Monday, March 19, 2012

Paradise Pier - The Final Fix

I believe the defining concept in theme parks is ‘place’ (which is inclusive of the often-used term ‘story’).  The best themed parks, lands and attractions take us to places that are beyond our everyday circumstance.  Generally, the better the sense-of-place communicated (via everything from architecture & landscape to audio & aroma), the better the park/land/attraction experience (and the more popular).

One of the key problems - often recognized – with the original DCA was that this sense of place was lacking.  To their credit, the leaders at TWDC understood this was part of the problem when they went forward with the unprecedented re-tooling of the park.   But as I follow the progress in these final months, the park’s great Achilles Heel, specifically for Paradise Pier, is brought into focus: the lack of a berm and the visual intrusions this allows.

Creating a romantic, bygone, clean, turn-of-the-century Boardwalk environment, if done right, can fill the requirements of Place in a Tier I theme park.  

Most everything Disney has done in Paradise Pier on the ground level for this project has moved the land in the right direction (Toy Story Mania exterior, new Games facades, Paradise Gardens, removal of spaceshot, Mermaid fa├žade, etc.).  Good on them.  However, the two elephants in the room are the omnipresent hotel backdrops:

It’s one thing to catch a temporary glimpse of a theme-breaking, outside visual intrusion from an elevated moving ride vehicle or from out-of-the-way areas.  But as the constant backdrop to a land that is ostensibly taking you back to another time and place, these two things – the Paradise Pier Hotel and the Grand Californian DVC wing – are theme-killers. 

Despite the color-coordination and waves attached to the top of the PPH, it remains a modernist/International-style mid-rise directly out of the late 70s/early 80s… the kind of throwaway architecture one might have found between Newark Airport and the Jersey Turnpike, subsequently demolished for something a little cleaner but still as mundane.   This hotel is antithetical to the Jazz Age seaside environment that Paradise Pier is trying to evoke.

So I went about conceptualizing a replacement for the PPH that would form a thematic backdrop to the land, similar to what the MiraCosta does for DisneySea.  
I wanted the hotel to be sprawling (to block out as much of the outside world as possible) and be visually stunning & interesting with respect to both height & depth (the opposite of the PPH's vertical block).  I looked at a bunch of the great turn-of-the-century resorts for inspiration:

Like these old beauties, the hotel I drew features tall chimneys, an irregular layout, lots of dormers and plenty of towers, spires and parapets, some with gold & copper domes.  The hotel reflects the architecture of the PP boardwalk, but on a grander scale.   In the center of the resort I put a Stormalong Bay-like “tidal pool” comlex and, naturally, there would be a pedestrian bridge to give the guests of the deluxe hotel direct access to the theme park.

The next vista-issue to solve is the Grand Californian DVC wing.  While the original GC was well integrated into the Grizzly Peak area of the park, the DVC wing only makes the backdrop to Paradise Pier even more incongruous.  Here I drew in a new set of “Seaside Amusement Pavilions” of a similar style to the ones Mermaid’s showbuilding was based on:

Since the funhouse is a staple of classic boardwalks, I thought the new ride here could be themed to that (scary/funny), maybe based on Gustav Tinkerschmidt backstory created for the land.  The ride’s footprint would have to be fairly unique (wide but not deep, with some significant height to block out the DVC).  Maybe a ride system similar to Crush Coaster in WDSP could be adapted to the space available.   I put a mechanical statue/fountain of top-hatted Tinkerschmidt in the plaza out front.

In order to ease congestion and add greenery to the area in front of this new ride, I moved the Jumpin Jellyfish to the Helix of Screamin, as was shown in the PP model (although I kept the shorter, kid-friendly ones).   Also, as was done in the model, I gave the Fun Wheel a period-appropriate queue cover.



For Paradise Pier to finally work within a top quality park, it has to play by the same rules regarding visual intrusions as the other well-themed lands do.  Imagine wandering through Adventureland or Fantasyland with an out-of-theme hotel as the backdrop.  Paradise Pier doesn't get an exemption.


Felipe Zahtariam said...

I really like this post! And your proposed solutions are great.

I prefer this vintage boardwalk theme for the pier (which is the original) than the surf/sun/beach theme that was previously used (before Mickey's Fun Wheel).

ImaginationJohhhny said...

