Sunday, January 24, 2016

DHS Redux

With the recent announcement of the upcoming closures at DHS, and a better understanding of what is going to be changing, I decided to revisit the park:


This Illustrative Plan represents:
A.    An interpretation of the official art:
     -    The Toy Story Land layout is fairly accurate to what you see in the birdseye key art.
     -    The Star Wars Land, on the other hand, is only inspired by the artwork, rather than    

          an attempt to interpret a layout.   It includes a general sense of what is coming (lots 
          of karst spires, Starwarsian towers & buildings, The Falcon, skybridges, etc).

B.  A exploration of some unofficial rumors, such as:
    -    A future Back of House area being cleared on the far side of the highway
    -    Star Wars Land including two E-tickets
    -    A future land based on the Indiana Jones franchise

C. Some wishful thinking:
    -    How to give the park a coherent over-arching theme and differentiate it from the other  

         three WDW parks
    -    Giving The Muppets a major darkride
    -    A high-fantasy based land.

D. And some common sense planning:
    -    Making the park navigable via a hub-spoke layout
    -    Connecting the Sunset Blvd dead end to the outer path loop

    -    Easy expansion plots
    -    Controlling sightlines and adding to immersion via interior forested berms &  

         backstage road underpasses.


OVERALL THEME AND RELATION TO OTHER WDW PARKS

We know Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land are coming and Hollywood & Sunset Blvds are staying.  Since the park is no longer about making movies but about the Worlds of Movies, it seems to me the most logical way to organize it is by film genre, each being represented by a gold-standard franchise movie world.  Star Wars is a top Sci-Fi property.  Toy Story is a top Animation property.  Since The Muppets seem to by sticking around (and would be ideal for an Animatronic-based attraction), let them represent the Comedy genre and expand their little city with re-themed restaurants and a major family darkride).

What are other popular movie genres?  My favorite is Adventure, specifically historic, pulp adventure, so let that be represented by a completely new Indiana Jones Land, built in the area where the Animation Courtyard stands today.   Finally, for the large area soon-to-be vacated by Lights Motor Action & Catastrophe Canyon the Fantasy (Sword & Sorcery) genre could add more greenery, water and a mountain range to the park.

I was considering converting the area around Tower of Terror to either Noir (with Gangster overlay to Rock n Rollercoaster) Thriller or Horror, but with two musical venues in the area, that seemed unrealistic.  It also breaks the pattern of each genre land being represented by a single world-reknowned property. So for realism/simplicity's sake Sunset remains part of 1940s Golden Age Hollywood that represents the history and overview of the movies (embodied by the Great Movie Ride).   Both Fantasmic and Theater of the Stars would get new shows based on the wider world of cinema, not Disney animated ones (see below).  The Rock n Rollercoaster and new theater could be an ancillary Music-based annex that we overlook (like Animal Kingdom’s Theater in the Wild) with respect to theme. 

So now you have a hub-spoke park with lands based on a Historic America (L.A.), Sci-Fi, Adventure, Animation, Fantasy.  It sounds like today’s Magic Kingdom, Part II.   That would probably be a good thing for the bottom line, considering MK's popularity.   I’ve beaten this horse to death on this blog: each WDW park is enhanced when it has its own identity.  Putting movie-based attractions in every park, especially the same property over multiple parks, dilutes this effect.    What could help re-strengthen this diversity is minimizing movie IP at the other parks (yes, that train has long-left the station), except for Fantasyland (dedicated to Disney animation).  Parks returning to their thematic roots: Animal Kingdom about animals,  EPCOT about science, tech & world cultures,  Magic Kingdom: Walt’s vision of yesterday, tomorrow & fantasy; and now [CINE-TOPIA?]: all about the Movies.

 

HOLLYWOOD, SCI-FI & COMEDY

The period Hollywood area is comprised of four sub-areas (Hollywood Boulevard (including the Hub), Sunset Boulevard, Echo Lake and the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater).  The two Echo Lake theaters get new attractions that support this general theme.  Theater of the Stars on Sunset Blvd could become a revue of movie musicals, while Hollywood Hills amphitheater might be a nightly spectacular based on all types of movies – not just the animated canon.  The GMR remains the heart of the park... maybe with a re-worked script, a re-vamped scene or two and the return of the classic “You are aboard the Spaceship Nostromo… Something has gone wrong” voice-over guy (sorely-missed by me).

