If you know IdealBuildout, you know my mission statement: “The park is the E-ticket.” This happens when everything is rendered at an extremely high-level, and the whole place "clicks" – for lack of a better word. It is when just wandering the park - taking in the details, the visuals, sounds, smells and atmosphere - becomes worth the (high) price of admission. It is an extremely rare quality that only a handful of theme parks have reached over the course of their existences.
While a major portion of this greatness is achieved in the Micro (how the park is operated; merchandising; the myriad of design details, such as materials, lighting, menus and graphics; architectural execution building-by-building, space-by-space; etc.), some of it is comes in the Macro (e.g., attraction program (menu); theme cohesiveness; transitions; sightlines; landscape), and the Macro can be communicated via the Illustrative Plan.
So here is a land-by-land look at some changes that I think would take the MK to a higher level. The plan is not really about adding to the attraction count but making the most of the already-developed space so the park as whole 'clicks' into an E-ticket.
MAIN STREET, U.S.A.
Things visible in the Plan:
- Big shade trees return to the inner rings of the recently-expanded hub and town square. Castle show/fireworks viewing is secondary. A shady, park-like environment for most of the day trumps unobstructed viewing, as does the critical “curtain effect” a tree-filled hub provides.
- The major change is the addition of a turn-of-the-century, glass-roofed arcade with access to shops and attractions. It is an elaborately-themed, climate-controlled bypass to Main St., replacing the lightly-dressed backstage walkway currently in use. Includes gas lamps and an upper level with wrought-iron spiral staircases (like before EPCOT’s Plume et Palette was cut-off from access).
- Being a dreamer, my favorite places in the parks have often been the preview centers/galleries filled with artwork and models of past, future or never-built parks and attractions. Here, a permanent One Man’s Dream-style pavilion would take up residence in the sizable Town Square Expo Hall now used for character greeting. Film, models, previews, art galleries, recreations, etc. can be seen here.
- Return of the Flower Market street (usurped by an expansion of the Emporium).
- Re-curbing the inner hub. Flattening/faking the curbs just looks and feels wrong.
Things not visible in the Plan (which apply to every land):
- As much as practicable, technology must defer to the time-period being presented in each environment. This means no Starbucks digital menu boards, nor any modern pics of food photo-shopped onto any menu, big or small (save possibly Tomorrowland where such tech would exist - although I find the practice of showing photos of food on menus anywhere very off-putting). Exit signs should be done in period style (cases) and fonts. No modern slat-wall shelving for merch – instead use period shelving. Have historic lighting dominate (no track-lighting) so as to take attention away from what modern lighting is necessary.
- Period window displays facing the sidewalks and indoor arcade.
- Rather than be one big, generic Disney Store outlet with many gingerbread facades, Main Street can become a much more atmospheric and transportative themed land. Individual turn-of-the-century shops (e.g., book shop, magic shop, pharmacy, photography, bank, clock, etc.) and small attractions (Penny Arcade, Nickelodeon) with Citizens helping to create a unique, bygone environment. Immerse the visitor in a place romanticized, yet authentic, and very far away from what they experience every day outside the park.
- Sell theme-appropriate merch.
- High-quality, tailored costuming. Broadway/film-level uniforms/costumes cast can be proud to wear.
- Character meeting changes dramatically in this dream version of the park. The new hub viewing gardens will be used for random appearances, interaction and photos.
- Wood and iron park benches added all over the hub and town square.
Things visible in the Plan:
- The welcome addition of the Skipper Canteen is shown.
- I removed the Magic Carpets attraction, and in its place is a small Rapa Nui Garden (which I sketched below) with interactive Easter Island heads and a new Bazaar environment that will give a winding-narrow-streets-overflowing-with-exotic-goods feel akin to the short-lived, but awesome, bazaar that opened with EuroDisneyland. The idea is to show that unique merchandise locations can enhance over-all theme & show (and profits) rather than detract (as most generic/modern shops do).
|Left: Pirate Game by Ray Cadd; Right: Easter Island Garden by me.|
Things not visible in the Plan:
- Above I discussed syncing with setting-appropriate technology (i.e., analog, not digital, wait time indicators in every land but Tomorrowland). Here I'll discuss another improvement that goes for the whole park as well: the elimination of “over-lawyer-eering.” What this means – and I know it's a crazy pipe dream – is if something operated safely from the 1970s through the 1990s, it doesn’t need to be changed in order to avoid litigation today. The PotC queue can go back to being really dark. Building roofs don’t require un-themed, out-of-scale fall protection all over them. Rocks can rumble above Big Thunder's tracks. Pathways don’t need glaring roof-top floodlights thrown on them at night. Curbs aren’t going to kill anybody. Selling wooden toy pirate/cowboy guns is okay. No need for frisking or metal-detecting at entry. Trees are allowed to grow big and overhang walkways and ride paths. Surveillance cameras: make them invisible (miniature), theme-them or do away with them.
