Thursday, January 12, 2012

From Macro to Micro

 UPDATE II:
Quest for the Black Cauldron: Based on the Disney's animated high fantasy, this attraction would be an indoor flume in the tradition of PotC, with heavy fx and full AAs (in the same animated style as the film).   Set between Pan and Mermaid, this ride would add some darkness/thrills to balance the happier/brighter elements of the land. 



I imagined the facade as a craggy hillside with an ancient portal set into its side.  Entering the queue cavern, visitors would reach the Hall of Lore, an underground vault/library (lots of dusty books, scrolls, vials, etc.) where a pre-show would take place, voiced by Dallben and animated using maybe something akin to the old dueling dragons stained glass window.  This would give the background info on things that will be useful in understanding what is about to take place (the Horned King, the Black Cauldron, Hen Wen's powers).

Emerging from the cave into the placid farm of Caer Dallben, riders would board boats and set off on their adventure.  Like the older dark rides, here the rider takes the role of Assistant Pigkeeper, rather than watch an AA Taran re-hash his own adventure (First Person vs Third Person).   The opening show scene takes place in Dallben's house and features a mist-screen special effect showing the Horned King's plans for Hen Wen and the Black Cauldron. 

Dallben orders riders to set off with the pig to keep it safe from the Horned King.  Floating down the stream through the green forest of giant trees, the adventurers have a comical encounter with Gurgi before a Gwythaint swoops down (scare effect) and steals Hen Wen.

The boats drop into the Fair Folk Kingdom, where riders are instructed to retrieve the Cauldron before the Horned King can use it to raise an invincible dead army.  The adventure continues in the Marshes of Morva with an encounter with the witch sisters.  A winch system takes the boats up a waterfall to the Horned King's castle (upper level).

Within the ruined castle the boats pass drunken henchmen, the Creeper, and enter the dungeons to free Fflewddur Flam & the Princess and find the magic sword.  The ride culminates in a large show-room where the Horned King succeeds in using the Cauldron to raise the skeletal army.  The effects here would be designed to overwhelm the senses.   Out of nowhere, Gurgi, apparently following us, causes the Cauldron to backfire and defeat the Horned King (this would be the rides big drop - a little bigger than PotC's).

The ride deviates somewhat from the film's story & order (just as the film deviated from the books' story).  I did this for re-ridability ("the Horned King is only temporarily defeated and will try again", warns Dallben as riders de-board) as well as to avoid a total "book report" ride.  This is more in the spirit of the film rather than a direct re-telling. 



POST UPDATE:
Here is a digital model I built of the Toad Hall facade sketch drawn below:


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This week's post shifts the focus from full-scale theme park layouts to individual attraction layouts.  Both attractions I drew were from my idealized Magic Kingdom park

The first is a 21st century Fantasyland darkride based on MK's now defunct Mr. Toad ride.  It is located where PhilharMagic currently resides. 


 This  attraction takes almost all the show scenes from the original dual track ride (a number of which do not exist in Anaheim) and re-creates them in a single track ride system with dimensional sets and full-motion AudioAnimatronics (similar to Tokyo's Hunny Hunt), rather than painted flats.  Since the sets are 360 degree, drivers have the option of spinning their car (like Car Toon Spin).  



The facade would be a version of Toad Hall unique from those in Anaheim & Paris (see above).  The queue begins in the Foyer and continues in the oak-paneled Great Hall, where boarding takes place under the watchful eyes of Toad's ancestors (via sfx portraits).  The four-seat motorcars begin their journey in the Library, disturbing a reading Badger (this time rendered as an AA).  Chaos ensues as the cars speed through the Trophy Room (with living animal heads) and the Kitchen, finally exiting the back of the Manor through the barn, with angry barnyard animals dodging the speeding motorcar.

Things seem to calm down a bit as the vehicle motors through the leafy Shireland and past a Gypsy Camp (see storyboard), but chaos resumes after a near collision with a Farmer's Wagon on the One Way Street that leads to Town Square.  As drivers recklessly steer their vehicles through Winky's Pub, the law finally catches up with them and they are sentenced to a prison term.  In Jail, the villainous weasel gang is staging a Jail Break, and the driver's use the opportunity to escape, pursued by bobbies.  Karma eventually collects on the wild drivers as they maneuver down an in-use Train Tunnel and end up in Hell.  But was it all a day-dream as the cars return to the Toad Hall garage and riders exist through Mole's Wares shop.

