Friday, April 24, 2015

Replace Sounds Dangerous with Radio Adaptations

Targeted Group: Generationalists, Five-Years
Targeted Goal: More Magic

Sounds Dangerous was a somewhat ill-conceived attraction in Hollywood Studios.  Being set on the ABC soundstage, the audience would listen to a story of someone being kidnapped, or... something like that.  Yeah, I'm not quite sure.  I fell asleep during it.

It was hard not to, since the production only featured sounds.  With all the other top-notch shows in WDW, this one was very anti-climactic.

It lasted 13 years before closing in May of 2012.  Now, the studio is used for temporary attractions, which is okay.  It is very likely to be converted into something Star Wars-related, given its proximity to the current Star Tours and the rumored area of where the Star Wars land will go.  One common rumor is that it will be a Yoda-featured Jedi training area.

Creating a Jedi training area wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing in the world, but there is still a hole that I have a better idea filling.


Okay, that too is anti-climactic.  So, this will require some additional information.

In 2014, Kristen and I went to see a performance called the "Intergalactic Nemesis".  Below is a Youtube clip; the performance we saw was much better, since it was in a much more intimate setting.  Essentially the show is a mixture of three vocal performers, a foley artist, a piano player, and a computer technician running a slideshow of visuals in the art of a graphic novel.  Intergalactic Nemesis is a crazy story that starts as a spy thriller and turns into an alien abduction, which isn't the point here.  What is the point is the show style they used.

With the exception of the visuals, the other elements are a great re-creation of the old radio serials.  But, the performance gives you a chance to see it live (and, the foley artist can really steal the show).  Hollywood Studios is getting a re-branding, and it remains to be seen how much of the "glitz of Hollywood" theme remains, but this attraction would be perfect for it.

Of course, we wouldn't show the Intergalactic Nemesis.  We would show performances of Disney classics.  Or, classic Disney characters in new adventures.  Or, Marvel superheroes.  For instance, we could create the live version of Big Hero Six right on the heels of the movie being released; it is a perfect story for this art form.  And after a year, we could create a new adventure for Big Hero Six.

Actually, we could simultaneously run 3 shows, with different show times during the day.  And we can gradually replace them or extend them based on their popularity.  Multiple shows would allow us to appeal to multiple audiences and improve the chances that people would visit the attraction more than once per trip (meaning they will increase the chance of staying an extra day on their vacation).  Shareholders rejoice!

There are many advantages to this, even if we don't repurpose the existing sound stage space (perhaps we could put it in a different place within the park).  These performances are much easier to create than the stunt shows and musicals.  It can be a timely attraction as well as one that updates regularly.  And, it can appeal for all ages, including your crotchety old parents (I said yours, mine are delights) as well as your hard-to-please children (I said yours, mine are... okay, that's accurate).

It also is unique.  Disney needs attractions that are more innovative and can highlight the natural talent of their performers more than the talent of the imagineers who design the show.  This will create a brand new experience for individuals within the parks.

And as stated, it is a great reinforcer for the other Disney products (namely, their movie franchises).  Creating a full-fledged sequel to a franchise can be cost-prohibitive or time-intensive.  But, by creating a sequel here, you now have created a must-see attraction for a target audience.  What if Frozen 1.5 was a show here?  Every 7 year old girl would be begging their parents to go to Disney World... now!

Bottom Line: Unique experience, easy to create, new spin on old story-telling, fun for all ages, repurposes old space... should have done this years ago.

Soarin' - Multiple Destinations

Targeted Group: Five-Years, All Ages
Targeted Goal: Add Interactivity

My first change is one I'd consider to be simple:  Make Soarin' a much better "airline" by giving it multiple destinations.

Currently, the Soarin' attraction is simply a glider-simulator that goes through one set of scenes, that being California.  This was because the ride debuted in the California Adventures park.

Now, there's no problem with the California scenery itself the first time you watch it.  In fact, this is one of the few rides that all ages truly like (anything that can appeal to my kids and my mother threads a needle of impossibility).  My mother actually wanted to ride on it again!  This does not happen, folks.

But, something happens after the 2nd ride.  You get a bit bored with the scenery.  Sure, the experience of gently gliding is fun, but it has a been-there, done-that feel to it.  Simply put, we need more interactivity to spruce this up.

Disney has already figured this out.  Part of their genius in the renovation of Star Tours was the adding of multiple scenes.  Participants do not know what scenes they will experience in the simulator, meaning there is both the element of surprise, and the draw to ride the attraction again.  Sure, it can create longer lines with multiple rides (this will be a much bigger issue with Soarin' than with Star Tours), but it also adds more enjoyment.

