Is this a crucial opinion? No - just a pet peeve. :)
This grouping makes very good sense. First "The American Adventure" was always designed to be the centerpiece of world showcase.
The Imaginers accounted for this by grouping all the Axis powers together Japan, Italy and Germany. With America geographically dividing Japan from Italy. This also is a political division of America literally standing in-between Japan and Germany.
But seriously, once I would have said MK but that park is systematically destroyed the last past 10+ years and with the hub remodelling there is no end to the abuse.The first place should be AK.
And yes, Magic Kingdom does a great job, and I sure would love to see a futuristic Japanese-style makeover to Tomorrowland. I avoid Tomorrowland almost entirely, save the Carousel of Progress, which for some reason, I really enjoy.
I think a London Themed Theater hosting the Theme Park version of Wicked could work?
One of my biggest issues in MK is the Speedway being heard in the Circus Portion of Fantasyland...if they are going to keep the Speedway can we go to hybrids and eliminate the sound aspect...or make everyone's dream come true and bring Journey to the Center of the Earth to replace the Speedway.
For Universal Studios Florida, you refer to the "faux" studio sets, but they're not "faux" at all. Contrary to popular belief, USF is a fully functional studio that still uses its backlot sets (which also house the park's attractions) for production. Admittedly, they don't use them as much as they used to (most production takes place in the sound stages), but they do still use those sets for production, unlike their neighbor up the interstate.
The original Disneyland does not have lands that "transition" thematically to the next land. They are silos with clear distinction. I recalled looking at the old maps of Disneyland. Each land was color coded to distinguish a land from its neighbor. It was soon clear that as Disneyland expanded and each attraction was at the heels of another land, transitions were put in place. This is not absolutely necessary for all lands.
You have a good idea to bring this up, but it falls apart with the EPCOT example. Each Country stands alone. There is no transition. There is enough space between Countries. People enter into the pathway that takes them to the next country. You don't enter a country from the midpoint, which was how the lands of the Magic Kingdom and other Disneylands are constructed.
First, my favorite transition is between the hub at Disneyland and Adventureland. The bridge provides the change, but the highlight is how the ridge of the roof on a single building is themed to a Victorian-era building on one side, and an exotic tropical location on the other.
Second, agree that I don't see any problem in how Epcot's countries work. There doesn't need to be a belabored transition. It's simple enough that you go back to the waterfront and move from one to the next. Frankly, this worked better when all the countries didn't spill out with kiosks and clutter onto the waterfront; you used to need to go into them to experience and be immersed.
Third, love how Hard Rock Park used musical transitions. That's a great idea, and more places should use it.
Back to JP though, as much as I don't like it, the bridge is a necessary evil though to make the transition to HP. It pains me every time I visit to see folks trying to take a picture of themselves with the Hogwarts castle on such a narrow bridge that limits the flow of folks walking through to both islands. Robert mentioned making the other entrance like the Forbidden Forest, but maybe that would be a better thing to do for this one, although the forest would also include palm trees (hey, it's all magic!).
On the Studio side, going clockwise, you basically have the following transitions- New York - San Francisco - London - New York (World's Fair, MIB) - Springfield. Kind of weird, but at least the themeing for London will really stand out and provide a separation between San Fran and MIB. What they managed to do with Springfield is amazing. What I imagined was going to be a simple touch-up of an area, turned out to be a unique experience of its own, separate from the ride.
I can't foresee them getting rid of the Fear Factor stage. Where will all the drunks go to watch the mediocre Bill and Ted Show during HHN? The only way I could see the getting rid of it is if the spread HHN to both parks again and use the stage in Toon Lagoon for B&T.
I think one of the more under appreciated and under-used areas of the Studios park is the "California-Los Angeles" area. I saw a documentary about Sunset Strip a while back and was intrigued by all the historic cues that are built into this part of the park that are based on LA from the early part of the last century. With the exception of native Californians, I don't think most of the people walking through the park would notice these nods to the buildings and shops that made early LA.
On the World Showcase at Epcot - I'm okay with the way the countries are set up. I need to pace my drinking a margarita in Mexico before I get my Grey Goose orange slush in France. If they were right next to each other, bad things would happen. I understand the reasoning for placing the U.S. in the world showcase, but I've always slightly felt that as a country we were pandering to ourselves and giving ourselves a pat on the back with the inclusion of this area. I believe that if the Virgina park would have been built, this area at Epcot would not be necessary. Although it is fun to shout out, "the red coats are coming!" whenever passing by the American band playing outside at the showcase.
USF did a great job with it. I also agree the space between MIB and Potter London could use some work. Those are really the only two areas I have a slight problem with.
As far as the park that does the best transitions. Animal Kingdom is good, but that is almost too easy when the whole park is largely just various jungle and trees.
To me Disneyland is the best. Especially where adventureland, New Orleans Square and Frontierland meet. These lands meld together perfectly in my opinion. Even critter country with its bayou/American south roots works as an extension of both frontierland and New Orleans square.