Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Born Full Grown...

I got a great deal of e-mail regarding the "Under The Influence" post last week...

Many people had a lot of questions about the comparisons between Tokyo DisneySEA and DCA and the other parks. Most were wondering why this park was so well done and why it happened there instead of here in the good ole' USA. I've went through this in various posts in the past that readers can look up regarding the building of TDS and the Oriental Land Company. So I thought I'd try another way of looking at it.

Layering on the Narrative.

That's what I like to call it. This is a term I've used in reference to the difference between a Disney park and another amusement park. It's that difference in quality. Now the problem with TDA and DCA or the much less themed WDS in Paris is that each of those parks were designed to start out with a limited amount of theming and grow from there. The Mouse didn't much expect the unison of cries about the quality when it created DCA. WDSP is a story well get to another time more than likely. In Tokyo, the main reason it doesn't have the problems of its American sister parks is that it was born fully grown, while DCA was born prematurely.

Let me unpack that statement for you...

A great amount of thought and planning went into Tokyo DisneySEA. That's not to say that other Disney parks haven't had a good deal of planning, but an enormous amount of detail was put into this park. It also helped that they had already drawn up plans a few years earlier for the Port Disney project. This project already had a lot going for it so the details added only made the park more profound. The narrative of each ride is usually in correspondence with the theme of that land and there is usually a back story. There is some backstory to DCA. Certain areas have a backstory while others were an afterthought. Marty Sklar is known to have not ridden a good amount of rides at California Adventure simply because there was no story to them, no reason for them simply being there. Marty is an old Imagineer from way back and he understands what makes a Disney park a "Disney" park. The reasoning behind much of what was found in the areas of DCA leaves you wondering what was the intent of the Imagineers.

That's not the case in TDS.

Don't believe me? Well, when the park was getting ready to open the media got copies of Disney's Press Kits for the park. Inside you had descriptions of the lands and what their backstory was. This is an example of the kind of planning that went in explaining where you were at and why you were there.

We'll focus on my favorite port in Tokyo DisneySEA... "Mysterious Island."

Here is Disney's official Press Kit for part of that land:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -

"The lime is the 1870s. On an uncharted island somewhere in the South Pacific, a giant volcano rises up from the ocean depths. This is Mysterious Island, the secret base of operations for the enigmatic genius, Captain Nemo. It is here that he is engaged in experiments and research intent upon unlocking the secrets of the oceans and uncovering the hidden forces of nature deep beneath the earth's surface.

Inside the Caldera, a crater formed at the base of the volcano, a large body of water provides secret access to the ocean beyond. Suspended above the water is a small submersible vessel, the Neptune, This is Captain Nemo's personal submarine boat, capable of taking him to underwater locales not accessible by his larger submarine, the Nautilus.

In an unprecedented decision, Captain Nemo has invited the world's scientific community to come to Mysterious Island and share in his discoveries of the countless marvels and mysteries of the ocean's depths. He has announced that his special guests will be permitted to board one of his fleet of submersibles, similar to the Neptune, and join his crew as observers to assist in his research and to share the ocean's majesty.

To board their vessel, guests descend a spiral ramp and enter a volcanic rock cavern that leads first to Captain Nemo's Private Study and Control Station. Discovering that Captain Nemo is working in another part of the facility, they are able to walk through these private quarters and observe Nemo's various notes, maps and research materials related to his studies of the sea and his efforts to develop the ocean floor for fanning. It is here too that they are introduced to the Aquaphone. Nemo's amazing wireless communications invention, which allows him to monitor activities throughout Mysterious Island and to broadcast information to his fleet of research vessels under the sea.

Moving along, they enter the Dive Hatch Area where they observe that Nemo and his crew are able to don diving suits and enter the ocean directly through a special pressure hatch. It is clear from the missing dive suits in the storage area, and from the seawater and kelp around the hatch, that divers must have recently used the hatch and that their dive is still in progress.

Soon the guests enter the Submarine Docking Port, a rock cavern that has been reinforced by large metal riveted plates. The submersibles are suspended from an overhead conveyor system for loading. They arc attached by large metal hooks that release the vessels into the water. Guests board the six-person submersibles and the conveyor moves them to the ocean's edge to be dropped into the water and begin their dive.

