Soarin’, at Epcot is one of mine and my wife’s favorite attractions. However, with wait times for this popular attraction frequently reaching 2+ hours, it’s one those attractions that is best enjoyed with a Fastpass.
Recently, a couple of ideas came to me about how the wait times might could be decreased and throughput maximized. These ideas focus around two different, but similar strategies the first utilized by a few roller coasters, the second borrowing an idea from Carousel of Progress.
Like many attractions, Soarin’ seems to struggle with loading/unloading of passengers in a consistent and timely manner. Some of this can be attributed to the usual issues related to guests and the many things they bring with them as well as seat belts and just getting everything set. On occasion, it might be operator or mechanical/ride-related, but this is usually rare. Regardless, this would seem to be an area for potential improvement. So, the question came to me, how would you optimize loading/unloading in a more efficient manner?
Both ideas involved creating more than one load/unload area for the carriages (seats), but how to do this. My first thought involved building a (huge) pivoting arm that would move the carriages from a load position/room to the projection room. There would be two load rooms, one to the left of the projection room, the other to the right, where guests would stage and load or unload. Carriage A on the left side would load while carriage B is positioned in front of the screen. When the film finishes, the carriage would move back to load position B and carriage A would move into the theater, when finished, it would reverse and then repeat.
The only problem with a strictly left-right movement compared to the up-down of the current mechanism would be the sensation of ascending to “fly” and then the descent on finale’. Another issue might be if the arms are connected and the carriages move together, how would an emergency evacuation work? If there were an emergency, both carriages would need to return to the load position quickly and independently. I still think this could be done with a set of pivot arms, but it might be best to go another route.
The need for independently movable carriages, led me to think maybe an overhead roller-coaster type track would be a better solution. There would still be two load rooms left and right of the screen, but they would be self-powered(?) and move into and out of the projection room on their own. The rail would ascend to the screen, appropriately timed with the start of the film, then descend upon finale’.
Alternatively, and in order to better accommodate the three rows, the lift rail could be vertical or at a steep angle in front of the screen and the rows would just be lifted and rotated into position, similar to the way 4th dimension roller coasters work, where there is a separate rail that controls the position of the seats.
Taking this just a step or two further, another option for what might actually be a smaller footprint than the existing designs in California and Florida, would be something similar to Carousel of Progress where the carriages would rotate from load/unload to the projection room, then lift into position. A quad system with 2 screens and 2 load/unload rooms that would rotate left-right or turn every time.
In general, either of these ideas would speed up throughput and ride capacity greatly since one carriage would always be in front of screen while the other was unloading and re-loading. But, the question comes to mind, how long is this really, and what is the time between? The film itself is reportedly 4 minutes, 17 seconds long, and the estimated unload/load time is between 3 & 5 minutes. This equates to each screen cycling every 9-1/2 minutes, or 6.3 times per hour. Having two load positions would shorten the time between the film showing significantly and, in theory, allow for slightly double the amount of riders per hour per screen.
Obviously, neither of these solutions could be applied at Epcot nor any other existing installation without some major reconstruction, but they could be utilized for future installations of the same or similar attraction.
Side-note: Right about the time I finished writing this up, I read a couple of allegedly confirmed rumors from two different sources that said Disney is planning to build a third theater for Epcot’s Soarin’ to help alleviate some of the long wait times.
A new patent application that was discovered this week has sparked a good bit of buzz in the Disney fan community. The patent is for a unique styled gondola type vehicle supported by cables and winches that can move thru a specified space via a track. Some have described it as a giant version of the suspended, robotic camera system used at most major football games seen on TV nowadays. In the application there were a couple of different variations of a concept vehicle and attraction. The first, would appear to be a transportation type vehicle/attraction almost like a newer version of the old Skyway attraction.
The second variation would appear to use the same suspended gondola car, but is on a circular track and remains stationary. Of the two, this one got my wheels turning on feasible ways it might be used in the parks. Take a look at the drawings and description.
