The EAST Side of Disneyland - Part 2
Welcome back to this two-part series on the possible future of the East side of Disneyland. If you haven't done so already, please make sure to go back and read or listen to Part 1 before you continue with this post.
Postscript to Part 1
Before we look at my ideas for what Disney can do with the East side of my favorite place on earth, I wanted to share briefly a few more thoughts on Fantasyland. I mentioned in Part 1 some of the rumors that are out there, chief among them the possibility of razing the Fantasyland Theater in order to make room for one to two additional attractions. For whatever it is worth, I recommended that the top candidates be Disney World's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle and the Be Our Guest restaurant. While it would be great to see 'all of the above', I took a little time using Google to see if the footprints of these attractions could (approximately) fit within that area and unfortunately they do not (see below). Perhaps Imagineers could get creative and dig deep (literally) to bury the queue for Enchanted Tales, but I still doubt all three can fit in this space. If you had to choose between the three, which one would you go with? Click here to take a Survey Monkey poll (it includes a space where you can add your own suggestion if you don't like the options I came up with). Poll closes once it hits 100 participants so don't delay to make your opinion known. I will share the final results on the my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
and now for the main event...
OK, so let's move on to the big enchilada, and that is the future of the East side of the park. Without further ado, here is what I would like to see.
First of all, a whole lot of demoing would go down that would make what happened to the North-West side of the park in preparation for Galaxy's Edge look like child's play. From the former Carousel of Progress turned Innoventions turned Star Wars Launch Bay building up through Autopia, Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage and all of the Monorail that weaves through this area, I recommend they scrape it clean down to the bare dirt. Additionally in Tomorrowland, all of the remaining old PeopleMover track and the Astro Orbiter would be completely removed. The structures that currently house Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters and Star Tours can be salvaged but completely gutted and likely heavily re-skinned. Same with the interior spaces that used to hold the Starcade as well as the former home of Captain EO and Honey I Shrunk the Audience, the Magic Eye Theater.
Once we have wiped the slate clean, what should move in?
First of all, I'm going to include here links to a great video Fastpass Facts made on legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter's never-realized vision to reboot Tomorrowland as well as an article by the Theme Park Tourist website. I think they provide some amazing background on this part of the park and I will shamelessly steal a few components from Mr. Baxter's brain.
So let's start with what I will call Tomorrowland proper, which includes it's entrance from the end of Main Street through the end of the large structures that dominate the South-East part of Disneyland (Star Wars Launch Bay, Space Mountain, etc.). Before we talk about specific attractions, let's first consider the overall aesthetic or theme. As I see it, there are two routes they can go:
- Update it to a Tomorrowland 5.0 (yes, along with the original opening day edition, there have been three identifiable re-launches of this space) or...
- Rename it, according to Baxter's vision, as Discoveryland. While it was not a full realization of his concepts, Discoveryland in Paris is worth checking out as it does reflect some of Baxter's ideas, especially with Space Mountain: Mission 2 and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walk-through.
Personally, I favor an updated Tomorrowland. There is just something about the word 'tomorrow' that has such deep history and resonates so strongly with a core value of Walt Disney, best reflected in the lyrics to the theme song of the original Carousel of Progress: "There is a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day."
I still think that it can incorporate some of the retro ideas that Baxter was trying to highlight in order for the land to be more timeless and for its iconic Space Mountain to not seem so out of place. Perhaps this attraction can be recast as part of a museum-like corner to the rest of this hyper-futuristic space.
When I posted Part 1 in a Disneyland Facebook group a few weeks ago, one person shared the brilliant idea that the overall aesthetic of an updated Tomorrowland could match that of Wakanda in the recent Black Panther film. I loved the kinetic feel of the city with what looked to be magnetically driven ('maglev') trains for mass transit, yet also with nearly car-less streets packed full of pedestrians. It also felt lush, something that is very much the trend in environmentally sensitive urban development which now often feature rooftop gardens and parks. The end result is an interesting juxtaposition of steel, concrete and glass along with lush, green vegetation. The goal is a 22nd century version of Babylon's Hanging Gardens. The online trade magazine, Architectural Digest, did a whole piece on the potential for Wakanda-like cities in the future. Of-course there wouldn't be an explicit connection to the movie as we all know that Marvelland will be soon arriving next door over at DCA. But Tomorrowland 5.0 can certainly borrow from the inspirational aesthetics of Wakanda.