The key to finding additional destinations for Soarin' is to have a wide variety of majestic scenes that look great on the big screen.  California, of course, is perfect for this as a diverse environmental marvel.  But there are other places that would work.

My proposal would be to add:

  • Alaska
  • Australia
  • Antarctica
  • Philippines or Indonesia
  • India
  • Russia
  • Egypt
  • Brazil or Peru
  • Spain
  • Greece

Ten additional destinations might be a bit much, but having at least 7 total, including California, would be the goal.  The destinations chosen are all purposeful.  Each has quite a bit of natural beauty to them, and enough diversity to make for a great video.  Most of them have an iconic scene to make for the final descent (Sydney Opera House, Taj Mahal, Acropolis, St. Basil's Cathedral, Christ the Redeemer, etc).

Expanding the attraction has many benefits beyond the interactivity.  Epcot, of course, purports itself to be a world showcase.  That world apparently doesn't include Africa or South America or Oceania.  This would be a way to further expand the world-wide reach of Epcot without having to massively build new lands in the showcase.

Which, leads us to the next benefit.  This is a very inexpensive fix, keeping those shareholders happy.  Creating videos for flight won't require the ride to be down (though, it would be better if the gliding mechanics could be personalized to each flight).

Plus, this can lead to perpetual updates.  Disney could release a new flight each year.  Having something new at each park on an annual basis is a must-have to move Five-Years to Annuals.

As mentioned, the downside to this is the potential line increase.  Soarin' is already very popular, and the wait times are notoriously long.  Adding some additional hangars would be a nice addition as well, and would maximize one of the more popular rides in the park (instead of forcing people into a boring people-eater).  Interestingly enough, it is rumored that Soarin' is adding new hangars with the potential of creating a new destination.  I'd add, having one new destination only delays the feeling of been-there, done-that.  We need to go to multiple destinations to truly maximize the benefit.

Bottom Line: More interactivity, greater tie-in with park theme, low cost and easy future development schedule... let's get started on this right away.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ride Capacity

Before we start with some of the changes I would make, one concept that is important to discuss is the Ride Capacity.  Essentially, this measures how many riders can go through a ride/attraction per hour (measured in gph, or guests-per-hour).  Obviously, the higher the gph, the better it is for both Disney and the customer.

A high gph doesn't mean that you will have a short line, of course.  The park could be incredibly busy, or your ride could be incredibly popular.  Plus, gph can be deceiving during fastpass events and times, where the ride is getting many people through, but the line isn't moving (ahem, Toy Story Mania).

So, it goes without saying that anything we can do to improve gph, the better off we are.  There are several specific strategies here:

1. Add additional duplicate attractions.  Take for instance Dumbo, which for years was an incredibly long line.  Recently, with the Fantasyland expansion, they added another Dumbo carousel, in effect doubling the gph.  This has had a nice effect on the line size, and by moving the attraction, they also have opened up some walking space.

2. Improve the workflow.  It is amazing how scientific the process is for the loading and unloading of guests on an attraction.  There is quite a bit of detail into maximizing the process so as little time possible is spent at those places.  Rides shouldn't have dead time, where you have finished them and are now stopped on the track, waiting for other cars in front of you to disembark before it is your turn.

3. Add people-eaters.  These are rides designed to take in large numbers of people at one time AND get them out of the rest of the park.  Ellen's Energy Adventure, or whatever they call that ride now, is a good example of this.  The ride packs a nice 2432 gph, but it also keeps people on the ride for 37 minutes, which keeps them off other rides.

4. Add single-rider lines.  This obviously makes the actual gph closer to the ideal gph (yeah, I'm just making up terms at this point), since there are no empty seats with a single-rider line.  Disney has already done this with most rides, so it isn't something additional they can add.

5. Make the seating area in the ride bigger or add more cars.  This is feasible in a few rides, where you might have a boat, and so you get a slightly bigger boat with one more row.  But this requires major work to be done to the queue, and not every ride can accommodate bigger vehicles.  The better option is to simply add more cars/vehicles to the rotation.  However, many rides can only accommodate a certain number of cars.  Coasters for example, typically can handle 5 trains at a time.  One loading, one unloading, and one each on three different lifts/falls in the course.

6. Make the ride shorter.  If you couldn't add more cars to your ride or make them bigger, you could make the ride shorter to raise the gph.  But, this ultimately doesn't help, because it releases those people back into the park.

