Wednesday, May 9, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 7 - The Magic Kingdom

"Walt Disney World is tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney...and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true.  May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspriration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place...a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn - together."
Roy O. Disney, Octomber 25, 1971

We have now moved on from California to Florida.  To the Vacation Kingdom of the world and to the most visited theme park in the world.

The Magic Kingdom.

If Disneyland is the cornerstone, the Magic Kingdom is the crown jewel.  The grand dame to Disneyland's girl next door.

Imagineering took what it learned from Disneyland and implemented those lessons in the Magic Kingdom.  The Magic Kingdom is grander and more open and inviting.  As Walt would mention, they had the "blessing of size" in Florida.  Today, this has become a blessing and a curse, creating some issues that need to be addressed.

I will say up front that I am a lot less precious regarding the Magic Kingdom.  Because Disneyland has Walt's direct influence and because of its status as the first park (and arguably the first theme park), I am much more inclined there to preserve what exists and add carefully.  In the Magic Kingdom, I am much more likely to propose drastic changes and have included a few below.  For me, this stems largely from the original idea that the Magic Kingdom would include unique attractions from its California counterpart.  The duplicate rides were largely a compromise.  With that knowledge, I feel freer to bring back that desired unique identity.

Accordingly, my goals for the park are both similar and widely different than Disneyland.

Primary Goals:
  • Like Disneyland, a capital priority is increasing park flow capacity.  By this, I mean increasing the number and surface area of pathways that guests can used to move around the park, hopefully to alleviate some of the crushing congestion the park can experience.
  • Beyond this, the Magic Kingdom also needs to increase ride and attraction capacity and utilization. Despite the "blessing of size" and the higher attendance levels, the Magic Kingdom trails Disneyland by nearly ten attractions.  The park needs a mix of A-E tickets to fill out the park offerings and to absorb all the guests it is attracting.
  • Maximize utility by making sure that every space that has previously been open to guests is currently open and used to the fullest.
  • Finally, I want to cement the Magic Kingdom's unique identity.  As discussed in the Disneyland post, I want the park to have its own feel compared to Disneyland and for each land to have their own feel compared to their California counterparts.  Likewise, there should be unique attractions in each segment to compel guests to visit this park in particular.  My concerns in this area come down to guest overlap.  Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom should be distinct because they share a segment of the population.  Likewise, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris need to feel unique because of the shared guest pool due to United Kingdom marketing for Walt Disney World.  Similar concerns would exist between Hong Kong and Shanghai.
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 Main Street, heading through Adventureland first and working around to Tomorrowland.  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.

Main Street:
Main Street in the Magic Kingdom represents a slightly larger town at the turn of the century.  The lessons learned in Disneyland allowed for wider streets, taller buildings (still to scale) and a slightly more upscale feel.  Like moving from Marceline to Kansas City, Missouri.

It has its issues, currently.  The entirety of Main Street has become one large store, especially the entirety of the west side.  You can move through the one large store from Town Square to the hub.

The Magic Kingdom at least has two things that are unique to this particular park.  The Harmony Barber Shop and the Town Square Theater with meet and greets for Mickey and others.

Like Disneyland, the best thing Main Street can add is to make the bypass on the east side permanent.  With the Magic Kingdom, thankfully, there is a lot more room to expand.

Second Street and the Center Street Connection
Disney has already announced plans for this area, though they have apparently put them on hold.  They are looking to add a large scale theater like the Hyperion in Disney California Adventure, inspired by the Willis Wood Theater in Kansas City, Missouri.   This is the perfect expansion for that area.  It would add an attraction that can absorb a large amount of people for an extended time.  The show could be relatively easily changed out to keep the draw fresh.  It's not a major draw like a new E ticket, but would provide enough of a draw to have an impact on capacity.

The main thing this addition will need is to complete theming and offerings on the street.  It needs to be a full street, with vendors, newstands, etc.  This is a complete second Main Street.  It does not need restaurants and shops, necessarily, but it does need to feel like a full street and not just a singular offering in the theater.  Perhaps called Second Street.

This will also require the opening of Center Street, through the current location of the lockers.  The lockers will need to be relocated, potentially to an area in this new space.

Expanded offerings of Citizens of Main Street would also be beneficial to the park.  These are the kid of offerings that add atmosphere and can round out a guest's day.  They can work better here in the Magic Kingdom than in Disneyland given the expanded walkways and buildings.

Finally, the railroad at the Magic Kingdom needs to be enhanced.  There are just a couple of spots where railroad actually offers and interesting view.  For the largest portion of the ride, it looks at bare forest or even unthemed backstage areas.  Disneyland's railroad at least has the ride through Splash Mountain, the new trellis bridge, and the Primeval World and Grand Canyon dioramas.  Additions to the railroad would go a long way toward making it a draw in and of itself beyond just as a transportation system.  I will discuss proposed additions in the specific lands in which they would occur.

