Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anaheim - WestCOT

A Vision of WestCOT

Researching this WestCOT conceptual site plan was like taking the pieces to two different puzzles, mixing them up, throwing half of them out and trying to create a finished picture from the remains.   I quickly discovered that a lot of the publically-available information on WestCOT was contradictory – likely coming from different iterations of the design (versions 1.0, 2.0, etc.) .  For example, two key pieces of information were the 1991 Master Plan Report (available on SamLand) and the Tony Baxter lecture; in the latter, Tony talked about European & Asian themed hotels being built six-stories above their continents and a Ride the Dragon coaster, but these things did not appear to be present in the 1991 master plan.   So what I’ve drawn is not what WestCOT was actually to be at any one time (although parts may be), but instead a fun, amalgamated vision that takes all the best ideas (IMO) that were revealed and puts them into one fantasy park.

Since WestCOT was to be a new & improved version of EPCOT Center, and EPCOT is bigger than the combined plots of Disneyland + DCA (expanded), it became apparent that WestCOT needed to be double-decker (or triple-decker if you count the hotels) theme park.  That would help explain the early multi-billion (in 1991 dollars) price tag.  The official site plan and some key pieces concept art corroborated this theory.   For example, the giant soundstages that were to be home to the Future World style pavilions (with exteriors not visible to the park-goer) were built behind the World Lagoon show buildings, and the only way to access these would be subterranean (likely, moving) passageways.

Also, on the site plan & art, there was scant evidence of the park’s most famous & elaborate attraction: the “World Cruise” aka “River of Time” – a forty-five minute, five-stop boat ride that would take riders past animatronic show scenes and then “pop out” in the exterior waterways of that particular continent.  This ride would also have to be on the lower level (light gray lines in my plan).  

 This pic of the underside of SpaceStation Earth, the park’s enormous centerpiece, shows the multiple levels (Lower Concourses leading to the futuristic Wonders of WestCOT pavilions). 

Speaking of SSE, since the World Cruise/River of Time covers the historical scenes that comprise the majority of EPCOT’s SSE’s ride, I imagine this West Coast geosphere attraction to be closer to Horizons in spirit & execution – focusing on futurism rather than the history of civilization.

The entrance to the park (and part of The Americas corner representing the U.S.A.) is in a similar style to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, easing the thematic transition from to Disneyland’s MS:USA to WestCOT.   There is an exhibit and show in a similar vein to The American Adventure.  

Native Tribes of North America are represented by an island village and Spirit Lodge-type show.   Mexico is represented with an interior space (similar to EPCOT but much larger) that houses an ongoing night-time fiesta, dark ride and spinners for kids.  Inca & Aztec exhibits & shows are present, as well.

Europe begins with a tribute to Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens that inspired Walt.  France & Italy are represented in the wings of the Continental Hotel that rises, similar to Mira Costa, five or six stories above the park.  There is the Russian show once planned for EPCOT and a Trans-European Express circle-vision attraction crossing the heart of the continent.  As Europe transitions eastward, Turkey & Russia meet in a family boat ride based on the classic song ‘Abdul Abulbul Amir’ (done in a similar style as TDS’ Sinbad attraction).

Asia begins with representations of Istanbul (part of the Hotel Oriental), India (a Bollywood-musical theatre), Japan (Meet the World production), SE Asia (Siamese carousel).  The Ride the Dragon coaster represents China, with its Great Wall segment and Dragon's Teeth Mountains.

The lakeside areas of Africa are more representative of North Africa & the Middle East (with a Great Pyramids adventure on the scale of Indiana Jones and a bustling bazaar).  

Equatorial Africa, with its river rapids attraction, uses some elements of the unbuilt EPCOT pavilion.

Tony Baxter described (and the Master Plan confirmed) that the Future World pavilions would be housed in huge, un-themed (from the exterior) warehouses (or soundstages) standing behind the heavily-themed World Lagoon.  This would be done to afford WDI the ability to make changes to the shows being presented, without having to expensively alter/demolish elaborate, futuristic pavilions.

