Wednesday, June 5, 2013


With all the Lucasfilm headlines over the past year, it was time to draft a LucasLand theme park for IdealBuildout.   I had given thought to a Star Wars Park for a while, but decided instead to design a park which spanned all the LucasFilm/LucasArts libraries.  Since Star Wars is the flagship property, it would receive the most attention: three large lands - the northern 40% of the park - as well as the park’s central icon.   Indiana Jones, the second city of the company, would get two large lands.  Willow and Labyrinth would share a fantasy & legends land, and the LucasArts games would be represented in an 80s-style area, with a distinct (is)land for the Monkey Island pirate series.   There would also be a Studio area which focused on the BTS film-making process and a nostalgic 1950s-set entry-land, the park’s equivalent of MS:USA. 

Before finalizing the contents and drafting this plan, I had an extensive exchange with past-collaborator Jim Francik (protojimbo, IOA California), who contributed a lot of great ideas, especially regarding individual attraction content and the kind of theme-ing details that can’t be clearly shown in a master illustrative plan, but really enrich the concept in one’s imagination.   Italicized text below are some of his descriptions.


As mentioned, this entry land serves as the park’s MS:USA, but rather than an idealized turn-of-the-century mid-west town of Walt’s youth, it reflects an idealized mid-20th C. Modesto, CA where Lucas spent his formative years. 
Some area features as noted by Jim:

•    “Modesto Arch”  - replicated, except it would read “LUCASLAND”
•    American Graffiti  - Cruisin’ all night! Very near entrance.  Family attraction featuring a continuous loop of cars.  Goes indoors for a California cruisin’ at night experience via a projection tunnel (maybe we witness or participate in a drag race).
•    A parade of cars down boulevard becomes part of the American Car Culture theme-ing of the area.
•    Tucker Car Dealership - The Man and his Dream - the dealership that never was! Tan auto-manufacturing/design exhibit. Themed on the Tucker movie and featuring props and car replicas, design schematics as art/wallpaper/murals, clips from movie, photos/newspaper clippings/movie poster. 
•    Tucker Torpedoes - fast service sandwiches connected to dealership.
•    Burge’s Drive-In – Inspired American Graffiti;  jukebox, hamburgers & shakes, car hops, etc.
•    Stationary Shop - George’s father’s store - Cards, Gifts, books, etc.
•    Drug Store - 50’s five & dime, soda fountain/ice cream/snacks, comic books (early GL influence), candy, gifts.
•    TV & Appliance - Retro television sets featured in the window playing Flash Gordon and 50s cartoons (early GL influences -  he likely saw the serials that influenced Indy and SW so much in this manner -  repackaged for 50‘s television broadcasts).
•    Garage - See the cool kids and grease monkeys hang out and work on their suped up hot-rods! At least one real mechanics bay w/ observation of real work on the cars used in the park. Think Conservation Station in AK.! This is also a part of the “Cruisin’ All Night” attraction in that some of the jalopies and hot-rods used can be stored here, doubling as set pieces and ride vehicles to be rotated in. Possibly parade vehicles as well.
•    Radio Station - Gift shop, 50-60’s music as well as Lucas movie music.
•    Lucas Racing - Racing styled apparel and gifts. Placed at the end of the strip, on the side w/ the 80’s wing, so it wraps around the end (facing lagoon) and towards the open end of the 80’s wing. Cars and memorabilia on George’s later involvement in racing, This could reinforce the story behind the pod-racing sequence, and ride, as well. Some parade cars could reside here also


There is an open-air amphitheater near the hub (featuring John Williams Philharmonic performances?).  Boats would provide transport to the far side of the central lagoon.  The lagoon itself would be the canvas for a night-time fountain/laser/pyrotechnics show.


The central boulevard has two branching lands.  The western one is themed as the fictional campus (film school?) where the various Lucas-related film-making entities are set (ILM, LucasFilm, Skywalker Sound, etc.) under a unified, distinct Californian aesthetic (not necessarily historically accurate, but useful in a theme-park setting).   An EPCOT-style pavilion would house multiple interactive exhibits, a museum, a theater, etc.  Other buildings on the Campus feature a sound FX show, retail and dining.


 This side street/land adds some 1980s architectural/detail elements to the building facades and features two zany darkrides based on the classic point&click adventure games, “Zak McCrakken and the Alien Mindbenders” and “Maniac Mansion”, the latter being set atop a forlorn hill. 


 The transitioning area between LucasArts Street and the land based on fantasy films is an area dedicated to the Monkey Island game series.   The anchor attraction is a comedic, large-scale indoor boat adventure.  The island also features an explorable pirate ship, taverns, artisans, shops, an explorable treasure cavern and even a spitting-contest field. 


