Efteling is an amazing Dutch theme park about an hour outside of Amsterdam; while it deploys many of the same technologies as Disney-style parks, it has a completely different affect, centered around small, homely, perfect little jewel-box rides that bring fairy tales to life.
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Imagineering In a Box is a free lecture series on Khan Academy that covers a broad swathe of elements involved in storytelling in built environments, from theming a land to landscaping, architecture, sound design, robotics, smell design (!), color, material science, food-based theming, ride design from pitch to execution, animatronic programming, queue management (MY FAVORITE!), costuming, etc.
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The LA Times investigates the many, fragmentary, much-revised storyline of the Haunted Mansion, the greatest ride that Disney ever built (though Walt himself had to die before the constraints he imposed on the ride could be set aside and the ride finished). Read the rest
From the Imagineering Disney blog, a wonderful gallery of photos from the construction of Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. This is the original mountain, beating the Disneyland one to completion by two years:
Although the concept of Space Mountain was originally envisioned for Disneyland, the first Space Mountain to open was at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. After the Matterhorn Bobsleds opened at Disneyland in 1959 and were hugely popular, Disneyland management asked for a second thrill ride. Walt was on board but the plans for this second coaster were delayed for another decade. Disneyland didn't get their Space Mountain until 1977, more than two years after Magic Kingdom got theirs in 1975.
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Everything I hear about Mystic Manor, the new Haunted Mansion at Hong Kong Disneyland, makes me insane with desire to ride this thing. It's like something that sprang full-blown out of my fevered imagination and into a pile of landfill in the South China Sea. Case in point: this short doc on the ride's operation from Inside the Magic.
Making of Mystic Manor with Imagineers and executives at Hong Kong Disneyland
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Universal Studios Florida is opening a Simpsons themed area this summer. It'll mostly consist of facades and restaurants serving food inspired by the horrible cuisine of Springfield, as well as a pair of rides:
The expansive, new area within Universal Studios will be anchored by the mega-attraction, The Simpsons Ride, and will allow guests to enter the world of The Simpsons like never before. It will be the only place in the world where guests can walk the streets of Springfield. It will include a brand-new outdoor attraction, places and foods pulled right from the show and two new Simpsons characters who will make their debut with the new area – Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob.
And yes – there will be Duff Beer, brewed exclusively for Universal Orlando.
For the first time ever – anywhere – fans will be able to walk down Fast Food Boulevard and visit the places that helped Springfield stake its claim as “Shelbyville by the Sea.” They will be able to grab a Krusty-certified meat sandwich at Krusty Burger, snatch the catch of the day at the Frying Dutchman, get a slice at Luigi’s Pizza, go nuts for donuts at Lard Lad, enjoy a “Taco Fresho” with Bumblebee Man and imbibe at Moe’s Tavern.
The new attraction – called Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl – will take “foolish humans” on an intergalactic spin designed to send them into orbit.
Springfield Comes to Life at Universal Orlando This Summer Read the rest
Dan from the Journal of Ride Theory passed me a copy of the original prospectus for Disneyland -- a rare and wonderful document I've never seen or even heard of before. I'm delighted to bring it to you today. Dan explains:
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I like it because I get the sense it's an edited transcript of Walt just making up fun stuff on the fly. I have no evidence for that, but I know he was good at telling stories without a script, and there's something about the phrases used that sounds a bit like Walt talking off the cuff. But what do I know?
I found it ten or so years ago, in the files of Eyerly Rides in Salem. They had a contract to build the Dumbo ride and a windmill Ferris wheel for Disney, but the deal fell through when Lee Eyerly got cancer. Also, Walt insisted the ride must load everybody all at once, while the Eyerlys knew from experience that was an inefficient way to work the queue.
At one point, somebody at Eyerly went to a bookstore and bought a Little Golden Book (or something) of Dumbo so they could have reference pictures in order to design the fiberglass elephants.