If you're familiar with MK's old Toad, you'll see that this ride is a close facsimile of the original but in a new medium (3-D, AAs)

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 The next attraction, from the same imagined version of MK, is Western River Expedition.  While the exterior and ride layout are not the same as the Marc Davis piece de resistance (don't think an official layout has ever been seen by the public), my version's show scenes are in the same order and tell the same story:


It may be a little more challenging to visualize this layout because the attraction takes place on multiple overlapping levels (like Pirates or Indiana Jones Adventure).  The darker purple shades represent the upper level.  

The images that follow tell the story, but if you'd like to see & hear Tony Baxter's virtual ride-through at D23, it can be found on youtube.

It's interesting to see from the model that the attraction is much more stylized color-wise (almost psychedelic) than pirates, although the AA's would have been in a similar vein. 

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Let me know how you feel about my creating renderings on the attraction-level rather than on the wider land- or park-level.     I may expand this posting later this week with a drawing of the same park's "Black Cauldron" attraction.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Contest Winner

Time to announce the winner of the inaugural Ideal Buildout Design Contest.

First, thanks to all of you who entered the contest.   There were a number of very cool concepts, and I hope you enjoyed the experience of drawing your park.   

HONORABLE MENTIONS & RUNNERS UP 
The following entries contained some great & original concepts for theme parks. 
    MYTHICA, by Daniel B.
    EPIC KINGDOM by Jon
    INDIANA ADVENTURE by Eric G.
    ENCHANTED EARTH by Sam V.
    KINGS EMPIRE & THIEVES DOMINION by Brian K.
    DISNEYLAND BRAZIL by Lucas A.

Over the coming months, I will try to convert a number of these entries into my style of conceptual site plan and then share all the details here. 

THE WINNER
The winner of the contest is Timothy F., who created a greatly-expanded version of WDW’s Studios park.  Not only did Timothy create an accurately-scaled site plan, but he built a model of his entire park in SketchUp.  While some of the original ideas/concepts among the Honorable Mentions were on par with those of the winner, Timothy’s presentation efforts (full 3-D model, scaled site plan) put him in First Place.  

What follows is his presentation (which is quite long, so you may want to grab a cup of tea and get comfortable):

And here is the link to the full, 59-pic album of his model:

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"The Studios has lost its basic theme over the years. What started as a cohesive if small park is now just a jumble of themes. There are really two paths the studios could take, completely drop the studios and just feature movie worlds like the plan posted on here recently, or fully embrace the studio and restore the original idea, of a working studio park that displays and celebrates the idea of Hollywood. My plan goes in the latter direction. This will become a park that puts the guest right in the idea of Hollywood, showing the lifestyle, the products, and most importantly, the process of making the Hollywood that is so idolized and romanticized in culture.

Before describing each area, I have some notes about the above site plan. Its created with an 8 color system, with a color for buildings (blue), on stage area (light grey), backstage area (medium grey), areas with trees or dense vegetation (dark green), areas of grass and light vegetation (light green), water (light blue), and expansion areas (dark grey). The plan is as accurate as possible, with google earth being used as reference whenever possible. New attractions were based on existing buildings and are of approximately the same size as similar rides. Backstage areas are also approximately accurate. I probably took too much in some areas, but overall, similar backstage space exists, so this park could ideally function.


Getting to the Park
    This park will receive a Monorail station, and will be connected to Animal Kingdom on a new line. This line will run through a new central transportation hub to the west of EPCOT, so guests can transfer to the other line with MK and EPCOT. 
  The Main entrance road will be rebuilt. It will now be elevated with a backstage road running underneath it. A new ticketing gate will also be built that will serve the main entrance traffic as well as the traffic from the smaller side entrance. The exit will remain the same.

Hollywood Boulevard
    The biggest change is that the hat is removed, and placed outside the park at the edge of the water. The concrete pedestal of the hat is converted into a stage where daily performances take place. In the approximate area where One Man’s Dream is now, a Studio information center is built where guests can learn about the shoots taking place in the studio. Trolley tracks will be inset into Hollywood Boulevard, connecting to the new tracks on Sunset Boulevard. Also a trolley stop will be built at the corner of the two streets.

The Great Movie Ride will be renovated to add new scenes, representing movies like Star Wars, James Bond, Gone with the Wind, and Vertigo, giving a more comprehensive overview of movie genres.

