This is another exploration of "what could have been" for the 2nd Gate plot at Disneyland Paris. This plan has the park stretching out to the circular perimeter road, even though a significant part of the plot has in actuality been given over to the Val d'Europe suburban development project. I also wanted to switch up from the current trend of 'random IP-lands plopped together park' and create a unique variation of WDW's Animal Kingdom, with its more focused overarching theme.
PALACE OF THE WILD KINGDOM
It would have been ideal to have a landmark resort at the front of a 2nd gate that complimented the DLP Hotel in scale, height, execution, detail, luxuriousness, etc., but with a very different theme. Dreams & visions like this are necessary now more than ever, as we are currently in the Dark Age of themed hotels, with only a few decent among many pedestrian eyesores getting designed, approved and built across the world. Nothing remotely approaching stem-to-stern architectural quality & placemaking of a MiraCosta has gone up since 2001. While the DLP Hotel & MiraCosta are exemplars of themed hotel architecture - two of the very best ever built - the king is South Africa's Palace of the Lost City. The hotel I have envisioned at the front of this Wild Animal Kingdom park is influenced by it and by some art released by Legacy for an Asian park (see below), which in turn borrows from India's Laxmi Vilas Palace. The bespoke design would weave nature/animal motifs & statuary into everything, as the Palace of the Lost City does so brilliantly.
I am grateful that Legacy Entertainment released a lot of artwork by former WDI concept artists, including all-time greats like John Horny & Christopher Smith, for a proposed 'Forest Kingdom' park. That artwork inspired a few features of this conceptual plan, including the Court of the Titans (see below) on the park-side of the hotel. Rather than have a "wild" jungle Oasis with small animal exhibits as at Orlando's DAK, I imagined the approach to echo Disneyland Paris: centered on a monumental hotel with turnstiles on the ground level beneath the building. Guests emerge from the hotel into a wide circular courtyard surrounded by giant rockwork-animals, with the elephant fountain (see below) at the center. Other giant carvings I've included are a polar bear, lion, bison, walrus, condor & triceratops.
An expansive, tiered viewing area for unique daytime & nighttime lagoon shows wends down to the water's edge. Here, the park would utilize a submerged high-powered water cannon platform, so that Bellagio/Burj Khalifa/World of Color-style dancing fountains, along with projections, lasers, floats, actors, etc. could be utilized to wow audiences with a Mythica-level daytime show and a jaw-dropping, IllumiNations-level go-home show.
The approach to this land is marked by a unique version of the 'Oldengate Bridge' with its reconstructed Brachiosaurus-skeleton. The first attraction encountered is the Crocodilia Caverns, a live animal trail with an indoor cavern section. In the center of the eastern land is a hillock and terrain-following, swinging coaster modeled on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster: a different version of the originally-planned Excavator. Continuing this Active Dig Site theme is the Boneyard Jamboree: a re-theme of the Mater's Junkyard flatride from DCA. The general feel I imagined for these areas as well as the surrounding restaurants & shop sections is that of a 1930s-50s paleontology-find Boomtown with a Southwest or Australian outback-style, somewhat-ramshackle Research Station aesthetic.
The backdrop of the eastern half of the land is a monumental rockwork facade in the shape of a herd of wooly mammoths. The plantings change to a more Boreal/Steppe environment. Inside the mammoth painted caverns, I imagine a classic Disney style family-ride: long, comedic, narrated, musical omnimover with Marc Davis-inspired scenes involving Pleistocene animals (e.g. sloths, glyptodonts, sabretooths) and their interaction with cavemen (as seen in the Davis art from the World's Fair, below).
The western half of the land is dominated by another mountainous facade. It houses Dinoland's second E-ticket and the park's largest indoor ride: an elaborate river cruise into the Triassic era, with dozens of high-tech, life-like AA dinosaurs presented in both peaceful and frightening vignettes. The attraction has a distinctly more serious tone than the Mammoth ride, with minor visceral thrills in PotC-scale drops. A Shanghai Pirates-style, full motion boat could be a model ride system. Integrated into the attraction, with an elevated view of one of the largest, herbivore-filled show scenes, would be an "Observatory" - a slowly-rotating 360 degree restaurant. The last opening day attraction is the Tar Pits, a Boneyard-style explore zone.
