Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dissecting Disney's Lands - Complete Series

I have now completed my Dissecting Disney's Lands series, an exploration of the themes and subthemes that populate Disney Magic Kingdom-style parks worldwide that has reached over 10,000 words - I certainly didn’t expect it to become this expansive!

Dissecting Disney's Lands Part 1: Adventureland

Dissecting Disney's Lands Part 2: Frontierland

Dissecting Disney's Lands Part 3: Fantasyland

Dissecting Disney's Lands Part 4: Tomorrowland

Dissecting Disney's Lands Part 5: Main Street USA

I hope it has been a worthwhile read, and I want to send my thanks to those that have taken the time to email me and share their thoughts and compliments. I sincerely appreciated each one - they really helped motivate me to continue this. I also want to thank Jan Vincent for her wonderful Jan’s World Disney website – specifically for the list of land attractions, which has been wonderfully useful in compiling this. I have no doubt I will return to this in time, so if you have any comments and suggestions, please contact me!

Dissecting Disney's Lands: Main Street USA

On the opening of Disneyland back in 1955, Walt was able to introduce each of his fantastic lands in just a few sentences each. But as they’ve grown, and even when they first opened, their component themes are incredibly wide ranging; an eclectic collage of ideas and settings grouped loosely by their land’s title. In this series, I hope to break down these sub-themes (their settings both in location and in time) to better understand how to lands come together as a cohesive whole.

“Hello, welcome to Disneyland. We have dedicated this happy place to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America. This dedication is engraved on a plaque at the foot of the flagpole in the Disneyland town square. Suddenly as we come into this square, the cares and worries of today are left behind and we find ourselves in a little town in the year 1900. On one hand is the City Hall and on the other is the fire station. Down Main Street we see the Emporium and all the many shops. There is the old music store, the penny arcade with its blaring orchestrion, the popcorn man, and the old calliope. At the end of the street, the marching band appears in full regalia. But lets take the horse-drawn street car and ride down Main Street.”

I want to finish this series with a short article about the land where every Disneyland adventure begins; Main Street USA. Main Street is perhaps the simplest of the lands; no variations exist within each individual land, but I thought it was worthwhile examining the differences between the Main Streets worldwide, including Tokyo Disneyland’s unique Main Street World Bazaar.

Lacking the ‘land’ suffix, some people don’t consider Main Street USA a legitimate land, describing it more as a transition or entrance area. Still, current Disney policy categorises it as a land and with no larger land to label it a subland of, there seems little reason to deny it the status.

Disneyland

Main Street USA at Disneyland, whilst inspired by Walt’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri is actually more similar to Fort Collins, Colorado – the childhood home of its designer Harper Goff. It is an idealised, nostalgic remembrance of small town life where everyone knows each other. This Main Street is presented in an almost dollhouse style, with sleepy porches dotted with benches and rocking chairs, cosy alleys and ragtime music.

The first theme was Patriotism, drawn from the classically Americana presentation of Main Street USA. It is a place where the Fourth of July could be celebrated every day, supported by the inclusion of attractions such as Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
At opening, Main Street USA contained just three attractions. The first two, the Disneyland Railroad (then the Sante Fe & Disneyland Railroad) and the Main Street Vehicles perhaps hint at a Transportation theme, similar to Tomorrowland, however it is not transportation for its own sake; rather it is to give realism and dynamism to the land and park. Rather, it they demonstrate the theme of Invention and the progress the spark of an idea can have to lead us forward.

The third attraction, the Main Street Shooting Gallery and the later Babes in Toyland exhibit did very little to impact the theme.

It was not until the addition of attractions such as the Legacy of Walt Disney, Disneyland Presents a Preview of Coming Attractions and The Walt Disney Story in the 1970s that the next theme was added to Main Street USA; that of Disney itself, both the man and the concept. It was this development that tied into the Disneyfication of Main Street’s shops as they eschewed period products in favour of Mickey Mouse memorabilia and Goofy gifts. Main Street took the role of the gift shop exit for the entire park. Main Street USA became the spokesperson for the entire park, with exhibits presenting the history of the park and of Walt Disney.

