And now for, in the immortal words of Monty Python, something completely different.
First, a prologue. My brain is dumb sometimes. My time for my own creative work is limited these days, and there is all kinds of writing I feel I ought to be doing in that time– I have a backlog of stories I want to write: stories that A. have something worthwhile to say, B. could be sold and published to make me and my family a little extra money, or (what is best) C. stories which include a little of column A and a little of column B. This entirely-too-long essay will be none of those things, unfortunately, but I know myself well enough to know I will not be free to pursue what I consider my more serious work until I give in to this urge and get this nonsense out of my system. I literally was lying awake thinking about this one night. An active imagination can be both a gift and a curse. If you, reader, are expecting anything touching or profound or funny or scary in the post that follows, prepare for disappointment. This is an exercise in pure creative self-indulgence, nothing more.
Ok. Here we go.
I really enjoy theme parks– simple things for simple minds, I suppose, but put me in the vicinity of shows, junk food, and rides, especially when these things are surrounded by creative and immersive theming, and I can grow positively giddy. Rachel and I had the opportunity to visit Universal Studios this past weekend (neither of us had ever been) and we had a grand time. It also got me thinking again about theme parks, the way they are structured, and the creative ways they use space to tell stories. Although a cynic would be quick to point out the artificiality of the theme park experience, I prefer the word intentionality. It’s all art of the most corporate kind, designed for maximum appeal to make money, of course, but in a park, one is in fact surrounded on all sides by art, and when it is done well, every aspect from the music, to the landscaping, to the rides, and shows, and food serves to draw park-goers into little stories. When it works, there’s nothing else quite like it.
There’s an online course available for free that I worked through for my own amusement *heh* a while back called “Imagineering in a Box,” in which Disney park designers talk through the thought process they go through when planning things to build (it’s interesting, and it’s free. If stuff like that is your jam, you can access it here). As a mental exercise/thought experiment, participants are encouraged to plan all aspects of their own “lands.” Because this is a particular geekdom for me, I went ahead and planned out an entire park, or at least the rough concept of one. That’s what this post is: An entirely too-detailed description of Josh’s yet-to-be-named classic video-game themed funland. Keep in mind, unless I suddenly become really good friends with a billionaire investor with nothing better to throw money at, none of this will ever exist in the real world. This is also representative of an early brainstorm, and I’m sure that in the real design process of a theme park, most if not all of this would be scrapped. So even if this park was going to be real (it’s not), none of this design would be. If this bores you, feel free to tap out now. If this interests you, buckle in, keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and hang on tight, because things are gonna get really nerdy really fast.
For theming, I wanted to go with something a little different, since the major movie studios seem to already all have been tapped for amusement parks. To my knowledge, though, there’s no park (at least in the US) themed around video games, and there is a wealth of iconic and fun IP in that arena that I think would translate well to park rides and experiences. Since Universal Studios already has Super Mario World at their California park (and is presumably adding it to Orlando as well), I’m going into this assuming Nintendo properties would be a no-go for me, but even without Pokemon, Metroid, Mario, or Zelda, there is still a lot of IP that would be fun to use for a park. My personal taste in games is odd; I personally love a lot of semi-obscure cult classics and modern indie titles, while I know most others like current big-budget AAA games, but I’ve tried to stay away from most of those sorts of things. In selecting theming for attractions, I’ve tried to stick to games with a long legacy and enduring fanbase– things that would be recognizable to the widest possible range of people but that wouldn’t feel as instantly dated as a Fortnite dance. Timelessness (if such an adjective can be applied to anything in such a rapidly changing medium as video games) is a quality I would strive for. I also want games that have strong atmospheric elements of their own, with a distinctive look and feel. If a particular attraction doesn’t represent a known commodity to a particular guest, I would expect the theming and storytelling of the experience itself to be strong, self-contained, and universally understandable enough to make sense to anyone encountering it for the first time.
