Thursday, September 30, 2010

Seuss Details – Little House Window

When you're trying to make dreams come true one of the most important things to remember is the truth.  It doesn't matter what kind of whimsical place you've designed, the truth is that gravity won't change -- and neither will the effects of rain water.

This little house at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Seuss Landing fell victim to the laws of nature.  The sill of the window was sloped slightly in instead of out.  Now this isn't exactly the kind of structure that one takes a level to, so the error was easily missed.  That is, until the first rains came.  A standing pool quickly developed that would have eventually damaged the structure.  Fortunately the problem was quickly noticed (it was actually hard to miss), and easily corrected.

The foam finish was so easy to work with that the repair was made in a couple of hours.  The patch had to completely dry before it could be repainted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seuss Details – Little House Door

The details at Seuss Landing Islands of Adventure just keep getting smaller and smaller.  This a door for one of the little houses that sit on top of the Emporium shop and the Moose Juice, Goose Juice drink stand. The door was designed as an access panel to maintain the interior lighting.  The door is less than three-feet tall.  The door was carved out of a resin coated foam and glued onto a frosted plastic panel.  It is intensional that a crack of light is left around the outside edge of the door.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seuss Details – Little House Structure

As the field art director for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, Seuss Landing, it was my job to make sure that the final product looked just like the original design.  Yesterday's post showed a little house on top of the Emporium shop and the Moose Juice, Goose Juice drink stand.  Well this is that same little house under construction and seen from the roof.

The architectural firm responsible for this building showed details for these little houses that would match any full-sized house.  There were steel stud walls and framing around the windows.  There were even individual light boxes behind each window.  The problem with that design was that the finished product could never have looked right.  Some of the window were only 10-inches high and 6-inches wide.  I explained that these houses were no bigger than a dog house.  Well the name stuck, so that's what we came to call them.

The construction sub-contractor understood what I needed and came up with this brilliant idea.  To a steel frame we attached a frosted polycarbonate resin thermoplastic called Lexan.  To this we could glue foam siding and just cut-out the windows and door openings to use the frosted plastic as the window.  When a single light inside was turned on all of the windows would glow.  One door (or large window) was removable for access to the light.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Seuss Details – Little House

In Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure there are so many wonderful little details.  This is one of the many little houses above the Emporium shop.  That crazy little finial is actually a lightning rod.  Several of these rods were custom made and then bent into odd directions.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seuss Juice – Closed

Most people never think about what a theme park looks like when it’s closed.  Who cares?  Hasn’t everyone gone home?  Well, with more than 30 years in the theme park industry I’m here to say no.  From my experience I learned that there would always be a slow day when one place or another is closed during the operating day.  I knew that the Moose Juice, Goose Juice in Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure was a prime target for such closings.

I decided that a simple curtain was the best way to close the stand down at night, to protect the counter equipment from the elements.  This curtain should also be designed to be attractive in case the park is still open.  The architects had a different idea.  Everything at Islands of Adventure had to be designed to withstand 200 MPH hurricane winds.  They decided that included the drink stand curtain.

They searched until they found a manufacturer with a side-rolling door that would meet the standard.  Now, if this were something that was really required one would think it would be easy to find without an extensive search.  Anyway, the bulletproof door was such a monster that it required both a top and bottom track to close, along with a huge motor.  Again, my theme park experience told me what to expect from a bottom track, especially nearby food.  If you guessed a constantly jammed track you’re ahead of the architects.

It was no surprise for me to see that just a few years after the park had been opened, the steel door was no more.  In its place was (inspiration) a curtain.  Who would have thought?  Common sense could have saved us thousands and I’d have put a very interesting Seuss pattern on the curtain to boot.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seuss Juice – Tiles

To illustrate the story of Moose Juice, Goose Juice, we decided to recreate Dr. Seuss art in tile.  I designed the tile mural, but I take no credit for the goose itself.  I carefully copied original Seuss art so as to keep the work faithfully in model.

A great deal of research went into designing all of the buildings in Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  So one could imagine our disappointment when we saw the first pass at the tile work.  It looked like the goose had been painted for an elementary school play (which is not a nice thing to say about elementary schools).  The work was dreadful and it was complete.  The interior designer and I had to reject it (no we wouldn’t let it go up on the wall despite management’s pleading).

