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  • [Idea] Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

    Alright, hello everyone and welcome to today's broadcast of 'Ranting Armchair Imagineer Who Thinks They Have the Best Idea Ever' ™. In today's episode, we get a look at several issues that have been popping up on the show recently, and an idea that has been thoroughly researched and planned.



    Now, before we continue, a little bit of background. I've noticed recently, (and recently is about as long as I've been on this board, I'm afraid, so bear with me) that a lot of people who have been coming up with ideas for the parks seem to have a philosophy: that dropping vaguely connected movie franchises in to a small area together makes a great expansion, or land. I'm afraid that if we look at the current parks, this is not the case.

    My personal favorite land of all time would have to be New Orleans Square. Now, this is likely because I am a Disneyland native, but there's just something about it that blows me away every time I walk around it. I am sure that many of you will agree with me when I say that it is an excellently themed area, that delights in just being ambient, and not trying to hawk the newest films at me everywhere I look. There are two rides in New Orleans Square. Literally, that's it. Two. One was vaguely based on a book (Treasure Island and other contemporary stories running around at the time) and the other was, if anything, inspired by simply another mansion – The Winchester Mystery House.

    Neither of these rids were built based on films, and it wouldn't be for many years that even the concept of turning them into movies would come up. Instead, they were based on stories and myths that are very familiar to many of us, ghost stories and tales of pirate treasure. They are universal myths.

    Again, going out on a limb here, World Showcase in Epcot is another of my favorite areas, for different reasons. Once again, there is almost a complete lack of movie tie-ins, you'll notice. Simply tapping into all of our desires to explore the world, to seek out new adventures in far flung lands, is a universal element. I can simply enjoy the theming and the atmosphere of this place that I am transported to, and not even worry about whether I should have seen Cars or not. It doesn't hurt that there are some good shows and nice rides here as well (although definitely room for some improvement).

    Finally, going to another of my favorite lands, although unfortunately only though the wonders of the internet, is Mysterious Island, from Tokyo DisneySEA. I'm sure those that have been there share my enthusiasm, and even most of us that haven't! Once again, this is not the largest land of all time. And, again, it only has two rides: Journey to the Center of the Earth, and 20,000 leagues. Both of these, and in fact the entire area, are once again not based on films in their essence. The design is heavily inspired by (my favorite film, actually) the movie 20,000 Leagues, yes, but it cannot be ignored that both properties are literary in their origins. Once again, Verne tapped into universal myths of exploration and wonder, here.

    I suppose my point, if I have one (not entirely sure if I do yet, myself) is that whereas a story that we can all connect to – that of pirates and adventure on the high seas, or a miraculous adventure under the waves – is not equal to simply dropping in two or three rides from the newest and most marketable film and calling it a day. This is what Universal and other parks do. This is not what we, as Armchair Imagineers, do. We're better than that, just as WDI themselves are better than that.


    And now, on to my main proposal. Many people have tried to address the main deficiencies of the Animal Kingdom park (yes, another one of THOSE ideas): mainly that it does not contain enough rides for the 'adrenaline' bracket to even give it a second glance, or that overall it does not contain enough to merit more than a half-day visit. Let me just say, first, that I think personally these allegations are misplaced. I love Animal Kingdom, and that is why we shall try and improve it: not because it is seriously deficient, but because we want it to be the best that it can be.
    Here then, is my thinking. What does an Animal Kingdom land, area, or ride need to address? A: animals, be they real, extinct, or imagined. B: the idea of adventure – this is seen all over the park, from the Safaris to Everest, and I truly feel that it is a must-have component. C: truly transport the guest to another, defined place: be it Africa, Tibet, the Cretaceous, or an equally, distinctly 'other' location.

    Camp Minnie-Mickey does not address any of these.

    Although I may get some heat for this, I firmly believe that this Camp, as we all know, was a last minute stop-gap solution. It is in essence a glorified meet-n-greet, with a show that completely ruins any chance it had of having a defined place, as in requirement C. It does not address animals of the North American continent, as far as I'm aware, except perhaps for those that occur naturally in the Florida area. And cartoon animals, of course. Finally, the entire idea of a camp – while not an entirely bad idea, as it could have led into requirement B – is never utilized effectively, and instead is very docile and staid.

    I think we can all agree that this is the area that should be the one to go. Good? Good. As far as it matters, the Lion King show (which is in itself rather good) can be moved to a different location, perhaps even an expanded Africa area. I will not address what happens to it in this essay, but I encourage speculation.

    Now that we've identified the frankly unsurprising area for demolition, what kind of space do we have to improve upon? See figure 1.