Upon release, Captain Nemo can be heard over the Aquaphone in the vessel. He broadcasts along the way and provides information to the intrepid voyagers about the sites they see. In their first view after diving to the ocean floor, they observe the beauty of the ocean reef around the perimeter of Mysterious Island. Then they enter one of the many undersea fields where Nemo is harvesting the limitless bounty of the ocean and continuing to develop and refine his Aquafarming operations.

Nemo reminds his guests that the ocean is a vast and wondrous place, but that it is not a domain that can be controlled by man-that man is merely a visitor in the sea. As evidence, guests next encounter a graveyard of lost ships. As they float through the Ship Graveyard, in and out of the wrecks of sunken ships from every era, they observe that all the power and riches the people who piloted these vessels might have possessed or sought, were only destined to become so much junk at the bottom of the sea-a playground for the denizens of the deep.

But there is little time to reflect on the irony of man's quest for fame and fortune. An unexpected encounter with a sea creature of mammoth proportions leads guests on a life-or-death ' adventure beyond imagination. Sinking to a depth far deeper than ever thought possible, the guests; soon discover secrets of the deep that even Nemo himself never dared imagine possible."

Not detailed enough for you? How about the Press Kit the Mouse had for the other ride in "Mysterious Island"? My favorite one...

Journey to the Center of the Earth -

"On an uncharted island somewhere in the South Pacific. Mysterious Island rises up from the ocean depths. In the shadow of a giant volcano, the enigmatic genius. Captain Nemo has established this desolate site as his secret base of operations. It is here that he is engaged in experiments and research intent upon unlocking the secrets of the oceans and uncovering the hidden forces of nature deep beneath the earth's surface.

On an ashen slope inside the caldera. a crater formed at the base of the volcano, a large drilling machine hangs suspended from a huge crane. The hole it has created marks the place where Captain Nemo first discovered natural volcanic tunnels running through the caldera rock. Below the drilling machine is a giant screen to protect those below from falling debris and volcanic ash. Flanking either side of the screen are other corridors that Nemo's crew has drilled into the rock. These corridors lead to another natural cavern inside and the entrance to Journey to the Center of the Earth.

In an unprecedented decision. Captain Nemo has invited the world's scientific community to come to Mysterious Island and share in the discoveries he has made deep beneath the earthy surface. He has announced that his special guests will be permitted to board one of his fleet of smaller subterranean drilling vehicles, personally designed by Nemo himself specifically for scientific subterranean sightseeing excursions.

To reach their vehicle, guests must first trek through the Magma Sanctum (Lava Sanctuary). En route, they will hear Captain Nemo's voice welcoming them to witness the marvels that he has discovered.

As they make their way through the Lava Sanctum, they will pass Nemo's Study, where they will observe that the Captain has continued his study of the caverns he has discovered. It appears that he has recently been engaged in a study of maps he has made and is drafting new ones.

A little farther inside, they arrive at a cast iron structure with walls of glass. This is the Bio-Lab. Here, on worktables and shelves are various reference materials and unique samples Nemo and his crew have brought up from the center of the earth. They include beautiful colored crystals, gigantic mushrooms, bioluminescent life forms and petrified egg fragments that appear to be prehistoric.

As the guests move along, they pass a Specimen Case where more strange insects from the center of the earth are preserved and studied using gloved portals built into the side of the case. Nearby is the Workstation where experiments mechanical in nature are being conducted.

To board their vehicle, guests must now descend a half mile below the surface of the earth in a special elevator known as a Terravator. After a quick and exhilarating ride, guest arrive at another massive cavern dug by Nemo's drilling machine. This is the Base Station where they will board their subterranean vehicle. Large pistons shore up the rock walls and ceiling of this cavern and a giant bellows pumps in fresh air from the surface. Huge dynamos generate the electricity that lights the chamber.

As they make their way to the loading area, they pass the Communication Center, which is the terminus for a system of speaking lubes used by Nemo and his crew to communicate throughout this underground network of caves and drilling sites. On a large map overhead. signal lights indicate the condition of seismic activity. Since the station is unmanned at the moment, there is no notice taken by Nemo's crew of warnings over the speaking lubes to the dispatcher of increased volcanic activity and requests to suspend further departures of vehicles into the caves.

