Friday, April 15, 2011

Kingdoms United!

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by 'KingMickey' to do a conceptual site plan of a park, dubbed Disney's Kingdoms United! that he had imagined and roughly sketched out:

This park was to be completely devoted to Disney animated characters (with nine lands around a lagoon, each dedicated to a single animated classic).  As I've mentioned before, in my own parks I often keep animated tie-ins to a small minority of the park's attraction roster, so drawing a park that was all-animation was a refreshing change of pace.  

The result was World Showcase meets Fantasyland and is described below in KingMickey's own words:

"This theme park takes the style and design of several different Disney movies and throws them into one theme park, creating the ultimate experience of wrapping the guests into the storylines and environments of some of their favorite Disney films.  Wrapping around a central lagoon that connects all of the kingdoms together, it is only a mere step from the Sultan’s Palace in Agrabah to the settlement in Jamestown seen in Pocahontas. At night, Disney’s World of Color brings the lagoon to life, truly bringing all of Disney’s classic films together into one nighttime spectacular.

The Kingdoms of the World 
The entrance of the theme park, the “Main Street”, is themed to Kingdom Hearts, using the architecture seen in the Traverse Town and Twilight Town worlds in the game as its’ main architectural design.  Rows of trees and lamplights lead through the provincial area, leading to the Twilight Town Clocktower, where the Kingdom Hearts attraction, a target-shooting, multi-track attraction is found within. On the backside of the clocktower is a viewing location for World of Color.  Guests can board a boat cruise and float around the lagoon.  In the center of the lagoon are golden statues of the main characters represented throughout Disney’s Kingdoms United.

 Chateau de France
 Continuing clockwise around the park, guests proceed over a bridge and are lead into Belle’s Village seen in Beauty and the Beast.  In Belle’s Village, you can explore some shops or take a relaxing boat cruise around the river that intertwines between the town and the forest. Perhaps you’d like to board a mysterious train, invented by Maurice, and be transported to the drawbridge of the Beast’s Castle. Once inside life-sized castle that takes up the rear of the land, guests will find Beauty and the Beast, a classic dark ride re-telling the tale as old as time.  The other parts of the castle give way to secret passages, leading to the  Enchanted Castle Tour, hosted by Lumiere and Cogsworth. Another passage leads to the Rose Garden, a beautiful balcony where Storytime with Belle takes place.

Notre Dame Courtyard
 Continuing on from Belle’s Village, guests proceed into the Notre Dame Courtyard, in the midst of the Topsy Turvy celebration.  The area is themed to The Huncback of Notre Dame. In the center of the square, the Topsy Turvy Celebration, an interactive streetmosphere extravangaza appears daily. On the backside of the courtyard is the cathedral of Notre Dame, which leads guests through its peaceful sanctuary.  Inside the cathedral, guests will find The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a live, musical re-telling of the story, very similar to the attraction that once existed at the Disney-MGM Studios. A passageway leading to the attic of the cathedral leads to Quasimodo’s Bell Tower, an interactive play area for kids, looking down on the courtyard.     

The Enchanted Forest
The French-inspired courtyard gives way to the setting of a beautiful forest.  Upon exploring the forest, guests will soon realize they are in the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, when they come across the Dwarfs’ Cottage, where they can meet the seven little men and Snow White, herself.  Traveling down the forest trail will lead the guest to Snow White – An Enchanting Musical, an outdoor theater that uses puppetry, music and effects to bring the story of Snow White to life.  The forest trail leads the guests to the rock exterior of the mine, sheltering the Dwarfs’ Mining Camp interactive area and the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train.  The forest trail continues to grow deeper, leading the guests to the foot of the Queen’s castle, Snow White’s Wishing Well just nearby.  Inside the castle, the guests can interact with the Magic Mirror.  Descending down into the laboratory of the castle will lead guests to Escape the Witch, an intense boat ride, where the guests are pitted against the wicked power of the Evil Queen, as they try to escape her castle and the dark forest. Beware, poisonous apples along the way.

 The forest soon gives way to a beach-side setting, as guests enter a cavernous cove under the sea to reach the kingdom of Atlantica (indoor land), seen in The Little Mermaid.  In the Undersea Garden, attractions like Jumpin’ Jellyfish, Blowfish Balloon Race and Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster add to the themed experience of being under the sea.  One of the land’s significant attractions is the Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, which will be a copy of the attractions found at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort.  Guests can even meet Ariel at her grotto located alongside the attraction.  The tranquil undersea garden soon leads to a chilly interactive graveyard of sunken ships.  In the largest ship hull is an entrance that leads to Shark Attack!, an intense thrill attraction where guests board their own ships and are pursued by the massive shark from the film.  The interactive Sunken Ship Graveyard leads through the mouth of a sea dragon, leading to the interactive lair of Ursula, where guests can meet the villainess diva herself.

