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 fa├žade 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.