Friday, December 15, 2023

Walt Disney Studios - Paris

   Hope all are well.


  When looking at the possibilities for the 2nd Gate to Disneyland Paris, I've typically started from scratch, as it is more enjoyable for me to imagine & lay out a park that begins with Vision, awe-factor, rhyme & reason in terms of theme and attraction placement, carefully positioned vistas, weenies & sightlines - all of which WDSP has lacked.   But now that the much-needed revamp is well-underway, I've decided to draw a plan showing how the actual park-that-will-be could further expand & improve.  


  This drawing includes - mostly - what will be there when the current central boulevard, lake and Arendelle are finished in 2025.    The Front Lot, Toon Studios, Toy Story Playland, Place de Remy, Avengers Campus, Cours des Reves (my name for the lake and boulevard, as I'm not sure what the actual name will be) and Arendelle are "as is" and do not need written explanation here.


  The big change in Part I is Hollywood, which takes some inspiration from the original Disney-MGM Studios at its best.   One passes out of the cheesy Studio One indoor main street and enters a much more impressive Hollywood facsimile: the street is curbed, the atmospheric Resident characters and vehicles are there, the detailed facades all now hold shops & dining.  The Tower Hotel looms behind the shops.  On the right is a Studio Gate separating Toon Studios from 1930s/40s Hollywood streets.

  The major addition here takes up the currently underused corner of the park with a new version of The Great Movie Ride, with its landmark Chinese Theater facade.   As at MGM, one queues in an ornate lobby past movie props and costumes and then enters a theater showing classic film trailers, previewing upcoming scenes.  Great Movie Ride in its 1.0 form was one of my all-time favorites.  Here the concept/feel of the ride is the same, though the execution is somewhat different, including ride system are new film scenes.  Musical, Gangster, Western, SciFi, Comedy, Adventure & Fantasy genres would all be represented via highly detailed sets, scores of audio-animatronics and special effects.  In my imagination, it would be fully narrated by the great "What will be your fate?" voice from the original ride.



  When I think about fixing this park, ideally it would have had WDSP offer a completely different menu of themes and IPs than its neighbor, DLP.  Any properties that would enhance an extant land at DLP shouldn't have been considered for WDSP and vice-versa.  That ship has sailed, but Disney still has a lot of IP that isn't a natural fit for DLP and would be well-suited for this Catch-All park, some of which is already present: Marvel, Ratatouille, Toy Story, Cars.  Avatar is another big example, already associated with Disney Parks, so here it goes.   

  As often mentioned, a major consideration is sightlines and vistas - how it feels just to explore and soak in the park.  So in this plan, I am trying to minimize the impact of the rear of the (ill-placed) Tower of Terror, add a lot of trees/nature and do something to disguise the long view of the Flight Force (former RocknRollecoaster) gravity box.  Considering the scale and treatment of the Avatar Flight of Passage showbuilding in Orlando, I thought this would work well abutting Flight Force and get two birds with one rockwork stone. 

  While Flight of Passage is generally the same as in WDW, including the landmark floating mountains, this plan shows a unique and improved version of Pandora, defined by the Navi River Rapids - a long indoor-outdoor raft ride that takes explorers on a journey throughout the land.   This ride features additional "floating" mountains at the top of the lift hill, adding to the depth and grandeur of vistas in the park.  Good Humans have set up an eco-tourism business, which queues partly through an abandoned hydro plant.  Lively Pandoran plants and AA wildlife (e.g. a herd of hammerhead titanotheres, a troop of Pandoran monkeys in branches, etc.) are seen around the riverbanks, with the more sophisticated AAs (such as Navi) and bioluminescence saved for the indoor scenes at the beginning & end of the ride.   To account for the Parisian weather, how wet riders get could be minimized as it is on Tokyo's Splash Mountain.

The canteen and shop from WDW are also here, though relocated.    The other addition is a Hometree explore zone.


   I've changed the left edge of the land with the removal of the Stunt Show Theater.   A new attraction inspired by Dr. Strange and his magical artifacts takes the form of a special effects show in a similar vein to Alien Encounter or Poseidon's Fury with multiple stages: Preshow A, Preshow B (more elaborate), Main Show (two theaters for capacity).  The exterior is an ancient & otherworldly portal or sanctum, which aids in the transition to Pandora.  


  Best practice is to avoid a situation in which almost all the park's IP is taken from a certain timeframe or generation (e.g. the last 10-20 years).   Hence London Square, dedicated to some of the classics of the 1960s & 70s.  

  This land's setting is the idyllic Old London of the early 20th Century, with Cherry Tree Lane diverting off the main parade route.  The carousel from Mary Poppins occupies the central park.  An Edwardian glass tea pavilion is near the central loop.   I wanted the main rides here to be unique to this park, so I chose "101 Dalmatians" for the classic darkride, its facade continuing the street of terraced townhouses, with scaled-down London landmarks such as St. Paul's on the roof.

   "Bedknobs & Broomsticks" might be the best movie in the Company's entire catalog.  Apparently, this is not a widely-shared belief and thus it's never had a park presence.   Here I can change this, as film seems ideal for ride-translation with a magic, multi-passenger flying bed and automation of inanimate objects
being the central features.  The facade is the bomb-abandoned London mansion where Professor Brown is squatting.  The queue begins in an old roundtower (nod to the film's castle), goes through the mansion's gardens and outbuilding and then inside through the various rooms: library, nursery, etc.  Suspended bed vehicles take riders on a careening musical adventure to Portobello Road, the Briny Sea, the Isle of Namboombu and the battle of reanimated soldiers.  