With guests aboard, the vehicles pull out of the station and the excursion is underway. The plan calls lor the vehicles to pass the areas where the samples from the Bio-Lab and Specimen Case were originally found. These places are all well known and well-explored by Nemo and his crew.

Starting at a leisurely pace, the vehicle enters the beautiful Crystal Cavern, a subterranean cave of colorful crystalline structures, the place is alive with sparkling color reflected and refracted onto the cave walls. Along its route, the vehicle passes through a Giant Mushroom Forest, a strange forest filled with huge. luminous mushrooms and populated by odd colorful creatures, never before seen on the earth. It all seems very wondrous and somehow quite safe until the vehicle travels ever deeper into the center of the earth and comes upon a vast Subterranean Sea. This cavern is vast and dark—so vast that it has developed its own atmosphere. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is alive with a loud and violent storm.

It is at this point that the excursion goes terribly off course and the journey becomes much more treacherous. Guests now must face unforeseen peril and danger before they are finally blasted out the side of the volcano in a thrilling and surprising high-speed conclusion."

You can tell they thought this one through, huh?

What about some of the other rides? Do they have a backstory? Yeah... well, if we go over to "Port Discovery" we can go take a ride on one of their attractions.

Stormrider -

"Located on a shore not yet known, in a time yet to be, Port Discovery is a vision of a unique tomorrow: a time when science and nature are in balance. It is the home of the Center for Weather Control where scientists from around the globe are gathered to probe the intricate workings of the earth's weather. They are engaged in intensive research and experimentation with one coal in mind:

to control severe weather systems such as tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons. To that end, they have designed and built a new type of flying weather laboratory known as StormRider. Aboard these airborne weather research stations, scientists arc able to locale, analyze and combat the planet's most devastating storms. To celebrate the success of StormRider and the arrival of a bold new scientific era, the Center is hosting a festival and open house. As part of the festivities, guests are invited to join a mission aboard StormRider for the flight of a lifetime.

Once inside the Center for Weather Control, guests learn that a major storm has developed and is rapidly approaching Port Discovery. They must quickly prepare to join the next flight, whose mission is to neutralize the storm before it makes landfall. To prepare for their flight, guests are introduced to the Storm Diffusion Device, or ''Fuse." One of the most important inventions from the Center, the Fuse will be launched from StormRider into the eye of the storm and detonated to negate the destructive force of the winds—effectively to diffuse the storm.

Entering the hangar that houses the StormRider vehicles, guests board one of the two flying labs docked there. When the protective windshield cover is opened, guests can see that their vehicle is now hovering outside the hangar, awaiting clearance to take off. As they wait, guests are treated to a spectacular view of the waters of Port Discovery and the ocean beyond. They can see that the other vehicle is hovering ahead. Clearance is given and the flight is underway. The sensation of take-off is exciting, accentuated by the view out the windshield as a floating city quickly disappears beneath the vehicle.

Nearing the huge, dark storm, it is clear to see that this is not just any average weather disturbance—this is the storm of the century, the greatest challenge for the StormRider pilots, and possibly, the most deadly. Suddenly a lightning strike renders the other StormRider incapable of completing the mission and it must return to base. Although the StormRider with the guests aboard is ordered to return as well. the pilot, feeling that he is within striking distance of the storm, ignores the order and continues on. But when the Fuse doesn't operate as expected, the real thrill of StormRider begins with a while-knuckle race against time to make it back safely to Port Discovery."

WDI took every care to make sure you knew that there was a purpose for what you were experiencing. The layering of the narrative was thick and dripping with a story.

Now, lastly lets look at my favorite character in my second favorite ride at Disneyland. The clone at TDS is essentially the same ride, but it has a whole land built around it instead of being tucked away in the side of Adventureland.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull -

"The time is the 1930s. The place is Lost River Delta, a tattered outpost of civilization on the ragged edge of the ever-encroaching Central American rainforest and jungle. Famed [archaeologist] Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. has discovered a long lost pyramid hidden in the dense vegetation. The ancient limestone edifice is called Temple of the Crystal Skull, in homage to the supernatural and vengeful Crystal Skull said to be the guardian of the temple's secrets. One secret Indy has determined by deciphering the temple's hieroglyphics is that this pyramid is alleged to be the location of the fabled Fountain of Youth. He has further discovered that to prevent interlopers from coming in and bathing in the rejuvenating waters, the temple is booby-trapped with untold peril at every turn. Indy has reported that the temple is littered with the skeletal remains of those who have disregarded these safeguards and has advised that no one should attempt to enter. This has done little to discourage the curious and those in search of eternal youth. Even Indy's Central American assistant, Paco, seeing a business opportunity, is disregarding Indy's warning and has established "Paco's Temple Tours," promising to take guests deep into the pyramid by way of a fleet of jungle transport vehicles.

