Monday, January 21, 2013

Anaheim 3rd Gate - Feasibility Study

The conceptual park plans I share here are often very large and non-site-specific.  This time, however, I had fun considering what an actual 3rd Gate in Anaheim could be, given the many factors surrounding the property, such as available land and sight-line issues.  

In total footprint, both Disneyland and DCA are modestly-sized theme parks (and on the small-side by IdealBuildout standards).  Since the total land available for the 3rd Gate in Anaheim is about equal to that of a built-out DCA and smaller than Disneyland (I used only currently-owned land for the park itself), a first priority was to give as much of the plot as possible to ‘on-stage’ themed areas & rides (DCA also has minimal backstage areas compared to DL or other parks) and none of it for parking.   In the wider Master Development Plan (not yet drawn), the GardenWalk outdoor mall would be acquired (and re-dressed) as a 2nd Downtown Disney-type area and would serve as the (possibly-themed) retail approach to the 3rd Gate.  Just north of GardenWalk, an over-road plaza would connect to a huge multi-level parking structure (built over the current surface lot) with moving walkways or other connections extending to the main Resort Promenade where the DL & DCA gates are.  To compensate for parking lost to the new park (and to accommodate increased guest capacity), surface lots elsewhere on property would need to be replaced with larger garages.  The logistical challenges of access, parking, connectivity and backstage facilities are numerous and interesting and may be subject of a future, wider plan, but, for now, onto the fun stuff, the park itself:

An Achilles heal for DCA was/is the outside visual intrusions (e.g. freeway hotels), mostly seen from wide vistas throughout north & eastern Paradise Pier.  To achieve the escapism that is the goal of a Tier I theme park, I believe it is essential to minimize (and if possible, eliminate) these kinds of visual intrusions.  Once grown in, DL’s forested berms achieved this insulating affect well.  However, with the limited land available to DCA and the 3rd Gate, a wide berm is an unaffordable luxury.  Very smartly, the Cadillac Rage was built in DCA to serve as a partial berm, creating a breathtaking vista rather than one that allows visitors views of the mundane outside world.

So more important than the interchangeable themes and contents of the lands of the 3rd Gate, was the need to make it feel insular and handle the very difficult sight-line issues of having un-themed mid-rise hotels directly adjacent to it (north and west).  My solution:
(i)    Create a monumental central icon, in this case a large, tall ‘mountain’ which serves as the canvas and showbuilding to multiple attractions and is integral to all lands, always drawing the eye inwards and upwards.
(ii)    Avoid any long, straightaway views towards the outside of the park (such as looking across Paradise Bay in DCA to what is beyond the park’s border).  This is achieved through bending, undulating pathways.
(iii)    Let the attractions (such as Radiator Springs Racers did for DCA) and their showbuildings form a berm.  A number of the attractions I placed here have mountainous facades as part of their exterior theme-ing.  One area is a cityscape, where miniatures on the roofs of showbuildings could add depth to the land’s vistas, as well block outside visual intrusions.

I wanted the park’s general layout to differ from DL’s hub-spoke and DCA’s multi-loops in order to make it feel unique.  I used a single loop, flowing organically from the gate both southeast and southwest, encircling the central mountain.

I’ve heard Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm IP discussed as subject matters for Anaheim’s 3rd Gate, but with Star Wars and Indiana Jones already well-represented in DL (and Stark Expo rumored on the way) and DCA being heavily-Pixar, I came up with something original, not connected to any previously-established IP.   DISNEY'S LOST REALMS would be four lands (a park of modest size) and at least one of them needed a semi-futuristic or mechanical theme because a Monorail station (coming through DCA and returning to Tomorrowland) would be located there.   Land genres ought to be:
(i) well-suited for theme park adaptation (e.g. CloudWord would not be well-suited),
(ii) un- or lightly-represented in the current Anaheim parks,
(iii) broad enough to allow for a multitude of switch-outs or additions without damaging established themes, and
(iv) able to serve as the canvas for park-wide interactive adventures.

