Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Reminder

I have gained a lot of new readers and a few new Facebook friends over the past couple of days and with that, I wanted to pass along a reminder about the content of the blog.

Mr. Thomas calls this "The Rachel Rule."  His rule states that there will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or will go against anything or everything you possibly believe in.  I don't know if my reminder will go that far, but I want to lay a few ground rules and things you need to know about me.

So, without further ado:
  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  I also hold them more accountable partly because they are in power, and I'm going to criticize whoever has power more than those in the minority.
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all to often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church (like the president of Southwestern Theological Seminary) or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
  • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
  • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
  • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
  • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts then informed opinions then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
For those Facebook friends, you can look back to rants on my page to see how I moderate.  I will push for discussion, but it is only in the interest of trying to reach common ground and continuing discussion.  It should be easier than we all too often make it.

I do want to thank everyone again who is reading.  It really does amaze me that people are.  I am humbled by the response.

I did want to get this out there though so if this is not someone's cup of tea, they can back out now.

Thank You

To everyone who reads this blog, thank you.

As I mentioned in my first post, I started this just as a writing exercise, primarily to get prepared to write and adapt a stage play for Jamie's next season.  The goal was to get in practice in finding my voice and writing on a variety of topics.  And sometimes the purpose was just to get ideas out of my head.   I never anticipated that anything I wrote would be read to the extent that it has been.

I have been humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading or ever liked a post, thank you.  I received a private message yesterday that I wanted to especially thank for the kind words, but it seems to have disappeared from Messenger before I could respond.

So, again, thank you for reading.  Thank you for commenting.  It is appreciated more than you could know.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 9 - Disney Hollywood Studios

The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood - not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic.  We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was - and always will be.

Michael Eisner, May 1, 1989


Disney Hollywood Studios (or Disney MGM Studios, if you prefer) has always been one of my favorite parks.  Part of it was the age I discovered the park; getting to experience it at 11 and 13, just a little after the park had opened.  Primarily, I think the attachment stemmed from the combination of so many things I loved and was fascinated by: old Hollywood, old movies, movie making, and Disney.

The early Disney Hollywood Studios maintained a focus on movie magic.  A focus on the how.  Imagineer Tony Baxter used to sum up the parks at Walt Disney World  by saying that the Magic Kingdom was "magic made real," EPCOT was "real is magic," and Disney Hollywood Studios was "how the magic is made."  Accordingly, the park had many attractions that pulled back the current and showed you how sound effects were made, how stunts were achieved, or how a green screen works.  There were opportunities to be in the movies.  And there were actual film and television productions that were housed within/adjacent to the park.

The park is shifting its focus now to allow guests to step into the realm of their favorite movies.  To not just be a part of filming a new Star Wars movie, but to be able to step into a living Star Wars community like Batuu.  To become one of Andy's toys, etc.

This presents a clear vision that can still meet the stated goals of the dedication.  It also presents challenges in restructuring the park and removing a lot of the existing but underused production facilities.

Primary Goals:

  • Disney Hollywood Studios needs more rides.  The park has always had an imbalance regarding attraction types, leaning heavily on theater based attractions, whether live or screen.  The park as a whole will have only nineteen attractions after Star Wars: Galaxies Edge comes on line next year.  Of that total, nine are rides.  
  • Further, Disney Hollywood Studios needs more attractions and rides in particular for the whole family.   The attractions that currently exist skew towards an older demographic. Of the nine rides in the park, only one ride does not have a height restriction (Toy Story Mania!).  That includes the rides in the upcoming Toy Story Playland, both of which have height restrictions (though the Alien Swirling Saucers is fairly low).
  • Disney Hollywood Studios needs more walkways to connect and complete a "loop" around the park.  There are currently too many dead ends in the park as it exists.  The Muppet Courtyard, Sunset Boulevard, and the Animation Courtyard all create dead ends that limit traffic flow and increase congestion.  
  • The prevalence of screens and live theater attractions should be put to greater use for seasonal and flexible overlays.
  • Existing facilities should be adapted for all day use.
With these goals in mind, I’ll walk through each land in the park and discuss the updates.  I'll be walking through the park clockwise from Hollywood Boulevard, heading through Echo Lake first and working around to Sunset Boulevard.  This is generally the approach we take in visiting the park, so it makes the most sense to me to approach it this way in addressing the parks needs and changes.

Hollywood Boulevard:
Hollywood Boulevard is one of the most magical places in Walt Disney World.  A wonderfully representative "Main Street" for Hollywood, particularly now that the view to the Chinese Theater is restored.  I love the architecture.  I love the Citizens of Hollywood.  And while I know a red car trolley was originally planned to go down Hollywood and Sunset, I would not add it.  Let that be a California exclusive.  I love this main strip just as it is.

Generally, I have been leaving Disney's announced plans in place, but I'm making one exception for Disney Hollywood Studios.  The conversion of the Great Movie Ride to Mickey's Runaway Railway bothers me terribly.  The Great Movie ride was a thesis ride for the park and really summed up the idea of the "Hollywood that never existed but always will."  It was a reminder of cinema past and a celebration of the history of film.  The ride should have been updated and it should have been better maintained, but that is not an excuse to replace it.  Further, Mickey needs a ride, but this is the completely wrong location.  I would keep The Great Movie Ride in place, particularly should the 20th Century Fox acquisition finalize.  I would however, rework the ride, so that it focuses on properties that Disney or its Studios own (no more licensing deals).  You could restructure the ride so that it is a journey through genres.  Imagine if you started through musicals this time including a Shirley Temple scene (Curly Top - "Animal Crackers in my soup" perhaps) and a nod to the Sound of Music.  Next then is noir/crime with Call Northside 777 or The French Connection.  I would keep Clint Eastwood in the western scene and update John Wayne's clothing or replace him with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for the western section.  Alien stays or is replaced by Star Wars (specifically the beginning scenes where Vader boards).  Raiders stays, but the horror end is replace by Young FrankensteinTarzan is replaced by the Planet of the ApesCasablanca replaced by The Seven Year Itch (small space for one iconic scene and you do not get much more iconic than the subway grate).  Fantasia stays.  The Wizard of Oz is replaced by Mary Poppins.  Finally, the movie montage at the end gets 20th Century Fox, Pixar, Disney, Lucasfilm, and Marvel properties.  The TCM sponsorship and narration remains, though slightly tweaked now with Ben Mankiewicz narrating.  This sponsorship is key as it should play into other parts of the park and studios as well.  For instance, the memoriam portion of the Academy Awards ceremony should always be farmed out to TCM.  Their TCM Remembers montages are always better put together and more complete.

I would also work on the exterior of the attraction, so that spaces could be created for new handprint ceremonies in front of the theater.

Echo Lake:
Echo Lake as well will largely remain the same.  I love the buildings and the restaurants that surround it.  I would want to add fountains, more lighting effects, and potentially a water cannon (for a cannonball effect) to Echo Lake itself for use in the nightly fireworks/general entertainment.  The ABC Commissary and Sci-Fi Dine in remain the same.

Echo Lake
I would replace the Frozen Sing-Along with an updated Superstar Television.  This section kind of forms a mini-ABC Studios section with the Commissary so I would want some nod to television here.  It is also a great space to have available as a flexible use space for the various festivals and celebrations I would recommend.  The updated Superstar Television could still have classic episodes like the Golden Girls or I Love Lucy, but really should have newer television examples to be green screened into.

Next door, I would replace the Path of the Jedi with an Industrial Light and Magic Special Effects show.  While the focus of the park is generally shifting to living the films, the park is still perfect to have a few "how the magic is made" type of attractions.  Industrial Light and Magic is perfect for this given their attachment to so many of the properties in the park.  A theater attraction where the effects spill out of the screen and into the guests would be amazing.

From there, I head to a new Indiana Jones themed land.

Indiana Jones: The Lost Temple
I would replace the current Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular with the entire Indiana Jones complex from Tokyo Disneysea. This would include the Indiana Jones Adventure ride, the Raging Spirits roller coaster, and the Yucatan Base Camp Grill.

New Indiana Jones Land
This may require a slight push outward into the parking lots, and would replace the Backlot Express restaurant and Jedi Training Academy (though this would move to Galaxies Edge) as well as the Stunt Spectacular.  The current Indiana Jones store next to the 50s Diner would remain given the proximity.  Overall, I think this would be a great step up.