The building with Hollywood and Vine and 50s Prime Time Café will be grouped into this land, as with the street in front of these that will be formed by the changes in Echo Lake. Across from 50s Prime Time Café, the American Academy of Film Museum will be built which will have exhibits of movie history.

New York (Echo Lake) 
This area will see a lot of change. In the land strapped Studios, having a water feature that takes up that much space just isn’t possible. This area will be replaced by a romanticized New York area, based in the early black and white film days, heavy in film noir references. The current American Idol Experience will have a New York façade built in front of it to hide the studio theming. The area of the former entrance building will become an underground jazz club filled with references to “The Jazz Singer,” the first movie with talking sequences. The actual American Idol theater will home to a Broadway style theater, presenting a musical production in the style of the classic musicals like Singing in the Rain. 
Overview of the New York area. The former American Idol theater is on the right, and Hollywood and Vine is to the Left. This also shows the new parade path.

Across the street from this area, the gritty underground New York of classic film noir will be represented by a dark and narrow side street that is under a dark elevated train track. On this street, there will be a small Irish Pub that could easily be under the control of the mob, and a private detectives agency, serving as the entrance to a film noir attraction. This will be a dark ride based attraction, with heavy use of physical sets and projections to create the film noir mood. The queue through the office will set up the idea that you are shadowing a private detective while a new case comes in. You follow him through the dark streets as he searches for the answers, ending in a dark and abandoned warehouse, which will be recreated as the exit area and gift shop. These streets will be lined with small shops and interactive areas supporting the romanticized New York setting.

This change will also reroute the parade. It will now start at the gate next to 50s Prime Time Café and travel up the main New York Street past the Film Museum and the new ice cream stand to the Chinese Theater courtyard and then back down Hollywood Boulevard.
Both Indiana Jones stunt show and the new attraction put in the current Sounds Dangerous theater will now be part of the new Lucas Studios, and their entrances will be relocated to this area.

Lucas Studios 
A new entrance to Indiana Jones will be built on its right side, featuring many more props and vehicles from the film as well as a new store. The Backlot Express will be re-themed as the Lucas Archives Café, featuring props and costumes from his films. The former Sounds dangerous theater will become an indoor Jedi Training Academy, where a more interactive and higher tech show can be presented. Outside the theater will be a X Wing Fighter spinner along with an actual X wing recreation. On the new path leading to the new backlot, there will be a recreation of the Mos Eisly Cantina as well as a large new Star Wars store. Also on this path will be a THX studios soundstage where guests see how important sound is to the movies they love, even getting a chance to record sound tracks to famous scenes.  This area will have more walk-around characters from the Lucas world. 
The new Jedi Training Academy building, with the X wing and new spinner attraction to the left.


Sunset Boulevard  
Major changes happen here. New side streets are created and this area becomes much more open with two grassed park like areas. These parks will be able to feature musicians, such as a jazz quartet, or other street performers, like the Citizens of Hollywood. Also working trolley tracks will be installed throughout this area. The Beauty and the Beast Theater will be enclosed and a new façade built, now be themed as an old movie house. I was tempted to just put Aladdin in this theater, but then I thought about the other great musical that could go here. I couldn’t decide on just one, so this plan has 3 musicals, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules, running concurrently with a different one being presented each day. This is possible, as it is done on the Disney cruise line, where 5 or more musicals run in the same theater with the same casts. All three of these musicals would be done at as high a quality as Aladdin, with similar lengths and production scales. 


A new indoor quick service is built on the north side of the boulevard along with a few new shops. On the second floor of this new building will be the premier club for Hollywood Studios, called the Hollywood Club. Accessed through a side door in the alley, the club will be accessed by elevator like the original club 33 and will have windows looking out onto Sunset Boulevard and the Tower of Terror. My plans have a premier club in all 4 parks, with members having access to all 4.
The new counter service and park square. The Hollywood Club  will be on the second floor of the new building on the left.Add caption

The Rockin’ Roller Coaster courtyard will be reduced in size due to the new streets and the gate with the guitar neck track will be moved backwards. The lot next to the show building will be used to build a new music themed square. The biggest addition will be a large Hard Rock Café restaurant. This restaurant will also include an auditorium that can hold large separate ticket concerts. Next door, there will be a new store built that will only sell music. Inside the store, there will be an interactive multimedia show about music hosted by the owner of the music shop. This area will also be home to live musicians, including the relocated Mulch, Sweat, and Shears. The trolley tracks will pass through a tunnel by the Hard Rock Café, leading to the new trolley barn built next to Rockin’ Roller Coaster.
The new music subland.


