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Entries in Concept (13)


Originality in Theme Park Design

A few tips to follow when developing your ideas.

Be original
I know this sounds obvious but so often people see a Disney movie and say, “they should make a ride out of that.” If one of your ideas is based on an existing movie, think of unique ways of presenting that story.  Toy Story Mania is an example of an existing creative work presented in a new and original way. Often people say, “they should put this ride from this park in to that other park.”  This can be a worthwhile effort but if you are going to call it your idea, make sure it’s not a simple carbon copy of something that already exists.

Better yet, develop ideas that are not based on someone else’s existing creative efforts.  A large number of Disney attractions are not based on films.  One of the best recent examples of this is Expedition Everest.  Some classic examples include Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, The Carousel of Progress, and Space Mountain.

Make it timeless
The best attractions, dining experiences, hotels, etc. are ones that won’t feel dated two years after they open.  The Matterhorn today looks and feels just as cool to today’s children and adults as it did to those of 1959 when it opened.

Avoid pop-culture references.  An attraction featuring The Jonas Brothers might exciting for (some) guests today, but what happens when the brothers are washed-up and some other group of manufactured Disney Chanel teenage siblings take center stage?

Avoid character cross-overs
This is where a character from one film and one time period hangs out with another character from an unrelated film and completely different time period.  It has been done successfully and tastefully a few times in the past, yes.  A very classic example is The Mickey Mouse Review (the predecessor of Mickey’s Philharmagic)- a musical review at The Magic Kingdom starring Mickey as the conductor of a orchestra made up of dozens of characters, all animatronic.  But now-a-days character cross-overs are in far too many places.  Every parade, every night-time spectacular, and we see it way too much in Disney merchandise.  It’s a sign of a lack of originality.  Why does this happen?  I feel that it happens often because it’s easy to throw 20 popular characters together, each with their famous one-line phrase, and call it “new.”  I suggest staying away from this altogether. 

Make it fun for all ages
Providing entertainment that everyone could enjoy was the name of Walt Disney’s game.  Granted, some of the little tykes have to patiently await the day they reach a certain height to experience the more intense attraction, but once they grow a little more, everything is fare game.

Evoke emotion
This is perhaps the most important thing to remember when developing a concept.  How can cement, rebar, and paint put together in the right way have such an emotional impact on millions of people from all the corners of the earth?  Few words can describe the emotion I feel when I walk through the tunnels under the Disneyland Railroad track and come out on the side in Town Square.   The sights, the sounds, the smell of popcorn, the childhood memories.  Always keep in mind the following question: “How does my concept reach the inner soul of it’s guests- whether it be through laughter, motion, color, sound, music, smell, touch, light, darkness, size, sadness, innovation, nostalgia, shear amazement, or a combination of a few or all of these things?” 




5 Things I'd do with the Magic Kingdom...If only I could.


I often ponder what I'd do with the good old Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World if I were calling the shots.  Here are a few of those things:

1]  Mickey’s Toon Town Fair. First things first. Tear it out right away. It’s not very toony, it’s not much of a town, and where's the fair?  Aren’t we supposed to have fun at theme parks? There is one exception to the lack-of-fun, poorly executed, once said to be temporary, pathetic excuse for a Magic Kingdom land: The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm.  It’s fun for anyone who doesn’t mind a mild roller coaster.  But this certainly does not make up for the rest of the mess.  “Toon Town makes lots of money selling autograph books”, you say?  Come on!  Is that enough of a reason to keep this thing going? Nope. Let people buy their autograph books in any of the dozens of other merchandise locations. So yes, on day-one in my little fantasy, we put up an unmarked wall at the narrow entrance near the tea cups, bring in the wrecking crew, and we never look back.  As for this prime park real estate, we’ll absolutely get into that on another occasion.

2]  The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management).  Once remembered as the Tropical Serenade show, this was the crowning jewel of the Sunshine Pavilion.  The what?  Yes, few people know any of this, but don’t worry, everyone is well aware of the plastic flying carpets blocking its view.  The addition of two cartoon birds (may I mention they are from two entirely different cartoons… can we stop the cross-overs already??) would be only semi-sacrilegious if a decent show was written around them.  Wait.  I take that back.  Just keep the near-perfect show like it was.  Not every non-character attraction needs the addition of characters to make it “relatable”.  Not at all.  This should be an easy-ish fix.  Take out what wasn’t there before, restore the old show, done.

