Friday, April 12, 2013

Animal Kingdom - Anniversary Special

In honor of DAK’s 15th anniversary, I thought I’d share this Illustrative.  This plan is mostly about adding two new lands to the park: the forthcoming Pandora (not in the southwest where it is actually planned to go) and an original Mythological Animals land.
Some key changes:

-The Erasure of Wildlife Express and Planet Watch.  I think showing the guests the backstage animal housing and care areas via the Wildlife Express might not have been the best idea: akin to an illusionist adding a bit to his show where he explains to the audience how he did his tricks.  So much effort was put into making the on-stage animal areas transport the visitor to Africa and Asia that to have a themed train show the “hidden” aspects seems to me to undermine all of that, spoiling the illusion.   Seeing that kind of stuff, as well as animal veterinary services, could be done via a special, behind the scenes EPCOT-style tour add-ons, but via general admission.  Eliminating Planet Watch rids the park of its “train to nowhere” problem – a long journey via train and foot to reach a fairly mundane experience.   

-The Return of the Discovery Riverboats.  When the park opened Discovery Riverboats garnered long wait-times and dissatisfied riders, due mostly to the scarcity of rides at the park.  In this plan, that scarcity is a thing of the past, so the Riverboats can return to being an ancillary, B/C-ticket attraction (akin to EPCOT’s Friendships or Disneyland’s Monorail) – a relaxing way to get off one’s feet and be in the shade for a time, not intended to draw big crowds.  There would be minor features and effects throughout, similar to what was originally there (geysers, Siren rocks, iguanodon).

-The Revamp of Dinoland.  This plan features the Dinoland re-vamp I sketched out and posted here a while back, where Countdown to Extinction takes on a 1950s University setting and a major flume is added based on Ice Age giants and the spinner is converted to Ice Age fliers.

- Everest Changes.  Everest gets some additional rockwork (e.g., the bare side facing the parking lot - to draw and impress from a distance, interior tunnels) and a new rockwork ridge concealing the trains after they enter the monastery pinnacle (no trestle).  Having the coaster train on the trestle visible to those on the ground destroys the visual scale of both the upper peaks of the mountain and the monastery:

- Kali River Lengthened.  I added some rainforest/river stretch prior to the deforested part of the ride to help add to the overall duration and impact of the attraction (maybe an AA panther in the Cavern section to liven things up?).

- Africa changes.  The newly-themed Harambe Community Theater takes over the area where the Train Station once was and a new pathway links to Pandora and Asia, providing a second access-point to the land.  The Safari would lose all traces of the Wild Africa Trek, which I feel compromises the park's marquee attraction, by adding roads, huts, pick-up trucks, rope bridges, tourists and other things that undermine the sensation of a Wild Africa.   If visitors sign up for the Backstage Tour, that could include Wild Africa Trek features (like dining on the Serengeti) on the large “Acclimation Savanna”, out of view of the main Safari.  The Watusi cattle, a domestic animal, would also be removed from the Safari.   There would still be the high-speed finale through the hot-springs, and flooded canyon with shooting poachers... with the attraction once again ending on a climax. 

- Pandora is accessed via entering a cave in between Africa and Asia.  Once inside, openings in the rocky ceiling show the swirling nebulae and galaxies: the idea is to simulate traveling to Pandora via a wormhole.  Visitors exit the cavern and arrive at the Peace Plaza, where humans have now settled as stewards of the moon, rather than pillagers.   A special effects-laden theater presentation could show how Earth’s biodiversity was wiped out in the Sixth Extinction, serving as a reminder of the need to preserve Earth’s current species.  Beyond the human settlement are the wilds of Pandora.   I drew this plan before the Avatar ride blueprints leaked, but, convergently, we both were thinking of a Banshee Riding e-ticket featuring a moving harnesses set into multiple, medium-scale, inverted omni-dome simulators.  The exterior setting for my version is a rocky cove where a Tree of Souls is located.   There is a Bioluminescent Forest exploration trail on the same scale as Pangani and Maharajah, but featuring the AA animals and glowing plants of Pandora.   There is also a large-scale, family, dry-for-wet dark ride exploring the Seas of Pandora, as this environment is said to be featured in sequels.

-The mythical animal land in this version of the park is more strictly themed to the beasts and of Classical Mythology.  Adventurers set off from an Ancient Greek port on the Aegean, for a series of original (non-pre—exising IP) experiences.  As the park needs family-friendly rides, Mythic Voyage is a long, musical family boat ride in the vein of DisneySea’s Sinbad.   The land’s coaster features a giant AA hydra (in place of the fire-breathing Dragon originally planned).