Guardians of the Galaxy Mini-Land:
Star Tours would be replaced by Galaxy Tours, featuring Guardians of the Galaxy.  This would be perfect here just as in Disneyland.  The experience is essentially the same, but with Rocket as your pilot and baby Groot on the dash.  The soundtrack is now an awesome mega-mix and you are visiting Hala, Xandar, Knowwhere, Ego, etc.

The outside would be rethemed to Xandar, as a Galactic Travel Depot, with the nearby Tatooine Traders renovated to be the Collector's Outpost.

Further, I would love to see a little tie in with the Sci-Fi Dine-In by showing little Guardians Clips in a classic B-Movie style.

Grand Avenue/Muppet Courtyard:
Grand Avenue has gone through a great renovation from the previous Streets of America.  Cynically, it is recognizable that this is an expansion of the holding pen for Galaxies Edge, but it truly has opened this space up in a way that is wonderful.  And the tie to the Muppets has been fun.

I would add Muppets to the second and third floor windows on the Grand Avenue side for a "The Muppets Present...Great Moments in American History" like experience.  Generic citizens of Grand Avenue fun conversations.

Updated Muppet Courtyard
Across the way in the Grand Avenue Park/Muppet Courtyard, I would make a few tweaks.  PizzaRizzo is a great addition, that could stand to be plussed just a little more in the Muppet zany direction.  The Grand Avenue Theater should really be renamed to the Muppet Theater for MuppetVision*3D.  For MuppetVision*3D, I would shoot three additional films, all in a Cinemagique style journey through the movies with the Muppets.  First a summer blockbuster spoof with the Muppets (Muppet versions of Star Wars, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, etc.).  Then a Monster Movie spoof set with the Muppets for Halloween.  Then a Muppet Christmas Carol version for Christmas.  That way, the show can be rotated between the four versions throughout the year.

The Muppet Central Store in the center of the courtyard would be torn down.  Likewise, Mama Melrose's would be torn down so that expansion could occur towards the back.  Mama Melrose's would be reopened as the Swedish Chef's in a new configuration pushing out toward the parking lot.  The restaurant would have television screens that would allow you to see the Swedish Chef in the kitchen making your dish.

The store would be relocated to the back corner of the Muppet Theater.  The store would be smaller to include only Muppet merchandise and a What-Not Creation shop.

In the new open space, I would add a Whatnot Roundabout carousel populated by odd looking Muppet characters.

Toward the back, I would add the Great Muppet Ride.  There was an old proposal to have a Great Muppet Movie Ride, a parody of the Great Movie Ride with the Muppets spoofing all of the classic films.  I would go in a different direction with essentially a Great Muppet Ride Ride.  In my way of thinking, a guest would enter a ride that looks to be completely a Muppet Treasure Island Ride.  At some point in the opening scene, Crazy Harry would light a cannon and blow up a wall, sending you off course in the ride.  As you bust through the wall, you essentially break into the "ride" next door.  Great Moments with Sam the Eagle, The Enchanted Chicken Coop, Pigs In Space Mountain, The Fozzie Bear Jamboree, Mr. Frog's Wild Ride, etc.  It would be loaded with sight gags and nods to Disney attractions and Muppets that would keep guests coming back to catch them all.

Star Wars: Galaxies Edge:
Like Disneyland, I have the same issues with this space, and they are exacerbated by the choices in the Starcruiser hotel that is connected to this area.

Disney tried something new with Galaxy's Edge and tried to swing for the fences, but seems to have only hit a solid double, not the home run they intended.  The land is incredibly impressive in its scope and design, crafting this massive amount of rock work and technical design.  Just walking upon the Millennium Falcon is a moment in and of itself.  And Rise of the Resistance is one of the most impressive rides ever built, when it works.  

The troubles with the land are two fold - the lack of life in the land and the stubborn adherence to the single point timeline, holding everything in between films 8 and 9.  Addressing the first point, the land as it exists feels soulless.   There was a decision made to make this feel like everyone is experiencing their own Star Wars adventure, as if they were living in the movie.  But this was translated by removing movie-like aspects, such as a score.  As such, the land doesn't have background music, just natural diegetic sound.  It's a miss understanding of what people want.  They want to feel like they are a part of the movie, all of the movie, not just living in the world the movie creates.  They want the John Williams score, they want the romance of adventure.  It's all part and parcel of the experience. 

In addition to the lack of music, the lack of droids and aliens makes the land feel empty.  The concept art of Galaxy's Edge showed a land filled with free roaming droids and aliens, as you would expect in a busy Star Wars space port.  A land brimming with entertainment if you will.  Unfortunately, these were all cut in the land as part of budget restrictions prior to opening.  To make matters worse, we saw them be added to the Star Wars hotel instead, putting them behind a several thousand dollar pay wall.  

Finally, the land suffers by being locked into a particular point and time in the Star Wars universe.  To further the "reality" of the experience, Imagineers decided all rides and experiences in Galaxy's Edge take place between The Last Jedi and the Rise of Skywalker.  This means the only characters you can meet have to exist between those two movies.  So no Darth Vader, no Darth Maul, no Luke, no Leia, no Han, etc.  It's a decision that can sound good on paper, locking this into a true live-action roleplay experience - but practically, it again misses the mark of what people want.  People want a Star Wars land where they can have their experiences with their favorite stories and characters. Why have a Millennium Falcon ride, if Han is not a part of it.  If Darth Vader is one of the top villains of all time, why is there not a way to meet him in a Star Wars land.  

Accordingly, there are a few changes that need to take place to make Galaxy's Edge placed for the future.  First, there has to be a loosening of the live-action roleplay aspect.  Let's add in the John Williams background music.  Let's add in lighting that may not be 100% realistic, but really sells the land.  Let's look at this back as a theme-park land, in addition to a film set experience.  

Second, free the timeline.  There are a couple of ways to do this, but I lean into creating pockets of space for each of the Star Wars eras.  If we are going clockwise, as we have gone around the park, this would make the eras occur in reverse.  As you enter from Muppets, you would first encounter the sequel era trilogy, with the land around Rise of the Resistance.  This would be the area for BB8, Rey, and Kylo Ren, as well as the First Order Troopers.  The market would be set in the gap era.  This becomes the place for Din Djarin, Grogu, Ahsoka, Moff Gideon, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, etc.  The area around Millennium Falcon is original trilogy.  So Luke, Leia, Han, Chewi, R2D2, stormtroopers and Vader, as well as the Rebels crew.  And with a slight reworking of Smugglers Run, we add it Han and Jaba, etc.   Finally, the area around First Order Cargo and the milk stand to the prequel trilogy.  Darth Maul, stormtroopers, Qui Gon, Obi Wan, Anakin, Padme, etc.  This gives every era space and gives guidance for expansion.  Plus, it helps alleviate the need for Star Tours as the full Star Wars representative, allowing it to be repurposed.

The final need for the land is to expand and add things that should have been there in the first place.  Bring in the free roaming droids, and aliens and other "citizens" with stunt shows on the roofs to make the land feel alive.  Add a Jedi Temple with the Jedi Training that used to take place in Tomorrowland to the prequel area space.  Add in the planned supper club table service restaurant with the Twi'lek singer.  And add in the third ride, the Bantha ride.  I know this would be very low capacity and would crowd the paths, but it would add to the life of the land and would be a great all ages option for the land.   

The implementation here also has room for another ride, given the additional space created in this park.  There's room for a small flat ride in the space near the retaining wall at the bottom of the land.  I can envision something like a droid demolition derby.

With these factors addressed, Galaxy's Edge becomes its fully-realized self and a great complement to the rest of the park.

Toy Story Playland:
I like the addition of Toy Story Playland, but feel it is being woefully underbuilt in a park that is desperate for capacity.  The new addition is bringing Woody's Lunch Box counter service window with outdoor seating, Alien Swirling Saucers whip-ride, and Slinky Dog Dash family coaster.  It will be absorbing the existing Toy Story Mania Ride with a new entrance in the new land side.

First for the planned addition, I would make one change.  I would push the Woody's Lunch Box counter closer to the Toy Story Mania building, so that it frees up a larger portion of the land for another flat ride.  In it's place, I would add a "Snake in My Boot" caterpillar style attraction (like the previous Slinky Zig Zag ride), themed to a wooden snake toy.