    Click image for larger version

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    FIG 1



    As you can see, the space available is nothing to scoff at. There is a considerable amount of room for a new land to replace Camp Minnie-Mickey without even destroying very much. Only about 40% of the space available is pre-existing theming. The rest is a small parking area and a large open space. This makes our job much easier.

    Now what exactly would one put there? As I'm sure you're all aware, there are two main schemes of thought on this: Australia, and Beastly Kingdom(me). I believe that the Australia idea is the more interesting of the two as is, but we're not going to be talking about Australia today. Nope. Instead, let's talk about the second.

    Beastly Kingdomme was going to be a vaguely Western European themed, very stock fantasy, type of land, involving an E-ticket coaster with a fire breathing dragon in a castle, and a Unicorn maze. This land, as imagined in the original plans, does not work. In my opinion, it does not fulfill the three requirements that we set down earlier. Aside from the main animal hosts of the rides – namely a dragon and a unicorn, what other animals are you going to put in there? Are you going to go and get some griffins to walk in an exhibit? It does not fulfill the adventurous aspect as I see it: everybody's done Western Europe in theme parks before. Everybody's done a castle with a dragon roller coaster, to boot! Heck, Disney itself even has the dragon/castle combo in DLP! I'm afraid that although universal themes make good rides, the very idea of a fire-breathing dragon in a Western European castle is just too hackneyed to be taken seriously. I'm probably going to get some flack for that statement, too, but it's true. These things have been done to death, to the point where there is nothing unexpected or surprising about it.

    The idea of tapping into mythology for animals is completely sound, however. It covers the 'animal' goal, while also pulling from our collective storytelling and oral tradition roots. This can be seen with the Everest ride. The combination of the mythological beast, adventure, and excellent theming really makes for a great area and ride. It just needs to be done differently here. Why not a twist on the Beastly Kingdomme idea, where we show the guests something that they've never seen before?

    North-Eastern Europe. More specifically, Russia. Here is a place that claims a big 'blank' on most people's mental maps. Ask ten people what Russia looks like, and eight will tell you snow, and the other two will identify plains or forest. This gives us an opportunity. Russia arguably fulfills the 'Europe' part of the equation while also being distinctly exotic to the guests. There is an enormous wealth of mythology in Eastern Europe to draw from, and Russian myth specifically, and the bio-diversity is much more astounding than you would think. This grounds us in a specific area, allowing us to be transported as per requirement C, and is also representative of Europe in the same way that the veldt in Africa is representative of all Africa, or India and Tibet are representative of all Asia. Same basic concept.

    This area would primarily be a two-or-three attraction land, as I see it. Once again, I encourage discussion. The major ride would be the E-ticket, 'The Quest for the Firebird'. The two subsidiary attractions would be a D or C-ticket, tentatively titled 'Yaga's Yumpers'. The final attraction would be a walkabout similar to that in other areas of the park, featuring animals native to the Ural Mountains, and other areas of this region.

    The land would have three major themed areas, in accordance with these attractions. The first, leading into 'Firebird', would be a large castle, surrounded by a period village that could be used for shopping, eating, etc. For the record, most people, when they think of Russian castles (yeah, you know what I'm talking about) are actually thinking about Russian Cathedrals. However, since castles in Russian myth were depicted more in line with the fantastical architecture of the cathedrals anyway, I was thinking that Tsar Vyslav's castle would look like the picture I have provided (see fig.2). So long as it was given a surrounding wall with a big ornate gate, then it would fit the requirements of truly being a castle.

    Some distance away from the village, in a suitable forest, would be the cabin of the witch Baba Yaga, aloft on its chicken legs. This is where 'Yaga's Yumpers' would be set: the witch threatens to eat you, but then decides that you're not worth the effort and gives you a ride on her magic cauldrons or something of that kind. Long story short: Baba Yaga lives here, and has a C or D ticket ride with her.

    And then, further back would be the walkabout attraction set among some forested hills both blocking off the land from the outside world, and providing suitable habitation for the animals. . Here is my main problem with my own plans: making sure that the animals would be comfortable. I'm not entirely sure that Florida weather could be made habitable for them, but I'm sure that something could be worked out: I mean, polar bears live in California zoos. That's got to work somehow.

    Click image for larger version

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    FIG 2



    'Firebird' would be a combination dark-ride/indoor coaster set after the very popular myth 'Ivan and the Firebird' the one with the Grey Wolf. No, this isn't the same Firebird from Fantasia 2000. This ride would fulfill all of our requirements for an AK attraction: the animal(s), being the Firebird itself and the Grey Wolf who is a pivotal character, the adventure, as it is a quest, and a very exciting one at that, and the transportation, as animatronics and theming would be used on par with Pirates, or Indiana Jones.

