Walt Disney World Theme Park Tycoon

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I’ve long told my wife that when our Bricker Banana Stand business makes it big (someone told me there’s “always money in the banana stand”…this has not proven true for us), we would sponsor Journey Into Imagination at Epcot, and ensure that it received a proper refurbishment. If all went according to plan, this would just be the first step of our plan, as Bricker Banana Stand Co. would become a modern day Kodak in the parks, sponsoring everything from postcards to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. As business continues to flounder, perhaps because of all the frozen bananas with double the chocolate, nuts, and two sticks we’re giving out to relatives, this dream seems out of reach. Of course, I can always dream, so here are the changes I would make if I were playing “Walt Disney World Tycoon,” and could make as many changes as I wanted, without the pesky constraints of reality. While I don’t want to come across as the type who constantly complains about Disney, I don’t think a little constructive criticism (or a fun hypothetical) ever hurt anyone.

Magic Kingdom

Making these changes Rollercoaster Tycoon style benefits Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios the most, where attractions will be lifted and moved with complete and utter disregard for the logistical improbability (impossibility?) of such moves.

The first move is removing Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, which will be dropped into Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Pixar Place. This will occur as part of a massive overhaul to Tomorrowland that will give the land a Retro-Futuristic theme. In the place of the Laugh Floor, we’ll add a witty audio animatronics alien-and-robot variety show that can best be described as Kitchen Kabaret meets Plectu’s Fantastic Galactic Revue meets 1960s visions of space and the future. Sonny Eclipse’s show at Cosmic Ray’s will be re-recorded to mesh with the storyline of the variety show, and add backstory to Tomorrowland.

The Stitch overlay will be removed from Stitch’s Great Escape, with the Stitch AA being sent to the roof of the Adventureland Veranda to add to the spitting motif of Adventureland. Actually, scratch that. The Stitch AA will be repurposed for an all-new show from X-S Tech in this space. To avoid history repeating itself, the dark humor and wit of the original Alien Encounter will be present, but scares will not. Carousel of Progress will be redone to feature the 1900s, 1920s, 1940s, and the future as (hilariously) predicted by the 1960s. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority will receive new show scenes and have some of its lulls of dark hallway filled with cheeky posters that add to the backstory of the land.

That’s enough construction walls in Tomorrowland for the moment, so let’s head to Adventureland. First order of business: adios, Aladdin spinner! Jungle Cruise will also receive an extensive refurbishment aimed at bringing the attraction into the 21st century. The humor will remain, but not as much of it will be self-deprecating with Skippers poking fun at the sad state of the attraction itself. Other enhancements aimed at beautifying Adventureland will restore water features to give the land more kinetic energy.

Magic Kingdom has plenty of other problem areas that need addressing, but rather than fixating on a modernization of Fantasyland, we’ll move on to Epcot…

Epcot

EPCOT Center’s original version of the future world isn’t a post apocalyptic one, so the tombstones are the first thing to go here. Next stop is Spaceship Earth, where the 2007 refurbishment will finally be finished–with more than just touchscreens. The manatee presence at The Living Seas will be increased, because manatees are that awesome (okay, maybe this isn’t paramount to the plan, but it’s a pet project!). Pixar won’t be forced to vacate the pavilion, but the ride-through attraction could use some enhancements (perhaps a new Pixar-created manatee?!) so that it rivals its sister-attraction at Disneyland.

The Imagination pavilion is the first big stop, where the whole pavilion will go down to replace the comically-dated Captain EO with a new 3D film featuring Figment, and to gut the Journey into Imagination building and replace the ride with a version worthy of, and referential to, the original. It will be an entirely new attraction featuring the original, non-annoying Figment and a modernized Dreamfinder. The pavilion’s upstairs area will be utilized featuring hands-on displays and a Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Playground to share new technology that showcases the power of the imagination.

In Future World, other projects will include the reclamation of Wonders of Life from seasonal and special events and a new film for Soarin’ that has guests departing Florida for a trip that flies them over the countries of the World Showcase.