Here I’ll go about describing the different lands in the park. I’ve drawn up a really crude map (not even remotely to scale, and missing pretty much all the shops and carny games and food stalls that pepper the average theme park landscape, but it’s enough to give an idea of how one may progress through the park). For each land, the Kahn Academy course encourages participants to break down its core elements to talk about how each would serve the story the land is telling. These steps are Theme, Food, Attractions, and Characters. My imaginary park contains five lands, so for each of them, I’ll expound briefly on each of these four elements. I don’t, unfortunately, have clever names for most of these, so bear with me.
LAND 1: TOKYO CITY
OVERALL EMOTIONS/IDEAS: Wonder, Possibility, Optimism
Visitors enter the park into the bustling heart of a heightened/fantasy version of downtown Tokyo. Skyscrapers tower above people (using the forced perspective illusion so popular at Disney World and Universal to make buildings look taller than they really are). A friendly kaiju also stands among the buildings, a car accidently crushed under his foot. The streets are lined with vehicles– cars, bicycles, and rickshaws. Neon lights are everywhere, and all signs are in both Japanese (predominantly) and English (as a sort of subtitle). The street and buildings themselves feel a bit old and grimy, with that odd blend of flashy consumerism and scrappy (though in this case not depressing) poverty one encounters in big cities. There are lots of vending machines, distinctly Japanese in their design. Shop windows are full of fashionable clothes, open-air market style food stalls, and Kawaii cartoon trinkets. One can easily imagine put-together businessmen and women carrying briefcases and talking on cell phones striding quickly down these streets on their way to work. Signs, building names, posters, and even little things like car license plates would all be good places to hide little easter egg references to popular games. The soundscape is made up of peppy J-pop and techno music (the kind of stuff that forms the Katamari or Dance Dance Revolution soundtracks) pumped in through speakers, the clatter of vehicles, the cry of venders, and, of course, the rattle and rumble from nearby roller coasters and the chatter of excited guests as they gather maps and begin to plan where to go first.
As mentioned above, food would be served from open-air style market stalls and food trucks. Here, guests can find noodle bowls, poke bowls, and bowls of fried rice. There should be one of those restaurants with sushi going by on a trolley, as well. This world also has snacky Asian fare like gyoza, egg rolls, crab rangoons, and barbecue-on-a-skewer. One stall would have boba tea, another would have fruit smoothies with unique options (rambutan, melon, jackfruit, etc).
A larger sit-down restaurant in this world, blending into the big-city feel, is the EA Sports bar. It serves the typical pub food one would expect– big deli-style sandwiches, wings, loaded baked potatoes, cobb salads, etc, and is decorated with posters and memorabilia from popular titles like the Madden, PGA Tour, NBA Live and MVP Baseball franchises. Of course, big screens are also tuned to sports inside the restaurant, as they would be in any regular sports bar.
Something I noticed and appreciated during my trip to Universal is the way kid-friendly attractions are scattered throughout the park alongside rides for the older set, rather than being completely relegated to a kiddie zone. This helps the whole park have a “something for everybody” feel, which I want to replicate in this design/plan.
Although this is probably the smallest section of the park (again, map is not to scale), it does house several attractions. One would be a classic Disney-style dark ride based on Mega Man, in which riders take a slow-moving cable-car ride through Dr. Wiley’s robot factory, a bustling, busy world of cartoonish mechanical mayhem. The queue (which I think is an important element of the storytelling of any ride) would be decorated with anime-style artwork depicting the game’s characters in the style of the box art from games, laying out the (rather thin) backstory of Good Dr. Light’s creation of the robots, the robot reprogramming and takeover by the evil Dr. Wiley, and Mega Man’s volunteering to be converted into a battle robot in order to defend the world against Wiley’s schemes. Music in the queue (as in most of the queues for most of the rides in the park) would be drawn directly from the iconic soundtracks of the Mega Man games, although likely remixed to be richer than the tinny 8-bit originals. Throughout the ride’s showrooms and scenes, full of a Seussian spiderweb of conveyer belts, robotic arms, spinning gears, etc, Guests watch animatronics of Mega Man jumping and shooting his way past mechanical baddies in order to reach and defeat Dr. Wiley himself.
