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). 


Anonymous said...

Van you explain the Tier I Tier II and Tier III a bit more?

Felipe Zahtariam said...

I'm very sad about the final entry... Would love to see more of your works (maps and birdseye illustrations).

Great work this time, though.

Walter said...

What's happening to the blog? If you're going on to bigger and better things, congratulations. You certainly have the skill and I will miss reading these updates. I really liked this post and it's a great way to finish it up.

Anonymous said...

April fools.

Anonymous said...

Wait your stopping this blog?noooooooooo!

SWW said...

Yeah... that was my lame attempt at an Aprill's Fool Joke. Then I realized it wasn't funny or clever... I was a bit hamstrung in that this blog doesn't report news but shares fictional ideas.

IdealBuildout will continue with regular updates.


As far as Tier I, II & III elaboration, as Anon1 asked. For me it's pretty straighforward if you look at three coasters:

This is Tier III: something you find at a great many amusement parks like Six Flags. Lightly decorated switchback queue area, naked steel coaster. It doesn't attempt to tell any kind of story. It is a thrill machine:

This is Tier II (Manta). It's got some nicer landscaping & rockwork around the coaster structure. The queue features waterfalls, rockwork and aquariums. But the attraction is still a huge steel rollercoaster and nothing is done to disguise that.

Tier I tries to sell you on the idea that you are not on a rollercoaster at all but on a Runaway mine train in the Old West or a Vernian inspired rocketship to the moon, or in a Mayan dig site. This involves disguising typical coaster support structures that visually dominate Tiers II & III (this usually involves the creation of extensive rockwork or placing the coaster in the dark). These Tier I are rare (expensive) and almost all the really well-done ones are by Disney. Universal Mummy would count as Tier I. Disney now has two more of these coasters under construction (Big Grizzly & Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).

You can extrapolate this idea of Tier I, II & III from coasters to other types of rides, lands & parks.

SWW said...

Some image links to the Tiers

Magic Lamp said...

I still scratch my head over the fact they didn't even bother to cover or thoroughly disguise the coaster during the refurb and the show-building showing is just a disgrace.

Your illustration/idea is superb as always. The disguised support pylons are brilliant! When I read Ä mountain for..."I immediately thought of the Wizarding Tournament and the intense f(l)ight over the mountainous area and the castle itself.

It's all in the appropriate theming, I always say.

Anonymous said...

Hey, SWW. You could do Six Flags theme park someday.

Anonymous said...

Is California Screamin' at DCA a Tier 1, 2, or 3 Coaster? Because it doesn't really tell a story, but it fits in the theme.

SWW said...

It's an anachronism... a coaster themed to be a coaster. If Screamin had been executed in a really high-quality style to mimic the finish of an early 20th C. coaster (e.g. old fashioned trains, real painted wood superstructure (and not steel), etc.) with a historic, detailed queue setting, I think it could qualify as a nifty Tier I... telling the story of seaside coasters of a lost age.

If I had to group as it now stands, it would be II.


I think the only way I would draw a Six Flags would be if the idea was to transform a Six Flags into a Tier I theme park like Disneyland or DisneySea... I did something like that with WDSP and posted it here.

Mike said...

Regarding your comments about Six Flags and the Tier III style of theming they do along with other non-Disney/Universal theme park chains is they lack the big budgets to pull it off.

When Paramount did the now deceased Tomb Raider at Kings Island I think they did a knock out job onthe theming of that ride. Of course, Cedar Fair, who is probably worse than Six Flags when it comes to theming, stripped it to something laughable and the ride was severely lackluster from its original incarnation.

Are there other ways of theming a coaster without putting a faux mountain around it? Seems to be the only way to truly disguise the supports and make the ride more of an experience than just another run of the mill coaster.

Otherwise I very much enjoy the blog and your ideas for parks, themed areas, and attractions. Keep up the great work.

SWW said...

Hey Mike, thanks for the comment. As you mentioned there are major costs and design challenges in theme-ing a mega-coaster, which is why only a few companies have the resources to produce them. I would like to see more Tier I megacoasters... but how to do it.

"Mine" trains on mountains or among ruins are by far the most often used way (Raging Spirits, Big Thunder, Everest, Temple du Peril, Seven Dwarfs, Grizzly Mtn).

But there are many unexplored possibilities. I think a Victorian steampunk/Captain Nemo-style factory or complex (indoor/outdoor) could facilitate a Tier I mega-coaster, as this style of architecture features a lot of riveted steel. A 1930s gangster cityscape would work as well (with buildings hiding the pylons). There are plenty of unexplored possibilities... it comes down to the skill of the designers and engineers.