What about attractions? Well this updated Tomorrowland could very well by synonymous with Technologyland with a focus on areas of exploration where the dream of discovery drives curiosity. These domains to investigate could basically be described as the worlds of small, digital and up. I probably won't score many points for creativity, as you will see that all of these concepts have links to past attractions and concepts. Nevertheless, here they are...
- Why not re-introduce an Adventures through Inner Space attraction? Originally it was supposed to be a part of a literal Scienceland, which aligns with the theme of exploration. I bet with today's special effect wizardry they could do some mind bending stuff to give riders the illusion of shrinking. They just need to come up with a crisis of some sort to drive the story-line of the ride. As far as location, this would fit well with a simulator type attraction and therefore could make use of the existing Star Tours space. It could focus on exploring parts of the microscopic world which could, like Star Tours, feature multiple scenarios to avoid predictability and encourage multiple returns to the ride. A challenge to this idea would be if they decided to do something similar in an Ant Man attraction over in DCA (though I have not heard rumors to that effect).
- While the sequel didn't capture the magic of it's original 1982 flick, no one could argue about the stunning visuals of Tron: Legacy. Again, tying in nicely to the theme of advanced technology and exploring 'digital space', I think there is some promising ride concepts to be explored here beyond Shanghai and soon the Magic Kingdom's Tron Lightcycle Power Run. But if Disney Execs wanted to save money on development, they could probably find a way to fit this roller-coaster in around where Star Wars Launch Bay and Autopia's loading area once stood. Plus we all know how they love attractions built on movie franchises. And while Tron 3 has stalled, there is still some hope that it will return and pick up steam. Side note: Any way they could incorporate an End of Line Club restaurant into this attraction like Pirate's of the Caribbean's Blue Bayou would be phenomenal.
- As far as exploring space, in a nod to the old Mission to Mars or EPCOT's Mission: Space, let's bring in an ultra-realistic space flight simulator to compliment the more campy and retro Space Mountain. As far as Mars goes, yes Elon Musk ambitiously wants to land the first human being on the Red Planet by 2025, but that is an extremely rosy prediction and risky endeavor. As he said in a 2016 interview, "It's dangerous and probably people will die." NASA and other space agencies don't see this realistically happening for another 20-30 years, so that should mean a reasonable shelf life for this ride. Plus there is some scientifically grounded dreaming around traveling at the speed of light and possibly even faster. Perhaps a space flight simulator bypasses Mars all together and takes us to the most distant reaches of the know universe in a few minutes.
- While somewhat controversial, especially at the time, Disney might consider tapping into its dark side and bringing back something along the lines of Disney World's retired ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. A permanently scary attraction to compliment the seasonal Ghost Galaxy overlay of Space Mountain would be deliciously attractive for fright fiends and some nice counter-programming to Disney's usually kid-friendly fare.
A few other ideas worth considering would be...
- Reviving something similar to the Monsanto House of the Future as either a walk-through or a brief live presentation on the most cutting edge technologies. This kind of attraction doesn't need much space and isn't a people-eater, but park goers enjoy these places out of the sun where they can sit and relax for a few minutes, like Great Moment's with Mr. Lincoln or DCA's Animation Academy. Hell, I bet they can even get a corporate sponsor which again makes the bean counters happy.
- Or here is a really outlandish idea: A Tomorrowland Hotel that would be accessed via the Monorail through a dedicated entry at the new Disneyland Transit Center (more on that in a a few minutes). People would pay a premium price to stay in rooms overlooking this part of the park with dedicated and early access to Disneyland every day of their visit.
- And for those who just can't let their fond memories of the PeopleMover go, perhaps some of the track is renovated for an attraction that similarily weaves around Tomorrowland, again adding to the space's kinetic activity.
So those are my thoughts on what I called Tomorrowland proper. What about the rest of the land that used to belong to Autopia, the PeopleMover and Monorail's winding tracks, and Finding Nemo?