This land also has the entrance for the Cruis’n World racing coaster, based on the classic 1996 arcade game. This would be a coaster with some slight hills but no inversions, powered primarily by multiple launches at different points on the track. Cars designed to look like street-racing sports cars would run simultaneously on two parallel tracks to give riders the feel of racing riders in other cars. The ride would be fast, but heavily themed with famous landmarks for the cars to zip around– the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Pyramids, etc. This is inspired a bit by the now defunct (but formerly awesome) Big Bad Wolf coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, in which riders zipped around a diorama of a cute German village. The queue would be lined with cool cars and would play the music from the game’s main menu and car select screen (which even features a lady soulfully singing about players having the beat (?) and the power to… cruise the world. It’s cheesetastic.)
A third attraction would be the “Tech Expo” (for lack of a better name) exhibit hall. Themed after a gaming convention like E3 or PAX, this exhibit hall would feature hands-on STEM activities such as one would find in a kids’ science museum, but with a distinctive gaming-focused bent. Kids could experiment with circuits, create and animate simple pixel art, control robots by coding chains of simple commands, etc. The focus here would be edutainment– learning, yes, but more play than work. This hall could also feature opportunities for hands-on experiences with cutting-edge gaming tech: innovations with VR, etc.
Not really an attraction as one generally thinks of them, but worth noting here as well, is the MLG arena. This would be set up ideally to host Major League Gaming events (major tournaments with professional players and sponsors and such), with seating for fans. When not in use for such competitions, this arena could also host concert series’ and other things of that nature.
Characters and performers can help a park feel lively and exciting. Stumbling across a character meet-and-greet or a show on the street gives guests a feeling of “being in the right place at the right time,” as they only show up at seemingly random intervals throughout the day. Since these are much lower-budget experiences than rides and such, Characters can include some deeper cut game references, as it’s not a big loss if a guest doesn’t “get” a specific reference. Costumed characters in Tokyo City could be Mega Man, King and Queen of the Cosmos from the Katamari series, and Dante from Devil May Cry. A street show that could be cool would be something themed after Dance Dance Revolution, with a troupe of hip-hop dancers performing complicated, precisely choreographed dance numbers.
LAND 2: ARCADE MAIN STREET
OVERALL EMOTIONS/IDEAS: Nostalgia, Fun, Childlike Imagination
Taking a left out of Tokyo City, park guests find themselves on Arcade Main Street. The overall look of this land is small-town Americana, but cartoonified. Buildings are bulged and tilted, and nothing is built at right-angles. A burst fire hydrant squirts water onto the road, and there’s a splash pad for kids. There are lots of well-manicured flower beds, perhaps some topiaries, and a bronze statue of Pac Man (cartoon version with arms and legs, etc) stands as a centerpiece. Colorful sculptures of classic characters are everywhere– as if they have burst from the screens of arcade cabinets to populate the town. Obvious visual references would be Frogger, Contra, Dragon’s Lair, Galaga (the blocky UFO monster hovering over a building, supported by the flashing tractor beam it is shooting down), Donkey Kong (oldschool version– not sure if rights could be acquired from Nintendo, but iconic enough to try), Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Bubble Bobble, Dig-Dug, Joust, Q-Bert, and Paperboy. Think suburbia by way of Wreck It Ralph. The soundtrack of the land is a mix of upbeat pop rock hits from the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000s.
Classic American Junk Food done right. Two obvious small restaurants/stalls are themed after the games Burger Time and Tapper. It would be fun if Tapper had a special house root beer only available at the park, but it would be perhaps just as well to partner with a company like A&W. Arcade Main Street would also house a revamped Chuck-E-Cheese pizza, which would offer sit-down dining. It would also have, as a tribute to classic Chuck-E-Cheese, an animatronic show (which could actually include audience participation in which the characters, rather than following a pre-scripted set, are controlled by puppeteers in another room and interact directly with the with the diners, kind of the way the Monsters Inc show at Disney World works). Of course, the restaurant would also be attached to a standard arcade, in which players could win tickets to exchange for prizes, and all that.