It becomes more challenging if you are trying to theme really big coasters to pre-industrial times/places, which is the case in this Dragon Challenge illustration (the fact that it is dueling AND suspended compounds the challenge). Topography (real or fake) becomes very useful in this situation.

Magic Lamp said...

The only way to really disguise a coaster while saving money on extensive theming is to turn the pylons (and possibly the tracks) into part of the actual theme.

For instance, the Dueling Dragons could be set in a large ruin of a castles a menacing forest or a town that was devastated by the dragons themselves. Anything to make it less obvious that there's a giant steel coaster next to a small whimsical village.

ImaginationJohhhny said...

Hey Sww! I just found out i'm going to Disneyland a week after they finish up with Buena Vista and Carsland! Anyways, yesterday i went to my local six flags and i was just criticizing everything! Lol, but its i guess what you call a tier 1 theme park! The thrills are good, but can you try to illustrate some redo's of some six flags parks?

C.S. Schlottmann said...

This is exactly what's needed. I visited Potterland the first summer it opened, and it was fun and there were some great areas, but something just felt off about the whole thing to me...I wasn't nearly as thrilled as all of the other Disney fans on the internet (I personally preferred LC to WWoHP) and I think this is the reason. The whole area just felt cluttered and the exposed FJ showbuilding and DD track really just took sooo much away from the beauty that is Hogsmeade...well that and the crowds :P.

Anywho, I think Uni should have done something like this instead of the new USF land that's about to get underway. Although expansion is definitely needed, I miss Jaws...

Ron Vance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Vance said...

Right on the money here—would love to see this done, or at least partially overlaid onto the area. I'm kind of surprised JK Rowling didn't insist on it—she's said to be a tough cookie when it comes to authenticity (at least in the movies).
I've always thought that Dueling Dragons stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise highly themed park like Islands of Adventure. I can even give Hulk a pass because it's in a "cityscape." But Dueling (well, not so dueling anymore) Dragons was so much fun to ride, that I tried to overlook it.
It did inspire me to think that even Six Flags could take a lesson from it and at least theme their queues. In my "world" there would be no Tier III theme parks, because I believe even the small parks should at least spend the bucks to theme the queue line.
Great work as usual!

Mystery Man said...

I haven't seen you post anything about Universal in a while.

protojimbo said...

So they announced they're expanding the harry potter area... which direction do you think they will go ? is it a land expansion or are they taking down something else to put that up , do you think?

Annabelle said...

Actually for the WWOHP expansion they are going in to the Jaws area and it will be Diagon Ally.
Now for this, SSW I would suggest get rid of the broken castle's because it does not fit that ride story line which is about the Tri Wizard tournament and the Dragon Challange so I think on the side closet to the Castle the forbidden journey to add more turning to Hippogriff and maybe add a whomping willow ride. On the actuall dragon challenge side cut down on the mountain and instead of Castle ruins add the Tent that is in the book and movie 4th one. And there you have a perfect facade!

SWW said...

Thanks for the comments.

Ron, I agree Hulk works within its comic-style Cityscape.

Sam (the other one) said...

I just looked into your "Castle Diversity" post again and I'm still curious for those parks (Dubai, Cairns, Shanghai, Rio and Jakarta) too! Are you gonna put them up anytime soon?

Sam (the other one) said...

O... and Hong Kong, of course.

SWW said...

^I've drawn conceptual site plans for about 40 "Disneylands" and 50 other types of theme parks... and that number will continue to grow. What you've seen posted here is just the tip of the iceberg. Will I post those specific ones... not sure. I try to post things that may be relevant or of interest in some way or another.

If you are Sam V. from Holland, I think you'll be particularly happy with an upcoming park... (scheduled for late April). I'll try to put up another birdseye in the next couple of days.

Sam V. said...

Thanks! I'm indeed Sam V., so you've made me very curious.

Annabelle said...

SWW I love all of your stuff! Also I have a question: How do you make your site plans and birdseye drawings. You amaze me and I get so excited when you make a post!
Your friend,
Sam E.

Sam V. said...

There are a lot of Sams on this blog!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and am working my way back in history. I agree it is a challenge to fully-theme a mega-coaster, especially Dragon Challenge with its space constraints to the outer boundary of Universal, Hogsmeade station, and the Florida stormwater requirements of the park.
One coaster that I think has done this well is the new Taron at Phantasialand.
It includes a mega-coaster, multi-launch ride system in basalt formations flying over a village. The village hides many of the supports and the track does its best to blend in w/ the many basalt columns of the setting. It certainly gets to that 75-80% level you mentioned in the post.
Expedition Everest is as close as I've experienced to a 'Tier 1' thrill coaster. To be able to theme a suspended coaster or other ride system to a 100% would be an amazing achievement.