Thursday, March 1, 2012

MK - East Side Renewal

This next entry in my Birds-eye Series illustrates some big changes to eastern side of Magic Kingdom:

The 1994 re-do of MK’s Tomorrowland, intended to evoke 1920s/30s pulp Sci-Fi serials like Buck Rogers and Popular Science magazine, introduced a new design style to theme parks, sometimes referred to as ‘Deco-Tech’ (featuring riveted metal plates, glass domes, mechanical palm trees, extra-terrestrial rock formations, etc).   I think this re-do was well-conceived and generally well-executed, including the brilliant Avenue of Planets night lighting package, the Astro-Orbitor and one of the best-ever pre-shows featuring the perfectly-programmed and -voiced S.I.R.. 

One thing that has always vexed me about the 1994 re-do, however, is that once you pass Rockettower Plaza, New Tomorrowland comes to an awkward end, and you’re back in Old Tomorrowland (clearly the land-wide alteration must have seen budget-slashing).  There are a few adornments around Cosmic Ray’s (including Sonny Eclipse), but most of the major visual elements (Space Mountain, the majority of the Peoplemover track, Carousel of Progress, the Speedway) remain mostly in the old 1970s style.

Themed lands are like orchestras, and while each section has different instruments making different sounds, they need to be in pitch in order to deliver a pleasing end result.  These two styles (Deco-Tech and 1970s Saarinenesque) do not harmonize:

So the first thing I did in this illustration of an improved Tomorrowland was apply the Deco-Tech architectural styling to the entire land (excepting the iconic Space Mountain).  For instance, I added metallic fins to the rear 2/3 of the Peoplemover.  I also added new spires, domes and other ornamentation to the land’s buildings


All of the attractions and dining facilities have been re-worked to make Tomorrowland a more coherent world.  For example, the Carousel of Progress and Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor contain subject matter can’t be easily reconciled with this pulp sci-fi Spaceport, so they are changed out.   Laugh Floor remains a comedy club but is populated by intergalactic comedians.  CoP remains a rotating AA theater, but showcases retro-futuristic vignettes.   I mentioned my affinity for S.I.R., so he returns to a new iteration of Alien Encounter (Stitch gets the boot).  Space Ranger Spin remains but is given a new, grander marquee.  Tomorrowland Terrace is re-tooled into a Deco-Tech restaurant (table service in evenings) based on retro-astronomy (as was originally planned).

It goes without saying that in this imagined version of TL, Space Mountain, grand-daddy of Disney thrill rides, gets the heavy duty rehab that was deserved, planned and then scrapped a couple years ago (all-new tracks, vehicles, FX, on-board audio, darkness, etc.), but that can’t be shown in this illustration.  What can be shown is the new approach to Space Mountain.   

One building that never sat well with me was the barrel-vaulted arcade plopped in front of the Mountain in 1994.   It’s not so much the structure itself, which is okay in isolation, but its oversized-ness and placement.  Space Mountain should provide a larger-than-life backdrop to the land and be made to look even bigger than it is (forced perspective).  Attaching a large, out-of-scale building to SM’s front side damages that perspective:
In my version, shorter, more-detailed deco-tech facades mark the entrance to SM.  There is a large fountain and two reflecting pools in the plaza, befitting a flagship attraction of the park.  (Note the WDW Railroad passes through alien rocks like those found at the entry, bringing visual cohesiveness to the land).

When DisneySea created new bathrooms in its New York section, they looked like this:
When MK changed the old Skyway station into Tomorrowland bathrooms, they ended up with this:
As brilliant as the latter’s theming is, I thought this would be a good opportunity to put in some SFX water-features.  The roof of the bathrooms would hold giant glass spheres overflowing with colored liquid which also runs through pipes and out of the building into the ground below.  These kind of touches add up to be big differentiators in theme parks.
The large parking lot behind Main Street becomes home to a new epic E-ticket (kuka/EMV) based on an original story & characters in tune with the land’s setting.  Among the visual motifs that connect Tomorrowland are spheres, spires and mocha alien rockwork.  Here all these elements combine in what appears to be an ancient alien temple/mysterious structure and a giant spherical artifact that holds the secret to saving or destroying the galaxy. 