 The pathway leads past the beach-side rocky setting and leads to the royal courtyard of the city of Thebes, seen in Hercules.  At the back of the courtyard is Mount Olympus, which houses a dark ride that re-tells the story of Hercules.  To the left of the mountain is the Temple of Zeus, an interactive venue where a statue of Zeus and several other gods and goddesses come to life.  Leading up the stair to a royal coliseum is Go the Distance: A Musical, a musical comedy hosted by the Muses.  In front of the courtyard is the beautiful Garden of Aphrodite, which is directly opposite of the entrance of the park.  The area provides a beautiful location during both day and night and offers one of the best views of World of Color.

 The Royal Kingdom
 Guests soon find themselves wandering back into a forest trail. It is only when a tall tower is seen in the distance that they realize they must be in the forest from Tangled.  Continuing into the forest, you’ll find Rapunzel’s Royal Carousel.  A trail through the forest leads to Rapunzel’s Tower, which serves an exterior to the even better dark ride, Tangled: Flynn’s Adventure.  The castle of the kingdom offer s a great dining selection at the Kingdom Faire restaurant.  A Meet & Greet location with Rapunzel and Flynn is also located inside of the castle.  Every night, after the sun sets and night falls, all of the kingdoms throughout the theme park send off floating lanterns, which take off into the night sky.
 The forest fades away to the desert landscape of Agrabah from Aladdin.  The city boasts the Agrabah Bazaar, a marketplace of goods and foods, located just before the Sultan’s Palace.  Inside of the Sultan’s Palace, guests will find Aladdin’s Arabian Adventure, where guests board their own magic carpet and take off through the story of Aladdin.  After traveling through a brief oasis of palm trees, the path leads inside of the Cave of Wonders, where Genie’s Wish, a 3-D attraction takes place.

The Pridelands
 The desert theme of Agrabah continues as the path travels through a beautiful oasis area, entering into a peaceful savanna, seen in The Lion King.  The savanna will lead to Timon and Pumbaa’s African Safari, a jungle jeep adventure, where Timon and Pumbaa act as guides through their own tour of the jungle. Rhythmic sounds and music come from some live drummers found just outside of the Circle of Life restaurant. Ahead lies Pride Rock, the iconic large rock formation from the movie that houses the Festival of the Lion King attraction.  Moving past Pride Rock leads to the Elephant Graveyard, an interactive playground filled with large elephant bones and the Chomps Steakhouse.

Native Camp Grounds

The pathway then leads through the Virginian settlement of Jamestown, where the settlers had landed in Pocahontas.  Inside the settlement, there are dining locations and shops.  Further into the wilderness that travels alongside a riverbend, guests will come across Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends, a show that was once featured at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The path continues to lead down to Grandmother Willow’s Tree Grove, an interactive plaza where guests can meet the tree, herself.  At the southeastern edge of the park, guests will come across Meeko’s River Run, a river rapids attraction through the forest and the Indian encampment, as well as Just Around the Riverbend, a log flume attraction that takes guests through the story of Pocahontas.  The pathway in front of Jamestown leads guests back to the Twilight Town Clocktower at the entrance of the park."


Thanks, KingMickey... hope my drawing did justice to your ideas.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Shadow Kingdom

Back in the Fall of 2010 I came across a really neat description of a villains park posted on MiceChat by RegionsBeyond.  Around the same time I was developing my own take on the "evil" version of the Magic Kingdom park,  Dark Kingdom , which had quite of bit of independent similarities.  In the past weeks, I drew an expanded conceptual site plan for Regions' park (using his original ideas and adding some of my own), then he came back with new descriptions for what I had drawn and the collaborative end result is presented below, along with his in-depth description (fair warning: this is a long, but good, read).


"Over the years, there has been much talk of a potential Disney park themed entirely around the 'villains’ characters. I am sure many pictured roughly what I did: lands and dark rides dealing with the traditional animated characters such as Malificent, Jafar, Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts, and their associates. However, in thinking about it, I began to realize what would interest me would not be a park centered on, say, the ravaged Pride Lands from the Lion King, or Pleasure Island from Pinocchio: classic environments taken verbatim from the feature films. What I was imagining, instead, would be a park similar in structure to Disneyland, or Universal's Islands of Adventure: separate "ports of call" or areas with a overarching theme, with movie properties sprinkled throughout largely realistic realms and placed aside attractions not based on any established film property.