Toy Story Playland and Burton Addition
The land also requires additional attractions.  To do so, I would push further beyond the Slinky Dog Dash toward the Animation Courtyard, eliminating the need for the "wooden fence" on the parking garage.  In the additional Toy Story land space, the goal is to expand the attraction base.

I would add the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop from the other Toy Story lands, but would lower it to the Jumpin' Jellyfish Height.  This would be centered in the expansion.

Further, I would add the Poultry Palace "kids meal" box style Turkey Leg Stand on the side near the Walt Disney Presents building.  Likewise, I would place an appropriate box toy style vending cart.

On the outer edge, I would add a Toy Box Revue Theater for a Country Bear-esque animatronic show.  Here with a windup band, Wheezy, Tin Toy, etc.

Further, I would add a Pizza Planet full service restaurant themed to a Pizza Planet playset.  Should be almost exactly like Pizza Planet in the movies.  This would be a perfect place for Toy Story character dining opportunities.

This will expansion will take the longest as this is all in space currently inhabited by production and backstage facilities, many of which will need to be relocate offsite and then bulldozed to start the expansion.

Expanded Playland and Toon Avenue
Just like the changes to the Animation Courtyard.

Animation Courtyard/Toon Avenue:
The Animation Courtyard is key to park expansion as it represents the connection point between Toy Story Playland and Sunset Boulevard.  It completes the circle.  Accordingly, the Animation Courtyard will be undergoing a transformation into Toon Avenue.

Toon Avenue will focus on the traditional "fab five" related Disney cartoon characters and properties adjacent to them (like Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, etc.).  This is where the Mickey's Runaway Railway attraction should be added.

The Disney Jr. attraction will be replaced by the CafeToonia.  This space used to be the Soundstage Restaurant, as it shares facilities with the Brown Derby and the former Catwalk Bar.  The Catwalk Bar is being converted into Disney Hollywood Studios' Club 33 location.  Accordingly, I'd like to bring this space back to a restaurant.  This could be the "fab five" character dining location.  An All-American cafeteria interpreted through a Toon Town architecture style.

On past that on the right would be a section for a shop, followed by a Dumbo-esque spinner themed rotating airplanes, called Launchpad's Crash Course.  It's important that this corner be open to expand sightlines from the animation courtyard around into the market space off Sunset.  It helps serve as a visual weenie in the space.

Likewise, the spot directly across from it will get a Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters lps-style attraction themed to Benny the Cab, with guests doing the Toontown Taxi Tango.  Again, the goal for this attraction is to have something open air, that allows views into the adjacent Toy Story Playland, drawing people to each land.

From there, additional shops and meet and greet spaces for the classic Disney Characters.

The back of the land contains Mickey's Runaway Railway in the Toontown Theater.  This will be sufficiently large enough to help hide most of the Rock n' Roller Coaster, with the gravity room portion getting painted go-away blue at the top (or just painted like a Toon Sky Scraper).

Burton Boulevard:
I would also like to reclaim the current Pixar Place space from becoming backstage.  This location creates a valuable walkway and would also correspond to the third Galaxies Edge entrance at Disneyland, which could be a valuable addition to the Disney Hollywood Studios version.

In this space, I would love to pay homage to another Disney collaborator that does not always fit into other Disney themed lands: Tim Burton.

Starting down this path, I would leave the Walt Disney Presents space largely as it is, though it would become the designated film promotional theater.  With EPCOT getting many of the theme park based exhibits and the One Man's Dream film, this space would house the film exhibits and would contain the rotating film promotions.  A movie based park should have a space dedicated to history and promotion of the upcoming film.  Likewise, space could be used for the promotional meet and greets - the characters in the film that is being shown in the theater space.  A great flex space for festivals as well.

Reemphasized for Burton Boulevard (the black line)
To get an attraction space, the third track of Toy Story Mania would have to go down once all of the other additional family rides have been built.  This should decrease the demand for Toy Story Mania, allowing this separate third track to be reconfigured.  In this space, I would build a Nightmare Before Christmas darkride.  The old painted flats, blacklight approach seems perfect for this property.

Along the other side of the corridor, there is space for a Sparky's Franken-Weenies hot dog stand, merchandise vending in the current area and meet and greet space, as well as a Jack and Sally (and perhaps Oogie Boogie) meet and greet location to be created at the end of the street in the expansion area.

If a ride could be built for Edward Scissorhands (20th Century Fox film) in the expansion, that would be a great use (as I think Galaxies Edge will be sufficient until a completely new Star Wars land can be built in another location).

The rest of the corridor would be dressed appropriately for a Burton film, with the architecture darkened.  Movie posters for Frankenweenie, James and the Giant Peach, Alice and Dumbo repainted to look more like B-movies would be perfect for the area.

Sunset Boulevard:
Sunset Boulevard would remain largely the same.  It houses two of the most popular attractions and well designed merchandise and dining options.  My focuses in the area are to better utilize the Theater of the Stars space and to rework Fantasmic to allow for a daytime use.

Sunset Expansion
The Theater of the Stars would be pushed back from Sunset and enclosed to represent much more of a Broadway-style theater.  Since the Hyperion is taken in California, I would name this the Buena Vista Theater.  The new theater would house a new production like the Golden Mickey's or Mickey and the Magician.

This new side street leading up to the theater would also be able to house a couple of different attractions. One would be a copy of Roger Rabbit's Toon Town Spin.  A copy of the attraction from Disneyland and Tokyo, which would serve an important purpose for time and place setting on Sunset.

The attraction on the other side would be the Toontown Trolley simulator ride, this time with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit at the controls.  I would even call this attraction Oswald's Trolley Troubles.

Fantasmic! would receive an overhaul both in terms of the attraction space and in terms of the show and storyline.  To anyone who has seen both Disneyland's Fantasmic! and Disney Hollywood Studios' Fantasmic!, Disneyland's is far superior.  It seems to magically come into existence, has two full size boats used in the show, and a lot of additional effects.  With Fantasmic in Disney Hollywood Studios, you know you are entering a theater essentially and know that a show will begin.  The pieces that follow do not necessarily fit together.

The goal would be to make the space more purpose built.  The mountain would go away, as there is no need to maintain the illusion that you are somewhere else.  I would replace it with a Hollywood Bowl stage that could be filled with props as needed and where Mickey could appear on a platform on top of the Bowl, just as he does with the mountain. The bowl like stage would also help this space be used for other shows.

The show would be reworked into a Hollywood Fantasmic! show.  Dreams of stardom and Hollywood lights.  It would incorporate things from Disney live action productions as well as animation, including the Nautilus battle with a giant squid.  I would build a full Black Pearl for a pirates segment and a full true steamboat closer to the one in Steamboat Willie for the finale.  New segments could be added and the lighting, sound, projection, and fountain equipment would all be updated.

The seated space would get canopies to help allow this space to be used in the daytime, potentially for concerts, for live productions, etc.  It could even be a daytime show with the fountains.  The space is too large and valuable not to be greater utilized.

Further, changing to the Bowl like space would allow for nights where Fantasmic is not shown, but the stage is used for The Music of Pixar Live show that the studios housed last year, having an orchestra play Pixar music with accompanying movie clips. This would be a big benefit to the festival atmosphere I hope to create.

The Tower of Terror would remain the same, but would get the Tip Top Club added to the space at the exit.  A small bar with themed concoctions.

The Sunset Showcase would be put into use as a more permanent Diamond Horseshoe-like dinner theater, with entertainment coming from the latest acts of the nearby G Force Records.  It would still be adaptable as a flex space for the various festivals and celebrations, in addition to the Disney YES and music groups.

Seasonal Overlays:
Disney Hollywood Studios has the greatest potential for overlays given the proliferation of screen based attractions and live theater/stage shows, both of which are easier to change out.  For the seasons, the park should get significant Halloween and Christmas offerings, ramped up from the current status.