FIGS. 5 and 6 illustrate another embodiment of a cable-suspended vehicle ride system similar to that shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 but using one track combined with three carriers each providing a winch to support and position a passenger vehicle (e.g. to alter cable lengths while the carriers are selectively moved about a path defined by the track to provide a wide range of vehicle positions (or work spaces)).
When I saw this and read the description, it triggered almost immediately something I saw sometime back at jimhillmedia.com. Jim wrote an article about Unrealized Epcot rides, in which he discussed several attractions that were at one time on the drawing board, but never made it to reality. One such of these attractions was a new concept using the Circlevison technology in use at the China and Canada pavilions. Here’s the description, with pictures following:
|Once these Epcot visitors got inside, they would have been treated to a unique variation of Disney’s CircleVision 360 show. These WDW guests would have found themselves standing on board a vibrating recreation of the passenger compartment of a Japanese bullet train. And — by looking out through the over-sized faux windows in this passenger car — these folks would then have been treated to a high speed travelogue. As some of Japan’s most beautiful scenery continually whizzed by all of the windows.|
Just thinking out loud here, but if the open spaces on this are encircled with walls, then they could project moving images on there from almost anywhere, including Japan as if riding the bullet train attraction here, or as some have speculated they could re-create different scenes from Avatar as if moving through space on a ship or flying in a “skybus” over the surface and thru the mountains of Pandora, or anywhere else. Since this is just a patent application, anything is possible here, and what exactly (if anything) Disney will ultimately do with it, remains to be unknown, at least for now.
Note: It has been brought to my attention that this patent application was filed June 8, 2010.
Update: 7/29/2013 – While they haven’t officially announced it yet, Disney is apparently moving forward with the Next Generation Refillable Mugs with the RFID chips embedded. Click here to read more about it at The Disney Food Blog. According to The Orlando Sentinel, the new program will be called, Rapid Fill and they will be priced as follows: $8.99 for 1 day, $11.99 for 2 days, $14.99 for 3 days, $17.99 for length of stay (4+ days).
So, here’s an idea that was spawned via a discussion thread over at WDWMagic forums. A new poster in the forums there mentioned a rumor that a company who specializes in RFID drink cups and filling stations is installing their system at WDW, starting with the All-Star resorts. If you’re not familiar with this technology, Disney has been using a similar system for several years now at their water parks, only that system uses bar coded cups that tie into a computer system to validate the date purchased, and will only allow use on that day. The system that is allegedly being implemented would work in a similar way except the cups would have either a RFID chip built-in or a sticky label with the RFID tag. The cups/labels would send a RF signal to the drink station receiver when the guest approaches and would activate the machine for use. It’s unknown if this is really happening, or if it’s just a trial run of the system.
Update: 9/01/11 – Click here to see some pictures Jeff Lange took of the new RFID cups and fill stations being tested at Disney’s All Star Sports resort.
Regardless, I think this could benefit Disney and their guests in many ways, depending on how it’s utilized. The immediate benefit would seem to be that it would prevent abuse of the walk-up drink stations from people who didn’t purchase a refillable mug or a single use cup. In my own trips to WDW, I’ve seen this abuse by guests a few times, so I know it happens, but I don’t see where it would be a huge loss to Disney, considering how much they charge for a refillable mug or a cup of soda. I think the real benefits of this system may be two-fold, one for the resort (ops and revenue), and one for the guests.
For Disney, these machines, if rolled out property wide, could free up some positions at the counter service restaurants. Many of these restaurants will have extra cast members during busy times and all they do is fill cups for soda and place them on trays. With the RFID system, the CM filling the order would simply give you the cups with your order and direct you to the soda machine. This would also have an added benefit of potentially faster service at these restaurants.
For the guest, these machines, if rolled out property wide, could offer more flexible opportunities to refill the mugs which are currently only supposed to be used at the resort purchased. With this system, Disney could offer a tiered pricing scheme with multiple options.
Refillable Mug Options
- 1-Day/1-park – this would be for guests who only wanted a refillable cup/mug for use on the day of purchase. With this option, they could refill their cup all day long, while in the park they purchased it from.
