Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UOR Permit Update: Simpsons Exteriors and Interiors

Universal has uploaded a new notice of commencement on the comptroller site today, and it's for exterior and interior finishes for the new Simpsons expansion (Project 971). And doing the job is everyone's favorite decorators Nassal, who did the majority of the facades and interiors for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as the Potter expansion currently under construction.

As always, follow @Parkscope for up to the minute updates.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New EPCOT Attraction for 2015?

This new rumor comes to us from the Season Pass Podcast, and an interview with Disney and Disney Parks director Jerry Rees. In it, Rees says he is working on a new, mystery project for Walt Disney World's EPCOT that will open in 2015.

Rees is known for directing The Brave Little Toaster, creating the special effects for Tron, and working on numerous Disney park classics such as Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Alien Encounter, Cranium Command, and Cinemagic in Disney Studios Paris.

So, what could this be? I'll look at some theories below

Captain EO Replacement

We all know Captain EO was supposed to come back as a tribute, but I think most of us would agree it's overstayed its welcome. With Rees's directing experience with things inside the parks, it wouldn't be a stretch to think he'd be working on something to replace the relic of a show. The question is whether or not a new film in the Magic Eye Theater will be followed by a new dark ride next door.

Universe of Energy Refurbishment

Just as Captain EO has worn out its welcome, so has the Ellen version of Universe of Energy. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy this version of the original EPCOT Center attraction, but I also have to admit it's horribly stuck in the 90s. Rees could be developing new preshow and ride films to replace the aging Ellen ones.

New World Showcase Film

This is probably the least likely of the bunch, in my opinion, considering it seems Disney is content with simply adding dining and shopping to World Showcase and calling it a day. Still, it'd be great to get a new offering in the area.

So what do you think, everyone? Got another idea? Sound off in the comments or join in on twitter and follow @Parkscope!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Web Roundup: March 17th

Good evening everyone. Tonight I will be enjoying some curry, a nice IPA, and Wreck it Ralph for the first time on BluRay. What should you be doing? Well....

Plaza Ice Cream Boat Shuffle & A Look at Tom Sawyer Island by Passport to Dreams

Foxxy continues her examination of classic Magic Kingdom design and history with two fantastic articles. In Plaza Ice Cream Boat Shuffle, a new level of mystery is added to the infamous Swan Boats as she researches the original dock location, it's actual opening date, and propulsion systems.

A Look at Tom Sawyer Island is, well, a look at Tom Sawyer Island. The article culminates in a great 17 minute 'details' video.

There's not much else to add, Foxxy's amazing work speaks for itself.

Teller Interview with Esquire Magazine

In the Tom Sawyer Island article, Foxxy covers the slight of hand and tricks that occur on the island to convey isolation and escapism. I feel nothing covers the obsession with illusion, perfection, story telling, and just plain old magic like Teller from Penn & Teller. This interview covers the history, background, and ongoing feud over one of his most unique illusions.

Breaking the 4th Wall: A History & Supercut (NSFW)

Press Play has compiled a delightful compilation, but not comprehensive, cut of movies that break the fourth wall. The themed entertainment world holds the fourth wall as sacred, even more so than the movie industry. This cut shows the various ways the fourth wall has been broken in movies (direct acknowledgement of the audience) and this can be compared and contrasted with themed entertainment's fourth wall (direct acknowledgement that what you are experiencing is not in fact what we're telling you it is). Movies have developed this trope more than themed entertainment, which is stuck in the Albert Brooks style of fourth wall, tongue in cheek, 'hey we're in on the joke too', shattering. (WE CAN YOU FOOL, WE'RE BOLTED TO THE SEATS!)

NOTE: Video contains language, situations, and visuals not considered appropriate for polite company.

The Future That Never Was

Brice at Progressland Blog has completed his artistic and historical evaluation of Tomorrowland 1994, aka The Future That Never Was But Always Shall Be. Tomorrowland 1994 was my gateway drug into themed design, similar to how Test Track was that to the online theme park community. By far my favorite part is the musical analysis, something that has been overlooked and ignored the most in Tomorrowland 1994.

Hard Rock Park/Freestyle Music Park History

Image from ThemeParkInsider.
Hard Rock Park is the oddest, craziest, and weirdest theme park story of the past decade. Opened for 5-6 months, then shut, only to reopen for one season under a different name, Hard Rock Park was a massive failure. But it created some amazing shows, a classic dark ride, and one of the oddest coasters ever conceived (see photo above).

Theme Park University is running a history piece on the park in several parts. Part one is linked above, part 2 is available here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Universal ScreenPlay: New App coming for Universal Parks and Resorts?