It was my goal to conceive a park that could mirror the attraction mix of DisneySea: large scale E-tickets, smaller dark rides, a handful of more traditional amusement park type rides that still fit the style of the realms, and walk through exhibits. This would create a variety of experiences matched with exquisitely detailed settings and waterways winding throughout the various realms. My theoretical third-gate, darker themed Disney park would be entitled The Shadow Kingdom, and have eight themed sections within united by the idea of an "alternate universe" version of Disneyland, accessed by walking through a slightly sinister traveling circus (inspired by the Disney live action film "Something Wicked This Way Comes"). This would be an old fashioned style-traveling show, and serve the function of Main Street: nothing too threatening at this juncture, just slightly vintage and offbeat, with shops, entertainment, food, and presenting a vintage archetype guests would be as familiar with as they are an old-fashioned town square. It would serve as a "portal" to wooded paths and waterways leading to the other themed lands.

Once entering the park past main ticket booths (in the form of a semi-circle of aged but clean looking gypsy/circus wagons with themed detailing items attached), guests would pass under a banner for Pandemonium and Darke's Shadow Show. On either side of a "country dirt road" (actually painted and detailed concrete) would be lines of well-kept, black, red and white striped vintage circus tents and temporary wooden structures. One would offer British "hand food" of the period: meat and portable shepherd's pies, a few sandwiches, and desserts like funnel cake along with beverages. Another would sell hand crafted wooden toys and mementoes of the carnival done in period style, a third, park-specific merchandise and Disney brand goods limited to this one location. The usual services and sundries would be offered, but hidden inside a aged wooden building marked "Amenities" on one side, and a large tent on the other: an ATM, phones, wheelchair rentals, restrooms, etc. Along the road, at one point, would be the boarded up, closed "Mirror Maze" from the film of Something Wicked This Way Comes, with a hand painted sign out front explaining the closure due to visitors being "lost" inside. If guests were to stand and watch, they might glimpse spectral forms of period-dressed tourists inside, trapped in the mirrors, but vanishing quickly and appearing only subtly and infrequently. The barker outside would invite guests in to the funhouse that shared the building, for a 3-4 minute walkthrough designed after classic walk-through attractions found in places like Coney Island and San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach.

The main attraction in this area would be Professor Darke's Odditorium Sideshow. Guests would sit on benches surrounding an indoor stage, and be entertained by a mixture of live performers on the main stage (acrobats, fire eaters, a magician/illusionist, etc) and AA performers on either side, in smaller little circular stages, as used in County Bear Jamboree (Spidora the spider woman, a two-headed jazz-singer/flapper type woman, a pale, thin, skeletal looking fellow who would summon spirits to interact with the stage and theater, etc).

In addition to this main show, there would be a few classic carnival type rides done in a more lush, period style with slightly aged and morbid designs in spots: a Himalaya type spinner ride, a Ferris wheel, surrounded by woods on either side in both cases.

When ready to leave the main entrance, guests would find a single pathway with an old-fashioned parchment map on a signboard at the edge of a dark wood, wooden gates standing open on either side of the lane. The text would read thusly, on a plank affixed to the map: "Beware, traveler, for those who venture beyond these boundaries are no longer under the protection of the management of Pandemonium and Darke's Shadow Show. Strange realms await beyond our encampment, and many wonders as well. But beware, for those who pass this way may experience many dark enchantments merely hinted at by our humble amusements, and few who do are ever truly the same after."

The map would lay out the rest of the park, illustrated in a rough, sketchy style, with stylized representations of each of the realms (starting from nearest the entrance and working counter-clockwise): Hollow Bastion in the center, ringed by The Black Forest, Voodoo Bayou, Dead Man's Cove, The Underworld, Halloweentown, and Vulture Flats.

In the center (as Sleeping Beauty Castle is for Disneyland) would be Hollow Bastion, based on designs from the Kingdom Hearts games.  Waterways and moats would surround it, with seemingly decayed bridges over them to enter the fortress. Many of these would connect to the other realms, and dark, swan-shaped boats carrying about twenty guests would depart from a dock outside the walls of Hollow Bastion to take a 10 minute trip to the other dock at Dead Man’s Cove.

