Monday, May 23, 2011

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland is known for, among other things, its popularity and financial success as well as its meticulous operations and maintenance programs.  It is an operational model that theme parks the world over should follow.  However, from a design standpoint there is a lot about the park I would change and three lands in particular (Fantasyland, World Bazaar and Tomorrowland) that I think could use a radical overhaul (aesthetics-wise).   Unlike Paris Disneyland, which was intended to be an original work of art designed from scratch for a sophisticated European audience, Oriental Land Co. executives wanted a “Disney park just like those in America”, so they toured Disneyland and Magic Kingdom in the 1970s and pointed out the different elements they wanted copied directly into their Tokyo park.  

Here is my plan for an expanded version of TDL:

STREETS OF AMERICA: While I think the concept of a covered entry, as well as a World Bazaar (i.e., World Showcase, not a covered MS:USA), can work well in a theme park (I’ve used them elsewhere), I’ve never been a big fan about the way World Bazaar was executed in Tokyo.  So in its place I created an outdoor Main Street (cobblestone pavers), with four quadrants, each representing a different period (architecture, cuisine, technologies, etc) in American history.  The front two are based on Colonial Boston (1700s) and Age of Invention (latter 1800s) Philadelphia.  The rear two are based on 1920s New York (deco, Jazz Age) and the typical MS:USA Victorian.  These blocks feature indoor arcades (for inclement weather) similar to Disneyland Paris.  To the west, Broad Street dissolves into a ‘classic’ Los Angeles influenced square, featuring a theater with Disney character shows (like the popular One Man’s Dream) and an exhibit on Walt himself. 

NEW ORLEANS SQUARE: Easing the transition from Streets of America to Adventureland (and already existing in TDL in all but name) is NOSQ.  Throughout the park I’ve added more landscaping and narrowed some pathways in order to make the park feel more intimate and block out-of-theme sight-lines.   A criticism I have of TDL is its openness, the geat width of its pathways.  I’ve read this was an intentional part of the design – a relief from the crowdedness of Tokyo (check out Dave Gottwald’s blog for a really informative and photo-heavy analysis of the design of TDR and all the other Disney parks)  – but in this exercise in fantasy I’ve done quite a bit to change the wide openness and make the park a little tighter, thematically.
Extra wide walkways in existing park
ADVENTURELAND: The major change here is turning the Jungle Cruise (doubling its real estate outside the berm) into a much grander dinosaur riverboat attraction (still set in the pulp 1920s-30s).  Former Imagineer Tom Thordarson produced some artwork for such a ride, featured on DisneyandMore:

I also added an indoor family ride based on the Jungle Book.

WESTERNLAND:  Mostly the same as what exists, but I moved Country Bears to Critter Country in order to keep Westernland more realism-based and the talking animals in their own area.

CRITTER COUNTRY: Tokyo’s Critter Country is a masterpiece of themed design.  If you are not overly familiar with it,  not only does Splash Mountain have more (and maintained like the day it opened), but the restaurant and environment around it are incredible.  Check out Flickr and Youtube to get a better idea, like this photostream.   Someone (unfortunately I can’t remember to credit him/her) once described it thusly, “Do you remember those childrens books or games (Peter Rabbit, Uncle Wiggley, Berenstain Bears, etc.) with detailed, colorful cut-a-away illustrations of the homes of anthropomorphized rabbits, badgers, etc., inside an old tree trunk or cut into a riverbank… TDL’s Critter Country is like stepping into such an illustration.”  

FANTASYLAND:  All the current TDL dark-rides have been changed out for similar ones of Disney films that have yet to receive such treatment (e.g., Beauty and Beast, 101 Dalmatians).  Toad Hall replaces Haunted Mansion (with its Hudson Valley exterior that never worked in Fantasyland) and houses a new, e-ticket incarnation of the Wind in the Willows adventure.  The bright, plastic tournament tent exteriors are all gone, and the facades are “fantasy-village-themed” like those in Anaheim and Paris.  Also the wide open expanse of pavement is broken up by a ribbon of water and landscaping running across the center of the land, similar to the one in Paris:
photo by

MICKEYVILLE: Fantasyland has two associated- or sub-lands (as Critter Country could be considered a sub-land of Westernland or NOSQ of Adventureland).  The first is based on an actual plan for Tokyo, a medieval version of Toontown, by artist and former Imagineer Hani El-Masri:

SHADOWLAND: This land is home to several big-budget high-fantasy attractions (not associated with animated features) including TDL’s version of the Haunted Mansion, re-set in a wizard’s castle (just as Paris’ version was re-set in the Old West).

TOMORROWLAND: Tomorrowland, aka Sci-Fi City, gets the famous re-themeing that almost happened in the 1990s.  The northern half, marked by lots of alien rock outcroppings is the shady district of the space pirates, bikers and alien gangsters known as Crater Town. 

The depth-giving backdrop to the entire land is an in-park, sci-fi-themed resort hotel:

PIXAR PLACE: Rather than damaging the thematic coherence of the land, as has been the sad history of Pixar in Tomorrowland, the popular rides based on Pixar works get their own area, easing the transition between Streets of America and Tomorrowland:

So those are my physical design changes to what is otherwise a very well run park.  Comments?  And, needless to say, our thoughts and best wishes continue to be for the speedy recovery of Japan and her people, who will doubtless emerge from their current adversity all the stronger.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I've been converting some of my site plans to color and would like some feedback from you good people. 

I like the simplicity of the original four color scheme I've been using, but inserting a cool-temp color palette can help differentiate the lands/showbuildings.  Thoughts?  Should future plans be in color?  Should the already-posted ones be converted like below?


FOLLOW UP: Continuing this experiment, I've replaced about half of my posted parks with colorized versions, going all the way back to MGM, so feel free to check them out and let me know your thoughts on the new scheme.  

A lot of these plans feature small enhancements from previous incarnations, such as this expanded version of Texas Disneyland:
In which I resurrected the old Pirate Ship from Disneyland:

Thanks for the input so far and let me know your thoughts on this change in presentation, if you haven't done so.