Thursday, December 18, 2014

The 2015 Project

For the next set of posts here, I thought it would be good to initiate a change.  Ironically, change begins with the old standby: a new illustrative master plan.  Going forward, well into 2015, I will explore this one park’s visual development via a variety of forthcoming design pieces.   These may include expansion lands, detailed scenic plans, architectural elevations, concept art, signage graphics, etc.   Some will be quick sketches, others more refined renderings.

In picking a park for this long-term project, I decided against using an original content concept and will instead parallel the real-world project that excites me most: SDL.   I want this exercise to be under similar parameters that the Shanghai team was under:
-    Similar scale to Shanghai re: park footprint & capacity
-    Park Program to synergize with the Company’s hottest current properties
-    Opening day roster on par with DLP or SDL openings, with lots of room for natural expansion over forthcoming decades
-    Park design to emphasize major parades and night-time spectaculars

Phase I – Initial Design Considerations
-    Continue the evolution of the Castle Park layout from the original Hub-Spoke through SDL’s Multi-Loop to something totally new (for this class): Lagoon-Centric.
-    Have the Central Castle be across the lagoon at the base of a very large, iconic mountain: jaw-dropping vista and backdrop for shows.
-    Inclusion of a free-fall tower E-ticket attraction (in this case a neo-gothic Haunted Hotel, echoing some features of the Castle) at a far corner of the park, to maximize build-up and alleviate any potential sightline issues as the park develops.

A brief overview of Phase I Program:

Entry land is also the Star Wars land.  I’m imagining something like IoA’s Port of Entry but set in the SW galaxy.  The central landmark is a spire that is part of a next-gen spinner (craft on telescoping arms).  The Family D-ticket Shooter ride would be inspired by Toy Story Mania.  Premium lagoon-side dining (SW version of IoA’s Mythos).

 Classic exotic pulp adventure area anchored by an amphibious E-ticket version of the Indiana Jones Adventure.  

Pirate-themed area with flagship ride, a Mack water-gun spinner and an island featuring an interactive game as brilliantly done as MK’s Jewels of the Seven Seas.  The main Ship here is very large and fully explorable: a 3-masted War Galleon (multiple  gun decks), much bigger than similar tallships in DLP or TDS. 

Comprised of four sub-areas: Storybook Village, Fantasy Forest , London Way and Arendelle (each self-explanatory).   The E-ticket attraction here is a Splash Mountain-scale flume through a “shared universe” of animated fairytales.

Victorian London transitions to Jazz Age Manhattan.  Part of my thinking for this park was it would be designed for the next major market (e.g., Mumbai, Seoul, Rio) for a castle park.  While turn-of-the-century, small town America may not resonate with these audiences, the electricity of  a place like New York (in its wonder years) does resonate internationally. 

A more subdued suburban townscape compliments the nearby city.   Just as many of the animated fairytales can easily cohabitate in Fantasyland, my feeling is the numerous, modern-ish Pixar films can do the same here.  The king of Pixar properties gets an original, dark ride taking the characters on new adventures (LPS).

Future Expansion: Unlike the plans I’ve typically presented here, which are mostly built-out, you can see this one shows the park in its early stages of life, with lots of dedicated space to grow.  You'll see numerous pathway stems, giving an indication of things to come.  Marvel is one of those hot properties conspicuous by its absence.  I suppose a Marvel-based land could begin to open in Phase II, located in the very large eastern plot.  The western, Adventure-based lands could see organic growth or new sub-lands.   The plot northeast of the Forest Amphitheater looks prime for a Seven Dwarfs-type coaster, while Mr. Peterson’s House in Pixar Place looks like a good marker for a future “Up” ride.   

Feel free to imagine your own expansions by printing this plan out and drawing over it, as I do when considering the next phases.

As noted in the beginning, you should see regular updates to this project, detailing what this park would be like.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Universal Studios Florida

We’ve discussed the shift away from the old Studios model of park as Disney, Universal and Paramount plan and build immersive, “enter-the-world-of-_____” areas.  USF opened a shining example of this in Diagon Alley, which appears to epitomize my mantra: the park IS the E-ticket.


The Muggle/lake-side portion of this Wizarding World expansion recreates landmarks from Whitehall (the government section of London).  Admiralty Arch, the Old Bailey and Nelson’s Column could be influences.  
On the magic/interior side, the off-kilter facades continue the style presented in Diagon Alley.   The main attraction here is based on the Ministry of Magic (which is set hundreds of feet below Whitehall).  I’ll leave the specifics of such an attraction to your imagination (a running theme here), but I was intrigued by the suggestion in the last post’s comments.

Star Trek is a property that’s been around for decades and is now seeing a resurgence (as have or will the other properties used in this concept plan).  The image from the new series that stuck with me the most is this:

In theme park design, like movie design and effects, one strives to make suspension of disbelief for the viewer as easy as possible.  So, for me, anything monumental recreated in a park environment needs to be big enough to sell the viewer that it’s the real thing.  The Columbia in TDS is an example: not the actual scale of an Ocean Liner, but close enough to convince your imagination it is.  The Enterprise shown here is 5:6 scale: a massive landmark, big enough to seem like actual size.  It would contain a turbolift/walkthrough attraction (partly housed in the dock-base structure).

A great thing theme parks can do is create awe-inspiring sights we don’t often see in everyday life.  Recreating the Enterprise being built/repaired in drydock could be one of those.  The bridge and walkway through this Starport land curve and descend gently to give optimal views of the ship.  There is space for the requisite thrill E-ticket (land is on two levels), dining as well as a themed cavern (tunnel) transitioning to the Universal Monsters area.

The legendary catalog of Monsters is something for which Universal Studios is most well-known, and I hope the forthcoming series of re-makes, which Universal seems to consider their own Marvel Cinematic Universe, take a fun, swashbuckling, comedy-adventure approach like recent hit franchises PotC and Sherlock Holmes. 