Magic Kingdom

At the Magic Kingdom, increased funds allowed the buildings to be built at a scale approaching full size – and so ambition increased along with it. The inspiration for the land expanded to locations across the United States, from Missouri to New England, expanding its focus beyond small town life to become Big Town.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland is the most radical of the Main Street variations, abandoning the explicitly American setting, and instead creating a curious combination of Main Street USA and Epcot’s World Showcase. This land is called Main Street World Bazaar (this is the full name – most places just use World Bazaar), and is made up of a montage collection of shops and restaurants sourced internationally. America is still represented of course; many of the facades echo the traditional Main Street and an American style fifties diner is included. The first Disneyland outside of America, the sole theme here is Internationalism.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris returns to the Americana of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street (many of the facades are identical), but moves the time period on a bit further. Even more so than the Magic Kingdom, its components are sourced not only from Marceline or Fort Collins but from locations across the United States; San Francisco, the Midwest and New York. This Main Street holds more dynamism and urbanism than the other Main Streets – perhaps more akin to a Small City.

The idea of American Patriotism and Internationalism were blended with the inclusion of the Liberty Arcade, an indoor walkway themed around the Statue of Liberty and its symbolism of the relations between France and the United States. At the other end of the street was the Discovery Arcade, which presented then current inventions and patents amongst Victorian visions of the future; the theme of Invention was reborn.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland’s Main Street USA reverts back to the Main Street of Disneyland California, but places an even greater focus on the Disney theme. In its brief history, it has included attractions such as Mickey’s House, Turtle Talk With Crush and still has an Animation Academy – significantly more obvious in its Disney theme than other Main Streets.

However, one attraction does highlight a theme that may exist in other Main Streets worldwide – particularly Disneyland. The Main Street Haunted Hotel brings forth the theme of the Supernatural, as guests walk with flashlights through a genuinely scary walkthrough. Disneyland’s Main Street has hints of this supernaturalism with the famous fortune teller, Esmeralda, in the Penny Arcade and Fargo’s Palm Parlor across the street. This theme is certainly not at the forefront of Main Street, but is an interesting observation nonetheless.

Conclusion

Although the simplest of all of Disney’s original lands, Main Street USA has a wide range of its own themes and ideas. With each successive version, Main Street USA has grown and progressed, whilst at all times remaining a hold on that nostalgic optimism of a time that now exists only in collective memory. Main Street USA’s themes comprise of;

- The Small Town, the Big Town, and the Small City
- Patriotism
- Invention
- Internationalism
- Disney
- The Supernatural

The Future

Main Street USA’s need to recreate a rose-tinted remembrance of how America used to be; simpler times with quaint ideals. While Main Street USA is the land least likely to warrant expansion, future directions could include;

- The 1920s, and the Jazz Age, with speakeasies and silent films.
- The War Years, and the triumph of American spirit and ingenuity.
- The 1950s, and the carefree dawn of the teenager, with sock hops, diners and drive-in movies.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dissecting Disney's Lands: Tomorrowland

On the opening of Disneyland back in 1955, Walt was able to introduce each of his fantastic lands in just a few sentences each. But as they’ve grown, and even when they first opened, their component themes are incredibly wide ranging; an eclectic collage of ideas and settings grouped loosely by their land’s title. In this series, I hope to break down these sub-themes (their settings both in location and in time) to better understand how to lands come together as a cohesive whole.

"A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievement. A step into the future with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals, the atomic age, the challenge of outer space and the hope for a peaceful and unified world."

“Now it is time for a preview of the World of Tomorrow. We step into the future and find fantastic atomic-powered machines working for us. The world is unified and peaceful. Outer space is the new frontier. We walk for a time among the strange mechanical wonders of tomorrow, and then blast off on a rocket to the Moon."


Disneyland

At it’s opening, Tomorrowland contained twelve attractions – the most of all the lands – but had the least amount of money spent on it. Instead, Walt made the show space available to outside companies willing to receive exposure in the park instead. This heavy involvement of corporations including American Motors, Monsanto, Dutch Boy Paint and Richfield Oil, and the appropriate favourable light that was consequently shone upon them, established the first theme of Disney’s Tomorrowland; Corporate Benevolence – the American economic system and the benevolence of the corporation (a benevolence the public would lose trust in as corporate scandals appeared in the succeeding decades).

But these corporate pavilions were specifically chosen to further the message of Tomorrowland. The Aluminium Hall of Fame, Dutch Boy Color Gallery and The World Beneath Us each demonstrated the wonders of invention, whilst the Monsanto Hall of Chemistry explained the inner workings of the physical world. The theme demonstrated was that of Science & Technology.

One of the most popular of the Tomorrowland attractions, the Autopia, intended to introduce the wonders of the highway system to guests of all ages – a prototype of the weaving motorways that would soon crisscross America. Combined with the short lived Phantom Boats, and even the hands on miniatures of Hobbyland and the Flight Circle, the next theme is revealed; Transportation, and the strides made in opening up the entire world to its population - discovering quicker, safer and more luxurious ways to traverse continents, or even solving the infrastructure problems of every home city.

