Thursday, July 26, 2007

Steampunk: Nemo's Nautilus

In previous posts I've mentioned that I like the Jules Verne antiquated future style that is permeating Tomorrowland. But not as "Tomorrowland."

The current, half Jules Verne half Futurism, mix in Tomorrowland leaves it feeling more like "Dichotomy-land." Having covered the idea of making Tomorrowland truly futuristic, the topic of the Jules Verne-esque theme remains. This retro-future idea has been more appropriately and successfully implemented as its own land in other Disney Parks i.e. Mysterious Island-Tokyo and Discoveryland-Paris.

There was a proposal by WED in the 70's called "Discovery Bay," it was to be added to the The Rivers of America and Frontierland area. Part of that proposal included an area entitled "Island at the Top of the World." It was a grandiose fictitious future with airships and whimsical inventions. I think this was the genesis of what we have seen shoehorned into Tomorrowland of late. But WED had it right the first time, it is a better fit in Frontierland.

There is some prime real estate back where the Big Thunder Ranch and Frontierland Stage are, hopefully a "Discovery Bay" type land or annex will be added to Frontierland. Creating a new, more fitting home for this style.

Disney may have been too far ahead of itself in realizing the potential of this new 1890's alternate future theme back in the 70's. But today, Disneyland ironically finds itself not only confused as to the location of such a theme, but also behind the curve of its emerging popularity. Disney, unknowingly I think, has hit the tip of an ice berg with this theme. Today there is a popular surge in what has been dubbed the Steampunk "pop-genre."

Wikipedia defines Steampunk as: a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction.... which denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used...usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian England...but with prominent elements of fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.

The Steampunk genre is gaining popularity. There are several upcoming films utilizing this style, most notably "The Golden Compass," and to some extent "Stardust." I've also heard rumors of Disney doing a remake of 20,000 Leagues. There is a large online community of artists, model makers, comic books, and even fashion designers that are pushing this style in some interesting and more edgy directions.

I think there is great potential for this edgy/urban side of Steampunk to be included with the established elements and style of a "Discovery Bay" type addition. Although I think it begs its own high budget ride (more of my own ideas for that, as well as Steampunk in general, to be covered later) assuming this type of land or annex is ever realized in Frontierland. For now, small steps can be taken to slowly usher in this new land:

Imagine if every half hour or so, in the lagoon across from Thunder Mountain, huge bubbles started boiling to the surface! Loud bursts of steam started shooting out of the water, scaring the quack out of the ducks. Whistles and cranks clatter noisily as the Nautilus ominously emerges from under the surface, drawing the attention of everyone walking by.

Capt. Nemo's Nautilus has become sort of an icon for this misplaced futuristic style around the Disney parks. But 20,000 Thousand Leagues was set in the late 1800's. If you remember the films opening it looked a lot like Frontierland! In an effort to get this alternate-future theme underway, and out of Tomorrowland, I say we start by bringing Captain Nemo's Nautilus back to it's original home- Disneyland.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Drawings From Imagineers: John Hench

Most of the images I put up are just reference or supporting images. So, I thought I'd sprinkle in something original - I'll be putting up a "Drawings from Imagineers" post from time to time.

I have a sketchbook with drawings from other artists that I have either met or had the chance to work with over the years. While attending the life drawing workshops at Imagineering, I was lucky enough to meet John Hench. He was kind enough to contribute this to my book. He was very keen on doing Mickey in different styles and mediums... this one showing the gesture and flow of the character design... Enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

iTunes + Disneyland

The music of Disneyland, and all the Disney parks for that matter, available on iTunes! Disneyland has a musical catalog that is recognized globally. There is a huge market for this, from the vacationer who wants to pick up the "Small World Theme," that is still stuck in his head a week later, to the die hard Disney fan that just wants those hard to find tracks to complete their collection.

The company has been really good about promoting the park music, the 6 disc "Musical History of Disneyland" in particular. Also itunes featured some previously unreleased albums from Walt Disney Records for their 50th Anniversary. Definitely steps in the right direction.