Just as the Castle parks have unique versions of the same concept (a fairytale castle) as their centerpiece, this land is a "different-but-the-same" take on DAK's Discovery Island. Both feature the park's Icon, shops & dining buildings in a Tropical/Animal Motif-style and a live animal trail that winds around the carved roots and beneath the boughs of its somewhat unique, great Tree of Life. I imagine a unique & non-IP Wonders of Nature-type show could go underneath the Tree, though a copy of Bugs makes sense too.
Adding on to what can be found in Orlando, I placed a wild animal-themed (e.g. carousel in this area as well as the Theater-in-the-Wild, where musical shows, maybe based on Disney animal films that don't fit in the other lands, could be staged.
The approach to this land of fantasy animals combines the best of the DLP Chateau and Diagon Alley dragons: not only does the huge animatronic occasionally spew fire over the heads of guests, but it is fully "alive", not static. Its main movements would be kept to small twists of the head, eye movements, snorts, shake of tail and wings, as it casually observes the small humans below its rock. Intermittently, it would do something wild, such as spread its wings, roar, and/or spew fire in an arc over the pathway. Some backstory could connect it to its relative/rival under the DLP castle.
|dragron rock model by Michael Weisheim Beresin|
The land's attractions would be associated with different geographies of Europe: England (Merlin's Menagerie, an LPS family darkride), Scotland (Loch Ness Landing restaurant, the only direct carryover from the Orlando proposal, with appearances by Nessie in the water), France (a glen featuring animatronic Unicorns and other fantasy creatures) & Germany (the Dragon-based wooden coaster that would feature an indoor "near-incineration" scene). The architecture of each area would be a fantasy-medieval take on each of these countries unique building styles.
Additional attractions include a Griffin-themed aerial carousel (Dumbo) and a MagiQuest-style interactive game through a forest of mythical animals.
This land, like the WDW original, features distinct geographic representations. The largest sub-area is India, with centerpiece swing spinner and a Jungle Book (animated) family musical boatride - one of the park's few IP-based attractions. An even larger complex of temples being reclaimed by nature houses an E-ticket inspired by Legacy's artwork (see below) for a flume that incorporates live tigers and other regional animal habitats (Splash Mountain meets Maharajah Jungle Trek).
|panda trail art by Senen Iglesias|
Adventuring guests are drawn to the deepest part of the park by its tallest weenie: Expedition Everest, one of the park's only near-clones from WDW, with a re-engineered, fully-functioning Yeti.
Moving on from Nepal, the environment transitions to China, with a live animal trail featuring Giant Pandas, red pandas, snub-nosed monkeys, etc.
The visual landmark of this land - enhancing wide vistas from most areas - is a full-scale version of Pride Rock, behind which is a family dark ride based on the animated film.
The anchor attraction is a live-animal boat safari, akin to the Tiger River Run that was never built in Orlando, but here themed to East Africa. The key to the attraction is the wild, apparently-free-roaming, no-visible-manmade-barriers imagineering that made Kilimanjaro Safaris so unique and special in its early years. I also envisioned a semi-thrill finale, as KS had, which could involve a flash flood through a Hyena Cavern (Animatronics, in this sole case) and hot geysers.
|gorilla trail art by Senen Iglesias|
The carryover from WDW is a Gorilla Falls animal trail that features spindly rope bridges over the Maasai River that might give an acrophobe pause. There is an amphitheater for original, non-IP musical productions. An element from the aforementioned Legacy park that helped inspire this illustration is the Hippopotamus Lagoon restaurant (see art above).
The future, seventh land could be any number of things: Pandora, Arctic, South America, Oceans (I feel that Rivers of the Far West and the Grand Canyon Diorama in DLP give a representation of North America), or something not yet proffered up. I may return to it some day.