Toontown 
One of the new streets jutting off of Sunset Boulevard will be themed to an urban Toontown, based in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In this land, there will be a trolley station, a meet and greet with Mickey and friends in his Toontown apartment, and an interactive show similar to the former Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, where guests can talk to their favorite toons and some new characters too.  There will also be a small café on the toon square. The main attraction here will be Benny’s Runaway Cabs, a fast paced dark ride traveling through and above the streets of Toontown.

Toontown and the Animation building will be connected by an enclosed bridge over the backstage road.
The Toontown circle with the showbuilding for Benny's Runaway Cabs to the back left. The track will go across the three bridges over the street as it goes through the showscenes. The bottom center building has the Toontalk attraction.


Animation Courtyard 
The building holding the Little Mermaid show will be removed. Playhouse Disney will be removed and replaced by Mickey’s Philharmagic. The Animation building will again be home to actual animators, although not a full production team’s worth. A semicircular statuary courtyard featuring groundbreaking characters surrounds the new sorcerer’s hat entrance, modeled off the Disney Animation Building in Anaheim. The new building is home to a dark ride based on classic animation, a carousel of Disney characters surrounded by a continually changing projected landscape, and the restaurant, Animators Palate.
Mickey's Philharmagic on the right, the Animation building featuring the tour on the right, the carousel at the center behind the hat, and the dark ride to the left in the raised section.


Pixar Place 
In the former stage where Prince Caspian was, a new Pizza Planet will be placed, completing the Toy Story themed area. Between that and Toy Story Midway Mania, a new street will lead to the back of the land.

On the immediate left, the UP house will be built, serving as the queue for a new suspended dark ride telling the story of the movie. On the right, a side path will lead to the superhero museum, housing an Incredibles dark ride using the Pooh’s Honey Hunt technology. This ride will be projection and special effects heavy, similar to the Spiderman ride in Universal. Next will be a Cars dark ride featuring the world and events of Cars 2. Maters Garage next door will serve as a meet and greet with the cars. On the right, as the street curves back to Pixar Place, there will be a space for expansion, and then Remy’s Restaurant, a sit down that is home to a LCI Remy.

Continuing on the street, we hit Monstropolis. The Monsters Inc building will serve as the queue for the doors coaster, using the Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster system with a custom track. Across the street, the Pixar Studio will be a space for guests to see the inner workings of Pixar and its future projects as well as shop for all things Pixar.
    
There will be 2 expansion pads in Pixar Place to feature future Pixar properties. In my plans, every Pixar property is represented in one of the four parks, with WALL-E in Magic Kingdom, and A Bugs Life in Animal Kingdom, so these plots would be used to represent future films.
The Up darkride, with the house serving as the queue.


Production Central 
This area contains the former streets of America section and some surrounding areas. The area where Studio Catering Co and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground are now will become multiple smaller attractions. A new entrance to the Backlot Tour will be built that does not include the water tank, which was removed for the Pixar Studio. The Honey I Shrunk the Kids area will become a special effects stage attraction. After an introduction, guests will enter the first stage where a small scale demonstration is performed. After seeing how that happened, they enter the main stage for the feature demonstration. This will be something similar to the Earthquake attractions at Universal parks, featuring water, fire, and large scale moving set pieces to demonstrate a special effects shot. Opposite the special effects stages and next to Pixar Studio, a Blue Sky Studio will be built, just like the Blue Sky Cellar in California Adventure. This will be home to exhibits on all the changes happening in the 4 parks.
   
Lights, Motors, Action will be relatively unchanged, with the only addition being a real wall on the left side of the queue instead of a chain link fence. The streets of America will likewise be unchanged. The area between the backlot theater and the Phineas and Ferb meet and greet will be home to a new building featuring an exhibit about production. Think Innoventions for making movies. The Backlot theater will be accessed through this area and will feature a live production show. Shows can be easily swapped out to reflect what is popular, and all will feature audience participation to complete the shots. This would also be a place for actual TV shows to film when needed.