For Halloween, the park should offer a slightly more spooky offering than the Magic Kingdom "Not So Scary" celebration.   With the addition of the Nightmare Before Christmas ride, Jack Skellington should be the guide for the time of year, with a focus on monster movies and villains.  The giant monster Muppets could be set loose.  The Dark Side takes control of Galaxies Edge.  Monsters Inc. set up a film studio to capture screams/laughs.  Etc.  A new spooky/monster movie fireworks show would be added to the Chinese Theater area, focusing on things like Monsters Inc., Monsters University, Nightmare Before Christmas, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Watcher in the Woods, The Adventures of Ichabod Crane, The Lonesome Ghosts, Frankenweenie, etc.  It could be titled Disney's Halloween Treat (after the television special).  Toy Story Mania would get new animation for Halloween, and MuppetVision*3D would get a monster movie spoof film.  The studio should also be working now on Halloween animation for Mickey's Runaway Railway.  Tower of Terror would get the Late Check Out pitch black ride experience during Halloween.   Further, I would explore changing out Rock 'n Roller Coaster to be a Shock n Roller Coaster featuring KISS experience for Halloween.

For Christmas, the current offerings would be  beefed up.  Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam is a fun projection and fireworks show and the idea of the Prep & Landing Crew running the parks Christmas celebrations is a good one.  The Sunset Seasons atmospheric show was a great addition last year, as was moving more of the decorations into the park around the Echo Lake area.  I would continue this with a MuppetVision*3D Muppet Christmas Carol film and a walk-around Spirit of Christmas Present character.  Galaxies Edge can celebrate Life Day.  The toys in Toy Story Playland can celebrate new additions of Christmas presents and Toy Story Mania would get new animation for Christmas.  As above, the studio should be working on animation now for a Christmas Mickey's Runaway Railway.  Rock 'n Roller Coaster would become the Jingle Bell Rock 'n Roller Coaster with a storyline needing to get the gifts to Santa as quickly as possible with Run, Run Rudolph and the Jingle Bell Rock as example songs.

I would further add several celebrations throughout the year giving the park a festival like atmosphere.  Particularly a film festival atmosphere.  As outlined in Why Disney Hollywood Studios Should Adopt A Festival Model Like EPCOT, I would envision the following celebrations
  • Muppet Mania in January/early February
  • TCM Classic around Oscar season
  • Star Wars Weekends in late March through the end of May
  • Pixar Fest from June through August
Each with their own specific offerings including fireworks and parades.

The park should also throw a big Oscar party.  In addition to the picture opportunity with an Oscar statue, I would roll out the red carpet literally down Hollywood Boulevard, making each night like a premier.  There would be an "And the Oscar Goes To..." fireworks show focusing on the winners of the Disney Studios.  This would be the perfect time to partner for the TCM celebration to have a handprint ceremony for classic actors and to focus on the classic films in the Disney and 20th Century Fox libraries.

Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars:
With the focus on festivals and seasons, they become the driving force for parades and nighttime spectaculars.  The constant would be the updated Hollywood Fantasmic! as a default offering throughout the year.  The rest would be updated for the particular celebration.

The fireworks would be centralized around Chinese Theater, but would be upgraded so that the experience is creating a giant outdoor 4D theater experience, pulling in the best tricks from Disneyland and the other fireworks experiences.  The theater already uses projection mapping and fire in addition to the fireworks behind it (and off to the right).  I would add inflatables on the roofs of the Hollywood Boulevard shops, bubbles, snow, water, wind (fans), confetti cannons, searchlights, and fountains/water cannons in Echo Lake itself to create a more immersive experience for each of the shows.

I would further add another fireworks launch location to balance the fireworks to the left and right of the theater.  Currently, they are offset to the right and cannot be centralized due to the fallout location over Galaxies Edge.  I would at least balance them with another launch location to the left.

Park Overview
This would put the additional fireworks launch site on the other side of the Star Wars Boutique Hotel.  This will be fine, as the hotel will not have windows, but will be focused on the internal experience.

Further, these expansions will require a reworking of the parking lot.  Ideally, part of the parking lot would be converted to a parking garage to absorb larger crowds and put the greater number of guests near the entrance.

For the parades and fireworks celebrations, I would create the following schedule:

  • During Muppet Mania - the Magnificent Muppet All-Star Motorcade and Muppets in the Sky
  • During TCM Classic Film Fest - bring back a Stars and Motorcars Parade and the And the Oscar Goes to fireworks show
  • During Star Wars Weekends - the March of the First Order and the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show
  • During Pixar Fest - Pixar Play Parade and Together Forever
  • During Halloween - Disney's Halloween Treat
  • During Christmas - Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam

Cartoon Mascot:
For Disney Hollywood Studios, I would choose Roger Rabbit.  Roger's story is set in the golden age of Hollywood and his film came out around the opening of the park. The park initially had a ton of references to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the park could be stronger for restoring those ties (like the Valiant and Valiant window with the Roger Rabbit cutout in the blinds above Hollywood and Dine).


As always, thanks for sticking through this with me.  Next up in the series is Disney's Animal Kingdom, perhaps the strongest theme park in North America.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Jamie has been mentioning how she has seen a rise in depression in her high school students over the near decade she has been teaching.   And she’s seen it in a variety of forms, especially in the way that it seems the first month of school has become therapy in the form of theater games. 

Wills Point was rocked by the suicide of a student in the fall.  Now Buna has been rocked by one here at the end of the year. 

So it seems important to discuss depression and to do so repeatedly.  In doing so, the title of this blog is the most important thing I can relay. It’s okay to not be okay. 

The greatest lie that depression achieves is to convince you that you are alone. That no one else has suffered this way. That no one else can know, can relate, can understand what you are going through. 

The truth is, most of us are not okay most of the time. We are all dealing with some physical, mental, or situational struggle that we keep inside. We put on a mask to deal with the world, to pretend like everything is okay, when really we have just learned to cope.  Some better than others.

I don't say this to belittle anyone's struggle, but please know that whatever you are going through, it is very likely someone else has faced the same struggle.  In this world of social media, it's all to easy to imagine the picture perfect lives that are presented on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. represent exactly how someone else's life is going, instead of representing the best of what they choose to share.

So, if you are struggling, please hear me. You are not alone. There is someone who cares. There is someone who will listen.

If you need to talk to someone, there are outlets. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

It’s really okay to not be okay. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

Today is a day for remembrance.  To remember the sacrifice of those who have served and gave the last full measure of devotion.  To honor their legacy.

If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say? Would they console us? Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they’d be called upon to storm a beach through a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom; that while they could not know they’d be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn’t possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.

What is this thing—this sense of duty? What tugs at a person until he or she says, 'Send me'? Why, in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of the narrowest self interest, have the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others? Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden?

Whatever it is, they felt some tug; they answered a call; they said, 'I’ll go.' That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those who’ve not served in uniform: Their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.
President Barack Obama

May we never forget.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why I Love My Church 2 - Stonepoint Serves

"You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."
Galatians 5:13

This is one of my favorite Sundays of the whole year.  Stonepoint Serves.  We take one Sunday out of the year and do not just go to church, we remember that we are the Church.

This Sunday, we will all meet at 9:00 am.  One "service" where we will sing a couple of hymns/choruses and say a prayer.  That's it at the church.  From there, we will go out and spend the morning serving and meeting needs in the community.  Yard work, small construction projects, painting, whatever needs we can address.  Journey Groups (small groups/Sunday School-like classes) will meet and work together on specific projects they have noticed and identified within the group.  Other church members will tackle projects identified by nomination or request.

It's about giving back to the community.  About making the community better.  About serving and meeting the needs that we can see or are brought to our attention.  About feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned.

And it makes an impact.  We can see it and observe it.

Could you imagine if all churches could do this?  What would it look like if every church took one Sunday morning to go out and serve?  For it to be such a priority that they took the regularly scheduled worship time to serve?  What would our community look like?

In a quick search, I can identify twenty four churches in Wills Point, Texas alone.  If every church took one Sunday, that works out to the Church serving the community nearly every other Sunday.  And it does not matter if the church has five members or five hundred members, it is still the church getting out of its walls and acting as the hands and feet of Christ, whether in one project or fifty.

Full confession, I write this as Jamie and I are visiting family in San Antonio and not able to be a part of the activities this morning.  But we are anxiously looking forward to serving with our Journey Group on an alternate date.  And we would love it if the church added one or more Stonepoint Serves Sundays throughout the year.

It's a reminder that our call is to care for and serve our neighbor just as much as it is to evangelize.  Loving them requires both.

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Ephesians 2:10

The Living Bible translates this passage as "It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others."  The "good works" reference is service.  It is what we are to be about, to serve God and to serve others; to serve God by serving others.