Star Wars Land takes up the old Indy Stunt Show (and well-behind it).  Time will tell exactly what WDI has in store here, but the plan is inspired by the art below.  You approach past Echo Lake and through the trees and the karst spires, moving deeper into the towering spaceport.  Droids, aliens, landspeeders, docked ships, etc. abound.  Rounding a corner you come upon the 1:1 scale Millenium Falcon.  Large showbuildings house the two new E-tickets, while numerous unique dining (quick and table service), retail and exploratory areas fill out the other buildings.  Overhead are skybridges and shade sails as seen in the art.  Built into many of spires are saucer-like structures. Star Tours gets a new façade that fits seamlessly into this environment.  Jedi Academy gets a new
dedicated outdoor area as well.  When exiting the land toward the Muppet area, you pass under a large rock archway.


The Muppets expansion tacks on a new urban Studio façade that hides/houses a large, comedic darkride populated with dozens of AAs.   The two existing restaurants get lots of interior and exterior gag-based re-theming – befitting the new proprietors: Swedish Chef and Gonzo.



FANTASY

As noted in the beginning, Fantasy (sword & sorcery) is a popular movie genre that naturally lends itself to a themed environment.  Since this park is about gold-standard franchises, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones & Toy Story, it would seem fitting that the gold-standard sword & sorcery movie property – Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth sagas (Lord of the Rings & Hobbit) be optioned and represented.  And while I included its logo in the upper right, it’s NOT what I ended up drawing here.  For a couple reasons: First, I recently completed a 2nd Middle Earth park and felt like drawing something different here.  Second, I thought it might be better to have a movie property that originated within the Walt Disney Studios, not rival Warner Brothers.  So instead of Middle Earth, I’ve imagined that in the coming years the Studio creates a new classic series of live-action Fantasy films, either original or based on well-known books such as the Prydain Chronicles.  The latter is what inspired the land I put into the plan, including the mega-E-ticket hybrid water coaster set within & around the mountainous Horned King’s castle, the thatch-roofed farmstead of Caer Dalben, the half-timbered town and the waterside Fair Folk restaurant set within and beneath a rocky mount of waterfalls.   


ANIMATION

What you see in the plan represents my interpretation of the Greg Pro key art below:





 

ADVENTURE

This new area, dedicated to the World of Indiana Jones, is set in an imagined Middle Eastern/North African town of the 1930s that is a staple of the adventure genre (e.g. Tangiers, Cairo, Bagghar, etc.), complete with Casbah and Souk districts, stacked flat-roofed buildings, minarets and WWII-era plane, etc.  It was suggested by a collaborator here long ago to put a Rick’s Café Americain in MGM, and since Casablanca inhabits the same period as Indiana Jones, I think it can work.   A lot of inspiration for this area came from watching Uncharted 3, including making the anchor
Indiana Jones E-ticket about the quest for Iram of the Pillars (the lost, cursed desert city).  Since integrating the very large Rock n Rollercoaster showbuilding into this land's (and the park's) sightlines is critical, the Indiana Jones ride would include a very large “ziggurat”, allowing for a vertical element to the ride experience:

The above game art from Uncharted 3 shows the type of structure represented in the plan.  The top of the RnR building would also be re-skinned to mesh with this environment.  

The land's B/C-ticket would be a heavily-themed topspin with fire & water effects, dressed as as a mysterious and ancient Arabian or Persian machine, taking inspiration from the Mayan one at Phantasialand.


MUSIC ANNEX

As mentioned at the top, one consideration for this Redux was giving Rock n Rollercoaster and the new neighboring theater a Gangster City overlay for a Film Noir genre land (maybe incorporating the Tower of Terror).  Another consideration was making it based on a movie musical, but not many worthy ones fit the ride system.  In the end, I left it as one of the orphaned "appendix" areas you sometimes find in Tier I parks... which brings an element of realism to this part of the plan.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

MK: Dreaming

Over the past six months I’ve drawn a number of Illustrative Plans for patrons (anyone reading this can potentially have their own customized, hi-res digital map – email (in “About Me”) for a quote).   I’ve enjoyed these because they are often very blue-sky versions of the existing parks.   For this post, however, I’ve taken a step back from blue-sky and created a MK Illustrative that addresses what I think would semi-realistically improve the park over the next decade.