The Speedway is gone, ridding the area of fumes, noise and an attraction that is the antithesis of Tomorrow.   Most of the land is taken up by a new E-ticket ride for Fantasyland.  But the Tomorrowland portion holds The Customs House (dining, retail, etc.) for intergalactic travelers (arriving from Space Mountain).   The restaurant would be something akin to the Star Wars cantina with the Peoplemover open to diners below.

Wonderland becomes the fourth sub-land to Fantasyland (joining Storybook Circus, Fantasy Forest & the Walled Town).   The major alteration to existing structures is the conversion of Cosmic Ray’s to a restaurant based on the Tokyo DL’s Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall:
 If you’re not familiar with this excellent piece of themed design, check it out on Flickr.  This change eliminates the last of the incongruous architecture from Tomorrowland and creates a unified entry point to Fantasyland (as opposed to the confluence that is currently there).  Note the wavy bridge.

The second half of the former speedway is occupied by an E-ticket LPS attraction (Hunny Hunt) based on Through the Looking Glass (Carroll’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland), rendered in the Disney animated style.  This is so as to avoid a book-report ride on the animated film and create an original, further-adventures-of attraction.  The queue/fa├žade/exit of this attraction are the grounds of a fanciful English manor home and a forest of giant mushrooms.  These are positioned to block sightlines to the back of the queue building of the new Dumbo.

The new Northern Gateway to Tomorrowland has two ‘Waterfalls of Light’, an homage to original spires that once stood at the hub entry of TL during the MK’s opening.


Thoughts on these changes?  Improvements you would make?


Walter John said...

I really like the solidity you've brought to the land. However, if it was my park I'd do something about that dreaded Astro-Orbitor. Spinner rides get on my nerve in the first place, but this one lets riders see the tops of the buildings, which is a big no-no and sort of ruins the illusion.

Do you have an opinion on spinners in general or on this one specifically?

SWW said...

^ Hey Walter. I think the Astro Orbitor is a really nicely-designed visual element... and especially impressive at night. Definitely a positive attribute for the land, IMO.

As a ride, I can't really comment because I don't think I've ever ridden it.

You bring up an interesting point about rooftops visibility, although in this drawing there is additional ornamentation to disguise the showbuildings as being retro-futuristic structures.

If spinners are well-integrated and limited in number, I'm fine with them. The add kinetics and are good for people/kids who don't like the more intense rides.

Some well-integrated examples:
-Anaheim's Teacups
-All the Paris Fantasyland spinners
-Paris Orbitron
-DisneySea Caravan Carousel
-Scuttle in DisneySea

Some poorly-integrated examples I think should be removed/changed.
-Carpets in MK's Adventureland
-Tokyo's Dumbo
-Carpets in DisneySea

Anonymous said...

SWW, I have a question to ask...
when you gonna do Toontown / Maroon Studios for Disney's Hollywood Studios on next month?
Like more many rides like:
Toontown Transit (simulator)
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
Toontown Tower Hotel
Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy Ride
Benny the Cab Ride
Goofy's Sky School
Mickey's House
Minnie's House
Donald's Boat
Goofy's House
ACME Warehouse
Maroon Cartoon Studios Tour
Use characters from other studios: Warner Bros, Universal, MGM, etc.
and many more!
I love to see it!

Douglas said...

Glad you got rid of the speedway in your drawing. It was boring and when I got sick after riding Space I got sick of hearing that speil after twenty minutes.
COP I agree doesn't belong in Tommorowland but it fits perfectly on Main Street.

Alwax said...

