Sunday, June 5, 2011

Re-Inventing Walt Disney Studios Paris

INTRO: My goal in this conceptual plan was to somehow transform WDSP into a world-class theme park that would equal or surpass its sister park (DLP, a masterpiece of Imagineering) in scale, imagination and ambition.  

My first decision was to do away with the Studios as the underlying theme for the park.  While I think the Studios theme can work in some places, in many cases (particularly WDSP) it has been used as a crutch to house attractions in lightly themed “soundstages”, create facades with visible, unfinished back-sides, and have ugly administrative buildings in plain view of on-show areas.  These things do not equate to a highly compelling environment.  However, for practical, real-world purposes, I decided to keep some of the major existing attractions (Tower of Terror, RocknRollercoaster, Cinemagique, Crush’s Coaster, etc.) where they are and design the park around them.

 ICON: I wanted a unique Icon for this park, comparable to the Chateau, Tree of Life, Spaceship Earth, etc.  However, since the 200ft tall Tower of Terror dominates the lower left of the park, I knew the central Icon should be smaller in scale.  What I ended up with is The Forgotten Portal: an upright stone disc (think StarGate) of unknown origin engraved in strange markings, with a smooth curtain of water falling constantly across its opening (thus, a portal).  The Portal, about 90 feet (nine-stories) in diameter, sits on a lush island, in a circular pool, atop a rocky plinth with waterfalls descending from it.  It is otherworldly, with special fx projected on the falling water’s surface.  It also rotates slowly at about 1 revolution per hour, and when it faces a certain land, the projections subtly could reflect that land’s theme.   For the night-time lagoon show, the Portal rotates to face the center of the viewing area and is part of the show.

Thus, the working name of the park is “Disney’s Forgotten Portal”, and it is designed to include a nice mix of attractions and shows, based on original and established material, with themes that compliment Disneyland Paris (and skew a little more to the teen, adult demographic).

HOLLYWOOD: The opening land is classic (1930s/1940s) Tinseltown with all the trimmings.  Studio One is transformed into Hollywood Boulevard.  There is a Red Line trolley, a Great Movie Moments AA omnimover (with Chinese Theatre fa├žade), a posh Sunset Club for drinks and dining.  Cinemagique’s exterior is redressed to one of the over-the-top movie palaces of that golden era.

PIXAR PLACE: Here are a few of the last vestiges of the original WDSP.  I would like to see all Pixar removed from DLP (Woody out of Frontierland, Buzz out of Discoveryland).   That park will feature Disney animation and this one will feature Pixar.  The Aladdin Carpet spinner is re-themed to A Bug’s Life.  Animagique becomes Toy Story: The Musical.  Ratatouille is put in as planned.  The large, unsightly costume building is replaced with a major suspended dark ride based on Up (with the ‘Spirit of Adventure’ emerging from its hangar).  Toy Story Playland is replaced with a viewing area for the nighttime spectacular.   

CYFY CITY: Since DLP features a past-oriented Vernean-style Discoveryland, this park features a more future-looking take on Tomorrowland (neon billboards, androids, holograms, etc.).  RocknRollercoaster is converted to a Tron attraction (I imagine this would be pretty feasible – re-theming the trains into Tron-like vehicles and creating light trails throughout the interior Grid).  I put in a family dark ride featuring the Disney characters (Space Mickey) as well as a Jetpack spinner and future-themed version of the Luigin Flyin Tires attraction underway at DCA.  

MARVEL UNIVERSE: This land has a web-slinging Spiderman E-ticket as well as a morphing coaster based on Dr. Doom, which, like Revenge of the Mummy, has significant dark-ride portions.  There is a major X-Men stunt show and a play area for kids.