The Hub:
The hub in the Magic Kingdom has just come through a radical renovation, expanding park space, walkways, and fountains.  I think there is definitely room for more expansion and with the goal of adding at least ten attractions to get closer to Disneyland, the locations are going to have to be creative.

First, the most important thing will be to get the Tomorrowland Terrace Station continuously operational and to improve it's menu.  It's too valuable of a location to be seasonal.  And the arguments against the space are "chicken and egg."  It's never open, so people never eat there, etc. 

In terms of additions, I have a couple of suggestions for inside the hub itself.    I would add a couple of gazebos/bandstands for impromptu concerts and meet and greets.  Those are identified in the light purple circles below.

The first radical suggestions
For the first radical change, I would move Prince Charming's Carousel to the hub, indicated by the blue circle above.  There is plenty of land here for use that is not utilized and this is an experiment that has been tried in Shanghai.  In Shanghai, both Dumbo and the carousel are before the castle.  Dumbo is in a good location here with its own mini-land, but the carousel can be moved.  Doing so would open up Fantasyland greatly and would create a very distinctive feel to both the hub and Fantasyland.  Further, a carousel is the perfect kind of transition attraction from turn-of-the-century Main Street to Fantasyland.

There are also areas on each side of the castle that are currently just large forested sections.  These can both be better utilized.  I would like to keep as many trees in the area as possible while still adding a useful space.  To the east of the castle, I would seek to add an attraction.  To give a sense of size, you could add something the size of Peter Pan in that space.  I would add a dark ride attraction with an entrance on the east side of the building (facing Cosmic Rays, where the red arrow is).  On the front, hub-facing side of the attraction, I would want to keep a row of trees to camouflage the building.  Perhaps the ride could be themed to Hercules (particular for reasons I'll discuss with Fantasyland regarding its identity).  If not an enclosed dark ride, at least a Philoctetes training ground whip ride with Greek Statuary.

On the west side of the castle, I would look to add an Enchanted Garden space.  This would ideally be a Tropical Hideaway-like space that has tables in a garden setting with a counter service food stand.  Instead of a tropical setting, this would be a Versailles style garden, well manicured and designed.  Exactly what you would imagine surrounding castle walls.  This space could be a great benefit adding potential seating for Sleepy Hollow Refreshments and a potential view of the parades as they pass from Liberty Square into the hub.

If Adventureland in Disneyland is anchored by Indiana Jones and derives its identity from that attraction, Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom is defined by two attractions and should really be split into a main land and a subland.  First there is Adventureland anchored and defined by the Jungle Cruise.  Then there is Caribbean Plaza, defined by the Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Jungle Cruise clearly dominates Adventureland, tying the various pieces together.  This is especially true with the new Skipper's Canteen restaurant.  Accordingly, Adventureland here should lean into that world travel, Jungle Cruise theme.  This means two things: 1) restoring many shops back to their original facades (removing the Agrabah overlay) and 2) replacing The Magic Carpets of Aladdin with an appropriate ride.  Previously, this list would have included the restoration of a previously used area with the Adventureland Veranda, but with that being used for the Magic Kingdom Club 33 space, the need is lessened.  I do hope they do not call it Club 33 here but something appropriate like the Admiral's Club (since it is next to a Skipper's Canteen).

A restoration and a replacement
 First, the shops highlighted in yellow above should be restored to their previous tropic theme.  The Agrabah overlay has overstayed its welcome.  And should be more appropriately in another section of the park.  Others have written more eloquently on this subject than I ever could.

Further, the Aladdin spinner will be moving out of Adventureland.  It will still be in the park, as my goal is to increase the attraction count, not decrease and we will be replacing the ride here with another ride that is more theme appropriate.  Here I would add an Octopus ride, themed to an actual oversized octopus shifting around Jungle Cruise shipping barrels.  A madcap adventure the Skippers cannot control, somewhat similar to the Kraken ride in the Disney Magic Kingdoms game.

For Adventureland, there is also a large expansion pad that should be utilized.  There is a path way between Pirates and the Jungle Cruise that would be the path leading out, beyond the railroad tracks and to the expansion pad.  For this expansion, I would love for Disney to finally build Fire Mountain, adding to the Disney Mountain Range.

Adventureland Expansion
Fire Mountain would be a roller coaster through a volcano.  Ideally this expansion would not just hold one ride.  The path under the railroad tracks should lead to increased theming and views from the railroad in this section.  There should also be a dig site exploration area like Tom Sawyer Island or the Boneyard.  Further, there should be a small form attraction in the space for smaller guests.