Muppet Studios
    All of this area will be themed to the Muppet Studio shown in The Muppets. Muppet Vision 3D will get a new film and Pizza Planet will be re-themed to the Swedish Chef restaurant. All of the shops and Mama Melrose will be removed and replaced with Muppet themed shops. Behind those shops and next to the production exhibit, a Muppets dark ride will be built, giving a tour of the more interesting areas of the studio. This area will also feature the Muppet Mobile Lab and other LCI Muppets, like the Electric Mayhem band.

Backlot East
    This will be the biggest new addition to DHS. It will be accessed by a path in Lucas Studios that passes underneath the main entrance road. The first attraction after passing under the road will be an amphitheater on the right that will feature Wipeout Live, in the vein of the live fear factor shows that Universal had. Straight ahead, guests will see Walt’s plane that is currently on the backlot tour parked. Behind that will be the Boneyard coaster. This will be a Vekoma Jr Coaster, the same model as Flight of the Hippogriff, that will be themed to a coaster made up of all the old vehicles sitting in the boneyard.

Behind that, guests will pass through a gate leading them to the production lot where they will see a large set, themed to the Stark Expo seen in Iron Man. This set will be the entrance to a dueling suspended coaster called Iron Man Silver and Iron Man Red. Disney has always needed another real coaster to compete with Universal, and this seems the most appropriate place to do it since much of the track and support structure can be themed to film production. I am aware that the current Marvel contract does not allow Marvel characters in Disney world, but that is minor issue in an expansion this size.

Back out from the fenced in area, guests will see a set of soundstages on their right. First, a relatively small stage will be used as rotational space for current project exhibits. Jan-April will have one exhibit, May- Aug will have another exhibit, and Sept-Dec will have a seasonal Nightmare Before Christmas exhibit and ride. This ride would have to be extremely modular for easy setup, so a simulator type attraction would be a good choice. The next stage would start empty and be saved for future expansion. The next stage on this first block would be the answer to potter. This stage would lead to a massive show building for a kuka based headliner ride for a yet to be determined property.

The last building would be home to the Prop House Raft Adventure. The queue through the undamaged section of the building would set up the idea that the Prop House recently flooded and you the guests are being sent in to assess the damage and maybe recover a few prized items.  This queue would also be a place to relocate all the Disney props that were stored in the stage behind the backlot tour water tank, which no longer exists. If you have never seen this room, it’s really amazing, it has props such as the original legend of the lion king puppets to tapestry of nations puppets to set pieces from early shows at MGM studios. Guests would be sent into the flooded section in various prop boats that were found in the collection. While exploring, they will find the source of the rapidly rising water, pass through movie history, and even encounter some malfunctioning props, leading them to the final drop down the emergency exit stairs. The boat circles around the new DHS water tower and then reenters the building to the unloading station. This building will also hold a counter service location themed called Studio Catering Co. Above the main entrance to the amphitheater, there will be a sit down restaurant called the Directors Table with views over the studio and backlot.
Backlot East.


The Disney Studio Orlando
    In this plan, the return of a working studio is crucial to the theme. I feel like Disney’s first attempt at a studio was not good enough and that led to the failure of the studio. I mean they had 3 small stages and a mediocre backlot street. The studio only ever got small scale productions because of this so it never really could survive. This plan includes a real Hollywood style studio. The studio is built on the south side of the new entrance road. The road will be built on a raised level above a backstage service road.  All traffic to the studio will go through the main entrance road and will branch off to the studio gate before regular traffic hits the park gate. In front of the studio gate, there will be a water feature with a series of statues all in view of the park traffic and parking lot.
    
The gate lets visitors onto the main studio road. This has the safety and security building, the food service building, and studio offices on each side, and has the main studio center at the end. A parking garage connects to this building. A road leads to the other half of the studio, the production side. This area will have a large residential area, a city street backlot, large empty lots for filming, a large outdoor water tank, and 13 soundstages including 3 built for an audience, 1 built with a water tank, and 1 that would be one of the largest in the world. Overall, this studio backlot would be able to serve many productions at any one time, making a studio that is viable and successful.
    
Some other things to point out about the studio. A practice lot for Lights, Motors, Action will be built next to Backlot East. All studio traffic will come into the main entrance off the entrance road, while all production trucks will enter through a gate off Osceola Parkway. Traffic will exit through the main gate and a side gate by the parking garage, leading to Osceola Parkway.
    
