Go Go Coaster

November 21, 2022

With the announcement by Disneyland that Mickey’s Toontown will re-open to guests on March 8, 2023, I have both an early birthday present and an excuse to write a little about one of the rides in Toontown.  The particle ride is Gadget’s Go Coaster.

Concept artwork for Gadget’s Go Coaster.

The design intent foundation for Mickey’s Toontown was to provide a separate land for families with preschoolers.  Disneyland had areas in the park suitable for preschoolers but no land devoted and designed for them and their families.  The insight behind the decision was based on research that told TWDC and WDI that parents with very young children liked the park, wanted to visit the park but would wait to visit the park until their child was older because in Disneyland, “there was nothing for my child to do”.

Concept model for Gadget’s Go Coaster.

That insight drove the creation of Mickey’s Toontown.

Gadget’s Go Coaster at Tokyo Disneyland.

So, jumping ahead during the creative development it was decided that the new land really needed a junior roller coaster.  Not a Space Mountain (which was adult), and not a Thunder Mountain (which was family friendly), but a coaster for little kids.  Their very first coaster.  Not scary but thrilling for little kids.

Rasti-Land image, home of the Go Coaster phototype.

The decision to design a junior coaster drove the effort to buy a junior coaster, and research yielded that Vekoma had such a coaster in their ride catalog, and I could ride one if I traveled to Germany and visit Rasti-Land park.  Two plane flights later the WDI team stood in the station for the ‘Roller Skater’ coaster admiring the bubble gum pink color the owners had painted the ride.  The ride was short, contained a bit of mild thrill and was perfect to design a show around.  It had already been decided that the cartoon character Gadget who was part of the Chip and Dale television show would be the story anchor and that the inventor character built a coaster using methods she used in the television show.

Image of the Go Coaster team at Rasti-Land. I’m in the middle.

Following the character’s logic, the environment, props, and ride vehicles flowed and over two years of construction built and opened with the new land.  The ride and indeed Mickey’s Toontown was a hit out of the box, and soon enough a second Toontown was built at Tokyo Disneyland.  The second Toontown was the same as the first but for the fact that the layout of the land was reversed but that detail didn’t prevent the second version from being as successful as the first.

Image of the Nuthouse Coaster at Universal Studios Florida.

And that wasn’t the end of the Go Coaster because Universal Studios Orlando opened Woody Woodpecker Nut House Coaster with the same Vekoma track design and later still a longer track version of the coaster opened in Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo Disney Sea.  

Image of the extended version of the ride at Tokyo Disney Sea.

For a short ride Gadget Go Coaster has had a long history in the Disney parks and beyond.  And now it has been reimagined as Chip n’ Dale’s Gadget Coaster which opens to guests March 2023.


Cheerios and Fiddle Ferns

September 1, 2002

Concept artwork for the new play area at Disney MGM Studios.

Imagine that you’ve nearly completed building a brand-new house which will you shortly move into.  You’ve saved to design your new house and to build your new house, and although you aren’t finished with construction, you are close.  Only the finishing touches for your new house are left to complete and you can then move in.  But just as you complete all those finishing touches, you begin to remodel.

That’s what occurred when the Disney MGM Studios Theme Park opened in the Spring of 1989 at Walt Disney World, because due to guest demand the park was crowded. Very crowded.  So, in response a number of new attractions were quickly ordered.  The list of new things for guests to experience included new dining, new restrooms, new walkways, new shows, new shops, and a new play area.

Empty land but future location for the Movie Set Adventure.

Building on and inspired by the success of the Disney film, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, work began on the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure”, which opened to guests on December 17, 1990.  Located on the ‘New York Streets’ section of the Studio Backlot, the new play adventure was located on what was empty land.

A giant piece of breakfast cereal attracts guests.

The concept was to recreate a version of the back yard of the house seen in the film.  This would allow guests to explore the yard under the shade of 30-foot-tall blades of grass.  And, set among the grass were giant ants, a huge dog nose (which sprayed wet dog sneeze, so yuck!), and an empty Kodak film canister with a film roll that was actually a slide.  In addition, guests walking across a soft dark ‘dirt’ surface could discover a leaf that was used as water wall, a maze made up of plant roots, and a leaking water hose which was helpful to combat the Florida heat.