- Also changed out would be the Sunglass Hut, which is the antithesis of the unique, interesting, well-themed retail spaces I’m dreaming of here.
FRONTIERLAND & LIBERTY SQUARE
Things not visible in the Plan:
- I don’t think these two lands need any changes to the current site plan. Just re-open facilities that have been shuttered: the Explorer Canoes, Aunt Polly’s and a Western vaudeville show for the Diamond Horseshoe.
- Improvements can be made in areas mentioned already: Making sure the little things are done right (e.g. staying period-appropriate where one can (and did in the past) (i.e., not installing Digital TV menus in the Old West restaurants)). Staying on top of maintenance so Show is always top notch. Keeping the park experience as classy and sophisticated as possible.
- Fantasyland sees the most changes/expansion in the Plan: the key one being the removal of all the flat fiberglass tournament facades in favor of a Storybook Village look similar to that of Paris, Anaheim, and soon-to-be Shanghai.
- Small World is removed. A new Tangled sub-area takes its place, but is moved slightly north, opening up this currently-congested area for better crowd flow. The village facades continue the style that started with the Tangled bathrooms. There is a Snuggly Duckling Tavern, complete with a giant (fake) tree growing out of it. There are a few shops.
- From this new village, the major D/E-ticket attraction is hidden behind rockwork. As in the film, guests pass through a cave and emerge into a Hidden Valley, at the rear of which sits Rapunzel’s Tower (the smaller scale Tower is removed from its current location where it intrudes on Liberty Square sightlines). The queue path winds down the lush valley, over a stream, past the Tower base and into a cavern where pre-show and boarding are located for a fun family Flynn Rider/Rapunzel ride.
- Across from Rapunzel, Peter Pan gets a new Edwardian storybook façade/queue.
- Both the Princess M&G Hall and Mickey’s PhilharMagic are gutted for new C-ticket darkrides based on European set animated classics. Robin Hood’s facade (replacing PhilharMagic) is based on the town of Nottingham with Prince John’s Castle adorning the upper portions of the showbuilding. Sleeping Beauty takes the place of the lost Snow White darkride while adding Village themed façade/queue.
- The next changes come near the Tomorrowland border. Since Tomorrowland will be losing the remnants of its original low, featureless, angular architecture, it’s fitting that Cosmic Ray’s be removed. In its place is a lush outdoor Fantasy Garden, a cousin to the one in Hong Kong DL, where M&G activities are centralized under four themed gazebos, with a wide array of rotating characters. This, combined with the dedicated M&G locations in Storybook Circus and Fantasy Forest, fulfills the park’s stationary M&G needs.
- Around the Teacups there is a new Wonderland sub-area. The big addition is “Alicetopia”: a fanciful version of Aquatopia that takes the place of the Tomorrowland Speedway. Also added is a rockwork edifice to conceal the Dumbo tent, and built into it, a Queen of Heart’s Observatory (similar to her castle in Paris), which guests can climb for dramatic elevated views of Fantasyland and the rest of the park.
- As with every time I draw this park, the Deco Tech design finally takes over the back 2/3 of the land. This means more jagged rockwork is placed around the land, the metallic fins are added to the entire Peoplemover track, both Buzz Lightyear and a Space Mountain get new entrances/marquees in a style that fits into this aesthetic.
- With Cosmic Ray’s gone, a new quick service venue is built where the temporary-looking DJ Dance Party Stage currently stands.
- Tomorrowland Noodle Station is removed for the brand new, table-service, heavily-themed Astronomer’s Club. It has some outdoor, upper-level seating for fireworks viewing.
- Monsters Inc has always been an ill-fitting IP for a land themed as a Retro-Future spaceport, so its characters are ousted and a new Alien/Robot Comedy/Nightclub is installed.
- Stitch also gets the boot for a Guardians of the Galaxy re-make of the old Alien Encounter SFX show.
- Space Mountain, while retaining its iconic look and feel, could see new & improved queue/pre-show/vehicles/tracks/fx/audio/etc., something befitting the flagship attraction of the world’s most popular theme park.
- Finally, since Carousel of Progress doesn’t mesh with this land’s sci-fi theme, its building gets gutted, re-skinned and used as the queue/pre-show for a new, original E-ticket, which takes up most of the parking lot/former theater space. Nods to the carousel could be seen in the exhibits in the Thomas Edison Arcade (running parallel to Main St.).