Monday, September 26, 2011

Kingdoms of Adventure

A while back I was contacted by Daan of the Netherlands about his Kingdoms of Adventure theme park idea which was mainly dedicated to Disney properties, particularly animated ones.   As you know, I prefer original content to be in a 60-40 ratio (at least) over Disney movie-inspired rides at most of my parks, and because Daan’s layout was too rough for me to translate into a site plan, I asked him to come back with something less Disney-oriented. 

Then some weeks ago Daan’s brother contacted me and asked me to draw the park as a surprise birthday present (Happy Birthday).  So I revisited this Kingdoms idea on my own: I isolated the germs of what would make a compelling theme park, added a lot of original content, a new land, and, most importantly, created the individual Kingdom names & identities.  This was key in going beyond what was a Disney movie-based concept towards a park that was about world cultures & natural history – which I find much more sophisticated, interesting and worthwhile for an audience of both adults and children:

The experience begins in the Museum.  This massive building is influenced by – and on a similar scale to - some of the great cultural buildings of the world that were built from 1850-1930, particularly New York’s original Penn Station, London’s Museum of Natural History and Paris’ Grand Palais.   The Museum gives a taste of each of the park’s lands (kingdoms) via a vaulted exhibit hall on that particular region’s natural & cultural history (e.g. Hall of the Inca Empire, Hall of North American Peoples, etc.).  

The circumnavigating train has its main station in one of the museum's courtyards.  On the parkside grounds there is a garden featuring the leapfrog fountains, as well as viewing for the night-time lagoon spectacular, and in the center of the park, a plaza-monument to the earth (think Aquasphere).  

Moving clockwise, the first kingdom is Arabia.  On the outskirts of the walled city lies the ruins of the evil vizier’s fortress.  This is the gateway to a kuka-E ticket experience revolving around the return of the villain of Aladdin.   I did not want this land to be too heavily reliant on the animated Aladdin, so I envision the magic carpet coaster as unaffiliated with the film, although still taking riders careening around and through the streets of an Agrabah-like city.  Scheraherzade’s tales (Sinbad, Ali Baba, etc.) are the source of varying stunt performances that take place in a large dry-wet amphitheater.   Sultan’s Palace is an opulent restaurant overlooking (and providing a backdrop to) the Lagoon.  I envision an outdoor marketplace with all sorts of curios and street performers (fire-eaters, snake charmers, etc.) as well as an indoor shopping bazaar akin to the original one in DLP.

The next land is based on Africa and is bifurcated (yep, a favorite word) into a Rainforest section and a Savanna section to reflect two of the major biomes of the continent.  The Rainforest section hosts a major dining venue, Tarzan’s Treehouse and the watering hole viewing “theater” once planned for EPCOT Center.  The Savannah section is home to a 4-D theater (hidden within Pride Rock) that has a show based on The Lion King as well as a fun safari jeep ride past animatronic animal scenes (Jungle Cruise on wheels).   A roller coaster similar in scale and intensity to Big Thunder Mountain zips & dips around an Elephant Graveyard with threatening AA hyenas.

If you approach China from the Hub, you would pass under a traditional gate like the one in World Showcase’s pavilion.   The main boulevard is like 16th century Peking, with a nine-tiered temple at the end of the street.  A more Tibetan/Himalayan architecture influences the queue buildings for Penglai Mountain, which is modeled after Expedition Everest.  China Voyager is an overlay of DisneySea’s Sinbad boat ride (same little AAs, same length, same style) but follows China’s seaward explorer Admiral Zheng He.   There is the Mulan-based LPS dark ride and – this a first for any of parks I’ve drawn – a large stadium dedicated to horse shows.

I’ve drawn many Aztec & Mayan meso-American rides and lands in these site plans (and Disney has built a few), with their distinctive pyramids, but I had yet to do one based on the Incan Empire, so that was fun.  The Inca had a distinct style to their Andean cities, villages & temples which I’ve attempted to represent in this land (with several “mountain” facades on the roofs of showbuildings to make the setting feel like one is in the Andes).   There is an indoor boat ride based on Inca history/mythology – I called it Kingdom of the Sun, which was the serious-minded animated project that was then transformed into the lighter, more stylized Emperors New Groove.  The Kingdom of the Sun ride would be in a live-action style similar to Pirates.  There are some family attractions based on the Emperor’s New Groove.

 The final land is themed to Wild North America during its pre-Columbian and Frontier eras (pre-1492-1800s).  Grizzly Rapids doesn’t feature the bear head carved into the mountain, but does have plenty of AA wild animals (elk, bears, wolves, moose, etc.) of the western frontier.   The Riverbend log flume through the eastern wilderness could have some references to Pocahontas (as the rapids could have nods to Brother Bear), but I tend to prefer to steer clear of animated tie-ins when this park already has plenty.  A unique feature of this land is that the water rides both have variable courses (e.g. your log or raft has two paths it can take).

"Spirit of the Wild" is an elaborate SFX show, similar in scale to the Atlantis walkthrough in Islands of Adventure.  I imagined the facade being a Mount Rushmore of wild animals with the giant heads of a bear, eagle, wolf & elk carved into the granite rockwork.  There is a D/C-ticket darkride based on Bambi.