 This area is bifurcated into a “Willow”-dedicated section and “Labyrinth”-dedicated section.  The main Willow attraction is a raft ride featuring extensive set-pieces and FX, including large indoor sections.  Trolls, giant double-headed AA dragons, brownies, Nelwyn villagers, etc. are all included.  The rising peak of Melee Island to the south forms a layered backdrop to this elaborate attraction.  The D-ticket of this area is a walkthrough SFX experience featuring dueling sorcerers.  (Jim: Several chambers could be replicated to move people thru quickly. The idea is that two guests face each other and have a duel using shape-shifting magic spells on each other. Camera and morphing technology would allow real-time effects as the guest and their friend battle it out, changing each other into funny animal shapes.  Sound and lighting effects round out the experience.)   “Madmartigan’s Art of Fighting Dirty” is a Jedi -Academy-like interactive street show.

The Labyrinth area is dominated by (what other than) a sprawling recreation of the eponymous maze, complete with many show elements from the film (and others designed specifically for the park).  A large darkride hidden behind the facades of Goblin City takes riders on adventures beyond those seen in the films (‘expands the universe’).    As will be seen in the Star Wars and Indy areas, I’m interested in taking things somewhat further away from the source material than one typically sees -- creating more original characters and experiences that still live comfortably within these established worlds.  The park’s attractions are off-shoots or sequels to the films/games, rather than re-runs of what has already been experienced on-screen.


 Continuing with the last thought, Istanbul is not something that is seen in any of the films but could easily serve as an adventurous locale for Dr. Jones (and has been used in several games).   As a historic city, it can also hold experiences that need have no direct relation to the franchise or characters (e.g. a street puppet show), only the time and place.  Architecturally, the land is a romanticized amalgam of historic Istanbul along with some invented elements.  There are three sub-areas to Istanbul.  The Aerodrome is a 1930s airfield with some Turkish accents and period aircraft, including the double-sized Zeppelin.  The main attraction in this area could feature elements of Soarin’ (inverted dome simulator).  Jim thought of incorporating the iconic “Red Line” Maps from the film series into the aerial footage.

The central part of Istanbul is the Citadel, with narrow stone streets and old fortress walls winding up to a grand Sultan’s Palace atop the hill.  The palace houses an elaborate queue (secret passages, booby traps, etc.) for the Indy E-ticket: a PotC-scale indoor flume, ‘Quest for the Sunken City’.  The 14-minute attraction takes adventurers into the flooded bowels of Constantinople.  The queue entrance would be on the middle level of the Citadel and the ride exit at the high court (top level) where the restaurant and fountain are.  Lower alcoves would be used for street shows (and puppet theater).

Outside the Citadel walls are the cultural and market districts of the Waterfront.  The Museum of Antiquities houses a walkthrough interactive attraction through museum halls and secret chambers.  Numerous small authentic shops and food vendors fill the busy and diverse market streets of the city.   Jim elaborates on some cool features of the area:
There are two interactive features/games throughout the entire Indiana Jones area. One of Indy's mentors taught him that language was the key to everything, so the first feature is a language kiosk where voice recognition is used to teach guests simple words in foreign languages. Guests can then test their knowledge at other kiosks throughout the area. The second feature creates an adventure map for each guest. Wristband technology tracks the guest movement throughout the area, then guests can go to the kiosk (like a photo pass booth) and have a rustic map printed out of their journeys, marked by the iconic red arrows from the movies. From here guests can exit the first section by the waterfront or through the back of the marketplace.


 To compliment the urban nature of Istanbul, the second Indy land needed to take place in the wilds.  I considered India, Angkor and North Africa, among others, but settled on Meso-America because of how it would support sightlines with the adjacent Star Wars land.    The area is marked by numerous over-grown ruins from pre-Columbian pyramind-building civilizations (mostly influenced by the Maya but not exclusively…  there could be some Aztec ruins or even the invented Akator civilization seen in ‘Crystal Skull’).  Here, there is a new take on the classic EMV-style Indiana Jones Adventure as well as Big Thunder-scale mine coaster through a temple undergoing excavation.   Temple of the Anaconda takes the concept of MK’s extinct Alien Encounter, but changes the setting to a ruined temple and the time to the early 20th Century.  Imagine being locked into a dusty stone seat, in the dark, with the sensation of snakes, tarantulas or bugs crawling over you.   Jim elaborates on the Jungle Explore Zone:
A densely-vegetated area featuring four overlapping attractions. Adventure trails wind throughout the area featuring little surprises, including an archeological dig site and a bug house. Over the top of this whole area winds the Whiplash zip-line ride where guests glide through the jungle canopy.  The Base Camp includes some hints of civilization such as the Treasure Chamber gift shop and the Taberna Di Grim Fandango – a cross-over to the classic LucasArts game featuring a Dia de Los Muertos/Film Nior theme; the perfect place for Indiana Jones to get a drink and some food when he's south of the border. 


 I think the initial urge for anyone considering a Star Wars park is to have a number of familiar planets as lands (e.g. Hoth, Coruscant, etc.).  But I wanted to stay fairly vague with the particular planetary locale (for 2 of the 3 lands) and instead base them instead on the Rebels vs. the Empire.  The visitor can then use his own imagination with respect to where these locations fit within the Star Wars Universe.  It also allows for easier expansion with the forthcoming films.

