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What a concept. A "Why For" that's loaded with concept art

Jim Hill

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What a concept. A "Why For" that's loaded with concept art

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As you might expect, this week's article about the Pixar-themed attractions that WDI reportedly has in the pipeline for the Disneyland Resort generated a lot of mail. Particularly from JHM readers who were wondering how exactly that Kuka robocoaster ride system might be used in an "Incredibles" - themed attraction.

Fairly typical of these e-mails was the note that I got from Kelly T. Which read:

Jim --

No way. There's just no way that the Imagineers would ever use a ride system like that in a Disney theme park. They're still dealing with all the negative publicity surrounding "Mission: Space." Yet you say that they're now going to be using the Kuka arm for this "Incredibles" E-Ticket. Which (based on what I saw in that robocoaster video) makes "M:S" look like a walk in the park.

Sorry, Jim. I love the site. But this time around, you've gotta be dead wrong.

Kelly T.

It's funny that you should bring up Epcot's "Mission: Space" attraction as part of your explanation as to why Disney would never use Kuka arm technology in its theme parks. Why for? Well, take a look at this piece of concept art ...

Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

This is the E-Ticket that the Imagineers initially wanted to build as the centerpiece attraction for Epcot's "Space" pavilion. A start-of-the-art ride which would have allowed Disney World guests to strap on a faux jetpack and go for a simulated space walk.

Now admittedly, the above concept painting doesn't really give you much of a sense of which ride system WDI wanted to use on this proposed attraction. All this illustration really does is give you a sense of the magic & the wonder that the Imagineers were hoping that guests would experience as they rode the "Space" pavilion's E-Ticket.

But what I can tell you is that each of these faux jetpacks were supposed to be attached to a robotic arm. Which -- in turn -- was then attached to an overhead ride track. So that when WDW guests moved the joysticks that were located in the arms of each faux jetpack, they'd get a real-time yaw, pitch and roll response. In short, this attraction would have given WDW visitors a very real sense of what it must feel like to walk in space.

But -- as we all know -- this version of Epcot's "Space" pavilion never quite made it off the launching pad. But WDI never quite gave up on the idea of using this sort of ride system for an attraction for the Disney theme parks. The Imagineers knew that -- if the right property came along (More importantly, the right set of characters) -- that this vehicle-attached-to-a-robotic-arm-which-is-then-tied-to-an-overhead-ride-track concept could result in a truly killer attraction for the parks.

And let's keep in mind that WDI has been working on this particular ride concept since the late 1980s. So they've been trying to break the back of this proposed attraction's capacity issues for over 15 years now. And the Imagineers think that they've finally found a way to seriously up this ride system's THRC (Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity).

What's their secret? Imagine a couple of dozen robotic arms, each of which would be carrying a multiple passenger vehicle as it moves along a ride track.

Beyond that ... I really can't say a lot about this proposed DCA attraction. Other than -- provided that this project actually does go forward -- it would be a really "Incredible(s)" ride.

Though -- to be fair -- I guess I should mention that WDI is also reportedly looking at yet another way to possibly stage this "Incredibles" attraction. Which -- while it still would make use of the ride-vehicles-attached-to-Kuka-arms concept -- this version of the attraction would eliminate the need for a ride track entirely.

"And how exactly would that work?," you ask. Well ... It's kind of difficult to explain: In a nutshell, this version of the "Incredibles" attraction would feature multi-passenger vehicles that were tethered -- via Kuka arms -- to a giant rotating platform. A turntable, if you will.

And -- as this platform slowly turned -- the ride vehicles would then be lifted aloft. And then -- from below -- the guests would be inserted into this three dimensional enviroment.

So it would be the slow rotation of the giant turntable -- coupled with the fluid movement of the multiple passenger vehicles on the end of those Kuka arms as they moved past sets & projections -- that would give this version of the proposed "Incredibles" attraction its sense of speed and danger.