  You may notice that they way I've put the layout together has corresponding themed lands on opposite sides of main Cours, e.g. London vs Paris.   Here, contrasting the lush jungle/ mostly-wild alien world of Pandora, is the arid desert/mostly-urban alien world of Mos Eisley.  

  While another Batuu-Lite was originally part of the official plan, here I wanted to go with something totally unique and try incorporating a famous location often seen in the Star Wars Universe.  Timeline is Original Trilogy (of course) and the full-scale Lamda-Class Imperial shuttle at the back of the land fills the same role as the TIE Echelon in Batuu (am I the only one who thinks the Echelon looks too small to hold all the people coming out of it?).  Darth Vader himself could occasionally descend from the shuttle ramp in his search for Rebels.

   I also saw this land as an opportunity to cleanse Discoveryland of the extraneous IP, as every plan I've drawn for DLP has Discoveryland adhering to its original vision, free of Star Wars (and Toy Story).  Therefore, I've moved Star Tours over to this park.  Its weenie features a landing platform with a couple of Starspeeder 3000s on it.   I think it's a shame that the Company plan for both DHS and Disneyland Anaheim has been to feature Star Tours in the same park as Star Wars Land - but not in the actual land.  

  In addition to Star Tours, three new rides complete this land:  Mos Eisley Transit Authority, or M.E.T.A., is a peoplemover that circles the entire land on the 2nd level, featuring numerous indoor scenes and Audio Animatronic vignettes.   Bounty Hunter Blast is D-ticket family shooter darkride.

  You've probably seen art of the cancelled giant beast ride for Batuu.   Here I have expanded that idea with a dedicated Bantha Caravans ride.  The queue winds up to the level of the howdah on the top of a mechanical Bantha (or Dewback for variation).   The hairy animals then proceed to undulate and trot around  the desert landscape.

   Mos Eisley would be rounded out with a replica of the famous Cantina bar with its aliens and band.  Han Solo & Chewbacca could drop in from time to time.  There is a Jawa Junk Market and large table service restaurant run by members of the Hutt Clan.   I envision the Millennium Falcon as a Swiss Family type walkthrough attraction.




  This final area is themed to Disney's collective animated villains, and I designed it to achieve a number of goals: 1. provide a very large and impressive weenie at the back of the park; 2 give the lineup a major, heavily-themed, indoor-outdoor mountain coaster, which it sorely lacks; 3. counterbalance the saccharine princess-land of Arendelle opposite it; 4. avoid another single-IP land; and 5. feature some environments that aren't natural fits for Disneyland next door.

   Like a sinister version of Fantasy Springs, this area has subsections with distinct geographies & architectural styles.  The medieval one - the area around Dark Mountain - is a mash-up of the mountain lairs & castles of the likes of the Horned King, Maleficent & Chernabog.  It's not intended to be a recreation from any of these movies.  This an original creation - an ominous mountain with an evil-looking castle & crumbling towers in its upper reaches.   Here the aforementioned villains gather and plot.   The queue begins by crossing a murky water and entering the mountain portcullis gateway.  Explorers then wind through subterranean chambers where villains (in AA form) are revealed in multiple pre-shows.  The queue then emerges in a forest north of the mountain, finally entering another set of caverns for final pre-show & boarding.   Post ride, the lengthy egress passes over a bridge north of the mountain, re-enters the mountain base, where a gift shop could be located at the last cave, before returning to the land. 

  Across from the Mountain is Sleepy Hollow Village - a haunted version of Liberty Square - with dead oaks, a Headless Horseman Tavern restaurant and some shops.  

  Inspired by the Jim Shull artwork (which you can find linked on IdealBuildout twitter page), there is an Ursula spinner at water level.  Part of its queue descends through a ship wrecked on the rocks by the trident-wielding seawitch.

  Deeper in the land, one passes under a broken wall and enters either a dilapidated New Orleans area featuring a Dr. Facilier rotating madhouse ride, with its SFX pre-show/queue. 

  Opposite it is the final sub area, with its Ancient Greece theme.   A crumbling temple to Hades marks the entrance to an indoor musical boatride featuring the villain from "Hercules" tormenting the Greeks.


The End.



Tuesday, May 2, 2023

EPCOT Center - Resurrected

  EPCOT Center of the 1980s into the 90s as created by the original team of Imagineers - an inimitable group of visionary geniuses - aimed to inspire and instill in the visitor something of value about the real world, from the culture of Mexico to the history & future of Transportation.   It had a clarity of Vision and Purpose and a rare, now-lost Harmony in presentation.  Its scale, ambition and newness made the park awe-inspiring, electrifying and hugely impactful on many return visitors, including me.  In my opinion, EPCOT Center in its first decade represents the pinnacle of the art of theme parks.  

  When I draw an illustrative for EPCOT, I typically maintain a lot of the original park, i.e. with Horizons, CommuniCore and World of Motion intact, because if it ain't broke...   But in this case, I'll be looking at how EPCOT might have been revamped/refreshed beginning circa its 25th Anniversary to return to something closer its original spirit, instead of taking the opposite path and devolving into a less-beautiful, less-sophisticated, less-cohesive, less-unique and less-timeless IP park.



   Here I've changed the entrance and spine of the park, though it would still maintain the established "Future World Style".  Not really necessary, but something to differentiate this version from what was there for the first 25 years.

   Of course the legendary Norm Inouye iconography and font return throughout Future World.  The entrance plaza features "disc fountains" of the pavilions' symbols.

  Spaceship Earth drops the horrible Seimens descent jibjab video and reverts to the scenic Jeremy Irons descent or something new and worthy of this great attraction.