The ‘dirt’ was actually a soft rubber like material.

The ground was made a soft surface, or ‘safe deck’, which allowed guests to fall without injury.  This material would later be installed in a number of Disney projects featuring playgrounds before falling out of favor and being removed over the course of time.

Guest slides were clad to appear as roots.

Normal play structures were not to be found in this playground.  Open roots covered the slides as one example of cladding normal play equipment.  Similar unclad slides can be experienced today in other Disney theme parks.

Climbing the spider webs afforded guests a view into the park back of house.

Another activity was a set of climbing nets that were disguised as spider webs and hung in an arrangement that allowed guests to climb up to the top for an uninspired view of what was a rather basis industrial area.  The view was a rare look into a Disney back of house that was normally off limits to guests, so it was unique if only for that experience.

Workers attacking a large piece of foam turning it into cereal.

The set pieces were built in a variety of ways, with some of the methods being pure trial and error.  In the example of the giant cereal round an open cell foam (sometimes called ‘bead foam’) was employed.  The foam would be roughly cut with various sizes of saw blades by workers operating under a tent for shade from the Florida sun.

Red areas circled denote the hot wire tool and the black marker.

In this close up of the image worker is captured as he holds a large black marker in one hand which he used to circle an area of foam to remove.  The reason for the removal was to create the divots common to pieces of cereal.  The worker would remove the area using an electrically heated wire that was hot enough that it would melt the foam prior to cutting away the unneeded portions.  Thereafter clean up and minor revisions to the work would occur and the process would continue until a single piece of cereal was produced.

Hard materials being transformed into soft fiddle ferns.

Elsewhere in the production yard a combination of foam and plaster were used to create the several Fiddle Ferns that would be ‘planted’ in the play area.

The iron skillet useful for feeing hungry workers.

Finally like all workers they need to be fed, and one of the advantages of a production yard was the ready availability of cooking gas and an iron skillet.  Oh, and meat.  Lots and lots of meat.

The “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure” entertained guests of all ages for many years and survived several changes to the park, but it couldn’t survive the biggest one. The last day of operation for the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure” was April 2, 2016. It was replaced by “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”, a land that lacks giant fiddle ferns.


Project Assemble! Avengers Campus Europe

July 11, 2002

My first notice of involvement with Avengers Campus Europe was in the form of a telephone call.  Since I was the Executive Creative Director for Toy Story Land and Toy Story Hotel, I was spending a lot of my time living in Shanghai.  Once out of curiosity I added up the number of days spent in the People’s Republic of China and discovered that the total was over 250 days during a single calendar year.  Not that it mattered because when my mobile phone rang the voice on the other end asked me to take on the role as Executive Creative Director and start design work for Avengers Campus that was to be built at the Disney Studios Paris Theme Park.  So, for a some months I woke early several times weekly to join video conferences that began at 4am Shanghai time.  I plugged time into my Shanghai project schedule and started to focus on Avengers Campus Paris while balancing my project load for Toy Story Land.

Image of Back Lot area at DSP opening.

Since I knew Rock n Roller Coaster from WDW, and DSP and I knew Marvel, I leverage both as I started on the project.  I also owned thousands of Marvel Comics and they proved as useful the films in the creation and design process.

Image of some of the creators of the Marvel Universe.

I started with what I knew about RnRC while thinking about what was broken in the area as it currently existed, and that proved remarkable simple.  The existing land was barren, lacking greenery and filled with hard and uninteresting surfaces.  The design manifest was to duplicate the Spider-man ride, reimagine Rock n Roller Coaster and fix the land giving it a story and supporting background.  Prior to confirming Spider-man, there was a development to repurpose the Armageddon attraction as well as duplicating and importing another ride that had premiered elsewhere.  Due to NDA just like Bruno we don’t talk about those ideas.  

