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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

WDW Fifth Gate - Mythica

Concluding the Fifth Gate Challenge, the park I chose to adapt into an illustrative plan was Mythica, based on world mythology.  This overall theme felt broad and distinct enough to be a natural complement to the existing four parks, without crossing too much into their established territories. 

With that in mind, I imagined it as a film-, IP- and character-free park,  e.g., Thor here would not be Marvel, but re-invented for this park based on traditional Norse myth.  Another example: the hydra cavern beneath the Acropolis (visited by the circling boat ride) would not be based on Disney’s Hercules.   You can see how such a park could also host Company IP (Mulan in China) if so desired, but what I’ve imagined here is more of an outdoor Metropolitan Museum of Art with the thrills, fun and effervescence of a theme park.

The genesis for this exercise was seeing photo updates of DisneySprings progress, with the 1970s/80s suburban sprawl Official WDW Hotels and Sun Bank always popping up in the background, ruining the visage.  Here, we can fix that and replace all those concrete & glass mid-rises with a unique, tier I park.  A strip of forest beyond the park helps isolate the mundane sprawl of Orlando & I-4 from the utopian escapism found within the WDW borders.

In this fantasy future, the monorail system is expanded to service the new park and Springs district, with the station designed to complement the Marketplace architecture.  Guests at both resorts (Oxbridge and Saratoga Springs) walk to this station to reach other parts of WDW.   The park also comes with two new parking structures (only “D” visible here) and a shuttle bus station. 

This British-lore based area at first felt like odd man out next to the more exotic, ancient areas.  However, it’s much easier to incorporate and convincingly pass requisite park services, retail & dining (and a hotel) in the context of more modern eras versus if the entry land/hotel were, say, Mesopotamian in theme. 

I broke Anglia into three sub-lands, each representing a different locale & era.  The central area is a rural English village (the park’s Main Street), with building facades a mix from 15th-19th century, on whose outskirts lies the Henge of the Ancients (Stone Henge).  Crossing the river to the west, the land becomes a more orderly, urban townscape of Oxbridge, based on the university towns, with gothic spires & trim college quads.  The resort hotel – late 19th century luxury – takes place in an elaborate structure inspired by Christ Church College or the like.  

An earl’s manor sits at the far end of the town commons, housing the frightening werewolf attraction.  Other Victorian-era stories could be told in the SFX attraction (Jekyll & Hyde, Invisible Man).  I imagine an interactive game based on Sherlock Holmes would fit nicely in this area.

The east side of Anglia goes back to the medieval era of the 11th-13th centuries.  Camelot is a more fantastic interpretation of the English Castle Town.  Behind the numerous towers and turrets lies a marquee AA boat ride (PotC cousin) based on the King Arthur mythology.  There is an explorable forest that houses both a Unicorn Glade as well as an area to shoot a bow with Robin Hood.   On a small island the lagoon are the ruins of an old Scottish keep, similar in scale to Central Park’s
Belvedere Castle, used mainly as a viewing area for lagoon spectacles (and occasional appearances by Nessie).

The Imperial Court section of this Chinese-themed land is laid out according to the feng shui ordering principles, surrounded by a moat, willow trees and covered walkways.  The wooden structures within this palace house lagoon-view dining, a small theater, art history exhibits and a madhouse walkthrough.  An ancient Chinese-themed version of aquatopia is also accessible within the Court.  Outside the Court are two of the bigger attractions: a mountain coaster and the Phoenix E-ticket.


A long forested embankment of dark pines marks the edge of the world as visitors enter the land of Norse mythology.  In the far corner of the park is Odin’s Tower, a freefall-darkride, distinct from Tower of Terror in its ride system.  Jotnar is a BTMRR-scale indoor-outdoor coaster through the world of trolls and other creatures of this mythos.  A Redwood Creek-style forest exploration area is here as well as a swing spinner based on the World Tree, Yggdrasil.


This Egypt-themed area is home to the several major landmarks.  The Library of Alexandria is Fortress Explorations-like, housing a planetarium theater and fine restaurant in addition to numerous interactive rooms to explore.  Around it are fountains, pools and multiple terraces for lagoon show viewing/dining.  It is a clean, classical oasis compared to the crooked, crumbling, sun-baked streets of Old Town, home to many shops, galleries, food stalls and street entertainers.  A carousel sits in one plaza.  The ruins of an Old Kingdom temple serve as a sunken explore/play zone.

On the outskirts of the dense residential area built of mud & bricks, are the big monuments (housing even bigger attractions): the Sphinx (an EMV adventure) and the Great Pyramids (dark coaster). 

The park’s central icon & landmark, aligned along the entry axis, is the Pharos Lighthouse (explorable).  Most recreations of this Wonder in history books are pretty similar.  Interestingly, IoA’s version is a completely unique take.  This park’s larger version would also be a unique take (while I want the park to have sophisticated, museum-like qualities, there is still room to re-imagine and romanticize history), but with some recognizable attributes to the agreed-upon historic design.  Perhaps I’ll get to drawing the concept I’ve got in mind.


