Monday, September 15, 2014

3rd Gate Charrette - Phase II

UPDATE I: First take-away comments are up (in red).  Will do a couple more take-aways each night this week.

UPDATE II:  I've finished writing my thoughts/take-away on all the proposals.  I'll soon post what I think the themed contents of the park should be.  Feel free to give feedback.  I'll then ask for volunteers to tackle those individual lands (with provided space and content parameters).

UPDATED III:  Scroll to the bottom for the park contents and next phase info.

Sincere thanks to those of you who participated.  I’ve really enjoyed reading your 3rd Gate Anaheim Proposals, and there are so many good ideas that it will be a challenge to fuse/whittle them down to a single park.  Before getting to the proposals, some initial thoughts/notes:

I received two really awesome single attraction concepts: a new version of the Great Movie Ride and a Goonies-based stunt show.  My current inclination is to save these for a future post: maybe a re-imagined Hollywood area at DCA or attraction Scenic Layout(s).

There were around eight park proposals in total, which covered a broad spectrum:
      DISNEYSKY by protojimbo
      FANTASEA by Isaac D.
      DISNEYUNIVERSE by Parkitect80 
      WESTCOT by William Z.
      FANTASIA by Luke J.
      KINGDOM OF HEROES by Colin

I should start by saying the impetus for this project was that I was seeing a lot of commentary that Disney should find a long-term home for Marvel & Star Wars in a 3rd Gate, rather than adding them to DL or DCA.  When this kind of rumor or zeitgeist arises, I like to visualize it in a park plan.  Before taking this to a collective charrette, I did some doodling in my sketchbook:

Not pretty, but it shows some of my early thoughts, such as:

(i)keeping the entry land and central park icon on the x-axis of the central resort plaza, (just as MainStUSA/Castle and BuenaVista/Carthay are on the y-axis.
(ii)having the key southern parking garage(s) accessible to the main DLR plaza by a pedestrian “highline” that travels above and through the entire park, as well as a peoplemover system.
(iii) creating some kind of Hogwarts Express-inspired concept to connect Tomorrowland to the new park (I hope the guy at Universal Creative who came up with that idea got a nice bonus).
(iv) a general double-helix shape to the park pathways (reflected in the Star-Warsian spire)
(v) seeing the continued popularity of the high-fantasy genre maybe including a Prydain that coincides with a hypothetical future, big budget live-action film series (believe Disney still owns the Lloyd Alexander book rights)
(vi) moving Pooh out of the American West-set Critter Country to this park (possibly doing the same with Nightmare before Christmas).

I thought there were some cool intersects between what I was thinking and what some of you came up with.

For Today, I am going to post only the proposals.  The easiest way I could think of to share the proposals here (in a somewhat uniform way) was to put each into a single large image file.  This meant I had to cut-up and re-arrange them somewhat, but the ideas should come across.

Over this week I will update this post with my take-away on each of the proposals.  Feel free to add your thoughts and comments.

DISNEYSKY by protojimbo
ACCESS TO DLR PLAZA: We are on the same page regarding the entries and central icons aligning along the X-axis of the resort plaza.  I had been thinking of an open-air overpass similar to the west side one to DTD (West St dips under it), but a building with an indoor overpass is definitely something to consider (maybe tie into the entry land).  The entire Eastern plaza will be reconfigured so opportunity may exist for a smaller DTD II.

HOTELS: If used, I agree hotels should be in-park and serve as architectural berms.  Hotels require sizable footprints so they do cut into park space and three may require too much.  Need to consider height/views from all areas of park (and neighboring parks) when deciding about hotels. 

OVERALL PARK THEME: DisneySky is a strong overall theme and a natural member of the theme park triumvirate (would work better here if DCA was DisneySea).    While great parks don’t require an over-arching theme, I think having one is never a bad thing.

CENTRAL ICON: This sounds like an appropriate icon for a DisneySky although I’m having a little trouble imagining what style it would be (fantasy glass castle, machine age Palais, futuristic?)

LANDS:  As noted, this entire exercise began because of a call to move Star Wars & Marvel into their own park.  I’m still not sure what that should mean for Tomorrowland & Star Tours… I like the idea of TL reverting to Real World Techno-Optimism (meaning Buzz, Nemo Subs, Eo would all need to be replaced).  But I also like the idea of connecting TL to StarWarsLand across the parks…

Pandora (Avatar) could also be a compelling area to include, especially if one takes a cost-conscience approach to this project (cloning the DAK area would be good bang-for-buck).