ADVENTURE BAY: This land, an outgrowth of the Adventureland concept, has a number of distinct, yet complimentary segments.  There is Forgotten Isle, which is home to the Portal, a retail & dining bazaar district based on Timbuktu/Zanzibar, an area themed to the ruins of Atlantis that is home to a major walkthrough SFX presentation, Asian & African sections with a major tree-top coaster and flume themed to The Lion King (Splash Mountain).  The final area is based on the Ponce de Leon/Age of Exploration Era and features the something akin to the elaborate and canceled “Journey to Paradise” boat attraction once planned for Las Vegas. 

CASTLEVANIA: The name of this land and its attractions are more placeholders (copied from the Castlevania universe), but if you are familiar with Castlevania, Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Van Helsing, you get the idea.  It is a gothic Transylvanian castle town (echoes of Mont St. Michel) with Dracula’s castle cresting the rocky mount.  Ostensibly set in the 19th century, filled with half-terrified inhabitants, the state-of-the-art orignal attractions here feature the kind of mythology you’d expect from the aforementioned stories (vampires, wolfmen, mad scientists, giant spiders, gypsy witches, vampire-hunters, etc.).  

So there it is: WDSP can be fixed.  All it needs is about 4 billion euros.  Calling Prince Al-Waleed…
Comments are appreciated.


stitch101 said...

Fantastic. You've successfully turned a complete embarrassment and disgrace into a masterpiece. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

You should added Maroon Studios to this park.

Anonymous said...

the entire portal idea is incredible. I especially like the idea of it rotating and reflecting the lands and its collaboration with the night time show. what would be the night time show?

SWW said...

Stitch, Thanks for the comment.

Anon 1, I'm finally beginning to appreciate the Maroon Studios add-on suggestions.

Anon 2, The show would be uniquely tailored to the park and its lands & attractions (maybe involve 'Adventurer Mickey' like Fantasmic's 'Sorcerer Mickey'). You can see that the World of Color type fountains would be involved.

I also thought of the Portal interacting at random with various landmarks around the park as is rotates throughout the day and night (e.g., a laser burst coming off the Jetpack Orbitron tower and shooting through the portal)... sort of like DisneySea's Prometheus erupting every so often.

megatron_85 said...

great job!

by the way, is disneysea paris still in the cards or not?

Andrew said...

This is amazing. I honestly wish I had 4 billion lying around but alas being a student, I got nothing.

After hearing all the wishes for Maroon Studios I decided to check out the movie. Needless to say, I loved the whole idea of it so hopefully Disney will make a sequel and get some good attractions in place.

The Portal just seems like a piece of artwork, absolutely the right choice of icon. Thanks for sharing SWW, I hope we see a new buildout soon.

Magic Lamp said...

Haha, you snuck a Stargate into a Disney park.

However, I'm having trouble translating it all into "Disney". So the entire park's theme is travelling through a portal into various forgotten realms? It sounds great but it's hard to follow the connection.

Maybe I'm just too fixed on the overall theme of a Disney park since they redesigned DL for Paris to fit an overall Victorian theme. This means DLP's second gate has to follow suit.

I love your idea, though - except for Marvel Universe, which to me fits better into US.

Sam said...

This is EXACTLY what Disneyland Paris needs! This would be a true masterpiece of Imagineering! But I also have to confess that it's difficult for me to translate it into Disney. Castlevania is very cool, but I can't see how Disney would build that. Then again, this Park is awesome and deserves to excist in Paris.

FigmentJedi said...

I know Castlevania's kind of a placeholder for the Translyvania theme, but it'd still be pretty fun to see an animatronic Dracula going "What is a man!? A miserable little pile of secrets!" in some ride.

Jeff said...

I see what you're trying to do. Rather than expanding the Walt Disney Studios Park concept, you've actually given the park an entirely different theme. To be honest, I think the theme is confusing and a bit random. In fact, the theme is so broad, you could put any sort of land in the park and it would fit. The lands don't make much sense together, in my opinion. I find the theme change disappointing because of the potential for a movie studio based park at the Disneyland Paris resort has, especially since France had such a big hand in the creation of the entertainment business. Think early film and radio from the late 1800's. I'm particularly disappointed that you removed Toy Story Playland since I was looking forward to seeing an accurate map of it. Anyway, this concept is certainly better than what's currently there and it demonstrates the potential of what the park can be. Even if this concept isn't what becomes of the park, we can all agree that Walt Disney Studios Park needs to see some drastic changes and expansions.