   CommuniCore is a new, smaller version of the original hub, opening more space for landscape, vistas and fountain shows.  Its dining and retail venues would reflect the two halves of Future World, FW West with its Life-based pavilions/organic paths & FW East with its Tech-based pavilions and more geometric paths.

  The monorail has a switch and spur track, so some trains can bypass this park on their way to other destinations at WDW.


  This attraction, my all-time favorite ride, rises from the ashes in a new body (former Universe of Energy building).  It has the same spirit, style, narration, music & scene progression as the original, taking advantage of some tech advances for the Choose Your Adventure ending.


  Combining the Mission:Space and Wonders of Life buildings, this attraction begins with a flight to a future Martian colony (Mission:Space revamped).   Once guests "land" on Mars, they egress down a long hallway with glass viewing portals showing the landscape of the Red Planet, until the arrive at the domed Mars Base (the old WoL central area).  This area has interactive science exhibits, a restaurant, and two attractions - a SFX theater on subjects such as the Big Bang or Terra-forming and a re-tooling of Body Wars for a more science-based exploration adventure, maybe using wormholes.  

  In order to "return to Earth" (and for those that don't want to experience the red or green centrifuge ride, a Tele-Transporter Lab could be used in a similar manner to the Hydrolators at Living Seas).


   In this pavilion I envisioned combining the humorous vignette and scenic elements of the Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Claude Coats original with the heart-pumping finale of TestTrack.   The clean-lined, futuristic ride vehicles would go through the original "Fun to be Free" scenes at a leisurely pace, including the initial spiral over the entry-way.  Where the speed rooms started in the original WoM, the music and tone would change as vehicles take off into the future, following the now enclosed track (no more backstage views) out of the original building for high speed, banked whirl around a vast, detailed and animated "CentreCore" diorama of a future city before returning to encircle the original building.    

 Aquatopia, replacing the Odyssey Restaurant, falls under the World of Motion umbrella.



   The pavilion here reverts to its original color scheme (see above).  There's something new for the 3-D Theater.   The spirit of the original ride (music, characters, general expression of concepts, such as the Dreamport, flying machine, genres of literature, theater, film, etc.) return in a more advanced form.  I feel like an LPS system might be a good fit for an imagination-based ride, replacing the original system and adding some diversity to the park's ride types.  

    The Soarin' ride system remains, but no longer has the 'airport' theme and current ride film (world wonders) that has little connection to the Pavilion's purpose (Agriculture and Environment).   Instead, the queue and preshow would be a biogeopgraphic research base that introduces riders to earth's terrestrial ecoregions or biomes (e.g., Boreal Forest, Tropical Savanna, Desert, Temperate Forest, Tundra, Temperate Grasslands, Tropical Forest, etc.), and the Soarin' ride experience would be an aerial survey of these various landscapes in their unspoiled state, using a slot-machine system for ride variability.

   Replacing the Awesome Earth
theater (we get much better specials on TV with David Attenborough) would be an attraction in the vein of The Land's historic animatronic musical comedy shows on nutrition.


   Here the pavilion doubles in size to provide multiple experiences: two entrances and two unique ways to reach SeaBase Alpha.   The original method, with the brilliant 'The Seas' film and epic hydrolator reveal is back (never left in an ideal world).   

  The new section follows the original concept with Oceanus: a longer omnimover ride narrated by Poseidon.   As seen in the model above, the track passes through numerous "dry" undersea scenes, providing a more stylized experience of environs like kelp forests and coral reefs, with some shocking encounters with predators (animatronic), before eventually visiting the future of undersea exploration as riders are deposited at the opposite side of SeaBase Alpha.    Return-to-surface hydrolators maintain the undersea illusion.  



   In this plan, the ruinous IP-mandate dies: there are no movie-based attractions.  No Aladdin meet & greet in Morrocco or Snow White in Germany.  Not even character topiaries are present.   There are other areas of WDW with an abundance of characters and film stuff.   World Showcase was never better than when it felt different and pure.  This park is about presenting a romantic, postcard picture of various countries, staffed by citizens of those countries, for genuine enrichment & cultural exchange and not about cross-promoting the Disney film library.   The only character moments (that aren't EPCOT-originated) I would be okay with here are the occasional pop-ups of members of the base group, wearing representative dress, e.g. kilt-clad Goofy in Canada, kimono Minnie in Japan, etc.

  The other aim is to have parity in terms of attractions among the countries: one country shouldn't get an E-ticket & theater while others have no attractions whatsoever.    Each country needs a draw.   And these experiences ought to vary in terms of type (e.g., one circlevision show for WS is enough).  

  All the great "inbetween" things that have been lost to time return in this plan, such as the Omnibus and abundance of live acts, e.g., the World Showcase Players comedy troupe. 

  Finally, some may ask why I haven't filled in every planned plot in this idealized "build-out".   Answer: I tend to prefer the wooded space breaking up most pavilions because it makes the cross-lagoon views better if the countries aren't squeezed up against each other.  Also, I believe the pedestrian experience is enhanced when a small forested stretch is traversed to get to next country (Norway-China is currently the only area without this kind of planted transition).

photo credit:


   The changes include the return of the Cantina and a revamp of the El Rio del Tiempo ride.   The film parts felt dated as long as I can remember...  maybe replacing these film bits and switching out the Small World style dolls for Sinbad (TDS) style mini-animatronics would improve the ride.  I'd also add a leopard to the jungle ruins scene as concept art once showed.  