IP VERSUS ORIGINAL: I do think a mix is healthy, and I tend to think the right mix is (at least) 60-40 in favor of original.  As I’ve written here many times, I like the idea that theme parks can be the progenitors of IP (e.g., PotC) as well as showcases of pre-existing IP.

ATTRACTIONS: Good of you to address the Soarin’ over the World dilemma (how it will further take the California out of DCA). 

I would avoid any naked coasters, especially large-scale ones, unless there is a way to make the coaster/track fit the story (which could conceivably be possible in the two environments mentioned).  Otherwise a naked coaster does a lot to negate all the theme-ing around it, IMO.  

Really like the idea of the large overhanging turbines making the heli-carrier appear to float.

FANTASEA by Isaac D.
OVERALL PARK THEME: Fittingly following Sky-based park is a Sea-based 3rd Gate proposal.

ENTERTAINMENT: I think including a park-wide interactive game, like ‘SeaQuest,’ from the ground up is a definite (although not visible on a master plan).  Hopefully, with physical effects like the brilliant ‘Treasures of Seven Seas’ game in the MK.  The end-of-day spectacular has also become an expected part of the park experience.

PARK ACCESS: Your entry land is at the southern center edge of the property (near the new parking decks).  This gets me thinking about giving the park a front and back door (like EPCOT)… one near the parking, one at the opposite end near the DLR Plaza.

LANDS: Most Ports of Call here are strictly themed to a specific filmic world, like Carsland or Diagon Alley.  There are both advantages and drawbacks to this approach to consider.

For all proposals, another thing to consider will be how to keep the offerings unique from what already exists at the DLR.  

Interesting that two proposals have a Mermaid area housed inside a major central mountain.

MONORAIL: You also bring up the monorail (which you have connecting Naboo to Tomorrowland).  You’ve got me thinking about altering its path to go through/stop in the 3rd Gate.

OVERALL PARK THEME: This is the first example of a more all-encompassing park theme… like an Islands of Adventure or Magic Kingdom, anything could fall under this umbrella, which gives more freedom to include things.

LAND USE: Interesting that you suggest keeping Strawberry Fields undeveloped for future use and put the new parking structures south of Paradise Pier Hotel.  I had thought about a water park for that area, but it is something to consider.  Regardless, whether the Strawberry Fields are used for parking or future attractions in this scenario, there needs to be some sort of major access-way between it and the DLR Plaza, either through the park or around it.

WATER: Not unlike FantaSea, a major body of water takes up large portion of the center of the park.  Should consider the pros (visually pleasing, unique to area, stage for entertainment, transport) and cons (takes up a lot of real-estate, opens up wide sight-lines).  For a Sea-based park it is pretty essential.

CENTRAL ICON: I really like some of the Lighthouse details you’ve described such as the carved panels depicting adventures from both the Trojan Wars and Star Wars, as well as the giant flame at the top.  Having the bridges to Lighthouse Island retract for the nighttime show is another really cool idea.  

HIGHWAY: Your mountain range/sound-absorbing wall brings up the importance of insulating the park from the adjacent freeway.  Whether with a rockwork mountain range or architecture, blocking it will be a major factor in the park design.

CROSS-DEMO APPEAL: As noted, most of the park concepts tend to skew a little more towards the thrill, YA/adult crowd, probably because a lot of us fall into those demos.   We should keep in mind that the park should also have content that appeals to the past-/pre-thrill ride demos, as well as those looking for some sophistication.

EDUTAINMENT: I love when parks/attractions entertain, but teach you something simultaneously (especially when you don’t realize you’re learning).  For example, meticulously re-searching and re-creating a Meso-American temple for an Indiana Jones Adventure queue can subconsciously teach somebody about the Mayan Civilization.  Land & attractions can have real substance.  In this case, I really like the Greek/Roman lands & Renaissance Fort for going beyond pure entertainment.

S.E.A.: Your mention of Fort Explorations had me thinking… can S.E.A. (Disney theme parks version of The Avengers) be introduced in the 3rd gate in a new original attration?

STAR WARS: When/if Star Wars is included in this gate (which feels likely), the question will be how to represent it?  Specific planets/settings from past films?  New settings from future films?  Original settings created specifically for this park?  Will the new trilogy return to Hoth or Endor, making them more relevant?