Now where this all gets really interesting is that Kuka is reportedly pushing for one version of this attraction to be built (I.E. The robocoaster) while the folks at WDI are championing the turntable version of this show. Of course, were Kuka to give the Walt Disney Company a significant price break on their ride technology (Not to mention kicking in some cash to help defray Disney's R & D costs involved with creating higher capacity ride vehicles for this attraction), the Imagineers might be willing to revisit the whole robot-arms-tethered-to-ride-tracks idea.

So -- as you can see -- this "Incredibles"-ride-proposed-for-DCA story is still very much a work-in-progress, folks. As is the attraction itself. So -- as this story (and ride) continue to develop -- we'll try to bring JHM readers regular updates.

Speaking of JHM readers ... RaspberryRed also had some additional comments about this proposed DCA addition.

Jim --

"The Incredibles" in California Adventure? How could this proposed attraction ever fit in with DCA's theming?

"Cars," I could understand. After all, California has a very strong car culture. But throwing an "Incredibles" themed E-Ticket into California Adventure just because Eisner thinks that this is what it's going to take in order to sell tickets to DCA ... That's just wrong.

I don't know about the rest of your readers, Jim. But I think that this is a really terrible idea. One that I hope never makes it off the drawing board.

RaspberryRed --

You don't know how right you are. About a "Cars"-based attraction fitting into DCA much more easily than an "Incredibles"-themed ride or show would.

Don't believe me? Then let's take a look at the original concept poster for Disney's California Adventure.

Copyright 1996 The Walt Disney Company

Did you see that little red roadster right at the very center of that poster?

Copyright 1996 The Walt Disney Company

The Imagineers deliberately included that image in DCA's concept poster. Why for? Because WDI had originally intended that California Adventure would have an attraction that celebrated the state's car culture. One that was to have sent theme park guests whizzing around an outdoor track in recreations of classic muscle cars. Sort of an Autopia for adults, if you will.

But -- as the budget for DCA began to get pared back -- the little red roadster ride hit the skids. In its place, the Imagineers opted to fold some of the elements that were created specifically for this proposed-but-cancelled attraction into two other rides for Disney's California Adventure: "Mullholland Madness" and "Superstar Limo."

But -- given how poorly those two attractions were recieved -- WDI has been giving some semi-serious thought to the idea of reviving DCA's car culture attraction. And many Imagineers believe that the talking autos in Pixar's Summer 2006 release, "Cars," would be the perfect characters to build this ride around.

The only problem is ... The characters from "Cars" have already been spoken for. According to my sources with WDI, those characters are eventually going to be used for a redo of Disneyland's Autopia. Which is another reason why the characters from "The Incredibles" are now slated to be the stars of DCA's new E-Ticket.

Mind you, plans can change. I mean, take a close look at this concept painting for Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

Do you see who's standing on the roots of the Tree of Life? That's Simba, Nala and Rafiki from "The Lion King."

Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

Mind you, those characters weren't included in this concept painting because they were hyping the "Festival of the Lion King" show. But -- rather -- Simba, Nala and Rafiki are standing on the roots of the Tree of Life because these three were originally supposed to star in the show that would be presented inside the tree. DAK's thesis attraction, then entitled "The Circle of Life."

But then Michael Eisner -- while attending a story meeting for Pixar's 1998 release, "a bug's life" -- supposedly suddenly had a brain storm. "Wait a minute," Disney's CEO is reported to have said. "Bugs live in trees. We should have the characters from 'a bug's life' star in the show that we're presenting in the Tree of Life."

And that's how Simba, Nala and Rafiki got tossed out of the Tree of Life, Only to be replaced by Flik & Claire DeRoom.

That's just the way life is at the Walt Disney Companythese days, folks. Plans that seem to be carved in stone are suddenly tossed aside. I mean, let's remember that Disney's Animal Kingdom was once called ...

Copyright 1995 The Walt Disney Company

... And that the entrance of that theme park once looked like this ...