    Essentially, Tsar Vyslav (and this is the running story for the entire land, here) has called out to all the surrounding villages. A magical Firebird has taken to stealing apples from his golden apple tree (which can be seen in the ride queue out front ), and to they whoso finds this creature and brings it back to him, he will give his kingdom. The youngest son of the Tsar, Tsarevich (Prince) Ivan, decides to go. Along the way, he meets a princess, falls in love, gets his horse eaten by a giant magic wolf that turns out to be a nice guy, and the wolf bounds over the landscape in city-jumping strides. Here's where the coaster sections pop in. Nothing elaborate, but essentially combining the indoor coaster tech of, say, SM, while also having the perspective-defying landscapes underneath you of Peter Pan. These coaster sections are book-ended by elaborate dark ride sections, taking place from the Tsar's throne room in the beginning, to the Russian countryside, to the climax with Ivan's evil older brothers Dmitri and Vladimir in the Firebird's chamber. Oh, and lets not forget the pivotal bird itself: about as large as an eagle, but with flowing orange-tail feathers and crest like a peacock. Oh, yeah, and its on fire. Using fairly simply technology, the small flames that represent the bird's feathers could be aimed so as not to damage the mechanical workings underneath. Ever held your hand next to a flame? Not hot. And, in addition, the skeleton could be coated in anti-flame and heat layers, to keep this bird from getting cooked. Put it on a separate level away from the ride vehicles, themed to its famous golden cage, and we got ourselves a show-stopping animatronic animal at least on par with Mr. Disco.

    The queue itself would be rather extensive, on the level with Indys. Four areas: the exterior courtyard, the grand entryway, the dungeon hallways, and the loading area. The exterior courtyard would be the Tsar's garden, complete with the wonderful golden apple tree. The grand entryway would be interactive, with Mr. Potatohead-style animatronics of the two eldest princes welcoming guests to their fathers castle, and occasionally whispering about their evil plans towards their brother which would be 'overheard' by guests. On the balconies overhead? The prince Ivan, nervously trying to avoid talking to the visiting Tsarevna Elena the Fair. Here, given the moving characters, perhaps projection effects akin to Finding Nemo? Not sure.

    The guests path then splits, half go down into a corridor to the right, and half to the left. Both are the same, but mirrors of each other. This is to help ease guest flow. These corridors lead the guests down long hallways, where suddenly (connecting to the overall story of the area) Baba Yaga materializes. She tells the guests that if they wish to win the contest, they must follow her down behind the castle.

    The path then leads down through a short dungeon area and out into the loading area. The loading area is a large indoor room, where it seems that you are outside behind the castle, and night has fallen. Large trees surround you, and in a clearing before you board, sitting in her giant mortar, the Baba Yaga explains, telling you that she will provide you her flying cauldron carriage, if you will bring her back the Firebird.

    The ride vehicles, then, are your basic two-seater roller coaster cars, as seen in SM, and molded in the shape of low-lipped cauldrons. I am debating whether I would want these cars to make use of the just-revealed Dwarfs Mine Coaster tech for the swinging cars. It might be interesting to do those kinds of cars, and have them rock back and forth instead of side-to-side. Or something. This one is open to discussion.

    And, basically, spoilers, right before unloading you see the prince Ivan, Elena, and the wolf saying goodbye. Then, around the corner the Baba Yaga berates you for not bringing back her Firebird, and threatens to eat you next time, as well as other personalized things in the style of interactive animatronics these days.

    The exit, I imagine, it out a side street and near a shop. The entire town would be in the best case scenario mainly one large street, and then two or three side streets criss-crossing and running parallel at times, in order to better guest traffic and provide more intimate store settings.
    No idea as to names of shops and other locations. I imagine one table-service restaurant would be ideal, perhaps even in a banquet hall of the castle, with cars riding by now and again? Open to suggestions. Other, smaller establishments would be a given.

    The walkabout attraction would be ideally roughly the size of the Jungle Trek, if not smaller. Once again, not entirely certain.

    And that, in almost its entirety, is my idea for what could finally solve the 'Beastly' problem at Animal Kingdom. I did not post a synopsis of the entire 'Firebird' ride, mostly because it's not entirely relevant to the overall impression of the area. Any land that successfully combines the three criteria I posted above would work for Animal Kingdom, be it set in mythological Arabia, or the Celtic heartlands of Northern Europe, or even among the First Nations of the North-West coast of the Americas. That is my sincerest belief: so long as a goodly amount of resources are put towards it, and a sense of place and story are tantamount, guests will like it.

