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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

5th Gate Challenge

Since a 5th Gate at WDW is a perennially popular topic of speculation & imagination among park design enthusiasts, I thought it would be good to raise the topic for a challenge among the Ideal Buildout readership.

SITE:  This will be the site for the new park… it’s of a similar scale to MK’s or DHS’ plot.  330 Acres of total land affected, about 200 acres within the perimeter road for park development.  If you like, you can integrate a new hotel or part of Marketplace.  Lake Buena Vista can be expanded or filled-in.  

 I chose this site for the challenge, not on the basis of realism, but because it addresses a lot of needs as I see them through the Ideal Buildout lens, including:
-    Eliminates all the dated, unsightly Official Hotels at LBV.
-    Spares the dwindling undeveloped lands of WDW by placing the 5th Gate on already-developed land.
-    Creates a strip of wooded land to help insulate WDW from the real world.
-    Expands the Monorail System to include DisneySprings/Fifth Gate.
-    Adds a new theme park experience, on par with built-out MK, EP, DHS & AK.
-    Adds (possibly) a new deluxe resort, integrated into the park.

CONSIDERATIONS: Be mindful of what WDW already offers when considering what this park should be.  Should the park eschew film IP and do something less fantasy-based, like EPCOT 1.0 or AK?  Be based on a single big franchise like Marvel(don't worry about the restrictions), Star Wars or Middle Earth (as seen in the sample below)?  Aim more towards teens, thrill-seekers?  Have a strong central theme connecting all the lands?   How should the park transition to/from DisneySprings?  If you had a park or idea in the last charette and want to re-work/re-use it by tailoring it to this site, that’s okay.  Feel free to work with others.

RULES:  For all participants, entries will be submitted in a uniform way.  A major learning point for me after the last charette (3rd Gate Anaheim) was the disparity of submission styles: some wrote a couple paragraphs in the comments sections, others created lengthy Word files, and some sent numerous individual jpegs. 

This time, participants will email me a single png./jpg. file: the Ideal Buildout Presentation Sheet (3000p wide x 4000p high).  Each entry will be identical in this format.  I will not do any editing of any Presentation Sheets before posting them here for discussion (and potential voting, if there is a desire to make this competitive).  Save the sheet below to your computer to fill in as you go.

 UPDATE: I've noticed blogger auto-shrinks the big 4000x3000 Presentation Sheet, so email me directly (in About Me at upper left) if you want to participate, and I will send you the full-sized Presentation Sheet Template to fill in.

The heart of the Presentation Sheet is the Site Plan.  You can draw over this Template I have provided below in MSPaint (or any equivalent) or print it out and use pencil/pen.  Your finished Site Plan fits (when copy&pasted) into the center box of the Presentation Sheet.    You should try to draw paths, buildings, water-features, coaster tracks etc., as well as you are able. 
Big points for acuity in the plan.  At the very least use text labels on the plans to show what would go where. 

Around the Site Plan are a series of boxes to contain succinct text and small images describing the park as a whole (upper left) and each land and its contents (up to ten lands).  Use MS Word (or the like) to organize your thoughts in text/photos, then copy&paste them (use “print screen”) into the Presentation Sheet.  Attraction/Feature could be anything: major E-ticket, a restaurant, a shop, a fountain, etc.  

Here I’ve done a very quick example of how the Presentation Sheet starts to become filled out.

While I continue to produce and post drawings for The 2015 Project, I encourage you to use your imaginations on this Challenge.  Presentation Sheets will be due Sunday, February 1, and will be posted shortly thereafter.  The best park(s)/concept(s) will likely be amalgamated and translated into an Illustrative Plan.

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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Growing Fantasylands

A current trend among the Disney castle parks seems to be putting greater emphasis on Fantasyland, either by greatly expanding the existing ones (Orlando, Tokyo) or creating big ones from scratch (Shanghai).   Here is an illustrative plan for a similar mega-expansion of the original land:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Universal Studios Florida

We’ve discussed the shift away from the old Studios model of park as Disney, Universal and Paramount plan and build immersive, “enter-the-world-of-_____” areas.  USF opened a shining example of this in Diagon Alley, which appears to epitomize my mantra: the park IS the E-ticket.