So over the weekend some new posters were hung up on the multitude of construction walls in Universal Studios Florida. They are slowly replacing the Universal 100 posters with new ones celebrating the theme park's past and future. Posters include Back to the Future the Ride, Jaws, and Transformers the Ride. You can see the Back to the Future one below.
Pretty cool, right?

What's even more interesting is the logo at the bottom right of the poster. Here's a closer view.
Universal ScreenPlay? What is that?

Well, thanks to some intrepid investigation from our very own Michael, we've found that it is a new trademarked term that is most likely for a new app for Universal Orlando Resort, and possibly even Universal Parks and Resorts as a whole. Some of the verbiage of the trade mark is quoted below.

"IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer application software for mobile phones and wireless devices, namely, interactive software for searching, compiling and organizing information related to amusement park attractions and entertainment information; shortcut software application for mobile, wireless, portable and handheld electronic devices related to amusement park attractions and entertainment information"

So, it looks like Universal is getting ready to roll out a new app, and honestly it's about time. The one they have now is really, really bad and is consistently thought of as the worst theme park app out there. Hopefully this one can match the wonderful My Disney Experience from Disney. Another interesting thing to note is that wireless devices are mentioned in the paragraph above, meaning the parks and surrounding area will need wireless internet.

All pictures property of Jack Tamangni( @jtamagni1976)

Monday, March 4, 2013

UOR Permit Update 3/4/2013: Universal Studios Store Expansion

Universal filed for a new Notice of Commencement today, indicating that the Universal Studios Store at the front of the park will be receiving an expansion by JK2 Holmes Constructors, who constructed the current entrance way of USF.

As always, stay tuned to Parkscope for updates.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thoughts on Disney Springs

Ok everyone, time to get some bourbon, time for another talk.

Bitter Storm at Napa Rose. It has bourbon in it. And it's Disney.
The next round of leaking Disney Springs has occurred, with WDW1974 and WDWNT dropping new information and concept art today.

The news is very similar to what Park Rumors spilled a few weeks ago, with new divisions, parking garages, and fountains detailed. WDWNT adds to the knowledge by leaking nice, water color concept art. WDW1974 adds to this on WDWMagic by breaking the bad news there will be no I-4 ramps or additional on site transportation to the village.

Raven also adds some photos of a slide show presentation highlighting the concepts of who they want in the Disney Spring (HINT: Think expensive, think fancy, and think Apple).

Disney Springs is a re-concepulaization of Downtown Disney. Disney has learned a lot since 1971, 1989, and 1998, with the pinnacle of the concept being DTD Anaheim. This shows in the Disney Springs concepts, as water, trees, and vertical height are added back into the warehouses and fake mountains acting as restaurants. But this is only half of Disney Springs.

Disney Springs, simply, is keeping foreign tourist dollars on property, especially Brazilian. User Skyway gets this concept across well: while I might have a Gap, Apple Store, and Brooks Brothers within a 30 minute drive of me, many 'coming of age' and 'destination teen trips' by those from foreign countries do not. It is not uncommon for Millennia Mall to be swarmed with Brazilian teens, cold cash in hand,  buying up computers, printers, iPads, iPhones, clothing, shoes, and more. It's not simply an access issue either, Brazil has a massive electronics import tax. This is money NOT on Disney property. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the concept pitches Team Disney Orlando heard had Apple, Brooks Brothers, Coach, and more on their 'concept' list.

Disney's response to Church Street and mom & pop stores is dead. Drinks can be had at the resort and you can buy fancy soap can be bought at home. The angle Disney wants now is Destination Shopping, not unique, not themed, and not entertainment. There's no room left for Emil Bleehall from Sandusky or vintage slides.
The good ole days. From George Thomas.
The momentum introduced by the Eisner era and Pleasure Island isn't thought. Everything must have a backstory, a reason, and a purpose. Theming isn't simply a design choice or visual style, it's a STORY, a BACK STORY, and non-functional decorations. And Disney Springs has them all, from the forced concept to the non-functional train tracks.

Image from rowanb73.
Despite my pessimism and nostalgia, I think Disney Springs is a nice project. I would be more receptive if this amount of money was put back into the parks also, but beggars can't be choosers (so I'll just end up going to ride Transformers). What Disney Springs is the continuation of Disneyland's emergency support system: a well decorated destination mall for big brands.