- Multi-day/park – this would be the same as the first option, only it would allow usage for 7-14 days, in the parks only.
- Resort only – this option would work the same as it does now. Mugs could only be refilled at the resort purchased.
- Resort Plus – this option would allow the refills of the mug at any resort.
- Premium – this option would allow the refill of the mug anywhere on property, at a resort or any of the parks.
The first two options would be for cups purchased in the parks. Options 3-5 would be for resort guests, or DVC members or AP holders. There are other options that could be considered as well including an option that would only allow for a certain number of refills. This could be used for regular (paper) cups purchased at a restaurant and they could limit a guest to only 1 or 2 refills per purchase which would benefit the company in a small, but perhaps noticeable way when you consider how many drinks are purchased across WDW in a year’s time.
Additionally, these options could be tailored and included for specific ticket or resort promotions/discounts.
Along these thoughts for the RFID drink machines, I would also like to see Disney install the Coca Cola Freestyle machines. If you’re not familiar with these, they are incredible! I believe they might have one of these in Coca-Cola’s Ice Station Cool at EPCOT. Basically, it’s a Coca Cola soda fountain on steroids, or you might call it their next gen soda dispenser. With these machines you can mix your own soda using a menu that will allow over 100+ drink combination choices and flavors to add-in (sorry no alcohol). They’re pretty impressive, but they’re also pretty overwhelming the first time you use one. Flavor add-ins include: Peach, Grape, Orange, Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry and Lemon. If anything, there are too many options to pick from, which I could see causing delays at a busy counter service restaurant in WDW.
I’ve been around the Disney community for 11+ years now, chatting and contributing to the various message groups and forums, and something I’ve heard more times than I care to remember is “What Would Walt Do”, often shortened to the mnemonic, WWWD, a play on the popular, What Would Jesus Do, (WWJD).
I don’t mind the question really, except when people get extreme about it, and start into a rant about the current whatever being so far out of line with what Walt Disney would have done IF he were still alive. I’m sure I have used the WWWD phrase myself a few times as well. Mind you, I think it’s important to think about how or why Walt would have done things in his time, given the projects he worked on. And, in some capacity, many of those principles that he formulated, are still applicable in today’s world, and more specifically in the parks and movies that bear his name. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s not with us anymore, and we have to figure things out for ourselves. And, I think, based on some of his work and ideas, we can do so with a good balance that respects him and what he did, while also moving forward.
The part that gets a little “hairy” though, is when you start talking about changing or removing so-called classic attractions that Walt was a part of, either in concept, design or creation. In my opinion, there are a few of these that could be changed or completely removed, but for the sake of keeping this post flame-free, I will refrain from naming any. But, thinking about what Walt would do, it is my belief that he would feel the same way. An attraction is only good, and worth keeping around if the majority of guests still enjoy it, and it will continue to represent the sponsor and Disney company well. Old worn out attractions need to be either removed or updated.
It’s just my own belief based on what I’ve seen and read about Walt, but I’ve come up with the following list of what I believe to be some basic principles behind his ideas for building the parks and attractions the way he did.
APPEAL TO ALL – I think this was his inspiration and number 1 driving factor behind building Disneyland and the attractions he wanted for that park. He wanted a place where kids and adults could laugh and play together. A place where adults could act like kids, and kids could play with their adult parents who had been magically transformed.
Supporting quotes: “We believed in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun- together.” and “It has that thing – the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement- I knew when I was a kid.”
FANTASY – Stemming from his many years in making cartoons and films, he knew how to tell stories that carried people away to make believe worlds of fantasy and fiction. He himself said: “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park (Disneyland). I want to feel they’re in another world.”
PASSION – When he built Disneyland, I think Walt was at a point where he was looking to do something new and then just kind of stumbled into it. But, I don’t think it was the kind of thing that was just a throw together. No, Walt had drive and determination about him that might be labeled as close to obsessive. It was a deep-rooted passion that led him to create such an incredible and magical environment. A passion that overflowed from him into many others who saw it and wanted to be a part of it. “When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impressions that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn’t realize that behind Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it.”