Well, that's a quick look at the reality of ride capacity.  One of our objectives in this list will be to build ride capacity in certain places, so that we can handle more participants in the park.  If our main objective is to get generationalists to be 5-years, and 5-years to be annuals, the byproduct is that our parks will be more crowded, causing people to get frustrated.

Here is a nice look at project ride capacities.  Here is a look at the ride length.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

If I were in Charge of Disney World - Overview

Well, I'm at it again.  If you haven't been paying attention (which would be everyone in my world, including my mother, who I can't convince to read my blogs), I enjoy blogging random thoughts about the House of Mouse.  Check out my seminal Top 60 Most Nostalgic Things at Disney World blog if you want to see some of my better work.

Still here, eh?  Okay.  Don't blame you, really.

As a standard disclaimer, if you are here searching for vacation tips because Google sent you, I apologize.  Google search has let you down.  This blog is not going to provide much for how to plan a vacation or some of the insider tips for the parks.  I'm a WDW enthusiast, but I have a long way to go before I'd be considered an expert.

So with that said, let me tell you how I'd change everything if I were in charge of Disney.

Okay, it is a bit presumptuous of me to be writing this blog.  Fact is, Disney knows what they are doing.  They have kept WDW magical for years, and despite the hot and trendy Harry Potter-like exhibits that come out at competitors, they continue to be the class of theme parks.  Plus, they make money by the bucketloads.  I honestly don't think I'm going to be able to provide anything here that would truly change WDW, that the powers-that-be would listen to.

But that doesn't mean I won't try.  'Cause you only live once, and you might as well blog.

So, here's the deal.  Through the power of my imagination (I know, pretty 'mazing stuff!), I am now in charge of WDW.  I'd say Disney Parks, but I have only been to Disneyland once when I was young, and I really don't care that much about the cruises to blog.  So, we are focused solely on WDW, which is my forte.

I'm going to put together my thoughts on how to improve WDW.  This won't be ranked or structured.  I'll just post when I feel like it.

Ground Rules

Now for the ground rules, and you can't do a proper list without the ground rules.

1. We are working in a real world, here.  No attractions where you fly on winged horses or get to go swimming in the Fantasmic pool during the show.  These would be things I would realistically propose in order to improve the park experience.

2. Money IS an object (as opposed to when we say money is no object).  Yes, Disney is filthy rich and has the resources to do everything.  But, I am considering what I consider to be the financial impact on my items.  So, there is no "create 10 new parks!!!"  I would want my options to be appealing to stockholders.

3. Fun for many age groups.  Part of the Disney experience should be that it is unbelievably enjoyable for all ages.  Some of my proposals will be marketed for a specific age group in order to provide what I see as a hole within the park's offerings.  Some will be made to make an attraction more appealing to other age groups as well.

4. Not about me.  Well, of course it is about me, since these are my thoughts.  But, it isn't like I'm going to institute a policy that allows me to get into the park for free.

5. More magic.  The bottom line is to create more magic for park goers.  The more magic, the more memorable experience, the more likely participants are to coming back.  Because of this, one consideration is what to do to make lines shorter.  There need to be "people-eater" rides and shows that accommodate large numbers of people as well.

The Categories of Park Goers

So, part of my thinking is that there are different categories of park goers.  Much of the world fits into that "once-in-a-lifetime" category, given that Disney has created a nostalgic buzz about its park.  Making WDW available so all can come once in their lives is a priority.

Once they have come, we want it to be so magical that they will bring their kids, and then their grandkids.  We can call those "once-a-generation" visitors.

But, that's not where the real money is for Disney.  They want to make a large portion of the generation-ers into once-every-5-years visitors.  Yes, the expense might be prohibitive to come more than once a generation, but typically a family will enjoy their time so much, they wish they could come back more often.  If the parks can provide a significant update in the experience every five years, that makes it more likely for them to save up for a trip.  That means for every 5 years, every park should have a major update to it.

The next group are the annual attenders.  This group is committing to quite a bit of resources to be able to attend annually, so each park should have something new in it, and there should be one significant new experience overall.

And finally, there is the insane.  These are the ones that go 5 times a year to the park, basically making WDW an obsession.  These individuals need more than new things in the park; they need innovative ways to get behind the scenes and partake in parts that the typical park goer does not.

Note, I'm not going to focus on locals here.  WDW has been marketed as a magical experience in its own bubble, unlike Disneyland, where you still can see Anaheim around the perimeter.  This has had a huge effect on local traffic (and most of the locals work at WDW anyways).

All right, enough chatting for now.  Let's get started with our list.