World Showcase will receive plenty of attention, namely, the addition of attractions in Japan (an exciting ride on the Shinkansen, which is interrupted by Yōkai), France (a Ratatouille wild mouse ‘kitchen’ ride), and Germany (the storied Rhine River Cruise, featuring an encounter with the Lorelei). These attractions plus the addition of specialty bars in each country, and expansion of the Outpost to capitalize on seasonal offerings in Epcot, should not only improve World Showcase, but improve its bottom line.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Sorcerer’s Hat will be torn down (not moved…too many bad memories!), giving Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards more thematic consistency. Given the obscene waits at Toy Story Mania, more family-friendly rides will be added to the Studios, replacing the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action! with a considerable expansion to Pixar Place to balance out the park. Pixar Place will not receive its own Cars Land, which will stay exclusive to Disneyland Resort. Instead, Pixar Place will receive a large-scale Up attraction that will feature Dug’s misadventures as he searches for Kevin; the attraction will utilize technology from Pooh’s Honey Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland. In the second family ride, guests will board the Pizza Planet truck on a montage-based dark ride through its various adventures. All of this in addition to the Laugh Floor relocated to Pixar Place from Magic Kingdom. This much Pixar might upset purists, but Pixar is Disney, and right now, it’s the best part of Disney.

The MuppetVision 3D area of the Studios will be expanded to a Muppets Studios land, dusting off many concepts that nearly came to fruition in the early 1990s including the addition of the Great Muppets Movie Ride, and Great Gonzo Pandemonium Pizza Parlor replacing Pizza Planet. Star Tours and Indiana Jones Adventure will form the basis for LucasFilm Studios, which will also include the retheming of Backlot Express to Mos Eisley Cantina and the transformation of the old Sounds Dangerous building into an enhanced Jedi Training Academy.

Other concepts for the Studios would include new scenes for Great Movie Ride pulled from classic films and a participatory attraction highlighting greenscreen, motion capture, and other technologies used in the movies to replace the American Idol Experience.

Animal Kingdom

To address concerns that it’s presently too similar to a zoo, three dark rides would be added to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Two of these will be found in “Cryptid Sanctuary,” a new land which will replace Camp Minnie-Mickey (with Festival of the Lion King moving to Africa). One will simulate the flight of the Griffin as it flies around attempting to guard the jewels of its kingdom, and the other will center around a yet undetermined mythical creature’s attempt to avoid “extinction” at the hands of early-human hunters.

DinoLand U.S.A. is the other area that will have significant changes made. Gone will be the off-the-shelf carnival attractions and contrived Chester and Hester versus Dino Institute rivalry. In its place will be one cohesive land that explores the majestic nature of dinosaurs. This heavily renovated area will receive a family friendly ‘walking with dinosaurs’ type ride to replace the Chester and Hester area. Animal Kingdom will also finally receive a nighttime light parade.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the changes I’d make to Walt Disney World if I were not constrained by the realities of “budgets,” “return on investment,” and things of that sort, I feel it’s a good start. Note that no new family suites, themed hotel rooms, or Disney Vacation Club properties were added as part of this ‘tycoon’ experiment. While I understand the revenue-generating nature of these items, I feel these areas have been adequately (and then some) addressed in the last decade-plus, at the expense of capital expenditures in the theme parks. It’s time to focus on the real reason that guests visit Walt Disney World Resort, which, I feel, is what the above changes do.

What do you think of my changes and additions? What would you do if you were “playing” Walt Disney World Theme Park Tycoon?

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Posted on July 13, 2012

28 Responses to “Walt Disney World Theme Park Tycoon”

  • I could think about these types of changes all day. I think you make a lot of good points and have interesting ideas for all the parks. At EPCOT, I’d give a major overhaul to the Universe of Energy and focus on alternative energies that are available now and may be possible in the future. The ride system and dinosaurs can remain. I’d also turn Innoventions into a place for more high-tech exhibits and possible a better simulator attraction.

    The Magic Kingdom needs another E-Ticket attraction, and Tomorrowland is the ideal place. It would take some serious renovations, but I’d use the spot for Stitch’s Great Escape and expand it for a new attraction that’s completely different from the circular theater layout. For Carousel of Progress, I agree that it needs updating, but I still think having the last scene look into the future is the right move. This time, it would be well into the future to keep it from being dated.

    The Hollywood Studios should add more crowd-pleasing attractions to the areas surrounding Star Tours. I agree that family-friendly ones themed on Pixar is a good move, and I really think there’s untapped potential in Star Wars and Indiana Jones. That entire park could be so much more.

    • With regard to Carousel of Progress, could that ever be done? Look at how utterly (comically) wrong we’ve been when trying to predict the distant future in the past. Heck, even when trying to predict the not-so-distant we get corny lines about laser discs! While I’d love to see Carousel of Progress updated every few years or so, I just don’t trust Disney to do it.