This area has family friendly-attractions, including the requisite haunted manor on a hill darkride (could be Hotel Transylvania, Scooby-Doo or something else) and darker Jungle Cruise-like attraction that showcases the catalog of Monsters.   There is a dark carousel in the center of the classic Eastern European town so associated with the genre.  A cemetery playzone area is near the entrance.

One of the three big rides here is a new Mummy coaster with extensive indoor and outdoor (terrain following) segments, marked by crumbling pyramids.  This would be based on the future Mummy films (or not on any specific ones) versus the Frasier ones.
While Hollywood, Springfield, San Francisco and Production Central do not see any major changes in this concept plan, NYC does.   First, the Transformers building gets a new skin.  It is essentially a huge box, but so were the impressive Power Plants from the early 20th Century, some artfully designed by famed architects like McKim, Meade & White: 

This one could be inspired by those like the IRT Power Station, abandoned, then covertly re-occupied by N.E.S.T..  This would make the building a visually attractive landmark from all angles of the park and blend with the New York skyline.

In the top left of New York, a soundstage will be converted to a family darkride, accessed through a back alley.  This could be based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sesame Street, or some other NYC-centered ride.

Since Mummy has vacated its New York location the building, which has a museum-like façade could be home to a new E-ticket based on the discussed future JK Rowling 'Fantastic Beasts' trilogy, the 'Night at the Museum' franchise, or something else.  The upper part of the building receives city facades.

Finally, a monumental landmark is built on the Twister block (also enclosing a portion of the coaster).  This is a 1910s-built neo-gothic hotel, as would befit a Ghostbusters E-ticket, providing a landmark visible from a distance, helping to take attention off the coaster and anchoring New York.  Here’s a concept elevation/massing-study sketch I created for the idea:
I imagine shooting Proton Pack guns at ghosts would have to be part of the experience, while moving both horizontally and vertically through the hotel.   This could be reworked into something even bigger, with a full ToT freefall, although that would require re-thinking the height and size as drawn above. 


Thursday, October 2, 2014

3rd Gate Charrette - Illustrative Plan

It is fitting to conclude this charrette exercise with an overlay of the site photo I used in the initial post:

This low-res image is just a preview as I finish up the Illustrative Plan.  Over the coming week or so (probably beginning this weekend), I will begin to update this post and review the park land by land, sharing excerpts of your written ideas that helped influence its designed (as well as things that weren't included, usually due to size constraints).

Thanks again for the participation.


OVERALL: The parameters for this project were to create a 3rd Gate that would:

A.    Physically complement the existing Resort, by centering the new park along the horizontal axis of the DLR Plaza, making it easily accessible to those park-hopping or staying at the western hotels.  This would also allow the main ticketing area to be used for all three parks.  While this location is not very feasible in reality (understatement) due to the ownership of these lots, it is the only space where this triad can be symmetrically achieved in the Anaheim Resort.

B.    Meet all current and future parking requirements via a massive new garage facility on part of the Strawberry Fields property.  A high-capacity elevated PeopleMover system (and associated walkway) would connect the facility to the DLR Plaza.

C.    Answer the Internet’s call to put Star Wars & Marvel properties in a 3rd Gate, rather than DL or DCA.

D.    Remove England-based Pooh from U.S.-based Critter Country. 

While I am always happy to entertain and design non-fiction concepts for parks, in this case parameters C & D pretty much assured this Gate would have heavy fiction/franchise presence, much as DisneySea is Disneyland in another guise.  

As we also discussed thoroughly, this park was designed “components up” versus “central theme down”.  I’ve done both ways many times, and they can both work well (quality comes down to execution in the end).   In this case, the park satisfies all the parameters, but the unusual choice for central icon, the Alien Beanstalk, has led to a unique and satisfying concept park.

The park is still without name, so feel free to continue to suggest.  The beanstalk is more of a background linkage among lands, so I don’t think it needs to be named after it.  There are the more catch-all names like “Heroes Realm/Kingdom of Heroes” or “World of Legends”, “Explorers”, “Wonders”, etc., or there could be a fictional name invented for the park. 

We’ll walk through the park and see what springs to mind.

PHASEOLUS GARDENS: The sights, smells and sounds of this area begin on the landscaped overpass that crosses from the DLR Plaza.  From the entry plaza to the central icon, the park is somewhat analogous to DAK; eschewing the urban, commercial entries of Main Street and Buena Vista Street for a much more exotic, nature-based one.   The only architecture of this area (holding all the required park entry facilities like Guest Services, Park-wide Game maps, bathrooms, sundries, strollers, etc.) are a series of unusual dilapidated stone ruins (with a henge-like feature covering the turnstiles).  The ruins are not of any known Earth civilization, although they look like they could be.  Covering these buildings are carved tableaux with mysterious hieroglyphs that depict, to the keen eye, the legends and adventures that await within the park.  Here’s a quick sketch to give you an idea of what I am envisioning here.

Inside the gate, guests enter a lush oasis of unusual plant and animal life.   In the distance is the Alien Beanstalk, purplish and green, pulsating, glowing at night.   Its tendrils coil skyward, shrinking as they rise.  The massive roots arc over paths and disappear back into the ground.  A water-like, fluorescent liquid pours in a stream from the beanstalk and fills a lagoon.  Around the Beanstalk are exploration paths, including a cavern to venture inside it.  Clues and interactive features (part of the  park-wide game) are found among these paths. 

…To be continued...

ENCHANTED FOREST:  The idea of making this land themed to the seasons was an excellent one.  Passing into the woods and over a stone bridge, one first comes upon a cottage, surrounded by Spring flowers, that houses a display indicating the Beanstalk tale from this land’s perspective.  I was originally thinking the Gummi-Glen Quick Cars would be an indoor attraction housed in a large show-building.  But as the plan developed, I saw that this Forest area needed a heavy dose of Forest (also serving as a visual berm), so I made it a larger cousin of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: indoor-outdoor attraction with terrain following track around a “grass”-topped hillock. 