The Muggle/lake-side portion of this Wizarding World expansion recreates landmarks from Whitehall (the government section of London).  Admiralty Arch, the Old Bailey and Nelson’s Column could be influences.  
On the magic/interior side, the off-kilter facades continue the style presented in Diagon Alley.   The main attraction here is based on the Ministry of Magic (which is set hundreds of feet below Whitehall).  I’ll leave the specifics of such an attraction to your imagination (a running theme here), but I was intrigued by the suggestion in the last post’s comments.

Star Trek is a property that’s been around for decades and is now seeing a resurgence (as have or will the other properties used in this concept plan).  The image from the new series that stuck with me the most is this:

In theme park design, like movie design and effects, one strives to make suspension of disbelief for the viewer as easy as possible.  So, for me, anything monumental recreated in a park environment needs to be big enough to sell the viewer that it’s the real thing.  The Columbia in TDS is an example: not the actual scale of an Ocean Liner, but close enough to convince your imagination it is.  The Enterprise shown here is 5:6 scale: a massive landmark, big enough to seem like actual size.  It would contain a turbolift/walkthrough attraction (partly housed in the dock-base structure).

A great thing theme parks can do is create awe-inspiring sights we don’t often see in everyday life.  Recreating the Enterprise being built/repaired in drydock could be one of those.  The bridge and walkway through this Starport land curve and descend gently to give optimal views of the ship.  There is space for the requisite thrill E-ticket (land is on two levels), dining as well as a themed cavern (tunnel) transitioning to the Universal Monsters area.

The legendary catalog of Monsters is something for which Universal Studios is most well-known, and I hope the forthcoming series of re-makes, which Universal seems to consider their own Marvel Cinematic Universe, take a fun, swashbuckling, comedy-adventure approach like recent hit franchises PotC and Sherlock Holmes. 

This area has family friendly-attractions, including the requisite haunted manor on a hill darkride (could be Hotel Transylvania, Scooby-Doo or something else) and darker Jungle Cruise-like attraction that showcases the catalog of Monsters.   There is a dark carousel in the center of the classic Eastern European town so associated with the genre.  A cemetery playzone area is near the entrance.

One of the three big rides here is a new Mummy coaster with extensive indoor and outdoor (terrain following) segments, marked by crumbling pyramids.  This would be based on the future Mummy films (or not on any specific ones) versus the Frasier ones.
While Hollywood, Springfield, San Francisco and Production Central do not see any major changes in this concept plan, NYC does.   First, the Transformers building gets a new skin.  It is essentially a huge box, but so were the impressive Power Plants from the early 20th Century, some artfully designed by famed architects like McKim, Meade & White: 

This one could be inspired by those like the IRT Power Station, abandoned, then covertly re-occupied by N.E.S.T..  This would make the building a visually attractive landmark from all angles of the park and blend with the New York skyline.

In the top left of New York, a soundstage will be converted to a family darkride, accessed through a back alley.  This could be based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sesame Street, or some other NYC-centered ride.

Since Mummy has vacated its New York location the building, which has a museum-like façade could be home to a new E-ticket based on the discussed future JK Rowling 'Fantastic Beasts' trilogy, the 'Night at the Museum' franchise, or something else.  The upper part of the building receives city facades.

Finally, a monumental landmark is built on the Twister block (also enclosing a portion of the coaster).  This is a 1910s-built neo-gothic hotel, as would befit a Ghostbusters E-ticket, providing a landmark visible from a distance, helping to take attention off the coaster and anchoring New York.  Here’s a concept elevation/massing-study sketch I created for the idea:
I imagine shooting Proton Pack guns at ghosts would have to be part of the experience, while moving both horizontally and vertically through the hotel.   This could be reworked into something even bigger, with a full ToT freefall, although that would require re-thinking the height and size as drawn above.