Further, where it mentions "God's handiwork", it should be translated as a work of an artisan, not just of a craftsman.  We are the pinnacle of God's workmanship.  His masterpiece.

So let's go serve and live like it.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Why Disney Hollywood Studios Should Adopt a Festival Model like EPCOT

Like Why moving it's a small world to EPCOT benefits both EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom, the  following is reprinting from a letter drafted to the Walt Disney Company arguing Disney Hollywood Studios should adopt a festival park model like EPCOT has used..  I'm sending it to Bob Iger, Bob Chapek, and the president of the Disney Hollywood Studios.  As before, hopefully it will be read.


Disney Hollywood Studios has always been one of my favorite theme parks.  It combines my love of movies, old Hollywood, and Disney to great affect.  Further, the original mission of the park to show how movie magic was achieved fascinated my young mind. 

As the park is changing from a focus on real movie magic and movie making to stepping into the worlds presented in the movies, it seems the park is struggling to best utilize the park layout and facilities that remain.  In thinking through the various ways people interact with film, I thought to film festivals and the celebrations of all that films encompass that they represent.

I believe this struggle of the park can be solve by adding a festival atmosphere and focus to Disney Hollywood Studios similar to the way EPCOT uses the Festival of the Arts, Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, and Festival of the Holidays to flesh out the park offerings.  I believe this will work for three primary reasons:
  1. The park already has plenty of screen based and semi-flexible spaces that can be utilized in the festivals for specific and varying offerings.
  2. Disney already has key strategic partnerships and acquisitions that could be leveraged to great affect for the festivals.
  3. Disney Hollywood Studios, in particular, has already offered a very successful festival-like offering in its past.

Beyond film festivals, one of the ways that I arrived at this conclusion was thinking about the Pixar Fest offering that is occurring at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.  Once Toy Story Playland is online, Pixar Fest would be the perfect offering for Disney Hollywood Studios.  A projection heavy fireworks show that could be transferred to the park well in Together Forever.  Several exclusive food and shopping options that would be a draw into the park.  Plenty of Pixar shorts that could be shown in one theater, with an almost yearly movie offering that could be shown in the preview space.  Rare characters that could be brought out for meet and greets.  And opportunities for voice talent and animators to come down for special offerings during the festival.  Like Star Wars Weekends, I think Pixar Fest could be a significant draw.

This type of offering works due to the flexible nature of the park.  More than any other park, Disney Hollywood Studios is set up for seasonal and temporary offerings.  Screen based and theater attractions are the most easily converted attractions for seasonal overlays and temporary uses of the space. For example, it is a lot easier to add a Halloween or Star Wars/Pixar film to the Sounds Dangerous space than it is to achieve something like Haunted Mansion Holiday.  It requires significantly less upfront development and it can be converted much more quickly.  It essentially requires a new film, with then minor adjustments to the in theater effects.

Further, the number of studios that Disney has under its umbrella ensure variety in the festival offerings and the strategic partners and sponsorships that Disney has already cultivated can be greatly beneficial to those efforts.  Beyond Star Wars Weekends and Pixar Fest, I can easily envision a Muppet and classic film offering.  It is a shame that it could not be a Marvel offering, but that can be potentially be worked around by a Summer of Heroes focused on Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero Six, and the Incredibles.  Additionally, thanks to the continued relationship with TCM through things like the previous Great Movie Ride sponsorship and TCM cruise, and the continued Disney Vault offerings, I could even see a TCM Film Festival or mini-Film Festival East.  The one in Hollywood in the spring has grown tremendously successful.  Imagine reworking the handprints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theater replica, so that a Disney Hollywood Studios TCM Classic Film event could incorporate a new handprint ceremony.  

From a purely commercial aspect, each of these festivals also offer an opportunity for upcharge offerings, whether that be exclusive merchandise, food, or events.  While they should not reach the point where they become crassly apparent, the uniqueness of the festival offers greater planning for truly special and worthy experiences.

With that in mind, I would propose the following schedule of festivities:

Muppet Mania
  • around the early part of the year, like Festival of the Arts
  • January-February
  • similar to old Muppets take over Disneyland plans
  • Muppet parade - Magnificent Muppet All-Star Motorcade
  • Muppet themed fireworks - Muppets in the Stars
  • Muppet meet and greets
  • Muppet performers in park

TCM Classic Film Festival
  • Partnership with TCM
  • Particularly to highlight classic Disney and Fox films
  • A time to really roll out the red carpet
  • Sometime from end of February to beginning of March
  • Would contain Oscar weekend?
  • Single weekend?
  • Handprint ceremonies, new Walk of Fame stars?
  • Disney Movie Magic-like fireworks
  • Complete films shown with Celebrity introductions

Star Wars Weekends
  • around end of March to May, like Flower and Garden
  • Specifically designed to include big May the Fourth celebration
  • March of the First Order/Empire
  • Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks
  • unique meet and greets
  • Star Wars actors, voice actors, creatives in park
  • Darth Mall, etc. back
  • Attraction overlays? - Rock n Roller Coaster with John Williams Score? MuppetVision Star Wars Spoof?

Pixar Fest
  • End of May through August
  • Music of Pixar orchestra offering at night
  • Pixar Play Parade or similar brought over
  • Together Forever Fireworks
  • Pixar only Fantasmic?
  • rare character meet and greets
  • Voice actors and animators in park
  • Special Toy Story Mania games?

  • September through end of October

  • November through end of year

I believe this approach creates fills out Disney Hollywood Studios as a compelling park to make it something that is desirable to visit at multiple points throughout the year.  This approach also stays true to the parks vision of celebrating the movies in a new and exciting dimension.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Psalm 121 or My Help

Reading through the Psalms can be a very interesting experience for a singer or musician.  It can be very difficult to read through the actual words of the Psalms themselves instead of the many songs that have been written from them.

Case in point, yesterday I read through Psalm 121.

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains - 
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, 
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip -
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you -
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm -
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore."

And yet, while I see those words, in my head, the Brooklyn Tabernacle is playing.  My Help (Cometh from the Lord).

"I will lift up mine eyes to the hills
From whence cometh my help
My help cometh from the Lord
The Lord which made Heaven and Earth

He said He would not suffer thy foot
Thy foot to be moved
The Lord which keepeth thee
He will not slumber nor sleep

Oh the Lord is thy keeper
The Lord is thy shade
Upon thy right hand
Upon thy right hand

No, the sun shall not smite thee by day
Nor the moon by night
He shall preserve thy soul
Even forever more

My help, my help, my help
All of my help cometh from the Lord."

Admittedly, the King James' Version is a little closer, but still runs into issues of differences in repetition and combination.

This dichotomy can play havoc with memorization.  I run into the same problem with the Lord's Prayer, as I know it from the song and as such add the "For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever. Amen." every time.

But it is also a wonderful reminder that the words in this book are not meant to stay as black and white letters on a page.  They are meant to be woven into our lives to such a point where the recall of that sentiment can spring forth as easily as song lyrics.

So, I'll keep being amused and awed by the interplay.  And keep the Psalms and songs in my heart, to put into action.

Let the song play out.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

On Nationalism and the NFL

Nationalism - loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.  An extreme form of patriotism

Patriotism - love for or devotion to one's country


So the NFL has decided to fine any team that has players that do not stand for the National Anthem.

Great, they caved.  The growing nationalist sentiment in our country "won."  And the country loses as a whole.

Let's not mince words, nationalism is not a good thing.  To quote a very insightful post I saw yesterday, a nationalist supports their country no matter what (to expand, even when their country does something that is not worth supporting).  A patriot makes their country worth supporting.  And sometimes that means fighting back against the country, even when it's not popular.  Even when your motives are not understood.  Even when it draws undue attention to yourself.

You cannot force patriotism.  Even by "requiring" players to stand, they will not be making them patriots or will not be doing the patriotic thing.  In fact, it could be argued the greater patriots will be the ones who continue to protest.  Like the New York Jets who have already indicated they will pay whatever fine is levied their way.

And let's cut out a disingenuous line of thinking right now - neither the flag nor the National Anthem represent the members of the armed services.  And refusing to stand for a National Anthem, to take part in the recitation of the pledge, or the like, is not in any way denigrating or dishonoring their sacrifices.  The flag, the National Anthem, and the pledge represent our country as a whole.  They represent the United States of America, for good and bad.  And you will find many, many veterans who support and recognize that they fought for a citizen's right to protest that flag, the National Anthem, and the pledge.  They believe that is what their sacrifice was for.

