Sunday, April 22, 2012


As promised, here is a Birdseye of one of the EE lands:

Like a number of you, I was intrigued by the idea of a land built around the Haunted Mansion mythos.  With media like ‘Downtown Abbey’ so popular at the moment, I think the idea of an eerie old estate to explore would resonate with people.

Most great estates have the gatehouse.  Built of the same granite as the rest of Bloodmere, the Gatehouse would be both light dining (e.g., ice cream window) as well as the place to pick up Mystery Maps for the Cryptic Adventure.

The grounds of Bloodmere, once meticulously cared for, have fallen into some neglect.  Some trees & grasses have gone wild, while others remain more cultivated.  The grounds slope downward from the Manor to the river, and along the river are the extensive gardens & the family cemetery.  This is where a ‘magiquest’ type adventure game would take place.  A number of different Mystery Maps (for variation) could be obtained, and by piecing together clues hidden in the various statues and mausoleums (some with underground passages), frightening audio & physical effects would be triggered.

The land’s main attraction is an all-new version of the Haunted Mansion… perhaps a 3-D LPS ride as once envisioned for Tokyo Disneyland.  Sam had an idea in mind that centered on the murderous bride from the actual HM, maybe he can elaborate in the comments section.

 I imagined the land’s carousel to be a large, domed marble mausoleum.  The steeds could be various gargoyles or dark creatures or ‘stone’ tributes to generations of the family’s great horses.

 The train station where visitors arrive (or depart as fast as possible) would be appropriately themed in a gothic manor.

The final section of the Bloodmere would be the building(s) that house all the staff & their families who tend the estate.  This would house a large quick service dining facility, a retail shop and restrooms.


After finishing this drawing, I realized how much it has in common with HK’s forthcoming Mystic Point (my subconscious?)… the Manor, the walkthrough, the nearby train, etc.  While MP is more of a collector/museum vibe, this area is a more morbid, frightening, ghost-story approach. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


This park will be a two-parter… first a traditional Conceptual Site Plan, followed in a few days with a Birds-Eye Illustration of one of the lands.  This drawing is my (re)interpretation of Sam V.’s entry in the IdealBuildout Design Contest.  Sam’s original drawing:

My take on the concept:
The park combines elements of traditional Magic Kingdoms (i.e., lands/attractions based on fairy-tales, adventure, ghosts, etc.), along with some bits of Sea World(live Arctic animal exhibits) as well as the never-built Michael Jackson Neverland park.  A number of lands showcase the spectrum of Earth geographies: Urban, Ocean, Rainforest, Desert, Temperate Forest, Arctic & Boreal.   This isn’t a park with a clear over-arching theme (which isn’t necessary), but in the end feels to me like a new type of castle-less Magic Kingdom.

At the center of the park is a vast island based on Peter Pan’s Neverland, with the mountainous peak at the center forming the central landmark & icon of the park.   In Sam’s entry, Neverland was accessible only by raft (or by exiting the Peter Pan kuka ride), but this didn't seem feasible for something that formed a type of hub for park, so I made it accessible by numerous bridges (as well as by circum navigating steamer).  The mini-continent (Adventure Isle on steroids) includes most of the distinct zones from the Peter Pan story: Mermaid Lagoon, Cannibal Jungle, Indian Camp, etc.   The island also features a number of significant attractions… a D-ticket coaster assembled by the Lost Boys around Hangman’s Tree, a Jolly Roger pirates stunt show, and in the Pixie Hollow area, a C-ticket dark ride and aerial spinner. There would also be dining options in PirateTown and numerous caverns and other features to explore.

The park’s opening land would be based on London  during Pax Brittanica with its imperial stone buildings and an extensive Kensington Gardens at the center.   Unlike the other Main Streets, this area would have significant attractions, including one of the park’s biggest: the aforementioned ‘Journey to Neverland’ kuka darkride.  I also imagined a walkthrough adventure based on the stories of H.G.Wells (The Time Machine, Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, etc.).   There would be a family-friendly ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ attraction and a theater for live shows.

Moving clockwise, the next land is dedicated to the myths of the oceans, featuring a large-scale omnimover, perhaps similar to the original attraction planned for EPCOT (with Poseidon as your guide to various undersea environments).  The Cirque-like Little Mermaid show from DisneySea as well as a D-ticket Finding Nemo darkride are present, as well.