3]  Rivers of America. So wonderful. So peaceful. Let’s not screw it up with Mickey and friends driving the Liberty Square Riverboat or some junk like that. For this one, all I’m suggesting is the return of the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes and the Mike Fink Keel Boats- a couple of the only Disney attractions not connected to a track, one of which (the canoes) you can take part in powering.  For anyone who uses the excuse of “they just weren’t that popular”, lets remember, not every attraction has to have the draw of the Space and Splash Mountains, nor should they.  We need the E-ticket rides, yes.  We also need these hidden-gem B and A-tickets.  One other thing just for fun… maybe an animatronic Old Yeller with a fish in his mouth, standing in the water somewhere.  Just somthin’ fun to look at as you float on down the river.

4]  Main Street, U.S.A.  I may just have to post an essay I once wrote called, A Few Simple Moves That Would Restore the Forgotten Wonder of Main Street, U.S.A.  The ideas expressed in the essay gained minimal traction with the Magic Kingdom management until they were ultimately… forgotten.  Allow me to quickly sum up the moves.  Take out merchandise in places that are not gift shops- namely The Firehouse and The Cinema.  Restore the unique, tiny experiences that made Main Street fun for more than just mothers shopping for t-shirts.  These experiences should definitely include the Magic Shop, the custom free-hand free embroidery of names on Mickey Mouse ear hats, and The Penny Arcade games (such as the one machine that shocked you more and more the longer your touched it until the timer went out).  Next, only characters that fit the atmosphere of a turn-of-the-century American town should be hanging out in this part of the park. Sorry Timone. One last thought for now (this goes for the entire Magic Kingdom). Certain merchandise should only exist in certain shops. Pirate stuff should not be sold in eight different locations on Main Street. Keep it in Caribbean Plaza.

5]  Nightlife of the Magic Kingdom.  There is something about being in the Magic Kingdom (or Disneyland) and night.  Walt Disney hosted a wonderful TV episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color called Disneyland After Dark in 1962. Watch it on the Disney Treasures: Disneyland DVD. Fantastic in every way. It captures some of the marvel that is Disney at night.  So lets add live music to more places around the park.  Lets bring back the Electrical Parade.  Maybe nighttime dining can be more of an experience than it is now with the hamburgers and such.  Bring back the dancing… perhaps.  Maybe more twinkle lights on selective trees.  There’s always that good idea of encouraging guests to head over to Disney-owned nightclubs. Not.

I love the Magic Kingdom, boy do I ever. But shucks, let’s keep the ol’ list of priorities in the proper order. It’s my belief that with a few small changes in direction, the future of the Disney theme parks is, might I say, magical.


CONCEPT: Carrying the Banner (A Newsies Welcome Show)

Concept by Lilly

Itʼs 8:55am on Main Street USA. The park opens at 9:00. Hundreds of excited guests are streaming through the turnstiles, hustling through the arches and town square, until they meet a rope draped across main street just before from the Emporium, keeping them from the excitement of the park for just five more minutes.

A couple of Newsies have wandered out of the Emporium and other nearby buildings, just getting ready for a day of selling “papes.” Some of them are just tucking their shirt in, one is just drying his face with a towel, others are arranging their newspapers getting ready to sell them.

They have the demeanor you would expect from a Newsie, pushing each other around, cracking jokes, talking about the girl they met last night. They donʼt acknowledge their audience just yet. At about 8:55 one of them sings “Try Bottle Alley or the harbor,” another Newsie adds, “Try Central Park itʼs guaranteed,” and the song continues. There are only three lookalikes in this show from the Disney film. One is Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, and he sings his own lines from the film. Eventually the Newsies bring in the audience and interact with them during the number. In the appropriate place in the song (we cut the part with the nuns), the Delancey brothers, Oscar and Morris, enter. These are the only other two lookalikes from the film. One of the Newsies states “Dear me! What is that unpleasant aroma? I fear the sewers may have backed up during the night,” and the scene continues up until Jack says “That's right. It's an insult. So's this!” Instead of knocking the hat of Morrisʼ head, he steals it and a choreographed fight scene/keep the hat from the Delancey brothers/Jack hiding from the Delancey brothers proceeds as the Newsies continue to sing around this scene up until the end of the song.

As the Newsies finish the musical number the Newsies then explain to the crowd how the rope drop will work. They form a line of Newsies in the front and then walk the guests to each land, mingling and interacting with them as they go. When they get to each land, various cast members take over and lead the guests to the most popular attractions. The Newsies stick around Main Street and sell papes.

The best part is that the papers the Newsies have are actual papers filled with never before seen articles about the Walt Disney Company. Essentially, they are collectors items and the Newsies actually sell them for whatever they can get. The Newsies donʼt advertise the papers for what they are, they just sell like Newsies would sell, but they only place you can get one is from a Newsie.

After the morning set, Jack and maybe the Delancy Brothers will continue to do sets throughout the day on Main Street, continuing to sell papers and to interact with each other and the guests.