VISION – Along with the passion, I believe he also had a grand vision of what he wanted, not just from the start, but for the future as well. And this is where my own frustration comes when communicating with others about what Walt would do. See, I don’t believe that he would be happy with attractions staying the same for years on end and growing tired and stale. I think he himself would have been constantly pushing and tweaking them to make them even better. Just read the following quotes and I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
“It’s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing…and adding to.”
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
“I’ve always said that there will never be another Disneyland, and I think it’s going to work out that way. But it will be the equivalent of Disneyland. We know the basic things that have family appeal. There are many ways that you can use those certain basic things and give them a new decor, a new treatment. This concept here will have to be something that is unique, so there is a distinction between Disneyland in California and whatever Disney does in Florida.”
“I’m doing this because I want to do it better”
And, of course, the quote that I use for this blog:
“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”
So, based on the principles above, I’m hoping to start a new feature/segment titled, That’s what I would do (TWIWD), and consequently, ask the question, What would you do (WWYD)? I don’t mean for it to be irreverent or dis-respectful to Walt Disney or any Imagineers past and present, but more along the lines of exploratory and let’s see what else we can come up with, in the spirit of the Imagineering concept of “blue sky” – where there are no limits. Now, personally, my ideas tend to be somewhat less than blue sky, as I usually toss in a healthy dose of realism to make them more palatable, or affordable, as I know how the real world works, all too often with tight budget and time constraints.
So, check back soon, I hope to have a TWIWD post shortly.
Quotes ref: http://www.justdisney.com/walt_disney/quotes/
So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. – Willy Wonka
Wow! How time flies. My summer has flown by, and I’ve had very little time to write. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve started probably 5 or 6 posts since early June, but just can’t find the time to finish them.
The news and rumors out of Disney has been very active as well. Just recently, rumors started circulating the Internet recently about potential revisions in plans for the new Fantasyland Expansion. Supposedly, upper management at Disney are having second thoughts about the original plans for WDW’s Fantasyland Expansion (FLE) that was announced at last year’s D23 convention and the fact that many of the new additions were too heavily focused toward girls and left out the boys. This comes after the somewhat somewhat strange bit of news earlier in the summer where Disney announced out of the blue that they were renaming Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel to “Prince Charming Regal Carrousel”.
Update: 8/13/2010 - It’s no longer a rumor. The Orlando Sentinel reported on 8/12 that Fantasyland Plans are changing.
With the revisions, begun under new Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs, designers are attempting to rebalance the plans, which initially tilted heavily towards young girls by emphasizing attractions and experiences built around Disney’s stable of animated-movie princesses.
“We took a hard look at it amongst a number of us and said, ‘Can we make the appeal broader? Can we make it even better?’ “ Staggs said during an interview this week with the Orlando Sentinel.
Specific details weren’t given on what changes were being made, but speculation is that Pixie Hollow may be stricken from the new expansion as well as some of the new princess meet and greet areas. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Perhaps they will show something at the next D23 convention or maybe online on their blog.
While Disney hasn’t said anything officially about why they chose now to give this attraction a new story and name after 39 years, I believe it may just be an acknowledgement that someone at WDI or Disney corporate agrees with mine and many others’ sentiment that there’s too much girly stuff being added in the new Fantasyland expansion. Of course they’re not going to just come out and say that, but I think that may just be the case. You can read more about the renaming and the new story line here.
Last year when it was announced at D23 that Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland would get a major expansion, many people were ecstatic about the plans. And, while it’s exciting to think about what’s coming, I couldn’t help but think that it was just a little too heavy on the Princesses, and may turn away some of the younger male audience. My wife disagrees with me on this and says a lot of the rest of Magic Kingdom is geared heavily toward boys, so this expansion is perfect and helps balance the park. Agree or not though, I still think the expansion could use a bit more male influence to keep from scaring off little boys who might think or perceive that this is “Princess Land”. I know Dumbo will still be there, and they will be assumedly re-theming Goofy’s Barnstormer, but still it just feels a bit heavily tilted to little girls.