What I like about this park is that it is representative of a Civilizations/Mythology-style theme park.  Of the varying genres of theme parks (i.e., "Science Parks" like Bremen & EPCOT, "Studios Parks" like DHS & Universal Singapore, "Magic Kingdom" parks, etc.), I think the Civ/Myth genre is one that has not yet been built at the Tier I level, but is rife with great possibilities.  I've drawn a couple of this genre and was happy to add this park to the roster.

Comments are appreciated (unless they are requesting Tokyo-WB Studios ;)).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Re-visiting Paris Explorers World

After reading about the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, I began thinking about a theme park created specifically as the canvas for these types of role-playing adventure games.  My mind first went back to Pascal Schyns' Explorers World park:

So I took Pascal's brilliant work and translated it into my own style of plan (putting things in scale, enlarging the park, adding attractions, re-naming things):


I wanted the park to be at least on the scale of Tokyo DisneySea:

Some reference images of the park:

Pascal's park remains a theme park, but the idea that each land is specifically connected to a member of the Explorers Society and its elaborate backstory (Tokyo DisneySea does this to a small degree with Lost River artifacts showing up in New York) and that it has a widespread interactive game element built into the design from day one, moves it into exciting, untrodden territory of "theme adventure parks".

In thinking about this new type of theme park, I am also reminded of the Night Kingdom boutique park concept by WDI, that put visitors in the role of Indiana Jones in an adventure film (exploring temple ruins in small groups, avoiding booby traps, taking zip lines, etc.).  

There are lots of intriguing possibilities for the next generation parks... imagine a park that unfolds to the visitor like a three-dimensional novel or video game (while still incorporating the types of attractions we all love).  


Friday, September 2, 2011

Disneyland Brazil

This Disneyland Brazil park originated with a request by Felipe Zahtariam to translate his rough drawing & notes into a conceptual plan.  

Felipe specializes in drawing stylized birds-eye maps of dream parks that are reminiscent of some of the official “fun maps” or things you might find in old issues of “Disney Magazine.”  They are quite cool.  You can see much more of his artwork here:

Disneyland Brazil combines elements from a number of existing locations (Disneyland Paris, Magic Kingdom, DisneySea, Anaheim Disneyland) as well as some original elements, resulting in a mega-park, with around 80 attractions.  Here is my interpretation of his park:

From my plan, Felipe went on to draw a stylized map of the park:


Includes a horse drawn-trolley, swan boats in the Central Plaza and a museum-like tribute to Walt Disney in the Exposition Hall.

The front of this land is based closely on Disneyland Paris.  In place of the Silver Spur Steakhouse is an extreme ride, based on a covered wagon.  Felipe included a number of these extreme rides (which are thrilling midway attractions that we are all familiar with) in various lands.  If done right, with the highest level of execution (e.g. Paris’ Old Mill Ferris Wheel, DL’s Teacups or MK’s AstroOrbitor), I think such attractions can visually fit within a Disney-level park, despite being a fairly common ride experience.  The back of Frontierland sees and expanded Indian Village (with Canoes) and two water based E-tickets.  With the rapids ride, I added a couple of points where the raft can randomly take left or right-hand chutes, which would add a sense of unplanned variability to the experience.

Like many of the other lands, Adventureland is marked by distinct sub-areas, based on exotic geographic locations: The entry area is based on Arabian legend, with Aladdin & Sinbad dark rides and a central magic carpets spinner.   To the north is the Caribbean sub-area.  To the west is the South Seas sub-area with its Liki Tikis, Tropical Serenade & Tahitian Terrace.  Next is the African section with a  theatre & restaurant connected to the Lion King.   The final sub-area is a Meso-American dig site with a D-ticket coaster (Raging Spirits/Temple du Peril scale) an Indiana Jones Adventure and an extreme ride themed to a Mayan astronomical device. 

 The bulk of Fantasyland is the fairytale village style of Paris & Anaheim featuring some old favorites.  I imaged a new version of Storybookland Canal Boats, with greater topographical relief.  The “mini mountains” of Storybookland would serve as the front range to the larger Matterhorn & Matterhorn Jr, in the distant Alpine Village sub-section.   This should provide a pretty impressive, layered view from the castle rear-courtyard.    There is a Wonderland sub-section featuring the three existing Alice attractions and a Circus themed sub-section, with a kiddie-power-coaster version of Casey Jr.

This land begins (from the Hub) in an industrious Renaissance-era town, with adventures based on Da Vinci.  This more ancient environment segues into a more retro-version of DisneySea’s port discovery (as highlighted in the above artwork).  Captain Nemo’s mysterious hideaway forms another sub-area of this land.   In the final sub-land, a number of dirigible-based attractions continue the steampunk theme in an Aeronautical Academy setting.

Tomorrowland begins with the central, elevated Peoplemover (like in Anaheim but a little longer) running to an elevated Orbitron (based on HKDLs).  The rest of the land contains elements from Anaheim & EPCOT’s Future World, as well as some original extreme rides.   Since Felipe’s Tomorrowland blends Science Fiction (Star Tours, Captain Eo) with Science Fact (Horizons, Carousel of Progress), I think it is essential that the lands exteriors share a unified design scheme.  Maybe a distinct blend of Saarinen and Deco-Tech to achieve something futuristic, yet timeless.


As always, comments are appreciated.