SWW said...

"To be honest, I think the theme is confusing and a bit random. In fact, the theme is so broad, you could put any sort of land in the park and it would fit. The lands don't make much sense together, in my opinion."

I posit that the exact same could be said about any Disneyland-style park, including the original.

SWW said...

Further to Jeff’s criticism:
Over-arching theme & and land-connections is a topic that has come up before. It is obviously at the heart of master-planning conceptual theme parks. The way I see it, parks and their composite lands fall into two categories, let’s call them TIGHT & LOOSE. TIGHT attempts to connect the lands & attractions to an underlying vision. Examples include DisneySea, EPCOT Center, Animal Kingdom and, at one point, Disney-MGM Studios (today it is more of a loose dumping grounds than an Studio-themed park).

LOOSE brings together random lands without attempt at a connective tissue. Examples include all the Disneylands, Islands of Adventure and Universal Singapore. I know some have argued here that Islands of Adventure is connected by "things you read", but I don’t believe that was part of the designers’ intent (doesn’t cover two or three of the five lands), more likely this is an idea applied after-the-fact.

Others think that there is an underlying connection among Disneyland’s lands, other than “Yesterday, Tomorrow & Fantasy” (a blanket which could (and has) cover virtually anything one can imagine). Disneyland has been the theme park paradigm for so long, some might assume that there is a specific overarching theme to the park. I don’t think there is, and I don’t think one was intended by Walt or the designers. If someone believes there is a connecting land-to-land theme that has guided the design of Disneyland over the last 60 years, I’d be interested in hearing it.

For example, if Disneyland had opened in 1955 with, say, a Mythologyland (with a Parthenon replacing the castle), a World Holiday Land, a Big City USA, a Hollywoodland and a Glacier Bay, in place of the existing lands that have become part of the public consciousness, there would be no real difference in what makes Disneyland, Disneyland – with respect to the broad and arbitrary connectedness of the lands.

Both LOOSE & TIGHT parks can be great. It all depends on execution.

megatron_85 said...

reading your response to jeff's criticism about TIGHT & LOOSE makes me wonder about two things

1. are you still planning to post disneysea paris?

2. what theme park are you posting next?

protojimbo said...

Ooooh, good discussion! I agree w/ SWW on the lack of cohesion in the original Disney concept - Walt really left himself a lot of wiggle room! We think there was some overlying theme because Walt sold it as an overall concept, but there is little holding the themes together other than the word 'land' at the end. Easy Disneyannas, I'm just goofing. But seriously, the real overall theme of Orig. DL if any, is the past - main st, fronteirland, adventureland (largely an old {swiss family for example} great white explorer take on things which really came from Imperialistic Great Britian) and fantasyland - certainly taken form old world fairy tales - and Grimm stories. Leaving one outcast land - Tomorrowland, that, in this light, doesn't seem to fit anymore. A lot of it is spin and clever marketing- things people critisize disney co. for now, but Walt was an absolute master of back in the day.
That being said, I actually love total immersion in a completely theme overall environment. I have never been a fan of any studio style park design(disney or otherwise)for the reasons SWW mentioned previously - it is a good concept in that movie making sense but it ends up being a cop out - an excuse for not continuing the illusion into the larger environment. If Tinsle Town themes were amped up and/or 'genre-lands' were created it might be a little more fun.
BTW - I'm loving the colorization SWW - it adds visual interest to your posts and makes the areas easier to read. Great work on this park - this layout looks like a fresh take for you. It definitely piqued my interest at first glance.

Jeff said...

