I’m very curious by nature, which plays along nicely with my Disney fascination. As such, I occasionally run across things that I find interesting and I think, “hey, Disney should take a look at this“. Today, I found just such an idea. Take a look and see if you agree:
With the rain that central Florida gets almost every day in the summer time, this would be an incredible idea to do in the parks, at the resorts, around pools, etc. etc.
They already do something similar in the parks, in almost a reverse kind of way with soap and water. Disney artists, masquerading as custodians can be found on occasion drawing characters on the sidewalks (see video below). So, why not do this in more of a permanent kind of way. It would be just another of those “hidden magic” items you find at Disney, only these would “magically” appear when it rains.
You can see more about Rainworks at: http://rain.works/
Walt Disney Imagineering recently inserted two new “features” into Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction to “plus” this almost 40 year-old attraction a wee-bit more. This isn’t the first time WDI has “plussed” the attraction. With the popularity of the movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean and the sequels, Disney has played on this popularity by adding Captain Jack Sparrow (in multiple places), Captain Barbosa, and even the gruesome and creepy Davy Jones. Although, around the time of the fourth movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, came along, Jones was replaced by the fearsome Blackbeard in a mist-like fog image and voice projected at the beginning of the ride.
Avast! Thar’ be SPOILERS ahead!
Adding another movie tie-in to the fourth installment of this movie series featuring Jack Sparrow and friends, the latest addition includes the mermaids from the fourth film. If you saw the movie, you might remember, these aren’t exactly the same friendly kind of mermaids we’ve come to know and love from Disney’s, The Little Mermaid. No, these are soul-snatching, evil demon-fish, intent on dragging as many men to a watery grave as Davy Jones himself. Side-note: Any chance these mer-chants of death are under his employ, or curse?
The Disney parks blog hinted that this change was coming a few weeks ago, but didn’t go into any real detail and I’ve been watching and anticipating the changes ever since. The additions include a new projection of a mermaid swimming in the water, followed by a skeleton of a mermaid in a wrecked boat on the beach. Along with these new visual additions, they added the eerie music and song, My Jolly Sailor Bold also from the movie.
Update 11/01/12: Disney announced on their blog this new arrival.
I won’t spoil the magic here, by posting any pictures or video of the additions, as this is still pretty new. But, if you’re the curious type like me, you can Google it yourself and find what’s been added. I’ve seen some of the pictures and a low quality/low light video of the features and overall, I think they’re impressive and make for a good addition to the attraction.
I’m not criticizing this new addition, in fact I quite like it and think it adds to the creepy air of mystery in the caves. However, something struck me as out of place while reading about the changes, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps there’s room for further “plussing” and perhaps even a better tie-in with the most recent movie. In the beginning of the ride as you enter the caves, Blackbeard appears in the fog screen warning you of the journey you’re embarking upon. Since all of the other additions of Jack and Barbosa to the attraction, and now with the addition of the mermaids, I think it might be more fitting to replace Blackbeard (of the mist) with Jeffrey Rush’s, Captain Barbosa giving a shortened version of his speech from the fourth movie. In it he warns,
Aye. Mermaids. Sea ghouls, devilfish…dreadful in hunger for flesh of man. Mermaid waters, that be our path. Cling to your soul as mermaids be given to take the rest, to the bone. Gentlemen. I should not ask any more of a man than what that man can deliver, but I do ask this: are we not King’s men? On the King’s mission? I did not note any fear in the eyes of the Spanish as they passed us by. ARE WE NOT KING’S MEN? Hands aloft, and bear away! Stave on ahead to Whitecap Bay!
Obviously it would have to be shortened as the above is too lengthy in the time you have passing thru here. But, I think it would make for a better tie-in and help serve as a little pre-warning for guests. Nothing against Ian McShane and his foreboding warning as Blackbeard and Davy Jones’ creepy octopus tentacle face, but Barbosa with his scratchy voiced snarl and pirate lingo is near-perfect! Besides that, I think Barbosa is one of the more popular and memorable characters from the films. It just seems like it would make more sense.
take us back in time on Pandora when Grace and the others are still running the school referenced in the movie. Since it’s a part of the story that was only lightly brushed over in the movie, it could be re-told in a way that would put both us and the Na’vi on more friendly terms. We could be part of the new education staff sent to teach and study the Na’vi and Pandora, before everything fell apart. This story-line would seem to fit in well with DAKs teaching/conservation theme.