Guests would be able to walk through the castle structure and an interior set of paths, seeing scenes featuring the Horned King from the Black Cauldron, aided by the Heartless from Kingdom Hearts. These scenes would feature a story of the King attempting to open portals to other realms in order to gain new power and increase his strength by tapping into evil energies from other planes of existence. These portals would be used to explain the different realms of the park, and how guests crossed into Hollow Bastion from Pandemonium and Darke's. The final scene would feature the Horned King triumphant, standing behind the black cauldron, smoke rising and flashes of light coming from within. Crackling energy would line the walls, and as guests exited to proceed into the rest of the realms, they'd walk out of the castle through a cloud of mist, energy bolts sizzling along the wall, headed outwards, leading them to understand the King had been successful in opening gateways to other dark realms that guests could now visit. Below the castle, a dragon's lair similar to that in Paris would lie, with smoking volcanic vents, a giant slumbering dragon AA, and a series of dungeons with skeletons shackled inside leading to the main cavern.

Behind the castle, in a courtyard, would be a carousel with steeds modeled after famous and infamous supernatural creatures: thestrals, the giant spectral dogs of England, werewolves, griffons, sea monsters, and the like. Beyond the carousel, the main bulk of the park would begin, the realms lining a counter-clockwise circle, each bordered by strange, magically glowing symbols on the ground, like etchings, in red and purple light that would glow and wane eerily. A secret “escape tunnel” would be found through a unmarked crack in the fortress walls, and lead past some scenes of a long abandoned dungeon: open cells, skeletal remains, and the like. Guests taking this tunnel would wind up near the skiff boarding dock outside the walls.

The first realm accessed if exiting to the right would be the Black Forest, heralded by stylized "spooky trees" like in the Snow White animated film, and the sound of wings and ravens cawing deep in the woods. In this area would be a small wooden cart offering "Poison Apples", in reality, apples dipped in caramel or chocolate then with a skull imprinted on front using a stencil which sugar would be sprinkled over, leaving the design. A rough wooden hut would offer the chance for guests to meet and be photographed either with the Wicked Queen or Old Hag from the classic Disney film. The main attraction in the Black Forest, looming behind the wooden cottage, would be Bald Mountain, styled after the classic sequence from Fantasia..

This would be a 10-12 minute flume ride, where guests would board hollowed out, twisted logs in a forest clearing, traveling along a rocky mountain stream. A few minutes would be spent floating in wooded settings, owls and AA wildlife glimpsed, the sounds of nature and slightly ominous, low scale music heard. A small drop down a minor hill would take guests to a densely forested setting, then quickly into the enclosed portion of the ride disguised by trees and rockwork matched with a disguising wall featuring a painting of the forest continuing and a village in the distance. Once inside the mountain's show building, there would be scenes of the village in the shadow of the mountain as dusk set: candles in windows, a lone shutter banging in the breeze. As guests floated past the old cemetery at he base of the mountain, tombstones would be seen to shake, mist rising from the ground, and then the logs would speed up, propelling guests into a close, dark thicket of trees, the strains of "Night on Bald Mountain" and eerie, strange cries echoing in the dark. Spectral forms, using the original ghostly designs from Fantasia, would be glimpsed on either side, the logs catching the bottom of a lift hill and starting upwards in a dark tunnel, shrieking spectres projected all around them on mist screens. Once at the top, the logs would pause, as a giant pair of yellow eyes opened, then a gigantic AA of Chernabog the demon would lean forward, music swelling, hands reaching out for the guests as if to grab the log. As the boat got nearer, hands closing in, it would plunge suddenly downwards, in a dark, enclosed drop tunnel filled with fog, in the pitch black. Once at the bottom, the logs would float slowly past the gates of the town, a rooster crowing in the distance as in the segment of Fantasia, a few whispy spirits visible headed back down to the ground to flee the dawn. Guests would exit near a large, dead tree stump, with glowing owl eyes visible and soft hooting occurring occasionally from within, and walk a path back to exit by the apple cart.

At this point, a covered bridge would lead guests to the second ride in the area: the Legend of Sleepy Hollow dark ride, where small wooden carts would set off on a moonlit eve for the party at the Van Tassel residence. A brief scene with Brom Bones and the party guests would follow, featuring the Headless Horseman song, and then back out into the fields and woods with the moon overhead. The ride of course would climax with being confronted by the Headless Horseman at several points, ending up with a combined projection and AA of the flaming pumpkin shrieking towards them, followed by a small dip underneath the wooden bridge, the carts moving along past the whipporwills and croaking toads to unload at the edge of the woods, in the shadow of an abandoned windmill.

The third attraction would lead away from these areas, via a small path with a sign nailed up at the entrance, painted with the words “Beware the Tulgey Wood”. A twisting series of paths would eventually lead to a maze themed to Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen from the recent Tim Burton film, with still statuary and some interactive effects and illusions, both indoors and outside. A dark ride located inside the fa├žade of the Queen’s fortress would take guests for a fast-paced adventure through the castle, dodging the presence of the decapitation-obsessed Queen, her animal footservants, and the dreaded Jabberwocky.  The path at the exit would once more lead to the central area by the apple cart and Bald Mountain queue.