A low-key attraction here is a pinball museum/arcade with 50-100 working pinball tables. Visitors can stop in at their leisure and play a round or two, leaving their own mark on the park in the form of high scores and interacting with an interesting but often overlooked piece of amusement/gaming history. There’s also a more standard museum here, designed to tell the story of early game design pioneers and their creative innovations. It would feature an intro film with interview clips, then open into the museum with various artifacts, advertisements, toys, etc related to early games and the culture surrounding them.
A dark ride here shrinks guests down and takes them through a 2.5D pixelated world. What I mean by this is that the characters and objects that populate it would be flat like cardboard cutouts, and would be animated via a combination of shadow puppetry style movements, projections onto their flat surfaces, and internal LED lights. All atmosphere would be blocky, like something out of Minecraft. I don’t imagine a lot of plot to this one– like a classic Magic Kingdom ride, it is more about enjoying the atmosphere and the artistry as one passes through it. The idea behind this one is simply the way good games, like good books or movies, can transport one to a different world. A good dark ride, to me, is full of scenes that are too big and too busy for one to take in everything in a single ride-through. Riders could go through an outdoor woodland scene, a castle (complete with fire-breathing dragon), an underwater scene, up to outer space, etc. The music for this ride would be chiptune, to fit the feel that riders are themselves part of an oldschool video game inspired world.
Besides the dark ride, Arcade Main Street has a few more attractions for families with smaller children. There’s a kiddie coaster themed after Centipede (one can imagine how the train would look going around turns and over mild hills, a Pac Man themed Hedge Maze, and a carousel with, instead of horses, creatures to ride on based on classic arcade titles (the ostrich from Joust, the Centipede, Frogger, etc.
There are a couple more thrilling attractions here for the older set as well. The first is an indoor black-light roller coaster called the Pinball Wizard, in which riders zip around bumpers and flashing lights as if they are the ball in a pinball machine. The theming of the queue would be an odd juxtaposition of a medieval sorcerer’s lair/workshop with groovy 1970s disco color schemes/ sensibilities. Think dusty magic books lit by giant lava lamps, or a bubbling cauldron on a shag carpet under a spinning disco ball. The music in line would be similarly 70’s– instrumental rock in the style of Peter Frampton.
The final attraction in this land is actually the scariest/most mature in the park: a gamified motion sim based on none other than the granddaddy of FPS games, Doom. Combining the immersive combination of 3D movie, motion simulator, and physical effects of Universal’s Spider Man ride with the shooting gallery mechanics of Disney’s Toy Story Mania (and similar shooting gallery rides). Although there have been several remakes and iterations, this ride (and the monster designs, etc) would be based on the original 1993 version of the game. With that in mind, the tone of this ride is more focused on pumping people up and making them feel like brave, tough, demon-obliterating bosses rather than feeling scared, and the horror elements on the ride represent evil to be defeated rather than a genuine threat to terrify the riders– it’s a subtle but important tonal difference. The front of the ride would feature (along with a sign warning parents that this one may be too intense for young children) a statue of “Doom Guy” (yes, to the uninitiated, that’s the character’s actual name) in his iconic demon-slaying pose from the front of the game box. The queue would lead guests through a breaking-down space station on Mars (with stuttering lights, screens full of scrolling error messages, steam bursting from pipes and valves, etc), with the story elements letting guests know that a portal has accidentally opened unleashing unspeakable horrors into the universe, and instructing riders that they are humanity’s only hope. Later in the queue and in the boarding area, the space station continues to be taken over by evil, and the mechanical bits are merged with gross, pulsating, fleshy masses like something from the mind of H.R. Geiger and exposed lava pits. Music would be heavy metal renditions of Doom’s soundtrack. On the ride, each player is given a gun and instructed, in essence, to shoot everything that moves, which, of course, they do. The monsters go “roar.” The guns go “boom.” The monsters go “splat.” A good time is had by all. At the end of the ride, each player is given a score, which would also be printed on their ride photo, should they choose to purchase it from the gift shop.