2) Go back even further in the timeline and make us some of the first visitors sent on a mission to explore the planet and establish peaceful relations with them. Each of these still requires a transport method and story to take us there, but as pointed out earlier, these are minor aspects that could be dealt with any number of ways.
Update: 4/27/12 – I came up with another possibility/idea for the story-line.
3) Pandora training center. The development company, RDA, has established an earthbound laboratory that replicates the more human-friendly aspects of Pandora that is used as a training and education facility to familiarize employees with the environment before making the 6-year trip. This one sticks with DAKs teaching theme, and eliminates the necessity to develop a “transport method” to get us to the real Pandora.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that they could just throw all of these issues to the wayside and tell a whole new story without any regard for what the movie portrayed or the issues raised above.I mean, they could just plop a big show building down in AK or build a re-creation of the foliage and animatronic friendly versions of the wildlife with little or no story to introduce or explain the area. Regardless, I’m somewhat eager to see what they plan for this new section and how they plan to take us there.
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/
Listening to the Betamouse podcast, episode 40, Toy Story Mania, an idea popped into my head about how Disney could maybe improve overall guest throughput and possibly reduce the wait times for this attraction.
If you’re not familiar with the Walt Disney World version of the ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s a hugely popular attraction. When we were at WDW in early October, wait times exceeded 2 hours at some points during the day. Unfortunately, from all that I’ve seen and read, these kinds of wait times are fairly typical. I should add that Touringplans had a blog posting about some of the issues here as well. It’s worth a read because they talk about the fastpass distribution rate, which is pretty high for this ride.
Below are a few ideas to maybe lessen some of the madness and long waits for Toy Story Midway Mania at DHS. I’ll preface these by saying some might not be very popular, but they could be effective.
1) Devise a strategy to limit the number of fastpasses distributed based on ticket type. For example, guests staying on property or using their Key to the World card might be allowed first or higher priority over non-resort guests. Perhaps this could be done using different machines, or just an algorithm that produces a different (later) time window than the resort guests.
2) Another idea would be to limit each guest/ticket to one fastpass for this attraction for the day. As it stands now, any guest can get multiple fastpasses to ride the attraction as many times in the day as they want, however, if memory serves me correct, you have to wait until after the beginning time window has elapsed for the fastpass. So, if you had a fastpass for 1:00pm to 2:00pm, you could go get another fastpass at 1:00pm.
I realize that this would upset a few people, but the beauty of it is that Disney would still allow you to ride, you just couldn’t have another fastpass for this particular attraction.
3) Turn off Fastpass for the first hour or until the standby line reaches a 60 minute wait. This might only have a minimal impact overall, but it would help eliminate some of the mad rush of guests trying to get there first thing in the morning.
Of the three ideas, I like 2 & 3 best. These two ideas would seem to be the easiest to implement and cause the least impact and amount of frustration for the guests. Mind you, these are all hypothetical ideas that may or may not alleviate some of the long waits. At the very least, I believe these ideas would lead to greater guest satisfaction as it would allow more guests to experience the attraction in a given day. In essence it would balance out some of the crowds, especially first thing in the morning.
What do you think? Do you like any of these? Do you have a better idea that might reduce the long lines and the madness of TSMM? Give me your feedback in the comments.
“Hang onto your hats and glasses, folks, cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!”
I predicted back in December, that part of Disney’s Next Gen plans would include the ability to log on to a computer from your hotel room and make Fast Pass reservations in advance of hitting the parks. Well, that prediction is now closer to reality via a pending patent number 7720718, filed May 18, 2010, and oddly titled “Management of the flow of persons in relation to centers of crowd concentration via television control”. (Update: The patent is actually not new, it was filed in October 2003, and appears to have been awarded/granted in May 2010. Sorry if there was any confusion.)
A method of managing the loading of patrons to an attraction having a predetermined attraction capacity in an entertainment environment wherein patrons are permitted access to the attraction on at least two bases, the first being a first-in first-out basis, and the second being a priority basis established by a prior allocation of a return time, comprising: receiving from a patron a priority request for an allocation of a return time, the priority request being entered on a television unit located at a resort facility, the priority request being received at a central computer that regulates the number of patrons allowed to enter the attraction, wherein the resort facility is related to the entertainment environment and is located remotely from the entertainment environment; transmitting to the patron an allocated return time via the television unit; and filling the attraction to its predetermined attraction capacity with patrons on a first-in first-out basis, without reserving space for a patron having the allocated return time who is not present at the attraction during the allocated return time, and if a patron having the allocated return time is present at the attraction during the allocated return time then preferentially loading the patron having the allocated return time.