SUPERHEROES: Similarly, how should the diversity of Marvel be handled (I also agree that Guardians of the Galaxy seems like a natural transition between Star Wars/present-set Marvel)?  Should animated superheroes like Big Hero Six and the Incredibles co-habitate with RDJ’s Tony Stark?

LANDS: Your idea for Atlantis struck me the most because of how cool it would be (although not too easy to communicate on a park plan) to experience the destruction effect every half-hour.

DISNEYUNIVERSE by Parkitect80 
CENTRAL ICON: You’ll note that I had a twisting “Star Wars-ian” spire as the central icon in my initial sketch, and this giant purple, alien ‘beanstalk’ idea is of a similar vein – I can imagine what the Beanstalk would look like, with a mess of huge tangled roots at the base – a sci-fi Tree of Life.   It plays well off of your 1950s Main St, also.   Alien Beanstalk is a very strong contender to be the icon for the park I will draw: it’s bold, risky, memorable, fun-to-say and nothing like it has been done before.  

COSTUMING & COSPLAY: This is an interesting area to me, which unfortunately doesn’t come through on a master plan but is good to think about.  I often imagine how theme parks can move to another level of virtual reality and a major issue is always no matter how well designed your Old West Town is, it will be full of tourists in modern dress & accoutrements.  For me, the most transportative experiences at the parks usually came when they emptied out and the suspension of disbelief became much easier.  I think there is room for major advances in cast (called that for a reason) costuming and character-playing.  I’m not really familiar with cosplay, but it sounds interesting that the visitor can also enter into these virtual worlds – strengthening the illusion (granted they don’t change for each land they enter).

CROWDFLOW: Like your thoughts on “organically” shrinking or widening paths for intimacy or large crowds, depending on requirements.

ENTERTAINMENT: If there is the expected giant night-time extravaganza, there should be consideration of viewing designed in from day one.  At the same time, a massive amphitheater that sits empty all day may not be something to have in the park’s center (e.g., at DHS it's hidden away).

LANDS: I think a dark/scary area (incorporating Villains/Halloween), which comes up in a number of proposals, is a strong contender for a land in this gate.

WESTCOT by William Z.
REAL WORLD VERSUS FANTASY: This WestCOT concept is refreshing because all the other proposals, including mine, are heavily fantasy/film/fiction-based.  Even though this 3rd Gate Project is going to include fiction, due to the ‘Star Wars/Marvel imperative’, I think it would be very good to include some non-fiction, edutainment in the park.  At some point in the future I would like to design another realism-based theme park, especially because of their increasing rarity.

LANDSCAPE: The Buchart Gardens-inspired area reminds me of the importance of the ‘Park’ part of ‘Theme Park’.   Landscape design is a critical part of the making of a great park.   A particular style of ongoing landscape maintenance is also key.  Plants need grow-in, embrace/frame architecture, provide shade, block views, provide a canopy in places, tell their part of an area's story, and add to the sense of life, realism and permanence.  In the endless sprawl of L.A., this kind of lush, rolling oasis is especially desirable.

CENTRAL ICON: The Tower of Babel is an interesting idea for a central icon (would nicely fit a Holy Land park).  Your Tower of Babel seems to be a showcase of world architecture rather than the biblical structure, which is also a cool idea.

ARCHITECTURE: I found it interesting that two proposals included a Frank Lloyd Wright aesthetic.

STRICTLY- VERSUS LOOSELY-THEMED LANDS: As I review each proposal the final park concept comes into better focus.  This Fantasia park nicely illustrates the way I intend to go regarding specificity of land themes: the loosely-themed, more-encompassing strategy used in this proposal.  For example, rather than a “Star Wars Land”, you’ll have “Galactic StarPort”, which can still have a heavy Star Wars influence, but is able to include other similar content like Guardians of the Galaxy (and original content!).  Again, rather than a “Marvel Land” area, there could be a Super Hero zone that can include Incredibles or others that don’t have to be Marvel.  To use a 3rd example, rather than a “Hundred Acre Wood” or “Arendelle”, you could have a “Fantasy Forest” that can have sub-areas themed to these properties, if desired.  

RE-CREATING FILMIC WORLDS VS. EXPANDING ON THOSE WORLDS:  I think the theme park presents an opportunity to not simply re-create an established filmic world, but to expand on it.  I think Indiana Jones Adventure in DL is the perfect example…  we know it inhabits Indiana Jones world of pulp 1930s archaeology, but it does not try to replicate the Peruvian temple from Raiders or the Grail temple from Last Crusade.    There are nods to the movies (rolling ball), but this is a new adventure that can’t be experienced anywhere else.