Upon entering the Temple of the Crystal Skull, intrepid guests will walk through an active [archaeological] dig in a cavernous chamber. Traversing hastily erected scaffolding, they walk up and around the perimeter of the room passing by ancient idols, skeletal remains, and frescoes depicting the legendary Fountain of Youth, which appear to contain warnings about the presence of the supernatural Crystal Skull.

After reaching the top and stepping through a wall that has been broken open, the guests queue through a series of rooms used by Indy and his [archaeological] team. Along the way they will see maps, artifacts, newspaper clippings and even a short film by Paco, all of which should advance their knowledge and pique their interest in the secrets of the temple, its contents and its guardian, the Crystal Skull.

As guests board their well-worn jungle transports, Paco is heard over the radio assuring them that if they are careful not to disturb the Crystal Skull, no harm will befall them. The vehicle takes off, lurching and rocking on the uneven road, into the dark depths of the pyramid. The vehicle enters the Chamber of Purity, a grotto-like room of pools where apparently ancients in search of the Fountain of Youth would cleanse and purify themselves before attempting to go further into the temple. But the skeletons scattered about the chamber are evidence that few made it any farther. The vehicle does not stop, but races forward.

Cresting an embankment, the guests come face to face with the fabled Crystal Skull. If the vehicle can move slowly and stealthily, it can go past the Crystal Skull undetected and the secrets of the temple will be within reach. But a surprise backfire from the ill-maintained vehicle breaks the reverential silence, alerting and angering the Crystal Skull and unleashing its supernatural powers.

The vehicle speeds up and turns into a previously unknown chamber. Now it's a race against the encompassing wrath of the Crystal Skull and the many booby traps and unknown dangers that await, in an attempt to escape from the pyramid. Throughout their escape attempt, guests will encounter everything from mummies and bugs to fire and poison darts. But the most dangerous peril still awaits... Even with the help of Indiana Jones himself, can the guests tempt fate and survive? The answer can only be found inside Temple of the Crystal Skull."

See what I'm talking about here? This park wasn't a baby when it was born... it came out fully developed and fully grown. It didn't need be improved and after seven years it's not going through a "Extreme Makeover" like DCA or like WDSP will likely have happen in a few years. It's already grown and ready to go to college. There will be room for growth... there will be additions, but there won't be the need to fix what should have been done right in the beginning. While the other three newest parks will have makeovers and big additions over the next half decade, TDS will simply rippen. Like fine wine... thankfully, most, but not all of these problems were caused by bad decisions made by Suits that are no longer with the company. Here's to the next park that WDI builds being planned with more care and money so that we don't wind up having to fix these problems after getting a black eye in the press.

Perhaps the Mouse's next gates in California and Florida will wind up being born full grown as well so they won't have to grow up in a hurry later...


Toddofcruz said...


In your humble opinion, do you ever think we will get a DisneySea here in the states?


Honor Hunter said...

Hey Hotwheel Todd,

To answer your question...

No. I don't think we'll see DisneySEA in the states. Anytime soon at least, not in at least a decade or more.

But you know what? I don't want to see it. Not that I wouldn't have loved to have gotten that Port Disney project built in Long Beach, but now that it's in Tokyo... not so much. I want each resort to be unique. I don't want to see four or five clones of Epcot or DHS or any other parks. There are other parks they can build in WDW and at the DL Resort that could be just as nice.

I do think if Lasseter keeps and grows the power he has then will will see budgets for these parks that are close to Oriental Land Company. And that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this article. I'm always looking for examples of writing that are done for themed entertainment, and they are hard to find. The press releases gave a good synopsis.
The links to the fan site with the pictures was nice to have, too.
The theming was done incredibly well, with a good, deep story in each of the rides - really getting back to the original intent of Walt with putting the guest into the environment of the story.