Rather than a multitude of smaller carnival spinners or simple dark rides, I opted for fewer but larger, longer and more elaborate attractions.  Helping to eat up a visitor's day would be two or three large scale and long theatrical special fx/stunt productions, for which seats/times would be reserved in advance (and included in park admission).  For example, there is a ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ style arena show, that would take up almost two hours of time (15 minutes for arrival/seating, 15 for warm-up and 1h15m main show). 

One approaches the park through GardenWalk, which is narrow enough and slants southeastward as to hide the park’s big reveal (Mt. Kronos) until one crosses the landscaped bridge to the entry plaza.  From the visitors perspective the Entry Plaza is split down the center, thematically, with the left being a slightly dilapidated medieval Arabian city with desert palms and the right, an alternate world, crank & gears, steampunk urban environment.  Mt. Kronos, vaster than TDS’s Prometheus and as tall as allowed by regs, is the overpowering central visual feature & icon of the park.   Kronos holds two major thrill rides, a minor walkthrough attraction and is the backdrop to the park’s Fantasmic/WoC equivalent day-ending lagoon show.  Past the gates, the plaza gently descends to this lagoon-fronting amphitheater.  On the STEAMPUNK CITY side of the lagoon, the park’s flagship restaurant sits, with upper level patio dining giving full view of the night-time spectacular.   Since there is one steampunk attraction at DL (Orbitron), in conjunction with this 3rd park, perhaps it could be set back on the central Tomorrowland podium and re-themed to whatever vision of the future that land would have by the time this park were to open (so as not to overlap).   Steampunk City would be the retro-futuristic, quasi-historical urban area of Air Ships, clockwork automotons, etc., with a family dirigible suspended darkride, an indoor, inverted launch coaster on a slightly bigger scale than Rock n Rollercoaster, and be anchored by a high-tech, multi-sensory (sets/screens/AAs) thrill ride featuring a new mythos (thinking Star Wars epic but in a spring & cog kind of setting).  These types of original attractions that populate the park, if well-crafted, could springboard into tentpole motion pictures as PotC did (and HM was supposed to).

Traveling past the giant Zodiac Dome (coaster housing), adventurers enter the dark forests of DRAGONDALE and pass under a crumbling castle gate.  This is where the Lost Realms presents its own, Middle Earth-style, sword and sorcery mythology.  Housed in Mount Kronos is a higher capacity (12 person boats) splash-down flume with AA dragons and a variety of show-scenes.  There would also be a kiddie-area on the scale of A Bug’s Land and themed to the forest sprites’ glade.   One of the aforementioned very long (hour+), reserved(free) theatrical presentations would be a new take on the Medieval Times dinner show that many of us may have experienced in various cities, this time in an open-air castle amphitheater and enjoying the budgets, special fx and design skills that TWDC/WDI can bring to the table.

The third land would be all about prehistoric Earth and ostensibly take place in a wild refuge where both dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals survived the passing of epochs.  Where there is a need for human technology (such as the coaster train or Base Camp Grill) it is done in the early 19th C. explorer-era style ('the present' should be avoided in theme parks).  The land features some real-world educational content in a heavily-fantasy-based park.  In this area there is a potential connection to a future Pixar property (don’t know much about the upcoming dinosaur film) or, as I’ve hereto avoided any pre-established IP, it could be an original family dark-ride.  With this land, the Primeval World section of the DL RR could be changed out for something fresh.

The final land would be a romanticized Middle Eastern city set around the Middle Ages (9th-14th centuries) (8th Century Moorish-Cordoba influenced, maybe) with stone walls, domes and minarets.  An equivalent to PotC would take riders on a voyage through the Tales of 1,001 Nights and the major restaurant here (Waterfalls) would have views onto portions of the ride (Blue Bayou-style).  On the central lagoon would be an Old Lighthouse and a fortres housing the Sultan’s Dhow (a ship would that would feature in the night-time spectacular).   The spires and narrow backwater marketplace streets would help block the mid-rise hotel outside the park and a D-ticket indoor/outdoor coaster with desert rockwork would also help to insulate this section of the park.   There could be a place for an Aladdin suspended dark ride in the Agrabah-like streets.

So there it is.  A modest park compared to the ones I've recently posted, but, again, the purpose here was more to illustrate how a full-day/tier I park might fit on the small, unusually-shaped and off-site remaining parcel.