This is the park’s Adventureland.  I should note that each part of Neverland roughly corresponds to the land on the opposite side (e.g. Jungle Expedition = Cannibal Jungle, Mermaid Lagoon = Seas, Indian Camp = Pinewood Valley; Pixie Hollow = Bright Forest).  The front of the Jungle Expedition is dedicated to a trio of ‘spinner’-type rides aimed at younger visitors.  The land’s flagship ride is Jungle Cruise meets PotC (indoor flume dark ride) and there is a Tiki Bird restaurant.  In addition, there is a jungle pathway that could feature live animals (i.e. Animal Kingdom’s Pangani Forest).

I based this land on the North African (Timbuktu, Morocco, Egypt) and Middle Eastern (Petra) deserts and the legends & myths of those regions.  The central ride is an E-ticket rapids ride with extensive indoor show-scenes for the first third.  Sam’s original idea called for an American Desert section with the park-encircling version of ‘Mine Train thru Nature’s Wonderland’ .  I feel  this might be too much of a geographic leap from Africa Deserts, but the site plan accommodates whichever one wants to imagine (there are still the Rainbow Caverns somewhere along the track).  

This is the park’s Fantasyland, set in a mature hardwood forest.   In place of brief darkrides based on individual Disney fairytales, this land has a single lengthy ride that showcases the European folktales made famous by Disney (Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.).  There is also a Forest Adventure Path past AA animals and interactive elements (e.g. whispering trees) to Merlin’s Cottage.  SIDE NOTE: As you can tell, I am a big fan of these kinds of off-the-beaten-path trails in theme parks.  I just got back from my first visit to WDW in years and one of my favorite ‘attractions’ in all of WDW was the “Tree of Life Garden Walk”.  AK was packed with Spring Break crowds and yet these winding paths were blissfully empty with some very active lemurs, cooling waterfalls and a wild (not Disney-owned) gator in the Discovery River!

Who doesn’t love the Haunted Mansion.  This area takes the tone, style & mythology of the HM and expands it to an entire land.   The island is the overgrown estate which has been home to a prominent family for generations.  As one passes the guardhouse (snacks), something seems amiss:  The family mansion sits proudly but silently on the hillside (housing  a new 21st c. version of the Haunted Mansion).  Opposite the mansion is the ancestral family cemetery with numerous mausoleums, tombs & monuments.  The cemetery would be home to an extensive interactive mystery explore zone (similar to the MK’s new queue but on far larger scale), with plenty of secrets and puzzles to solve.   Finally, there is the town segment where numerous servants live (restaurant) and monument to the family's lost horses (carousel).  The family was so rich and powerful that they had the railroad company (maybe the Lord owned the railroad) build an extension to their estate. 

The centerpiece of this land is an indoor-outdoor ice cavern coaster on a similar scale to Big Thunder.  I also imagined several arctic animal exhibits for walruses and polar bears, designed to blend naturally with the rock & ice backdrop.  I also dropped in an LPS ride based on the big project underway at SeaWorld Orlando at the moment.  There is a sub-area based on Santa Clause and the North Pole with a family-friendly dark ride.

I believe Sam envisioned this park for Toronto, and this final land would pay homage to the host country… sort of a Frontierland for Canada.  There is a major flume ride and extensive conifer forest trail.  The backdrop to the land would be an in-park hotel which I imagined to be something like Canada’s great turn-of-century National Park Lodges (specifically Banff Springs, but not as tall).  Like WDW’s Wilderness Lodge there would be a ‘natural’ spring in the hotel lobby which would run into the themed pool area and then into the park itself.


Sam, I hope you like this interpretation of your park.  I will follow up shortly with a birds-eye illustration of one of the lands.   

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tokyo - New Tomorrowland

Tokyo’s current Tomorrowland is architecturally reminiscent of MK’s original, pre-1994 land, but taller, wider and more spread out:
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As most here know, in the late 1990s the OLC came very close to greenlighting a massive make-over for Tomorrowland, known as Sci-Fi City:
Neverland Files

Like Sci-Fi City, my approach applies the ‘Atom Punk’ ‘Deco-Tech’ ‘Retro-Sci Fi’ fantasy aesthetic to the land, leaving no exterior unchanged.

This version of Tomorrowland is to be the “sister city” of the MK’s metropolis, and I imagine there could be subtle connections between the two lands and their attractions (similar to Mystic Manor reportedly having some connection to TDS’s S.E.A.).  The Tokyo version would be even more urban, featuring many spires and towers.  The intention is to create a somewhat busy, chaotic, Buck Rogersesque cityscape - the opposite of the current minimalist, monolithic approach.

