Monday, March 24, 2014

Elevation and Colorboard

Tokyo DisneySea's Mediterranean Harbor has several sub-sections based on Italian geography.  Closest to American Waterfront are the Canals based on Venice.   In the center, where one enters the park, is Porto Paradiso, based on Portofinio Harbor and the Riviera.  The other sub-section is based on the hill towns of Tuscany.  For a top-quality photo tour of this area - and all areas - of DisneySea, I recommend sets by JeffFromHouston on Flickr:

Samples here and here.

Part of the genius of TDS' design and master plan is that it is a theme park with a layout in three dimensions.   I am reminded of the line from 'Contact': "An alien intelligence is going to be more advanced. That means efficiency functioning on multiple levels and in multiple dimensions."  There are a number of theme parks with great master plans, but DisneySea is the only one I know of that really takes advantage of (or did so by necessity) the vertical aspect.   Stairs lead you down to boat rides below you, pathways take you, unknowingly, up over the roofs of restaurants and ride buildings, walkthrough attractions traverse three levels, and there are always alternative staircases or ramps up or down to other passages or pathways.   I don't know who or how many deserve the credit (WDI master architects Ahmad Jafari or Wing Chao?  Anyone know?), but I stand in awe of it. 

For this piece, I imagined a unique family darkride on two levels taking up part of the area used for boat/float storage: Leonardo's Workshop (a distant cousin to Mystic Manor?).  The idea is you approach an extravagant but dilapidated Renaissance structure: part 15th-century factory, part villa, part fortress.  The architecture must meld seemlessly with the surroundings and compliment the park's iconic Fortress Explorations, but also be a weenie in itself for a major attraction.  There should be some whimsy in the building (like the mechanical tower), but also stay true to the realism of the neighboring structures.  So I designed the front facade and created the main approach elevation and colorboard:

The gist of the attraction is tried and true: One queues through the workshop rooms, seeing various machines in the process of being invented, triggering effects, maybe passing through the living quarters and painting studio.  Then there is a pre-show featuring Leonardo, followed by a boarding room (DaVinci-esque ride-vehicles) for an adventure through the secret chambers of the workshop and then out into the Florentine countryside (indoors) for testing.  The ride would include a mild thrill element, but be accessible to all.  Since the footprint is limited it would take place over two major levels (its entrance is already at the upper level).

Maybe I'll post a detailed ride layout at some point. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


Readers of this site are probably familiar with Animatics (i.e., digital models featuring camera fly-throughs) as they apply to theme park design.  One was recently posted by WDI featuring the Dwarf Mine Coaster.   Some time ago, another was released that was a fly-around of the Shanghai castle.   For the scores of parks I’ve shared on this site, the only animatics are of the mind's eye.  

Then I came across the Rio Disneyland Resort Project by Cybertop77, Dr60Productions and WDSX Productions.  They imagined a castle park for Rio.  They built its constituent parts in RCT3 and then created many outstanding virtual musical tours and on-board ride videos.   This is the full, 50-minute tour of all the park’s areas and attractions:

After seeing the above, I thought it would be great fun to work backwards from this “animatic” and create a Conceptual Master Plan for the park.  So I got in touch with the creators, and they provided me with a lot of screencaps with which to plan out the park.   I quickly discovered a project of this scope in RCT3 is created in numerous sub-sections; views of which are then edited together to form a seamless movie of the whole park.  Like a movie, the concern in RCT3 is mainly what the camera/visitor will see.  As a park planner, my concern is not only what the camera sees, but also what it does not: things like show-building requirements, backstage access and sightlines, etc..  

Since each area of Rio Disneyland was modeled individually (e.g. five unique models for different parts of Frontierland), what I’ve drawn is the first and only detailed view of what the park could look like in its entirety:

If you follow the plan and watch the video, you’ll see that while my illustrative is inspired by - and attempts to include everything seen in - the virtual tours, it is not a rigorous, “brick-by-brick” recreation.  In many places, I've altered things for the sake of size requirements, aesthetics, crowd-flow, sightlines, or realism.    Rather than describe each area, many of which are influenced by DLP, I’ll let the illustrative and the videos do most of the talking.  But here are a couple of Designer Notes:

-The guys did some really outstanding On-Board videos.  One of the signature ones is Big Thunder.  I was able to follow this layout pretty closely in the Plan.  The main Frontierland Path would be over a sub-terr show-building housing several cavern segments of the ride (including the first dive out of the Loading Station):

Frontierland then transitions from the Desert Southwest to the virgin forests of Colonial Virginia for the Pochahontas sub-area.

Moving into Adventureland, Tarzan is a major indoor E-ticket.  It is reached by a jungle path leading to a queue cavern that passes under a version of Tarzan’s treehouse (non-accessible) as the ride’s weenie, then below the railroad berm (like IJA) and to the show-building outside the tracks. 

Also in Adventureland (which begins from the Hub with a Port of Entry-inspired retail & dining district) is the Indiana Jones Peril Miner coaster, one of my favorite on-ride vids:

Additional ride videos can be seen by exploring their Youtube page.

Even though the process was reversed (animatics would come after the planning and schematic phases), it’s fun to be able to see a series of imaginary ‘animatics’ for an Ideal Build-out park.  Apparently, the guys are at work on a 2nd Gate for their Rio Resort in RCT3, so stay tuned…