Take Walt being intractable, add the Eyerlys insisting they knew their business, then throw in cancer, and the deal fell through -- amicably, as I read the documents. Arrow Development got the contract for Dumbo. It barely worked on opening day and queues have been long for that ride ever since.
In this 1945 Mechanix Illustrated article, Harold S. Kahm sets out the facts for any would-be ride-designers looking to hit the jackpot with a new high-speed thrill. Starting with the origin story of the bumper car (a WWI munitions plant worker built a miniature truck for hauling parts, the plant workers went crazy riding it, so he covered it with bumpers and turned it into a carny ride), he moves onto the holy grail of 1945 amusement parks: a portable ride. The best thing about this article are the diagrams on the second and third pages. Woah. Charlie at the Modern Mechanix blog has them up at a generous 1800px wide, perfect for clip-art harvesting.
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As a matter of fact, hundreds of new ideas for rides flow into the offices of ride manufacturers in a steady stream, but not one in a hundred is even worth consideration, simply because the average inventor has no understanding of the technical requirements of the industry; he doesn’t, in fact, seem to know anything about anything—if you can believe the expert ride men. So if you think you’d like to try your luck in this fabulously successful field, which is certainly one of the best in the world for the amateur inventor, here are the facts you should know: The average successful ride is easily portable; it can be set up or dismantled in a few hours, and conveniently loaded into one or two trucks. If it is not portable, in this manner, it will be of no use to the richest and biggest ride market—the travelling carnival.
The Long Forgotten blog -- my best source for scholarly discussion of the Disney Haunted Mansion and spook houses more generally -- tackles the historical origins of the rides' haunted organ and the ghostly hitchhikers. It's a timely piece, as I published the long-mothballed comic that Christopher and I made in 2007 to explain the origin of the ghosts in the organist's pipes.
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"The Canonic Curse" is a better than average supernatural thriller about a demonic, medieval musical composition that has a rather nasty effect on anyone who plays it three times. You can read the whole thing HERE. However, there's nothing in the story that looks to me like a direct inspiration for the Haunted Mansion's ghost-infested organ. For one thing, it's not the organ but the musical score that's demonic. For another, no visible ghostly forms emerge from either the sheet music or the organ in the story itself. If there's a HM inspiration, it's more likely coming from the illustration above rather than from the actual tale. The sketch shows a ghostly figure emerging from the musical text, but without looking closely the figure could easily be read as coming from the organ. (Frankly, it's not a great drawing.) And the caption reads, "From the smaller organ raved up a pandemonium of...ghoulish execrations." (There are two organs in the room.) In the story, the "ghoulish execrations" are sinister presences in the form of sound, but the illustrator has to draw something to represent that.
Whether or not Marc Davis or one of the others saw this sketch, it is the only depiction I have seen of an organ spewing out spirits as it is played.
Long Forgotten, the world-beatingly insightful blog on the history and design of the Haunted Mansion rides at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and other parks, has a new lavishly illustrated post up, this one on the contribution of background artist Claude Coats. HBG2, the site's author, makes a compelling case for Coats' draftsmanship and sense of depth and detail being the clinching element of the Mansion's design, the thing that makes it seem so much bigger and realer than it has any right to be. I once read FoxxFur, the blogger at the equally awesome Passport2Dreams Old and New describe the Mansion as a series of scenes in a giant, empty box (contrasting with the Pirates of the Caribbean, which is really a series of towns and scenes that fill the whole ride-space -- but the Mansion feels like it goes on and on, like you could jump out of your vehicle and get lost in its depths.
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Coats was one of the artists Walt pulled out of the studio to work on Disneyland as it neared completion. He had studied architecture as well as painting, and he seemed a natural pick for designing the interiors of dark rides, starting with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Among other things, Coats had a knack for squeezing an amazing amount of ride into a ridiculously small space. He and Ken Anderson must be given the lion's share of credit for Toad. The precise extent of Coats's contributions to the other two 1955 originals, Snow White and Peter Pan, is less clear, but there seems to be little doubt that he participated.