Friday, July 27, 2007

Adventures in Master Planning #3

Sometimes, you come across something in a theme park which strikes you as either exceedingly brilliant or exceedingly baffling. All of this is, of course, the domain of Master Planning, which (ostensibly) accounts for every angle, dimension and layout question which arises in a park. Master Planning can make a theme park revolutionary (Disneyland) or frustrating (Disney-MGM Studios). Even a company as large as WDI tries to keep everything in line, but sometimes they blunder…

Adventure Three: How to Hide a Castle

Cinderella Castle is big. Really Big. Like, 198 feet big. It can be seen from a mile away. And in the designing of Walt Disney World, WED had to deal with this new kind of visual center point in the initial master planning process for the first time. Sure, The Matterhorn was (and still is, after 45 years of foliage growth) equally huge, but that was built four years after Disneyland’s opening and there was no good way to account for being able to see a future mountain from, say, Frontierland.

So I guess this wasn't planned.

The Magic Kingdom’s solution was to choose its’ battles. The front areas of the lands are among the most important for allowing guests to slip into the fantasy of being in another place and time, as well as screening out lands which do not have a complimentary appearance (for example, seeing Space Mountain from Adventureland). This was achieved through actually not using forced perspective in the areas nearest the hub: buildings like The Adventureland Veranda and The Heritage House are, in fact, nearly 100% scale and restrict your view of the castle by hugging pedestrian space close to the buildings.

Further along, subtle architectural embellishments seek to harmonize with the spires of the castle: Liberty Square’s flagpoles and pointed cupolas, Tomorrowland’s old entrance spikes pointed skyward.

In Adventureland is a rather odd spire near the exit of the treehouse. This author had wondered about its’ significance for years and years. Invisible from Liberty Square and all angles save one, it serves no purpose. Yet find the right angle, and the most subtle and brilliant example of visual harmony you’ll find anywhere suddenly becomes clear.


Joe Shelby said...

I'd talked with our Keys to the Kingdom tour guide about this back in May as he was discussing it and showing how the transitions work, and soon after that noticed this interesting tidbit:

The only way you can see the Contemporary Resort from the MK is by looking *through* Tomorrowland, where it fits in perfectly.

One can only hope they remember this as the DVC extension gets put up. Bad enough they totally ruin the Contemporary's look by putting that disgusting looking convention center next to it, though I'm thinking Space Mountain will be able to hide it from most angles.

Of course, the Fantasyland -> Tomorrowland transition has always been bad since they never built the mountain there that they had made space for.

Joe Shelby said...

oh. sorry. it was here (for entry #2, a while ago) that I read about the space for the mountain that never came, so you already knew that. :)

FoxxFur said...

LOL - glad my observations have entered the ether of "I heard that somewhere". =)

I've always liked the way you can see the Contemporary only by looking at Tomorrowland from elsewhere. I don't think the big ugly donut will ruin the vista; the only other place you could see that tower from in the park has the Exposition Hall in your sightline, blocking it out.

Biblioadonis aka George said...

Once, again: Something so simple raised to another plane.

But looking from the Contemporary onto the Magic Kingdom, you really get an entirely different view. I would love to see it presented almost like a necklace in a jeweler's box, to see the Magic Kingdom from another design vantage. But you also see the intersecting roads that lead to the park that remind you that you are still on vacation and not in a fantasy realm.

Somehow, it seems jarring, almost by intent. Or would it be more than even Disney ability to disguise the backstage-iness from the Contemprary?

Matt said...

Hello. Its Matt from Disneyana World. I don't know if you got my message, but I would love pictures of anything from your collection. Thanks!

Joe Shelby said...

aka George: Try looking at it from an even higher taking a parasailing trip on Bay Lake!

yeah, that was fun!