Guests hungry and thirsty after these adventures could have a sit-down meal at Gaston's, a restaurant styled after the pub in Beauty and the Beast, with deer trophy heads and the like for decor, as well as a oil painting of the namesake of the restaurant over the main fireplace. Seated at wooden tables in one of two dining rooms, guests would enjoy hearty steaks or seafood and pasta dishes, as well as specific European dishes like haggis and roasted pheasants.

The next realm encountered would be Voodoo Bayou, the trees thinning out and becoming more realistic, guests walking on wooden walkways over "swampland" with cypress-like trees growing around the path. Splashing and the noises of reptiles would be heard from the water, a few AA crocodiles occasionally surfacing, eyeing the guests. At night, eerie green lights could be glimpsed far back in the trees, and the lightning bug effect from Pirates could be used as well, with the main lighting provided by antique lanterns hanging from the walkway railings. This area would feature three attractions: a boat ride through the swamp, a sit down show, and a walk through "exhibit".

The show would be entitled "Dr. Facilier's Other-Side Revue", and naturally feature the title character from Princess and The Frog. It would take place in a rustic shack with hand painted sign like in the film, and a live actor would play Facilier: explaining to guests after he got ran out of the city and "perished", his friends from the other side decided to give him one more chance to redeem himself. In order to prove himself, he has to convince one of the guests present to let him take their energy (via a planted actor in the audience, like the Indy stunt show in Florida) to revive his "friends". The chosen actor would come onstage, only to be vanished and reappear as a AA frog, before disappearing once again in a cloud of smoke. At this point, the masks and voodoo dolls around the stage would "come alive" with the gained energy, chanting ominously at first, chairs and items moving on their own, the lights dimming, strange noises occurring around the whole theater and lighting effects. At this point, a few of the shadow creatures from the film would appear onstage, and interact with Facilier: knocking off his hat, tripping him, etc. After the Dr. and his shadow calm the "friends" down, there would be a musical reprise of "Friends on The Other Side", with punctuation provided by the masks chanting along, statuary and artifacts coming to life. As the music reached the finale and crescendo, a bolt of purple light would hit the stage from above, and the live Facilier performer vanish, all the masks and objects go still, and when the lights came back up, all would be normal except for the lingering shadow of Dr. Facilier, which would remove it's hat, bow, and gesture for guests to rise and exit before vanishing itself. This would be a combo between Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room and the "Spirit Lodge" attraction at Knott's, which features live performers vanishing and interacting with Pepper's Ghost type illusions.

The second attraction, the walk through, would be a realization of Rolly Crump's Museum of The Weird. This would be housed in a area of small shops and a few casual food places, a slightly more run down sort of community on the edge of the swamps. Inside the Museum would be an eccentric collection of artifacts, many said to be cursed or "haunted", from around the world. These would be explained to have been collected over the lifetime of one Dr. Phineas Crump, a noted collector of the arcane and unusual who traveled the world looking for items for his collection. The items might include "possessed" paintings of medieval people from castles in England, cursed tribal artifacts from Africa, items stolen from the tombs of Egypt, unusual carvings from Asia and India, shrunken heads, artifacts from the witch trials of Salem, a man-eating plant, etc. The exhibit would be housed in a rather decrepit building, outside painted with odd languages and phrases in red and gold paint. Several of the items would appear to move on their own, the eyes of the paintings sometimes follow guests, or odd knocking sounds to echo through the building at times. On hand would be a few Cast Members, well trained in the significance of certain items (or being good enough at improvisation to make up stories behind the artifacts on the spot) to share with guests who had questions, or point out "special" exhibits. This would be on scale, room size wise, with the One Man's Dream exhibit at Disney Studios, guests being allowed to linger with CM's positioned along the way, and take up perhaps 3 rooms total.

The boat ride, Crocodile River Expedition, would have a queue among gnarled cypress trees, through a seeming crocodile trapper’s shack decorated with rusty implements and odd drawings from old books depicting strange voodoo-esque rituals . Once on the dock and loaded onto a boat, guests would take a ten-minute or so Jungle Cruise type tour with a live guide, who would tell rather lightly-handled tales of the swamp and wildlife, and voodoo legends and ghost stories of the area. Sights would include a pit of quicksand with remains of some unlucky local trappers, the burned down remains of a once regal plantation house said to be haunted, a simulated attack by large angry crocodile animatronic, and to escape: a trip through a dark, moss filled cave where eerie lights would appear and prompt the guide to tell tales of the “will-o-whisps” of legend.