Love your drawings! I always look forward to them every week to see your creativity! Your bookmarked :)! Anyways, there is one problem i have with not having a berm. While blocking the outside world from the inside is important, i believe it's the same for the outside! Don't you think that anyone going on Disneyland drive will see too much off the pier? Should there be a small, unoticable berm to the guests, but blocking views to the drivers? please tell me!

megatron_85 said...

an victorian-theme area now that's good idea

Pierre said...

This is a great idea! Even if I never went there, The hotels beining visible from everywhere inside paradise Pier has always shocked me on all the pictures i've seen from DCA. And the fact that the hotels remained there, despite the placemaking, made all the beautiful theming work inefficient, somehow. So I think this is really what they should do to fix this main issue.
And this is a great rendering by the way!

Felipe Zahtariam said...

I've done a new map, this time an enhanced version of Hong Kong Disneyland. I've uploaded it already, but I wanted you to draw a plan map based on it.

Can you? If yes, I will send you the map link by e-mail.

protojimbo said...

hey felipe, where is your uploaded map? I would love to see it. Great post, SWW. I definitely thought of your previous photoshop with the grand floridian hotel in the background, when I visited last summer for a family wedding. that hotel is definitely not a thing of beauty, but the color matching does help. speaking of color there was a small triumph on Goofy's Skyschool, at least on the day we visited - the blue of the ride matched the sky almost exactly! LOL. I'm very excited to see the new cars land when it opens, but I'm almost as excited for the buena vista street treatment. my wife and I recently watched the video of the new dumbo ride at night and thought it was looking good, but I can't wait to see the finished version. so what do you think of those bathrooms at the train station? a little more encouraging than those pictures from tomorrowland you posted...

SWW said...

Thanks for the comments.

Felipe, is it different than the one you just sent me? Feel free, but I can't promise anything.

Johnny, I've never been to DCA so I don't know if pedestrians/cars on that road have direct sightlines into the park... if so, it means they can also be viewed from within and that should be remedied. A berm - like DL's - should have part of DLR's 2nd Gate from the earliest planning stage.


I've seen pics of the new Circus station building... looks good. 2012 is going to be a very interesting year in theme parks as a number of really big projects are going to open (DCA reno, Grizzly Mountain, DisneySea Mania, most of FLE)... there won't be another year like this until 2016 when Shanghai opens.

Felipe Zahtariam said...

This is a great year for Disney Parks! So many things going on!

Sam, I sent you the link of the map right now. Sorry for the previous e-mails.

protojimbo said...

I hope they provide a little more insight on Shanghai at D23 than last year. Was the expected date for Avatar 2017 or later? Do we ever get to see the "imagineering" behind Universals parks - don't find much but you have to figure their security isn't as high... Where are the leaks on the Harry Potter expansion?

SWW said...

It would be nice to see an extensive "Making-Of" book for IOA, the way there is for Epcot, Disneyland Paris & Animal Kingdom.

You can find some decent Universal development artwork/models out there on the web. And there was that recent leak of the new Potter coaster vehicle.

Regarding Shanghai, I believe Iger said they're aiming for a late 2015 opening at the recent annual meeting, which means plans should be 'finalized' and a lot of dirt moved in 2012 (as vertical construction on a major theme park can take 2-3 years to complete.

Hopefully the big, detailed model of SDL that Iger mentioned on the investors call will be shown at or before the 2013 D23.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I've been reading your posts for quite some time and this is one of the best I have seen.

Anonymous said...

Great work as always! You have been outdoing yourself with these 3D layouts. If only DCA could have all that you propose...I think it would add great value to the resort. But I will reasonably content if they redo the theming for the carousel and queues for the Funwheel and Screamin, and eventually replace the boardwalk shops and Sky School with something richly themed, and replace a few other "modern" looking elements scattered throughout the land.

- Tasman

SWW said...

Thank you Tasman & Anon.

protojimbo said...

I always thought the area past Monsters Inc back by Flynns arcade seemed unfinished and underused- people walk right past it. And Bugsland is crowded, grungy and the scale is thrown off by the indiginous plant life. those aren't DCA sore spots. Any ideas there?

SWW said...

^Both areas that could see improvement...

In my DCA conceptual plan

I replaced Bug's land with a Prehistoric California area and gave the full 1930s/40s treatment to Hollywood with a Great Movie omnimover replacing Monsters Inc & Who Wants to be a Millionaire, etc.

Will try to get to drawing a birds-eye.

kermitdefrog said...

What's next?