SWW, that is a way of categorizing parks that I've never thought of before. I found it kind of confusing because the current Walt Disney Studios Park does have an overall theme whereas your park is more loose. Thanks for the explanation.

Anonymous said...

This Walt Disney Studios Paris will supposed have:
Muppet Studios
Hollywood Blvd
Disney Channel Backlot
Maroon Studios / Toontown
Pixar Place / Carsland
Sunset Blvd
Tinsle Town
Sci-Fi City
Streets of America
Marvel Studios Backlot
Mickey's Toon Studios
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
and Walt Disney Studios Backlot
Randy, you could make Disney-Warner Bros. Studios Tokyo yet?

Sam said...

SWW, what do u have in store for us :) I love to sea (hint hint) what you have next. I'm also curious for your Dubai, Cairns, Hong Kong and Rio Parks. Are those also coming.
Like i said earlier, i love this park and deserves to excist today in Paris!

Ps: do you want to be an Imagineer?

J. said...

incredible designs man. I really like the Shadow Kingdom design and this one the best. I have some concepts i've been working on what program do you use to make this

Magic Lamp said...

Disneyland is the representation of Walt's memories, dreams and imagination.

Main Street represents his childhood and the town he grew up in, Adventureland, Frontierland and Fantasyland each are a collection of what inspired him and his imagination all through his life, including storytelling, and Tomorrowland was his vision of the future.

It can be complicated to follow but remember, the original park was built for the purpose or drawing everyone else into Walt's imagination.

You could argue that there isn't an actual tight theme but when you look back at Disney's legacy, the films, cartoons and characters he has left us with and of how the park evolved it all it makes sense.

So any other theme park has to follow some overal theme in order to compensate for the initial context of its purpose. My argument is that you cannot throw together a park with a variety of themes without there being a purpose of why you put this together, whether there's a long personal history or an actual idea behind it.

SWW said...

^ Nice post,ML, with some good points.

While I understand that DL's lands are linked to Walt's memories/dreams/imaginings, from an analytical design viewpoint, the park's lands & content still hinges on the arbitrary nature of what those memories/dreams/imaginings were. Walt's mind was full of ideas that were never built (e.g. Liliputian Land). And over the last 60 years, lands & attractions have been proposed or added that may be completely outside Walt's mind, but work within the wider context (or some cases do not).

I'd argue "memories, dreams, imaginings" are all a Park Builder needs to build a Disneyland-style park. Imagine Classic Hollywood, Marvel Comics, Pixar, Pulp Adventure, Sci-Fi & Vampire stories are the formative dreams of a Park Builder by the name John Doe. He builds Doeland to the same standard, quality and detail as Disneyland. So Doeland more or less equals Disneyland, no? The only connective tissues are the interests of the creator(s). Bottom line: the composite lands can be as arbitrary as anyone's (including Walt's) dreams/imaginings/memories - the quality of the park depends on how well it is designed & executed.

SWW said...

^e.g. Arbitrarily, loosely-themed IOA is a vastly superior park to more tightly-themed WDSP.

Magic Lamp said...

You forget, Disneyland wasn't built in one go. It grew and evolved and more was added to fit the theme of the land it was built in. What we now have is a park wich has influenced almost every other theme park in the world.

The Magic Kingdom was more planned out based on what they already had in DL while TDL is a "best of" of both DL and MK. DLP however was designed from scratch and was given a general Victorian feel where some attractions and their "advertisement" were incorporated into the other lands in some way while retaining the originality of Disneyland.

Now if John Doe built Doeland as you described, it would have no historical, personal or original content and could not be compared to DL even if the theming was superior. It would only work if he was the one who helped introduce those franchises into the general population.

Don't get me wrong, I love your work but when you put the Disney label on it, I feel there has to be more to it than a random series of themed lands. So for this park, you can still retain the studios theme where each land is a backlot come to life.