Obvious characters here are Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man, Dirk the Daring and Princess Daphne from Dragon’s Lair, Doom Guy, and perhaps the Pinball Wizard himself (a character original to the park). A fun arcade-themed show would be based on Street Fighter, in which gymnast-actors dressed like Ken, Ryu, Chun Li and/or other iconic characters from the series spar and perform backflips, high kicks and other highly stylized/choreographed martial arts techniques for onlookers. Maybe a kid is called up from the crowd to break a board or something. At the end of the show, the actors would stick around briefly to shake hands/ high five guests and pose for photographs.
LAND 3: SONIC WORLD
OVERALL EMOTIONS/IDEAS: Fun/cartoonish, Zany, Unpredictable, Kinetic
If, instead of taking a left out of Tokyo City, you take a right instead, you will find yourself in Sonic the Hedgehog country. Tall palm trees and big bright flowers sway in the breeze, alongside mechanical/industrial towers and robotic structures with spinning exposed gears, massive cartoon springs, lifts going up and down, etc. Everything is bright and colorful, maybe even to an overwhelming, eye-searing degree. Essentially, this land represents the aesthetic of oldschool Sonic games pulled straight off the screen and into the real world. The soundscape of the land is comprised of bouncy chiptunes drawn from the Sonic games soundtracks combined with the (happy) screams of riders whizzing around on rides.
This is the land I’m least clear in my head as to what food would be appropriate. I know there should be a shop that sells onion rings (get it?), but I’m not entirely sure what else.
There’s no specific in-universe Sonic food I can think of. Maybe there’s a couple food trucks here with all-around good but unthemed things one can’t find elsewhere in the park– hot dogs with all the fixin’s, tacos, stuff like that.
It seems every park needs to include them somewhere, so here we find classic, old-school carnival rides, all themed after Dr. Eggman’s devilish cartoon contraptions. I mean, if you’ve played an oldschool Sonic game, a tilt-a-whirl absolutely looks like the kind of thing that would show up as a boss battle. Teacups, bumper cars, a drop tower, and any of the kinds of things where cars suspended on robotic arms go round-and-round a central hub would all be appropriate. On the map I just labeled these as “spinny rides.”
This land also houses the Sonic “Gotta Go Fast” coaster– probably the biggest roller coaster in the park. In keeping with the side-scrolling theming, I imagine a long, straight coaster that doesn’t double over itself– like Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg or The Intimidator at Carowinds, with some really tall hills that deliver negative G-forces. Unlike those rides, though, this one should incorporate some a couple of looping inversions, again mimicking Sonic’s movement as he races through those side-scrolling games. One simple. But nice innovation for this coaster is a speaker system included on the cars, as is included on Universal’s Incredible Hulk Coaster. That way, the coaster could blast some classic Sonic music (I’m thinking the fast-paced tune that comes on whenever one picks up an invincibility power-up), and, at key points, the familiar dingdingdingding sound of picking up rings (Maybe while one is going around loops). This aspect isn’t a dealbreaker if not included, but is a small detail that can make the ride feel that much more epic. The track for this ride would be bright green, the trains would be Sonic blue.
Characters here are obvious: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and all the other anthropomorphized animal characters fans love from the games. Dr Eggman, too, although I’d mascot suit him to be the rotund cartoon version rather than try to imitate Jim Carrey’s appearance/depiction from the recent movies.
A stage in this area is a perfect place for kiddie shows with the mascot characters dancing around to high energy music, encouraging little kids to get up and do hand motions, run in place, etc. This is the kind of stuff preschoolers go nuts for… bonus points if it includes anything witty enough to not give parents a headache.
LAND 4: JUNGLE/ ADVENTURE LAND (No witty name yet)
OVERALL EMOTIONS/IDEAS: Danger, Mystery, Excitement
Continuing past Sonic World, park guests enter a deep jungle. It’s green and lush and misty, with giant, prehistoric-feeling plants growing tall and vines hanging overhead. The path is cracked and worn, imprinted with the shapes of fern leaves and animal tracks. To one side is a beach with a pirate ship and some ramshackle wooden shacks. To the other is a tall, intimidating, crumbling temple which may hold untold treasure but also almost certainly holds grave danger to the unwary. There ought to be some kind of reference to Pitfall here. The soundtrack or “song of the land,” as the imagineering class calls it, is subdued, but includes eerie flutes and tribal drums, along with sounds of birds, insects, frogs, and the like.
