one enters the park, is Porto Paradiso, based on Portofinio Harbor and the Riviera.  The other sub-section is based on the hill towns of Tuscany.  For a top-quality photo tour of this area - and all areas - of DisneySea, I recommend sets by JeffFromHouston on Flickr:

Samples here and here.

Part of the genius of TDS' design and master plan is that it is a theme park with a layout in three dimensions.   I am reminded of the line from 'Contact': "An alien intelligence is going to be more advanced. That means efficiency functioning on multiple levels and in multiple dimensions."  There are a number of theme parks with great master plans, but DisneySea is the only one I know of that really takes advantage of (or did so by necessity) the vertical aspect.   Stairs lead you down to boat rides below you, pathways take you, unknowingly, up over the roofs of restaurants and ride buildings, walkthrough attractions traverse three levels, and there are always alternative staircases or ramps up or down to other passages or pathways.   I don't know who or how many deserve the credit (WDI master architects Ahmad Jafari or Wing Chao?  Anyone know?), but I stand in awe of it. 

For this piece, I imagined a unique family darkride on two levels taking up part of the area used for boat/float storage: Leonardo's Workshop (a distant cousin to Mystic Manor?).  The idea is you approach an extravagant but dilapidated Renaissance structure: part 15th-century factory, part villa, part fortress.  The architecture must meld seemlessly with the surroundings and compliment the park's iconic Fortress Explorations, but also be a weenie in itself for a major attraction.  There should be some whimsy in the building (like the mechanical tower), but also stay true to the realism of the neighboring structures.  So I designed the front facade and created the main approach elevation and colorboard:



The gist of the attraction is tried and true: One queues through the workshop rooms, seeing various machines in the process of being invented, triggering effects, maybe passing through the living quarters and painting studio.  Then there is a pre-show featuring Leonardo, followed by a boarding room (DaVinci-esque ride-vehicles) for an adventure through the secret chambers of the workshop and then out into the Florentine countryside (indoors) for testing.  The ride would include a mild thrill element, but be accessible to all.  Since the footprint is limited it would take place over two major levels (its entrance is already at the upper level).

Maybe I'll post a detailed ride layout at some point. 


Monday, March 3, 2014

Animatics


Readers of this site are probably familiar with Animatics (i.e., digital models featuring camera fly-throughs) as they apply to theme park design.  One was recently posted by WDI featuring the Dwarf Mine Coaster.   Some time ago, another was released that was a fly-around of the Shanghai castle.   For the scores of parks I’ve shared on this site, the only animatics are of the mind's eye.  


Then I came across the Rio Disneyland Resort Project by Cybertop77, Dr60Productions and WDSX Productions.  They imagined a castle park for Rio.  They built its constituent parts in RCT3 and then created many outstanding virtual musical tours and on-board ride videos.   This is the full, 50-minute tour of all the park’s areas and attractions:





After seeing the above, I thought it would be great fun to work backwards from this “animatic” and create a Conceptual Master Plan for the park.  So I got in touch with the creators, and they provided me with a lot of screencaps with which to plan out the park.   I quickly discovered a project of this scope in RCT3 is created in numerous sub-sections; views of which are then edited together to form a seamless movie of the whole park.  Like a movie, the concern in RCT3 is mainly what the camera/visitor will see.  As a park planner, my concern is not only what the camera sees, but also what it does not: things like show-building requirements, backstage access and sightlines, etc..  


Since each area of Rio Disneyland was modeled individually (e.g. five unique models for different parts of Frontierland), what I’ve drawn is the first and only detailed view of what the park could look like in its entirety:



If you follow the plan and watch the video, you’ll see that while my illustrative is inspired by - and attempts to include everything seen in - the virtual tours, it is not a rigorous, “brick-by-brick” recreation.  In many places, I've altered things for the sake of size requirements, aesthetics, crowd-flow, sightlines, or realism.    Rather than describe each area, many of which are influenced by DLP, I’ll let the illustrative and the videos do most of the talking.  But here are a couple of Designer Notes:


-The guys did some really outstanding On-Board videos.  One of the signature ones is Big Thunder.  I was able to follow this layout pretty closely in the Plan.  The main Frontierland Path would be over a sub-terr show-building housing several cavern segments of the ride (including the first dive out of the Loading Station):






Frontierland then transitions from the Desert Southwest to the virgin forests of Colonial Virginia for the Pochahontas sub-area.

Moving into Adventureland, Tarzan is a major indoor E-ticket.  It is reached by a jungle path leading to a queue cavern that passes under a version of Tarzan’s treehouse (non-accessible) as the ride’s weenie, then below the railroad berm (like IJA) and to the show-building outside the tracks. 

Also in Adventureland (which begins from the Hub with a Port of Entry-inspired retail & dining district) is the Indiana Jones Peril Miner coaster, one of my favorite on-ride vids:



Additional ride videos can be seen by exploring their Youtube page.

***
Even though the process was reversed (animatics would come after the planning and schematic phases), it’s fun to be able to see a series of imaginary ‘animatics’ for an Ideal Build-out park.  Apparently, the guys are at work on a 2nd Gate for their Rio Resort in RCT3, so stay tuned…