The current land’s most redeeming architectural features (the two spires at the entrance) are re-purposed here to glowing light-beacons.

I removed the current escalators to Space Mountain in order to free up room for a central plaza to the land marked by a spherical water feature and a circle ancient alien rocks.  The former Skyway Station would be re-purposed to a more elaborate queue & pre-show for an upgraded Space Mountain (adorned with glass domes – a recurring feature of the land).

Star Tours and Pizza Planet facades are re-done to meld with the metal-glass dome-spire look of the rest of the land.  There is an Ion Cannon added to the Star Tours terminal.   The overpass bridge at the southern(?) end of the land would mark the border to Tomorrowland and beyond it would be a small land dedicated to Pixar (with Ride n Go Seek).

I imagine the Captain Eo 3-D Theater could be re-purposed for a original special FX theatrical presentation based on the mythos of the land. 

Where there is now a very wide, sterile, angular plaza in front of the Grand Prix, I’ve made a more organic and undulating space with alien plantings, rockwork & fountains.  In place of the Grand Prix itself is the MetroCity Police HQ where a major E-ticket awaits (original EMV shooter involving Alien crime boss).

StarJets become a new take on the Astro Orbitor and Tomorrowland Terrace becomes a new restaurant themed to a starship garage.

Finally, I added Jetsons-like skyline flats, similar to those in Anaheim Toontown, in order to simulate a much broader, deeper city (only visible from certain angles).


UPDATE: See below for an updated Potter illustration with a Triwizard Stadium as the new Dragon Challenge aueue.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Mountain for Potterland

It was suggested that the Dragon Challenge Queue be themed as the stadium from the fourth Potter film.  It made sense, so that's what I did:

One of the trademark features of what I term “Tier II” theme parks (e.g., Busch Gardens or Sea World) is the naked steel mega coaster.  Sometimes these coasters feature elaborate, well-executed queues (e.g., Manta or Dueling Dragons) or trains, which is part of what separates Tier II parks from Tier III.  However, there is little else done to theme the actual coaster superstructure: 
Pic 1

I’m not deriding Tier II parks & theme-ing.  These places & rides are popular, and there is certainly a place for them, but my interests lie in the elaborate theatrical designs that mark Tier I: lands, attractions, or in this case, rollercoasters, that attempt to wholly sell another time & place throughout their design & execution.

The much-discussed Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers a juxtaposition of these two models (Tier I & Tier II).  Several of its areas & vistas (& flagship attraction) are contenders for best Tier I themed environment on the planet:
Pic 2

At the same time, the land’s eastern backdrop is a huge, naked steel coaster:
Pic 3

In addition, the Forbidden Journey’s enormous showbuilding is an eyesore from a number of places within the park:
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This blog is all about idealizing the parks, so I created another birdseye illustration to show how the all parts of IOA’s Wizarding World might be brought to the Tier I level.

A note on mini-coasters:  I generally give lightly-themed mini(kiddie)-coasters (Flounder’s Flying Fish, Barnstormer, Flight of the Hippogriff, etc.) a pass because they are small enough not to overwhelm their surroundings. 

However the Dragon Challenge is no mini-coaster.  It is huge and shatters any illusion a visitor might have that he is in the Scottish highlands that surround Hogwarts… it states clearly and loudly: you are in an amusement park.  

So with this illustration, I imagined a very large mountain strewn with castle ruins and stunted pine trees that envelops the dueling coaster tracks.  The ride would pass through caverns, dungeons and other interior show spaces, sometimes emerging into the daylight for high inversions or near collisions.  In addition, the pylons supporting the outdoor track of this suspended coaster would be heavily themed to castle ruins, crumbling walls, old tree stumps.    The tracks would be painted a in a background blending scheme, so it might appear as the distant coasters are snake-like dragons flying around the mountain & ruins.  

It’s rare to achieve the “100% convincing” level in a theme park… and very difficult (and expensive) to make a huge suspended coaster work convincingly in a fantasy environment (never been done to my knowledge), so I think if you get 75-80% there, it can be called a success.

Other changes in the illustration include a raised, forested berm around the edge of the park and enough additional rockwork on the Forbidden Journey showbuilding to keep it concealed from any vantage point within the park (on the ground).