If you know IdealBuildout, you know my mission statement: “The park is the E-ticket.”  This happens when everything is rendered at an extremely high-level, and the whole place "clicks" – for lack of a better word.  It is when just wandering the park - taking in the details, the visuals, sounds, smells and atmosphere - becomes worth the (high) price of admission.  It is an extremely rare quality that only a handful of theme parks have reached over the course of their existences. 

While a major portion of this greatness is achieved in the Micro (how the park is operated; merchandising; the myriad of design details, such as materials, lighting, menus and graphics; architectural execution building-by-building, space-by-space; etc.), some of it is comes in the Macro (e.g., attraction program (menu); theme cohesiveness; transitions; sightlines; landscape), and the Macro can be communicated via the Illustrative Plan. 

So here is a land-by-land look at some changes that I think would take the MK to a higher level.  The plan is not really about adding to the attraction count but making the most of the already-developed space so the park as whole 'clicks' into an E-ticket.




MAIN STREET, U.S.A.




Things visible in the Plan:
-    Big shade trees return to the inner rings of the recently-expanded hub and town square.  Castle show/fireworks viewing is secondary.  A shady, park-like environment for most of the day trumps unobstructed viewing, as does the critical “curtain effect” a tree-filled hub provides.
-    The major change is the addition of a turn-of-the-century, glass-roofed arcade with access to shops and attractions.  It is an elaborately-themed, climate-controlled bypass to Main St., replacing the lightly-dressed backstage walkway currently in use.   Includes gas lamps and an upper level with wrought-iron spiral staircases (like before EPCOT’s Plume et Palette was cut-off from access).

-    Being a dreamer, my favorite places in the parks have often been the preview centers/galleries filled with artwork and models of past, future or never-built parks and attractions.  Here, a permanent One Man’s Dream-style pavilion would take up residence in the sizable Town Square Expo Hall now used for character greeting.   Film, models, previews, art galleries, recreations, etc. can be seen here.
-    Return of the Flower Market street (usurped by an expansion of the Emporium).
-    Re-curbing the inner hub.  Flattening/faking the curbs just looks and feels wrong.

 
Things not visible in the Plan (which apply to every land):

-    As much as practicable, technology must defer to the time-period being presented in each environment.  This means no Starbucks digital menu boards, nor any modern pics of food photo-shopped onto any menu, big or small (save possibly Tomorrowland where such tech would exist - although I find the practice of showing photos of food on menus anywhere very off-putting).  Exit signs should be done in period style (cases) and fonts.  No modern slat-wall shelving for merch – instead use period shelving.   Have historic lighting dominate (no track-lighting) so as to take attention away from what modern lighting is necessary. 

-    Period window displays facing the sidewalks and indoor arcade.
-    Rather than be one big, generic Disney Store outlet with many gingerbread facades, Main Street can become a much more atmospheric and transportative themed land.  Individual turn-of-the-century shops (e.g., book shop, magic shop, pharmacy, photography, bank, clock, etc.) and small attractions (Penny Arcade, Nickelodeon) with Citizens helping to create a unique, bygone environment.  Immerse the visitor in a place romanticized, yet authentic, and very far away from what they experience every day outside the park.
-    Sell theme-appropriate merch.  
-    High-quality, tailored costuming.  Broadway/film-level uniforms/costumes cast can be proud to wear.

-    Character meeting changes dramatically in this dream version of the park.  The new hub viewing gardens will be used for random appearances, interaction and photos.
-    Wood and iron park benches added all over the hub and town square.   



ADVENTURELAND

Things visible in the Plan:
-    The welcome addition of the Skipper Canteen is shown.  
-    I removed the Magic Carpets attraction, and in its place is a small Rapa Nui Garden (which I sketched below) with interactive Easter Island heads and a new Bazaar environment that will give a winding-narrow-streets-overflowing-with-exotic-goods feel akin to the short-lived, but awesome, bazaar that opened with EuroDisneyland.  The idea is to show that unique merchandise locations can enhance over-all theme & show (and profits) rather than detract (as most generic/modern shops do).



Left: Pirate Game by Ray Cadd; Right: Easter Island Garden by me.