The primary restaurant here is the Scumm Bar, the pirate hangout/watering hole from the Monkey Island games.This may be a bit of a deeper cut than most of the games featured here, but Monkey Island has several things working in its favor for park inclusion– first, the games are cult classics and even if one hasn’t played them there’s a good chance, if one plays computer games at all, that one had at least heard of them. Second, the key parts of the world can make sense easily to anyone who hasn’t played the games. “Pirates. Got it.” Would be pretty much what I would expect to be the reaction of anyone new to this stuff. Thirdly, and my primary reason for wanting to include it here, there’s a real charm to the writing of the original Monkey Island games and to their sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, but not-quite-Looney-Tunes tone that would just translate really well to a park setting.
Anyway, back to the food. The Scumm Bar would be a sit-down restaurant, frequented by the roughest, meanest pirates. There could be a guy who plays accordion as a kind of dinner show. Food here would be things like roast chicken and veggies, shepherd’s pie, beef stew, fish and chips, and clam chowder. Of course, the big draw here would be grog, which the pirates would chant and sing the virtues of, banging their tankards on the table. “GROG! GROG! GROG!” Grog would be a nonalcoholic drink with an undisclosed, proprietary recipe (like Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice in Universal’s Harry Potter lands), but it would be essentially lime-infused ginger beer– sweet and tangy but with a burn in the throat.
Other food here should feel fresh and slightly exotic, especially to American guests largely unfamiliar with foods from around the world– we Strnads eat a lot of Indian food, for example, but I’m not sure how common that is among non-Indian families in the United States. One booth could maybe have lettuce wraps filled with rice and curried meats, or bowls of dal (which, as a side-note, if you’ve not had dal, you are really missing out. Here’s a recipe for one my family particularly likes. Go make yourself some. You can thank me later).
Next to the Scumm Bar are two Monkey Island themed attractions: The first is a big pirate ship playground, in which kids can climb up into the rigging to traverse rope bridges. The second attraction is a flume-style ride with animatronic show scenes, comparable in structure to Splash Mountain at Disney World. The ride would tell a comedic story about Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate (translation: wimpy dork), escaping the clutches of the dastardly Ghost Pirate Lechuck. As a direct nod to the games, Guybrush would need to use a rubber chicken as a zipline in one scene.
The next attraction here is a Tomb Raider themed indoor coaster/ Dark ride. The setting would be a crumbling temple in which Lara Croft is doing her female Indiana Jones thing, acrobatting around danger, seeking treasure, and leading riders to safety. Although I expect some fast-moving portions of the ride, including sudden drops and such, the focus would be more on theming and practical effects than on speed; inspiration for theming could be some of the elements (falling statues and breaking beams, etc) from Escape From Pompeii at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
The third attraction in this ride would be a wacky 3D movie/motion sim based on Crash Bandicoot. Using the type of tech where the theater seats move, riders would whiz through Crash’s world, probably including sequences comparable to the iconic parts of the game in which Coco rides on the back of a baby tiger or Crash runs toward the camera, pursued by a giant rolling boulder. The queue for this ride would be really fun to design, as I imagine it resembling the warp room from Crash Bandicoot 2. Cleverly placed Pepper’s Ghost illusions in the queue could allow projected Holograms of Dr. Cortex or the Aku Aku mask can be used to exposit story information and ride safety rules to guests as they wait in line.
The final attraction in this land is a show based on the Portal games, in which guests enter the overgrown ruins of the Aperture Science facility to take part in some sort of dangerous/unethical experiment and things go predictably wrong. There are so many things that could be fun and interesting about this, including the queue, overgrown with vines but with some of the tech still apparently working, in which prerecorded speeches from Cave Johnson welcome guests and assure them they have nothing to worry about. The queue should also feature some graffiti obviously written by the Rat Man. The show itself would combine comedy with spectacle feature a host of practical effects and high-tech illusions. It would star impressive animatronics of GLaDOS, and Wheatly, with Atlas and Peabody also present. I don’t have a script written, or anything, but the writing would need to be strong, with GLaDOS doing her passive aggressive insult comedy stuff and Wheatly generally being an amiable doofus. I have some ideas for how to make what would appear to be working portals for the show, but won’t go into details here. What would be really great is if all the characters are reprised by their original voice actors. Perhaps Jonathan Coulton could be convinced to write another original song for the attraction.