   No more princess dining at Akershus.  To me, Maelstrom has always been a model D-ticket for World Showcase: atmospheric, great music & narration, nice FX & AAs, medium length, small thrill.  Never intended to be a mind-blowing E-ticket, it was a fun, memorable experience that gave visitors a glimpse of Norwegian cultural touchstones.  I'd be really satisfied if every country in WS had something simliar in scale & execution to Maelstrom.   Here, Maelstrom returns, but in an ideal world, the attraction would be reworked so that the film plays every half hour on a loop in the queue and the post-ride theater space is re-worked into a better queue or an additional scene for the ride.    It was always awkard to rush out - or watch others rush out - of the theater after the ride instead of sitting for the film.  


  Not much to change here... Did the seamless CircleVision that was announced  ever happen?


   Since Africa would get cultural representation in Animal Kingdom's Harambe, which, ideally, would be entirely staffed with International Program people, just like EPCOT, the space once slotted for it (and for Spain) goes to Brazil, the 12th country of World Showcase.  


   In the fore of the pavilion is the colorful colonial townscape inspired by places like Ouro Preto or Salvador, dominated by a baroque church, which could house cultural exhibits.  In the village is the main sit-down eatery, a Brazilian steakhouse.  

   The middle of the pavilion is occupied by a rainforest where guests board double decker riverboats for a tour of Brazil in something that might be like Jungle Cruise meets Storybookland Canal boats.   Iguazu Falls is one of the sights on the voyage.   At the rear of the pavilion the boats approach Brazil's most famous visual icon: the harbor of Rio de Janeiro with its Surgarloaf mountain, favellas and Cristo Redentor.  Inside the showbuilding Carnivale could be underway as festive scenes from Copa Cabana and Ipanema unfold.   

   When viewed from a distance, the famous rounded peaks of Rio rise in the distance behind the treeline, for a sight worthy of the other World Showcase pavilions.


   Germany finally gets its long-overdue water ride.   Similar to the Rhine River Cruise, but the version I'm imagining here has a small backwards drop, and showcases the Fairlytale roots of Germany, possibly with comedic vignettes of the Grimm Brothers.


   Ruins of Ancient Rome, dominated by the Coliseum, mark this country's attraction, which would be a special effects walkthrough (e.g. Tokyo's Castle Mystery Tour or the Shanghai Castle tour.  Guests are separated into small guided tour groups and explore the ruins, as vignettes covering the history of the Roman Empire would come to life using projection mapping (e.g., Ruins-->Pristine) &/or AAs.  As part of the tour would enter the dusty floor of the arena for a Gladiator's view.


   This buildout also sees the return of a personal favorite, the classic Ristorante Alfredo di Roma.


   Not much to change here.   Cast costumes would revert to the traditional Independence Era.


   Like Germany, the alreaady-impressive castle would finally be filled with a ride, in this case a C/D-ticket omnimover in the classic Disney/EPCOT tradition that explores historic and modern Japan, as the art below shows.

   In this expanded pavilion, the winding city alleys culminate in a square where another minaret marks the entrance to a madcap darkride.   I imagine this to be a stylized, Fantasyland type experience and and involve Morocco's connection with cats, similar to the trolls of Norwegian culture.   These are the kinds of fun as well as enriching & authentic aspects that marked the original EPCOT & World Showcase, rather than "a recent Disney-Pixar Movie took place in or near this country."

   Desert vegetation and a Bedouin camp mark another pathway to the rear of the pavilion.   Desert mountain rockwork hides the showbuilding (and France's) from any potential cross-lagoon views.


  To supplement the Impressions de France film, this pavilion gets an original boat ride that could provide a more chilling experience through the catacombs of Paris, possibly interweaving elements from French literature in this tour of the city's famous catacombs and sewers (e.g., Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback, Les Miserables, etc.) or simply be an original or history-based adventure. 


  The new Parisian street would be reached via a glass-roofed breezway where Les Halles is.   The originally-envisioned Moulin Rouge windmill could serve as the ride's weenie.


   Great Britain gets a pair of attractions with the first being an Audio-Animatronic carousel theater based on the works of Charles Dickens, as hinted in the Art of WDW book.   The theater here is housed in a building inspired by the Round Tower at Windsor Castle. 

   The pavilion's ride would be housed in a Victorian Exposition Hall at the back of the land, as also shown in early artwork.   



   O Canada circlevision is replaced by a Klondike-themed mountain coaster for a rollicking ride through Canada's wilderness and mineral-layden caves.


The End

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Memorial Tribute to Alain Littaye

     Among the disproportionate woes of this year was the sudden and unexpected passing of Alain Littaye last March.   Co-author of the quintessential theme park design coffee table book (Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality), Alain selflessly and passionately ran the multiple Disney & More sites for many years, curating collections of rare artwork, shining a light on designers who would have otherwise gone unrecognized and generally helping educate the world on the art of theme parks.  The discovery of his site helped stoke & maintain my interest in the art and design of parks and, thus, this blog.  I maintained an ongoing correspondence with Alain over the years, and he was always enthusiastic & gracious.  I miss him and his work.  I know he appreciated the Concept Plans I share here, often promoting them on his pages, so I've decided to dust off the tablet and post a new Illustrative Map in his honor.  This one's for you, Alain!


IMPORTANT NOTE: Migration to Twitter.  I'm going to try to move my content & engagement over to Twitter.  If I can get a following there, then I'll be posting a lot more content, including bringing back some long-lost park drawings.  So go to the Ideal Buildout twitter account, here, to see a wider resort plan image of this project.  If you don't have twitter, sign up (it's easy) then Follow, Like, Comment or Retweet the posts you find on my account.  Once this drawing gets some traction on twitter, I'll present the next part of this Park Map.