    That is all we have time for on this episode, folks. If you'd like to, you can send us your comments and/or questions at Walt Disney World Resort. Thanks for your time, ladies and gentleman. Tune in next time to 'Ranting Armchair Imagineer!'


    The floor is now open for discussion. Main problems with my idea that I put forward: space required for an indoor coaster is extremely limited, so it is arguable if a coaster section would even be worth it. I think personally that it completely fits the story at that point, but am open to other options that I haven't thought of yet. In addition, rider capacity could be an issue. I am aiming at somewhere along the lines of Indy in terms of capacity, around 1,800 to 1,900 per hour on a good day. However, I possible suggestions to better the capacity for the 'Firebird' ride would be appreciated. Finally, the second ride is weak. I would very much like it to involve Baba Yaga in some way, to tie the whole land together, but I am not at all sure what sort of ride it could be. I admit that I was mostly the 'one ride' trope.

    TL;DR, I believe that a Russian themed area should be substituted for the original Beastly Kingdomme idea in any planned Animal Kingdom expansion, and I've got the research to prove it. :P

    Thoughts?


    NDC, MMXI
    Last edited by 0ranos; 08-25-2011, 10:09 PM.
    "And after a long time or a short time, Ivan and the Wolf came at last to the home of the Firebird..."sigpic

  • #2
    Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

    What Disney characters would be part of this new ride & land? If it doesn't have characters, it doesn't have a chance of getting built.
    -Bill

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

      I'm... afraid that I disagree. When New Orleans Square was built, did it have pre-existing Disney characters? No, it had a bunch of smelly pirates and ghosts. What characters does Mysterious Island have, other than the Lava Monster? In the beginning, neither Tomorrowland, Frontierland, or Adventureland really had what we would call 'characters' at all. More recent examples include large sections of the Golden State area in DCA, and Condor Flats. Even Buena Vista Street has been explicitly stated to not have many, if any characters associated with it.

      In my opinion, the characters of the ride: The Grey Wolf, Prince Ivan, Elena the Fair, Baba Yaga, and the Firebird would go on and, just like in Pirates or HM, would come to be associated with Disney and would become Disney characters in their own right. You don't need pre-existing Disney characters from the popular franchises.
      Last edited by 0ranos; 08-26-2011, 10:46 AM.
      "And after a long time or a short time, Ivan and the Wolf came at last to the home of the Firebird..."sigpic

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

        Just a few issues I see off the bat. First the whole Beastly Kingdom land idea in itself goes counter to the themes of the other lands. they all represent continents however i see what you tried to do here by adding animals and giving it a real world theme. the issue with doing that is its not really Beastly Kingdom and its not really a northern European / Russia land, its a mixed confusing jumble of the two. I have no problem with fantasy elements in the parks but a whole land devoted to them is a little bit overkill. What I think would make this a more concrete solid concept would be to make this a Russian land keeping ivan and the firebird as the main attraction and retooling the others to go more towards the real world theme.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

          That actually does sound better. I was aware that something was off with the rest of the land, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I think you are correct, that there's not enough emphasis on the natural 'continent' that should be more prominent. So then, more of an emphasis on the walk-about attraction, and keeping and/or scaling down a bit Ivan's town... but what to round it out with for another attraction, eliminating the Baba Yaga C ride?
          "And after a long time or a short time, Ivan and the Wolf came at last to the home of the Firebird..."sigpic

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

            Originally posted by Bill View Post
            What Disney characters would be part of this new ride & land? If it doesn't have characters, it doesn't have a chance of getting built.
            There has never been a requirement for new or familiar characters to go with a new land/ride. The purpose of them was to immerse the guest in a new environment/action and if necessary, Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Co. would dress up appropriately to greet guests in that new land.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

              You guys don't get it... currently there IS a requirement that all new attractions or lands for stateside US parks have to have some familiar characters or movie tie-ins in some way...

              If you want to go live in your little dream world where Disney will build whatever you come up with, so be it. I'm just trying to explain to you how bad the culture has gotten at WDI. If you want to be armchair Imagineers, then you need to get the same problems and BS thrown at you that real Imagineers get. Oops, did I say BS? Hmm, yes I did. So deal with it.
              -Bill

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              • #8
                Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                ^ That just proves the WDI of today are completely off when it comes to Walt's original vision.