Definitely a fan on this. The TL retheme could be done without great expense as well. I think we'd all like to see the return of Alien Encounter. I wish Disney would make more atmospheric and creepy attractions, because they do it so well. No qualms here about removing the speedway. I've never ridden it at any of the three MK style parks I've visited as an adult or a child an the presence of rides like Test Track or Radiator Springs Racers on property makes it an even more irrelevant attraction.

Silly as it may sound, perhaps my favourite addition is the rocks on the railway line. The last time I rode MK railroad I was most disappointed that there was pretty much nothing to look at and practically no theming. I'd love for there to be some sort of indoor section like at DL. Even if it was just some sort of light tunnel.

I'm also loving these detailed designs, SWW. Very well done indeed.

Felipe Zahtariam said...

Great concept! I really love it! After MK's New Fantsyland announcements, that's what I was expectig for - new expansions for all the main areas of the park. A really great work!

Now, what about the West Side? I prefer no Liberty Square, but it's just my opinion.

Magic Lamp said...

Two things:

One; would you oppose a Stitch-related attraction for the E-ticket ride? I keep thinking of the opening scene in Lilo & Stitch and the possibilities to work this into an attraction. I hate to loose any connection to Disney franchises past or present in favor of a re-imagined TL.

And two; if you're going to spruce up the entire TL facades, why not do so for Space Mountain as well? Sure, it is an iconic building but it would otherwise break the coherency and it could give guests a new, exciting (MK original) attraction to discover while still invoking memories from the original.

SWW said...

Nice to hear from you, Alwax.

Felipe, Liberty Square is the last thing I would get rid of or alter! Hah! Different strokes. I'll likely get to posting a similar drawing for the (south) West Side of the park, though.

Magic Lamp, I would oppose any kind of Stitch (or other animated character) involved in the original E-ride. As you know, I try to bring in non-film based rides when I can to offset the avalanche of film insertions into the parks as of late. Tomorrowland began and peaked without any connections to Disney franchises (Peoplemover & Space Mtn are quintessential "Disney" experiences, just not-animated). Plus there is still Buzz.

I imagine the E-ticket being a mildly-thrilling dark ride on the scale of Indiana Jones Adventure or PotC. Ride system could be EMV-like, employ the Kuka arm or something entirely new. Since so much of Tomorrowland involves rocket ships/space travel, this would avoid that and focus on other sci-fi elements appropriate to the Buck Rogers-like tropes of this Tomorrowland (e.g., an infinite power source, a doomsday weapon, a wicked alien villain, a heroic rogue, an ancient seeder-species... maybe all of the above!). And like Indy, the actual events that take place during the ride would be variable and form a somewhat loose experience rather than tightly plotted one (Dinosaur), to enhance repeatability.

When I drew the exterior I imagined a mysterious, otherworldly temple-like structure (with a giant swirling sphere of what appears to be molten rock) with a futuristic excavation base built into it (all situated among unusual rock formations).

Regarding Space Mtn., as mentioned, the entry, queue, story and ride would be different/enhanced to fit the land, but the majority of the exterior structure would remain itself. While it is a bit incongruous, I think its spires are reasonably reflective of Deco TL's many spires:

megatron_85 said...

i've got three questions:

1. are you planning more birds-eye Illustrations?
2. are you still doing concept plans?
3. ever thinking of creating theme park brochures?

SWW said...

^ Yes, yes and yes.

Captin Pegleg said...

Wonderful art work. Are these hand drawn or created with software? If software, what did you use?

tymime said...

I believe the term you're looking for is what sci-fi nerds call "Atom Punk" (mid-century- Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon/Jetsons) or "Diesel Punk" (jazz era- Superman/Captain America/Rocketeer).

Felipe Zahtariam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Felipe Zahtariam said...

I understand. For foreigns tourists, Liberty Square is a little bit boring, but I know it means a lot to all americans, because of history, the whole theming, the riverboats...

But talking about "squares", personally, I like the New Orleans one better than Liberty Square. I think it's happier.

I can't wait to see your other birds-eye drawing!