Archive for July, 2009

DESIGN: A walk through WDW’s Tomorrowland – Part 1

by on July 20, 2009

Today we continue our walk through the Magic Kingdom, this time focusing on Tomorrowland. If you like what you see here I invite you to visit SamLand’s Disney Adventures.

For this little trip through Tomorrowland, I want to focus on three things that have captured my imagination. First, I have noticed that the site plan for Tomorrowland is really a modern take on the same plan for Main Street USA. Second, the land has a kinetic energy that is unique in the Magic Kingdom. Finally, I am fascinated by the fact that Tomorrowland is the only land to receive a major makeover in this park.

This trip will take us from small town America in the 1900s to the deepest edge of Space (Mountain that is). Let’s start from the Partners statue in the Hub and turn to the east.

Before we step across that bridge and enter the future, let’s spend a moment and recall the Main Street experience. My hope is that you will also see some of the design and crowd flow patterns repeating.

You get to Main Street USA from the entry plaza by passing through a natural barrier. In this case, it is the berm that holds the railroad tracks. You emerge on the other side in Town Square. Town Square funnels down to the narrow Main Street. Main Street is framed by the buildings and energized by the activity generated by the storefronts. The degree of life is enhanced by the presence of Cinderella Castle at the view terminus. This design pattern is known as a “wienie” in the Disney lexicon. At the end of the corridor is a strong central space with attractions radiating out like the spokes on wheel.

Compare Main Street to Tomorrowland. The gardens on the east side of the Hub are much larger than those on the west side. Unlike the more subtle entries to Liberty Square and Adventureland, Tomorrowland dominates the landscape. The Tomorrowland structures frame the open space much like the buildings on Town Square and this creates a more urban space than what you see on the west side.

You cross over a very wide bridge. The pathway and bridge is the same right-of-way as Main Street sans the sidewalks. Much wider than the paths to the other lands. You have to cross over a natural barrier. In this case, it is the Swan boat moat.

Once you have passed under the ceremonial gateway and over the bridge you enter a narrow corridor of buildings. Instead of storefronts enlivening the space, the constant motion of the TTA buzzing overhead and the odd articulation of the structural materials creates energy. These structural elements also provide much needed shade.

What draws you forward, all the way from the Hub, is the Astro Orbiters flying high above the land. Like Cinderella Castle, this siren call beckons all from the Hub. Once you have made it to the other end of the corridor you end up in a central hub space with attraction radiating out like spokes on a wheel. All of the entryways are oriented toward the TTA platform just like all of the lands are oriented toward the Partners statue.

The reality is this is all about crowd flow. The site plan for Tomorrowland is influenced by Main Street and functions much the same way. Those objectives include creating a strong gateway that establishes that you have passed into a different place (and time). Both lands draw guests through the space by a strong iconic element at the end of a vista. Each land uses the architecture to create corridors that reinforce the significance of the icon at the end of the street. And each land deposits the guest into a large central open space. Once you are in that space you can make choices as to which adventures you wish to pursue.

Each land is different. Adventureland is a winding path that leads to a plaza area. Liberty Square is a large outdoor room. Frontierland is a strip mall facing a river. Main Street and Tomorrowland are the classic corridors. But Tomorrowland has one thing that the other lands don’t – the kinetic motion of a world on the move. More on that later.

Preparing For The Summer Heat

by on July 20, 2009

I am super excited to go to Walt Disney World for summer vacation with my family in August — The Dog Days of Summer.   The heat  is something to consider when planning a trip.  If you are from the North or somewhere where the air is light, the summer heat and humidity may well knock your socks off. 

To begin, know it is going to be hot, hot, hot.  It’s also going to be humid.  It’s summer in Florida.    There are a few things you can do to adapt to the heat:

1.Try to get in shape before you leave home.  (At least start walking)  To prepare,  I’ve been walking around my neighborhood mid-day with my sunscreen slathered on. I often picture  myself trying getting to Soarin’ ahead of  XYZ tour group and that motivates me to pick up the pace.   I will continue this for the next 2 weeks.  When I am not writing for or planning peoples vacations, I teach Jazzercise.  So in order to get ready for this hot week at WDW, I am teaching more than I normally do in order to increase my endurance.  Get active now,  so the many miles you walk at WDW won’t seem as exhausting.

2. Try to get in the habit of drinking more water.  It’s incredibly important to stay hydrated in that kind of heat.

3. Another big key to your comfort is your shoes.  Break them in before you go. 

4.  If you find you can’t take the heat any longer, remember, there is always The Hall of Presidents.

What tips do you have for preparing for the heat?

