Saturday, September 8, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 20 - New Parks

"Disneyland will never be completed.  It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.  It is something that will never be finished.  Something that I can keep developing and adding to."
Walt Disney

While the quote by Walt spoke specifically about Disneyland, it applies to the broader Disney presence across the globe.  And there have been several parks and concepts that have never gotten off the ground.  There was Disney's ski lodge at Mineral KingWalt Disney's Riverfront Square in St. Louis.  DisneySea at Port Disney in Long Beach, CaliforniaDisney's America in Haymarket, VirginiaThe potential for Disneyland AustraliaEven Disneyland Dubai.  Some even with amazing concept art like the Disneyland Dubai art below.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney
There are several locations that have been proposed and many others that could potentially be beneficial to the company.  I'm going to focus on one potential location for this blog, as I feel it would be one of the next logical steps.  The international locations are too difficult to determine. They are a mixture of international politics and market.  The American locations are easier to pinpoint.  And one in America jumps out as particularly well suited.

The Disneyland Texas Resort.

Now there have been rumors of a Disney park in Texas for a long time. A brief rundown of more recent rumors and the arguments surrounding them can be found here.   And looking over it, Texas makes a lot of sense for a potential location.  Climate similar to Florida that could maintain a year round park.  Availability of land.  Lower government regulation and pro-business stance.  Heavily populated state and growing population.  If Disney built between Austin and San Antonio, which to me is the most likely location, the resort would be served by two major cities and international airports.  From there, further easy access to two heavily traveled interstate highways (I-35 and I-10).  Build out where the resort would be more closely accessed by the 130 toll and you nearly have a copy of Orlando.

I think the biggest reason to build closer to this location in particular is not necessarily Texas, but Mexico.  Go to the outlets in San Marcos and count the Mexican license plates.  A location no farther north than just above San Antonio would be a great draw to Mexico as well, putting cities like Monterrey within a six hour drive of the resort.

With a location established, the question becomes what kind of resort to plan for and build.  Two park and hotels like Disneyland?  Four park and hotels like Walt Disney World?

First, I do not think we will ever see another four park resort from Disney.  Walt Disney World will remain unique in that regard, as becoming the size of a city brings its own challenges that I do not see Disney longing to repeat.  To me, I believe the two park model is the most sustainable resort model for the company.  It makes the resort a destination for at least a long weekend or longer vacation, but does not bring the regulatory, transportation, or related hassles of something the size of Walt Disney World.

That said, I do want to take a tangent and explore one other option before outlining the Disneyland Texas Resort I would build.

I could envision a resort with a single park.  An ultimate Disney park, if you will.  It would be large enough to require at least a two or three day visit to see it all.  If you took a traditional castle park and built it with just a version of Main Street, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland for a start.  Then Frontierland would be a complete circle around the Rivers of America, build out from the junction of Adventureland and Fantasyland, requiring you to pass under the train station to access that section of the park.  World Showcase would then be built in a similar fashion at the junction of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, again requiring you to pass under the train station to access.  You then have a great hidden Mickey, and a giant park containing all of the best experiences that Disney has created in one central park.

Rough diagram of the ultimate Disney park
Should Disney ever want to invest in one single park in any location, this would be a good model to use.  The company could start building just the main Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland component, with the Frontierland and World Showcase extensions following at five year intervals as part of the master plan.

With that little tangent indulged, I'll focus on specifically what I would envision the two park resort in Disneyland Texas to look like.  The challenge with adding a third American resort is how to add without solely cannibalizing from the Anaheim and Orlando locations.  The trick, as I see it, is to build something new but familiar.  Maintaining unique experiences in Anaheim and Orlando that would draw people to those parks, but adding something clearly recognizable as Disney to draw people to the new resort.  I can see this accomplished to a great extent by bringing over attractions that previously have only existed in the international parks.

Park One - Texas DisneySea

First, for the castle park, I would not build Disneyland Texas at all.  Rather I would build Texas DisneySea.  This would not be a copy of Tokyo DisneySea, but would rather be an interpretation of the traditional Disneyland style park through the lens of the sea.  An exploration of the themes of Adventure, the Frontier, Fantasy, and Discovery through their connection to the sea.