You could have a "studio tour", which is a monorail or some other transportation vehicle that drives you around the park, with stations in every "lot" And to make things more interesting for lot transition you can have props and backstage screens propped up or lying around, some even from recognizable franchises.

Douglas said...

hey randy it'd be interesting if you did a mega park for each of the existing resorts where everything available is within one berm instead of multiple parks.

SWW said...

"Now if John Doe built Doeland as you described, it would have no historical, personal or original content and could not be compared to DL even if the theming was superior."

Historical: All of the Hollywood and Adventure Bay sections are historical. The Transylvanian section is myth-history. Personal: Personal in the same sense that Walt had a personal connection with the Frontier of 1800s or the Jungle rivers of Africa (e.g, the Park Builder is influenced by Marvel Comics and Vampire stories, just as Walt grew up reading Tom Sawyer). Original material: On an individual basis, most things in Disneyland can be considered derivative to some degree of a previously-established concept, actual or imagined.

"It would only work if he was the one who helped introduce those franchises into the general population."

Disney did not introduce audiences to the Frontier history of America, Tom Sawyer, pulp/African Queen-type adventure (AL became was very different than his True-Life Adventure series), etc. He did not originate Tiki culture, or pirate mythology, or haunted houses. These are genre tropes that Walt drew on, just as Sci-Fi, Pulp Adventure, Classic Hollywood, Translyvanian are genre tropes that the creators of this park draw on.

I'm not arguing that Disneyland did not reflect the vision of one man. But the genius of Walt and Disneyland is not so much in the ideas that make it up but the reality. Lots of people have many, many great ideas... for anything, including theme parks. What made Walt and Disneyland different is that he took a great idea and turned it into a great reality - that is very rare.

Walt could have had 15 different ideas for what he wanted Disneyland to be - all of them different - and any one of them would have become Disneyland - it doesn't rest on the fact that Main St. reflects Walt's childhood memory of Missouri, whereas if in its place, a Big City, USA could have reflected his young-adult fascination with pre-war New York (if he had such).

I understand what you mean about "if you put the Disney lable on it, it should reflect something about the man." But look at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Yes, Walt was fascinated with animals, but that's a broad idea and nothing of Walt is reflected in that park. DisneySea is another example... very little connection to Walt. To me the Disney label is more about a level of quality & execution than adhering to the purported thoughts, dreams, imaginings of a man long passed.

The latter would be far too limiting.

Magic Lamp said...

I never said Walt invented all these themes but he drew from the basic idea and helped create franchises, i.e. Tiki Room Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Thunder Mountain, etc. Of course the park also included other franchises based on films and cartoons the Disney studios produced.

What you suggest is to taking several generic themes and lump them into a theme park. Yes, they are part of our culture and have been with us for a long time in many different forms, but here Mr. Doe decided he liked them and wanted to put them in one park. However, he still has to make it work or sell it under a certain label.

IOA in this case works because all the themes are based on Universal studios films.

As for the Disney label, I meant that a Disney park (to me) is supposed to have an overal theme, EPCOT is a showcase of technology and culture, AK is all about animals both living and extinct, DisneySea puts you on a trip around the seven seas etc,. It's not the connection to Walt that counts but the intention of why there's a park in the first place.

That's what Disney is all about.

SWW said...

"IOA in this case works because all the themes are based on Universal studios films."

Very little of IOA is based on Universal films (just Jurassic Park). In fact,IOA is exactly what I've been describing: IOA's lands could have been picked out of a theme park hat. Back in the 1990s some designers (many of them ex-imagineers) got together and brainstormed what would appeal to a modern audience. They ended up selecting Dr. Seuss, Marvel Comics, Jurassic Park, Sunday comics, pulp adventure, Arthurian legend, Atlantis & Sinbad (and later Harry Potter). These themed areas are connected by the broad term "Adventure", just as Disneyland's themes are connected by the broad "Yesterday, Tomorrow, Fantasy."