We had sent the tile company full-sized artwork in the first place, but we sent it again, along with an art director.  Fortunately the second time was the charm and we have a beautiful mural to prove it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seuss Juice – Lights

Believe it or not those funny Seuss birds are light fixtures.  When I was designing Moose Juice, Goose Juice at Seuss Landing for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, we discovered that the original design needed lights.  The funny birds seemed like a good place to start.  Why wouldn’t they have lights in their headdress feathers?  Then to make it more interesting, we added up lights into the base.  The up lights add interesting shadows at night because the bird’s body is in the way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seuss Juice – Counter

What kind of bar is this?  It’s the bar, or counter of Moose Juice, Goose Juice.  Although there is no alcohol served here, whoever designed that checkerboard must have been drunk.  Well, no that’s not the case.  I designed the pattern.  It’s a soft drink stand at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure Seuss Landing.  I was not only the field art director, but I also designed it from Hollywood.

When it came time to paint the counter face full-scale, the scenic artist didn’t know how to start.  One way to transfer a small-scale design to full-scale is called block reproduction.  With this method a regular checkerboard grid is drawn over the original art.  Then a larger version is drawn onto the full-size surface and the artist just matches what’s in the blocks.  Well, you can imagine just how easy that would be here.

So the scenic artist began to draw the odd checkerboard by eye.  Well, the pattern was too small and it quickly became too regular.  There was only one solution to the problem – I had to draw it full-size onto the counter myself.  And now there is a large, bold pattern that flows with the rhythm of the building.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seuss Juice – Drink Stand

This is not actually called the Drink Stand, that’s my name for it.  Like everything else in Universal Studios Islands of Adventure Seuss Landing, the real name is a Seuss rhyme.  In this case it’s Moose Juice, Goose Juice.  The sign was designed to revolve alternately displaying the two names. 

When I joined the Seuss team in Hollywood, this was the first facility that I worked on designing.  Art director Wes Cook began an original design, and I came in to turn his imaginative illustration into something that could be built.  The challenges were many for this oddly elliptically shaped counter and arcade.  Wes Cook demanded that all shapes have a rhythm, and indeed the two side arches seem to lean towards the center, while the weight of the ride track (above) pushes down.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Seuss Details – Railings

Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, needed lots and lots of railing and none of it could be straight.  This railing needed a mechanical look achieved with the expanded metal panels.

Notice how, in the image, the top rail and mid rail run parallel to each other.  Much of that bending needed to be done in a shop using a set of jigs.  Of course, once we were in the field, adjustments had to be made too.  That’s when steelworkers discovered that they could actually bend the railings, to my direction, in the field.  The workers had a good time doing it, and actually figured out the rhythm of the bending without having to have me looking over their shoulders.

In some cases, like this image, safety panels were required.  I designed rectangular panels that, when set on angles, don’t look all that straight anymore.  But the panels were easy to make in the shop, and we needed plenty of them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Seuss Details – Ham Rails

While I was field art directing for Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, the team was doing our best to eliminate straight lines.  The problem is trying to eliminate straight lines and still keep repetitive elements cost effective.  I designed most of the handrails for Seuss Landing.  I came up with a system of bent rails that actually repeat (although they don’t look like it).  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cyber Present

I try to keep track of how many visitors have come to my blog.  I also like to know what it is that they are looking at because I’d like to keep my visitors coming back.  Comments and feedback are always appreciated. 

Well, I recently got more than just that. When my blog was featured on the Disney Dispatch I got a cyber present.  The Disney Dispatch profiles many blogs of interests to Disney fans.  Please take a look at the Disney Dispatch here.  And see what they have to say about Making Dreams Come True in the article “Progress City: Epcot’s Proud (But Forgotten) Pop.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seuss Details – Caro-Seuss-El Painting

While I was field art directing Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure I found this band, on Caro-Seuss-El to be one of the most difficult for painting.  It’s relatively flat, for Seuss, how could it be so hard?  Well, the senior art director had come up with this design on paper.  It looked great, and he had even created a developed view of it (making it into one long strip) so that we could all see that it would work.  And then we got into the field.

While we were building this band in full scale it seemed to squash and stretch a little.  That didn’t matter while it was all one color, but it did matter when we started to paint.  The design didn’t line up with the cutout shape.  I hadn’t designed the original, so I didn’t know all of the details, or thinking that went into it.  I only had the finished art to go by.  But I dove in anyway.  I had to draw much of the pattern for the painters (anywhere that they couldn’t figure out).  Then we had to figure out what color went where.

It was just another day in the whimsical world of Seuss Landing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seuss Details – Lightning Rods

This week I’ll be posting some details from my field art direction work at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. 