Here’s a few of my own ideas to maybe tilt the scale back toward the boys a little.
I was looking over some of the plans (again) and reading the description for what they’re planning to do for Beauty and the Beast.
The Beauty and the Beast adventure will begin at Belle’s village when guests visit her father’s cottage. A magic mirror will transport guests to the Beast’s castle where they will have an opportunity to retell the Beauty and the Beast story by performing it for Belle. Hungry thespians will then be able to dine in the elegant, 552-seat Be Our Guest restaurant inside Beast’s castle or grab a quick bite at Gaston’s Tavern.
There’s no word on how guests will be “magically” transported to the Beast’s castle. Perhaps buying a trinket in the gift shop will do the trick. The “magic mirror” sounds interesting, but pretty mysterious at this point. Hopefully it’s more than just a fancy, disguised doorway that leads to a tunnel to the Beast’s castle. I think Gaston’s Tavern will help curb some of the “princess” over-tones, but I’m not sure it will do enough to attract boys en masse into the area.
I like the fact that they’re adding Belle’s dad, Maurice’s cottage (or, they were at one point), but I think they’re possibly missing out on a potential entertainment option that might appeal to boys. My thoughts would be, instead of just creating a cottage that serves merely as some kind of magical gateway to the Beast’s castle, why not play on the whole “crazy inventor” character that they crafted for the movie. Go ahead and use the cottage idea, but make it so guests travel into the cellar of the cottage where Maurice has created a new invention that will magically transport you to the Beast’s castle (hopefully). The story would be, after winning first place at the fair for his log splitting machine (from the movie), he would be hard at work creating something new in the cellar. There would also be remnants of other of his inventions in various stages, plus lots of drawings of his ideas. They could add lighting and sound effects to the upstairs dining hall that would in effect be caused by Maurice and another of his inventions being tested or blowing up.
Another thought would be an adventure ride using the EMVs like the ones used in Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. The story could be that Maurice has created a horseless wagon, but it’s not quite ready yet. However, Belle has disappeared and is lost somewhere in the forest. Guests would then board Maurice’s new invention, as a last resort to help find her. The wagon will travel thru the woods, passing various scenes along the way from the movie, eventually arriving at the Beast’s castle.
An idea that was rumored even before the announcements for the FLE is a Seven Dwarves Mystery/Diamond mine ride. I think they could re-use and re-theme the old Fantasyland skyway area, and the alley between the show buildings for It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion.
The coaster would be mostly inside a building so they could use brilliant lighting to show numerous pockets of jewels and of course the dwarves would also be there working/whistling away. The ride itself could use a Mauer-Sohne spinning coaster, like what’s used for Crush’s Coaster at Disneyland Resort Paris.
The queue would be on the site of the old Fantasyland Skyway station and guests would wind their way up to the top of the “mine shaft” where they would board a mine car. The car would then depart the station and drop off into the mine shaft which would carry the car thru the former alley way toward the back where it would enter the show building and the actual mine. For added effect, it could exit the building occasionally along the banks of the rivers of America where it could be seen by guests passing by on the Liberty Belle riverboat. The ride would wind back and forth thru the mines with some medium spinning motion and then eventually make it’s way back the station where guests would exit underneath the station where they got on the ride.
BlueskyDisney made mention of the rumor for a Seven Dwarves attraction, back in 2008. I think they were the first ones to break the news of the yet announced changes to Fantasyland. Check it out, most of what he uncovered turned out to be true.
While I was researching this posting, I saw an ad for something my wife and I actually stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago. The Gaylord Texan, just north of Dallas, Texas is having what they’re calling Summerfest where the theme is centered around Alice in Wonderland. We happened to be in the area a couple of weeks ago and stopped in for a little while and were pleasantly surprised at what they had done. Along the paths in their ginormous atrium, they have themed elements and characters from Alice in Wonderland. If you get a chance, go check it out, they’re running it thru September 6th.