I'm tentatively dubbing this new part of Disneyland the World Expo, though I'm sure it could have a catchier handle. But we will leave the branding to the marketing gods. The general concept is to tie as much of the 'four corners' of the earth together in a uniquely themed area featuring multiple e-ticket attractions and great ethnic food and unique merchandise options. Unlike EPCOT's World Showcase, this land would not have a developed look but rather one that feels more remote, inviting guests into a more exotic experience.
Tying into the globally comprehensive It's a Small World and the European-based Matterhorn of the Swiss Alps, two additional E-ticket attractions would be built to the east with a multi-ethnic marketplace or bazaar for food and other internationally themed merchandise.
Here are my thoughts on possible attractions:
- A Mulan ride would boarder the north end of the new Tomorrowland. The show building would be buried under a portion of the green Himalayan mountains while using forced perspective to depict the Great Wall of China snaking across the peaks. I believe this would instantly become an iconic visual for this new land.
- North of this would either be an Aladdin or Lion King attraction. Again, the actual show buildings would be covered, either with a desert-like queue leading to the Cave of Wonders (perhaps the famous Pyramids of Egypt are incorporated, again using forced perspective) or an African Serengeti environment leading to Pride Rock.
A diamond-shaped marketplace would feature food and merchandise in keeping with the attraction that each side faces, whether that be African, Arabic, Asian or European cuisine and collectibles. Perhaps two-sided archways in-between each of these environments could serve as visual barriers to the other 'lands' within this World Expo, though it could be interesting to see such radically different settings within one's peripheral vision.
The new Disneyland Transit Center
So one of the big questions some of you are likely asking is, "What about the Monorail?" Well going back again to trends in city planning, multi-modal transit centers continue to be built around the globe as the future of mass transportation. By definition, they bring together two or more modes of public transit under one roof in order to make it easy to transfer to other systems which then opens up access to more destinations. How cool would it be to have a full or semi-enclosed, futuristic-looking transit center with a time-traveling turn-of-the-20th-century locomotive pulling in to the ground floor while elevators and escalators take passengers up to a second floor Monorail station. And perhaps if a portion of an updated PeopleMover is reborn, there is a place to transfer to this on the second floor as well. For those disembarking, they will exit the station to views of the previously discussed Wakonda-esque Tomorrowland.
I once again went to Google to see how this might work. I took the tightest turn in the current Monorail track and shifted it south. The Monorail might need to discreetly pass through the edge of a show building or two but that is very doable.
Added Bonuses to the new and improved east side of disneyland
There are a few added bonuses that I see coming from these major changes. First is an improved queue for The Matterhorn. With a new Alps-themed skin to the north side of the building that currently houses Buzz Lightyear and the Galactic grill and perhaps a tunnel entrance from the new Tomorrowland into the World Expo, gone are the days of the glaring contrast of these lands. Plus, a more scenic and interactive queue can be built where part of Nemo's ocean was located, eliminating the boring chain switchback line that now exists.
The best secondary bonus to a new Tomorrowland and World Expo is to the Disneyland Railroad. What happens now once you depart the ToonTown station and It's a Small World feels like you have pretty much left the park and gone backstage. You get treated to the glorious sights of the switch for both the train and Monorail which leads back to the maintenance building. Prior to this is my personal favorite, the lone sign extolling 'Agriculture'. Then you return to the park at what is quite honestly a pretty generic Tomorrowland station. Replacing all of that could be a tunnel with discreet views of the new Aladdin, Lion King or Mulan rides, much like riders experience when they go through Splash Mountain. After exiting this, the train would pull in to the new Tomorrowland Transit Center only then to leave and visit the Grand Canyon and then travel back in time to Primeval World. These improvements, along with the much enhanced journey along the Rivers of America, would really make the entire Disneyland Railroad seem like an attraction of its own.
what do you think?
Well there you have it! While I usually don't enable the comments section on most of my blog posts, I'm going to make an exception for this one. So please feel free to comment below with your thoughts. What do you like? What do you think won't work? What are your own ideas? I would love to hear it all. Until next time, so long fellow Armchair Imagineers!