Leaving the Voodoo Bayou behind, the swamp would slowly become more rocky ground, with a curving path around a lagoon of black, still water, waves lapping slowly at the shore. This would be the "back" of the park: Dead Man's Cove. Looking under the water as they walked along, guests might spy items such as sunken gold coins and treasure, animatronic crabs and moray eels, human bones, and stray pieces of wrecked ships. The first attraction here would be the Flying Dutchman from the Pirates film series, created full scale and moored along the walkway. Guests could climb the gangplank and walk both above and belowdecks, to view the organ chamber (eerie music playing by itself from Tia Dalma's locket), the brig, the mess hall, and through a cut out window, might glimpse the Kraken swimming by underneath the waves. A few AA crew members would be scattered throughout, those that have become part of the ship and covered in moss and sea life. On the main deck, guests could find either Captain Hector Barbossa or Davy Jones himself to pose for photos. Back on the mainland, a smaller meet and greet space set up to look like a backdrop of stolen treasure and ship parts would house Jack Sparrow and Tia Dalma characters for photos. Nearby, there would be a rough-looking building constructed out of wrecked ship parts (similar to the ‘town’ of Shipwreck in At World’s End) which would house a meal and pirate show featuring stunts, musical performances by the Bootstrappers, and saucy pirate wenches displaying feats of derring-do while guests were served items such as whole roasted chicken, stew, or beef ribs along with large flagons of soda or specially brewed "rum".

From the mainland, guests could either cross a swaying rope bridge or take a underground tunnel to an island set in the waterway towards the center of the park. This “cursed treasure isle” would be analogous to Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland, with forest settings, a ruined church, treasure caves, footpaths to explore, and the like suggesting the world of the live action Pirates films.

The showstopper attraction for Dead Man’s Cove would be a water ride/coaster hybrid taking place inside a large fortress on the side of a mountain. Titled Phantom Fortress, it would feature a trip through a under-siege East India Company headquarters and battalion center. Starting out as a slow moving coaster seating about 8 people in 2 rows, it would journey past scenes of battle between pirates and the military/shipping forces and then speed up into the water-based section. Boats would be “hit” by cannon fire and sink, dropping down into a dark show building with more ghostly and eerie effects of deep-sea inspired monsters, half-human sirens/mermaids and ghostly cursed pirates ‘underneath’ the water via a dry-for-wet effect environment similar to The Little Mermaid upcoming dark ride and Tokyo’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The boats would gradually rise again and ‘surface’ at an unload station looking like a rocky beach.

The next realm, The Underworld, would be entered through a rocky cave along the water's edge. Down into the darkness guests would walk, the path lit by ornate, Greek-style torch holders on the walls, until they reached a larger cavern. Along the way, small alcove would hold a simple, golden lamp familiar to any who enjoy the Disney animated films. If venturing close enough to touch the lamp, guests would activate either maniacal laughter from within, or Jafar pleading to be let free from his prison.

Further on, at the entrance to a lake framed by jagged rockwork, the queue would form for the area's signature attraction: The River Styx. Guests would queue up and enter a stone chamber, lit by more torches, carvings of events from the film Hercules on the walls: Hades on his throne, the three-headed serpent, various other monstrosities. Once in their boats (PoTC style flat boats), guests would embark past a skeletal boatman in a small skiff, supporting himself on a staff. He would warn them to go no further, the realms of the dead and beyond are no place for the living, especially now that Hades has sworn revenge on the mortal world for harboring his enemy, Hercules. Of course, the boats proceed apace regardless, through a series of scenes including a plunge down a waterfall into a cavern with glowing blue waters, eerie faces swirling and vanishing underneath the surface; the sudden eruption of a giant cartoon-styled sea monster feet away from the boat on one side; Pain and Panic, Hades' henchmen, trying to crush the boat with a swaying support pillar; a scene of Megara imprisoned by the Sirens (haglike monstrous creatures); and finally, a showdown with Hades engulfing the ceiling with fire as he tries to destroy guests, who are saved at the last minute by Hercules holding a falling wall up so the boats can escape back to the load area.

To round out the land would be a indoor Coliseum style theater where a group of live actors would perform musical and improv skits based on classic Greek legends and myths, and a walk-through “Labyrinth” to view both the beastly minotaur in his lair, and a small pool with AA stylized fauns, winged horses, and water sprites inspired by Fantasia in the center.