Because, if we do not have the right to protest, especially peacefully, if we do not have the right to "criticize the King," who are we as a country?

I know some of you take issue with what they are protesting.  Some of you take issue with their form of protest.  But here's the thing, at some point, when someone tells you that you have hurt them, you have to believe them.  If we as a country continue to have a race of people telling us they are still receiving unfair treatment, at some point, we have to believe them.  And that requires action to make it better.

I started this with the difference in patriotism and nationalism.  And here is what the issue really boils down to for me.

The patriotic response to this issue would be to say "I recognize that you have identified an issue that needs to be addressed.  Let's work together so that we can make this a country you have no problem standing for.  And I'll stand by you until you can."

The nationalist says, "just get in line."

What will happen when it's our turn to kneel in protest?  Given especially how some Christians paint the state of our nation and the "degradation" of Christian's rights in this country, that could be a lot sooner than anyone would think.  How will we respond when it's our turn?  And what will we expect from those around us?

Let's do better.


Update - 7:06 am, 5/24/18 - I did not expect to add to this so soon, but now apparently our President thinks you "have to stand proudly for the national anthem.  Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

No.  Just no.  There are many reasons why people do not stand.  And there have been long recognized reasons for not doing so.  There are religious freedom reasons why people do not stand, including for particular groups within the Christian religion (groups who will not swear allegiance to or exalt anything beyond God alone). 

To make such a statement goes against the very core of the foundation of our country. 

How have we come this far?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 8 - E.P.C.O.T.

"To all who come to this Place of Joy, Hope and Friendship


Epcot is inspire by Walt Disney's creative vision.  Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.

May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."

E. Cardon Walker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Walt Disney Productions
October 24, 1982


Those are lofty goals.  And for the first decade of EPCOT's life, the park really lived up to them.   It pioneered a new form of edutainment that inspired dreamers of all ages to reach for new achievements.  Through attractions like Horizons and Journey Into Imagination, millions of guests imagined their future or explored their own imaginations, igniting that spark in future scientists, artists, engineers, and imagineers.  Future World conveyed that sense of exploration of the world around you, while World Showcase encouraged a cultural exchange and appreciation of the people that make up this tiny blue speck.

EPCOT now is in danger of becoming just another theme park.  Thanks to inappropriate tie ins with intellectual property and a disregard of theme and identity, EPCOT has lost that magic inspiration that it once had.  Future World is largely abandoned to a dated aesthetic, with a few primary draws for attractions.  World Showcase, while still beautifully maintained, has become little more than an oversized mall.

EPCOT is in dire need of a re-focusing, to hopefully bring it back to the goals stated in its mission.  To be true to the spirit of inspiration and vision that make it one of the most unique parks ever created.

Primary Goals:

  • While the World Showcase is a very solid section of the park, Future World is in definite need of an identity.  There seems to be no central theme for this area of the park, no core identity that is driving expansion and refurbishments.  Revisions and additions must be weighed for appropriateness of theme to the pavilion that they are in and to the overall goal of the identity of Future World.
  • EPCOT is in need of attractions.  EPCOT is able to absorb many more people than the Magic Kingdom, but it does not have the drawing power needed to pull people away from the Magic Kingdom.  It is in need of attractions with a large hourly capacity that are proven draws to get people into the park, and potentially away from the Magic Kingdom.  In particular, there are many pavilions in the World Showcase that could use and attractions, and there is a need to add countries to the World Showcase to fill out the guests experiences.
  • EPCOT is in need of family or child friendly attractions.  EPCOT has long been thought of as the adult park.  It has tried to add attractions that will draw in younger guests, there is still a lot that could be added.
Unlike the other posts in this series, I will not be adopting a clockwise approach through the park. EPCOT, as laid out, does not really lend itself to this kind of exploration.  Instead, I'll move from Future World to World Showcase, going from Future World West to Future World East, then to the central spine, to Showcase Plaza, and then to Canada around to Mexico in the World Showcase.

Future World:
Future World represented the exploration of human achievement. Through the Sea, Land, and Imagination in Future World West and the future, Energy, and Motion in Future World East, Future World explored the history of human achievement and the possibility of our future.

Thanks to the neglect of maintenance and refurbishments, Future World is currently a little dated and in need of a cohesive identity.  And I think the easiest place to find an identity for Future World is in the past of the company.  Specifically, EPCOT was supposed to represent a continual World's Fair.  And I think doubling down on this identity will pave a pathway forward for the park.  Looking to the 1964 World's Fair for inspiration and specifically Walt's involvement in the fair, can provide a blueprint for what Future World should look like.  This is still true with the new updates to move this section of the park into World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration, perhaps even more so, with the notion of a World's Fair with four different "World" sections.

At the 1964 World's Fair, Walt introduced four attractions: it's a small world, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Carousel of Progress, and Magic Skyways.  EPCOT already has its Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyways.  The American Adventure is a grander version of Mr. Lincoln.  An exploration of American history.  Magic Skyways shares a lot of similarities with the World of Motion and Test Track, even down to the look of the building and the track outside wrapping around the pavilion and the updates coming to make it a bit more like World of Motion will greatly help in this respect.  But that means, the park needs its Carousel of Progress and it's a small world.

This inspiration will also provide a guide for the rest of the park.

Spaceship Earth - Spaceship Earth explores the history of communication and it's impact on mankind.  It has had a rich history of narrators: Walter Cronkite, Jeremy Irons, and Judi Dench.  Currently the attraction works, apart from the attempt at interactivity added to the end.  The attraction needs its descent completed with something to look at on the way, beside the screen on the ride vehicle.  Should a new narrator be needed, suggestions would be Benedict Cumberbatch, Chwitel Ojifor, Idris Elba, James Earl Jones, Dan Rather, etc.

I would rename the post-show space to CommuniCore to bring back an old EPCOT IP.  It would be a bit more fitting since the attraction is about communication and it is in the core of the park.  The illuminated globe would still be fitting, but I would add new/old attractions like SMRT-1 for voice recognition and living character/AI interaction and the EPCOT Discovery Center for answers to questions explored in EPCOT pavilions.

Future World West
The Living Seas - the Living Seas is a pavilion that largely works.  The combination of attractions and aquarium works.  I would suggest two minor changes. First, the Living Seas with Nemo and Friends attraction should be reworked so it is no longer a retelling of the Finding Nemo movie.  It should focus on Mr. Ray teaching us about the seas and exploring the various ecologies.  Second, I would rework the layout of the pavilion so that the secondary entrance is no longer through a gift shop.  I would put exhibits in this space and move the gift shop to a side, essentially swapping their locations.  Turtle Talk would remain as is, with a light refreshing to bring into the Marine Life Institute feel of the pavilion.

The Weather Station - between the Living Seas and the Land there is room for a new pavilion, and I would add one focused on weather.  The Weather Station would feature the StormRider attraction from Tokyo DisneySea.  There would also be an Armageddon like experience where you are in the middle of a hurricane/tornado, along with a Storm Struck followup.  Finally, this would be the perfect pavilion to have a rain room like was exhibited at MOMA.  Several partnerships spring to mind that would be extremely advantageous (beyond the obvious Weather Channel, which is an NBCUniversal property) - Accuweather, The Weather Company (Weather Underground), NOAA, National Weather Service.

The Land - the Land again is probably one of the strongest pavilions that Future World currently has.  Very strong attraction line up, well respected table and counter service options.  Again, I would make a couple of small modifications to the pavilion so that it is stronger.  First, I would commission a new Soarin' film so that it has a stronger connection to the pavilion - Soarin' Over the Land.  This particular film should focus on scenes flying over the natural wonders of the world.  To focus on the land itself.  This way, Soarin' Over the Land is in EPCOT, Soarin' Over the Horizon is in Shanghai, and Soarin' Over California is in Disney California Adventure.  As with California Adventure, the films could always be swapped and promoted as a limited time offering, but the default film would be Soarin' Over the Land.

Living with the Land, the boat attraction, would remain the same, but just well maintained and tightened.  The highest part of this attraction has always been the greenhouse.  That would remain the focus.