The ultimate still remains the "music on demand" feature that was in the park awhile ago where you could compile your own CD from a really wide selection of audio from the park. The great thing about it was that it ranged from the obvious songs to the most obscure background music or ride spiel. A deal with iTunes could top it all!
Why stop at music? I also think there is a market for Park related video. There is a ton of attraction related media that is no longer a part of the parks that is literally sitting on a shelf. Why not make some money off it and make your fans very happy in the process. I'm sure the Disney fans would pay $2.99 to get "Captian Eo" or the "America the Beautiful" circle vision film onto their iPod.

Ah... if only Disney had an "in" with Apple!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Galley Restaurant: Tom Sawyer's Island

The new "Pirates Lair" is open on Tom Sawyer's Island. I know there is/was a heated debate about the addition and I can see both sides. However, that isn't the issue today. The issue is that Tom and his Pirate friends need some sustenance over on the island!

There used to be food service at the Old Fort on the Island. That has long been closed and there is currently no where to get any kind of food or drink, save for a drinking fountain. The updating of the island is obviously aimed to boost attendance. Why not throw in a place to eat?

Ideally it would be nice to a see a full service restaurant. There aren't enough full service restaurants in the park and this is one of the rare places where there is room for one. Many people without reservations at the Blue Bayou are turned away daily. A nice restaurant, if done well, has the potential to draw people to the island in and of itself. Maybe something in-between the Blue Bayou and Aunt Pauly's from the Magic Kingdom. If that isn't possible, for whatever reason, any kind of food vending will do for now.

It seems "Phase 2" of Pirates Liar is in progress, I don't now if any kind of food service is part of that plan, but I hope it is.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tomorrowland Part 3: "Haute Car-ture"

Cars!!!! But not the movie this time...real cars from the future.

A future minded Tomorrowland would not be complete without vehicles! When Tomorrowland was redone a few years back the most futuristic thing that went in was a few employees on Segway scooters roaming about. I don't mean to be negative but...come on! Transportation is, and will always be, a major part of our lives, so lets get on board!

I'll start with some small ideas first and work my way up:

1. Literal Transportation. Ways to transport guests throughout the new Tomorrowland area, the way the fire engine, omnibus, and trolly are for Mainstreet USA. How great would it be to see and ride a variety of these going down the street in Tomorrowland- maybe with some animatronic drivers?

2. Innoventions. An exhibit of actual concept cars by manufacturers. A permanent but continually updated Auto Show in other words. I would also include exhibits on new fuel technologies. Also the "Driving Experience of the Future," exploring how we will drive in the future, from driving with real time Google Maps projected into the windshield to automated freeways.

3. The People Mover. Ah yeah bringing it back!! The original People Mover was great aside from looking outdated. With all the new proposals for Tomorrowland from previous posts the People Mover would be a great way to explore all the new additions. I would also add some futuristic dioramas in some of the new buildings and more integration into some of the rides it would pass through.

4. An E-Ticket car ride...but not TestTrack!! (haven't thought of a cool name yet!) TestTrack is fun but face it most people only wait in line to hit those big fast G-Pulling turns outside the building. This ride would be thrills from start to finish. There would be five to six different models that run the track- no cookie cutters here, this ride is about the car. Each would be very futuristic inside and out.

For the take off a catapult like acceleration that shoots you down an underground glass tube straight through the new center of Tomorrowland with guests looking down from above (all beautifully lit up at night of course!) Then you pop above ground and take a sweeping left turn and race right through the middle of the line to the new Star Tours. Continuing on you race in and out of the new revamped buildings at break neck speeds, do a loop banked completely sideways around the exterior of SpaceMountain, dip underwater in a glass tube through the new Submarine Voyage and finally skid to a stop back at the start. Could be fun??

Of course this sounds expensive but what would the future be without a corporate tie-in? It's perfect. Walt was all about the corporate tie-in. I can't think of a major car company that wouldn't be interested. GM has already sponsored TestTrack so it shouldn't be hard and Honda seems a likely candidate given the existing tie-in of ASIMO the robot in Innoventions.

"Haute Car-ture" in Tomorrowland, if a Tomorrowland based on the future ends up on the boards, lets hope some great cars and vehicles are a vital part of it.