Disney’s Frozen has proven to be a much bigger hit than they or many others ever imagined it would have been. Raking in more than $1.2 billion in 2013 at the worldwide box office, it’s popularity didn’t just stop there. In the parks, demand for Anna and Elsa has been huge, especially at Walt Disney World, where waits to see the sisters quickly exceeded 5 hours most days and stayed in this range throughout the day. The long waits have actually led Disney to change the way guests wait at the Magic Kingdom to see these two and try something very similar to the old Fastpass method, where everyone would get a paper ticket indicating a return time. Disney also added some summer festivities at Disney Hollywood Studios, called, Frozen Summer Fun Live with several events and activities featuring characters from the movies. Originally, this was supposed to end September 1, but it was recently announced (as many expected), that it would be extended thru September 28th. Many are speculating that it might go away for a little while but be brought back around Christmas time in some form or another.
And, if all that isn’t enough, there have been several rumors in the wild stating that Disney will soon shut down the Maelstrom attraction at the Norway pavilion in Epcot and re-theme/design it around the movie. Personally, I think the attraction is long overdue for an update or some kind of refresher. However, I’m not sure how I feel about a re-theme to this movie. Not that it couldn’t be done well and make for an enjoyable new attraction, but ideally, I think an update that was more representative of Norway and it’s traditions would be the best move. But, I’ll wait until this alleged re-do is completed before casting judgment.
Regardless of the rumors, and what some seem to think might happen, I’ve had my own thoughts I’d like to share. I started thinking about alternative ideas for adding Frozen themed attractions, after I heard the rumors regarding Maelstrom. Nothing from the movie really popped out at me right away other than maybe the sleigh ride scene with Kristoff and Anna, being pulled by Sven, the reindeer. Thinking about this a little more, it might just be in the realm of possibilities for what Imagineering is thinking of doing with the Maelstrom ride, considering the ride tracks and style of vehicle. And, even though I kind of like this idea, it wasn’t the first one that came to mind for me.
I was actually thinking of something a little more festive and formal that would re-create Elsa’s coronation ceremony. I’ve never been in the restaurant Akershus in Norway, because every time we’ve looked at the menu, it just didn’t sound very appealing. But, if the area is big enough, why not transform it into a royal hall to celebrate the coronation. They could make it a premium kind of experience with light snacks (especially chocolate), h’orderves and drinks served, and then Anna and Elsa would come out to greet everyone. Set it up for about 100-200 guests at a time, and repeat every hour throughout the day.
Disney is wise for trying to capitalize on the popularity of this movie, in fact, I think they would be foolish not to considering it’s made more money than Pixar’s Cars from 2006, and has been called the best Disney movie since The Lion King. Hopefully, they will find a way to give the movie a somewhat permanent park attraction that will be enjoyable for years to come.
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/