The final Phase I land is based on the classical world of Ancient Greece.  Like the Library, the Acropolis has many explorable nooks as well as lagoon-view dining.  Within it is the major Hydra show scene for the lagoon boats.  The Labyrinth is an outdoor walkthrough that leads to an indoor adventure ride.  The land’s biggest attraction is the flume Mount Olympus – the Greek mythology mash-up.   A large theater and couple spinners round out the rides. 


As EPCOT Center has for years had The Outpost marking the once-pending addition of the African pavilion, in this park plan I included a small section in the northeast that heralds a future Atlantis expansion.  This is also why I placed the ‘Poseidon’s’ seafood TSR and Olympus flume splash-down where I did: near to this potential sea-oriented mythological civilization.

The very large expansion area in the northwest could be earmarked for the Maya Civilization – as that is not well-represented yet in WDW and the meso-american rainforest would transition easily from the heavily-forested Valhalla. 

There was a request for some additional reference imagery to better paint a picture of the park.  For all of these, what actually goes in the park gets altered, scaled down, romanticized, added-to, and morphed in so many ways, so that the park becomes its own entity, not a collection of replicas (E.g. Harambe is not a specific recreation but inspired by East African coastal towns).  Here are a some images, in addition to Dan's, that helped inspire the plan:

This is concept art for Cair Paravel, but reflects the more romanticized approach to medieval England I thought Camelot should have.
Lycan Manor inspiration, obviously greatly scaled-down and 'theatricized' for the park.
This shows Aegyptus's duality of big, symmetrical monuments and un-planned organic streets of 2-3 story flat-roof dwellings.
Norselands.  Wooden buildings, stone foundations.

Another comment asked about theme-bleeding and sightlines.  These are two things that are the forefront of my mind when I do these.   One very good way to handle it is the "two-faced" strip of buildings (imagine Frontierland & Adventureland at MK), and that is how a majority of the Valhalla-Aegyptus border is handed.  If you were standing at the Carousel in Old Town, you'd have no intrusion from Valhalla.  Sometimes, things are so tall that from a wide vista you can't hide them.  For example, if you were standing in front of the pyramids and looked northwest, in the distance, above the egyptian roofs, you'd see Odin's Tower (or Mt Olympus to the southeast).  These are sometimes unavoidable, BUT, if everything is well-executed, they can be pretty cool juxtapositions:


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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The 2015 Project - Full Build-out

Here is the fully built-out castle park master plan:

Pixar Place sees an expansion based on the Cars/Planes universe, a dusty airstrip with nods to Radiator Springs.  There is the Flo’s V-8 Café, a D-ticket Planes “tube simulator” (as appeared online in patent form), and the Off-Road Rally spinner.

Big City USA has the addition of the El(evated) Train, which brings sounds and kinetics, as well as a way to get around this large park that, like SDL, lacks a circum-navigating railroad.  The trains would be designed in a style inspired by 1930s Popular Mechanix/futurist renderings so as to mesh with the other, more tech-influenced lands they pass through.  

Fantasyland’s Georgian architecture of London-Cherry Tree Lane transitions to the Victorian-inspired part of San Fransokyo (e.g. the Lucky Cat Café) – a sub-area of MarvelVerse.  The main attraction - a family-accessible ride - here would be housed in a building inspired by Ishioka Robotics Lab of ‘Big Hero Six’.   There is a San Fransokyo Elevated Train station here.    Another form of cross-land transport would be a whimsical Car/Bus Service (6-8 different vehicles) that travels from San Fransokyo Circle, through London, around Big City, and to the Carousel Park in Pixar Place.

Since this park is chock full of rides, I decided to designate the requisite Avengers attraction a theatrical experience, which would combine the full gambit of special effects, stunt actors, animatronics, screens, etc – a sort of next-gen T2:3-D. 

The final attraction is a Guardians of the Galaxy launch coaster.  This one has a mostly low-profile track to minimize visual intrusions: the central area is sunken and the coaster relies more on acceleration and maneuvers versus height and drops.  For example, leaving the station, the train enters a canyon of alien rockwork (well below pathway grade) and pauses before its high-speed launch towards the lake through trenches and tunnels into a ground-level helix, before returning under the path to the central area of inversions, dives and rolls. 

Here’s a quick video showing the park from its early program to its ideal build-out decades later.   

Over such a long time period, new IP will continuously rise and fade in the world of film (an argument for a stronger presence of park-originated attractions?) to be considered for inclusion, so this master plan represents a snap-shot in time; something that could be continually adjusted.  But the long-term master plan is key so that nothing is developed in isolation and everything is done to maintain or improve the park's overall, long-term thematic & aesthetic integrity as it grows.   


Fifth Gate Challenge Reminder: Please write "[Park Name] by [your Name, Initials or Net Handle]", e.g. "Star Wars Park by J. Smith",  in the upper left box of the Presentation Sheet so I can quickly identify them.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The 2015 Project - Castle Elevation

Happy New Year!