Image of Iron Man drawn by a very young me.

The concept that quickly emerged was this area was developed and owned by Howard Stark and was the hidden nondisclosed European headquarters of SHEILD.  As Ms. Peggy Carter was British it made it logical in the story for her to have an office in the factory and thus SHIELD would be represented.  The fun map shows Avengers Campus as it is today and shows the old airfield dating to the post war era.  The airfield doesn’t exist in reality, but it was present in my mind whenever I thought about the foundations of the designs.

Image of Avengers Campus Europe fun map.

This image is a throw-everything-at-the-wall image that would serve as inspiration for the new version of Rock n Roller Coaster.  Obviously, the arc reactor seen in the film Iron Man didn’t make it to the final cut, however the image proved useful to explain the scope of the project to other stakeholders.  The interior queue did grow as this version took over the space used for the Aerosmith scene, so win, win.

Image of Iron Man concept.

The attraction poster was a personal project inspired by the classic Disneyland attraction posters but as with the fun map it explains the concept for the new land.  My digital work was mouse only which in hindsight is possible the slowest way for me to have created this artwork. Live and learn.

Avengers Campus poster. Personal project and still drawing Iron Man.

There were many, many steps in the process before I completed design and handed off the creative part of the project to the Euro Disneyland Imagineering team. I next turned my attention to yet another new project however soon after that project started Covid began and soon afterward I decided after more than three decades to retire from Walt Disney Imagineering.

Image taken in the queue in Rock n Roller Coaster avec Aerosmith.

There is more to the story but for now I will stop to congratulate Disneyland Paris as they open Avengers Campus Europe to the guests visiting Disneyland Paris. My hope is that guests enjoy visiting this new land will have as much fun as I did in its creation.


Joyeux Anniveraire Disneyland Paris

April 11, 2022

It all started with a mouse, or at least that’s how my involvement with Euro Disneyland occurred.

The mouse was Mickey Mouse and my involvement with him was on the Mickey’s Toontown project which was then in construction and set to open at Disneyland in Anaheim.  Toontown was the first land where I was involved designing and my area of design responsibility was for parts of Mickey’s Neighborhood and Gadget’s Go Coaster.  This coaster was classified as a junior roller coaster and Vekoma was under contract to manufacture and deliver the ride and so to the vendor I would travel.  Vekoma was in the town of Vlodrop which is close to the German border, and I used to drive pass the border check point house from the Dusseldorf airport to Vlodrop.

Early 1990s site image of Euro Disneyland

Business travel has changed in the decades and back when I started traveling to Vekoma.  I would pick up my travel documents from the person on the first floor at 1401 Flower and fly to Europe to stay for several weeks. Before mobile phones and personal computers traveling was a total commitment and once at my destination, I became an available design resource that could be deployed to help in any way the company chose to complete Euro Disneyland.  I traveled for the Mickey’s Toontown, but I stayed in Marne-la-Vallee for Euro Disneyland.

My assignments were different day to day during my extended stay in Europe.  One day I would be checking that the plant material being installed around the treehouse on Adventure Isle followed the plan drawings and on a different day I would paint the exterior queue walls at the Pirates of the Caribbean.  In all the hands-on deck situation prior to opening, I was happy to be of any assistance I could offer.  When Euro Disneyland opened (or done and dusted), I believed I was done on EDL, but the week after Mickey’s Toontown was completed I was asked to start design work adding ride capacity to the EDL .

Image of the plantings on Adventure Isle.

The following years put me back in Europe living near United Kingdom based show vendors, traveling to Vekoma, Zierer and Mack rides, all while living near the site to design and deliver the Old Mill Ferris Wheel, Aladdin walk through, Casey Junior, Storybook Land Canal Boats and Bonjour Mickey.  Finally, the day arrived when my work again was completed and I returned to California where a few short years I was again pulled back to Disneyland Paris to create new rides and a land for the second park, the Walt Disney Studios Paris.

2022 site image of Disneyland Paris Resort.