Crash and Coco Bandicoot of course, Guybrush, Elaine, and Lechuck from Monkey Island, and Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. A possible show is some sort of drumline with bongos. Another one would be pirate-themed. This would be a comedic audience participation show in which one guest is pulled into the show for “fencing lessons,” and taught a variety of silly insults, mimicking a famous and memorable puzzle from Monkey Island.
LAND 5: FINAL FANTASY
OVERALL EMOTIONS/IDEAS: Celebration, Otherworldly/Fantasy
This is the final (ahem) land I have planned for the park, located between Arcade Main Street and Jungle Land. If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game, you probably already have some ideas of what this land could look like, and if you’ve not played any of them, all the description in the world probably won’t fully convey that visual style. This land should feel like an odd blend of medievil high fantasy sword-and-sorcery blended with far-futuristic technology blended with steampunk. Magic and tech are so intertwined that one can’t always tell where one begins and the other ends. It’s the kind of world in which a character in a fire-engine-red robe will pilot an airship to a place where she will use a giant sword that can fold into a gun to fight a robot that summons a giant bird monster to fight alongside him.
The specific theme for our park’s land is that guests have just arrived in the central of some town or village on the day of a grand festival. There are games and feasting and music. Colorful tents and flags flutter in the breeze. Everything is bright and joyous. This would be a great place in the park to have a fair amount of carney games, of the ring-toss or throw-a-ball variety. The soundtrack of the land is joyous, celebratory music lifted from the FF series.
Giant turkey legs. Brightly colored drinks in potion bottles. Grilled kabob skewers and fancy fruit salads. Ices and parfaits.
This land also houses the park’s nicest restaurant, where one can get some genuinely fancy/gourmet food. This would be comparable to the kind of thing one could find at Epcot, or the Mythos restaurant at Universal. I’m not sure what the menu would be (it could be cool to draw from foods included in the games), but it would be gooood. Also pretty pricey. It’s that kind of thing.
There are several kids/family rides in this area. The town’s centerpiece is a giant steampunk ferris wheel, in fitting with the festival concept. There’s an airship ride in which guests ride in cars that resemble little blimps. The tracks for this ride extend all around the land, over the tops of patrons’ heads. There’s also a kiddie coaster here called Chokobo Run, themed after the chicken-like creatures characters ride in the FF games.
After being extremely impressed by the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal, I’d love to include something along those lines here– a big “heroes save the day” extravaganza that seamlessly combines practical effects and dark ride elements with screens and computer animation to bring impossible monsters to life. A possible plot could be monsters suddenly attacking the festival and the heroes needing to fight them off. The real challenge would be making it “feel” like Final Fantasy while of course not implementing the game’s turn based combat.
The attraction in this land I think is the coolest, though, is the game symphony. This is the big stage show for the park, and it employs a live orchestra and a conductor. Offering brief explanations between songs, including info on the composer, what game each piece was composed for, etc, they would play epic, fully orchestrated arrangements of great music from across gaming history. As they play, they are accompanied by a laser light show, projected on an imax-style domed screen behind them.
Take your pick of beloved heroes from across all the FF games. There are too many to name here.
This land should also feel lively with jugglers, sword swallowers, fire eaters, acrobats, and any other entertainers that would feel like they would belong at a celebration in this kind of fantasy world.
So there you have it: An overlong description of an amusement park that recently existed only in my brain, but now has a sort of quasi life as a blog post. If you stuck with reading this far, I hope you at least found it somewhat entertaining. For my part, I’m mostly glad to just have it out of my system. Now perhaps I can move on to better writing projects.
Catch you on the flipside.