To this point, when it comes to creating park areas based on famous IP, I want a large part of it to be original and unique to the park, while still recognizable as inhabiting that universe.

Same goes for attractions: no book reports.

WEENIES: If the park entrance/central icon are to be aligned with the DLR Plaza in the northern section of the park, then, as I sketched, there need to be major weenies at the far southeastern & southwestern corners of the park to draw people in.  The Chernabog Mountain described in this proposal could be an inspiration for one of those weenies and anchor a Haunted/Villain/Dark land mentioned earlier.  

SEASONAL ATTRACTIONS: This proposal also includes an interesting idea of a “quick-change” dark ride that changes with the Seasons… this is a pretty cool idea, and I think other overlays could be added in addition to Fall (Halloween) & Winter (Christmas), such as Spring & Summer.   If used here, then the NBC overlay could vacate New Orleans Square.


CHANGING THE THEME PARK EXPERIENCE: This proposal gets the out-of-box-thinking prize, featuring – if I’m understanding correctly – not individual attractions as we know them, but a single “endless” ride (you could ride for hours or minutes at a time, at your discretion) in autonomous vehicles traveling through enormous buildings (housing varying “lands”) featuring many different scenes & adventures, with traffic control via LPS computers.  It’s so unique from what we’ve come to think of as theme parks, that the proposal feels like it merits its own separate exploration at some point in the future.  I am very intrigued.

ACTIVE VERSUS PASSIVE ENTERTAINMENT: The proposal brings up the concept of greater guest control of the ride experience, ever-changing ride content and random interaction with characters.   All things to consider, regardless of the final themes used.

CENTRAL ICON & ENTRY LAND: I like the visualization of what looks like a forested Pride Rock with waterfall spilling over the tip.  Having a river flow down the center of the entry land is also an interesting concept (Oasis sort of does this).


KINGDOM OF TIME: While briefly described here, a Journey through Time Park is a concept I've done work on in the past and want tackle again in the future.  I think it is a great idea for an overall park theme, gives a natural opportunity to layout the park as a physical progression through the planet's/mankind's history.   Something like this could be saved for a future Charrette/Master Planning session or a second gate to Shanghai. 

KINGDOM OF HEROES: This name is sort of the direction the park is taking, since it is is going to have a somewhat disparate collection of content (Marvel/Superheroes; Star Wars; Enchanted Forest; Villains; S.E.A./Discovery; and maybe Classical Civlization/Mythos (Greek/Roman/Atlantis).   What over-arching theme can link all these?  We can rule out Sea & Sky (those will be good candidates for future park designs, i.e., 2nd gates for Hong Kong/Shanghai, etc.).  Heroes, Adventure are good linking terms, but is it really a Kingdom? 

UPDATED III: Here is a general land-allocation for the 3rd Gate (and rough sketch of the Alien Beanstalk).

Now we're ready to move into Phase III.  

Pick a land (feel free to do more than one) and use the very general area allocated above to design that land.  Let me know what land you're going to tackle in the comments section.  Hopefully each will be covered.  (I'll do the Jupiter Gardens entry).  Feel free to develop ideas from anything you've seen above.  You'll have until Sunday the 21st to turn in any land ideas.  

Drawing a basic layout of the land would be most welcome.  You shouldn't use the right angle borders above (make them organic), but understand the space available, the neighboring areas and think about transitions.

Each land should be designed within reason, e.g.:
0-2 E-tickets (major coasters, major darkrides)
0-2 D-tickets (moderate darkrides, major theatricals)
1-3 C-tickets (minor darkride, elaborate explore zones, minor theatricals)
1-3 B-tickets (spinners, short walkthroughs, meet&greets)

Dining and retails should also be included.

Try to make use of new ride systems and ones that are not used at DL or DCA.

Feel free to suggest name changes to the lands/park/attractions.

 -ACCESS TO PARKING: I ended up having the "pedestrian high line" and "parking peoplemover" circumvent the park rather than travel above and through it, as the technology would not necessarily mesh well with the themed areas it needed to cross.