After several seemingly near-death experiences, a name change, and a delay in opening the second theme park, the question remains ‘was Euro Disneyland a success’?  Depending on the lens a person looks regarding the question, the answer is yes, maybe, and no, however what can be stated is that the creation of Disneyland Paris is most certainly an achievement.  So, I say ‘Joyeux Anniveraire Disneyland Paris’!

The writer in front of his mural in Adventureland Disneyland Paris.


Day 48

March 16, 2022

How to See

This blog is going about as well as I thought. By deciding to limit myself to longer form pieces the result is fewer pieces which don’t appear to be getting any longer. For readers wanting something more timely I refer you to my Twitter or Facebook accounts. For the non Westerns I refer you to WeChat.

Whenever I travel packed in my traveling bag is a sketchbook and some drawing pens of various types, because although I trust my camera to capture an image, I trust my eye more to see the image when I draw. Around a 100 years school students were taught to draw, not because their teachers thought they were training a future Picasso or Van Gogh, but learning to draw was a needed trade skill for work. In that spirit my sketch book travels with me in order for me to see and learn about the locations where I travel. The first sketch is Des Halles which was the Metro station nearest to my apartment in the early 1990s. Lots of glass and metal work which replaced a far better design for the buildings which were once at this site.

Sketch in black pen.

On every occasion I would try to draw elevations of buildings such as this example of a building at rue du Etinne Marcel located in the first arrondissements. This building combined classic form with a contemporary street lamp. The lamp served its function but it is horribly out of place.

Sketch in black pen.

Finally this sketch of a elderly man speaking into his mobile phone while been pushed by a determined younger man.

Sketch in black pen with warm grey wash.

There are many other examples of buildings, people and environments that I many share in the future. Until then stay safe.

A Visit to Tokyo Disneyland 1987

March 25, 2023

Just like Walt Disney World and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, the Tokyo Disneyland Resort was built on reclaimed sea floor.  The Oriental Land Company secured rights to an area on Tokyo Bay and proceeded to build on the land for the future theme park and resort although when I first visited there was just one theme park, a car park, and a few hotels.

My visit came about suddenly when as a young Imagineer I was dispatched to work on the proposed and at that time – far in the future second theme park.  My journey began at the Los Angeles airport boarding a direct flight to Tokyo, and after 13 hours I arrived and greeted by a local who suggested we go into the city for pork chops.  By then I was too tired to question much of anything or anyone, so into the city I went. The chops were tasty.  After the meal since I was lodging at the Hilton Hotel near the park, I boarded the train heading back to the park station. When I exited the train I discovered that taxi service had ended and so I walked through the Tokyo Disneyland parking lot late at nite to the Hilton.

The view from my hotel window was out toward the bay and in the far distance were the city towers of Tokyo itself.  The ocean view was uninspired so I turned to the work for which I traveled to accomplish.

The Hilton is multi sided and through one of the side windows I could see this view of the park and the car park. Portions of the car park over decades would become the second theme park, hotels, and the monorail system.

Since it was daytime I could and did hail a taxi, and after a short drive I exited at the front gate of Tokyo Disneyland where the construction in this image was ongoing.  The building was for an expansion of services near the front gate, which would be an ongoing effort for several decades to come.

Back in 1987 there were undeveloped areas within the park, such as this wild planted area in Tomorrowland.  Trees and bushes had grown and were on the verge of covering the view of Space Mountain.  Today this area is the location of Mickey’s Toontown and the New Fantasyland area of the park.

Toward the end of my first day, I circled around to see Star Tours which was then nearly complete.  This version of the attraction featured a new scene, a restaurant, shop, and services.  There was more to my visit. This is a just capsule of my first 24 hours at TDL.

A Stroll in the Park(ing Lot).

February 20, 2023

Plan of the Disney MGM Studios Theme Park.

When the Disney MGM Studios opened to guests May 1, 1989, there was a clear distinction between the working production studio and the guest accessible theme park side of the park.  

Aerial view of the Disney MGM Theme Park.