I’m not necessarily advocating that Disney should copy what the Gaylord has done, but due to the success of Tim Burton’s newest version of this story, they would appear to have created, or at the least refreshed this story in a way that the public really enjoyed, making it the number 2 movie so far this year, right behind Toy Story 3. So, why not capitalize on the success. Re-theme the Mad Tea Party using colors and styling from the newer movie and maybe even enclose it to help create the illusion of being shrunken. Expand the theme of being shrunken to give a more real sense of it actually happening. Perhaps build a queue of some kind or building that contains a big slide down a “hole” and leads to the queue for the tea party. Sure, it’s still somewhat girly, but the new theme and the slide should help attract more boys. Alternatively, an omnimover type ride could be used to carry guests into Wonderland and down the rabbit hole.
Carsland – retheme Tomorrowland Speedway to Cars, better yet, bring the new ride they’re building at DCA here. Supposedly, Cars merchandise is a big seller, which is one of the main reasons for the second movie and the ride that’s being built in California. So, why not bring that here, or at the least, something along those lines? I would love to see them build the new ride that’s going into DCA, somewhere at WDW, and there’s actually been some rumors that it may be coming sometime in the next 10 years. And, while I would like to see that, I know it’s an expensive attraction, so I would be almost as happy if they just did an overlay on the Tomorrowland Speedway. This attraction, while still enjoyed by many, has seen its better days, and those cars just make me nauseous. A Cars overlay would seem to be a simple solution with a big potential payoff.
I can’t help but think that WDI and TDO missed the boat when they had a chance last year to upgrade Space Mountain when they took it down for a short refurb. At one point there were rumors that they would give it similar treatment to what the ride in Disneyland received when it was refurbed in 2003-05 by adding on-board audio, a new track, and more lighting effects inside. Instead, the plans were changed and shortened and the bulk of the refurb/upgrade work went into the queue. Maybe next time.
The following movies are missing a representative attraction at WDW:
- Mary Poppins
- Robin Hood
- Sleeping Beauty
- Fox & the Hound
- The Incredibles
- 101 Dalmations
- The Princess and the Frog (?)
Stop for a minute and think about some of these movies, the story line and their characters. In my opinion, there are at least 2 movies on the list that would work really well in the new Fantasyland, and that give me inspiration on a possible attraction.
Princess and the Frog dark boat ride. Sure, the movie didn’t exactly do that great in theaters, but it is a fantastic story, with great characters and catchy music with a setting that would play extremely well for a boat ride thru the bayous of New Orleans, retelling the story and singing the songs. The story would be narrated by Ray the lightnin’ bug as you. I love this idea, and think it would be a classic, buuut… it’s still girly.
Build a replica of Carl Fredrickson’s house from Up on Main Street USA, where the cul-de-sac is, half way down on the right. The theming of his house, is very similar in style to Main Street USA. The facade would look exactly like the house in the movie, but once inside you get to experience flying around the world, with him and Russell and Dug. Of course, Beta and the other bad dogs from the movie, might also make an appearance. They could do this using similar technology as used in Soarin’. For the ride portion you would sit either on the ground floor in his living room, dining room or kitchen, or on the second floor in one of the bedrooms. As soon as the house “lifted off the ground”, the walls would disappear and the house would “fly” to different places as seen in the movie, with a few scary moments being chased by the bad dogs. There is more than adequate space to build this too. Right behind Main Street in this area is nothing but a parking lot.
While those 2 might movies/stories and their characters might be good for an attraction (in my opinion), they’re probably nowhere on the list of possibilities.
I think Disney has done some of their best work when they created new attractions from scratch, or without a movie to stand on. Historically, there was Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and none of those had any kind of movie to build off. In recent times there’s been other great attractions built as well without a movie for its basis like Soarin, Expedition Everest, Test Track and Tower of Terror. So, perhaps there’s hope that we could see something new come out of Imagineering that will be an enduring classic like many others.
On that note, take a look at another fan site called the Imagineering Disney blog (not officially related to Disney) concept for a Swiss area and Matterhorn in the Magic Kingdom.