Next up, the second-to-last realm would be Halloweentown, accessed by leaving the caverns of The Underworld, and arriving on the outskirts of the town. The surfaces and textures would all resemble those in the movie: hatchwork and lines on ‘natural’ features like hills and trees. A main street would lead into the town square, complete with City Hall, the central fountain, and a large graveyard and Jack‘s tower home, all as shown in the Burton/Sellick film Nightmare Before Christmas.

The main attraction here would be a Fantasyland style Nightmare dark ride taking place in a 2-story show building hidden behind Town Hall. Inside, the Mayor would be represented as a human-sized AA, inviting visitors from the "human world" to tour his town, entire head swiveling with worry that Oogie Boogie has been sighted lurking about, then turning back to his "cheery face" to assure guests everything will be fine. Inside would be about 10 separate show scenes, including a mid-point large scene for "This is Halloween" with 15-20 AA's, and a "descent"/falling scene down into Oogie's blacklit lair near the end. After riding, guests could visit Jack and Sally along with other Halloweentown residents (the vampires, the wolfman, the Behemoth) on a rotation in a small gazebo in the cemetery.

A few smaller rides would complete the area, located in patches of woods on the outskirts: a tea-cup spinner themed to Lock, Shock and Barrel with the ride vehicles resembling cauldrons and AA figures of the characters in the center of the platform, bickering and singing snatches of song from the film from inside their over-sized, monster/sentient bathtub. The second attraction would be a coaster themed to the sled ride at the film’s finale along with a synched up audio track of the chase music used in the section.

Last of the realms, but not least, is likely my most ambitious idea for the park: Vulture Flats. A decrepit ghost town in the style more of the current section at Knott’s than Frontierland, it would house three main attractions. A saloon/eating establishment would sit along the main road, and a vaudeville style theater delivering Old West melodramas with a slightly morbid/quirky edge. The landscape around the town would be like Arizona, roughly: orange colored buttes and scraggly desert trees, rocky features.

The first attraction in the section would be titled Redemption Armored Wagons, and play out like a hybrid of Indiana Jones, Universal’s Men in Black and the film based Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure. After walking to a more prosperous looking area of town, guests would be drafted by the local sheriff to pursue a gang of bank robbers into the wild, trying to disable the stolen armored stagecoach they are dragging and taking aim at specific targets along the way to slow the robbers up. The ride would feature moving vehicles and 3-D sets combined with film elements for a ride through the wild west featuring a cave full of bats, a steep canyon descent, the desert at night, and a chase across a rickety train trestle. Some elements and scenes would be re-used and updated from Marc Davis’ Western River Expedition along the way.

At the edge of the town atop a rocky butte would sit Ravenswood Manor, a western-inspired (but less romantic/film inspired a la Phantom Manor) variation on the Haunted Mansion archetype. Effects and gags inside would include some Mansion stalwarts (Pepper’s ghost, the ballroom party) along with new technology in portions such as AA figures recognizing and inviting guests to join them, followed by the cars starting to drift off the track and down dark hallways, or a sudden ‘earthquake’ causing vehicles to veer off the established ride path and into a set of scenes only sometimes visited, most guests receiving an alternate set of scenes and continuing through a different experience. The main story, as Disneyland Paris’s version does, would deal with a gold baron who went bankrupt and vanished after a large earthquake along with his wife and the household staff.

The final, and most lengthy and ambitious ride of the section,  would be accessed through a "Western History Museum" front alongside a dusty path that dead ends at it, with a few other inaccessible buildings nearby: a horse stables, a hotel, a house of ill repute: all seemingly abandoned. Inside, the museum would have warped wood floors and display cases of items left behind in the ghost town of Vulture Flats, that had been mysteriously abandoned in the 1870's. These items would include old bottles, spoons, cutlery, plates, clothing, dolls, spurs...all things of a domestic nature, and keeping in what you'll find in any number of western history museums across the Western U.S. A town history would be on a wooden plaque on a wall, recalling the boom days of the Gold Rush, the waning of new pioneers, and finally, the day a group of miners arrived to find the town deserted of every living soul: women, children, laborers, cooks, saloon-keepers...all vanished without a trace. After pursuing the exhibits, and a final stop in a darkened room to view strange, glowing rocks mined during the town's heydey under blacklight, guests would exit the back of the building through a supposed "exhibit" faux rock mining tunnel only to find themselves outside, at night, on the abandoned streets of Vulture Flats.