The three soundstages set on their own asphalt island and could be seen by guests from the public areas.  But guests couldn’t go beyond clearly marked “Do Not Enter’ signs.  

This was the park side guest view of the Disney MGM Studios soundstages.

After all, when a film or television production occupied one or more of the soundstages, the last thing they wanted was a flock of guests strolling along the services road.  So, no guests were allowed on the soundstage service road.

What made control of the service road easy for the park operators was that only one of the several entry points was on the border of the theme park.  And for the guests standing at that entry point, signage and cast members informed tourists that they could look but they could not touch.

Guest view from the Backlot Tram of the soundstages.

However, on the other side of the park next to the backlot residential street, there was a second entry point.  Guests could only view the soundstage service road from the security of the Backlot Tram Tour vehicles.

This view shows soundstages on the left & Great Movie Ride on the right.

This view was a whole lot more ‘rough and ready’ than the park side.  Chain link fence was the barrier instead of a polished swing gate.  And noting in this view was guest view worthy, but that didn’t matter since was a working studio.

Guests on the former soundstage service road renamed Mickey Avenue.

This arrangement didn’t last long however, because due to the success of the Disney MGM Studios Theme Park, the backlot was soon opened to guests.  The chain link was removed, landscaping was installed and then had been a true working production studio backlot with soundstages became home to thousands of strolling tourists.

When Disney MGM opened only trams allowed guests this view.

The soundstage service road didn’t last long, but while it did it made the Disney MGM Studios Theme Park a true working studio.

Sun Wheel to Fun Wheel

December 31, 2022

Concept image of Surf City at Disney’s California Adventure.

When the Disney California Adventure theme park celebrated its grand re-opening on June 15, 2012, it showcased several important changes.  Among its most important was transforming what had become the park’s de facto icon.  The wheel at DCA was inspired by Deno’s Wonder Wheel at Coney Island in New York state and was a centerpiece of what was to be a zone in DCA to be named ‘Surf City’.  And ‘Surf City’ might have been the name of the zone but for the fact that two cities in California had protected that name and neither Huntington Beach in Southern California, nor Santa Cruz in Northern California would allow DCA to use the name.

Image of Paradise Pier with the ‘Sun Wheel’.

Named the ‘Sun Wheel’ the ride occupied a dominant location on what was finally named Paradise Pier and continued to do so for the first years in the life of DCA.

After the lagoon was drained scaffolding was erected around the ‘Sun Wheel’.

Then it was decided to change and transform the ‘Sun Wheel’ to the ‘Fun Wheel’ by in addition to the new name making the ride more guest friendly by exchanging the stern sun face for the friendly smiling face of the symbol of the Disney Company, Mickey Mouse.

Image of the scaffolding as installation of Mickey Mouse is beginning.

After the design was completed and a sign vendor contracted to proceed scaffolding was erected on Paradise Pier and the work started.  The work occurred in a fully operating theme park allowing guests to witness each step of the sign vendor’s progress.  First the face of the sun was removed followed by the frame onto which the Mickey face would be applied.

Note the people in the image for scale as Mickey’s face is installed.

The digital graphic was hung in a sheet and attached to the frame and the work quickly moved along.  As it happens Mickey’s face points away from the Earth’s sun resulting in the printed colors not suffering as much as they would if the face was pointed in the opposite direction.

Mickey’s face is very nearly done.

In short order the work was completed, and the final result reflected the design of the concept model.  The model was displayed at DCA in the preview center and then moved to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as part of a museum exhibit.  

Mickey’s face installed with the scaffolding about to be removed.

The wheel would receive a third name when Paradise Pier gave way to Pixar Pier and during the development of Pixar Pier there was discussion of replacing Mickey’s face with that of something more Pixar.  That did not occur so today guests see a wheel with two identities’, Mickey Mouse on one side and Pixar on the other side.  

Image of the Paradise Pier model concept model.

R. Duell – The Other Theme Park Designer

October 13, 2022

Cover of brochure for R. Duell and Associates (1970s).