Most of the land I drafted can be described by contributors:

“[Enchanted Forest] is themed to the changing seasons so the scenery would change with it (as indicated by the colour change and trees).   [At the entrance] there would be a small display from Mickey and the Beanstalk, implying that magic beans created the alien beanstalk (since every land seems to imply the beanstalk’s origin differently).  As a bonus, Willie the Giant would be watching from behind the trees.

SPRING Gummi Glen is set in the spring section and is a dark ride of some sort – still trying to figure out whether it would be a kiddie’s coaster or not using the show’s hawk quick cars for an underground adventure. The tree would be quite large, and a canopy of trees could be used to hide the ride building. 

SUMMER is based around the Tangled dark ride, indicated by the tower. Guests would enter through the tower’s bottom, then into a hall which goes out of the tower to the show building (but keeping the illusion it is still in the tower), which is hidden behind the big cliff backdrop behind the tower. Next to the attraction on the right is the Snuggly Duckling restaurant. 

AUTUMN The autumn section would be dedicated to Pooh and friends, and has two rides – Pooh’s Hunny Hunt located through a huge storybook, and a spinner ride called Blustery Buzz and is themed to spinning honey pots and bees caught in a strong gust of wind.  The shop in the area is Pooh’s Corner.  The middle area of the autumn section would likely have more trees and the homes of Pooh’s friends which would have sight gags and jokes.  For example, Pooh’s house would be there, and if you knock on the door, you hear Pooh inside saying no one is in because he is eating honey at the moment. Owl’s House, where an animatronic Owl interacts with guests, sleeping in his rocking chair until someone rings a doorbell, waking him up, and he regales them with stories of his wacky relatives. Similar to Mr. Potato Head at DCA.

WINTER The entrance features Narnia’s iconic lamppost from the first book… the rest of the landscape would have a snowy feature to it. The Enchanted Snow Palace is a boat ride [potentially melding elements of Narnia, Frozen and the never-built Marc Davis attraction].   Glacial Gazebo is a meet and greet location.”


“in the center I would place a small house of the 4 seasons with clocks and astrocalender things on it.”

...To be continued...

SHADOWLAND:  Continuing the description via contributor comments:

FORBIDDEN FOREST: The transition into this villains area comes off of The Hundred Acre Wood, where the charming and bright woods of the Pooh area turn dark and become a forest of ominous dead trees and thorns. Here we have those spooky trees from Snow White and Wizard of Oz, and the trees are built so they form a kind of tunnel with their branches. There are spooky sounds and those little green eyes blinking in the darkness here…so that little kids playing in the Hundred Acre Woods know not to go into "the dark part of the forest. 

 Nockturn Alley at Universal in Orlando is an influence on the whole Shadowlands area, where efforts are made to use the trees and mountain and buildings to create areas where it is always dark and spooky, which would be a first for a Disney park. The trees are great at blocking sight lines so that when inside Shadowlands it is a world of shadow that makes you feel like you have stumbled into this shadowy, spooky place unlike anything in a Disney park. 

VILLAIN VILLAGE: As guests continue on a path curving to the left of the mountain, they leave the Forbidden Forest and they enter the villain-dominated town.  Shadowlands has a lot of echoes of other areas of Disney parks, only here the bad guys rule. So all the businesses in the Village are run by the various villains.  Kind of like on the show Once Upon a Time, where the storybook characters have day jobs in StoryBrooke.  I think here in Sleepy Hollow there could be a meeting hall or theater like the Golden Horseshoe where the villains could have a stage show/revue. Perhaps this could be hosted by Cruella de Vil and/or Dr. Facilier. 

The main ride of Village area would be an Ichabod Crane/Headless Horseman ride. I like this as an echo of Mr. Toad's at Disneyland (because Mr. Toad/Ichabod shared a cartoon movie together). This ride uses the mystic manor technology and has guests moving through the creepy forest and trying to get away from the Horseman. This ride is a nice transition from the Forbidden Forest area into Villain Village], since it incorporates a forest element. 

The Village is where lots of villains merchandise can be exclusively found… shops selling unique things.  A Cruella De Vil shop that actually made by hand really interesting costumes. They could sell these online too and take orders but the shop would be based here. I know this is a radical idea, but cosplay is big business.  The shop could be a kind of attraction to watch the seamstresses and tailors at work creating this stuff.   This Third Gate would be designed in a way where the cosplay is part of the park's culture…and Disney would make that known to guests that unlike at DCA or Disneyland, guests could cosplay in here and dress as a theme of the different areas. So you could dress up as your favorite area and spend time there in the themed environment and basically play Halloween every day in the themed environments. 

The Village would have all kinds of in-jokes and references to all the various villains from Disney movies. You see they have all moved here after being defeated. Just like Diagon Alley, there are references to lots of things and signs for their businesses and it makes sense to have random appearances by all of these obscure characters.  Every day, there would be appearances here by at least one character never seen anywhere else, like they are living in this little town in exile.
The villains have a support group for one another here. They are nursing their wounds and trying to get back on their feet to try again against the heroes of the Disney parks. 
HALLOWEENTOWN: HalloweenTown is accessed through a big tree with a giant door with a pumpkin on it. HalloweenTown itself is the queue for the Nightmare Before Christmas (NBC) ride. It's all inside a cavernous building so it is dark in there. It's the HalloweenTown as seen in the NBC movie. There is that distinctive fountain and all the crazy buildings and animatronics of the different creatures from the movie here and there, having just finished Halloween. When you go through this queue, you are walking down the streets of HalloweenTown…and then you come to City Hall behind the fountain…and that is the entrance to the ride. And then it's a NBC ride so that Disney stops overlaying Haunted Mansion every year and has a permanent NBC ride. The ride itself is a NexGen Peter Pan's Flight. You are riding on the sleigh pulled by Zero…and the projection technology makes Zero the ghost dog appear in front of you, pulling the skeleton reindeer. You float along above HalloweenTown and other places following Jack Skellington as he tries to takeover Christmas. The ride's gift shop is a NBC shop that sells exclusive items and also Halloween ornaments for "Halloween Trees" like Ray Bradbury wanted and they do at Disneyland as a tradition.