    This plan is one of a number of Second Gates for Hong Kong that I drew several years ago.  The recent news that HKDL lost its exclusive option to develop the full 2-park resort was very disappointing for me.   Though many years away, the resort's beautiful location, excellent master-plan and Goldilocks size meant that the once-inevitable build-out of a 2nd theme park, a Dining & Entertainment district and additional resorts, gave the promise of a very bright future.   For me, it was/is the one of the few major themed resorts whose best days are ahead of it rather than behind.   Unfortunately, that long-term hope & promise for a full resort appears to be lost.  Fingers crossed that HKDL can re-acquire the development rights and the powers that be at that time decide to build a spectacular 2nd theme park.


    From the beginning, the beautifully-landscaped promenade that runs from the Ferry Docks to the Train Station was earmarked for a Retail, Dining & Entertainment District.  To be honest, it looks so good now as a natural walkway, that I think it would be better to leave it as a manicured gardenwalk.   In my plan, however, you can see it filled out as the planned entertianment area.  Realistically, the style would be typical "entertainment/modern/eclectic" similar to DTD, CityWalk or Disney Springs, though my personal preference is always for a more history-based, detailed RDE district.


    As in most the DisneySea variants I've drawn, an Aquasphere modeled on Toyko marks the entrance/ticketing area of the park.



    I think it is fitting that opposite the west side's American Main Street and European castle, the eastern park entrance and spine is themed to China's romanticized past.  This provides a layered duality reflecting the nature of Hong Kong city itself (China and the Western world).  The area would ostensibly be an old Chinese port town, and across its bay would be the park's iconic centerpiece: Mountains and temple/pagoda complex - an Asian cousin to Tokyo DisneySea's Mt Prometheus and Fortress Explorations.  There is a large junk to mirror the galleon in TDS.


    The vast mountain complex would contain two major E-tickets.  The first would be a "speed sled" experience (i.e., TestTrack, JttCotE) with show scenes and animatronic creatures.  The second I based on a concept I've seen for a Monkey Kingdom park by Luc Steadman: it is a Kuka ride (like Forbidden Journey) with an entrance/exterior marked by a large tree sprouting out of unusual rock formations.

    Flat rides in pagodas, a major Mulan darkride and large theater venue, as well as numerous unique retail & dining experiences, round out the Port.



  One thing that kept me interested in global theme parks was/is the unique application of a land or attraction for a different locale: e.g. Magic Kingdom's Frontierland vs. Paris' version.   I find it disappointing whenever there is a direct Copy & Paste job, particularly in the same country.    Ideally, each Star Wars Land around the world would get a unique setting, inhabitants and set of attractions.   I'm completely onboard and appreciative of WDI's choice to invent a beautiful new world (Batuu) in the SW universe to explore, rather than recreating well-known film locale(s).   However, I feel it was a huge mistake not to set the land in the timeless Original Trilogy Era, or at least not hamstring the land exclusively to the Sequel Trilogy.

    For this park plan, the unique Star Wars port of call is set on a tropical Ocean Moon in the Outer Rim (to help tie it to the park's Sea theme), where there are alien rock formations cradling an eclectic Space Port (different-looking, but similar in principle to Batuu) inhabited by Aliens, Droids, Rebels, Imperials, Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, etc..  As noted, it is set during the Original Era (+/- 10 years from Episode IV: A New Hope), with all ships, costumes, characters and original ride stories reflecting that.  


    One enters this Port from the Chinese Harbor through a 'cavern' that hides a backstage service bridge.  Upon exiting the cavern, looming above and dominating the land is an actual-sized Hammerhead Corvette, made famous as the ship-type that rammed the Star Destroyer in 'Rogue One' (which happens to be my favorite Star Wars movie).  This monumental starship houses part of the queue & pre-show for one of the two E-ticket rides in the land: Secrets of the Sith.  This darkride/sets/AAs type attraction would involve an original story as guests board submersible vehicles to help uncover a secret Sith temple hidden at the bottom of the Moon's sea. 


    With one major attraction dedicated to Sith/Jedi conflict, the other is dedicated to the broader war/rebellion.  Blue Squadron allows visitors to pilot their choice of Rebel Ships (A-Wing, X-Wing, Y-Wing, B-Wing, U-Wing, The Ghost) in various battles with Imperial or other nefarious forces above the Moon's seas or in space.  The other two rides in the land include a Starjets-like spinner and a relaxing Peoplemover that gives an overhead tour of the land.  

   Non-ride attractions include a Stormtrooper Academy that is a walk-through shooting gallery with blaster rifles, a Droid forge, and a Bounty Hunter Guildhall.  Dining options include a Speakeasy run by the Hutt Clan with animated Jabba-like creature, a Cantina with AA band and a more formal Stardome restaurant with ceiling projections of ships coming and going.   There is also a Bazaar/Marketplace with many shops and foods stalls and the Peoplemover moving along its upper levels. 



   This port is the only carryover from the extant DisneySea in Tokyo, though with unique attractions and features.  The area maintains a similar exterior style to Tokyo's: undulating shell-like rock formations/spires and it has an indoor section, Triton's Kingdom, where the table-service restaurant and major Little Mermaid ride can be found, as well as some retail and flat rides. 

   The anchor ride is the LPS conceptualized for the Magic Kingdom a while ago (see below):

   This port goes beyond The Little Mermaid and has a Neverland section featuring a suspended darkride with an original adventure following Peter Pan and the Neverland Mermaids.