Sometime overlooked are the contributions to theme park design generated by the architectural practice of the firm R. Duell and Associates.  After the success of the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, other companies wanted a piece of the new theme park segment of the leisure industry, and developers for the new theme parks needed architectures and design companies to create the new parks.  Among the several companies that emerged to meet the need was the company R. Duell and Associates located on 606 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, California.  

Image of Astroworld, Houston, Texas.

Even before joined the team at Walt Disney Imagineering, I was interested in the process of designing and delivering theme parks, and so with the naivete that youth provides I reached out directly to Duell, and he agreed to meet for an hour one afternoon in his Santa Monica office.  As soon as I was in his office, I peppered Randall Duell with questions from the list I prepared, and he was more than generous with his time and knowledge.

Image of Hershey’s Chocolate World. Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The company started with Mr. Duell who was born in Kansas and moved to Los Angeles way back in 1912 (110 years ago) to graduate from USC and its school of architecture.  After years of contributing to the design of many buildings in metropolitan Los Angeles, he was hired in 1936 by the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a set designer and retired from MGM in 1959.  Refusing to truly retire he joined the company Marco Engineering where he worked with C. V. Wood (of Disneyland fame) on theme parks such as Freedomland U. S. A. in the state of New York.  Next, Duell left Marco Engineering to establish his own company that he named ‘R. Duell and Associates’ where among his early projects was to design Six Flags Over Texas.  Mr. Duell shared with me that due to little money for theme facades for the project he had to be clever. While he desired to build an authentic western town while having little money, he decided to travel around Texas and purchased empty buildings and store fronts that he could design around. He and his team would back ward design the building bits and pieces he found for use in the Texas town he couldn’t otherwise afford.

Example of a ‘Duell loop’. Great America theme park.

While designing Six Flags Over Texas, Duell developed the park organization scheme called the Duell loop, or ‘racetrack’.  This design was a clear, simple, and efficient design to both move guests and to provide services.  The Duell loop was used in the park design of Magic Mountain, Great America, Astro World, and many other parks.  It’s very likely that if you’ve visited a Six Flags park you’ve walked on a Duell loop.

Randall Duell.

Randall Duell passed in 1982 and the afternoon he spent talking and educating me in his Santa Monica both inspired and informed me in my career in theme park design and at Walt Disney Imagineering.

The Name Change.

Sharp eyed readers will note that the name of this blog has changed. No, the purpose of the blog didn’t change, just the name, because I have embraced the spirit of adaptive reuse. I have resurrected the name used decades ago for one of my fanzines. And, for those of you who don’t know or recall fanzines they were a form of communication among fans (thus the name) in the age before the internet.

Mimeo, ditto or hectograph these self made and self distributed publications connected people before social media. And some of the people connected went on to careers in the industry that they wrote about. The image here is by Tim Kirk, a person who enjoyed an important and productive career at Walt Disney Imagineering. Tim’s art work is the cover to an even earlier fanzine of mine entitled “Esoteric”, and makes word play on my name.

This artwork dates to the 1970s.

So, the title has changed but not the purpose.

How to Rock Work.

Grizzly Gulch at Hong Kong Disneyland is exclusive and one of a kind land.

The topic of rock work for theme park construction has been covered before and likely better than I’m about to do.  So, if you desire a technical document, your search will deliver better results.  What this article is going to deal with is one specific example of rock work desire and production, and the object of my attention is ‘Big Grizzly Mountain’.  BGM is a roller coaster themed as a gold mine that a family of grizzly bears have picked to live.  The ride is considered as Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of Thunder Mountain, one that is found in many of the other Disney parks.

Hong Kong Disneyland when it opened featured a collection of known rides, land, and environments common to other Disney parks, and that was a problem, but also an opportunity for the designers at WDI to create a modern version of a mine type coaster located in the ‘Old West’.

Image of Vasquez Rocks located in Aqua Dulce, California.