Copyright 1992 The Walt Disney Company

Now some people will tell you that this sort of thing never happened back in Walt's day. That concepts for rides, shows and attractions for the theme parks weren't suddenly tossed aside because of financial concerns and/or because a supposedly better idea came along. I say that the folks who say things like that really don't know their Disney Company history.

Don't believe me? Then check out the following. It's the text from a brochure that Disneyland visitors were handed as they came through the turnstiles back in the Fall of 1961. Which talked about all of the construction that was going on inside the Anaheim theme park at that time:

Coming - $7 million in new Disneyland attractions

Today - Be a "Sidewalk Superintendent"

When Disneyland opened in 1955, we decided that the Magic Kingdom would never really be completed - that it would continually grow and add new things.

This brochure will acquaint you with our plans for new Disneyland attractions opening in 1962 and 1963 - additions that have excited the imaginations of our entire staff.

Today, as in the months to come, it is our sincere wish that you and your family will find as much pleasure and enjoyment in Disneyland's adventures as we have in creating them.

                                            -- Walt Disney


Yes, Walt Disney is turning more exciting ideas into entertaining reality at the Magic Kingdom!

In Adventureland and Frontierland, a great new expansion program is now underway ... a development that will add $7 million in new adventures for you and your family to enjoy at Disneyland.

Some of these new attractions - like the "Bathing Pool" of the Indian elephants pictured on the preceding page and the fabulous "Stouffers at Disneyland" restaurants (below) will open next summer, early in June 1962 ... Others will be unveiled in 1963.

Because of this construction program, a few Disneyland attractions will be closed during your visit today. However, you will still find the great majority of Disneyland's famous adventures operating for you enjoyment.

And you are cordially invited to be a "sidewalk superintendent" at the construction work taking place. The Santa Fe & Disneyland train trip - departing from the Main Street Station - will take you "behind the scenes" in the building area ... and also introduce you to each "land" in the Magic Kingdom during your "grand circle tour" of Disneyland.

Summer '62 - A brand new Adventureland area

If you're among 20 million guests who have steamed down the Jungle Rivers of the World at Disneyland, you'll want to plan your next "jungle safari" now - a fun-filled new Safari that's coming to Adventureland in Summer '62!

You'll laugh 'til the explorer's boat shakes when you see the "bathing pool" of more than a dozen Indian elephants ... Big ones and "little squirts" ... so playful they've got a trunk-full of watery surprise - for unwary animals and explorers. You'll visit the famous African veldt, den of lions, tigers, jackals, laughing hyenas and other wild game ... And watch "big game" hunters, falling into the pitfalls of jungle exploration. With its new "fun" theme, the Jungle River Cruise will be a completely new adventure in Summer '62.

Close to the Jungle Cruise, the world's largest TREE HOUSE will rise 70 feet above the jungle. Spreading 85 feet in width, this marvelous tree house will provide all of the fun of a Swiss Family Robinson adventure for youngsters ... and for grown-ups, an unparalleled view over Adventureland and Frontierland from its three lofty rooms. Thousands and thousands of colorful pink leaves will "grow" on the tree, as will bright blooming orchids.

An exciting new concept in restaurants is also coming to the Magic Kingdom - STOUFFERS AT DISNEYLAND. Operated by one of America's foremost restauranteurs and accessible from both Main Street and Adventureland, Stouffers will provide three separate and distinct dining places. One will feature both American and European Kitchens ... The second, an outdoor Tahitian Terrace, where dancing and live entertainment will complement the food and the view ... And the third, the fabulous "Bird Room," Disney's first "by reservation only" dining facility with a complete show that's literally put on "by the birds" - for you!

You can also be a "big game hunter" yourself this Summer at Disneyland ... at the unique new "Safari Shooting Gallery" in Adventureland.

So make a note on your calendar to take a trip far from civilization ... To see the NEW Adventureland at Disneyland in Summer '62!