Felipe Zahtariam said...

Hi! I just loved this park! You know that I prefer few lands with deeper themes, and that's what you created here!

Fewer lands, fewer attraction, but everything very well imagined and designed. Also, the stories, adventures, everything so deep and big. I have no words to describe what I feel about this project.


1967WEDway said...

I've often pondered how a third gate at Disneyland could potentially be implemented. Your feasibility study presents a lot of intriguing and effective ideas as to how it could be done!
Your proposal for placing bridges over already existing roads to allow passage between different areas of the resort (thus greatly eliminating the need to tear up roads for resort expansion) is excellent! I also appreciate the fact that you left open the potential for greater land acquisition.
Thank you very much for sharing this design!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea. Its sensible, as well as original with the layout. I only wish to provide constructive critisism if you don't mind. While I totally understand the unwanting of overlap and areas that are too specific, I feel as though there has to be some Disney IP somewhere. One of the charms of Disney Parks is being able to meet some of your favorite characters. While I'm sure you can fit the fab5 or sen6 practically anywhere, there doesn't seem to be room for many other charcters sans Aladdin in the Arabian city. Speaking of which, has been done before in DLP, TDS, and to some extent, Epcot. In effort to providing something new, might I suggest replacing the Arabian city with an ancient Greek themed area? Not only is it new but the mt. Kronos serving as the backdrop to that area would seem similar to mount olympus in Hercules. That's just an example.

Secondly, about the lagoon show, while I'm sure whatever you have planned is amazing, but I think it would make more sense to move away from the lagoon aspect as to not steal the thunder from WoC and Fantasmic. As the park is small and organic in flow, I wonder if an elaborate nighttime spectacular would be truely necessary. Perhaps some form of 360 light show that connects all sections of the park to Mt. Kronos?

These are just small critisisms, I'm certainly not trying to bash you and your efforts at all. I still love your idea.

SWW said...

Thanks for the comments. Felipe & WEDway, glad you like it.

Anonymous, I appreciate those kinds of substantive critiques... while I don't agree with all of them, that's the type of back and forth that should take place during the conceptual phase. I think your suggestions are solid and would improve the idea in some ways (Greek area).

I do think, from a vista /perspective /scale standpoint, there needs to be some separation before the mountain - it doesn't have to be a lagoon (you make a good point about lagoon show overkill at the DLR), but a lagoon is pretty utilitarian.

Regarding the need for Disney IP: the park, in this hypothetical, would be 100% Disney IP, by virtue of this being a 'Disney' creation, just none of it pre-established. 10 years post-opening, the characters in the DragonDale or Steampunk City could be regarded to be as 'Disney' as Poppins or Figment.

I lament the growing conception that theme parks must be vehicles to showcase pre-established movie characters. Theme parks ought to be a creative wellsprings in their own right.

Anonymous said...

SWW, very interesting read. I really didn't have a whole lot of idea on how they would fit a third park into the Anaheim property, but your concept really helps to visualize the possibilities. Using Garden Walk as an extension of the park is a particularly interesting...especially if it could be rethemed (perhaps along the lines of the entry to Islands of Adventure?). As I've mentioned in prior posts I too am a fan of lands / attractions not based on films. I like all your land themes... easy substitutes, from ones that Disney has already created, include (counter clockwise) Discoveryland (DLP); Beastlie Kingdomme (AK); a Dinosaur themed area akin to the one originally envisioned for AK; and Arabian Coast (TDS). A final comment regarding the nighttime spectacular - I tend to concur with thinking another lagoon show may be too much of a good thing. Since the Electrical Parade is no longer running at the two Anaheim parks...why not locate an updated version of it in this park?

- Tasman

Douglas said...

You should send this to Disney. It's perfect and reminds me a little of IOA which I loved.

@Anonymous: for your including Disney characters thing, I could see in the steampunk area posters of various Disney characters dressed up in steampunk attire. In the Dinosaur area I could see hints of the wilderness group from Up. For Dragonvale I could see the Disney Princes appearing as walk around characters you have to find. Heck I could see Merlin, Maleficent, or even the Once Upon a Time versions of the characters.