The park would open with the Port of Entry, passing under a replica of  Ellis Island leading into a Fisherman's Wharf-esque version of Main Street, owing much to the American Waterfront section of Tokyo DisneySea.  An east coast port town.  To the left, behind the buildings on the main path, guests would be able to see the S.S.Columbia, a representation of a 1930s passenger cruise ship, containing a grand dining hall and lounge, a deck to explore, Turtle Talk with Crush, and a dockside stage, as in Tokyo DisneySea.  This cruise ship serves as a kind of arcade on the left side of our main path and acts as a connecting tissue to the next land, the Port of Adventure.

USA-NYC-Ellis Island crop.jpg
Ellis Island
By Ingfbruno; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:23, 19 October 2013 (UTC) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

SS Columbia at Tokyo DisneySea.jpg
The SS Columbia (this is the theme park version so you know)
By Aquitania at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Port of Adventure would be a 1930s pulp Adventureland, focusing on the grand age of travel and a South American flair. With the sea as the focus, the Port of Adventure must have a Jungle Cruise, though this version could be like the one in Hong Kong, where the Jungle Cruise circles Adventure Isle, with the SS Columbia at one end of the river.  Instead of a treehouse on the island, I would bring over the ropes courses from Shanghai Disneyland.  Rafts to Adventure Isle would take you back and forth from the ropes courses and exploration trails.  The Skippers Canteen would be welcomed as would a version of the Roaring Rapids from Shanghai.  The land would culminate in a Pirates subsection, perhaps with a Pirates of the Pacific ride combining the classic attraction with the Shanghai Technology.

Hong Kong Disneyland Jungle Cruise
The next land would be the Port of the Frontier. Since Texas in many ways starts the Frontier and the state contains a lot of what is typically represented in Frontierland, that will be the starting point instead of the culmination of the land.  Typically, Frontierlands start with a location east of the "Wild West" like Georgia and New Orleans in Disneyland or New England in Walt Disney World and then move to the rocky desert of West Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.  Here, I would start with the rocky desert and move to what Texas would consider the frontier.  The land would still circle the Rivers of America, here with a sidewheeler like the Molly Brown at Disneyland Paris.  The progression here would be from Western River Expedition, the white whale of Disney theme park attractions, representing Texas and the rocky west, to San Francisco Square with the Pirates of the Pacific, the Hotel Hightower Tower of Terror and Mystic Manor.  An Adventurer's Club restaurant and Ghirardelli Square recreation could make this a very popular corner.  From there, the land shifts to the Pacific Northwest with a logging company flume ride and Redwood Challenge trail.  In the center of the river instead of Tom Sawyer Island, I would build the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars from Hong Kong, location similar to Big Thunder in Disneyland Paris, but with a visual that helps move the location farther west.

Molly Brown
The Port of Fantasy would focus on those locations from Disney fairy tales that have a connection to the sea.  Neverland with Skull Rock and the Jolly Rogers from Peter Pan.  Moving from Mermaid Lagoon in Neverland to Atlantis from the Little Mermaid.  The fjords of Arendelle in Frozen.  Even adding the Sinbad ride from Tokyo DisneySea.  Anchored by the castle of Corona from Tangled, emulating Mont St. Michel with a large moat that nearly completely surrounds it, allowing for fountains in front of the castle, this could be a very beautiful land.

Tangled Castle
The park would be rounded out by the Port of Discovery.  Yes, the Port of Discovery not the Port of Tomorrow.  This would be one of the quickest ways to distinguish the park from the other stateside parks, by focusing on the Steampunk future of Jules Verne and HG Wells.  This would also allow 20,000 Leagues from Tokyo and the Nautilus from Paris to be front and center, along with Aquatopia, Mysterious Island and Journey to the Center of the Earth and other similar inspired attractions.

Les Mystères du Nautilus 2009.jpg
Nautlius in Paris
By Wing1990hk - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

This focus on the sea and the interpretation of the Disney park in this way could bring a very unique vision of a castle park to the states.  And it would make a good compliment to the way the sister park would be executed.

Park Two - Disney's Texas Adventure Park

This park would celebrate Texas and all the cultures that make up the great state, something Texans love to do.  To be sure, a big component of the park would be a celebration of the food and the music that makes Texas great.  For one, licensing deals would have to be relaxed and obtained such that Dr. Pepper could be served at the resort and this park in particular, as well as Blue Bell ice cream and for there to be a Whataburger in park.

Guests would first pass through limestone and iron turnstyles, reminiscent of Central Texas architecture in the Lundberg Bakery and Millett Opera House.