This is an in-progress rendering of what I envision the iconic central castle for this park looking like.

The castle here (Princess Anna) is heavily-inspired by the one in 'Frozen', although it is not meant to be a re-creation.  In many cases, I think it is more effective for park architecture to be its own thing, versus directly re-creating a film world.

The view you are seeing is from the Fountain Show viewing area, so it is technically the left-side of the castle: the front view would be facing the causeway and main courtyard gate.

The focus of this illustration is on the architecture (leaving the equally-important rockwork mountain and landscaping for later).  The field of view is within the 'Outer Sea Wall' (see red line).  I will probably continue this drawing to show a wider view with Sea Wall & towers.  You will note the flagship flume attraction 'Once Upon a Time' passes around and beneath the castle.

I imagine this castle could serve numerous functions:
-Premium, table service dining on the upper floors, with views over the park (note the big triangular, glass window).
-Walkthrough attraction, exploring various chambers.
-Themed retail
-Meet & Greet
-A dungeon housing an Ice Dragon (or some sort of winter creature), inspired by the Paris walkthrough.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The 2015 Project

For the next set of posts here, I thought it would be good to initiate a change.  Ironically, change begins with the old standby: a new illustrative master plan.  Going forward, well into 2015, I will explore this one park’s visual development via a variety of forthcoming design pieces.   These may include expansion lands, detailed scenic plans, architectural elevations, concept art, signage graphics, etc.   Some will be quick sketches, others more refined renderings.

In picking a park for this long-term project, I decided against using an original content concept and will instead parallel the real-world project that excites me most: SDL.   I want this exercise to be under similar parameters that the Shanghai team was under:
-    Similar scale to Shanghai re: park footprint & capacity
-    Park Program to synergize with the Company’s hottest current properties
-    Opening day roster on par with DLP or SDL openings, with lots of room for natural expansion over forthcoming decades
-    Park design to emphasize major parades and night-time spectaculars

Phase I – Initial Design Considerations
-    Continue the evolution of the Castle Park layout from the original Hub-Spoke through SDL’s Multi-Loop to something totally new (for this class): Lagoon-Centric.
-    Have the Central Castle be across the lagoon at the base of a very large, iconic mountain: jaw-dropping vista and backdrop for shows.
-    Inclusion of a free-fall tower E-ticket attraction (in this case a neo-gothic Haunted Hotel, echoing some features of the Castle) at a far corner of the park, to maximize build-up and alleviate any potential sightline issues as the park develops.

A brief overview of Phase I Program:

Entry land is also the Star Wars land.  I’m imagining something like IoA’s Port of Entry but set in the SW galaxy.  The central landmark is a spire that is part of a next-gen spinner (craft on telescoping arms).  The Family D-ticket Shooter ride would be inspired by Toy Story Mania.  Premium lagoon-side dining (SW version of IoA’s Mythos).

 Classic exotic pulp adventure area anchored by an amphibious E-ticket version of the Indiana Jones Adventure.  

Pirate-themed area with flagship ride, a Mack water-gun spinner and an island featuring an interactive game as brilliantly done as MK’s Jewels of the Seven Seas.  The main Ship here is very large and fully explorable: a 3-masted War Galleon (multiple  gun decks), much bigger than similar tallships in DLP or TDS. 

Comprised of four sub-areas: Storybook Village, Fantasy Forest , London Way and Arendelle (each self-explanatory).   The E-ticket attraction here is a Splash Mountain-scale flume through a “shared universe” of animated fairytales.

Victorian London transitions to Jazz Age Manhattan.  Part of my thinking for this park was it would be designed for the next major market (e.g., Mumbai, Seoul, Rio) for a castle park.  While turn-of-the-century, small town America may not resonate with these audiences, the electricity of  a place like New York (in its wonder years) does resonate internationally. 

A more subdued suburban townscape compliments the nearby city.   Just as many of the animated fairytales can easily cohabitate in Fantasyland, my feeling is the numerous, modern-ish Pixar films can do the same here.  The king of Pixar properties gets an original, dark ride taking the characters on new adventures (LPS).

Future Expansion: Unlike the plans I’ve typically presented here, which are mostly built-out, you can see this one shows the park in its early stages of life, with lots of dedicated space to grow.  You'll see numerous pathway stems, giving an indication of things to come.  Marvel is one of those hot properties conspicuous by its absence.  I suppose a Marvel-based land could begin to open in Phase II, located in the very large eastern plot.  The western, Adventure-based lands could see organic growth or new sub-lands.   The plot northeast of the Forest Amphitheater looks prime for a Seven Dwarfs-type coaster, while Mr. Peterson’s House in Pixar Place looks like a good marker for a future “Up” ride.   

Feel free to imagine your own expansions by printing this plan out and drawing over it, as I do when considering the next phases.

As noted in the beginning, you should see regular updates to this project, detailing what this park would be like.