Monday, March 19, 2018

Source Materials: The Wildlife of Primeval World

If you enjoy my Sentimental Paleontology posts, you'll love this one—it's about actual paleontology! Dinosaurs, man! Who doesn't love dinosaurs?
I love dinosaurs. And that's why I've always had a special place in my heart for the Primeval World Diorama. You can keep your Fun FactsTM about the NewYork World's Fair and the Ford Magic Skyway and the world record for the longest diorama display. All that stuff is important, but it pales in comparison to the simple fact that: Dinosaurs.
But are they...accurate dinosaurs? No. No they are not. We can get that out of the way right off the bat. The Primeval World diorama contains animatronic figures built in the mid-60s, many of them riffing off an animated movie that came out in 1940. At best, they reflect the paleontological consensus of the times, filtered through the sensibilities of animators and others artists who were not necessarily scientifically literate, let alone scientists.
So just how bad is it? Let's find out. While grinning like an eight-year-old at the Natural History Museum, because dinosaurs.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Imagineering Theory: 10 Rules to Live By

Hey there, all you Armchair Imagineers! Tired of following current trends in theme park design? Does the current wisdom seem not-so-wise? Want your theme park ideas to pop?
The solution is here! Just follow these ten simple, obvious, incredibly important so why don't actual theme parks follow them much anymore I ask you rules, and watch the quality of your Armchair Imagineering soar to new heights!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Source Materials: The Shape of Land

Before we begin, I would like to note that I titled this post before The Shape of Water won Best Picture. That is all.

Let's talk for a bit about theme park layouts.
One of the often-praised aspects of Disneyland, especially in terms of its innovation when it was new, is the hub-and-spoke design plan that makes navigating from theme to theme so intuitive. (It also has potential mystical significance, but that's literally a topic for another post.) This model is so successful that it became iconic and has been re-used for every “Kingdom” park built since.
Of course, it's not the only way to organize a theme park. For example, Epcot's World Showcase and Universal Islands of Adventure both arrange their attractions around a central body of water, with the main pathway a long loop. The result is picturesque, but a bit more tiresome to traverse than a hub-and-spoke since there's (usually) no way to cut across the middle. I don't know of any examples, but a park could be built in a fan shape, with the themed areas radiating directly from the entrance. A park emphasizing exploration and discovery could use winding paths that branch and intersect.
And then there are the parks that to put this nicely...not really organized at all. Universal Studios Hollywood* is a big offender here. There are all kinds of logical ways to subdivide a theme based on the glamor and excitement of the movies, and USH uses none of them, slapping down whatever, wherever. But I can't be too hard on its designers—the place is built into the side of a hill. A steep hill. With major streets and freeways wrapped around the base. They gotta work within the limitations imposed by the local topography.
You know which park's designers I might criticize for their slapdash approach? California Adventure. They had complete freedom to work within a parcel of flat land that was comparable in size to Disneyland itself and preconditioned for construction. And what did they give us with that freedom? An irregular elongated blob, grossly lopsided with the respect to the location of the entrance, with little sense of “flow” between the various themes.

Is there any sense to this layout at all? The strange thing is...there might be. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

After-Action Report: Three Underrated Attractions

A loooooooong time ago, I did say that this blog wasn't just for the big fancy rides that everyone loves, or even the medium-sized fancy rides with Important History that the theme park enthusiasts love. Sometimes, it pays to appreciate the little things: the rides and attractions often overlooked by the general public, or enjoyed as a last resort, to fill some time before a FASTPASS or dinner reservation slot rolls around. This week, I'd like to direct your attention, briefly, toward three such attractions.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Unauthorized Fun: Lunar New Year Zodiac Tour

Last-minute inspiration, ACTIVATE!