Old Bakery 2006.jpg
Lundberg Bakery
By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Millett Opera House
By Dtobias - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Guests would then notice the Train Depot, modeled after the historic San Antonio I&GN/MoPac Depot.   Similar to Disneyland, guests would pass under the train station into the first land.

At the station, the trains would be modeled after the classic Texas Special style, a great diesel train look, distinguishing it from the traditional Disney trains.

Frisco Railroad Meteor and Texas Special diesel service circa 1948.JPG
By Frisco Railroad - eBay item card front card back, Public Domain, Link

From there, guests step into the first land.  Pecan Street serves as the Main Street for the park.  Modeled after small-town East Texas in the mid-1950s, the land would have many familiar touchstones.

On the right hand side, guests would pass a gas station/ice house (preferably Gulf Oil), a hotel (potential flex space or actual hotel), the bank (atms, fastpass planning), a grocery store serving as the bakery and then sundry shop, the Majestic Theater for movies, serials, and shorts, an electronics/record store (phone supplies, Disney records, etc.), and a pharmacy with a soda fountain (our ice cream shop).  The town water tower would be visible over the buildings (though actually accessible in the adjacent land).  The theater and the electronics store could get wonderfully meta, playing movies that Disney made through the mid-1950s and showing the Disneyland television show on tvs in the store window.  At the end of this side of the street facing the center of the hub would be a classic diner, serving as the table service restaurant for the land and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

On the left hand side, guests would pass the county courthouse (guest relations), the barber shop, a 5 & 10 (for souvenirs), a deli like Fossati's (for counter service), and a clothing store (more souvenirs).  At the end of this side of the street facing the hub would be a classic A-frame style Whataburger.

I would also love to work a Western Auto store front and classic circle-9 logo sign somewhere in the street, for sentimental reasons.

Great space for interior seating and shade for outdoor seating
Everyday would be Friday and always Homecoming.  At 3:00 pm the Homecoming Parade would come down the street, getting everyone ready to root for the home team.

The "castle" of the park, the icon, would be the Texas Hall of State building from the State Fair.  An excellent art deco design, the icon would provide a great backdrop for fireworks and a great canvas for projection mapping, as well as acting as a connective tissue to the land behind.  The size of the building could allow it to house a theater attraction for the history of Texas, like the American Adventure in EPCOT, as well as housing a signature restaurant, gallery, and shops in the wings.

Working around the park in a clockwise fashion, the next land would be San de Isina, a celebration of Texas' Spanish and Mexican heritage and culture.  In many ways, the land would be similar to a traditional Frontierland, in that it would have a river circling an island in the center, with the rest of the land circling the river.  Here the river would be narrower and there would be several bridges crossing over to the island.

The land essentially would represent the San Antonio Riverwalk at river level.  The island at the center of the river would contain an open air mercado, for shopping and exploration.  The area north of the river (park interior side) would have a table service Mexican food restaurant and other shops.  The south side of the river (park exterior side) would host the attractions.  One attraction would be a Coco ride in a theater facade.  There would be a tiered stage like the Arneson River Theater for mariachi performances and the like.  A quick service taqueria would also be on this side.

Arneson Theater
The signature attraction would be a Battle for Texas animatronic attraction housed in the Alamo.  This would be the parks Pirates of the Caribbean.  Heavy on animatronics and sets, putting guests in the center of the Battle for the Alamo.

The land would also house a boat ride around the river, like those in San Antonio.

A celebration of Mexican and Tex-Mex food.  A celebration of Latin and Tejano music.

Continuing around the park, the next land would be Campeche Bay, a Galveston-inspired, French Texas land.  A celebration of the Gulf Coast.  It would be one component of a celebration of French Texas and an opportunity for wonderful Victorian architecture.

The land would house a Great 1900 Hurricane simulator ride, perhaps using the Stormrider technology.  A French Victorian Haunted Mansion.  Pirate's experiences - after all Galveston was Lafitte's island.  And a docked Yellowstone Steamboat.

The land would also house a signature table-service Gulf seafood restaurant like Gaido's. Classic seafood, not Cajun.  That's next, for the land would border a river that separates it from the other side.  Separating it from the more deep wood Gulf Coast.

The first railroad stop would also be here, with a train depot inspired by the classic Union Depot in Galveston.