Perhaps at the farthest end of this theme lies Tomorrowland’s centrepiece theme. Fuelled by the rocketry advances of the previous decade, eyes were set on the stars above and Disneyland was going to make that possible. While Frontierland represented the frontiers of the past, Tomorrowland would represent the frontiers still to be conquered; none more evident than Space. Rocket to the Moon and Space Station X-1 (the Satellite View of America) would quench this curiosity years before mankind would escape Earth’s atmosphere.

Another attraction was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; a walk through the sets and props of the popular live action Disney motion picture. While the events of the film were used to dramatic effect, the emphasis was not upon convincing guests they were transported to Nemo’s nautical realm – it was on the special effects and skills involved in movie production. This theme was Film, not in the Hollywoodland sense of glitz and illusion that would be represented in Disney’s studio theme parks, but of the hard processes and technological underpinnings of the medium. Another attraction, Circarama (later known as Circle-Vision 360) would further this theme; emphasising the brand new technology that makes surround cinema possible.

As well as this, there was the display running through the heart of Tomorrowland – the Court of Flags, a display of all 48 American state flags, with the stars and stripes for the United States as a whole. Just as in Frontierland and Main Street USA, Tomorrowland too took the theme of Patriotism.

But of all Tomorrowland, there was one overarching theme; utopianism – the idea that everything will be better in the future through technology and understanding, providing us with the safety, efficiency and increased recreation time that tomorrow will bring. Tomorrowland is the physical manifestation of the futurist cartoon shorts of the time such as Magic Highways USA and Destination Earth.

As Tomorrowland expanded, so to would its existing themes. The Corporation would be reinforced with the fashion pavilions of Monsanto, and the Crane Company’s Bathroom of Tomorrow would push forward the theme of Science & Technology, later including the wonderful Adventures Thru Inner Space. Film would be represented with the Art of Animation; Transportation with the Skyway and Viewliner, and Space with the Astro Jets and, introducing a more whimsical view of outer space, the Flying Saucers.

It was 1959 brought Tomorrowland’s first major additions. The Matterhorn (later moved to Fantasyland), the Submarine Voyage and the Monorail were all opened within a short duration of one-another. Whilst the Monorail clearly pushed the Transportation theme, the Matterhorn emphasised the idea of new Frontiers; this time the unconquerable extremes of Earth’s mountains. The Submarine Voyage, both a unique transportation itself, but also an exploration of the mysteries of the deep oceans, sat somewhere in between.

But it would be Transportation that would hold the most significant sway over Walt’s future Tomorrowland. As his interest in city planning grew (culminating in the Epcot project), Walt began to investigate new forms of transportation that would feature in Disneyland. As well as the Monorail, the Junior Autopia, Skyway, Viewliner, and PeopleMover were all added since opening – each presented as possible solutions to future transportation problems. Transportations representation was so important that the New Tomorrowland would be dubbed ‘the World on the Move’.

This direction would last until the mid 1970s, marked by the departure of the Carousel of Progress to Walt Disney World. With the opening of Space Mountain, Mission to Mars and the opening of the Starcade and Space Stage, the new dominant theme of Tomorrowland would be Space. Patriotism would be reaffirmed with America Sings, despite much criticism it was out of theme with the land.s As the second generation Imagineers came forward however, they realised Disney was lacking in source material for this new direction. Led by Tony Baxter, Disney joined forces with director George Lucas to bring the perhaps now iconic theme of Tomorrowland to the park; Sci-fi. In time, this theme would expand more and more; with Captain EO, “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” and the Jedi Training Academy to come, amongst others. At times, some of the original themes would return; the American Space Experience would return the wonders of Space; Innoventions would rekindle Science & Technology in a new way more in line with trades expos.

Through the 1990s, Tomorrowland had an identity problem. Inspired by the success of Disneyland Paris’s Discoveryland, attempts were made to move Disneyland to a retro, bronze and copper design with a fusion of neo-agrarian ideas as well.. Not steampunk, but not recognisably anything else either, the retheme seems to have stumbled to a lack of funds, and just a few shorts years later was almost entirely undone.

The latest unique theme, however, would belong to Pixar. Compelled by the studio’s
popularity to have representation in the park, but out of place in any of the other lands, Pixar took root in Tomorrowland – at first with the retro sci-fi of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, which (if the toy theme is downplayed) could fit in Tomorrowland’s sci-fi range of attractions, and then with Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It’s contemporary setting and immersive cartoon world seems out of place with Tomorrowland’s past, but its transition placement between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, and pure enjoyability give it a pass for most people.