      As for the choices at DHS, I agree about Star Wars and Indy, but I prioritized Pixar because the park really needs more family RIDES. Toy Story Mania should NOT have a two hour plus wait. It’s not that good. It has a wait that long because there’s so little for kids to do as far as rides go.

      • I see your point of COP. My thought was that if they went far enough in the future, it wouldn’t seem out of date. However, you may be right.

        I also agree about Toy Story Mania. I was at Disneyland without my daughter a few months ago and didn’t even ride it. The wait is a lot shorter there because of the competition from other attractions. DHS needs more family rides for sure. They just need more of everything. The only way it becomes a full-day park is to hit all the shows, and that just goes so far.

        • I don’t know, guys. I really like the overseas idea of Tomorrowland that borders on imagination, passion and …the past. The past’s version of Tomorrowland- even though its highly steampunked- its VERY cool and highly stylized. I think going that route is probably the best course for a ‘new’ Tomorrowland- otherwise it’ll get outdated just as easily. Go back to go forward!

          Also, I agree with COP….but honestly, it’s so corporate laden that I’d actually do away with it… A video game progression (think Wreck It Ralph!) would be interesting though, wouldn’t it?

  • I LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! the idea of the new Soarin’ movie. That is exceptionally perfect!
    Can support you on loosing the Sorcerer’s Hat though. It may be goofy, but it is classic. Just wouldn’t be the same park without it.
    Hope that banana stand starts turning a profit for you, you have some work to do!

    • Classic is looking down Hollywood Boulevard and seeing Grauman’s. I still miss that classic view.

      The hat is 2000s era clutter.

      I would compromise in this tycoon game and let it sit at the front of the park, but I suspect that when it comes down…it’s not going anywhere else!

  • You left out something very important. Maglev Monorail connecting AK, DHS, Epcot and the resorts.

    Also I would want some more walking paths. I should be able to walk from Port Orleans to Epcot and from the Grand Floridan to MK.

  • If the banana business is “floundering,” perhaps you should turn it into a fish market? [insert comical drum sounds here]

  • Figment’s always been one of my faves, and while I don’t particularly care for the current “senses” theme, I was SOOOO happy to see someone other than me wanting to give Figment some TLC (as opposed to ditching him completely).

    One thing I’m surprised you didn’t mention was a repurposing of sorts of Rafiki’s Planet Watch…I get what they were going for with the “affection section” and an emphasis on conservation and education, but they seem to go about it the lamest way possible. I’d combine ideas from zoos and aquariums, so you’d have things like a shark-petting area, etc.

    Actually, now that I’m thinking (and rambling) about it, for being called “Animal” Kingdom, it seemed WAAAY too focused on mammals (the only exceptions being the under-utilized Dinoland, a handful of birds, and the It’s a Bug’s Life show). Assuming the budget’s unlimited here, why not take on SeaWorld and branch out into some sea creatures? Or have an insectarium near the Bug’s Life show?

  • by bluesabriel on July 13, 2012, at 3:53 pm EDT

    I love most of these (MORE MUPPETS!), with two additions:

    1) Avatar never happens at Animal Kingdom. I’m sorry, but that deal sounded desperate from the get go, and considering the other movies have been pushed back at least a year (last I heard), this just seems like it will be a costly, drawn out project. Put in mythical animals. Everyone loves unicorns!

    2) I agree with totally overhauling Planet Watch. What they’ve done is a nice start, but it can be boring out there, especially if you don’t hit it on the right day. Keep the petting zoo, because the goat stampede at the end of the day amuses me to no end, but ramp up the rest to make it feel like there’s something going on out there!

  • by Bryant Helms on July 13, 2012, at 4:12 pm EDT

    I like all of the ideas. After the implementation of all of these great items. I would then add a 5th gate dedicated to the villains. Thrill rides galore. Like Hade’s trip through hell. A water ride featuring Ursala. Hook’s run for his life from the Crock Ride etc….

  • Just be sure not to burn the stand down.

  • Another great article Tom.