 CHERNABOG MOUNTAIN: The [enormous backdrop] mountain is topped with a [perspective miniature] of Maleficent's Forbidden Fortress, echoing Sleeping Beauty's castle and announcing this area as the corner of the Disney Universe where the villains go when they are defeated.  Also built in perspective miniature on the mountain heights is Captain Hook’s pirate ship, wrecked like it had been flying and crashed into the side of the mountain.

Under Chernabog [reached by passing through ruined gates and into a cavern] is an internal dark lagoon, Sirens Cove, with haunted singing in the area.   Here is found a signature E-tick ride, The Gathering. This large and impressive experience, a full-on E-ticket waterflume ride (PotC), features the Evil sorcerer Yensid, who, in an attempt to rule the universe, draws on an army of infamous villains to aid him in corrupting the Beanstalk to spread darkness to and from other worlds.  


The Maleficent coaster, with queue also housed inside the Mountain, is one of two experiments in this park with bringing a "thrill park-style" coaster to a heavily-themed Disney environment.  With major maneuvers like Cobra Rolls, Corkscrews and Immelmann Loops it doesn't seem fully possible to imbed everything in rockwork, so here the coaster track itself could be themed to the chaotic, twisting mass of giant thorn vines below the Evil Queen's castle and set in a sunken morass and surrounded by rockwork ridges.

..To be continued...


GREECE: Mythos has three sub-areas, and the Grecian area has a light side and a darker one.  The darker side is the one bordering Shadowland, with an interactive Maze of the Minotaur, a Cerberus spinner ("in which Hades’ three-headed dog grabs hold of the passengers and spins them around") and Temple of Hades.  The lighter side is an ancient Aegean port with a lighthouse, explorable Argo, and swinging Trireme.  The major ride in this area is a cousin to TDS' original Sinbad’s Seven Voyages… this time passing through the various Labors of Hercules brought to life in stylized, storybook fashion via dozens of highly-articulated mini-AAs.  A reproduction of an Athenian theater hosts live productions.  The Agora is a greek marketplace filled with various unique food and merch vendors.

Contributor Input:
“The separator between the Greek and Roman area is a large Archimedes Screw which rests near the end of the water. This screw pulls water out of the lake and into a characteristic Roman Aqueduct, which runs to the Roman Hotel where it is used as a water feature at the pool.”

ROME: The Roman area is dominated by the Hotel Imperator.  This hotel is very different from something like Caesar’s Palace Vegas, which dresses modern 20+ story hotel buildings in kitschy pediments.  Instead, the approach here is like Tokyo Mira Costa: attempt to replicate the scale and feel of a romanticized Ancient Rome, via authentic detailing, staying relatively low-rise (5-8 stories), using setbacks and the appearance of a contingent of smaller buildings:

Hopefully, you can tell from the plan that Rome is built on two pedestrian levels.   On the lower, waterfront area there is a new type of flatride (a 21st century, super-sized version of The Whip) styled after the Circus Maximus.   I imagined the Cosplay shop described in Shadowland could be applied in other areas as well (here, there could be gladiator gear or togas).  The Pantheon is a mixed-media (circlevision?) theater telling varied stories (i.e., slot-machine-style, like Star Tours) of the Classical World, its history and mythology.

ATLANTIS: This area is not themed to the Disney animated film, but features original Art Direction and stories.  The Sinking City section near the E-ticket ride features the Catastrophe Canyon-like effect described below:
“Atlantis will be the most technologically challenging area to develop. It consists of two sections, one above ground and one below the lagoon. The area above ground rests on enormous shaker tables and approximately every 30 min the ground rumbles and causes buildings to “collapse.” During these shows, water will flow from the top of the mountain range into predetermined flood zones and statues, spires and other objects will “break” (built on hinges and retract after a few min).”

Adjacent to and within the Volcano is an explorable Atlantean Palace, Aquarium tunnel access and the undersea-viewing restaurant (imagine IoA's Mythos underwater) .  An overpass bridge leads to the Superhero land, and a path through the center of the volcano leads to Discovery Outpost.

The multi-level paths (and many hotel rooms) also serve as viewing areas for the nighttime lagoon spectacular which uses the Volcano and Palace as a backdrop.

“Atop the Mountain is a Tesla Coil used to cast lightning as Zeus/Jupiter would and as a special effect during the nighttime show.”  

Legend of Mythica, recently retired from TDS, would seem an ideal daytime show for this lagoon, although I didn’t include the necessary boat storage/maintenance area in this plan.


...To be continued...

SUPERBASE: I originally considered a San Fransokyo-inspired SuperCity environment (with urban blocks) for this area, but ended up doing something that is closer to a SuperHeroes’ secret base/settlement on the edge of an exotic wilderness.  The showbuildings/facades block the freeway on the built-up side and the Volcano/Jungle/Beanstalk form the interior “edge of the wild”.

Near the Beanstalk there is a small expeditionary camp set up by SHIELD to investigate the Beanstalk.  The land’s anchor E-ticket attraction here is based on The Avengers (what that indoor, multi-level ride could be, I’ll leave to your imaginations).  Its weenie would be a scaled-down 'techitecture' glass & steel tower.  Assuming the movie is a homerun, I put in space for a family ride based on Big Hero 6.   The Incredibles family ride glides along an elevated track into the jungle and up and through the Volcano.  There was an idea of using tech similar to that on the Nemo Subs at Disneyland (projecting events onto the glass windows that look like they are happening in the jungle or lava pools outside the Pods.
The land’s Cosplay vendor could sell/rent customized superhero costumes.