-ENTRY LAND: While I like the connection between a 1950s Main St and the Sci Fi Beanstalk, a 1950s Main Street would look and feel close to the DL Main St, architecturally (as 1950s main streets were typically filled with buildings from prior decades).  As the Central Icon is a sort of Sci-Fi tree of life, Jupiter Gardens will be an exotic, lush entrance (Animal Kingdom's Oasis) with a stream, unusual trees, etc.  I feel this is a good run-up to the Beanstalk which will have paths running through and under it.

-STARPORT & GALAXY HOTEL: This area can have a heavy Star Wars presence/influence, but try not to replicate a specific Star Wars location (the rides can take you to familiar locations if necessary).  Would like to see this area connect to Tomorrowland as discussed in the comments.

-SUPERHEROES AREA:  Can make this area urban with a SanFransokyo skyline blocking the highway, if desired.  S.H.I.E.L.D. could have a camp set up on its side of the Beanstalk, investigating it.

-ENCHANTED FOREST: I almost hesitate to include something so similar to Fantasyland, but I have an itch to get Pooh out of Critter Country, so I'd like to see a Hundred Acre sub-area here.  Should feel like a Forest to differentiate from the Townscape of Fantasyland

-SHADOWLAND: At the back of this area will be a big evil-looking mountain.

-MYTHOS: This could be the place for some of the Greek/Roman/Atlantis ideas suggested.  Would prefer to see real-world edutainment in this area (e.g. not Disney's Hercules).  Another large weenie should be in this area (Mt. Olympus?) 

-(Optional) CLASSIC CIV RESORT: Greek/Mediterranean/Atlantean resort hotel could be built into this area.

-DISCOVERY OUTPOST: Set in 1880s-1920s.  Victorian-Steampunkish.  Small area. S.E.A. Could be investigating traces of Atlantis... ride could make use of Volcano.



Friday, September 5, 2014

Collective Design Charrette

I thought this might be a fun change of pace for the September-October posts.

Situation: You are a designer at WDI and have been invited to the Blue Sky Charrette for Anaheim’s 3rd Gate. To make things easier, we’ll imagine The Company has fully acquired the very large wedge of mostly commercial parcels due east of the current parks (green below):

The Strawberry Fields area to the South may now be used for new parking & back of house facilities (and possible hotel(s)).

Week One: The What, the Where & the Why.  Create a (succinctly) written proposal with accompanying plan (basic) and reference imagery illustrating what the overall park theme, lands, icon, weenies, general contents, and layout should be, and email it to me.   If you only have an idea for one or two lands or just an attraction, you are still welcome to participate.

Week Two: I’ll present the proposals for group discussion, fusion & revision.  In this phase we can go over creative & technical issues like budget & land restraints, sight-lines, access to the existing main plaza, access to new southern parking complex, highway noise, ROI, capacity, uniqueness from existing offerings, audience demographics, crowd flow, etc., etc., and we’ll finalize the general design intent for the park.  I’ll play the role of executive designer with deciding power.

Week Three: With the park themes and parcel-pad sizes generally established, you the designers will then focus on specific land/area environments, layouts and contents.  This phase will include more attraction details and layouts (especially out-doors).   Plans, art, writing & reference imagery will be submitted via email.

Week Four:  Similar process of sharing, discussion and finalization.

At the conclusion of this conceptual phase, I will create a full Illustrative Plan for the 3rd Gate, after which it may be possible to do further concept design work, such as elevations and perspectives.  Participant-created media is highly-encouraged.

Due date for Week 1 Proposals will be Sept. 13th.  Questions and discussion will take place in the comments section.   Hope you have fun with this.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shanghai V

Having already drawn four guess-work Illustratives for the Shanghai DL park, I told myself I would hold off on drawing a fifth until it became very clear what the park would actually be like.   While a great many details have (frustratingly) yet to come into public view, enough material has become available in the interim (content roster, artwork, blurry/small site plans, satellite photos, etc.) for me to draw another plan.  This one should provide a fairly accurate idea of what the park will entail, but I also filled up most of the park’s expansion pads and changed one of the ‘early-expansion’ lands (from ToyStoryLand to StarWarsLand).   So this is an Ideal Build-Out version which encompasses the opening-day roster*.  

So let’s take a look at what we know and some lingering mysteries surrounding one of the world’s biggest and most exciting theme park projects since Tokyo DisneySea.