  Hong Kong's official masterplan had a buffer zone between the actual waterfront and the 2nd Gate plot, to be filled with hotels or back-of-house.   In my plan, a large part of the On-Show area 2nd Gate abuts the waterfront (as Tokyo does) to provide unique, open Hong Kong harbor views.


   This is a different and expansive take on the Caribbean Pirate-themed port, anchored by the massive Skull Mountain flume super-E-ticket that was first teased by Tim Delaney for Hong Kong Disneyland expansion (before getting replaced by the three mini-lands).  Skull Mountain is a very long indoor-outdoor attraction that makes use of many AAs, sets and physical effects - a scary Splash Mountain on steroids.  I imagine it being independent of the films, though it could easily inhabit that world.  There are multiple lifts and drops through elaborate show-scenes, some musical and amusing, others dark, gruesome and intimidating, before culminating in the biggest drop out of the skull's mouth under the main path and queue and through a shipwreck.  

   The outdoor portion of the flume wends through and around La Citadelle, a ruined French fort  that is an explore zone akin to Fortress Explorations or Tom Sawyer Island, with various activities such as zip lines, cannon batteries, haunted dungeons, a Voodoo chamber, etc.   Log flume would visible from several lower dungeon rooms & passages.  At the edge of the Citadelle and the park, overlooking Hong Kong harbor is an exclusive table-service restaurant with outdoor tower sections providing panoramic views in and out of the park.


   One can explore the Black Pearl pirate ship, which also takes part in a major Stunt Battle in the Cove Amphitheater several times each day.   The Cove is rigged with numerous submerged special effects (water cannons, fire/explosions, whirlpool, Kraken, etc.) for this spectacle, and scores of stunt actors partake as hero pirates (here one may find film characters, such as Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, etc.), villainous  pirates and the Crowns' (French, Spanish or British) naval forces.

 The Village and its Marketplace feature unique shops, dining & entertainment (fortune tellers, blacksmiths, woodcarvers, etc.).  The 2nd big ride in the Port features a wrap-around screen to take Privateers on adventures not possible with physical sets (see the design illustration above).

  As with the previous Port, I used the land slotted for future waterfront hotels to make a larger 2nd Gate and visually connect the Sea-themed park to the actual sea a stone's throw away.


   The final port in the plan is themed to India.  This largest port has three distinct environments: (1) a densely-built, bustling cityscape; (2) a manicured and opulent royal gardens & palace (hotel); and (3) natural areas reclaimed by the tropical forest.


   Because this DisneySea took up several of the originally-planned hotel parcels on the Hong Kong property, I wanted to include a luxury resort that linked the park's interior with the harbor waterfront.  India's numerous Maharajahs' palaces lend themselves well to an out-sized Disney-style luxury resort, and I considered the Umaid Bhawan Palace (see above) as a major inspiration for massing and architecture of this one.   It would make an impressive and beautiful landmark from both within the park and from the water and would feature an open, 5+ story lobby, gardens, and extraordinary detail & craftsmanship from the turrets to the toiletries.

 Back in the park: the urban district, with its distinct domes and stacked flat-roofed mud & brick buildings, features narrower alleyways filled with sights, sounds, scents and entertaining denizens one might find in a romanticized city of India.  Attractions include a Theater for major productions, a large family-boatride based on India's mythology, and - discovered by queuing through a forest and into a cavern - a ride based on Disney's Jungle Book. 


  The hectic, exciting environment of the City is contrasted by the soothing, open lawns, flower beds and fountains of the Mughal Gardens with the giant Maharajah Palace hotel and its great dome looming majestically beyond.   The Gardens and the crossroads island above it are good places to stroll, relax, sit on a bench, get-away from the hustle, etc.  I'm a big believer in the 'Park' aspect of Theme Parks.   

  Rested and ready for excitement, the last major feature of the land is a large E-ticket coaster with places guests in runaway mine-trains through an archeological excavation site of four Indian temples that were reclaimed by the jungle and lost for centuries.  While the theme is similar to Temple du Peril, this is a much larger and more elaborate coaster attraction with multiple lifts, numerous show aspects (e.g., AA animals like tigers) and zippy terrain-following sections coupled with some scaffolding track around the temple ruins.


  Hoping you enjoyed this In Memoriam drawing in honor of Alain.  And I hope that something spectacular, ambitious and well-executed is built on the empty 2nd Gate plot, and that it complements the existing HKDL park and resort.

   Follow on Twitter here for future updates and drawings.



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scenic Plan - Daark Valley Orphanage

UPDATE: Video at end has new scene added.

Professional illustrator Kevin Karstens has pulled off a pretty remarkable piece of ‘home-imagineering.’  Inspired by the Haunted Mansion, Kevin created an attraction called Daark Valley Orphanage – a creepier, more horror-oriented, FX-based omnimover. 

He came up with an elaborate backstory, a scene run-down and illustrated storyboards for the ride.  Then he built physical models of each scene, put together an audio soundtrack/narration and filmed a ride-through with a mini camera, complete with working special effects!  How he accomplished all of this can be seen in detail on his site.

When I came across this project, I contacted Kevin to see if he wanted to collab on a schematic for the ride, specifically an illustrative scenic ride layout.  He did, and what follows is my interpretation of the attraction:

And here is a scene-by-scene description, paraphrasing Kevin’s much more detailed synopsis.

QUEUE 0: COURTYARD: Exterior of the attraction is the once grand, now abandoned Victorian Orphanage, weeds choking the fountain, gate falling off its hinges, old gazebo.