  • First, I was disappointed to realize you wern’t announcing the imminent release of this as a video game. Now, here are ideas I’ve had:

    MK:
    Tomorrowland:
    1. Remove Stitch, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear (the latter 2 to be moved to DHS’s Pixar Place as per your plan. Insert a Wall-E E-ticket dark ride using seats shaped like the Axiom’s hoverchairs. The story would be that you’re a new refugee from Earth getting a tour of the Axiom, while your tour is subtly interrupted by Wall-E and Eve’s plant rescue. Possibly use the tilting cars from the new Snow White coaster to do this.
    2. Carousel of Progress should be updated, but not to mock the past. Update with scenes of the 20s, 50s, 80s, and the 2020s.
    3. The Tomorrowland Speedway gets a Cars reskinning.

    Fantasyland:
    1. Undo the removal of Snow White’s Scary Adventures and cancel the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. In its place…
    2. Do a Tangled themed dark ride/roller coaster using steeplechase cars (i.e., cars shaped like horses straddled by the riders, like the new Coney Island Steeplechase coaster). In this one, you’re playing one of the royal guard, first chasing Flynn, returning to the castle only to catch glimpses of Rapunzel, and then chasing Flynn again after his escape to find Rapunzel.

    Frontierland: No change, just fix Splash Mountain already!

    Adventureland: Changes from the original post.

    Animal Kingdom:

    This is my favorite change: To best fit with the land themes of AK, that vast space that was supposed to be Beastly Kingdomme will be made into South America, and anchored by an Up-themed cable car tour of the animal habitats. The story here is that Carl is taking Russell back to South America for his zoology badge, and you get to come along for the ride. Meanwhile on the ground, in addition to all the real animals you’re spotting, Dug is leading the other dogs to try to find a particularly exotic bird for Russell, with hilarious animatronic results. Guests would get checklist sheets as they get on the ride so they can earn their Explorer badges.

    Epcot: With the fall of Kodak, it’s time to completely revamp the Imagination pavilion. Change it to Invention, and bring Apple in as a sponsor–they’re already extremely close to Disney. Two options for this: attempt to shoehorn in Figment in a new role, or put Figment aside and use one of my favorite underrated movies as the source, Meet the Robinsons. In the second idea, this would be a dark ride time travelling through history’s greatest inventors, from Archimedes to Leonardo Da Vinci to Edison to, for the sponsor’s sake, Wozniak and Jobs. I like the idea of putting an Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar (Attic?) where Image Works was, but I’d also like to restore a little of the awesome science museum quality Image Works had before it was turned into a set of lame Kodak demos.

  • Tom, I LOVE your ideas…..I assume your Banana Stand will have mail-order capabilities? Thanks for another great article!

  • Love this article, but may love the Arrested Development references even more =)

  • LOVED all the ideas, too! Thanks, Tom!

  • by @Aaron_Ardle on July 14, 2012, at 2:59 am EDT

    More Star Wars in the studios. A star wars themed area would be insanely cool. Or, add Jabba’s palace to the great movie ride.

    New film for soarin for sure.

    Horizons 2.0. Do this one and I’m good, I don’t need anything else.

  • Well first of all,

    “a new film for Soarin’ that has guests departing Florida for a trip that flies them over the countries of the World Showcase.”

    Aaaah! Get out of my head! LOL, I try to imagine what that’d be like any time the “Soarin’” soundtrack pops up on Mouseworld Radio.

    Lots of great ideas in the post and comments, and come to mention it I am genuinely surprised that there isn’t a “Disney Park Tycoon” game for real (though the Animal Kingdom Facebook game comes close… kind of.) Let’s see here…

    Animal Kingdom:

    * – (Cracks Knuckles.) Plow the whole Dinoland area and start over. Seriously. At present, it feels like, as one of my paleo-geek friends said, a huge troll. Instead, focus on all prehistoric life, starting from the Cambrian explosion and ending in the Pleistocene. Have more animal exhibits in the area; there are lots of “living fossils” (more correctly, creatures that win at Natural Selection), and why in the world is “Flights of Wonder” not in Dinoland already? (Wait, don’t tell me you don’t know…?)

    * – Agree wholeheartedly with having a South America section in the park. Love the “Up” ride idea. Let’s go ahead and add an Australia/Oceana section while we’re at it.

    * – Better signage and more biologists (not just cast members who have memorized an outdated script!) along the animal trails.

    * – And for the love of, go through the effort of updating things to be in line with new scientific discoveries! Come to think of it, this would also help our next park…

    Epcot

    * – Send Jeremy Irons and the composer of his accompanying music gift baskets with notes that say, “All is forgiven! Please come back and rescue ‘Spaceship Earth’!” Use an updated version of the original 70′s-trippy Ray Bradbury script. And get rid of those damn cheesey-a** screens!