The two major Uni-Suess films (Cat in the Hat, Grinch) post-dated IOA's creation - and the design of the land doesn't reflect these films. Marvel, Harry Potter, Sunday funnies are all outside properties liscenced by Uni for the park. So Uni has little to do with the park outside JP.

Even the new Universal Singapore is more of mini-IOA than a "Universal Studios", where they've forgone the working studio underlying theme and gone with fairly random themed environments connected to a variety of Universal and non-Universal properties.

As ProtoJimbo mentioned, I'm all for parks with consistent over-arching themes: Animal Kingdom, DisneySea, etc. These work really well. But it is certainly not a requirement for a Tier I park, as I've attempted to show how Disneyland, IOA and other great parks can have loose or no solid overarching themes.

"What you suggest is to taking several generic themes and lump them into a theme park. Yes, they are part of our culture and have been with us for a long time in many different forms, but here Mr. Doe decided he liked them and wanted to put them in one park. However, he still has to make it work or sell it under a certain label."

Which is exactly what Mr. Disney did in 1955. He took a handful of generic topics that he cared about (Cowboys & Indians, exotic beasts, trains, his own animated fairytales, and some visions of the future tech) and made it into a compelling reality and then sold it to people. He did such a good job, that the result is the prototypical theme park.


I don't think either of us are going to change our minds on the merits or definitions of overarching theme in these cases, but I've enjoyed the discussion.

SWW said...

Hey Douglas,

Someone once requested their ultimate version of the Magic Kingdom, and the Fantasyland alone contained as much as the current MK. However, in tackling such a park, one has to consider where everything would go and how to efficiently lay it out (with backstage access, train tracks, etc.).

If you can find a good way to lay out what you're describing (4 parks in 1), I could be up for drawing something like that.

Magic Lamp said...

I stand corrected on IOA, my apologies on my ignorance. And I do agree we may have a different view on this. You came up with a park completely out of left field and I was having trouble translating it in familiar terms.

I guess it's like back when DL came into place and many people couldn't quite make out what the whole project was about. And only after several decades of improving and refurbishing it has it become the happiest place on earth for so many.

Speaking of "ultimate MK", I have a DL version I'm working on that you might be interested in drawing. It does indeed follow an overarching theme, so watch out for that any time soon...

Douglas said...


i might do one in my Deviantart account but WDW would be a bit hard with four parks while the others would be easier with their 2 parks especially Paris. i'm even thinking of putting a rough paint version of my Disneyland there too.
my account name is LDboy so watch it in the future.

SWW said...

^ & ^^, sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Love this idea, recently visited dlp again, and realised that you go from an incredible, outstanding park like dl, to the terrible WDSP, and I think your design would definitely fix this problem.

Just wondering, do you have any ideas on what imagineerings masterplan could be. What would you do if you had to keep the studios theme?

SWW said...

^ Thanks.

What WDI's masterplan could be? Probably heavy doses of franchised material and cloning of attractions being developed elsewhere, because this is the safe way to go, according to corporate. That would more Pixar (Carsland?), maybe a Marvel land since they seem anxious to put that property to use. Now, Avatar since they've paid for the rights. Maybe some placemaking improvements around Hollywood area...

One could say my site plan in this instance could keep the Studios theme (if the Portal was taken out) because it has the Classic Hollywood and the Pixar area. One could market or add movie properties to the other areas as they would be dedicated to the various film genres (SciFi, Adventure, Monster, Comic Book)...

Bryan Tee said...

Now marvel universe can also include an avengers attraction.

Colin said...

great ideas.

I heard that the toon studio is actually is going to be removed to the location where now stitch live is. flying carpets over agrabah would change into up and animagique would be incredibles.

cyfy city. what if they change star tours in disneyland park paris and bring that to the walt disney studio park. the spot where star tours is in discoveryland could change into stitch's spaceship(stitch encounter meets stitch's great escape meets star tours).