When I’m making dreams come true I have to pay attention to all dreamers.  My bosses, and the Theodor Geisel estate, dream of a world that looks just like something Dr. Seuss would have drawn himself.  The Florida building department dreams of buildings that meet the building code, including things like lightning rods. 

In Seuss Landing nothing is straight, and that includes lightning rods.  The silver stem coming out of the pillberry bush, on top of the Gertrude McFuzz entrance to the Emporium shops, is actually a lightning rod.  We carefully researched the code and there was no requirement that lightning rods had to be straight – they only needed to be a certain distance away from the structure.

This is not the only crazy lightning rod in the area.  But it might be the only one that you’ll be able to spot.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Progress City – Amusement Park Arcade

In a previous post I described the differences between an amusement park and a theme park.  I used a photo of the Progress City amusement park to illustrate the posting.  In that posting I lamented the sad state of disrepair that the model had fallen into, and pointed to the boardwalk, where the former Arcade Shops have been replaced with concession and ticket booths.

So, here the Arcade Shops are recreated in SketchUp.  The first image is an overview of the shops with the pergola overhead, adding an interesting shadow effect to the walk.

This next view is a view that can only come from SketchUp.  This is a point-of-view shot looking down the boardwalk from a visitor’s vantage.  This view makes one want to walk down to explore more.  It shows the detail of the model and the fact that the model was not just designed to look nice from the Carousel of Progress viewing area. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Progress City – Amusement Park Terminal Shops

In 1967, the Progress City display was located at Disneyland, above the Carousel of Progress Theater.  Walt hadn’t planned on dying when he did, and the selling of his future city ideas to sponsors was going to be his job.  The huge model took up less than half of the space on the second floor.  The remaining area was designed as showrooms, display space and a sponsor’s lounge.  This is where Walt would have entertained his potential investors, sneaking in the back door to review the model.

For this reason the model had to show more than just Progress City.  The model was a microcosm for the entire Disney World resort.  Everything that was to spread out across the 43-square miles of Disney World had to be crammed into a model that represented only about two square miles.

Starting in the south, the resort was supposed to contain: a jet airport, a motel complex, an industrial park (including a nuclear power plant), the city, lakes and resort area, and the theme park.  These complexes would have covered close to a square mile each; and would have been located along a spine of the resorts main highway and interconnecting monorail that stretched almost the entire length of the property.

Instead, smaller versions were created to give viewers a sense of the entire scope.  Instead of building a whole Disneyland, the model contained a small amusement park.  But even this tiny amusement park was well thought out and planned.  Everything that would be needed for a real amusement park was included. 

This SketchUp drawing is for the Terminal Shops.  Two of these structures were built for the amusement park in the model.  Each was located along the Casey Jr. train tracks, and each was located near a parking lot.  The buildings could have served as both train station and entrance complex.  Of interest is the fact that the Walt Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center has an entrance complex that seems to be a scaled-up version of the little Terminal Shops.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Progress City – Home Away From Home

The Progress City model had 258 single-family houses.  Originally there were 10 unique designs, in 16 different configurations, created just for the model, but some of them never made the final cut.  Presumably the custom models cost too much, so they were augmented with a number of purchased models.  In the end there were 9 designs, and 21 configurations.  Only 3 of the designs were custom for the model, but they made up 7 of the configuration, and a total of 70 of the houses built.

This is one of the most prominent custom homes.  Most of the structures had interior lighting, and furniture could be seen in some windows.  This house was probably one that had furniture inside, since it was both custom, and had a very large window for viewing.  The A-frame was designed in modules so that the same basic building blocks could be rearranged into 5 different configurations.  A sixth configuration was designed, but not built for the model.  Keeping with the experimental and innovative theme, this house could easily be of modular design and construction.

When it came to building a real city, based upon Walt’s dream, the company couldn’t figure out how to make money on the homes, and how to maintain control over resident voters.

Yet, today Walt Disney World has more than 27,000 guest rooms, spread across 19 resorts and one of the largest concentrations of timeshare units in any one place.  (Some interesting figures, considering that Progress City would only require 8,000 living units to meet its projected population of 20,000.)  The homes for the experimental version of the city could easily have been nightly rentals, or timeshares.  As the city idea was franchised out, the operation could have resembled that of the city of Celebration.  Or, perhaps the company could have simply rented, and not sold the homes, always maintaining control and generating market rate rentals.