Things not visible in the Plan:
-    Above I discussed syncing with setting-appropriate technology (i.e., analog, not digital, wait time indicators in every land but Tomorrowland).  Here I'll discuss another improvement that goes for the whole park as well: the elimination of “over-lawyer-eering.”  What this means – and I know it's a crazy pipe dream – is if something operated safely from the 1970s through the 1990s, it doesn’t need to be changed in order to avoid litigation today.  The PotC queue can go back to being really dark.  Building roofs don’t require un-themed, out-of-scale fall protection all over them.  Rocks can rumble above Big Thunder's tracks.  Pathways don’t need glaring roof-top floodlights thrown on them at night.  Curbs aren’t going to kill anybody.  Selling wooden toy pirate/cowboy guns is okay.  No need for frisking or metal-detecting at entry.  Trees are allowed to grow big and overhang walkways and ride paths.  Surveillance cameras: make them invisible (miniature), theme-them or do away with them. 
-    Also changed out would be the Sunglass Hut, which is the antithesis of the unique, interesting, well-themed retail spaces I’m dreaming of here.

FRONTIERLAND & LIBERTY SQUARE

Things not visible in the Plan:
-    I don’t think these two lands need any changes to the current site plan.  Just re-open facilities that have been shuttered: the Explorer Canoes, Aunt Polly’s and a Western vaudeville show for the Diamond Horseshoe. 
-    Improvements can be made in areas mentioned already: Making sure the little things are done right (e.g. staying period-appropriate where one can (and did in the past) (i.e., not installing Digital TV menus in the Old West restaurants)).  Staying on top of maintenance so Show is always top notch.   Keeping the park experience as classy and sophisticated as possible.


 

FANTASYLAND


-    Fantasyland sees the most changes/expansion in the Plan: the key one being the removal of all the flat fiberglass tournament facades in favor of a Storybook Village look similar to that of Paris, Anaheim, and soon-to-be Shanghai.
-    Small World is removed.  A new Tangled sub-area takes its place, but is moved slightly north, opening up this currently-congested area for better crowd flow.  The village facades continue the style that started with the Tangled bathrooms.  There is a Snuggly Duckling Tavern, complete with a giant (fake) tree growing out of it.  There are a few shops.
-    From this new village, the major D/E-ticket attraction is hidden behind rockwork.  As in the film, guests pass through a cave and emerge into a Hidden Valley, at the rear of which sits Rapunzel’s Tower (the smaller scale Tower is removed from its current location where it intrudes on Liberty Square sightlines).   The queue path winds down the lush valley, over a stream, past the Tower base and into a cavern where pre-show and boarding are located for a fun family Flynn Rider/Rapunzel ride.
-    Across from Rapunzel, Peter Pan gets a new Edwardian storybook façade/queue.
-    Both the Princess M&G Hall and Mickey’s PhilharMagic are gutted for new C-ticket darkrides based on European set animated classics.   Robin Hood’s facade (replacing PhilharMagic) is based on the town of Nottingham with Prince John’s Castle adorning the upper portions of the showbuilding.    Sleeping Beauty takes the place of the lost Snow White darkride while adding Village themed façade/queue. 
-    The next changes come near the Tomorrowland border.  Since Tomorrowland will be losing the remnants of its original low, featureless, angular architecture, it’s fitting that Cosmic Ray’s be removed.  In its place is a lush outdoor Fantasy Garden, a cousin to the one in Hong Kong DL, where M&G activities are centralized under four themed gazebos, with a wide array of rotating characters.   This, combined with the dedicated M&G locations in Storybook Circus and Fantasy Forest, fulfills the park’s stationary M&G needs.
-    Around the Teacups there is a new Wonderland sub-area.  The big addition is “Alicetopia”: a fanciful version of Aquatopia that takes the place of the Tomorrowland Speedway.  Also added is a rockwork edifice to conceal the Dumbo tent, and built into it, a Queen of Heart’s Observatory (similar to her castle in Paris), which guests can climb for dramatic elevated views of Fantasyland and the rest of the park.