*excluding Toy Story Land



DISNEYTOWN: While no renderings of this area have been released, it is a safe bet it will be composed of ‘Entertainment/Branded Architecture’ (e.g., Anaheim DTD) versus ‘Time & Place/Themed Architecture’ (e.g., Main Street, U.S.A.).  There will be a major theater hosting Broadway-caliber shows, beginning with “The Lion King.”  The theme park looks to be accessible through this area.

MICKEY AVENUE: Glimpses of this area have been seen via artwork and those glimpses are very interesting: an eclectic mix of facades that seem to have some basis on Disney film history.  A Club 33 may be housed in the corner Carthay Circle fa├žade.  There appears to be a French boulangerie based on “Ratatouille.”   There might be a faux train station cover just north of the Mickey Floral entry ramp (not shown here).


GARDENS OF IMAGINATION: This is by far the least unknown area of the park as numerous press pieces have been released about it.  My assumption is ‘Garden of the Twelve Friends’ is a sub-area of the land (as there will be Dumbo and Fantasia sub-areas).  One the early expansion pads (due east of the center) is filled on the blurry official site plan with a large structure, likely a dining facility. 

ADVENTURE ISLE: This is an area for which I am really keen to see some artwork.  Roaring Rapids forms the mountainous backdrop and has an indoor portion.  The peak of this attraction will be the second highest point in the opening-day park, after the castle spire (although my Build-Out adds a few taller expansion attractions).    Nestled within the Rapids attraction is the Challenge Trail exploratory area.  Two big mysteries of Adventure Isle: First, there is a large structure on the far east of the land.  I am going to guess this is a theatrical venue due its big, covered queue adjacent to the building.    Filling one of the first expansion pads, between the Rapids and above mentioned theater, is the new version of Soarin’.   Another mystery is whether the land will be set in the past, like traditional Adventurelands, or in the present (i.e., “Tomb Raider” or “Uncharted”).   The latter would make Soarin’ much easier to integrate.

TREASURE COVE: The park’s signature attraction boasts maybe the longest name ever given to a theme park ride.  Interestingly, the land’s stunt show looks to be indoors.   Guest-powered canoes (a personal favorite) will circle the azure waters of the park’s largest lagoon.   On the blurry site plan, both the EastSide and WestSide performance venues take up early epansion pads.  It is possible these will be inexpensive ‘temporary’ venues like AK’s Dino Jubilee or EPCOT’s Millennium Pavilion or HK's Haunted Hotel - added to beef-up the opening day roster. 

CELESTIAL REALM: Continuing counter-clockwise, I imagined the park’s largest expansion area being filled by a non-Disney, non-Franchise area dedicated to Chinese history/mythology (as the other parks have their areas dedicated to American history).  To uitilize this area most effectively, I re-routed the parade egress loop, which on opening day will run parallel to the rear of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  The icon of this area is an original, Everest-scale outdoor coaster (Jade Mountain), which, when viewed from the castle, would form a nice layering affect, rising to a jagged peak beyond the foothills of the SDMT.

FANTASYLAND: I’m hoping and expecting Fantasyland will be like the MK’s Fantasy Forest in style.  One of the big mysteries on my previous version of this park has been solved:  The large building in the northwest corner is a theater (proscenium construction visible from Google Earth), likely showing a musical medley.  I filled up the due-North expansion pad with a Haunted Castle dark ride (the park’s non-IP haunted mansion or dedicated to Disney Villains?).  

STAR WARS OUTPOST: The blurry site plan showed this area to be a Toy Story Playland (with a somewhat-altered content).  Since then Lucasfilm has been acquired, so I thought why not change this to a Star Wars area, which would transition nicely from Tomorrowland (and employ a lot of trees to block it from Fantasyland).   The centerpiece of the land could be a nex-gen X-Wing/TIE Fighter spinner on a rising arm (inspired by Favilli Studios’ Dubai Disneyland).   The area would be surrounded by lush plantings (not Tatooine), so the Galactic Cantina is in the same vein as the Mos Eisley one, but not a replica.  There would be a small amphitheater for the Jedi Academy show and a major Space Adventure E-ticket anchoring the land.

TOMORROWLAND:   The properties here are mostly character-based (Tron, Stitch, Buzz Lightyear), but the architecture appears to be Gehry-Calatrava, with unusual features like aerial planters.   It will be interesting to see how it all meshes.  Since the Lightcycle showbuilding and wavy, glass curtain (the ‘Tron Cover’ covering the outdoor coaster segment) are both quite tall, and because it is distant from all the other themed areas of the park, I thought the land’s expansion pad might be a good place for a new, billowing Gehry-esque free-fall tower attraction, with an original story to balance the character-heavy area.   Another mystery of this area are the circular pools near the parade route - will they do anything (futuristic geysers?)?  

