Immersion has been the buzzword of the themed entertainment industry for a little over a decade or so. We’re in an arms race where every new project attempts to one-up the last by increasing the ‘immersiveness’ by another factor. Bigger, more enveloping, more detailed, and especially: more real.
While some of the projects this has resulted in are phenomenal achievements, and indeed some of my personal favorites, I really find it peculiar that realism has become so centered in the process. In fact, ‘immersive’ and ‘real’ are often treated as if they’re synonymous and thus to make something more ‘immersive’ necessarily means you must make it more ‘real’. But one only needs a cursory understanding of operations to realize that realism and guests’ wants and needs are often in direct conflict with each other.
Continue reading “The Fallacy of Immersion”
There was a prompt on the PureImagineering blog to create a pitch for a ride based on non-Disney animated movie. That inspired this.
We enter an old, dusty, seemingly abandoned Library and queue around it for a while as a storm continually gets worse outside. We hear a voice of an elderly librarian reminiscent of Olivander calling us back to a research room. When we enter the room no one is there (aside from a helpful but aloof “assistant” that directs us to board a Library Cart and hands us our Library Card with some ominous warning about keeping it handy – for the Library is always there for people that need it. They leave us in the room alone where we sit, unsure for a moment what is about to happen when we hear the voice of the Librarian calling to us once again speaking of the wonder of books. A bookcase on the opposite wall of the room we entered slides open and golden light pours into the room and our library cart moves towards it down a row of bookcases as the voice of the Librarian speaks to us. The storm rages outside. “Ah”, he says”, “the storm is frightening but the worlds of stories can help us learn to fight the fears within: – Horror, Fantasy, Adventure: they’re waiting for you.”
With a grand musical flourish we enter the grand rotunda of the Library flooded with light from the sconces but the storm rages outside in the dark night of the skylights above. Just then we look above at the gigantic mural on the ceiling. It starts to drip paint onto us and around us. The paint pours off the ceiling and turns into a technicolor ocean around us! Books are falling all around us: the subjects of their contents coming to life. A giant squid swirls out of 20,000 leagues under the sea and threatens to crush us in its grasp before the book slams against a shelf and closes. To our surprise there is a rustling in our cart as we’re swirling down the rapids and the books Horror, Fantasy, and Adventure pop out and tell us, “Not to worry, We’ll get you out of this”. They’re riding on the front of our cart, but alas it’s too late. We’re spinning all around as the waves morph into a terrifying paint dragon in the middle of the rotunda. It rears on its hind legs towering above us – then lunges and swallows us whole.
Darkness. All is quite for a moment and then in the distance we see it – like a beacon shining out to us through the fog. The exit. A neon green sign floating in midair. Horror, Fantasy, and Adventure exclaim “The exit! That’s how we get out of here! This way!”
Portals open and Each book takes us through their world and the pages of Horror, Fantasy, and Adventure come to life. We briefly enter a decrepit mansion: Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Pirates at sea and and Moby Dick, before we hear a deep rumble. “Oh no, we’re still in the belly of the beast! We’ve been in the world of Fantasy this whole time!” Fantasy casts a spell and we shoot out of the dragon’s mouth with fire chasing us. The exit sign is floating above a mountain in the distance. We’re almost there! We fly towards it as the dragon chases us left and right. We’re not going to make it. We hear the page masters voice “The library is always there for people who need it!”. Of course! The books tell us to pick up our library cards and as we do they start glowing. There’s a blast of air and laser light as books rise up all around and the characters we’ve met reappear to fight the battle and with one last roar the dragon is vanquished! A portal opens up and we’re all thrown spinning into the tornado. Until all comes to a quiet stop. We’re in a dark room, the exit sign is glowing in front of us. The page master materializes in front of us in full merlin garb (he’s the librarian!)- we’re at the legendary round table of the Arthurian legend. He tells us we’ve done well. We’ve fought our fears and our forever changed. That is the power of books. He disappears and the room around us transforms into the research room we started in. The exit sign continues to glow in front of us, where it was the whole time – we just didn’t pay attention on the way in. The panel beneath it slides open and we walk out underneath its reassuring glow….
…into the book gift shop.
Stay tuned to this…if I have some spare time I might develop this further.
In the last major essay on this blog I discussed an attraction that is commonly held to be one of the best dark rides ever made, Pirates of the Caribbean, and examined some of the techniques used that make it work so well. Today, I’d like to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and look at one of the more ‘meh’ examples of dark ride design in the Disney library.