QUEUE 1: PATH DOWN TO CELLAR: I imagined the path winding down past the rockwork cliff towards the cellar entrance.

QUEUE 2: EXHIBITS & ARTIFACTS:  In the dank cellar, the fictional TV show ‘Spectre Seekers’ has put together some exhibits and original artifacts from the tragic history of Daark Valley.

PRE-SHOW 1: SCREENING ROOM:  Here the full history of the Oprhanage (
discussing murderous Headmistress Sally) is set up, as is the Spectre Seekers TV tour.

PRE-SHOW 2: SERVICE ELEVATORS:  Moving through narrow, cave-like cellar passage, visitors will board old elevators for a disquieting FX journey up to the main level.

SCENE 0: LOADING: Straightforward.

SCENE 1: DARK WELCOME: Pitch black; intro narration; walkie-talkie chatter from TV crew.

SCENE 2: PARANORMAL PORTRAIT: Hall with grand portrait of Miss Sally… shadow hands stretch up from the darkness below as the portrait changes into a demonic face, howling in rage.

SCENE 3: SHADOW PEOPLE: An impossibly endless corridor... within the shadows on the floor and walls, figures rise and fall, their red eyes staring out at the living... whispers and mumbling can be heard...

SCENE 4: HAUNTED HALLWAY: Lightning flashes at the opposite end... along the sides of this hall, small hands can be seen attempting to 'push out' through the walls...they grow out a ways, but then retreat, defeated, as the cart slides along its path... visitors swerve to face the bay windows, long free of glass panes, their shredded curtains rippling inward from the wind of the storm outside...

SCENE 5: ATTACKING APPARITION: A long deserted hall which offers a turn to the left about 20 feet ahead... far off down the corridor a ghastly phantasm appears, roaring down the passage, arms outstretched, its shredded petticoat flapping in the breeze... the cart swerves into the opening, the ghost vanishes, cheated of its prize:

SCENE 6: VALLEY OF DESPAIR:  Three bay windows provide a view outside... visible is a seemingly 'bottomless' mist-filled valley next to the Orphanage... streaming ghost orphans can be seen flowing endlessly up out of the valley into the night sky, as lightning flashes and bolts illuminate the heavy clouds hanging over the valley.

SCENE 7: FORGOTTEN NURSERY: The cart rounds the corner, out of the blackness, and visitors have a clear view of the highly-haunted Nursery come to life.  Dirty, dusty old toys are scattered about, three rusted beds are lined up under the windows.  Situated on the floor in the center of the room, two transparent orphans roll a physically-real ball back and forth between them.

 The bed on the far right shows two alternating 'depressions' that rise and fall, as if two orphans are bouncing up and down on the bed...which they are, to an extent...

Bloody hand prints appear on one wall, letters spell out 'HELP US'...a framed painting, directly above these manifestations, changes randomly from a cherubic-faced Humpty Dumpty to a spiked-toothed nightmare.

SCENE 8: SOULTAKER SALLY:  Rounding the corner, visitors can see an open doorway (on the door, 'MISS SALLY MAPLE - ORPHANAGE HEAD MISTRESS' is visible)… lightning flashes and thunder bellows, as we see a Team Member gasping and his body lurching upward... the ghastly spectre (the same torso ghoul previously seen in the hallway, but now more clearly defined) of Sally Maple flickers into existence above him, seeming to 'pull' his body up...

SCENE 9: THE BONEYARD: Broken French doors lead onto an outdoor landing, where the heavily clouded night sky gives birth to a raging thunderstorm.  The cart moves along the landing, where we can see the former playground down below.   A rusted 'merry go round' sits broken, but this doesn't prevent the ghost orphans from endlessly revolving around in the air, slightly above the shattered device, as they chant a musical nursery rhyme...

Further along we see a battered swing set, a teeter totter and a sandbox...the swings rock back and forth endlessly, devoid of any visible riders, as the teeter totter moves up and down... a hopscotch game takes place…

SCENE 10: DOORWAY TO HELL: As they re-enter the orphanage, visitors find another TV Team Member slumped over a pile of debris on the floor... the wall behind him cracks and breaks apart... a swirling green blue VORTEX can be seen, as pictures on the wall start to 'swing in' towards the rift, and hanging lights are pulled in that direction, flickering, then going out...  The fallen Team Member's head rises to stare out at the passing visitors, his eyes turn RED, and his jaw unhinges to emit an angry, evil roar… The cart seems stalled, unable to resist the power of the portal... To make matters worse, the ghastly visage of Miss Maple emerges from the vortex, and she speaks for the first time, her attention now on the trespassing visitors...

She cackles a mad laugh, triumphant in her victory...Until multiple small, blue orbs burst forth from the walls surrounding the edges of the scene, swooping towards the evil Mistress.  The lights swirl around as we hear orphans' laughter.  They then converge on the ghost of the old spinster, as she is dragged wailing into the vortex... with a shudder, the cart is free!

[SWW: Since this scene required the cart to feel as if it were stuck or getting drawn in (tilt forward) - and have an important, somewhat lengthy SFX sequence unfold directly before the rider, I put in a carousel system (akin to something like those used on Imagination, Horizons or Harry Potter), where multiple, identical FX sets/screens rotate in sync with each individual cart, giving the illusion of no longer moving.  In retrospect, I think it would be much easier to accomplish this with the rotating set on the interior, rather than on the exterior (as shown) of the ride path, but I hope the idea gets across.]

SCENE 11: TV LOUNGE: Epilogue… An old television, sitting on a broken table, claims the Orphanage is safe for tourists... We know better.