-There looks to be a very heavy emphasis on live theater at this park, with three major indoor venues, and possibly 4 or more outdoor ones, plus the Broadway-level auditorium in DisneyTown.
-The park has more of a Multi-Loop layout vesus the traditional Hub-Spoke associated with all the other castle parks (especially the way I have used the expansion pads).
-The park should feel much bigger than tiny, opening-day HKDL, although when HKDL gets fully built-out, they will be in a similar league, with Shanghai still being the big sister.  If the roster is accuate (excluding my expansion additions), SDL on opening will have equal or more attractions than 2016 HKDL (with Iron Man), so it should feel like a full experience.

Hopefully, the coming months will see a lot more models, plans and artwork surface for this park.  At the very least, The Bund Preview Center is supposed to open in early 2015.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Post-Studio Era

Movie parks around the world are moving inexorably away from sound-stage-filled “Studios” with movie-making at their heart and towards recreating filmic worlds, as exemplified by the new Place de Remy at WDSP and Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.  These transporting areas show how positive this movement can be.   My main reservation about the Post-Studio Era continues to be in the macro scope: I'm wary that the individual parks, including non-studios, lose something of their unique identities as these filmic world areas continue to be placed in every type of park, so eventually they all will feel like quasi-filmic-worlds parks.  In the individual park- and near-term, however, it is exciting to see these areas realized so well.

 I had collaborated with Brian Krosnick before on his idea for a theme park in the shape of the earth’s continents.  This time, Brian contacted me with an expansion/revision plan for WDW’s DHS.    He had some pretty cool and unique ideas for the park, including:

-    An entirely color-less land based on the early Walt Disney black-and-white cartoons.
-    An exotic tropical land, inspired by Mystic Point, that is home to a retired, eccentric Hollywood starlet (thinking Norma Desmond)

-    A hillside featuring the Hollywood sign over and behind the Chinese Theater.
-    Making Midway Mania part of an actual boardwalk midway (TDS).

This park mixes several lands that are focused on Classic Hollywood and film-making, along with a number filmic worlds, making for a pretty neat Movie Kingdom.

Brian mapped out his vision, an essential first step for any collaboration:

And I adapted it, removing almost every trace of the original Studio Backlot and putting in a family coaster situated on Syndrome's Island in The Incredibles area:

Brian has put together a very descriptive walkthrough of his Ideal Buildout of “Hollywoodland” which you can read on ThemeParkTourist.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

3D Modeling

I was flattered to be contacted by designer Raoul van Kammen (website) who took it upon himself to digitally model the Leonardo's Workshop attraction for DisneySea that I had drawn and posted here a few months ago:

And here is the progression of Raoul's stellar modeling work:

I think he brilliantly captured what I was trying to communicate for this environment.  Thanks, Raoul!

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 27, 2014

Adventurers Club

When the rendering of “The Hangar” – a facility at the under-construction Disney Springs - was posted on the construction walls a little while ago, I was reminded of the glow that master WDI artist Bryan Jowers gave to many of his paintings, which were often set in exotic times and places.  This got me thinking: what if a retail/dining/entertainment center like The Landing at Disney Springs had a distinctive theme, that of pulp adventure.   One of the buildings on the Springs model caught my attention when I first saw it:

 The four very tall chimneys give the building a distinctive Victorian look and my mind immediately went to what was once adjacent to this site: The Adventurers Club – the crown jewel of Pleasure Island and one of the coolest entertainment venues ever built at WDW (or anywhere else), filled with incredible theme-ing, details, special effects and populated by an eccentric cast of characters.   For some good information on this lost gem, check out articles on themerica and allears

This Four-Chimney Building looked to me like a good placeholder for a new Adventurers Club Headquarters, so I set about creating the piece of media below.  I saved myself a lot of time by painting over the official Mystic Manor portrait (I think it was by Chris Turner) to show a view of what I imagined as the dilapidated Clubhouse.  Then I painted in one of the Club Members (I believe it was ichthyologist Otis Wren who wore the white suit and red fez) surveying the Club’s new acquisition, along with a telegram.  

This has been my contribution to the cause of resurrecting the Adventurers Club.