theme park design

Star Wars Land: Meet the Imagineer In Charge

For those looking for ever clue deciphering what will be coming to Disney theme parks on both coasts, the LA Times just published an interview with Walt Disney Imaginering’s Scott Trowbridge. Trowbridge has been given the portfolio of managing how the Star Wars franchise appears… Read More »Star Wars Land: Meet the Imagineer In Charge

Seven Attractions that Disney Wouldn’t Build Today

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Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers practically invented the modern theme park. They took old ideas and elevated them to something guests would be talking about for years to come.

Over the years, the crowds have grown most sophisticated and ride technology has changed too. It still comes down to one thing, telling an amazing and engaging story, rich in detail, and immersive in environment.

Here’s a list of 7 attraction types that will never be built again in a Disney theme park:

Snow White / Pinocchio Dark Ride – The original dark ride at Disneyland was little more than a giant electric train set going through a series of wooden cutouts. Not only are ride systems much more complex, guests are too savvy for simple set decorations. The new rides are all nearly 360 degrees immersive.

The Great Movie Ride / Ellen’s Energy Adventure
– Not only are both these rides full of expensive to build and maintain animatronics, their ride systems are large and complex, essentially theaters on wheels. The modern guest doesn’t quite get the metaphor.
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Main Street U.S.A. Music Lesson

Disney theme park historian and analyst Foxxy Hooves of the excellent Passport to Dreams blog is known for her long and very detailed articles on the esoterica of Disney’s theme park design. I always learn something, even on a subject matter I consider myself very… Read More »Main Street U.S.A. Music Lesson

Bring to Walt Disney World: The Hyperloop

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This week crazy-like-a-fox billionaire businessman Elon Musk introduced his latest revolutionary concept, the Hyperloop, and then gave it away to the masses as an open source project. Musk’s previous successes include Paypal (without which much online transactions wouldn’t happen), Tesla (an electric car company that’s profitable for a change), SpaceX (a private company that is helping NASA get payloads into space with an eventual goal of Mars(!)), and SolarCity (affordable solar panels for home and business; It remains to be seen if this will fall into the success category, but it seems likely with a net positive in the profit column last quarter).

Hollywood director Jon Favreau has said he modeled his version of Tony Stark, aka Marvel’s Iron Man, at least in part after Musk. But I think Tony Stark is the wrong model. Musk reminds me more of late period Walt Disney, when Walt had his eye on the future, not just of entertainment and the Disney Company, but of the planet as a whole and improving the lives of those who live on it. His gained steam with Monorails (mass transit), moved onto PeopleMovers (person rapid transit (PRT)), and dabbled in energy efficiency and recycling. Then Walt united all his theories and took on the mother of all urban planning projects – EPCOT, the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. With EPCOT, Walt wanted to build a working community where he could partner with industrial explorers with a similar vision for the future.

That is essentially the same vision as Elon Musk; which is why I think there is a natural partnership between Musk, his companies, and The Walt Disney Company. To get started, create the partnership for the purposes of building a working prototype of the Hyperloop at Walt Disney World. Musk, or his team, would be involved enough to oversee things, but most of the R&D would be left to Walt Disney Imagineering. The resulting prototype would be a great first step to making a full scale Hyperloop a feasible project to get past local and state governments.

Disney’s Imagineers already have much of the expertise needed to build such a system. They have experience with air-bearings (from the Flying Saucers ride in 60s to the revisited version at DCA), mass transit systems (Monorail, PeopleMover, etc.) and for years they used a garbage disposal system at the Magic Kingdom that magically whisked away trash right from the curb side down an air pressure driven pipe. They also have good contacts in the coaster and mass transit construction industries, so finding suppliers would not be difficult. Read More »Bring to Walt Disney World: The Hyperloop

Disney Research Invents Robot You Can Juggle With

Some pretty amazing robot animatronic developments coming out of Disney Research Pittsburgh these days. The latest to be revealed is this robot you can play catch and even juggle with. Entertainment robots in theme park environments typically do not allow for physical interaction and contact… Read More »Disney Research Invents Robot You Can Juggle With

Disney is adding the world of Avatar to its theme parks

Update: this is no longer a rumor. A press conference with James Cameron, Bob Iger and Tom Staggs is was held earlier today at Imagineering. From the Disney Parks Blog: James and his producing partner Jon Landau and their team at Lightstorm Entertainment will serve… Read More »Disney is adding the world of Avatar to its theme parks