The final attraction is a Stark/IronMan Labs, which holds a number of small scale ride/attraction experiences indoors.  As contributed, these include:

"Iron Man Gauntlet Testing:  There are several partitioned stations. When you walk to your cubicle you are looking through a piece of Plexiglas into a room. This looks like one of those stations that people in the biohazard lab use to handle objects.  You slide your hands into a pair of Iron Man's gauntlets. Though invisible, you are seeing the room through Mylar Foul that allows the Pepper's Ghost effect to create the illusion that it then becomes sort of a magic shooting gallery. Depending on what you hit all sorts of things happen in the room on the other side of the plexiglass.

The Hulk: Recreates the ability to jump like Hulk.

Iron Man Boot Experience: A person would lay back and be strapped in. They would place their feet into IronMan boots. They would be shot up the long diagonal tube and then slide back down breaking at the bottom.

The Marvel Carousel (Multilevel): All of the ride units face the center of the ring. There are two rings. The inner one doesn't simulate as many Gs. The outer one travels fast enough to be a mildly thrilling. Riders can travel up and down the pole as well as tilt side to side, forward and back a bit.”

...To be continued...

STARPORT: I enjoyed reading this backstory for this area because it didn’t replicate things we’ve already seen on film, but created a new world that fit within the cinematic universes:

“BACKSTORY: Not long ago, a Jedi whose spaceship had been badly damaged by imperial fire crash-landed on this mysterious, unknown planet.  The terrain was hot and dry and rocky and seemingly devoid of life, making the Jedi fear for her survival.  Just as she was about to give up hope, she came across a towering beanstalk. It seemed too good to be true - no more than a desert mirage.  She reached out to grab it, and, finally convinced it was real, fell to the ground with tears of joy.

While the Jedi worked to repair her spaceship, the beanstalk sustained her with shelter, kindling, and food. But still she had a problem: no fuel. Until one evening, when an ember from her campfire blew onto a distant root of the beanstalk, which burst into flames like a drum of gasoline.  The Jedi couldn’t believe her luck: the roots of the beanstalk contained an ethanol-like fuel, which could power her spaceship.  Refueled and refreshed, she flew off to tell the Jedi council about this new planet.

Word spread quickly, and settlers from all over the galaxy traveled here seeking their fortunes.  A boomtown arose, complete with a starport, agricultural research center, and luxury hotel.  Since the planet was devoid of traditional building materials, most of the settlers built makeshift shelters, replicating the architecture of their home worlds with materials from their spacecraft.  After all, what use was a spaceship when they didn’t intend to leave?  At least not until they’d domesticated the beanstalk.

The settlers planted cuttings from the beanstalk all around the planet.  It didn’t grow everywhere, but where it did, it took off like kudzu.  None of the child beanstalks grew as tall as their mother, but they provided more than enough food and fuel for the settlers’ use and for trade.  Even better, they enriched the soil, allowing plants from almost any other planet to thrive on the formerly harsh terrain.  Still, the settlers continue to dream, hoping that one day they’ll learn the beanstalk’s secrets and grow a forest of plants as tall as the original.

THE FIELDS: The southern part of StarPort - the part nearest the Alien Beanstalk - consists of beanstalk fields tended by both droids and human scientists. Lacking the museums, theaters, and other recreational options available in an established city, the settlers have made the fields do double duty as a combination of working farm and pleasure garden.

The fields are also home to a research station where scientists are developing new rockets designed to run on beanstalk fuel and traverse the still-harsh terrain of the Planet.  Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord) has been chosen to test-pilot the new rocket and, despite the rules against it, invites us to join him. This [transforming] coaster (E ticket) blasts through both the fields and the neighboring Xandar settlement, with a rockin’ ’70s and ’80s soundtrack provided by the Star-Lord himself.

THE TERMINAL: At the north end sits a massive transit terminal. With a growing population and acres of farmland to protect, StarPort is constantly in need of more runways and more pilots.  With its abundant fuel supplies, StarPort has become a popular stop for teamsters who pilot supply ships across the galaxy.  Part of the StarPort caters specifically to these travelers, with an “intergalactic truck stop” feel.  Visitors can fuel up, pick out souvenirs at the truck stop shop, and even grab some grub at the Starlite Diner. Next to the diner is a rough-and-tumble bar with sultry alien chanteuses.

The terminal contains several attractions:
 Pilots’ Academy (D ticket), a bay of Sum of All Thrills-style simulators where guests can learn what it’s like to pilot various vehicles from the Star Wars universe [from X-Wings to AT-ATs].”

Undetermined Star Wars Ride (E ticket): In this area would also be the land’s anchoring new E-ticket, with a distinct architectural tower/feature marking its entrance.   With so many of the Star Wars attractions (including DL’s Star Tours) already dealing with battles in space, I think this experience should take a different tack.

Another contributor adds:
Star Wars Saga Theater (D ticket): “Audience chairs swivel. LED stars embedded in walls of theater. There is a proscenium in front and back of theater.  Star Destroyer enters over audience creates opening scene to Ep 4. Memorable fights acted out on stage, possibly far back enough to use the Mylar film tech, live actors or both. Scaled down replicas of Xwing (front stage) and TIE fighter (back stage) enter and laser fight ensues. Ceiling is giant LCD screen. Ships "fly" using crane and Kuka and projections are on screen on back of stage for speed effects, spx and backgrounds. Rockettes Dancing.  A cylinder drops from ceiling into middle of auditorium (thus the swivel chairs) and inside is a "hologram" of the Emperor.”

I thought a restaurant based on a Droid Factory filled with famous and not-so-famous AA robots and (with automated service (few humans)) would be a cool themed dining experience for this area.

StarShuttle (C ticket), this is a sleek train to Tomorrowland appears to have windows from the outside, but from within follows the model set by the Hogwarts Express.  The land has lots of kinetic movement, with elevated tracks for the GotG Coaster, the DL Monorail and the StarShuttle criss-crossing above pedestrians’ heads.