Here's a picture of Darth Vader in the old Village Marketplace. Note the dude in the back left with the awesome white sport coat. Image thanks to Alison at Walt Dated World.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The New Walt Disney World Guide Maps

NOTE: Thank you to Attractions Magazine and The Dis for their high quality old and new maps. Visit these sites for more examples.
Click for larger version.
Ground Zero for how the parks are advertised, perceived, and their tone is the Guide Map. The elaborateness of the maps corresponded with the scale, direction, and focus of the Walt Disney Company at that time. Sure, that's somewhat crazy to think, but where else does factual information, direct guest satisfaction, advertising, and park operations meet in a non essential manner?

This coming week starts a new age of Walt Disney World Guide Maps, one that seems to have learned from the mistakes and problems of the previous, while embracing new design and technology.


  • Death By Labels

Magic Kingdom, November 2012. Click for larger version.
Last generation of WDW Guide Maps decided the best way to vomit out labels on an over designed map. Can you even tell where some of these things are? Most can't. The numbering and lettering schemes are confusing and hap-hazzard. What is the logic in the flow? Letters, numbers, and symbols are so prevalent they block out important features and designs of the park, ignore their actual locations, and focus on what should be there and not what actually is. Look at the Magic Kingdom park hub, which alone has 3 icons where the Partners statue is!
  •  Unimportant Features
Disney Hollywood Studios, November 2012. Click for larger version.
Last generations of park maps added unnecessary 'action' points and features that did not aid in park guidance at best, and offered visual confusion at worst. See the DHS map above, how does it help a guest trying to find where Hollywood and Vine is that Indy Stunt Show; Lights, Motors, Action!; Catastrophe Canyon; AND Fantasmic! are all exploding with fire at the same time? The hat blocks out one of the park's biggest ride, and it has an unnecessary glow. The Muppets area, with one attraction, two shops, two restaurants, and one of the most popular meet and greets, is small due to forced perspective. Yet we have detailed trees and pavement designs in the foreground that do not help with guest travel in the park.

The AT-AT in the room here is the focus on eye candy and action over visual guidance.
  • Up is Down, Cats and Dogs Living in Harmony
Epcot, November 2012. Click for larger version.
Where is Innoventions East or West, without trying to find the badly placed labels? Based on the old Epcot map, well... who knows. By choosing an isometric view, not only are important landmarks hidden and backs of buildings focused on, with Epcot, it doesn't show true north and south. This usually isn't a problem (see Disney Hollywood Studios), but when you start labeling and directing people based on compass directions you're setting yourself up for failure. (To be fair I think Disney attempted to change the West and East to Green and Blue, but it never took on.)
  • Scale

Animal Kingdom, November 2012. Click for larger version.
The running theme of my criticisms and qualms come down to the use of artistic license of scale. Important features are over scaled and highlighted, while minute details that might not directly be an attraction but do help with navigation get muddled. Everest is not the actual size of nearly every of land, but it is the 'biggest' attraction at Animal Kingdom. The hat doesn't look 300 feet tall, so why should it be on the map.


Animal Kingdom, March 2013. Click for larger version.
As an extension of the My Disney Experience mobile app, the new maps are a step into the new decade of design. The new philosophy seems to be on physical information (this is what the buildings look like and are located) over label based information (FIND MICKEY HERE! EXPLOSIONS!).
  • Logical Labels 
Magic Kingdom, March 2013. Click for larger version.
Numbers only! Reduction on unnecessary icons and symbols! Only restaurants and attractions are numbered and the amount of symbols used is drastically reduced to life saving devices, restrooms, smoking areas, and characters. Photo spots, PhotoPass, parade parking, and more are cut adrift for a more cohesive visual theme.
  • Reduction of Clutter
Disney Hollywood Studios, March 2013. Click for larger version.
Okay okay, there's still ONE explosion. A significant amount of visual clutter has been removed compared to the old maps. Trees are textures & tall structures are viewed from an overhead perspective and not highlighted to stand out. Visual stimulation for stimulation's sake has been removed. Tacky fonts and logos have also been removed or scaled down (ex: no New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom map).
  • True North & Scale
Epcot, March 2013. Click for larger version.
True north allows for directional reference; that's good for Epcot. And by getting rid of isometric views and sticking with a straight down perspective, what you see is what you get for scale and location. The scale no longer is skewed for features deemed more important. Whole attractions are not the size of lands, icons don't stand 300 feet tall, and walkways and their locations are accurately depicted. Distances and sizes are no longer obfuscated, allowing for easier traversal of the parks.


The new WDW Guide Maps are an improvement compared to the style-over-substance last generation of maps. My Disney Experience app is integrated and embraced for those looking for more information and a personalized experience (though Mickey's index finger does look freaky ET like). Overall, it's an improvement, and hopefully one signifying a shift in how the parks are viewed and advertised; less surpufulbous fluff, more what the parks actually offer.