TOMORROWLAND



-    As with every time I draw this park, the Deco Tech design finally takes over the back 2/3 of the land.   This means more jagged rockwork is placed around the land, the metallic fins are added to the entire Peoplemover track, both Buzz Lightyear and a Space Mountain get new entrances/marquees in a style that fits into this aesthetic. 
-    With Cosmic Ray’s gone, a new quick service venue is built where the temporary-looking DJ Dance Party Stage currently stands.
-    Tomorrowland Noodle Station is removed for the brand new, table-service, heavily-themed Astronomer’s Club.  It has some outdoor, upper-level seating for fireworks viewing.
-    Monsters Inc has always been an ill-fitting IP for a land themed as a Retro-Future spaceport, so its characters are ousted and a new Alien/Robot Comedy/Nightclub is installed. 
-    Stitch also gets the boot for a Guardians of the Galaxy re-make of the old Alien Encounter SFX show.
-    Space Mountain, while retaining its iconic look and feel, could see new & improved queue/pre-show/vehicles/tracks/fx/audio/etc., something befitting the flagship attraction of the world’s most popular theme park.
-    Finally, since Carousel of Progress doesn’t mesh with this land’s sci-fi theme, its building gets gutted, re-skinned and used as the queue/pre-show for a new, original E-ticket, which takes up most of the parking lot/former theater space.  Nods to the carousel could be seen in the exhibits in the Thomas Edison Arcade (running parallel to Main St.).

 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hong Kong DisneySea

Had some fun filling in the initial master plan for the HK Resort with a built-out HKDL and a new 2nd Gate across the esplanade.  Like the various castle parks around the world, this second Sea balances being recognizable as a DisneySea-branded park, with being highly distinct from the original TDS.




Also, as HKDL is to TDL (i.e., smaller footprint, lighter park program), HKDS is to TDS.  It is a smaller, lighter park that lacks an in-park resort hotel.  Some may remember the Discovery Bay 2nd Gate I put together for this site.  That park made use of the waterfront and built the hotel into the park (as in Tokyo).  This time, I stuck to the actual master plan (initial) which reserves the waterfront parcels for future hotels.

As a cousin to TDS, I gave this park some similarities:
-Aquasphere in the Ticket Plaza
-Central Volcano icon with a fortress at its base (Mt. Cerberus)
-Historic European (technically, New World) entry land (Porto Belo)
-The only repeated themed port (albeit with a different roster & design) is Vulcania (e.g. Mysterious Island). (EDIT: Looking back I must have drawn this before Arendelle was announced for TDS.)

Inspiration for Porto Belo, by Donglu Yu for Assassins Creed IV


The Ports:

-One enters the park through Porto Belo, a wealthy colonial capital on the Spanish Main (1600s-1700s).

-Across the Lagoon, replacing Fortress Explorations is Blackbeard's Castle, marking the Pirate's Cove port.  A massive battle between the Spanish Navy and the Pirates, incorporating tall ships and the Castle, takes place on the lagoon.  An original, hi-tech PotC ride is here, along with interactive exploration trails.

-Arendelle is the replacement for Mermaid Lagoon, featuring kid-friendly attractions, one being a major darkride.

-As noted, within the Caldera is Captain Nemo's hidden Vulcania, with a new set of attractions and dining experiences. 

-Banks of the Tigris is the substitute for Lost River Valley, moving Indiana Jones and his pulp adventures out of the dripping Mayan rainforest and into the dusty streets of 1930s Baghdad (and ruins of Babylon).  Includes a stunt theater and new EMV attraction in the Ziggurat.

-Port Discovery's stand-in here is Hyperion Wharf... filled with a steampunkish airships and anchored by a Soarin'-style attraction.   

-The seventh and final port is The Bayou: an homage to New Orleans Square, housing some nods to Princess and the Frog, musical theater, a riverboat restaurant, along with a Voodoo Plantation E-ticket. 

*** 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Customized "Maps" as Souvenirs

One of the more popular activities among theme park enthusiasts is to create one's own menu for an existing park: adding or deleting lands, attractions, restaurants, etc. as one chooses.  And one of the key ways a designer visualizes these things on a macro scale is with an illustrative plan ("map").  

I have now drafted Illustrative Plan templates - in the style seen below - for most of the existing Tier I parks (Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai), and am able to (relatively) quickly and (fairly) inexpensively offer such "Re-Imagineered Maps" as a purchasable souvenir.  

The deliverable would be a high-resolution digital print (.png) of your own customized version of any existing park (~3,500x4,500 pixels, fit for printing), and the cost would depend on how drastic the changes are from the extant park.  Something like the sample featured below is heavily-altered and would be near the top of the range. 