This new studio will lead to a greatly expanded backlot tour. After boarding the tram, the tour will go around the maintenance building then head to Catastrophe Canyon. After that, they will head to the security gate and go under the entrance road into the backlot. The tour will take them through part of the New York Street set, then to the soundstages area where the tram will drive through a tunnel with windows looking into the stages, and then through the residential area. The tour will drive by the open filming lots and then by the water tank before going to a stage near where they entered the backlot. Once the tram is completely in the stage, they will see a fast paced movie montage on a 250’x60’ imax screen, wrapping up the tour. The tram will then return to the park area and return to the unloading station. Each of the areas of the backlot can be left out of the tour at the request of the productions filming in the studio.
The Studio offices to the bottom left, the open filming lots at the center with the truck entrance, the residential lot to the right, the water tank to the front right, the sound stages to the back right, and the Iron Man coaster to the extreme front right.


Wrap Up
    At my count, this version of Disney Hollywood Studios now has 48 attractions and 23 food locations. It breaks down to 9 E tickets, 11 D tickets, 14 C tickets, 10 B tickets, and 4 A tickets; and 14 counter service locations, 8 table service locations, and 1 premium club. That is over twice as many attractions as the current park, making this park a definite full day experience that everyone can enjoy while they discover for themselves what the idea of Hollywood really means."

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Outstanding work, Timothy!  Remember to click on the picasa link above for many more pics and descriptions of the 3-D model.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cracking the Case of Shanghai Disney

Happy New Year!  First a Contest Update:  Thanks to those of you who entered the contest.  Upon first glance, all the ideas showed a lot of originality, and I'm excited to look at them in more detail over the coming days.  In about ten days, I will begin to share the results (haven't decided to begin with the winner or runners-up).  I will let the winner know beforehand.  But for now...

Cracking the Case of Shanghai Disney
By S.W. Wilson

Like many of you, I have been paying close attention to the development process of Shanghai Disney for several years.  It’s been both an exciting & frustrating project to follow.  Exciting because the (i) budget involved ($3.7 billion for the park and $0.7 billion for the facilities), (ii) early inside word and (iii) official concept art are all pointing to what will be a high-quality & unique take on the Magic Kingdom model.  And frustrating because it is going to take three or four more years to complete, and Disney has been reticent about revealing juicy details regarding the park.  After becoming impatient for the fog surrounding the park’s design to lift on its own, I went about uncovering the details myself.  

The Five Corroborating Clues:
Five visual clues have been released by Disney since last April.  When “layered” and analyzed, these pieces of media allowed me to draw a fairly accurate version of current Resort plan.  They are:
1.    Property Map.  This gives us the basic outline of the resort.  It matches the Massing Model very closely.
2.    Castle Video. The castle video shows a CG fly-around of the park centerpiece.  But what is of more interest to me is what’s visible in the background of the video… quite a bit of Fantasyland & Fantasy Gardens.
3.    Computer Model. A glimpse of this was shown during Tom Staggs’ D23 presentation.  It is a key piece that shows a detailed, three dimensional view of the center of the park.  It matches the Massing Model & Key Art.
4.    Key Art. This is the digital conceptual painting that shows a birds-eye version of the park.  It follows the other media closely, but not exactly (Tomorrowland seems different).
5.    Massing Model. This model, displayed at D23, was the most important piece in the process.  At first glance, it shows nothing but little green trees and wooden blocks representing vertical structures.  But what is important is that below these blocks & trees is the detailed site plan for the current iteration of Shanghai Disney.  If you look at hi-res pics of the model, particularly those from an elevated angle, this becomes clear.  I squinted at many, many pics of this model from all the various angles.  And, yes, my brain/eyes hurt after doing so.




Then there was the need for non-visual clues.  These came in three forms:
1.    Official information out of the mouths of Disney imagineers (e.g., 'There will be a Fantasyland riverboat ride that travels around FL & under the castle', or 'Pirates of the Caribbean will be present').
2.    Rumors/hints by trustworthy online sources + visual confirmation. (e.g., word on the net was that the Seven Dwarfs Coaster would be in Shanghai, and, sure enough, in the Computer Model, you can see it).
3.    Common-sense inferences based on visuals (e.g. There are clearly circular thatched huts(African village) in Adventureland and it is about the right size for a dining venue.).

So armed with all of these clues, I began to lay out the resort. 