For 1963 - The Haunted Mansion and New Orleans Square

Gathering the "world's greatest collection of ghosts" is no easy task ... Most people are kind of reluctant to admit that they know any. Walt Disney has had his "talent scouts" searching for several years ... And in 1963, the HAUNTED MANSION will be filled with famous and infamous residents.

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is but one of the new attractions under construction in Frontierland for 1963 opening. An entire new area is being developed along the banks of the Rivers of America. Highlighted by the exciting NEW ORLEANS SQUARE.

New Orleans Square will feature a quaint street patterned after the fabled French Quarter of New Orleans. It will include shops and stores with a "high fashion" theme of French elegance pervading ... sidewalk cafes and entertainment ... and the BLUE BAYOU MART, a bustling, unique "Thieves Market."

Nearby, terraced walks at varying levels will lead guests along the river banks ... exciting concepts in lighting will create an entirely new atmosphere at night ... And the beautiful landscaping of the area will be highlighted in a park filled with magnolias & camellias.

We hope that you will bear with us during the temporary inconvenience caused by this $7 million expansion program ... and return to us in Summer '62 and 1963 to enjoy all of the wonderful new adventures that this development is bringing to the Magic Kingdom.

If you read the above text closely, you'll learn about a "Bird Room" restaurant which never actually opened. Likewise a version of the "Haunted Mansion" that was supposed to have opened 'way back in 1963. And how about that New Orleans Square without a single mention of a "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride?

You see what I'm getting at here, folks? That plans changed -- sometimes radically -- even back in Walt's day.

So -- even though I have fairly solid information about this "Incredibles" attraction that's been proposed for DCA -- that doesn't mean that a few months from now (like -- for example -- when Robert Iger takes over for Michael Eisner) that these plans still can't change.

Which is why  -- in spite of what you may read here at JHM -- it's sometimes best to remain a little skeptical about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company. Rather than pinning all your hopes on a story that you read on the Internet.

Mind you, I'm not telling you that I think that anything that I've posted here on JimHillMedia is wrong. But -- as the above examples & pieces of concept art will (hopefully) prove -- things can sometimes change.

Take -- for example -- those plans for the rehab of WDW's "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride that I wrote about last week. The way I initially heard that story, the redo of that Adventureland favorite was going to be fairly low key. With only a single new Jack Sparrow AA figure being added into the finale sequence of this Magic Kingdom attraction.

Well, over the past week, I've recieved a number of e-mails that there is a second, much more ambitious version of this rehab plan floating around out there. Several JHM readers even claim to have seen the blueprints for the redo of WDW's "Pirates" ride. Which reportedly call for wholesale changes in the attraction's load & unload area. Not to mention a slew of new AA figures being added to the ride.

Given how grandieous this version of the alleged "Pirates" rehab plan reportedly is, I'm rather reluctant to talk about it right now. I'd much prefer to just to sit on this story for a while, give my contacts within the Walt Disney Company a few phone calls, see if anyone currently working at WDI can actually confirm this information ...

Of course, if one of the guys who wrote into me over the past week would now like to fork over a copy of the blueprints for WDW's POTC change-out and/or slide me a few supporting documents ... I might buy into this story a whole lot faster.

But to go from one new AA figure to nearly a dozen? ... That seems like sort a stretch to me. More like a fanboy's dream than an actual business plan from the notoriously-tight-with-a-buck Mouse.

But who am I to say? As the above "Why For" has (hopefully) proved, the Walt Disney Company does have a habit of changing its plans. As my ex -- Shelly Smith -- once put it:

"When it comes to the Mouse, the plans aren't really concrete 'til they're actually pouring the concrete."

And -- some cases (like with the original "Pirates" ride at Disneyland) -- plans for an attraction can actually change AFTER they've poured the concrete ... But that's a story for another time.

Anyway ... That's it for this week, folks. Here's hoping that you all have a very good weekend. And we'll pick up right where we left off next Monday, alright?

Til then, you take care, okay?


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