While that sounds cost effective, I believe that a great theme park must impress not only from within, but without, as well.  So while I kept the concept of accessing the backstage Wonders pavilions via lower level concourses, I drew representations of themed exteriors based on another WDI WestCOT proposal.

I also created some original iconography that would link these futuristic pavilions to their Orlando sisters.  I have very strong feelings about EPCOT Center’s Future World past, present & future, which I will discuss when I post a plan for that park, but I’ll say here that I think that the symbology created for Future World was a work of graphic design genius, and discarding it (and thus any holistic linkages among the FW pavilions) and not replacing it is one of the most grievous decisions TWDC has ever made (for me).  I’ve tried to keep all the symbols using simple geometric shapes to tell a universal story.  Ventureport’s represents a key to the world, Earth’s represents the sacred spiral found throughout nature, Science represents the atom, Living represent human well-being:

Wonders of Earth (sometimes called Wonders of Nature) combines the ideas behind EPCOT’s The Land and The Living Seas.  I included some shows/rides that were planned for EPCOT, but never built, such as “Blueprints of Nature”, an expedition through various biomes from the Arctic to the Desert, and a sea-voyage film/simulator aboard a vessel called ‘The Spirit of Mankind’. 

Wonders of Living includes an omnimover ride through the human body (planned for EPCOT, but discarded for Body Wars) as well as a new LPS-version of Imagination with Dreamfinder & Figment.

Wonders of Science (sometimes called Wonders of Space) has the Cosmic Journeys (power of ten) show/simulator planned for the park as well as some concepts taken from earlier versions of EPCOT’s space pavilion (such as a simulated space station and space walk).


So there you have it... a closer look at how one of the big "woulda, coulda, shoulda" projects in theme park history.  If you like this site/these posts, please take a moment to comment.  Cheers.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guest Feature - Explorers World

I've got a fantastic guest feature to present to IdealBuildout readers this week: an original park design by Pascal Schyns, who has gone beyond site-planning and created his own concept art for the park!  I'll let Pascal's words and images speak for themselves:


a fan project by Pascal Schyns

Disney’s Explorers World is a fantasy theme park I’ve imagined as a third gate for Disneyland Paris. The main theme of the park is Exploration but seen through the eyes of great writers and film directors from the XIXth century.

To give the park a more European identity, I searched for inspiration in the books written by Jules Verne (that, of course, already inspired great attractions for Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySEA) but also in the Adventures of Tintin from Hergé. As many kids in Europe (and all around the World), I’ve grown up reading the adventures of the young journalist and it gave me the taste for Discovery.

For more information on the project, you can follow this link
If you have a comment, you can email me: disney.explorersworld@gmail.com


Storyline of the Park

The story begins with the foundation of the S.E.A (Society of Explorers & Adventurers) by three great explorers and friends: Harrison Hightower III, Henry Mystic and John Harrington. They wanted to share the results of their research with the rest of the world. The strange disappearance of Hightower in his New York’s residence in 1933 was a real tragedy for the S.E.A. It really affected John Mystic that decided to live enclosed in his manor with his monkey Albert only.
Harrington’s reaction was different. He reunited 7 adventurers, coming from different places. Each of those adventurers has once made a significant discovery that interested Harrington for some reason… that he never told! Harrington mysteriously disappeared in his museum before he explained the adventurers why he chose them. So, a new adventure began for the newly founded Explorer’s Club, to discover what Harrington was planning for them…

Colombus Town
Colombus Town is a small city where explorers and adventurers come to prepare their next expedition. The city is divided into five quarters.

Piazza Vienna is inspired by the old cities of Europe like Walt Disney discovered them when he was travelling through Europe by train in 1935. At the end of the plaza, guests will find an impressive building: Le Théâtre Fantastique de Robert-Houdin. In this theater, guests will enjoy a classic magic show based on the “tours” created by the French illusionist, Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.