    * – At present, the show in “Universe of Energy” might as well be retitled, “I Love Fossil Fuels” and the -er- story is so convoluted and full of hallucinations, time travel, and dreams within dreams that it would give Christopher Nolan a nosebleed. Fix this. And update the dinosaurs already! (Why are they even in the ride? Please don’t tell me it’s because of the surprisingly common confusion about where fossil fuels come from? It is, isn’t it? Dammit.)

    * – If Wonders of Life is essentially dead, why not turn it into “Horizons 2.0″? Methinks this generation could use an optimistic view of the future, no?

    * – Reroute the ride track in The Seas so you can, uh, actually have live sea creatures in the, uh, undersea tour. (Rest of the pavilion is fine.)

    * – Here we go. Journey into Imagination. What really ought to happen is somebody should go back in time and give whoever decided the original ride needed to be altered at all a good smack upside the head. As for the Magic Eye Theater, who not do a rotating schedule of 3D movies? Kids need a chance to be freaked out by “Magic Journeys” again.

    Studios

    * – Dang, this is getting long. Um, how about make it a working studio again. In one fell swoop, there’d be a point to the backstage tour and no need for the “Mushu” movie (which honest-to-God feels like an unironic remake of the “Mr. DNA” movie in “Jurassic Park”), and hell, maybe this generation could finally get it’s own Mickey Mouse Club!

    * – The Great Movie Ride could maybe use an update, but it’s hard to say what you’d swap in for what. I’d swap out the static “Footlight Parade” scene for a montage of silent films, “Alien” for “2001″ or “Blade Runner” (only because it’s strange to have the one science fiction film be the scene that makes the kiddies on the ride cry), and the mystifying “hall of random mummies” scene immediately following the “Indiana Jones” scene with… anything, really, because WTF?

    * – And, obvs, lose that damn giant hat.

    Magic Kingdom

    * – Tomorrowland… well, don’t plow over and start again entirely. But make the theming more coherent, certainly. Get rid of the goofy imagined “1999″(?!) scene in Carousel and replace it with either something that actually resembles the turn of the Millennium (no, we weren’t playing with Virtual Boys and Power Gloves back then), or if that’s too much of a temporal jump, go back to the 1979 ending I remember originally. Get rid of Stitch and place the Monsters Inc. show in a smaller more intimate theater in Pixar Place at the Studios.

  • by @Aaron_Ardle on July 14, 2012, at 4:03 pm EDT

    I’d like to see bike paths everywhere at WDW. You should be able to borrow a bike for your stay and use it to go anywhere in the resort on well lit, landscaped paths. Probably too hot for that in the summer though, unless you’re the type that likes that sort of thing. I go in the fall/winter, so biking from a hotel to a park or wherever would be lovely.

  • There’s ALWAYS money in the banana stand. Don’t burn it down!!

  • Has nobody mentioned fixing the Yettie’s at EE yet? There are some really good ideas here but I can’t get past never having seen the Yetti work the way it was intended. If you can get that done we’ll make you Mr Manager!

  • The thing about the Yeti is that, sadly, he is attached to the structure of the ride in such a way that they can’t fix him adequately without tearing the whole mountain apart. (Or so I have heard…)

  • I would love to see the Monsters Inc coaster using the door system in Pixar Place. I was sure when I watched the movie for the first time that it would become an attraction and am rather disappointed that it never happened.

  • I absolutely love your ideas for DHS. I hate to admit this, but I tend to forget that it’s part of the Disney 4 in florida. It needs something to make it stand out- and I think the addition of Pixar (and lots of it! LOVE the Up idea, even though I didn’t like the movie) would be incredible. A lot of the movies that Disney has put out that haven’t gotten as much attention (or, rides) as other parks would be great here- it would boost their confidence :) Make people more aware of them- and then the merchandising dept. can take over from there. I’d love to see a Black Cauldron ride, even though the movie itself was lackluster, I can think of at least three types of awesome rides you could pick out from it! (A re-make would be asking too much, right?)

    DAK could certainly use some mythical creatures. Not so much a movie creature (avatar, sigh) but more widely known. Disney was built on imagination- and it seems that lately they’re afraid to USE IT and create something entirely new without a movie base behind it. That said… Beastly Kingdom trumps Avatar.