The following graphic illustrates the master-plan's development over a 15-20 year schedule, phase by phase:

1998: The park opens, heavy on atmosphere, but still light on attractions.  The budgets for Camp Minnie-Mickey, Wildlife Express and Conservation Station are diverted towards giving Mythia a foothold and the park a family-friendly, high-capacity, long, indoor ride (Mythic Voyager).  Every land (save Pandora) is represented (Asia has the table service restaurant and one Gibbon habitat).
1999: Within a year, Asia opens Maharajah Jungle Trek and Dinoland opens a family spinner.  The Harambe Theater (Lion King) opens to help absorb crowds. 
2000: Kali River opens in Asia.  Minotaur Labyrinth opens in Mythia
2003: Five year-anniversary sees Everest rise in Asia.
2006: Another major E-ticket, Mammoth Falls opens.
2009: Mythia doubles in size with Hydra coaster and Greek Theater. 
2011: Pandora Phase I opens
2014: Pandora Phase II opens.  Park achieves arĂȘte: Ideal Buildout.


If you enjoyed this work, take a minute to leave a comment.


Pastor_of_Muppets said...

These posts continue to get better and better all the time. The amount of thought put into this post, especially, is just plain awesome. Disney (or any theme park company) would do well to bring you on board, because you show a pretty innate understanding of what visitors would most want to experience in a ideal world. Very well done . The timeline was especially cool, I thought. I also particularly liked that you decided against using existing IP's for the mythological creatures land of the park.

Anonymous said...

With Animal Kingdom, as with many of the other parks, I would be perfectly happy if the actual unbuilt concepts were eventually realized. While there are a number of differences between the park as it exists today, the major differences (as I see them) are the dumbed down version of Kali River Rapids, the cheap version of Dinoland, and the absence of Beastlie Kingdomme. Realize these three ideas, and Animal Kingdom would be a "Tier 1" park in my eyes.

Kali River Rapids as it exists today is a major anticlimax (the queue outshines the ride itself by a mile). However, as originally conceived, Tiger River Rapids was on the same scale as Kilimanjaro Safaris. The latter ride...which IMO is the one element which makes this park unique from other such an isolated entity today. Having a counterpart in the Asian section would add much greater cohesion to the park. Of course this would mean that Pandora could not be built on the spot where SWW placed it. While I am not one of those who has a big problem with Pandora in AK, personally I would much prefer a fully realized TRR.

Dinoland as it exists today is emblematic of the cheapness that devalued the Disney brand between 1995 and 2005. I would be fine with either Disney's own unbuilt concepts for this area, or with SWW's version.

For me, Beastlie Kingdomme is one of Crown Jewels of unbuilt Disney. I actually think it unfortunate that Expedition Everest got built, because now there is a mythical creature in a land outside the land intended for mythical creatures. As such, Dragon Tower may come across as too much of the same thing if built today. As such (and provided that the full version of Tiger River Rapids and Dinoland got built) and would be OK with Pandora on the spot where it is now supposed to be built. The ideas from Beastlie Kingdomme - such as Dragon Tower or the Fantasia boat ride - could come life elswhere, perhaps in a future expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.

- Tasman

SWW said...

Pastor, Thank you and glad you like it.


As usual, I'm about 90% in agreement with you. The first IdealBuildout of Animal Kingdom I drafted(and maybe one day will do an illustrative version and re-post)had everything you mentioned... it was based on the original Key Art for the park with the big Tiger River Run, the Excavator and an expanded BK. Had TRR been close to the epic artwork (e.g., slow moving section past Asian Elephants and gibbons, etc.) it could have been a spectacular thing.

Regarding the controversial Pandora... while I think the content/themes of the film fit AK better than most major film Franchises, I would always prefer to see an original mythical (or sci-fi) animal land vs film-based land because, when AK features films it treads on ground that belongs to the Studios. For the same reason I'd prefer to see minimal studio film-based attractions in MK and EPCOT.


One area where I disagree slightly: When it is operationally at 100% (heavy 'rainforest' vegetation in Part One, all effects working as intended), I have a positive take on Kali Rapids. The experience as a whole (queue included) is very well-themed, IMO, but could use a longer pre-drop stretch with some additional show elements (which is what I've done here). It's a shadow of what TRR promised to be, but still solid in its own right (as happens to many attractions in the concept-to-reality phase).

I wish there was some way for us to see the detailed WDI model that was built for BK, because the key-art shows that a lot of it (outside the show-building) appeared to be a naked coaster (like Dueling Dragons). Since Disney has never done a large scale un-themed coaster, I assume there was some kind of theme-ing to the pylons, but it would be very interesting to see how WDI planned on handling that aspect.

1967WEDway said...

Fantastic concept illustrative map! Interesting to see a take on how Pandora could possibly play out if it eventually ends up going through (still crossing my fingers that it doesn't, though, because I don't think it makes for a good long-term investment). I'd still prefer that Tiger River Rapids were in that space. Also interesting to see your spin on the Beastlie Kingdomme concept with the Mythia land.

megatron_85 said...

any updates coming soon?

Nerdy Writer said...

This version of AK looks great. It does make one wish there was more there for the ride crowd.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the train to Conservation Station could be recycled as either transport to get around the park or transport from DAK to AKL.

Anonymous said...

On another note, should Pixar's 2014 movie "The Good Dinosaur" be successful, it should provide a base for the retheming of Dinoland USA. Not big on Pixar retheming but if it replaces Dinoland USA, it's all for the greater good.