In Little Italy, guests will enjoy warmness and fragrance from Toscana or, they can prefer the exotism of Chinatown. In Pueblo Havana, music is everywhere. It makes the old cars body to vibrate and resonates on the colorful walls. The last quarter is American Waterfront, a harbor where fishermen can sell their catch. Here, guests can eat a Fish & Chips or take the boat to get to their next adventure.


Mystery Bay
Mystery Bay received its name after a series of mysterious disappearances. The first part of the land is Mystery Point, where is situated Mystery Museum. Mystery Museum is a dark ride similar to Mystic Manor. The story takes guests through the corridors of Harrington’s museum. He disappeared after he received a Peruvian mummy: Rascar Capac. Legend says that anyone crossing the eyes of Rascar Capac will be cursed and pursued by the mummy.
The other part of the land is Aviator’s Bay. This is where the Sidney Bros built up their airfield. The hangars have been turned into a restaurant: Aviator’s Last Chance Café. At the end of the landing strip is Donald Duck’s Air Patrol School, a junior coaster similar to Goofy’s Barnstormer.


Arctic Mountain 
Many expeditions have tried to reach the top of Arctic Mountain, but no one ever succeeded. In fact, many legends say that a creature lives in those mountains preventing anyone to profane them. Ignoring the myth, Yüri Velikovsky, Natalya’s father, built an observatory on Wayra Mountain. But when Natalya got there, her father was missing and the observatory was devastated…
Quechua Expedition will take guests through the mountain where they’ll meet Tawapaca, the Snow Monster. When leaving the Observatory, guests can explore the Ice Caverns, a playground for kids. Then they arrive at Wolf Peak River Run, a rafting attraction. The wolf shaped mountain even “screams” when the wind blows strong enough.

Dinosaurs Valley
When paleontologist Elliot Doyle discovered Ararankha Valley, he was just digging for bones and fossils. He couldn’t imagine he would discover living dinosaurs. Doyle turned his digging site into a ranch to observe the behavior of the different dinosaurs living in the valley.

The main attraction of the area is an expedition to the Lost Valley where guests will discover dinosaurs. It’s supposed to be safe, but you never know when a starving T-Rex will chase you in the middle of a prehistoric forest… The Skullstone Ranch proposes other activities to entertain and discover the world of dinosaurs, like the Boneyard. There’s also Cretaceous Theater, where guests can enjoy a show similar to BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs.
On the other part of the land is Monte Cayampaxi, a volcano where guests can make a Journey to the Center of the Earth… They’re invited to descend into an old diamond mine that was discovered by Eva Schneider, a diamond huntress. At the deepest point of the mine, they will discover Gaia’s Heart, a giant diamond that irradiates light and energy.

Legend of Atlantis
It took only one night and one day to make Atlantis island to disappear. However, the Atlantis civilization survived. Atlantis people had built commercial counters all around the world, even in South America. When the continent was flooded, people from the counters decided to merge with locals, sharing their knowledge in math, physics…

Jean Renaud was once a member of Captain Nemo’s crew. Nemo entrusted him with a mission of exploring new seas on board a lighter and faster version of the Nautilus: the Calypso. During a mission, a war ship attacked Renaud. He escaped and found refuge in a submarine cavern. He realized then that the cavern was the ruin of an antic Atlantis Counter.

The main adventure of this land is a special version of 20’000 Leagues Under the Sea. Guests will come aboard a small submarine and travel through the giant tunnels that used to connect the different counters with the City of Atlantis. But the Leviathan is still protecting the city!
The other attraction of the land takes place in an antic library. But instead of books, Atlantis people used holographic sphere to memorize the history of their civilization. Fate of Atlantis will take guests into an immersive reconstitution of the last hours of the mythic city.