WDW Today Episode 593 – Go Jump In A Pool

by on July 20, 2009

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Episode 593 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Four Parks, Four Unofficial Meetups

by on July 19, 2009

Want to meet the Unofficial Guide team at WDW?

After holding very successful Vegas and Disneyland meetups, we’re finally coming to Walt Disney World. Four times in the next two months. Four different members of the Unofficial Guide team!

8/1/2009: Magic Kingdom w/ Len Testa

Meet Sir Len Testa, co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, illustrious member of the WDW Today podcast, at the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, August 1st, 2009. Len will be at the lower seating level of the Tomorrowland Noodle Station between the hours of 1-2pm. See the event on Facebook.

8/26/2009: Disney’s Hollywood Studios w/ Henry Work

Join the newest member of the team — me — at Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009. We’ll be meeting at the Backlot Express from 5-6pm. I’ll try to spare you from too much of the geeky stuff, and will show you a bit of how we do counter service dining research for the guide. See the event on Facebook.

9/9/2009: Disney’s Animal Kingdom w/ Fred Hazelton

Enjoy the serene Flame Tree Barbeque with Unofficial Guide Statistician Fred Hazelton on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 at the Animal Kingdom. Fred will be at the lower level covered area (near the lake) of Flame Tree between 5-7pm. Note: this is during AK’s Extra Magic Hours, so you’ve got to get to the park before 5pm if you’re not a resort guest. If you can’t make it, let us know in the comments–and we’ll send Fred to find you another day. See the event on Facebook.

Meetup #4, Epcot w/ Unoffical Guide Researchers Josh & Sarah

OK, so we’re working on this one, of course to be held at Epcot and with everyone’s favorite research team, Josh & Sarah. Stay tuned.

Come Join Us!!

We’re eager to see you guys in the Parks! Feel free to click through to the links on Facebook and RSVP there–no need to, just it gives us a better idea of the numbers. If you’re going to be in WDW around one of these dates, but can’t make it to the meetup, let us know in the comments. We may be able to run into you on another day!

WDW Today Episode 592 – Magic Makers – Shawn Slater

by on July 17, 2009

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Episode 592 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Yet Another Rumor: Disney Dining Moving Back To 180 Day Booking Window

by on July 15, 2009

We hear from a source inside Disney that they’ll be moving back to a 180-day booking window for sit-down restaurants, possibly around November, due to guest demand. We could be completely wrong.

WDW Today Episode 591 – Listener Questions

by on July 15, 2009

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Episode 591 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Welcome To Henry, Our New Developer!

by on July 14, 2009

Henry Work is the new developer at, joining to work on the next-generation of web and mobile theme park touring applications.

Before joining the Unofficial Guide team, he was the lead developer at TechCrunch, one of the world’s leading technology blogs. While there, he co-created CrunchBase, TechCrunch’s structured wiki project, and led development on their blog properties and infrastructure/ops.

Henry hails from Bowdoin College, where he captained both the men’s ultimate frisbee team and the Northern Bites, Bowdoin College’s 4-Legged League RoboCup team. As a researcher after graduating, Henry led the Northern Bites to a first place finish at the 2007 RoboCup World Championships. When Henry’s done with our mobile apps, his next task will be to create a robot that brings us coffee at 3 pm every day.

Henry has been a long-time superfan of Walt Disney World, going about once a year since he was born (with his home base being Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort). He’s now going Disneyland regularly as well. You can follow him on Twitter at: @hwork.

Rumor Roundup

by on July 14, 2009

Take these with a grain of salt. They could be completely wrong. So wrong, in fact, that your eyeballs may burst into flames simply by reading the next couple of paragraphs.

(1) We hear the current free dining offer (free dining for check-ins through December 17, 2009) will be extended from a PIN code to the general public in the near future.

(1b) The alternative offer we’re hearing about is the return of the “Buy-4-Get-7” deal from earlier this year. That seems to have been another PIN code offer, albeit to a more limited audience.

(2) We expect ticket prices to increase around August 2. My guess is that it’ll be single-digit percentage increases for one-day tickets and double-digit percentage increases for multi-day tickets, especially those in the 3 to 7 day range. Probably higher for kids than adults.

(3) I would not be surprised to see that Disney’s park attendance levels have dropped, year-over-year, since the end of the first “Buy-4-Get-7” offer in June, about 1% every week since then. Give or take. I’m just saying.

Just a hunch.

WDW Today Episode 590 – Disney’s Magical Express

by on July 13, 2009

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Episode 590 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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