Friday, June 17, 2011

EPCOT Center

"To all who come to this Place of Joy, Hope and Friendship, Welcome.  EPCOT is inspired by Walt Disney's creative vision.  Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.  May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire, and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."

Robert McCall’s magnificent “The Prologue & The Promise” mural

This Ideal Buildout version of EPCOT Center attempts to live up to the above dedication and artwork.


Great theme parks are not about individual attractions so much as they are about 'place' - a kind that make sense and is compelling.  In order to bring Future World back to its more coherent sense of place (i.e., an optimistic techno-futurist showcase of what tomorrow could bring as spearheaded by American enterprise & ingenuity), the FW pavilions see a return to some of their original concepts while maintaining (or adding) the latest in FX or fast-paced thrills.   

 The jumping-off point for this version of Future World was the blurry “Epcot Discoveryland” plan that was posted on JimHillMedia a number of years ago (for layout, not content).  The big ideas that I took from that concept include (a) breaking up the monolithic Communicore/Innoventions buildings into individualized attractions, dining & retail facilities; (b) adding lots of greenery - here, Future World has been redesigned to be very lush & fecund (not just manicured lawns, but plenty of “wild” areas and a flowing stream running through the center) in order to underscore harmony between Nature & Technology, which is requisite of any positive human future; and (c) adding outdoor attractions, including a rainforest canopy rollercoaster, a living hedge maze and an electric Autopia aimed for kids, to add kinetic energy to the areas.

As importantly, I’ve brought back the EPCOT Iconography - simple yet meaningful – which encapsulated the framework and architecture (both physical and psychological) upon which all of Future World was built... a framework that made sense and connected each of the pavilions to the other and to the larger story that the Original Designers were trying to tell:

Gone are all Pixar tie-ins, game show references, quasi-celebrity appearances, etc.  Like animated films, I find theme park attractions work better when you don’t already know the face of the character whose voice you’re hearing.   The goal of the park is to not only entertain, but educate and elevate, leaving animated Disney fantasy for the other parks.

The site plan is fairly self explanatory with respect to Future World, but here are a few more details.

HORIZONS: Using the giant showbuilding that formerly housed Universe of Energy, the new Horizons would follow a similar format to the original, with a ride script that is a deferential sequel utilizing the same voice actors, but new set pieces, more interactive elements, 21st century special effects, etc.
WORLD OF MOTION: Test Track’s car testing-ground story is scrapped in a thematic return to the original attraction.   The cars would move slowly for the first 80% of the ride, through sets similar to the original but with updated FX.  For its climax (as you reach the future of transportation) the ride picks up speed for its 60mph outdoor segment.
SPACE: Similar to its opposite (The Land), Space becomes a multi-attraction pavilion, incorporating the old Wonders of Life structures.   Exhibits, a “space station”, a planetarium, etc. join a re-written centrifuge simulator that isn’t about training to go to space but actually going into space.
SPACESHIP EARTH: Time Racers is a new version of Spaceship Earth with a high-speed segment – based on the attraction once considered for Epcot 2.0.



The basic layout of this part of the park was taken from Peter Schaab’s EPCOT project.  If you’re not familiar with this, you’ll want to check out his site:  Peter’s brilliant vision of EPCOT elevates it beyond a theme park to a global research center, university and library – with students & educators from around the world living and studying (and working) there.  It is a high-concept idea that Walt Disney would have appreciated.

My vision here is not as bold as Peter’s.  EPCOT remains just a theme park.  But I really liked his idea of Regions composed of Countries: rather than distinct borders, countries of the same region bleed into one another (as was the design at WestCOT).   Adding attractions, particularly rides, was another goal for World Showcase.  

LATIN AMERICA: Mexico (with El Rio del Tiempo) merges into Costa Rica with its Botanical Gardens and topiary arches (once planned), Venezuela (once planned) with a suspended tram ride and then Brazil with rainforest, zip lines and trails.
Hereafter, Disney photos from Disney site.  World wonder photos from National Geographic Image Collection

 SCANDANAVIA: Norway remains the centerpiece, with the back of the pavilion themed to the bright facades of Copenhagen, Denmark.

(SOUTH) ASIA: China transitions into Southeast Asia with a Burmese temple carousel and hillside of terraced rice-paddies.  The area then moves to the Indian subcontinent with a centerpiece indoor boat ride.

EASTERN (AND CENTRAL) EUROPE: The planned Russia pavilion is here.  Between Russia and Germany is, what else, Poland, with shopping and dining fronts.  The main attraction in the region is a thrilling, mountainous adventure based on German folklore. 

MEDITERRANEAN: Italy is the gateway to this region.  Greece features a recreation of the Parthenon (hosting an AA show) as well as a family coaster based on mythology.   A building inspired by the Hagia Sophia houses the Turkish ride, dining and retail.


PACIFIC: Japan finally gets an attraction housed in its castle showbuilding (the bullet train circlevision using today’s seamless HD circlevision technology).  A large palm-encircled lagoon represents the island paradises of the South Pacific, with Tahitian thatched bungalows.  A rocky outcrop reminiscent of Uluru hosts a theater-in-the-round special fx/music show featuring Australian aboriginal spirits.

AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST: The bazaar area of Morocco transitions eastward towards the Arabian peninsula and westward to tropical central Africa.  Gabon features the jungle animal blind and great tree theatre.  The Arabian section moves into a Palestine/Isreal section with a reconciliatory attraction on the three Abrahamic relgions (facade could be Old City of Jerusalem, dome/wall/sepulcher).  Further in the region is Petra and finally the Great Pyramid of Giza, housing an E-ticket adventure on the Egyptian history & myth.

WESTERN EUROPE: France sees a recreation of a beautiful vineyard/winery where the process of creating wine & champagne can be seen & tasted.  The Low Countries are represented by the canals and streets of Amsterdam.

NORTH ATLANTIC: Ireland is represented by some Dublin facades and an old castle on a hill.  A whitewhater thrill ride is themed around wild rivers and geothermal power of Iceland.

See you in the comments section!

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.