Caribbean Plaza will remain largely the same.  I do want to make sure that the Tortuga Tavern is continuously on line and serving guests.  I would like to restore the sights and sound around Pirates of the Caribbean and in the queue particularly to restore Florida's version back to it's unique place where the fort is under attack.  Passport to Dreams Old and New outlines the changes that have been made in detail and I would look to restore this lost art.

I would like to make use of the space to the west of Pirates, perhaps with a water feature and moored galleon.  Largely looking to make Caribbean Plaza feel like a complete sub-land.

Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom provides the best example of a yester-land approach to Frontierland in all of the Disney Parks.  As you make a circle around the Rivers of America, you progress through time and space in America's past, starting from Revolutionary Boston to the riverboat South and then to a late 1800s West.  Future expansion should continue this trend.

With that in mind, Frontierland as it currently exists only needs to be strengthened.  In particular, the Diamond Horseshoe needs a show and should be a more consistent dining venue.  The Country Bear Jamboree needs to get the seasonal versions back, including the Vacation Hoedown and the Christmas version.

That leaves plenty of future expansion around river to complete the circuit.  There is already a passage under the railroad tracks to get to the Splash Mountain queue.  I would extend from there to a bridge across the river to the first expansion pad.  In this location, continuing in time and space around from 1800s old west, I would add a turn-of-the century San Francisco, via Discovery Bay.

Frontierland Expansion
Discovery Bay is one of the great lost Imagineering projects.  Originally conceived for Disneyland, it represents a San Francisco by way of Jules Verne and HG Wells.  This space could hold a couple of signature attractions like the Island at the Top of the World and the Lost River Rapids.  The Lost River Rapids in particular would be a good home for the dinosaur animatronics from the Universe of Energy ride.  It would provide another tie to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers in Walt Disney World and would provide the opportunity for very interesting scenery along the railroad.

Continuing around through this land, there would be another passage under the railroad at the approximate location of the current Indian village scene.  This would be replaced with a full mini-land for a Native American Village north of the Haunted Mansion.  Here there would be a Pocahontas show with Grandmother Willow and I would add a dock for canoes along the Rivers of America, like there are in Disneyland.  This would require a new pathway around hugging the river to connect this Village to Liberty Square.  To do so would further require a reworking of the Haunted Mansion queue, but it would be worth it to complete the circuit around the river.

Fantasyland has recently undergone a great expansion with the addition of the Fantasy Forest section.  This added Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid sections, as well as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the Storybook Circus.  To me, these additions have pointed the way toward the unique identity for Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.  If Disneyland focuses on Walt-era classic animated films, the Magic Kingdom should focus on the Disney Renaissance films of the 1990s.  This process has already started with Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid sections, as well as their presence in Mickey's Philharmagic.  Accordingly, my additions will look to strengthen this connection.

For my second radical idea for the Magic Kingdom, I propose removing it's a small world and Pinocchio's Village Haus, to be replaced with a modified version of the Arabian Coast from Tokyo Disney sea.   This would add the Magic Lamp Theater and Sinbad's Storybook Voyage, as well as move the Magic Carpet's of Aladdin to this area.  It would also add an Agrabah Food Court and Marketplace.  It has the added benefit of opening up a great section of the former it's a small world location for greater foot traffic.

A radically different it's a small world location
Further, I would replace Peter Pan's Flight with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, changing it to a flying ride on the back of a gargoyle.  The rides would have very similar visual experiences; for example, the flyover of London would be replaced with a flyover of Paris.

I would also strengthen the Disney Renaissance connection with new segments for Philharmagic adding "Out There " from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (or perhaps "Topsy Turvy"), "Just Around the Riverbend" from Pocahontas, and "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan.

The rest of the new Fantasyland additions work very well and largely close off Fantasyland from any further expansion.  The area north of the new Fantasyland section, in particular north of Be Our Guest and the Little Mermaid, would be a perfect section to add enhancements to the Disneyland Railroad.

Area for Enhancements
This strip of land would be perfect to add either tunnel, a la the Rainbow Caverns, or an outdoor Fantasy scene to tie to the rest of the land.  Perhaps something like a limited motion statue of a sea monster in the retaining pond strip to the north or a dragon's cave encounter.  Something appropriately fantastic for the land it is adjacent to.

Storybook Circus has also proven to be a well-themed addition to the park.  The double Dumbo's are a great increase for capacity and the other sections perform their function well, apart from one odd choice.  There is a current third tent that is being used for a "rest and recharge" area with a few seats and plugs for phones.  While these arguably should be incorporated into the park, there is a better use for this space. 

Time to add a circus to our circus area
It has occurred to me that the set up for the Festival of the Lion King show in Disney's Animal Kingdom could be very well used for a Dumbo's Circus show.  That building would fit where the third under-used tent is and would provide a great draw for this section of the park.  If the Disney-Fox deal goes through, this circus could even incorporate The Greatest Showman into the circus.