If you are interested in this type of art-on-demand, please contact me with basic info (e.g., the park you have in mind and your planned changes) for a quote.

Cheers,
SWW

Souvenir Illustrative Plan Example: DCA featuring Discovery Bay

CITY OF ANGELS: Focuses on romanticized Los Angeles of yesteryear.  Includes sub-lands of Buena Vista Street, Hollywood Blvd (with an architectural facade and queue lobby for the grand Theater), Toontown (an urban replacement for the DL area, with elevated darkride track passing throughout), Sunset Boulevard with a Norma Desmond-style Villa (film-centric cousin of Mystic Manor), and ending in a less developed, warehouse area of 1930s LA with a Rocketeer E-ticket and the Bulldog Cafe.

GOLDEN STATE: Relatively unchanged (the addition of the DVC wing on the Grand Californian never happened).  Sublands include Condor Flats, Grizzly Peak, Golden Vine Winery and Pacific Wharf.

ROUTE 66: Bugs Life theater becomes a drive-in dining experience (similar to DHS?), non-Pixar-based to help broaden the land's theme to general car culture.

DISCOVERY BAY: Designed with the purpose of insulating the park from the outside world (via berm, forest and mountain range) and cashing in flat-rides for highly-atmospheric family E- and D-tickets, this area is a take on Baxter's legendary, never-built land.  Pacific Wharf transitions to the Barbary Coast area with a SanFran Asian influence.  Fireworks Factory is a ToyStoryMania ride system.    There is still a lagoon fountain show, with viewing at the base of the land's lighthouse.  The huge twin peaks of the mountain range hide the 'Island at the Top of the World' showbuilding as well as the world beyond the park to the south.  The jungles of the 'Lost Voyager' dino boat ride insulate the western vistas (Paradise Pier Hotel would come down and that southwestern corner of the resort re-purposed).   The 20,000K ride is a dry-for-wet system borrowed from TDS.  Restaurants include the Power House (which provide electricity for the land of inventors), Captain Nemo's Grand Salon near the Nautilus and a Cider Mill at the northern part of the land.  The S.S. Albatross is a tallship that sets the tone for this fantasy vision of 1890s Coastal California.







Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The 2015 Project - Area Birdseye

In order to get to a Guide Map illustration for the 2015 park (I’ll aim for the illustrative style used for the commemorative TDS guide maps), it is first necessary to nail down most of the architecture, landscapes and area development for the park.   While a theme park might have several dozen actual buildings, many of the larger ones need to represent multiple buildings of diverse architectural styles.    For example, just one block (of four) of MK’s Main Street represents 14 "buildings", and the land as a whole represents ~60 buildings.  Like the other lands, a few of these are unified wholes, like the Train Station or Crystal Palace, but most are faux-buildings: numerous adjoining facades along the edges of the larger buildings.

For this park,  I’ve already shared a concept elevation for the castle.  Another way to visualize the park is with birdseye drawings.  For this one, I chose among the simplest, easiest of structures in the park to render:  The Quick Service Restaurant in Phase I Adventueland.   Since it is across the path from the Indiana Jones ride, I imagined this would be similar in theme: a dilapidated Jungle Import/Export business, in an early 20th C., Afro-colonial style, with an outdoor seating patio among the trees and sounds of the forest.  This isn't an especially original concept but a piece that fits into the larger park puzzle:


For the next birdseye, I’ll aim for a more exciting section of the park with varying facades/theme complexity.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The 2015 Project - Castle Elevation II

Later this month, I'll post an adaption of one of the Fifth Gate Challenge entries.

Until then, here is an expanded concept elevation of the 2015 Park castle:

The feel here is more along the lines of Fortress Explorations (also at the base of a mountain): a defensive, Scandinavian castle (inspired by Anna's) rather than an ornate, baroque chateau.    

The "Boathouse" at left is where the flume boats re-enter the mountain.  The Lighthouse Tower should be apparent.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The 2015 Project - River Adventure

As you can probably guess, I am a big fan of detailed maps/schematics, concept illustration and Indiana Jones.  So when Chuck Ballew combined all of these into one grand Map (sitting in the attraction queue itself and published in a couple WDI books) it became one of my favorite pieces of theme park art.  I love the schematic element of the illustration: caves and temple halls follow the physical layout of the queue, but make it look like a mythical Indian temple.  The piece I’ve put together below is a bit of a homage to that (an illustration overlaying a schematic), with 'Sallah' providing notes and sketches detailing a bit of what lies ahead for adventurers.