Amazonia Secrets
For years, it has been impossible to get into the deep jungle of Amazonia Secrets. Snakes, spiders and diseases prevent anyone to reach the center of the forest where is hidden the Fountain of Youth. The botanist Pablo Alvarez entered the forest to find a plant that had the capacity of reversing the effect of age. Many times, during his quest, he went close to his own death but a mysterious animal rescued him each time…

European guests will finally experiment the so long awaited Indiana Jones Adventure. The famous archeologist has succeeded to break the secret of an Inca pyramid: the Yllapa’s Tomb. Yllapa, an Inca divinity was protected by Rascar Capac, the Guardian of Thunder. Indy found a way to prevent the curse and sent the mummy to his long time friend John Harrington. It’s time for guests to come aboard the vehicles and help Indy finding the Hand of Wiracocha, a legendary weapon capable of launching lightnings.

Another big adventure is waiting for guests to get in. Marsupilami’s Jungle Ride is a flume ride that will take them chasing the poacher Bring M. Backalive. Backalive has captured some of the most rare species on the planet. Only one animal was missing to his collection: the Marsupilami, until he captured one of the Marsupilami’s kids. But the fantastic animal is following him very closely to get its young back.

Guests follow the Marsupilami on the top of Tlaloc’s Temple, the protective God of the Jungle. Once the creature and its kid are reunited, Tlaloc take his revenge on the poacher and send him back to the river. Problem is that guests’ boat is swept along… time for a big wet drop!
Amazonia Secrets gave me the occasion to “re-visit” two classic Disney attractions that are missing to Disneyland Paris. In Jungle Cruise: Wet Safari guests get into small boats for an expedition along the Palombian Rivers. Onboard they can use water cannons to push back the most aggressive creatures of the jungle. This addition of interactivity could make the attraction more interesting for an international audience that doesn’t necessarily speak French or English.

The same problem is encountered with the Enchanted Tiki Room. The show would be adapted so that each parrot would be speaking a particular language (English, French, Spanish and German). The storyline would remain close to the original version of the show. The parrots have decided to take the place of the Sorcerer during the Ceremony of Tlaloc. But as they’re not talking the same language, they misspell the incantation and make Ek Chuah, the Spirit of Death, to rise among the livings. The parrots will have to work together to prevent the demon from taking the guests’ souls into to the other world and make the source of Tlaloc to flow again.

Heart of Adventures

Heart of Adventures is a mysterious island that can’t be found on any map. The only sign that a man ever came to this place is a B-17 crashed at the top of a giant tree, but nobody really knows how it came here. The place looked ideal for the Explorer’s Club to establish its headquarters.

Most of the installations were made using parts of the plane. The cabin was transformed into a conference room, and the plane’s motors were used as winches to make the elevators move. But the most interesting place is situated under the tree, in the center of its roots. The Adventurers transformed the place into a war room where they could share and analyze the items they’ve found on their expeditions. A special host welcomes guests as they’re entering the war room. Timekeeper has been reprogrammed by Natalya years ago and now helps the Adventurers to find what is the link between the different discoveries they made.
But the Android would appreciate some help from his visitors. Guests can use interactive touch screens to resolve enigmas, puzzles and more games. They can also receive some special missions from Timekeeper like go searching for a particular inscription somewhere in the park, a digital card registering the guest’s progress.

Close Encounter Night Show
Night has come and the semi-darkness covers the park. Before leaving, guests are invited to join the west of Heart of Adventures and face the Observatory. One by one, all the buildings of Explorers World have their lights turned off, except for the Observatory. The dome of the building slowly turns on itself, revealing a strange lightboard.

For minutes, nothing happens, until a short musical sequence resonates, accompanied by a coordinated color sequence displayed on the lightboard. The sequence is repeated faster and faster when a new sound is heard, coming from the other side of the mountain. Five luminous spaceships appear and take a stand around the island. The musical sequence is played again and each ship answers to it playing a single note.

Slowly, a large shadow rises behind Wayra Mountain. The Mothership has received the message. A musical dialogue starts between the Observatory and the Mothership. This dialogue quickly becomes a symphony as the other ships join the conversation. Music steps up, getting wilder and wilder until it reaches its apogee in a dazzling luminous halo. The park is silent again; guests have just the time to see some luminous points going back to the stars…