This entire section of the area would be enclosed in a show building, like the entrance to Paris's Hollywood Studios park, entered through the Museum structure without guests knowing or seeing the enclosed building taking over. Projections of a ghostly full moon and clouds would move across the blackened sky/domed roof, and the walls would be obscured by trees or buildings, with matte paintings in places hinting at the desert beyond. Moving past the silent buildings, guests might think they glimpse movements or odd lights behind some windows, or hear whispering in alleyways, only to find nothing when they look back. Signposts would point the way to the Silver Dollar mine, and these would clearly be newer in style. Upon reaching a rock wall with mine tunnel entrances dotting it, most blocked off, guests would queue up in a horse barn, then a series of switchbacks through the mining company's equipment room. Cast Members at the front would explain the owners of the museum have opened the mine again for tours, so guests can see working conditions of the day, and assure guests that everything has been made safe for visitors and that they will be accompanied by a trained guide who knows the caves.

Groups of 16 would board open cars chained together similar to those at the Calico Mine Ride at Knott's, made of hammered steel like they'd been constructed out of old ore carts, with a headlamp on front. Then, the cars would slowly proceed into the mine, the guide telling a brief history of the Silver Dollar and it's owners, and how its' employees had vanished along with everyone else in town during the late 1800‘s, never to be seen again. Once into the mine shaft, the guide would start pointing out the bands of precious metals along and inside the walls, only to be interrupted by a strange, cold wind, and knocking sounds from either side. This would be followed by voices, murmuring and whispering, and faint blasting sounds off in the distance. The guide would express some concern at this, saying he has never experienced anything like this before in the mine, but he would take guests onwards into the original caves below the mine tunnels and that there was nothing to worry about, surely it was just imagination running away with them in the dark.

Inside the caves, weird, strangely glowing rock formations would be seen, and eerily glowing waterfalls here and there, making strange shapes. At one point, underneath the trestle supporting the cars, the guide would point out odd, sightless fish underneath the water (a mixture of AA's and projections) on either side. Entering a darkened cavern beyond the water-filled room, the headlamp would suddenly flicker and go out, the only light an odd blue one reflected by the rock walls. As the guide reassured guests everything was fine, off to the side there would be a sudden noise like rocks falling slowly, a misty shape slowly appearing: what appeared to be the form of a miner, eyes like blank holes, skeletal grin, wavering and flickering in and out slowly and oddly like a lightbulb. This frightful apparition would vanish slowly, into the darkness, and next the moans, low, and eerie, of many voices would be heard: men, women, and children. The cars would speed up, and the headlamp come back on, revealing a large pile of rocks dead ahead, scattered all across the cavern, a few bones poking out here and there. Then a loud rumbling would be heard, the cars shaking slightly, and the guide asking guests to remain calm and stating the exit was nearby, and they'd be out before any potential cave ins.

 Quickly, the car would zip through a few nondescript caverns, catching sight of a opening ahead into the night, trees visible and the full moon. As the cart neared it, a apparition would suddenly appear, blocking the entrance: a fully formed, blue, ghostly image of a woman holding her hands above her head, as if in fear, the rumbling getting louder. No time to stop, the vehicles would simply pass through the ghost like mist, a loud roar of rocks falling behind them as the vehicle went back to the unload area. The cave guide, visibly shaken, would say he guessed now they might know what happened to the townsfolk: a serious cave in took the lives of some of the miners and women, and the rest just up and left, not that he could blame them for that. He'd go on to say the restless spirits must be re-living the events of what happened to them, and maybe now they could find peace. Guests would unload and walk back the main street of town, having the opportunity to look around the boarded up buildings or visit a small "Undertaker's Office" selling a limited selection of merchandise of a Western nature. They would exit through another cave to the outskirts of the traveling circus/entry area, or take a one way shortcut back to the rest of the park via a door hidden behind one of the outdoors Western fronts.

 This concludes the basic tour of the potential park. Some elements are not included, such as more specific smaller stores, fast food type establishments, and bathrooms in the themed realms. Overall, this is designed to be something Disney does not currently have stateside: an even mix of original properties and movie-based attractions all in service of a larger theme of a “darker”/slightly horror based concept. If done correctly, the balance of menace, thrill, E-ticket and experimental rides and more familiar properties and ride systems for younger guests could truly be something unique. In addition, such a park would allow Disney to expand into the market of after-hours Halloween events for a more adult crowd while not stooping to the level of gore or pure gross-out elements in order to do so. Some might disagree with the suitability of a project so vast and ambitious, yet based on “horrific” elements or darker themes. Nothing truly grotesque, however, would be presented, and no cheap scares or content beyond the level of things which could conceivably be rated PG-13 were this a motion picture."

Side by side with my expanded version of Disneyland


Alright!  Comments, as always, are appreciated.