It’s too late now.  The housing market across the United States has totally collapsed.  It will be many years before any additional new housing is needed.  By then, the mid-century modern style of Progress City may not be as appealing as it once was.  But for today, the retro styling still inspires the imagination.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Progress City – The Model

Progress City was truly a model city.  This miniature city was built at a scale of 1/8-inch equal to 1-foot.  It represented a 3-dimensional vision of Epcot, Walt Disney’s vision of a model city of the future where “people could live a life that they couldn’t find anywhere else in the world.”

The model city was very well planned and beautifully landscaped with 20,000 trees and shrubs.  Every one of the 4,500 buildings was carefully positioned and sized for a specific purpose.  Roads were laid out to create a logical traffic pattern, and lighted by 1,400 streetlights.  There were 7 types of transportation, including rapid transit monorails, electric trains, the WEDway PeopleMover, automotive, transporters (electric carts), moving sidewalks, and of course jets, for the jet airport.  In all Progress City had 2,450 vehicles actually moving.

I’ve done a great deal of research on this model city (miniature) and Walt’s ultimate dream for Epcot as a city.  The designs are actually quite practical in terms of brick and mortar.  But without Walt, the company lacked the vision necessary to operate and manage such an innovative city.  In a shortsighted way, they couldn’t figure out how to make a city turn a profit.

In 1965, the US population was 194.3 million.  By 2007, it had increased to 300 million.  In 40 years, more than 100 million Americans were looking for a new place to live.  Imagine what the profits could be like if, instead of franchising theme parks around the world, the company was franchising cities.  

This SketchUp drawing indicates several points of interest for the downtown area.  The city center was supposed to be a huge indoor mall.  It would have covered nearly 2 million square feet, and just over 45 acres.  Excluding the transportation hub and circulation it might have had as much as 1 million square feet of retail space.  Indoor malls were a very new concept in 1966, but in the years since they have sprung up all over the country at a great profit to the operators.  In fact, the Orange County, California, South Coast Plaza generated more revenue in the mid 70s than Disneyland.

P.S. This is post 100, and the cause for some minor celebration.  Hooray! 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Progress City

Walt Disney was a master at Making Dreams Come True.  He decided that his cartoon shorts were too short to really tell the kind of stories that he wanted to tell.  He needed to create the first full-length animated feature film.  Of course, the critics said that he was crazy, but he did it anyway and the dream of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came true.

Walt decided that there needed to be a place where families could go together for entertainment – an amusement park like no other – a theme park.  The critics told him that he was crazy, but he did it anyway and the dream of Disneyland came true.

Walt decided that cities were dirty, poorly run, and unhappy places.  He dreamed of a city of the future that considered the needs of the people that would live there in its forward thinking design.  The critics told him that he was crazy, and then he died, and his vision of an experimental prototype city of tomorrow never happened. 

I guess the critics were right.

Or, maybe not.

This week I’ll be exploring Walt Disney’s version of Epcot, the experimental prototype city of tomorrow.  All of my SketchUp drawings are based upon the model of Progress City, so to avoid confusion with the Epcot theme park, that’s what I’ll call Walt’s city.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Chaos Plan

It is an oxymoron to call The Chaos Plan a plan.  This is what happens without master planning.  The illustration plan on the right is of Disney’s Hollywood Studios on opening day.  The park was small and the circulation plan was basically The Star Plan, where the rays of the star work as walkways, all leading back to the same hub.

The park was designed as a half-day park, where visitors might spend only a morning, or an afternoon.  The Disney water parks had worked well as half-day parks; perhaps this idea could be applied to a theme park?  The idea might have worked, had it not been for the fact that the admission price was equal to the other all-day parks.  Not surprisingly, visitors expected more.

Much of the acreage had been developed as movie studio production space.  But movie companies weren’t attracted to the studio.  So the studio space was opened to theme park expansion.  That’s when the chaos began.  This is the sort of development that Walt Disney had seen in his early exploration of amusement parks.  The parks had grown haphazardly, solving only immediate needs, and paying little attention to planning and guest flow.  The result is the Chaos plan illustrated on the left.

The visitor circulation is poor.  It is easy to get lost and frustrated.  Visitors spend much of their day just trying to figure out where they are.  There are many bottlenecks and dead end walkways, further slowing the progress of visitors.  There is no simple, intuitive way to plan one’s day.

This plan illustrates the importance of master planning for good circulation and for future expansion. 