This attraction combines elements of the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones Adventure into a new concept.  It is an E-ticket ride based on atmosphere, with loads of AAs and special effects.  The PG-level thrills are provided by effects and the vehicle rather than any drops or super speeds.  It is an EMV in the water (themed as modified WWII DUKW vehicles) that can suddenly accelerate or slow down, jarringly heave to one side or the other, slowly sink, etc..   


As with all great attractions, the story begins with the exterior and develops throughout the queue/pre-show.   Here the queue building is a grand-but-abandoned British Colonial Office, set in the subtrobical forest of Rhodesia, near the Zambezi River.    The outdoor queue passes through the overgrown gardens, with lazy crocs (AA) lying in a pond and various artifacts strewn about.  The backstory continues in the interior rooms of the Consulate building.  Long ago a great civilization was located in this region.  After it disappeared, animals reclaimed the forest and some hunter-gatherer tribes moved in.   They worshiped the Golden Rhino of their forbearers as protector of the forest.    


Fastforward to 1946.  The British are gone from this area, and a nefarious gang of Ivory Poachers and Grave Robbers has arrived to plunder the riches of the forest.  Indiana Jones has also arrived to stop them, but has not been heard from in some time.   So we are going into the jungle to provide what aid we can.

The old, battle-worn DUKs seat 20 in five rows of four.  They have full audio for radio narration and soundtrack, but no live guides.  Departing from the dock and passing Indy’s seaplane, we enter the jungle.  It seems peaceful and full of life hidden in the foliage – okapi, a rhino and its baby, hoofed animals, colorful birds.  This is a place worth protecting. 

 
To me, the best theme park attractions offer not just fun, escapism and thrills, but teach you something without your realizing it.  If they are mind-expanding, they stick with you.   For example, in passing well-researched, authentically-replicated Mayan artwork, architecture and artifacts in Tokyo’s Temple of the Crystal Skull or pedaling the Flying Machine atop Fortress Explorations, you are being enriched in the long term while having fun in the short.   In the case of this River Adventure, visitors could learn about the history of this part of Africa, the ancient civilization of Great Zimbabwe, as well as something about the biota that once inhabited this part of the world.  There is also plenty of fictitious fun described to us in the queue/pre-show, as befitting an Indiana Jones story, setting up things we will later experience in the ride: e.g., a group of mysterious Albino Gorillas and the horrifying Caverns of Death.    


To maximize re-ridability, the attraction is hyper-detailed, with randomized radio-transmissions, SFX & vehicle movement.  Things begin to get hairy when passing some dangerous-looking leopards eying us from ancient ruins.  No poachers are home when the DUKs pass their riverside camp, but the stockpile of weapons, ivory and animal carcasses indicate that trouble is in the making.  While I didn’t want to over-draw on this map, there are things to see and stuff happening all along the way.  


The Ruins of Great Zimbabwe showbuilding allows for all sorts of indoor effects, including fog, projection mapping, Poachers pierced by booby traps, Mandrills jumping out of the shadows, and stumbling upon Grave Robbers who open fire on us with machine guns.  Dr. Jones should also make an appearance (or two or three) during the ride.


Escaping the temple the bad guys have the Golden Rhino and we need to stop them!  Native Headhunters are also pursuing them (and us!).  There is a breath of peace, as vehicles pass beneath rockwork into a waterfall grotto filled with bathing Forest Elephants.  Then it’s down a section of river where angry hippos violently ram our vehicles from the side.   


The adventure’s grand finale begins as the club-wielding Albino Gorillas drive the Robbers into the Caverns of Death (we were warned about).   The DUKs stall and we also drift into the darkness where big SFX set pieces await.   It all ends with the Robbers defeated for the moment (though some escape to retry) and Indy standing next to the recovered Golden Rhino, promising to return it to Zimbabwe.   Passing a waterfall grotto filled with animals, our amphibs glide back to the Consulate dock.  

I feel it is good to leave attractions somewhat open-ended, so they are not plot-dependent, one-time events.  Visitors need to feel the adventure is ongoing and being continued rather than repeated.