I'm not joking about the above, by the way. I didn't have any idea what to write about this week until...sometime around mid-day on Friday. Yeah. But then I remembered that we just had the Lunar New Year, which has become a bona-fide Thing at the Disneyland Resort in recent years. The “official” celebrations can be found in California Adventure, where all the cool kids go for their multicultural fix, but this installment of Unauthorized Fun takes place on the other side of the Esplanade.
It's not because of Disneyland least, not entirely. It's mainly because there are just more animals over there.
The concept behind this unofficial tour is pretty simple: Cycle through the entire Eastern Zodiac by seeing a Disneyland attraction for each where said animal shows up, in case that wasn't clear. Just to keep things interesting, I decided to see if I could find a different attraction for each, because honestly? You could check off practically the entire list from “it's a small world” alone, and while that might be fun for me, because I adore that ride...most people are going to start squirming around halfway through the second go-around.
Since we just embarked upon the Year of the Dog, I'll set things up so we end there. Here's what I came up with!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Flipping the Script: The Matterhorn


It occurred to me the other day that I've probably attracted some new readers with my Tumblr assuming you're out there, welcome aboard! You'll get the hang of things around here pretty quickly, but to assist the process, here's a “cheat sheet” for the major kinds of posts I am in the habit of making.
When you see the After-Action Report tag, I'm reviewing and/or commenting on a current attraction—you could theoretically drop in on the Anaheim resort the next day to fact-check me. Sentimental Paleontology, by contrast, is for my thoughts on extinct attractions. (Get it? Extinct...paleontology? Get it? Dangit, I explained the joke. Never explain the joke.)
Armchair Imagineering is where I stash my detailed ideas for things that could be added to the park, in a parallel timeline if not this one. It is distinct from Imagineering Theory, which is more about the principles of attraction design.
With Unauthorized Fun, I offer potential ways to enjoy Disneyland that you won't find in any brochure. And then there's Kidnap the Magic, wherein I offer potential ways to take Disneyland home with you...that you won't find in any brochure. (This is how I label the posts regarding my themed parties, of which there are embarrassingly many, and my craft projects, of which there are embarrassingly few.)
In Source Materials posts, I examine how things and concepts from the real world are used to great effect inside the parks. On the other hand, there are also Beyond Blue Sky posts, where I pull out all the stops on my wildest fantasies, and the topic is often how things and concepts from the parks could be used elsewhere.
Huh, I never realized before how many matched pairs of topic categories I was setting up.
The last few post categories don't line up so neatly, however. The Second Sense is a tag I put on any post dealing primarily with in-park music (especially area music) and other audio. It Came From the Fandom is something I pull out when I run short of time and ideas—I bang out a quick post promoting a Disneyland-related thing from elsewhere on the internet. (We just had a nice example last week.)
And finally, the newest post category, introduced right near the end of 2017: Flipping the Script, wherein I propose a rough outline—more than an elevator pitch, but less than a full treatment—for a film based on an attraction that doesn't have one yet.
And that's what this week's post is! What luck!

Monday, February 5, 2018

It Came From the Fandom: Making Spaces

(The following is not a paid endorsement.)
This episode of It Came From the Fandom is a little different from previous ones. Y'see, the work I choose to highlight—the Making Spaces podcast by Ian “Skipper Ian” Kay—is not actually about Disneyland, or at least not exclusively, and maybe not even especially. But it is about theme parks, of which Disneyland is and likely always will be the Most Triumphant Example.* Furthermore, Kay has not only been blogging about Disney theme parks for quite a while longer than I have (I would also say more competently), but he is intimately connected to them in a way most of us will never be: he earned his nickname working as a Jungle Cruise skipper in Orlando. (He has since moved to Southern California, and Skipper, if you're reading this, we simply must meet up at the DLR one of these days.)
So Making Spaces is, like most of Kay's online work, about theme parks, and in particular their potential as a unique storytelling medium. There are three episodes up so far, with a fourth due to be posted any day now...aaaaaaannnnnyyyyy daaaaaayyyyy noooowwwwwwww...
Have a listen, and if you like what you hear, make sure to check out some of Kay's other online musings!

* TV Tropes term. Investigate at your own risk.