The next land up would be the Blue Bayou, a celebration of the deep Gulf Coast.  Of Cajun Texas and of the Golden Triangle.  This would be much more heavily wooded.  This is the land of gumbo, of boudin, of jambalaya and red beans and rice.  The land of zydeco.

The land would house a Princess and the Frog dark ride, as well as a Bayou Gusher space shot ride (like Geyser Mountain) inspired by Spindletop.  There would also be a Gumbo Shack for the best in Cajun and Creole cuisine.

The next land and the one directly behind the Hall of State, would be the State Fair.  This would be a version of the State Fair in Dallas, that would allow for the incorporation of more Disney characters.  This would be most noticeable by a Woody from Toy Story version of Big Tex, complete with voiced announcements. If desired, the land could even be completely Toy Story.  It could be the Toy Story Fair.

He's almost wearing Woody's colors
This land also gives a lot of flexibility in ride additions.  There would be a Texas Twister roller-coaster (a fake wooden steel roller coaster like California Screamin). Here the Mickey Ear loop could be placed back in.  There would be a Lone Star Ferris wheel, a carousel, a swings ride, a Dumbo-esque spinner, and a teacup ride.  There could be a Pecos Bill dark ride.  Midway games and even Toy Story Midway Mania.  Corn dog stands, funnel cakes, and cotton candy.  Disney could even partner with the vendors from the State Fair to bring the winning creation from the food contests to the park.

If needed, this land could be a small sliver of midway leading directly out of the Hall of State to the north, with the attractions all outside the berm, beyond the railroad tracks.  This would be the location for the second train station, with a train depot inspired by the art deco T&P Station in Fort Worth or the Fair Park Station addition.

T&P Station
By Renelibrary - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Fair Park Station
The next land would be Space Center.  A recognition of modern Texas and the connection of Houston to NASA.  The land would contain an Astrodome recreation (perhaps with a version of Space Mountain in it). Mission: Space (at least the Soarin' over the Earth green version) in a Space Center like building, which would also house a planetarium. A space shuttle recreation for exploration.  And an observation tower like Reunion Tower in Dallas.

Reunion tower dallas texas 051605 kdh.jpg
By Kevin D. Hartnell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The next land up would be Thunder Mesa.  Our West Texas section, the cowboy section.  This is another reason why the traditional Frontierland would be left out of the Texas DisneySea park.  The attractions and experiences work better here.  This land would house Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, as well as a mini-mine train through Nature's Wonderland.  A shooting gallery.  Big Thunder Ranch, with petting zoo.  A chuck wagon stand serving Texas chili (no beans only).  And a BBQ restaurant.  BBQ, Chili, and country music.

The last additional railroad station would be here.  Modeled after the depot in Sierra Blanca, this is the stereotypical Texas train depot.

The final land would be New Walterburg, a celebration of the Czech and German heritage in Texas.  It's almost an offshoot of Pecan street, another slice of small town life, here in Central Texas.

The land would house a classic water tower with the New Walterburg name facing this portion of the park.  The tower would occasionally "leak," spraying guests with a nice mist, cooling them down in the hot summer months.

There would be a dance hall like Gruene Hall serving as the Golden Horseshoe for the park.  Counter service dining and live entertainment.

Gruene July 2017 1 (Gruene Hall).jpg
By Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

There would also be a Scholz Garden inspired table service restaurant for a German inspired breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Chicken fried steak and schnitzel.

Scholz garden 2007.jpg
By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Plus, there would have to be a bakery for quick access to kolaches and klobasnek at all times of day.

The signature attraction would be a tubing river rapids ride, with Marc Davis-style animal sight gags along the way, perhaps with longhorn cattle.

All in all, this is really the one park that I would most want to see realized.  A celebration of everything great in Texas.

The resort would then be flanked by a dining, shopping, and entertainment district called Disney's Sixth, modeled after Sixth Street in Austin.  Presuming the shopping district does not get built in Hong Kong first, it would be Disney's sixth such district (if you count Ikspari in Tokyo).  There would also be two hotels, the DisneySea Hotel, themed to a grand East Coast hotel like the Knickerbocker in Manhattan (to tie in with the Port of Entry section) and the Grand Texan Hotel, themed to a grand cattle baron/oil baron ranch like the King Ranch.

(c) King Ranch
It would be a great and grand resort and I would love to see it come to life.


As always, thank you for indulging me in this particularly long thought exercise.  Next in the series, regional entertainment offerings.  Potential opportunities for smaller Disney themed experiences.

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