ProjectTurtle said...

Good job leaving Disney characters out of this park leave that to Disneyland. Good job thinking of other themes that California is not use to. As much as I love grizzly peak and paradise pier in DCA I feel theme parks should take visitors to different worlds. Good job SWW��

Mike said...

Great job on this park. Glad you did not incorporate any of the characters even though they are something most people expect to see in a Disney park.

Based on your detailed descriptions this seems like it's more of an adult Disneyland and is the final puzzle piece to the Anaheim property (MK geared more towards kids since that's where the characters are, DCA for the tweeners/families with older kids, and Lost Realms for the adult crowd).

It would be quite the spectacle to have Mt. Kronos become an erupting volcano at the climax of the night show. Imagine seeing flames pierece the sky from DCA or along neighboring streets.

Mark Sharp said...

A thought. I like your tie in with the Garden Walk across the street. Makes a lot of sense. But Disney need not acquire the property. They could contract with the present owners, secure improvements loans for the "redressing", agree to a set of Disney-approved business practices and have some sort of profit sharing with Disney, after all using the mall as the approach to Disney's 3rd Gate would be a big financial win for them. It also saves Disney from paying an exorbitant price for the property. Money that can be spent on the park itself.

SWW said...

^ Mark, that's sounds to me like a smart way to go about financing it. To Tasman's point, I originally considered incorporating GardenWalk into the Park Proper, as a heavily-themed, double level Main St.-type land, but decided an un-themed DTD-like approach would make the park itself have more of an impact (like the effect the Parking Lot Desert has at some parks).

Douglas, that would be one way to incorporate a sense of established Disney into it, although I'd tend to avoid grafting Dis characters onto places can stand on their own as character-free places (as has been done at EPCOT's World Showcase). Which transitions to Mike's point in that, sort of like TWDC's acquisition of Marvel & Lucasfilm, this park, while having numerous family attractions/spinners, is aimed at a market that might not be interested in the character/toon/'disney' aspect of the DLR, but still want to experience the escapism and heavy-duty theme-ing that only a few organizations have the resources to create.

Douglas said...

SWW, I was more trying to figure out how to provide the public's need for Disney characters to be in the park at a minimum and in theme. I'm of the mindset of "What does Monsters Inc. have to do with Tomorrowland?" so I try thinking how they best fit with the theme. World Showcase isn't so bad, but it would nice if the characters dressed in realistic versions of their outfits instead of looking like the toons of Roger Rabbit.

protojimbo said...

Great stuff! I really like this study of feasibility - pretty do-able. With all this talk of IP's vs. Original work, I'd love to see what would happen in florida if we pulled all Pixar based attractions out of their current spots, into a 5th gate Pixar park (w/ some expansion) and then replaced them with more "appropriate" attractions back in the old parks they came from. This could be a win win in emmersion for the new 5th gate and the original parks without losing anything!
Thoughts anyone?

Mike said...

Regarding a 5th gate at WDW, when does it draw the line between necessity for another park and an over saturation of the Disney product all in one location? I often wonder what would the founders of some of our popular parks today (Walt Disney and Six Flags' Angus Wynn,for example)think of the direction their parks have taken over the past 50 years.

SWW said...

Jimbo, I'd certainly like to see that happen. The shoe-horning of Pixar into places where it doesn't organically fit is detrimental to those areas' sense of place, which your idea would help to correct - and having single Pixar properties across multiple WDW parks (e.g. Nemo in AK and EPCOT, Toy Story in MK and DHS) makes the overall experience more homogenous.

Mike, I think by 1999 TWDC & Universal realized that they had hit market saturation in Orlando (e.g. they began to siphon visitors from their own parks rather than add enough new tourists). Still, US and International population and/or economic growth may at some point in next 10-20 years make a 5th gate a desirable investment.

Brian Scott said...

Very similar to DisneySea, just smaller. That isn't a bad thing though .. After all, you don't really need to be by the ocean for DisneySea to work!! The water in the DisneySea harbor is waste deep (like the rivers of America). May as well build a new, smaller version of DisneySea at the DisneyLand Resort.