“THE GALACTIC EMBASSY HOTEL:  Built to serve business travelers and diplomats from across the galaxy and to boost StarPort’s reputation, the Galactic Embassy Hotel is the height of luxury. The central lobby features a planetarium-style dome. It’s perpetually night here, just like at the Blue Bayou, and you can always see the stars. Perhaps there are spacecraft hanging from the ceiling (as at the Air and Space Museum) and Star Wars memorabilia in display cases.” 

Another contributor adds:

“I think it would be awesome to have large digital picture frames in your room that do a slide show of photos from your day taken by Photopass; for the room to feature two televisions. One for the kids with wireless headphones and one tv for the adults.  Futuristic toilets that many hotels in Japan have.  The tv, lights, bath, a/c to be voice-operated.  Your room's voice butler could be the character voice of your choice.   The windows use liquid crystals to become opaque.  LED's along the crown molding and baseboards so that you can control the colors of the walls.  The ceiling and railings of the lobby to be outfitted with fiber optics so that at night, light levels are lowered and the whole place looks like a star field.”

Here’s an additional proposal for a more rural area of the StarPort.  There wasn’t the room to include this (save the small, storytellers stage), but I liked the idea:

“THE SETTLEMENTS: A sprawling cluster of ramshackle homes and businesses fills the eastern parts of the StarPort, bordering the Galactic Embassy Hotel and Superheroes Land. Settlers from the same planet tend to congregate in the same area, giving rise to neighborhoods like Tatooinetown and Little Naboo. Wandering through the alleys of the settlements, you’ll artifacts from all over the Star Wars universe and meet some of your favorite characters.  At the center of the settlements is an open-air market where vendors hawk their wares. The market also contains The Theater (C ticket), a tented performance space hastily constructed from spare spaceship parts to satisfy the settlers’ demand for entertainment. Here, human actors and droids re-enact beloved sci-fi stories using only the materials at hand, in a style similar to Fantasy Faire in Disneyland.  If needed, the settlements could also house a couple midway-style B tickets built in a similar style to the Theater.  The settlement bordering Superhero Land is Little Xandar. It provides a backdrop for the coaster ride as well as a transition to the Marvel Universe.”

 ...To be concluded...

DISCOVERY OUTPOST:  This is a late 19th-, early 20th-century, secret steampunk research outpost at the base of a giant, active volcano.  The S.E.A. Observatory is an exploratory attraction (with light dining), filled with numerous SFX-filled science rooms: a machine-age cousin to Fortress Explorations.  Capt. Nemo's large dry-for-wet submarine dark ride takes riders on a lengthy “undersea” voyage filled with wonders and dangers, with a glimpse of the submerged ruins of neighboring Atlantis.  Subtle nods to the Beanstalk mythology would exist in both of these attractions.

Entering through very large iron “blast doors”, the tunnels and chambers bored within the Volcano (TDR) provide access to dining & retail options and transition to the Lost Realm of Atlantis.  A vertical attraction (steampunk-themed junior spaceshot) within the volcano would take advantage of the structure’s height.
I’ll conclude this exercise with a triptych sketch of three of the park’s weenies:


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shanghai V

Having already drawn four guess-work Illustratives for the Shanghai DL park, I told myself I would hold off on drawing a fifth until it became very clear what the park would actually be like.   While a great many details have (frustratingly) yet to come into public view, enough material has become available in the interim (content roster, artwork, blurry/small site plans, satellite photos, etc.) for me to draw another plan.  This one should provide a fairly accurate idea of what the park will entail, but I also filled up most of the park’s expansion pads and changed one of the ‘early-expansion’ lands (from ToyStoryLand to StarWarsLand).   So this is an Ideal Build-Out version which encompasses the opening-day roster*.  

So let’s take a look at what we know and some lingering mysteries surrounding one of the world’s biggest and most exciting theme park projects since Tokyo DisneySea.

*excluding Toy Story Land



DISNEYTOWN: While no renderings of this area have been released, it is a safe bet it will be composed of ‘Entertainment/Branded Architecture’ (e.g., Anaheim DTD) versus ‘Time & Place/Themed Architecture’ (e.g., Main Street, U.S.A.).  There will be a major theater hosting Broadway-caliber shows, beginning with “The Lion King.”  The theme park looks to be accessible through this area.

MICKEY AVENUE: Glimpses of this area have been seen via artwork and those glimpses are very interesting: an eclectic mix of facades that seem to have some basis on Disney film history.  A Club 33 may be housed in the corner Carthay Circle façade.  There appears to be a French boulangerie based on “Ratatouille.”   There might be a faux train station cover just north of the Mickey Floral entry ramp (not shown here).


GARDENS OF IMAGINATION: This is by far the least unknown area of the park as numerous press pieces have been released about it.  My assumption is ‘Garden of the Twelve Friends’ is a sub-area of the land (as there will be Dumbo and Fantasia sub-areas).  One the early expansion pads (due east of the center) is filled on the blurry official site plan with a large structure, likely a dining facility. 

ADVENTURE ISLE: This is an area for which I am really keen to see some artwork.  Roaring Rapids forms the mountainous backdrop and has an indoor portion.  The peak of this attraction will be the second highest point in the opening-day park, after the castle spire (although my Build-Out adds a few taller expansion attractions).    Nestled within the Rapids attraction is the Challenge Trail exploratory area.  Two big mysteries of Adventure Isle: First, there is a large structure on the far east of the land.  I am going to guess this is a theatrical venue due its big, covered queue adjacent to the building.    Filling one of the first expansion pads, between the Rapids and above mentioned theater, is the new version of Soarin’.   Another mystery is whether the land will be set in the past, like traditional Adventurelands, or in the present (i.e., “Tomb Raider” or “Uncharted”).   The latter would make Soarin’ much easier to integrate.