Big Grizzly Mountain took its inspiration from Vasquez Rocks, which is a natural out cropping located in the town that is today named Aqua Dulce, or ‘sweet water’ in Spanish.  Vasquez Rocks have zero connection with gold mining however they do have their own story of wealth because in 1874, Tiburcio Vasquez, who was one of California’s most notorious Mexican bandidos, used the rocks as a hide out to elude capture by law enforcement. The Vasquez formation is a collection of alluvial sediments and reside in a sharply-folder syncline in unique set of forms, and so it was perfect as the choice for Big Grizzly Mountain.

The design process was to study and document the rock formation and with that knowledge merge the roller coaster track design with rock formation elements that would best support the story of the ride.  

Image of rock work sample typical of the process.

Rock work models were followed by rock work samples, produced to ensure that form, color and design intent could be successfully achieved by workers during the construction phase.

Final stage of construction as the mine trains are operational.

Moving onto the next phase the mountain was built and color was applied.

There is this map for guests of the sights to see on Big Grizzly Mountain.

The town of Grizzly Gulch was built in a new old west style.  Not as old looking as Thunder Mesa looks but more of a movie set appearance which I believe the local guest would have found more acceptable.

And a happy guest tests the seat in one of the mine cars on the coaster.

Finally, after much effort and work Big Grizzly Mountain was finished and ready for its first riders.  The ride is one of a kind and likely never to be copied in another Disney park.

Queue design, or how to reduce vomit comets.

June 12, 2022

It’s conceivable that a family traveling from home to Walt Disney World will have several things on their minds during their vacation visit.  For example, they are in a strange new place, the weather is hot and likely humid, they may be dehydrated, and they are excited.  These are but a few of the considerations for ride, show and attraction designers when they sit down at the table facing a blank sheet and begin design work.

This concept image does not inform the guest experience.

Now nobody gets everything correct but there are a few rules to follow to deliver a successful design, because it’s miserable for everyone when the design fails.  The guest isn’t happy because the ride has made them sick, the operator isn’t happy because the sick guest complains, and the cast member isn’t happy because they are spending time cleaning up sick during their shift.  There is an inherent conflict because the park operator which in this example in Cosmic Rewind at Epcot wants to market a ride compelling enough to push guests to travel to Disney World, but the ride operator wants to inform guests as to the nature of the ride which if the guests were informed might not travel to Disney World.  Trying to serve the two masters results in a bad experience for both.

This is the guest experience that isn’t revealed in the queue.

It is proven that people will self-select to opt out of an experience when informed about the experience.  In designing Rock n Roller Coaster that opened at the Disney MGM Studios the queue forces waiting guests to view at least two launches of the coaster train.  The correct assumption was that guests who would ride after viewing the launches would be able to accept the three inversions.  In the example of Space Mountain when it opened at Disneyland Paris guests would queue through a path in the mountain where would see coaster trains speeding in the dark and catch a glimpse of a trains going through an inversion.

Guests waiting to board see two launches. Image BlogMickey.com

In the case of Crush’s Coaster, the project could not afford such a view of the dark coaster area, so my design incorporated an outside track portion to allow guests to at least see that the attraction was a ride and that the ride was a coaster.  Inside the building the queue traveled up and over the track to allow guests to see the vehicle they would soon enter.  But that wasn’t enough to serve to inform guests and so shortly after opening a new graphic was added of a dimensional vehicle with guests spinning.  And that’s still not enough because guests don’t read the warnings required by the legal group.

Image of Aladdin at Disney Studios Paris.

And sometimes the queue is hidden on a ride where there isn’t an issue of guest barfing but for design aesthetics.  When faced with designing the Aladdin ride for the Disney Studios Paris it was going to be placed at the end of an open courtyard in an empty and barren park.  I selected to not place a queue of waiting guests in front of the ride but instead place them behind a circular mural.  The mural served to block views of Frontierland which was a good thing, however it meant that guests would only discover their true wait time after they were behind the mural.  Guests also don’t read or believe the time wait sign graphics.

Image of view from queue of Crush’s Coaster station.

As I wrote earlier there is no perfect solution however if designers think like the guest there are likely going to be fewer guests reaching for the barf bag at the end of the ride.