Magic Kingdom

In Florida, the Tomorrowland stayed in close step with its west coast sister park. Opening in 1971, the Tomorrowland took the dominant theme of the time and ran with it; Space. The themes of the Corporation, Science & Technology, Film and Transportation were almost entirely gone, barring the eventual inclusion of the WEDWay PeopleMover. The new Space theme, seemingly inspired by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey released a few years before, used huge, clean, white expanses. It was a place of monolithic towers, spires and scientific realism; a view of what a space-age society might live like, but in a distinctly Hollywood way.

Tomorrowland’s major revision came in 1994, when the land was entirely transformed into an intergalactic spaceport. This new headquarters for the League of Planets is science-fiction as seen through 1940’s comic strips: Pulp - a place of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, robots and flying saucer aliens where “robots perform household chores, ice cream comes from the Milky Way, and a trip through time is as common as a spin around the solar system.” One of the most unique attractions of this new Tomorrowland was the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, one of the projects supervised by George Lucas. Uncharacteristically scary, this attraction was criticised by some as un-Disney. In sharp contrast to Tomorrowland’s origins, combined with Captain EO’s equally barren world, the theme of the Dystopia became part of Tomorrowland – at least in a Hollywood sense.

Pixarification too would influence Tomorrowland. Pixar’s Monsters Inc. would be the source for the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club. The Imagineers were clever in the way they included this attraction; the Tomorrowland technology supposedly transports you to the world of monsters.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland took a distinctly more urban direction when designing its Tomorrowland, but is otherwise very similar to Walt Disney World’s. As a one off, Tokyo’s Tomorrowland included Meet the World, a Carousel of Progress style attraction chronicling the history of Japan – for its market, this was a unique take on Patriotism.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris has the most unique of all the Tomorrowlands. Now called Discoveryland, it takes as its inspiration some of the past’s greatest visionaries of the future; from Leonardo da Vinci to George Lucas, and most heavily Jules Verne. The result is a type of science fiction known as steampunk; how the world would look if Victorian era technology was used to power airships, rocketships, computers and various other modern and future technology. From launching to the Moon in a giant ballistic cannon, to the giant zeppelin suspended over the land, and Nemo’s submarine emerging above the waters, Discoveryland has a wonderful blending of the past and future.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, while small, has a cohesive theme throughout. Here, the retro science fiction clich├ęs are presented in a childlike and whimsical away, recognising the parks inability to compete with the truly futuristic city of Hong Kong just minutes away.

Conclusion

Before I conclude, I want to point out just how much of Tomorrowland is taken from the past, perhaps to the degree that Time Travel should be included as its own theme. From the Carousel of Progress’s overview of the past century, to time travel rides like De Temps en Temps, Tomorrowland uses examples of the past to demonstrate where the future might take us.

Tomorrowland has perhaps the busiest history of all of the main lands; a past weaving through no less than three radical overhauls and consistently putting pressure on the Imagineer designers to always keep a grip on the ‘Tomorrowland Problem’ – how do you represent Tomorrow when it’s always catching up with you? Tomorrowland’s origins can be pinpointed quite directly: Tomorrowland is Walt’s interpretation of the popular World’s Fairs of the time which inspired and enthused him, and which he too himself played a hand in, contributing four attractions to the later 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Tomorrowland would be a demonstration to guests of the wonders of the future; but various things – funding requirements, pop culture fads, cost prohibitive upkeep and more – would influence and bend the original motivation into something entirely unique. To some, Tomorrowland is a demonstration ground for next generation technology, city planning solutions and optimistic futurism. To others, it is the exciting world of science fiction – a place of aliens, robots, Buck Rogers and Luke Skywalker. And still to others there are problems of ‘Pixarfication’, or worst still the dilution of Tomorrowland into ‘the land of attractions that don’t fit anywhere else’. Its true location is somewhere in the middle of all that - a strange blending of abstract concepts like corporate benevolance and utopianism with real future technology and pure science fiction and fantasy. Increasingly, it is the third category that is taking over, concentrating on the sci-fi escapism that Hollywood loves. Breaking it down, Tomorrowland is made up of;

- Science & Technology
- Corporate Benevolence
- Transportation
- Utopianism
- Frontiers (Oceans and Mountains)
- Patriotism
- Film
- Space
- Sci-fi
          - Pulp
          - Epic Fantasy
          - Dystopianism
          - Steampunk
- Pixar
- Time Travel

The Future

Appropriate to the land, here are some ideas of where future lines of opportunity could lie for Tomorrowland;