TREASURE COVE: The park’s signature attraction boasts maybe the longest name ever given to a theme park ride.  Interestingly, the land’s stunt show looks to be indoors.   Guest-powered canoes (a personal favorite) will circle the azure waters of the park’s largest lagoon.   On the blurry site plan, both the EastSide and WestSide performance venues take up early epansion pads.  It is possible these will be inexpensive ‘temporary’ venues like AK’s Dino Jubilee or EPCOT’s Millennium Pavilion or HK's Haunted Hotel - added to beef-up the opening day roster. 

CELESTIAL REALM: Continuing counter-clockwise, I imagined the park’s largest expansion area being filled by a non-Disney, non-Franchise area dedicated to Chinese history/mythology (as the other parks have their areas dedicated to American history).  To uitilize this area most effectively, I re-routed the parade egress loop, which on opening day will run parallel to the rear of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  The icon of this area is an original, Everest-scale outdoor coaster (Jade Mountain), which, when viewed from the castle, would form a nice layering affect, rising to a jagged peak beyond the foothills of the SDMT.

FANTASYLAND: I’m hoping and expecting Fantasyland will be like the MK’s Fantasy Forest in style.  One of the big mysteries on my previous version of this park has been solved:  The large building in the northwest corner is a theater (proscenium construction visible from Google Earth), likely showing a musical medley.  I filled up the due-North expansion pad with a Haunted Castle dark ride (the park’s non-IP haunted mansion or dedicated to Disney Villains?).  

STAR WARS OUTPOST: The blurry site plan showed this area to be a Toy Story Playland (with a somewhat-altered content).  Since then Lucasfilm has been acquired, so I thought why not change this to a Star Wars area, which would transition nicely from Tomorrowland (and employ a lot of trees to block it from Fantasyland).   The centerpiece of the land could be a nex-gen X-Wing/TIE Fighter spinner on a rising arm (inspired by Favilli Studios’ Dubai Disneyland).   The area would be surrounded by lush plantings (not Tatooine), so the Galactic Cantina is in the same vein as the Mos Eisley one, but not a replica.  There would be a small amphitheater for the Jedi Academy show and a major Space Adventure E-ticket anchoring the land.

TOMORROWLAND:   The properties here are mostly character-based (Tron, Stitch, Buzz Lightyear), but the architecture appears to be Gehry-Calatrava, with unusual features like aerial planters.   It will be interesting to see how it all meshes.  Since the Lightcycle showbuilding and wavy, glass curtain (the ‘Tron Cover’ covering the outdoor coaster segment) are both quite tall, and because it is distant from all the other themed areas of the park, I thought the land’s expansion pad might be a good place for a new, billowing Gehry-esque free-fall tower attraction, with an original story to balance the character-heavy area.   Another mystery of this area are the circular pools near the parade route - will they do anything (futuristic geysers?)?  

-There looks to be a very heavy emphasis on live theater at this park, with three major indoor venues, and possibly 4 or more outdoor ones, plus the Broadway-level auditorium in DisneyTown.
-The park has more of a Multi-Loop layout vesus the traditional Hub-Spoke associated with all the other castle parks (especially the way I have used the expansion pads).
-The park should feel much bigger than tiny, opening-day HKDL, although when HKDL gets fully built-out, they will be in a similar league, with Shanghai still being the big sister.  If the roster is accuate (excluding my expansion additions), SDL on opening will have equal or more attractions than 2016 HKDL (with Iron Man), so it should feel like a full experience.

Hopefully, the coming months will see a lot more models, plans and artwork surface for this park.  At the very least, The Bund Preview Center is supposed to open in early 2015.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

3D Modeling

I was flattered to be contacted by designer Raoul van Kammen (website) who took it upon himself to digitally model the Leonardo's Workshop attraction for DisneySea that I had drawn and posted here a few months ago:

And here is the progression of Raoul's stellar modeling work:

I think he brilliantly captured what I was trying to communicate for this environment.  Thanks, Raoul!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scenic Plan - Daark Valley Orphanage

UPDATE: Video at end has new scene added.

Professional illustrator Kevin Karstens has pulled off a pretty remarkable piece of ‘home-imagineering.’  Inspired by the Haunted Mansion, Kevin created an attraction called Daark Valley Orphanage – a creepier, more horror-oriented, FX-based omnimover. 

He came up with an elaborate backstory, a scene run-down and illustrated storyboards for the ride.  Then he built physical models of each scene, put together an audio soundtrack/narration and filmed a ride-through with a mini camera, complete with working special effects!  How he accomplished all of this can be seen in detail on his site.

When I came across this project, I contacted Kevin to see if he wanted to collab on a schematic for the ride, specifically an illustrative scenic ride layout.  He did, and what follows is my interpretation of the attraction:

And here is a scene-by-scene description, paraphrasing Kevin’s much more detailed synopsis.

QUEUE 0: COURTYARD: Exterior of the attraction is the once grand, now abandoned Victorian Orphanage, weeds choking the fountain, gate falling off its hinges, old gazebo.

QUEUE 1: PATH DOWN TO CELLAR: I imagined the path winding down past the rockwork cliff towards the cellar entrance.

QUEUE 2: EXHIBITS & ARTIFACTS:  In the dank cellar, the fictional TV show ‘Spectre Seekers’ has put together some exhibits and original artifacts from the tragic history of Daark Valley.

PRE-SHOW 1: SCREENING ROOM:  Here the full history of the Oprhanage (
discussing murderous Headmistress Sally) is set up, as is the Spectre Seekers TV tour.

PRE-SHOW 2: SERVICE ELEVATORS:  Moving through narrow, cave-like cellar passage, visitors will board old elevators for a disquieting FX journey up to the main level.

SCENE 0: LOADING: Straightforward.

SCENE 1: DARK WELCOME: Pitch black; intro narration; walkie-talkie chatter from TV crew.

SCENE 2: PARANORMAL PORTRAIT: Hall with grand portrait of Miss Sally… shadow hands stretch up from the darkness below as the portrait changes into a demonic face, howling in rage.

SCENE 3: SHADOW PEOPLE: An impossibly endless corridor... within the shadows on the floor and walls, figures rise and fall, their red eyes staring out at the living... whispers and mumbling can be heard...