DISCLOSURE: We know park plans can and do change & evolve.  My drawing - a rough interpretation based upon the previously-discussed sources - meant for fun & discussion.  But, unlike most of my site plans, this is not a work of fiction.  It is a 2-D translation of the 3-D massing model, and the rough placement of vertical structures & paths is fairly accurate.    The actual content (what kinds of attractions those structures contain), on the other hand, is more based on informed guesswork (with a few bits officially confirmed).  Still, as far as the physical layout of the resort is concerned, what follows may be the closest thing to a park map (of the current iteration of Shanghai) any of us outside WDI will ever see:


A WALKTHROUGH OF THE RESORT
After disembarking the subway at the subterranean Metro Station, visitors take an escalator to the surface.  On the left is the Downtown Disney retail & dining area.  On the right is the Lake with the deluxe resort hotel sitting on the far bank.  Walking forward, visitors reach the central Resort Plaza area, and making a 90 degree turn to their left, face the large fountain and the ticket booths.  In the distance, beyond a lot of greenery, are the spires of Storybook Castle.

HOTELS: Two hotels will open with the park.  The deluxe hotel is lakeside and shown in my drawing.   It is connected to the Plaza by a curving promenade path (encircling the lake).  The layout of the Hotel does not suggest the “Mictorian” style of the flagship hotels of Paris, Hong Kong & Tokyo.  It has the rambling layout associated with WDW's Boardwalk Inn or Animal Kingdom Lodge or TDS' MiraCosta.  South Seas, American Coastal or Historical Chinese would all seem like possible themes for this hotel.   There is a large plot directly adjacent to the park & Adventureland which will likely house a future deluxe hotel.  The value resort is not shown (to the northwest of the parking lot), but its boxy layout suggests something like HK’s Hollywood Hotel or even the Art of Animation motel now being built in Orlando.

ENTERING THE PARK.  The opening land’s thematic style is still somewhat of a mystery.  It’s been stated officially that the park will not have a Victorian Main Street, U.S.A., however there is something akin to Town Square and Main Street that will doubtless house things like Guest Relations, lockers, retail & dining.  But if not themed to Americana, what will it be?  One possibility is it will be Disney Fantasy-themed (although, including Fantasyland proper, that would make for a possible overload of Fantasy-themed buildings in the park).  Another possibility is Disney “Whimsical” – entertainment architecture not based on a specific time or place (although this style seems likely for the Downtown Disney district).   Maybe this area will have an emphasis on Old London.  If you look closely at the Overview Painting the dormers are reminiscent of London townhouses featured in numerous Disney films (Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, etc.), which would provide lots of film tie-in opportunities that Disney loves.   A London setting would also mesh with the very extensive gardens & carousel (Poppins) that comprise the core of the park.

ADVENTURELAND. The jungles of Adventureland await on the eastern side of the park.  Like Paris’ AL, this one seems to have distinct geographies, the first being Africa with its thatched roof eatery (likely themed to Lion King).  A major attraction nearby is the River Rapids ride.  The fake mountain backdrop for these rapids will be based on the famous Chinese mountain spires (with pine trees clinging), as can be seen in the Key Art.  I believe BlueSky Disney reported that this would be called Lost World Rapids and include AA dinosaurs.  Sounds great, if true (even though Universal Singapore already does this), but I don’t know for certain.  What can be inferred is that it will be a circular raft ride with a nod to Chinese geography.


The next geographic area (moving clockwise) is based on Meso-America, with its Mayan temple.  I don’t know if this area will host a ride, show or restaurant, but the building does not look to be the right shape or size to house the Indiana Jones Adventure (I also think Disney is reluctant to include any licensed properties in this venture).

Moving north, taking up the largest part of Adventureland (reported online as a sub-land) is the Pirates Cove area.  A pirate ship will be anchored on the Lagoon (likely Black Pearl) and the headline attraction will be an all-new version of Pirates - heavily film-based - with possible linear induction acceleration.  I’ve also read rumors of a pirate stunt show and the key art would seem to corroborate this.  


FANTASYLAND.  The castle is very large and will host a restaurant, a princess meet & greet, and, in the sub-level, the final show scene for the Riverboat Ride.  Speaking of which, the entire center of the land is taken up by the riverboat attraction which seems to be a “Storybook Land Canal Boats”, maybe with FX to make it closer to Jungle Cruise in scale.  There is a labyrinth (likely Wonderland-themed) adjacent to the eastern side of the Castle and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the 3 o’ clock position.