The film would be replaced with a new film entitled Listen to the Land.  This would bring back the song "Listen to the Land" as a theme song for the movie.  I would even bring in a character for the movie called the Landskeeper.  This was an original character designed for the pavilion that was never used.  I believe the character could be smartly updated and used to great benefit to round out the attraction presentation.  Soarin' Over the Land shows us its beauty.  Living with the Land shows us how to grow with the land.  And Listen to the Land would show us how we need to care for it.

Imagination - In Future World West, Imagination is the pavilion most in need of a near complete reworking.  First, Journey Into Imagination would receive a complete overhaul.  The attraction would be restored to Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Dreamfinder, using all of the newest tricks that Imagineering has in its playbook.  LPS technology, projection mapping, living character technology, advanced audio animatronics, the works.  This ride should be a signature attraction for Imagineering.  It should represent the best that they can offer.  And it needs Dreamfinder and Figment.

The Imagination Theater will get a new movie with Bing Bong from Inside Out.  If Journey Into Imagination is about setting your imagination free, this movie will be about putting your heart into your imagination.  Finally tying the two attractions together.  Bing Bong and the Imagination Studios will be the focus of the attraction, using the best 4D effects imagineering can come up with.

Image Works will be reopened on both floors (with the DVC lounge moving to one of the many vacant corporate sponsor spaces), including the sound floor and the Rainbow Corridor.  All the newest technology of Imagineering should be put on display like the Magic Bench.  This should be the most interactive and fun museum that was ever conceived.

Future World East
Test Track -  The updated version of Test Track is a very successful revision to the attraction and brings it in to the classic EPCOT spirit.  While there is a post-attraction segment, what the area really needs is to truly feel like a pavilion.  More than one attraction and informative space.  Particularly, Future World East has very little children or all ages can do together.  To that end, I would resurrect a Project Gemini proposal and add an Autopia Jr.

Mission: Space - Mission: Space likewise got a great boost with the addition of the Soarin' over the Earth style Green Mission.  This splits the missions and gives two unique experiences, giving many more people an opportunity to enjoy this space (Orange for thrills, Green for enjoyment).  Likewise, the upcoming addition of the Space restaurant will really help cement this pavilion as an exciting space.  The Space restaurant is probably the truest EPCOT addition in ages.

I would continue to flesh out this pavilion with a domed planetarium, partnering with Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Hayden Planetarium to for a show with a potential tie in to the COSMOS program (another benefit of the Fox/National Geographic acquisition).

Progressland/Wonders of Life - the Wonders of Life pavilion has been turned over to festival space and needs to be reclaimed.  There are better places to use for festival planning.  In this space, I would create the Progressland, a space to focus on invention and achievement.  To focus on the forward march of progress.  This would be the spiritual successor to Horizons, by bringing in a predecessor. I would move the Carousel of Progress to this location, getting it out of the ill-fitting Tomorrowland and into a World's Fair atmosphere where it belongs.  This attraction would go in the back box area.  In the front, there would be a couple of different exhibits.

First, a Blue Sky Exhibit.  This pavilion should be the preview center for the entire Walt Disney World Resort.  And given that something should always be in progress, it should be a very exciting place to come explore.    This would include exhibits from the One Man's Dream space in Disney Hollywood Studios as well as concept art and models for any and all upcoming attractions.

Second, there would be a continual exhibit on the history of EPCOT.  This is the exhibit that was displayed during EPCOT's 30th anniversary and would include materials from the exhibit at the archives for the 35th anniversary.  A reminder of where the park has come from in addition to where it is going.

An offshoot of this space would be a theater that cycles through the One Man's Dream and the original EPCOT film, where Walt Disney explored his dream to get into city planning.

There would also be space for exhibits of additional Disney patents.  In many ways, this is a sister pavilion to Imagination.  While Imagination is where the Magic is shown off, similar to Disney Quest, Progress is where the more practical Disney patents are displayed.  Like the whole room wireless charging patent.

It would even be great to incorporate a Skydome Spectacular in the space, projecting on the domed ceiling at regular intervals, like in the Progressland pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair.

In the alternative, there is an argument for reviving the Wonders of Life pavilion.  The Baymax Happy Ride from Japan can be added inside the space.  Cranium Command can be revamped with an Inside Out focus - the perfect space for it.  New simulators can move Body Wars into a Fantastic Voyage ride (I would also have 20th Century Films make an updated Fantastic Voyage).   Meet and Greet spaces for Baymax and the Inside Out crew.  There is a lot of hot IP that could bring the dated Wonders of Life pavilion into the 21st century.  

Universe of Energy - this space is currently being replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster.  For many reasons, this is a poor fit.  The ride is fun, but it takes is better for a space Tomorrowland or Hollywood Studios.  No real EPCOT connection, but also no real way to expand or update as is.

In the center of Future World, there would be a little rebranding.

EPCOT Central Spine
The central spine has gone through a lot of reinvention, some portions just getting a light redusting, some major changes that don't quite work, and some question marks.    The East portion remained largely as is, with the north quadrant becoming a large restaurant complex, containing the Starbucks and counter service spaces.  The south quadrant remained a large retail complex.  Both work, though the style is a little bland.  

The West portion received the largest overhaul.  The north portion of this was completely removed becoming the Moana Journey of Water.  While this is a nice attraction and in the spirit of EPCOT edutainment, it's arguably in the wrong place, better suited between The Land and The Living Seas, or in a Polynesia World Showcase country.

I'm reserving judgment on the new Communicore Hall space that has been rebuilt in the southern portion of the West section.  The space is now a flex space with a stage and designed for festival implementation.  Currently there has been no festival to showcase in the space.  The space looks empty and unthemed given the lack of celebration.  It's a bad look on Disney and one I'm hoping festival booths and the like will help address.  If not, it needs investment.

it's a small world - Finally, as discussed in the previous entry, it's a small world will be added to Showcase Plaza.  This rounds out the World's Fair attractions and provides a great people eating attraction for the park.  The facade would allow for projection mapping and a restaurant or amphitheater could be built on the lagoon side.  I would add the Tower of the Four Winds to the front (Spaceship Earth facing) of the attraction to provide another visual weenie to draw people through the central spine.  It would have been too big in a castle park, but should be perfect here.

it's a small world in Showcase Plaza

And the attraction provides the perfect transition to World Showcase.

World Showcase:
The World Showcase is a little easier to go through.  There are a few pavilions that need attractions and generally some pavilions that need to be added.  Where I have added countries, I have focused primarily on un- or under-represented cultures and continents, and have looked at what would be good food options to round out the available palette.

Canada, India, and United Kingdom
Canada - Canada is nearly complete.  There are additional spaces that need to be opened up on the upper floor, even if just for additional shops.  Perhaps we could get Tim Hortons or Beaver Tails in here?

I would additionally add a carousel, named Le Galopant for the oldest galloping carousel in the world, to the garden area.

India - Between the Canada and United Kingdom pavilions, I would add an India Pavilion.  India checks off the boxes of an un-represented sub-continent and culture, as well as adding a popular food offering not represented in the park currently.  The Taj Mahal would be the obvious architectural weenie, but there are many temple designs and many variations in architecture that would be a beauty to explore.

This closes off the Millennium Village, that is currently being used for festival preparation and rental space.  With the focus on maximizing usable space and moving to a more continual festival atmosphere, the building can be designed to allow both - park access on the bottom floor, rental access on the upper floors (renting out the better views).  The blessing of size.

India would also allow for a Holi festival/celebration at the appropriate time of year.

Space would be reserved for an attraction to feature a planned Bollywood-style Indian princess/adventure animated feature to come.

United Kingdom - I believe the space in the back of the United Kingdom pavilion can be reworked to include a couple of dark ride attractions.  The goal would be to create an L shaped street scene that could represent different UK based Disney films.  One portion that is Cherry Tree lane with the Banks house and Admiral Booms.  The other street section having the Darling house from Peter Pan, Roger Radcliffe's flat in 101 Dalmatians, 221B Baker Street from the Great Mouse Detective, Toad Hall, etc.  A great visual section with two very fun rides.  From Cherry Tree Lane, you can enter the Villa Volta style madhouse for Mary Poppins themed to the Turning Turtle song.  From the Darling house, you can enter the Shanghai style Peter Pan ride.  Perhaps there would even be space for a single track Mr Toad.  This makes use of the proliferation of UK themed Disney properties and creates a mini Fantasyland space.

