Sunday, January 1, 2017

Freeflow Design: DisneySpires (Part One)

Laying out a theme park can be a left-brain, technical process.  I find a more enjoyable approach is to use the right-brain and 'freeflow', painting a site plan like an artist might paint a landscape.  A park plan created through freeflow, rather than being a mechanical assemblage of pre-designated parts (attractions/lands) more easily turns out to be a natural, cohesive whole. 

This is a current example of that process (I'm about 2/3 through it).  I began with one idea: A park with a castle overlooking a very large lake or coastal bay, sitting atop a rocky point (an iconic fantasy image) and that this castle should be at the front of the park, so that the view from a resort hotel on the far banks - or from passing/approaching ships - is of the great, full-scale fantasy citadel dominating the coastline.  

I didn't give too much thought to what I wanted to include in the rest of the park, or what the over-arching theme might be until after that entry area had been drawn.  I just drafted counter clockwise, land by land, letting the park unveil itself to my imagination.  Even now, I could go any number of different paths for the final lands.  I decided to make it a 'Disney' park because I find it helpful to include real-world reference points in parks that will exist solely in the imagination.

Some long-time readers may recall the "Forgotten/Lost Portal" parks I have conceived & drawn.  The idea is, like the existing Castle Parks, to provide a loose umbrella theme under which one can include anything one can imagine.  This ends up being a blend of the Lost Portal and the classic castle parks.  I call it 'DisneySpires'.  Each land will be marked by a central, tall, iconic structure.  The Spires and the lands themselves will be woven into the cental lagoon show, especially the end-of-day spectacular, and a connective thread can be sewn throughout the park this way.  


Castleton, the entry land to the park, is another name for fantasyland.  Of the myriad potential of themes, there are handful that have been built really well, multiple times (e.g., 1920s pulp adventure, the American Western, and Storybook Fantasy).  When I draw parks, I like to avoid things that have been done already and put in themes that have only been built well once or twice (or better yet, never).   But here I hypocritically go against that guideline and include the quintessential disney land, though in a unique form.  One enters asymmetric, 'narrow' village streets of half-timber shops, eateries & facilities, all the while seeing the massive citadel looming above. 

The citadel itself is a multi-attraction facility, housing a signature restaurant, show-scenes for the 'Once Upon a River Adventure' and elaborate walkthrough/exploration areas: Dungeons, Dragon Lair, Throne Room, Armory, Chapel, Wizard's Workshop, Royal Apartments, Griffin Roost, etc.).  The citadel features one tower taller than all the rest and that is this realm's Spire. 

There was once a site on the web dedicated to a ride concept called "Mr. Toad's Motor Mania."  I'd link it, but it appears to have been taken down by its creator.  The artwork on that site inspired this attraction.  The queue winds through the various rooms of Toad Hall, before emerging to the Carriage House where boarding takes place.  This is a 21st Century Autopia wherein riders have some degree of control over their motorcars' speed and steering, but computers & LPS technology keep them on the track, avoiding collisions and moving along, as well as triggering effects as the vehicles pass through an English Village, abandoned castle, train tunnel, etc..

Another walkthrough attraction is the ancient oak grove which features, fountains, games and a character meet & Greet at each of the massive hollowed out trunks of an ancient grove of giant oak trees.


Renaissance is a history-based theme that has been done wonderfully-well one time - at DisneySea, and this would be its sister land.  The aesthetic is a 1500s Mediterranean port, with a fortress-like guildhall guarding the entrance and a very large carrack docked nearby to explore.  There is a DaVinci Flying Machine aerial spinner.   the massive show-building, disguised as the port's buildings and ramparts, houses a 15-minute long, AA-based, multi-media omnimover, "the Age of Discovery", which could cover the rise, fall and re-rise of Western Civilization, concluding with the flowering of the Renaissance and the Discovery of the New World.

My happy place with respect to theme parks is late 1980s to mid 1990s EPCOT Center Future World, with its great series of omnimoving edutainment attractions (Horizons, World of Motion, Spaceship Earth, Living Seas were my four go-tos).  Combining a variety of types of presentation in each ride, great music & narration and an inspirational tone, these attractions awed and left an imprint on a young me like no ride has since.   So I wanted to include an attraction of this style in the park.

This land's spire is a massive campanile/lighthouse marking the anchor attraction.  There would also be a theme-appropriate animated diorama for the train that passes behind this land.


The second idea that generated this park concept (after the castle-on-a-cliff) was my desire to illustrate plans for a pulp adventure-based coaster.  Big Thunder Mountain is the quintessential themed coaster and I wanted to draw (and probably will in the future) attraction-level art for its equivalent in the pulp adventure versus old-west style.  Having just listened to the original audiobook for King's Solomon's Mines, that classic book became the theme for the attraction.

There are some different interpretations of the locale of this mythical place, but I went with that of Nubia, just beyond the edge of the Ancient Egyptian Upper Kingdom(modern Sudan).  This location would also allow other parts of the land to reflect a geography/culture that is more commonly depicted (that of Thebes, Memphis, etc.) in pop culture.  King Solomon's Mines loosely interprets the book's story and locales with many of the landmarks and characters present - entered through the native village kraal, past the villains plotting, including an AA witch Gagool, the silent watchers, sprung booby traps, etc.   The coaster would be a train of ancient mining carts through the diamond caverns and burial chambers, often going outside and hugging terrain as the track dips and twists around the rocky African landscape. 

Continuing the northeast Nubian aesthetic is the central explore zone, akin to Camp Jurassic or Tom Sawyer Island.  Book-ending these wilds are the more urban parts of this extensive land.  The area to the east (near Porto) represents Egypt of the 1880s-1920s (train station) and could house major dining and a theatrical attraction.  At the top of the park, marked by this land's spire -an enormous obelisk - is a Pharaoh's palace area that goes back in time to Ancient Egypt and features the land's 2nd E-ticket.  Here I'm imagining an elaborate shooter based on the Egyptian Pantheon (borrowing a title from the 2016 movie).   

I will conclude this park in a few weeks time.  Happy New Year! I wish all readers good luck, health and happiness in 2017!


TRF said...

Very interesting thoughts on your design process. I've been struggling through a park plan for a few months that I am trying to program pretty rigidly and it's been the most challenging project I've faced. Keep getting stuck on little things that keep me from designing. So I like your approach, and seems to be pretty successful. Looks cool so far!

SWW said...

^Hey! I saw that and am always impressed by your thought process and stuff you produce. Often one has a Park Program (menu) that one needs to fulfill, and that is often more work/challenging but necessary to the process.

Therefore it becomes a nice change-up once in a while to just imagine yourself walking through a new park, discovering it as you go along and not pre-requiring any particular content to be in any particular place.

Jared Long said...

I love this idea. I think this would be extremely popular here in the states. I know obviously you didn't specify a location but I can't help but think something like this could easily support itself if not anchor a 3rd resort in the states. Love it and anticipating future posts.

mark russell said...

Oooooh, what an unusual design. I'm guessing the whole map is based around a lake, but the way it looks now with the funny wonky design makes it stand out. I like you made Mr. Toad's ride a major attractions. Not that I am complaining, but why that one and say none of the regulars?

SWW said...

^To keep the area more rural.

Super Mario Network Kim Cormier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yell assignment service review said...

Happy new year to as well, love the way you explain your thought process. Good post, thank you for sharing it with us