POST 1: RETAIL:  At ground level (pre-show screening room shown below).

And for the grand finale, here is Kevin’s video ride-through (work-in-progress, shows through Scene 8) of the model he built for the attraction: 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Mountain for Potterland

It was suggested that the Dragon Challenge Queue be themed as the stadium from the fourth Potter film.  It made sense, so that's what I did:

One of the trademark features of what I term “Tier II” theme parks (e.g., Busch Gardens or Sea World) is the naked steel mega coaster.  Sometimes these coasters feature elaborate, well-executed queues (e.g., Manta or Dueling Dragons) or trains, which is part of what separates Tier II parks from Tier III.  However, there is little else done to theme the actual coaster superstructure: 
Pic 1

I’m not deriding Tier II parks & theme-ing.  These places & rides are popular, and there is certainly a place for them, but my interests lie in the elaborate theatrical designs that mark Tier I: lands, attractions, or in this case, rollercoasters, that attempt to wholly sell another time & place throughout their design & execution.

The much-discussed Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers a juxtaposition of these two models (Tier I & Tier II).  Several of its areas & vistas (& flagship attraction) are contenders for best Tier I themed environment on the planet:
Pic 2

At the same time, the land’s eastern backdrop is a huge, naked steel coaster:
Pic 3

In addition, the Forbidden Journey’s enormous showbuilding is an eyesore from a number of places within the park:
Pic 4
Pic 5
This blog is all about idealizing the parks, so I created another birdseye illustration to show how the all parts of IOA’s Wizarding World might be brought to the Tier I level.

A note on mini-coasters:  I generally give lightly-themed mini(kiddie)-coasters (Flounder’s Flying Fish, Barnstormer, Flight of the Hippogriff, etc.) a pass because they are small enough not to overwhelm their surroundings. 

However the Dragon Challenge is no mini-coaster.  It is huge and shatters any illusion a visitor might have that he is in the Scottish highlands that surround Hogwarts… it states clearly and loudly: you are in an amusement park.  

So with this illustration, I imagined a very large mountain strewn with castle ruins and stunted pine trees that envelops the dueling coaster tracks.  The ride would pass through caverns, dungeons and other interior show spaces, sometimes emerging into the daylight for high inversions or near collisions.  In addition, the pylons supporting the outdoor track of this suspended coaster would be heavily themed to castle ruins, crumbling walls, old tree stumps.    The tracks would be painted a in a background blending scheme, so it might appear as the distant coasters are snake-like dragons flying around the mountain & ruins.  

It’s rare to achieve the “100% convincing” level in a theme park… and very difficult (and expensive) to make a huge suspended coaster work convincingly in a fantasy environment (never been done to my knowledge), so I think if you get 75-80% there, it can be called a success.

Other changes in the illustration include a raised, forested berm around the edge of the park and enough additional rockwork on the Forbidden Journey showbuilding to keep it concealed from any vantage point within the park (on the ground). 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


For the next entry in my Wishful-Thinking-Birds-Eye-Illustration series (previous entry Tokyo Fantasyland viewable below), I decided to tackle Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland.  This is an area with great potential but in need of some serious work (IMO) to fulfill it.  Here is my illustration of a Dinoland Reborn:

The most visible change is the replacement of DinoRama with an area dedicated to the Pleistocene and featuring a glacial lake and giant jagged rock formations.  The major experience here is Mammoth Falls.  Designed to both educate & thrill (and experience-driven rather than plot-driven), this E-ticket flume extends the “Extinct Animals” section of DAK beyond dinosaurs.  Guests travel back to a meticulously recreated North America of 10,000 years ago: an age when primitive man co-existed with giant mammals.   

The experience begins in the queue, a soggy pine & birch forest, at the close of the Ice Age.  Entering a cavern, adventurers hear the sounds of giant beasts and come upon a large room covered in cave paintings (Lascaux).  The paintings become animated as a Shaman-like voice describes the natural world of this era.

Boarding giant tree snags (at least 4-riders wide, with four or five rows), guests then experience scene after scene of pre-historic wonders… escalating in scale, detail and terror, until the climactic 50-foot plunge.   The ride portion starts with peaceful mastodons and a family of American Lions, then passes a Dire Wolf attack on a Giant Elk, a Mammoth herd, giant ground sloths, etc.  As the boats rise to the final drop, guests pass the new apex predator – man – as a primitive hunting party plans an attack on a weary mammoth.  The final scene reflects the extinction of the megafauna and their replacement with mid-sized mammals we know today (deer, black bear, etc.).

The Triceratop Spin is re-themed to compliment Mammoth Falls: an aerial spinner based on the giant extinct birds (like the predecessor to the California condor).  Its queue is within the rocky cave-nest of such a bird.

The final major change is to Dinosaur.  Any connections to the Dinosaur film are discarded, including the ride name (note the removal of Aladar and return of the original Styracosaurus statue to the plaza).  

I feel Period is always easier to sell and maintain in themed design than Present (and often more compelling), so this attraction (and the land as a whole) is set in mid-20th century America (Golden Age of Palentology?).

Gone is the mundane, postmodern, low-rise Dino Institute (and signage) that exists now.  It is replaced with a gothic, multi-turreted, brick museum building intended to evoke a stuffy Smithsonian or AMNH.  

Inside are dusty, old-fashioned dinosaur exhibits, and the pre-show would take place in the fossil preparation laboratory.  Secret book-case doors (because who doesn’t love those) would then open leading to the Time Travel sub-level, full of 1950’s style scientific equipment and re-designed rovers for a re-designed adventure (following the same path).