                Maybe it's time to remind people to use their imagination again... isn't that what Disney is all about?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                  Originally posted by Bill View Post
                  You guys don't get it... currently there IS a requirement that all new attractions or lands for stateside US parks have to have some familiar characters or movie tie-ins in some way...

                  If you want to go live in your little dream world where Disney will build whatever you come up with, so be it. I'm just trying to explain to you how bad the culture has gotten at WDI. If you want to be armchair Imagineers, then you need to get the same problems and BS thrown at you that real Imagineers get. Oops, did I say BS? Hmm, yes I did. So deal with it.
                  While I don't disagree with this assessment of current WDI culture, there have been a few exceptions like Mission: SPACE (why is that all caps?) Expedition Everest, and Soarin'.

                  The other option would be to do some cross-division brown-nosing and sell the animation folks on an "Ivan and the Firebird" film, and boom, instant synergy. Hey, it worked for Dinosaur! (and by that I mean, didn't work at all)
                  It bothers me when people selectively edit quotes to support whatever point they are trying to prove.
                  sigpic

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                    See, while I think that the character-inclusion requirement is a very strong guideline at WDI currently, I also think that if we look at recent projects, then that's not necessarily the case. As others have said, large parts of both DCA and TDS were not supported by pre-existing characters. And, in the current overhaul of DCA, the BVS addition is going to be rather devoid of anything more than period theming. In addition, I believe the culture for Animal Kingdom is unique in terms of what projects go forward. There doesn't seem to be a huge push for more character-inundation, as evidenced by Everest, and the park itself is themed uniquely around animals and natural environments, not characters.

                    I think that you are very right, Bill, in suggesting that in almost all of the current parks, an expansion or addition would most likely have to include tie-ins. However, I think that Animal Kingdom is (at least for the time being) an exception to the rule.
                    "And after a long time or a short time, Ivan and the Wolf came at last to the home of the Firebird..."sigpic

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                      Originally posted by Dapper Dan View Post
                      While I don't disagree with this assessment of current WDI culture, there have been a few exceptions like Mission: SPACE (why is that all caps?) Expedition Everest, and Soarin'.
                      These are all attactions built -5-10+ years ago... Bill's comment was about the current company, not the company a decade ago.

                      ---------- Post added 08-28-2011 at 05:06 PM ----------

                      Originally posted by 0ranos View Post
                      As others have said, large parts of both DCA and TDS were not supported by pre-existing characters.
                      Again.. talking about projects from a decade+ ago is not the company of today.

                      Originally posted by 0ranos View Post
                      And, in the current overhaul of DCA, the BVS addition is going to be rather devoid of anything more than period theming
                      Uhh.. have you looked at any of the names of places on BVS street? Or recall why they picked the CCT to be there??

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                        Mission: SPACE, october 2003 - 8 years

                        Expedition Everest, april 2006 - 5 years

                        Soarin (WDW), May 2005 - 6 years

                        I think although there has been some prevalent character additions throughout the parks, those are some very relevant examples of recent non character based additions that have happened in the recent past and prove there has been a pretty good balance between character and non character attractions. even newer examples would also include the removal of characters from the tiki room (2011), the various additions slowly coming into innoventions (2011), the new o canada (2007), and others.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                          Originally posted by goofy donald View Post
                          Mission: SPACE, october 2003 - 8 years

                          Expedition Everest, april 2006 - 5 years

                          Soarin (WDW), May 2005 - 6 years
                          Attractions don't get designed and greenlit the month they open.

                          Originally posted by goofy donald View Post
                          even newer examples would also include the removal of characters from the tiki room (2011), the various additions slowly coming into innoventions (2011), the new o canada (2007), and others.
                          Besides innovations (which tend to be simply vendor demostrations prettied up) those are all renovations of existing attractions - not new attractions.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Ranting Armchair Imagineers, Episode 1

                            I don't think that there's a way that any of us can peer inside Imagineering and the Company like this, really. On both sides. I agree that there is a culture of dependency on products and tie ins, but the Company has always been that way, really. It hasn't stopped innovation and original ideas in the long run. It's just that they are placed in-between the more movie-connected attractions. It's great to say that all these original attractions have been made in the past from our perspective here in the present - it seems like they all happened in a short amount of time. But they didn't. It does take a long space of time to get new and original ideas put through, but I don't think that means that they're dead.

                            Bottom line: this is really all pointless, yes, because we don't have a window into the Company. But that being said, I think that there is still room for a couple original or 'story-based' ideas in between the rest.
                            "And after a long time or a short time, Ivan and the Wolf came at last to the home of the Firebird..."sigpic

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