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, and in California, The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure are the long awaited ride adaptations of the classic 1989 animated musical that debuted as part of Florida’s new Fantasyland in 2012 and the revamped California Adventure in 2011. From here on I’ll just refer to them as ‘Mermaid’. For the purposes of this analysis I’ll be focusing mostly on the ride portion of the experiences as these are nearly identical between both coasts. The rides debuted to much fanfare from the Disney PR machine but have had a decidedly negative to, at best, ambivalent reaction among the fan and theme park community. To be clear, the rides are still of high quality and feature some dazzlingly technology, especially when compared to competitors, and many guests still find the experience enjoyable enough. But, I think it is fair to say that for a movie as iconic and beloved as The Little Mermaid the attraction that resulted, even for a ‘C’ or ‘D’ ticket experience as intended, feels underwhelming, and moreover, just off. Even simple dark rides like Peter Pan and Mr. Toad give better experiences. What is it?
Continue reading “Why is Mermaid so Bad?”
Been going back to basics recently, just working on drawing from imagination in pencil. Not much else to say other than that. As always Feedback is greatly appreciated.
A goal I have had for a while is to concept model most of the Jolly Holiday attraction, especially the queue. Considering I basically have no 3d modeling experience, this should be quite the adventure. That’s sort of the intent really – to use it as an exercise in learning modeling. And today I have reached the first goalpost on that journey having, I think, finished the first big set piece of the queue.
This is the house of Admiral Boom and functions as one of the main focal points of the queue. I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out and especially once the rest of everything is build it’ll be exactly what it needs to be. I’m also quite happy I was able to work in some forced perspective while I was building it. As always I love feedback.
I probably won’t post too many updates on this project, as I think it’ll function as incentive for me to complete it all so I can share the final product in one big go, so if this website becomes quieter than it already is – that’s likely why. Thanks for reading as always,
This scene occurs right before the climatic projection tunnel horse race sequence. The animatronic fox “walks/runs” along the wall and then ducks behind it as the animatronic hunter and dog come along from either side and follow you around as you disorient the rider and he ends up in the pond. The interesting thing in this scene is that I think it would be cool for it all to happen in the same room – and also efficient to save on animatronics. So that’s how its rendered here. Though I’m not positive the timing would work – would have to study it further. Anyway, I’m really happy with how this image turned out.
Today, another update for the Jolly Holiday ride. Continuing to work on my digital painting skills, here’s an image of the penultimate scene of the ride. This is the first time I’ve tried modeling a scene in 3D and then painting over it – which I really enjoyed doing as a way to easily test composition. Also one of the first attempts I’ve done at doing a more painterly style and method, avoiding lifework and trying to build an image entirely with tone and color. I really like the idea of this method of working, but it’s gonna take a while to nail down. Hope you like, and as always feedback is greatly appreciated. For everything about this ongoing project you can check out the Jolly Holiday Page
I was working with a bunch of people on a fan-made Fantasyland on a Disney fan site and made up this overview and layout based on some of the ideas discussed. I can’t take complete credit for the ideas here, many people discussed them, but the layout is mostly mine and I’m really fond of it – hence my posting.
Just a quick rundown of the image. The center of fantasyland starts of fun in the castle courtyard which is home to a flat ride or two and possibly a restaurant, some gift shops, the exit to the theater. The courtyard is elevated compared to the rest of the land. From there bridges extend out into the rest of the land – split into the Forest, London, and the countryside sort of mini-lands. Casey Jr train – a sort of WedWay runs throughout the land going above and below grade and running through most of the show buildings encountering glimpses of other rides and exclusive scenes from properties not otherwise featured in the land.
Anyway that’s the super quick rundown, most of the rest is self explanatory. The project itself has evolved from there but I really liked this layout and selection of attractions. What do you thjnk?
If you’ve browsed this site at all you may have come across my Adventureland side project. And you also might be aware that I’ve been self-teaching myself art (and also a bit of 3d modeling) for the last year and a half or so. In fact, the first piece of concept art I ever tried to make I drew just a little over a year ago and it was of this Adventureland.
I think I’ve come quite a ways since then and made a lot of progress.
It’s easy to lose sight of overall progress when focused on the day to day and week to week work. And I continue to try to improve those skills and acquire new ones. In that vein, (and in part due to a recently acquired iPad Pro), I’ve been slowly approaching the world of digital art. Talk about needing to learn a lot. Eeesh. I’m particularly interested in digital painting, and using a more painterly style because that process of going from vague shapes to more and more refined detail appeals to me a lot as that’s generally how I already think – linework I find to be agonizing and hindering. Plus it just looks cool. So it’s been something I’ve been wanting to add to my repertoire in addition to digital skills in general.
Anyway this is long-winded way of saying that I recently attempted to redo this piece of art digitally and in that painterly style – no linework. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, the results aren’t perfect, and there’s a lot I found myself struggling to figure out how to figure out. But I also like it. So here it is, the new aerial rendering of my Adventureland.
So what do you think? As always I love feedback. And for more details about the land itself be sure to check out the project page here.
That’s all. Thanks for reading.
Not much to say this time – just here’s a new piece I did visualizing the penguin scene of the ride. The vehicle moves around the island in a circle while really great animatronic penguins dance away (and maybe jump through the canopy of the ride vehicle!).
As always I love feedback and hope you enjoy! For everything Jolly Holiday check out the project page.