Published: March 24, 2014 at 12:09 PMExcellent post. Call me a purist, but I firmly believe a "theme park" ought to live up to its name and truly immerse guests by the theming of each land. If this is not effective, the result is an "amusement park" and not a theme park - despite the fact that many parks claim to be otherwise. Indeed, I think more solid lines need to be drawn between being referred to as an amusement park, a theme park, or a themed resort. Let's give credit to the companies that put hundreds of millions of dollars into creating a different world for their guests. They are no longer considered amusement parks and should be referenced appropriately.
Is this a crucial opinion? No - just a pet peeve. :)
Published: March 24, 2014 at 12:10 PM"but things start to fall apart as we jump halfway across the world to Japan before completing our journey around the globe in America. Even more unfortunately, we're only halfway around World Showcase. From there, we return to Europe for Italy and Germany"
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.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 12:14 PMI think Sea World does a great job. It's all one theme!
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.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 12:27 PMAs for Universal Orlando, I think the new brass is very cognizant of the thematic changes, and though they're pouring money into the parks, there's only so much they can do at one time, both for financial reasons, and because people don't want to see construction all over the place all the time. My feeling is that they will eventually get rid of the Fear Factor set. I mean...who watches that anymore? I really believe it's just a matter of time and Fear Factor will be gone, replaced with something that helps put the original USF back on the map.
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.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 12:31 PMAnimal Kingdom does a good job except for Dinoland. Now if they would have used a Lost Continent themed dinosaur area it would have worked. But the cheap Roadside Dino theme seems completely out of place.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 12:42 PMWhile I would love to see Ministry of Magic instead of Fear Factor, it could create a logistical nightmare for HHN. As they did layout Diagon Alley almost perfect for that cash cow not to be impeded.
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.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 1:36 PMLet's not forget, the "theme" of Islands of Adventure is that it is a collection of distinct islands. You walk across a bridge over water to get from island to island. If there's a weak link, it's the barely visible bridge between the Marvel and Toon Lagoon islands (although they need the least transition since both are based on printed comics).
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.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 2:31 PMThere are plenty of "fake" studio buildings at USF. Many of the early attraction buildings were designed to look like soundstages, though they would never see any production other than their various attractions.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 2:40 PMI never thought Disney considered the concept of thematic transitions between lands. They did invent the spoke and hub design that every Disneyland has adopted. Once you decided on a land to visit, you're supposed to return to the hub to see another land. This doesn't always happen in reality, but this is as close to practical use of the hub and spoke design.
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.
Published: March 24, 2014 at 11:10 PMNice idea, Robert. And it's high time they ditched that Fear Factor show. It's well past it's "best before" date.
Published: March 25, 2014 at 12:06 AMWDW ruined Walt's greatest transition from the real world to fantasy with the huge ugly bus stop right in front of the magic kingdom but at least they are easing the transition by making the hub and main street a giant parking lot.
Published: March 25, 2014 at 6:38 AMIt doesn't exist anymore, but one of the most clever ways create a transition between lands was what Hard Rock Park did with their music. They had different lands themed to different styles of music, and what they did was to have songs playing in the background that seamlessly transitioned between musical styles. You could hear a song like "Back in Black" playing normal, and then as you walked into the country music land, you could hear the same song done bluegrass style, or walk over to the Caribbean-themed beachfront to hear the song played with steel drums---very clever, and really rather surprising that other parks have not gone through the trouble to do something similar using music to make transitions between lands.
Published: March 25, 2014 at 6:58 AMIOA does a pretty good job of music themed to the lands and the transitions between them.
Published: March 25, 2014 at 7:25 AMI have an idea for transition between MIB and London
Published: March 25, 2014 at 11:31 AMThree thoughts:
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.
Published: March 25, 2014 at 12:24 PMEuropa park does a pretty good job with all its "countries".
Published: March 25, 2014 at 4:34 PMReally? You write about how Universal flows from land to land, but you stop at the worst break in any theme park? What about Harry Potter and Jurassic Park? That is a hard break.
Published: March 25, 2014 at 7:18 PMI'm glad someone brought that up (JP to HP). For the most part now and definitely pre-Harry Potter, IOA had great transitions between lands with the bridges between islands and the changes in music. I believe IOA has the best entry area of any park I've been to just based on the music that plays at the Port of Entry and the overall "adventure-travel" theme of 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.
Published: March 26, 2014 at 6:41 AMI have to agree with Anthony. The transistion between Jarassic Park and Harry Potter is just not good. You should not be seeing palm trees in front of Hogwarts Castle.
Published: March 26, 2014 at 5:51 PMAs I stated before, the "dead zone" between Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon where the empty show building sits really irks me. That walk past the Simpsons Ride to get to MIB seemed like a hike before. Now there is so much to stop and look at along the way.
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.
Published: March 28, 2014 at 12:46 PMBGW DOES A GREAT JOB ALSO!
Published: March 28, 2014 at 1:10 PMI worked at world showcase so I have plenty of experience going around the lagoon and looking at those pavilions. I have no problem with having each pavilion distinct and have no real transition. I do find, however, that the placement of particular countries interesting. Canada and Mexico are placed at the beginning partially because they were supposed to sandwich the American Adventure when it was placed on the other side of the lagoon, before it got moved to the other side.
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.