The Rebel Alliance has again set up a secret base among the long-abandoned temples of a forested planet.  This isn’t (necessarily) Yavin IV – the great stone pyramids are reminiscent of (and inspired by) what was seen in the original Star Wars, but as mentioned, with this park I am interested in exploring fresh new worlds, stories and characters.  So there is an element of the familiar on the surface, but what can be experienced here is also new to those who want to delve deeper into the park’s story.   It bears repeating: This is a new, unspecified Star Wars locale, designed for this park alone, but most of the experiences would not be so unfamiliar to an average visitor that it loses the Star Wars connection.  For example, the speeder bike dueling launch coaster is inspired by something that we saw in Return on the Jedi, but here the experience takes place not among the giant redwoods of Endor but the flora of this world.  In Rogue Squadron, a quad-seat space fighter simulator, the battles one’s wing engages in are all new to the Star Wars universe – new enemies, new allies, new megaships, new planets (again, with some familiar, as well).   There are friendly indigenous creatures on this planet as well, (but not Ewoks, nor Wookies), and their village is a place to feast.  A crashed Blockade Runner being reclaimed by the jungle is an explorable attraction.

The central Icon of LucasLand is something I’ve termed the Temple of the Force (is there a name for the Jedi/Sith progenitors?). It is an ancient alien pyramidal structure aligned with the long axis of the park.  It has a light side entrance/queue/pre-show/ride (Jedi) as well as a dark side (Sith, accessible from the Empire land) and houses the park’s signature attraction, Duel of the Fates.  Jim describes the ride experience:
This innovative dark ride allows guests to decide their fate and ride experience by choosing the light or dark side. A pair of ride vehicles weaves through the experience, one from each side simultaneously, receiving teachings from their respective master (AA), such as building your lightsaber and the nature of the force before coming together to witness great Jedi/Sith battles come to life through special effects.   At the end of each such scene the vehicles cross paths “battling” each other with flashes of lightning and other special effects, before separating to have another lesson.  After repeating this sequence through a few scenes, the vehicles prepare for their final battle which places the vehicles facing each other and uses wristband technology along with Pepper’s Ghost effect to superimpose lightsabers in the riders’ and the guests “fight” each other in a climactic battle.


 Once again, the idea here is not to replicate a specific planet or locale, but to create a home for the Sith and Imperial forces.  A lot of this area features urban-tech architecture reminiscent of the production design of the Death Star.  There is a sub-level to add to the layered, industrial feel (as opposed to the nature-heavy Rebel side).  The area does have its own nature in the Dark Side Gardens.  Jim gives some brief descriptions of area features:
-- Gardens of the Sith:  Evil-looking, purple-fruited trees and animated hologram circles that honor great Sith lords throughout history.  Holo-chron/holograms are motion activated and give a brief narration. We see the stories of once great Sith lords, including the nefarious ends they meet, usually at the hand of their own apprentice. 
-- Imperial Shipyard - Large cooling domes mark the facade of the Imperial Shipyards attraction, where guests ride along with Darth Vader and Admiral Ozzle as they inspect the Empire's latest capital ships and technological terrors(trams moving through dome projection rooms).
--Storm Trooper Training - a humorous family ride which features MiB-like technology (and certain pesky rebel targets that just can't seem to be hit).
--Bounty Station - Ever wonder where those SW bounty hunters like Boba Fett get their jobs. The answer is the Imperial Bounty Station where the Empire puts up their wanted posters.  All sorts of tough characters hang out here.


With a “good” Star Wars land and a “bad” one, the third is “unaligned.”  Unlike the others, I’ve departed from my rulebook and based it on a specific, well-known planet with some very familiar sights.   Jim concisely describes the land:
Moving east from the forested Rebel Base, a cave helps transition from moist granite to dry sandstone and opens to the desert setting of Tattooine. Immediately in front of the guests is a rocky archway that is actually the queue line to the Jabba's Palace attraction on the right. This attraction simulates a night of entertainment that goes horribly wrong when the guests are “dropped” into the Rancor pit.  As we continue forward we encounter Mos Eisley Space Port. To the right is the legendary Millennium Falcon, a full scale walk-through including interactive experiences and the Mos Eisley Cantina serving up exotic food and cocktails with a diverse crowd of alien patrons.  To the left is the Mos Eisley Pod Racing Circuit, the ride is an advanced version of Radiator Springs Racers complete with a flyby of the Sarlacc pit and a grandstand finish.  A moisture vaporator is the center point of a spinner ride featuring replicas of Luke's speeder and other local vehicles.  Other gift and snack shops fill out the streets of Mos Eisley and include a droid shop attraction where guests can build their own toys.  Beyond that is the more rural area of Tattooine where Luke grew up which includes a look at the Lars family homestead including Aunt Beru's kitchen which sells the signature drink of the area: her famous blue milk.  Guests can also visit Ben Kenobi's house beyond the dune sea, where banthas and sand-people make random appearances.

That sums up the park.  Thanks again, Jim, for your excellent input and for supplying commentary.