But wait, it gets better. How about making Fast Pass reservations from your phone or mobile device?
The method and system further permits a patron of an attraction to use a wireless device in order to gain access to an attraction. The wireless device may for example, be a mobile telephone.
Here’s where it might get ugly for the non-resort guests and day visitors.
In another aspect of the present invention there is a hierarchy for patrons using the priority basis. Different patrons in the hierarchy are permitted access to a first attraction. A request for an allocation of a space on the first attraction includes the steps of: i. receiving an input from a remote location. The input is communicated to a central computer for requesting a reservation for an attraction; ii. allocating available return times in relation to a level of a patron in the hierarchy;
Different hierarchal models can be established for the ability and right to obtain and use the Fastpass according to different priorities. 1. Guest a. Spending per guest at hotels can determine different hierarchies of access to Fastpass. Thus, the more that is spent by a patron, the higher the priority can be for Fastpass. b. Hotel accommodation in related resorts and environments associated with the entertainment center are allocated different priorities. Where a patron is in a related hotel, a higher priority can be given. c. Different levels and hierarchies can be applicable at different hotels. Thus, more luxurious hotels can have higher priorities. 2. Seasonal differences can be factored into the grant of different privileges. Accordingly, special promotions for Fastpass can be provided according to the season.
I say it “might get ugly” because if you read the whole thing, it allows room for this reservation system to be made available to off-property locations, as a “service”.
In another embodiment, the entertainment venue may offer a service to hotels or other surrounding venues whereby a person may make priority requests prior to their visit to the entertainment venue. For example, a person would use the television and remote control in their hotel room to make reservations for one or more attractions the day before their visit to the venue.
The stated goal pretty much says it all.
A goal of this invention is to improve the desired functionality needed to derive increased guest satisfaction, additional revenue opportunities and resort differentiation
Although, toward the end, they also make reference to a few other uses for the invention, which I found interesting.
Additionally, the system can be used for planning exit strategies from events in theaters, stadiums and the like.
Also, the system can be used for guiding and controlling masses of people in the use of limited transportation systems, such as in public transport systems including rail, air, marine and bus transportation.
It sounds like they envision the algorithms developed for Fastpass queuing being applied to other areas where there might have large crowd issues, and effectively managing movement of these crowds more efficiently. This makes me wonder if they’re looking at the possibility of using it for their transportation systems as well.
Now, before anybody gets too excited or worked up by this patent, you should know that Disney holds a lot of patents, some of which never get implemented. So, why create a patent and not use it? Many reasons, mostly to prevent other people from using the idea, or sometimes even to sell to others for their use.
If you want to see the full details of this pending patent, here’s the link.
You might as well get used to it. Until we have a more definitive idea about what exactly Next Generation Experiences is, (if ever), I think we’ll be discussing it and speculating on it for a while. Speaking of which, Kevin Yee at Miceage had quite a few thoughts here on NextGen and it’s possible meanings and impact. Check it out. While reading his article I started thinking about the implications of Disney spending over $1 billion on this project. Sure, to you and I, that sounds like a LOT of money. But, for Disney, it’s not really that much.
WDW saw just over an estimated 47 million visitors in 2008, which was only a slight increase from the previous year. Now, I’m not an accountant, nor a mathematician, but I like to play with numbers and just try to figure these things out. Let’s say that on average, those 47 million visitors were worth $100 each to Disney to keep it simple. If so, then that would mean they had revenue of more than $4.7 billion in 2008. Of course, looking at that makes me think my guesstimate of the $100 is probably pretty far fetched. But, if you start thinking along these lines, you kinda get an idea of just what a billion dollars looks like for Disney, it’s not that big of a deal for them really, considering the ROI could be less just a few years. Sure, it’s still a pretty big investment for them, but one that many would say is much needed. We’re just going to have to wait and see what exactly $1 billion looks like in the “Next Generation” theme park.
Along those lines, I had some thoughts on my own about what I might do if I were in charge of this group/project and given a budget like this to play with. As in Kevin’s article, the rumors are still speculating that it will heavily involve more interaction and guest personalization, which is fine, and in a way does lend itself to what might be considered a “Next Generation Experience”. I’m sure there are many other things they’re looking at too. But, I’ve got my own thoughts on what I would like to see.