The theme park basics discussed here are extremely general.  Always consult with experts, regarding your specific needs, before making any significant investment into land and/or design.  Feel free to contact me.  I’ll be happy to assist you in your efforts.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Combo Plan

There are three basic circulation plans for theme parks that have proven successful.  The Star Plan uses the rays of the star as walkways all leading back to the same hub.  The plan is simple; it keeps themed lands separated and keeps visitors from getting lost.  The Wheel Plan adds an outer rim walkway to the Star.  It improves the circulation and the even distribution of visitors.  The Loop Plan creates a single loop around the park ensuring easy access to every attraction along the same common circular path.

The Combo Plan uses any combination of the basic three plans.  (A figure-eight is two loops put together.)  As an illustration, the basic circulation plan for Epcot uses the Wheel plan for Future World, and the Loop plan for world Showcase.

Epcot is the largest theme park in the industry, covering about 160 acres of park area.  Future World alone is as big as most major theme parks.  World Showcase is so large that a walk around the lagoon loop is just over a mile.  The lagoon itself is just slightly smaller than Disneyland’s original 60 acres.  Epcot is twice the size of Disneyland’s current 80 in-park acres, yet it had only 10.9 million visitors in 2008, compared to Disneyland at 14.7 million visitors.  Magic Kingdom attracted 17 million visitors the same year.

Circulation for Future World works quite well.  The area can easily achieve even distribution of visitors on a busy day.  On an average day the entire park remains too big for the number of visitors.  Again, the problems could have been solved during planning if visitor psychology had been taken into consideration.  Most visitors plan to first explore Future World, and then move on to World Showcase.  The result is that World Showcase is under utilized in the morning and Future World is under utilized in the afternoon. 

Be sure to carefully study your likely attendance.  Plan your acreage to match your attendance.  Then, be sure to consider visitor psychology when planning your circulation plan.

The theme park basics discussed here are extremely general.  Always consult with experts, regarding your specific needs, before making any significant investment into land and/or design.  Feel free to contact me.  I’ll be happy to assist you in your efforts.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Theme Park Circulation – The Loop Plan

There are a number of ways to plan for visitor circulation in a theme park, but they often end up as variations on a few basics.  The Star Plan uses the rays of the star as walkways all leading back to the same hub.  The plan is simple; it keeps themed lands separated and keeps visitors from getting lost.  The Wheel Plan adds an outer rim walkway to the Star.  It improves the circulation and the even distribution of visitors.

The Loop Plan is yet another basic circulation plan.  The Loop plan is commonly found in Universal Studios theme parks, such as Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Singapore.  Modified versions of the Loop are also at many other parks.  The plan is simple: the entire circulation system is made up of a single walkway loop that passes in front of most major attractions. 

The Loop allows for a large body of water to be placed in the center of the park, to be used for water pageants, extravaganzas, and exhibitions.  The loop walkway provides an existing viewing area capable of accommodating large numbers of visitors.  The themes of the lands remain separate, and the visitors have no trouble finding their way.

The only problem with the Loop is even distribution of visitors and utilization of facilities.  With the Loop plan, careful planning is required, but seldom performed.  Instead, trial and error has left many expensive mistakes.

First, one must understand some basic visitor psychology: the route is obvious, and the visitor intends to travel in one direction around the route without going back.  Studies should be done to determine if there is a preference of direction for visitors to travel.  Americans drive on the left, are they more likely to turn left when entering the Loop?  At Disneyland the two entrance tunnels at Main Street receive almost identical numbers of visitors; perhaps this will be the case?

The average theme park visitor visits for eight hours.  Again, simple psychology; we work for eight hours, we play for eight hours, we eat lunch somewhere in the middle.  Looking at the illustration we can see that the park has been divided into eight zones.  These zones can represent visiting hours.  The majority of visitors enter the park during the first three hours of operation. 

For the Loop plan that means that zones 4, 5 and 6 will be under utilized for the first three hours of the operating day.  Then, just as lunchtime comes, visitors from two directions will converge on this area, hungry all at the same time.  The theme park generally intends to have a sufficient hourly meal capacity to serve the entire park full of visitors in three hours.  The food better be there when the guests arrive.  Then, all at once, the area is deserted again.

Although my explanation is somewhat simplified, the real experience has been similar.  At Islands of Adventure, Seuss Landing is located about where the number 2 is on the illustration.  The zone opened with four food facilities, yet three of them are closed most of the time (I believe that Green Eggs and Ham has closed permanently).  This was an expensive mistake that could have been avoided with proper planning.

There are many good reasons to consider the Loop plan, but it requires very careful planning to be successful.

The theme park basics discussed here are extremely general.  Always consult with experts, regarding your specific needs, before making any significant investment into land and/or design.  Feel free to contact me.  I’ll be happy to assist you in your efforts.