France, Jamaica, Morocco, Brazil, and Japan
France - France is already getting the Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity attraction and expansion that will be required to get access to the location. Thankfully it appears that Impressions de France (though that film should be updated and played more) is also staying, so this is a well-rounded pavilion.

Jamaica - In front of the Ratatouille attraction, I would add a half pavilion for Jamaica.  This pavilion would be a shopping and dining pavilion only.  Bringing in the flavor and culture of the Caribbean island, especially with a lagoon side restaurant.

Morocco - Morocco would remain largely the same.  I would love to work an attraction into the back this space, but am not sure what theme would work, given the desire to focus on IP related materials.  Disney has no Morocco related IP (and no Aladdin does not work).  If Disney or Pixar can create a fun Morocco set film, I would love to have it added here.

Brazil - In between Morocco and Japan, I would add the long proposed Brazil pavilion. The focal weenie in the back would be the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain.  The pavilion would finally bring a South American country to the showcase and would be perfect to add a churrascaria restaurant.  With Coco rumored to go to (and better suited for) the Mexico pavilion, I would love to see the Three Caballeros added to a ride here.  Maybe a Baia ride or a Blame it on the Samba ride from the two good neighbor films.

Japan - Japan is already a very strong pavilion, going to get stronger with the new restaurant.  I would add a ride to the already constructed but empty attraction space.  I would hope to add a Studio Ghibli ride.  For recognition, it would likely need to be a My Neighbor Totoro ride, though a Princess Kayuga would be incredible.  This would also help fulfill the goal of adding things for all ages to do.

American Adventure, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Polynesia, and Thailand

American Adventure - For the America pavilion, I would be looking to flesh out the host country.  What is there works, especially the American Adventure attraction and the Voices of Liberty.  I would look to push through the gallery out that side, and see if America Sings could be revived in a single Country Bear type theater using more combinations of projections and rotating animatronics.  Further, while the Regal Eagle provides essentially classic American food in quick service form, it would be good to have a signature dining experience.  I would look to add this space on the Italy side of the attraction in a separate building.

Italy - Italy works as it is and has blocked itself off from an attraction expansion to the South with the addition of Via Napoli.  If there was a way to add gondolas and gondoliers in the lagoon, that would be great, but I'm not sure how the logistics would work there.

Switzerland - between Italy and Germany, I would sandwich in the previously planned Switzerland pavilion.  It's an appropriate geographic location that could start to blend the architectures, it would add unique food offerings via fondue, and could serve as the basis for the Matterhorn Bobsled attraction.  This one would be minus the Abominable Snowman, Harold, with scenic goats and cows on the mountain side.  The climbers and yodelers would still be fun though.

Germany - Germany is well developed, but needs to use the previously planned attraction pad. There are even doors existing that would have taken guests to the ride.  While originally the ride was planned to be a Rhine River Cruise, I instead would add a LBG train dark ride, replacing the lost train garden with a ride by a miniature representation of the German countryside and model trains going throughout the rides.  An indoor real place version of the Storybookland Canal Boats.

The next space currently represented by the African Outpost is large enough to handle two country pavilions.  Given the location and fireworks fallout, these pavilions would have to be largely indoor (or at least one completely indoor and one partially).  I would fill this space by

Polynesia - the Polynesia pavilion would be the partially indoor pavilion, with a Moana ride anchoring the back.  This would bring in a set of cultures that have not been represented in the World Showcase and can be explored in a little more authentic way than Adventureland.  Additionally, it would bring in an entirely new set of flavors to the park.

Thailand - the Thailand pavilion would be completely enclosed in a temple like the Mexico pavilion.  This would allow a pavilion that is presented at night internally and would again allow for new but recognizable cuisine.  I would add a Raya and the Last Dragon attraction to this space.

China, Norway, Mexico
China - China pavilion would remain as is.

Norway - for Norway, I would add a moored Viking longboat on the lagoon in front of the pavilion that could be explored.  Norway is already taking up two country pads, so there is no need to add more.

Mexico - Mexico would remain the same, but the Grand Fiesta Tour would receive an extensive Coco overlay.  The movie is perfect for the pavilion and would be a great draw for kids.

This adds five countries, at least nine attractions and several new dining options.  Really fills out the lagoon in a meaningful way.

Seasonal Overlays/Festivals:
EPCOT is already a heavy festival park.  Between Festival of the Arts in the beginning of the year, Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, Food and Wine Festival in the fall, and Festival of the Holidays during the Christmas season, EPCOT has festivals for nearly 34 weeks of the year, or 65% of the time. And for a World's Fair type park, this is as it should be.  I would honestly expand the festival offerings to include a STEM/Technology festival in the summer, focused in Future World.  Disney has planned for such an event, with robotics fights and the like, but never implemented it.  I would expand to offer TED Talks during the time, opportunities to hear renowned scientists speak like Neil deGrasse Tyson, and exhibit space for the leading edge tech companies.  This would make the food booths scattered across the World Showcase essentially permanent, letting them cycle through offerings as appropriate.   With the structures now permanent, they could be better integrated into the overall flow of the lagoon.

Further, I would love to see EPCOT offer smaller festivals tied to holidays where appropriate.  Especially in the World Showcase.  A Lunar New Year celebration in the China pavilion with the Hurry Home Little Lantern show from Disney California Adventure.  A St. Patrick's Day celebration in the United Kingdom.  A Bastille Day Celebration in France.  Holi in India.  Navidad in Mexico, etc.  This is how Christmas is celebrated in EPCOT, but I would love to see it extended throughout the year, focusing on the celebration of the cultures represented.

The park does not truly lend itself to seasonal overlays in the attractions.  I would, though, bring over the it's a small world holiday overlay as a draw for the Festival of the Holidays celebration.  The new facade would also allow for the Christmas projection show currently seen in Disneyland.

Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars:
Currently EPCOT only has the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth show as its nighttime spectacular.  There is no parade or daytime show to draw the crowds attention.

I would look to create a daytime show on the lagoon.  The park is too congested for a parade, but the lagoon sits empty during the day and is perfect for some form of show like the harbor shows at Tokyo DisneySea.  Even a lagoon parade would be a good offering, with the floats on the water instead of in the walkways.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is one of the best fireworks offerings in Walt Disney World.  The fireworks, fountains, torches, lasers, search lights, and globe provide a beautiful show that represents the creation of the world.  It could use a little upgrade in technology to make it more visible to all around the World Showcase.  The replacements have both failed to start.  Harmonius, while musically appropriate, lacked the linking narration to make it feel cohesive and the infrastructure was too massive, too visible, and too intrusive for continuous use.  Luminous, while having better infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired musically.  The interim show EPCOT Forever mad odd choices in its implementation like children's narration and odd transitions.  I think it could be revamped to be a lot stronger and more thematically appropriate.

I also think there are a couple of other options that could be offered in terms of fireworks shows.  I think a show could be created to mimic the fireworks at the 1964 World's Fair, or to at least pay homage to it.  The Globe used in Illuminations looks similar to the Unisphere and the fountains help contribute to the look.  The two most recognizable songs from Disney attractions at the fair, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "it's a small world" really summarize the thesis of the park. You could even through in "One Little Spark" from Imagination which can work in counterpoint to "it's a small world" to create a really great show.

Whatever fireworks show is used, I would utilize the new it's a small world facade to help create an alternate fireworks viewing site in the central spine of Future World.  I would synchronize the Spaceship Earth lighting show and projections on it's a small world with the fireworks.  This would create a contained, but wholly unique viewing for the fireworks, pulling part of the crowd into this location.  Not unlike the view of Disneyland fireworks from the it's a small world mall or the Rivers of America.

Cartoon Mascot:
There is only one choice for the cartoon mascot for this park.  He is the heart and soul of EPCOT.  Despite all attempts to remove him, he represents the best of what the park has to offer.


The spirit of imagination belongs in a park that should represent the best of the imagination of the Walt Disney Company and of Imagineering.  He is also a character that should be given greater exposure in the other arms of the company.  With his ride hopefully back at it zenith, the little purple dragon should be the park mascot for years to come.


As always, thanks for sticking through this with me.  Next up in the series is Disney's Hollywood Studios, one of my favorite parks with the most potential.