Most Disney fans are well aware of Walt’s fascination with trains and transit systems. It’s because of this fascination that most Disney parks feature a steam train, monorail, people mover, and other similar transit systems. And, over the years Imagineering has used several of these in various ways to move and entertain guests around their parks and resorts. However, while Disney has been innovative with these different transportation methods in the past, and were at one time pushing the envelope in some areas, they haven’t really done anything innovative in the past decade. While I hate to try and guess what Walt would’ve done, I firmly believe, based on history, that he would’ve continued to push the envelope of transportation methods, especially at Walt Disney World, where there is a multitude of guests to move, and more than enough land to play with.
One such transit method that has gotten a good bit of attention over the last decade or so, and I believe he would’ve examined is called Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems. There are more than 100 different designs and variations on the PRT concept being developed and/or designed around the world. There are even a few that are in operation and very successful. The cost for these systems is reported to be considerably less than monorail expansion, and not to beat up on the monorail, but they’re supposedly safer too, because they’re completely automated which would’ve tickled him all the more I think because it tied into his futuristic concepts and ideas he was always pushing.
One of my favorites is the CityCoaster. Built by a German company, it incorporates roller coaster elements like a track resembling a typical steel coaster and banked turns into self powered, pod-like cars that can carry up to 4 people at a time. Call me crazy, but I think such a design would be fun to encircle Epcot. It could start with a station at the front of the park, then going counter-clockwise, make stops at the Land, front of World Showcase, America Pavilion, back at the front of World Showcase, then maybe somewhere between Mission:Space and the Wonders of Life pavilion and then completing the loop back at the front. The track could run behind the pavilions in a semi-tunnel or open with the right side of the windows covered to block most of the view of key back-stage areas. I know, it’s a crazy idea, but fun too.
Seriously though, while the CityCoaster is a fun concept on the idea, there are numerous others that would seem to be a great fit for WDW and linking the other resorts and parks that don’t have a monorail option. And while it would be neat to see Disney expand the monorail to all of these, I just can’t see them spending the kind of money it would take to do it. The estimates for doing so are all over the board, but the latest all seem to point upwards of $100 million per mile or more, which would eat thru $1 billion really quick. So, the PRT concept would seem to be a much better option considering that most systems estimate their cost per mile around $20-30 million per mile, but that’s considered the high end. Many are in the range of $5-10 million per mile.
So, what are they waiting for? There are numerous universities and major corporations who have been researching and working on prototypes of PRT systems for years. WDW would seem to be a perfect “proving ground” for such a system. And, if successful, a test/trial PRT at WDW would be a major score for the university/corporation whose project was implemented at WDW. Many communities around the world are looking at PRT systems as a way to relieve traffic congestion and pollution. If I were a developer of a PRT, I would be chomping at the bit to try and get Disney into a joint venture to help with the development of my system. If I were Disney, I would be holding open invitations with PRT developers to come and show off their designs and tell why theirs would fit best at WDW.
Admittedly, there are lots of other ways, probably better, to spend $1 billion. They could build a new park. They could overhaul all the parks, and even add a few new attractions. But, think about this. Attendance at the parks over the last decade has grown on average at a steady 3%. That means in 5 years we could be seeing an additional 10 million visitors at WDW, and in 10 years it could be more than 17 million more people or 65 million. For more on this, be sure to check out an earlier article I wrote, Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded with some interesting break-downs of the data. Well, interesting to me at least.
One last thought about transportation and the NextGen budget. Transportation at WDW got a lot of bad publicity last year, due to the tragic accident on the monorail that occured in July and then some other incidents which were minor, but made the news nonetheless. I’m not suggesting that the monorails be replaced, or that a PRT system is necessarily the answer to solving all the problems. However, if they spent money on anything, I would like to see it spent on improving the monorail system(s). Reading some of the various comments across the web, lead me to believe that the system has fallen behind in some of the technology used to manage the trains. Perhaps some of the budget for NextGen could be directed towards upgrading these systems, and maybe even buying some new trains, if needed.
Update: Television station, WESH in Orlando reported today (01/27/10) that President Obama is set to announce federal funding for a High Speed rail project in central Florida on Thursday. Could part of WDWs NextGen plas include linking a new internal transit system to the soon to be announced High Speed Rail? Disney previously stated they would provide up to 50 acres of land for a station in the area believed to be somewhere between ESPN Wide World of Sports and Pop Century, to the south of Osceola Parkway. If a new station is built for the High Speed Rail, they will certainly need a way to move people to and from this station. They could conceivably do it using a PRT or even with a Monorail extension. Regardless of whether they choose any of these, they should probably get started now so they can have this new expanded system ready for when the line is completed.