SCENE 4: HAUNTED HALLWAY: Lightning flashes at the opposite end... along the sides of this hall, small hands can be seen attempting to 'push out' through the walls...they grow out a ways, but then retreat, defeated, as the cart slides along its path... visitors swerve to face the bay windows, long free of glass panes, their shredded curtains rippling inward from the wind of the storm outside...

SCENE 5: ATTACKING APPARITION: A long deserted hall which offers a turn to the left about 20 feet ahead... far off down the corridor a ghastly phantasm appears, roaring down the passage, arms outstretched, its shredded petticoat flapping in the breeze... the cart swerves into the opening, the ghost vanishes, cheated of its prize:

SCENE 6: VALLEY OF DESPAIR:  Three bay windows provide a view outside... visible is a seemingly 'bottomless' mist-filled valley next to the Orphanage... streaming ghost orphans can be seen flowing endlessly up out of the valley into the night sky, as lightning flashes and bolts illuminate the heavy clouds hanging over the valley.

SCENE 7: FORGOTTEN NURSERY: The cart rounds the corner, out of the blackness, and visitors have a clear view of the highly-haunted Nursery come to life.  Dirty, dusty old toys are scattered about, three rusted beds are lined up under the windows.  Situated on the floor in the center of the room, two transparent orphans roll a physically-real ball back and forth between them.

 The bed on the far right shows two alternating 'depressions' that rise and fall, as if two orphans are bouncing up and down on the bed...which they are, to an extent...

Bloody hand prints appear on one wall, letters spell out 'HELP US'...a framed painting, directly above these manifestations, changes randomly from a cherubic-faced Humpty Dumpty to a spiked-toothed nightmare.

SCENE 8: SOULTAKER SALLY:  Rounding the corner, visitors can see an open doorway (on the door, 'MISS SALLY MAPLE - ORPHANAGE HEAD MISTRESS' is visible)… lightning flashes and thunder bellows, as we see a Team Member gasping and his body lurching upward... the ghastly spectre (the same torso ghoul previously seen in the hallway, but now more clearly defined) of Sally Maple flickers into existence above him, seeming to 'pull' his body up...

SCENE 9: THE BONEYARD: Broken French doors lead onto an outdoor landing, where the heavily clouded night sky gives birth to a raging thunderstorm.  The cart moves along the landing, where we can see the former playground down below.   A rusted 'merry go round' sits broken, but this doesn't prevent the ghost orphans from endlessly revolving around in the air, slightly above the shattered device, as they chant a musical nursery rhyme...

Further along we see a battered swing set, a teeter totter and a sandbox...the swings rock back and forth endlessly, devoid of any visible riders, as the teeter totter moves up and down... a hopscotch game takes place…

SCENE 10: DOORWAY TO HELL: As they re-enter the orphanage, visitors find another TV Team Member slumped over a pile of debris on the floor... the wall behind him cracks and breaks apart... a swirling green blue VORTEX can be seen, as pictures on the wall start to 'swing in' towards the rift, and hanging lights are pulled in that direction, flickering, then going out...  The fallen Team Member's head rises to stare out at the passing visitors, his eyes turn RED, and his jaw unhinges to emit an angry, evil roar… The cart seems stalled, unable to resist the power of the portal... To make matters worse, the ghastly visage of Miss Maple emerges from the vortex, and she speaks for the first time, her attention now on the trespassing visitors...

She cackles a mad laugh, triumphant in her victory...Until multiple small, blue orbs burst forth from the walls surrounding the edges of the scene, swooping towards the evil Mistress.  The lights swirl around as we hear orphans' laughter.  They then converge on the ghost of the old spinster, as she is dragged wailing into the vortex... with a shudder, the cart is free!

[SWW: Since this scene required the cart to feel as if it were stuck or getting drawn in (tilt forward) - and have an important, somewhat lengthy SFX sequence unfold directly before the rider, I put in a carousel system (akin to something like those used on Imagination, Horizons or Harry Potter), where multiple, identical FX sets/screens rotate in sync with each individual cart, giving the illusion of no longer moving.  In retrospect, I think it would be much easier to accomplish this with the rotating set on the interior, rather than on the exterior (as shown) of the ride path, but I hope the idea gets across.]

SCENE 11: TV LOUNGE: Epilogue… An old television, sitting on a broken table, claims the Orphanage is safe for tourists... We know better.


POST 1: RETAIL:  At ground level (pre-show screening room shown below).

And for the grand finale, here is Kevin’s video ride-through (work-in-progress, shows through Scene 8) of the model he built for the attraction: 


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Adventurers Club

When the rendering of “The Hangar” – a facility at the under-construction Disney Springs - was posted on the construction walls a little while ago, I was reminded of the glow that master WDI artist Bryan Jowers gave to many of his paintings, which were often set in exotic times and places.  This got me thinking: what if a retail/dining/entertainment center like The Landing at Disney Springs had a distinctive theme, that of pulp adventure.   One of the buildings on the Springs model caught my attention when I first saw it:

 The four very tall chimneys give the building a distinctive Victorian look and my mind immediately went to what was once adjacent to this site: The Adventurers Club – the crown jewel of Pleasure Island and one of the coolest entertainment venues ever built at WDW (or anywhere else), filled with incredible theme-ing, details, special effects and populated by an eccentric cast of characters.   For some good information on this lost gem, check out articles on themerica and allears

This Four-Chimney Building looked to me like a good placeholder for a new Adventurers Club Headquarters, so I set about creating the piece of media below.  I saved myself a lot of time by painting over the official Mystic Manor portrait (I think it was by Chris Turner) to show a view of what I imagined as the dilapidated Clubhouse.  Then I painted in one of the Club Members (I believe it was ichthyologist Otis Wren who wore the white suit and red fez) surveying the Club’s new acquisition, along with a telegram.  

This has been my contribution to the cause of resurrecting the Adventurers Club.