- Could other problems in need of solutions be explored? Natural disasters, global warming, oil spills and similar?
- How about a dedicated presence for computers, the Internet and video games on a deeper level than just an arcade?
- Are Superheroes appropriate for Tomorrowland? Too contemporary or fantasy to some, Disney’s acquisition of Marvel seems this may well be a reality in the future.
- What about other frontiers yet to be tamed? The deserts, the arctic poles or beneath the Earth’s surface?
- What about contemporary culture - modern art, postmodernism and similar trends of recent decades in relation to art, architecture and media.
- How about other knowledge; not just Science & Technology, but geography, maths or even music?
- Merging this with Patriotism, would Politics and Democracy work in Tomorrowland – enthusing guests with the democratic system, its strengths and the importance of involvement - or is this more suited to Main Street USA or Liberty Square, or even too controversial for a recreational park?
- Sci-fi literature suggests the genre of Alternative Histories. Similar to steampunk, this could explore what the world would be like if history had gone in a different direction; if the Roman Empire had never collapsed, if Lincoln was never assassinated or if a fantastic future technology became a reality.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this interesting. The final part should come soon and complete the series; Main Street USA.

The Incredibles: Omnidroid Attack!





WARNING!! A rampaging robot has been seen in downtown Metroville leaving damage and destruction throughout the city! Experts have identified it as one of defeated supervillain Syndrome's evil OMNIDROIDS! Can anything stop this artificially intelligent machine? Calling all Supers! Metroville needs you!!


The Incredibles: Omnidroid Attack! is designed as a unique twist on the classic Dumbo spinner; this will be a solid C-ticket attraction with a contemporary theme and a brand new ride experience. Essentially, the ride takes the mechanism of a classic spinner, but attaches a Mad Tea Party style teacup to each of the arms. From this, guests will not only have control vertically of their vehicle, they can also rotate their vehicle on its axis.

The ride is themed to the Omnidroid machine from The Incredibles film. Guests will first see the contraption standing menacingly over rubble and debris, and can then enter the queue made up of yellow police caution tape. Through flash news reports on nearby televisions and a news van in the middle of the queue, guests will be presented with the back-story: this AI controlled machine is one of the many prototype robots Syndrome built as part of Operation Kronos. Despite the supervillain’s death, the creation has escaped and still plans on completing its programmed mission; to destroy Metroville and all Supers!


Mr Incredible has decided the best way to disable the creature: all the guests, as superheroes themselves, will need to climb aboard one of the robots arms (each themed as a different component – sensors, weapons, etc.) and use its controls to shake the construction apart. Rising up out of the ground once the guests are safely seated, the rousing theme of The Incredibles will play as the Omnidroid begins to spin. Using the spin wheel in front of them or the Up and Down control buttons, the guests will begin their task of shutting down the evil machine! Hearing words of encouragement and direction from Mr Incredible himself over their vehicle communicator, the Omnidroid will grow increasingly out of control! For the first time in a spinner attraction, the machine will reverse its revolution direction - spinning backwards! - as its hisses and beeps in frustration. Lasers, smoke and frying circuitry all across its surface will light up until eventually the guests efforts immobilise it and it collapses back to the ground, ready for the guests to exit.

Being more of a thrill ride, this will the first spinner to push beyond the very young target demographic of other spinners and make it something unique. Its theme will be particularly popular with young boys, but the physical thrills and exciting storyline will ensure it will provide enjoyment to guests of all ages.

The attraction will have 16 arms each holding 4 persons for a capacity of 64 people per cycle. With a ride time of just under 90 seconds, this creates a THRC of 2560 people. Each vehicle will be pivoted at the end of its arm to eliminate the leaning of similar spinner attractions – especially important with the Tea Party style lateral forces, and ensuring the safety of the guests. Seatbelts will of course be required. The cost of the attraction should equal the cost of similar spinners; the under construction Jasmine’s Flying Carpets, for example, should cost around $22 million.


The ride could fit in a number of locations in Disney parks worldwide;

- Pixar Place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios could use this attraction to give representation to The Incredibles and add a quick and fun C-ticket attraction to the park which it currently lacks.

- Various other Hollywood themed sections, such as Hollywoodland at Disney California Adventure Park or Walt Disney Studios Paris could include this, emphasising the animation origins.

- The robot concept could even justify it’s placement in a Tomorrowland, either as a replacement or compliment to the existing Rocket Jets style attractions.

- Or it could be included in a brand new superhero themed land, alongside Marvel characters or as an Incredibles themed miniland.

Using a brand new twist on an existing classic, cost effective and with a wildly popular contemporary theme, The Incredibles: Omnidroid Attack! is sure be a BAM! KAPOW! hit.