Like Disneyland, solidifying Tomorrowland's identity can be achieved by looking to the Magic Kingdom's past.  In particular, Tomorrowland circa 1994 is one of the strongest Tomorrowland's that has been presented.  The focus there was on the tomorrow that never was.  A highly sci-fi Tomorrowland influenced by science fiction of the 1970s and 1980s.  A lived in future (opposed to the utopian future of Disneyland).   My goal with Tomorrowland will be to work back to this ideal.

The upcoming addition of Tron will actually aid in this goal.  The Tron coaster is going to provide a visually interesting weenie to go in next to Space Mountain, resulting in an appropriate aesthetic overhaul of the Speedway, providing an interesting vista for the Railroad passing under its canopy, and providing a night time draw with its light show.

Approximate location of the Tron Coaster
This puts the focus on replacements and a couple of key additions.  When Tron is online, Space Mountain will get the refurbishment is so desperately needs.  Buzz Lightyear will get a similar aesthetic upgrade to Disneyland, treating it like true space rangers, not toy versions.  I would further bring back Alien Encounter instead of Stitch's Great Escape.  If there is a concern about it being too scary, it could be changed to a Rocket/Groot escape version.  I would also change out Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor for a 4D time travel show.  Connectivity to the Timekeeper, but a new show designed for the more traditional theater.

Tomorrowland Additions
The Carousel of Progress will be replaced with Plectu's Fantastic Galactic Revue, an old proposal for Disneyland that would make good use of the rotating theater.

For additions, the space between Buzz and Plectu's would give rise to a new building with an LPS "flying" saucer attraction similar to Luigi's Dancing Cars or Aquatopia.  Further, between Plectu's and Space Mountain I would add a new building containing the restrooms that are currently situated there, but also adding a version of Stormrider from Tokyo DisneySea.

Finally, there is space for another enhancement to the Disneyland Railroad in the segment before the Main Street Station.  This could be anything from a version of the Primeval World Diorama to something as simple as Hitchhiking Aliens.  Personally I lean a little bit toward the latter.

Seasonal Overlays:
Walt Disney World really does not do seasonal overlays.  They have in the past with the Christmas Country Bear Jamboree and have experimented with the Jingle Cruise, but they definitely do not implement them to the scale of Disneyland. 

I would bring in a healthy amount of seasonal overlays including the Summer Vacation, Halloween, and Christmas versions of the Country Bears, continuing the Jingle Cruise and potentially adding a Haunted Jungle Cruise, and Halloween Villain and Christmas Philharmagics.

Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars:
I would like to see more experimentation with the parades at the Magic Kingdom.  Festival of Fantasy is a very successful day parade for the Magic Kingdom, so I see no need to change it anytime soon. 

The Magic Kingdom does need a nighttime parade.  I am partial and would bring back a Spectromagic 2.0.  Spectromagic had the right amount of grandeur and majesty to make it a wonderful fit for the Magic Kingdom.  The waltz tempo and Jiminy Cricket narration made it very unique in Disney offerings.  Updated versions of the Spectromen and Little Mermaid sections would remain, though the Sleeping Beauty and Fantasia segments would be changed out for Beauty and the Beasts Garden and the skies of Aladdin (completing a land, sea, and sky motif).

Happily Ever After has proven to be a very popular offering.  I would add a Jiminy Cricket introduction and continue on from there.

The Magic Kingdom does need offsetting nighttime entertainment to pull people off of Main Street.  Night shows in the new Main Street Theater, the Diamond Horseshoe, and Dumbo's Circus will all help.  Ideally, a projection/environmental show in Tomorrowland can be made utilizing the Tron canopy and the stage for the Incredible Expo. 

Magical Guardian and Cartoon Mascot:

Since this is another castle park, I'll identify a magical guardian as well as a cartoon mascot.

For a magical guardian, I have a little bit of a cheat.  The Magic Kingdom gets Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy.  I loved how Jiminy Cricket became the official voice of the park and would announce Spectromagic and Wishes.  I also have to confess that I also thought in all the times that I saw Wishes that when Jiminy says "well, I'll be.  The Blue Fairy" that the Blue Fairy should be the one flying over the castle at that moment.  Let Tinkerbell have her looping flight in Disneyland.  Here let's give the Blue Fairy her majestic descent.

For the cartoon mascot, it has to be Minnie Mouse.  For America's sister park to Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom needs a cartoon mascot who has equal footing with Mickey.  That can only be Minnie Mouse, who has been there from the beginning as well.

Again, thanks for joining me in this exercise.

Next in the series - E.P.C.O.T.

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