In the north-east of Fantasyland lies what I am guessing is a Hundred Acre Wood sub-section with a Pooh darkride and tea-cup spinner.  This guess is based on a number of factors, including (i) Pooh being the most popular & well-known Disney property in China, (ii) Key Art which shows “roof mountains” in the same style as Tokyo’s Pooh (although the showbuilding doesn't appear to be big enough for Hunny Hunt), (iii) the 3-D model which shows a Christopher-Robin-like cottage, and (iv) the fact that “Pooh Teacups” is an attraction that has appeared on early plans for HKDL (we know that ideas never die at WDI).  In the massing model there is a circular block which indicates a spinner ride (same size as other spinners).

The biggest mystery of the park is what the large attraction in the northwest corner of Fantasyland is.  It has a big showbuilding – on the scale of Small World or Indiana Jones.   I can’t tell, but it may have a tall spire which could indicate a Tangled-based E-ticket.  Other tantalizing possibilities include a Fantasyland version of Haunted Mansion or “Once upon a Time” (a best-of darkride that would cover many animated fairytales).  Maybe it is just Small World, although it is my hope that Shanghai will differentiate itself from HKDL, cloning very little of the first Chinese park. 

The final piece of Fantasyland is a large block of buildings with Fantasy-themed exteriors that form the western wall of the land.  These likely include dining & retail and – potentially - small darkrides (if the park takes the route of individual film-based rides).

TOMORROWLAND.  There is a long, isolated pathway that connects the back of Tomorrowland to the back of Fantasyland.  The Massing Model & 3-D Model both seem to corroborate the rumored Tron coaster, which would be a launched Vekoma motorbike coaster into a large showbox (like RocknRollercoaster).  There is the ever-present Orbitron, but I’ve read rumors that Shanghai’s version could be a jetpack type.  I believe Disney filed patents for this system.   

There is one more large showbuilding that could accommodate a ride.  I’ve read a rumor that the upcoming "Soarin’ over the World" simulator may find its way to Shanghai and it could fit in this building in Tomorrowland.   Or it could be something else entirely.  There also appears to be a covered amphitheater in the Key Art, 3-D Model & Massing Model, and Disney has stated that they want to have live venues in the park to celebrate Chinese occasions. 

Finally, I’ve read rumors about a PeopleMover ride for Shanghai.  Then I saw Scot Drake’s presentation at D23 where he showed several pieces of concept art (potentially early work for Shanghai).  Among these were PeopleMover-like cabs.  I’ve also read Scot is the lead designer for Tomorrowland in Shanghai.  Then I looked at the 3-D model and saw these odd geometric curves and circles, which led me to wonder if these could be indicators of the PeopleMover’s track path.  
 http://www.mouseinfo.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=45128&original=1

THOUGHTS ON PIXAR, MARVEL, PARK SIZE & EXPANSION.  I would be very pleased if something like the park I’ve drawn (with at least 4 original E-ticket rides) opened in 2016.  However, I must remind myself of the initial plans for Hong Kong Disneyland which opened with about 50% of the attractions (and fewer lands) than were announced at the pre-construction stages (along with a totally different layout).   Assuming the park does open as something close to the current plan, I think it will have just enough to fill a Chinese family’s day and leave them wanting to return.  

The current Shanghai park plan also includes a lot of room for future expansion.  Each land has dedicated expansion pads and there are even larger areas between the lands which could accommodate mini-lands (e.g A Bug’s Land or Mystic Point). 

One thing that strikes me as odd is that in all the deducing & analyzing I’ve done to put this site plan together, I can’t find any locations where Pixar properties would fit naturally (possibly a Wall-E attraction in the Tomorrowland showbuilding).  This seems counter intuitive as I know how Disney loves to put Pixar in its parks these days.  Same goes for Marvel (although it is possible some Marvel properties could be wedged into Tomorrowland, like an Iron Man orbitron).  Maybe the first additions post-opening in the expansion pads will feature Pixar and Marvel.

It will be very interesting to see if an official conceptual site plan or model for the park becomes available in 2012 and how close my interpretation is to it.
 
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I hope you've enjoyed my work in investigating the mystery of SDL.  If you can add, correct or clarify anything (substantiated with visual evidence or solid info), I would like to hear your thoughts.