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If I Could Start From Scratch

Jack Spence Masthead


Hi Everyone,

Before we get started with today's blog, you must endure an advertisement for a new feature AllEars has started. Each week, Deb Wills hosts a video show that brings our readers a "bit of Disney." The topics will be as varied as our blogs. Sometimes we'll discuss new offerings like "Epcot After Hours" and "Harambe Nights." Other times we'll bring you park and resort details like "Fort Wilderness Little Known Facts." You never know what's in store so you'll just have to tune in to find out.

This week, Deb came to my home and allowed me to show off my "Pirate" guest bedroom We had a lot of fun and I hope you find it interesting and entertaining.

I have already recorded another session with Deb about the PeopleMover at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. And I plan on doing more videos in the future. To make sure you don't miss anything, you might want to subscribe to our new show.



Each day, thousands of people drive north on World Drive and pass through the Magic Kingdom toll booths. Once on the other side, most guests veer left toward the Magic Kingdom parking lot. However, there is a second group of people that continue driving straight ahead or veer right. They are aiming for either the golf courses, the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, or the Fort Wilderness Campground. There are also a number of cast members in this second group who take this route aiming for backstage facilities or the property's north exit onto Reams Road.


Magic Kingdom Toll Booths

Which Way To Go


Although the right side of the toll booths are unofficially designated for the resorts and the left side for the Magic Kingdom, this is a clumsy arrangement. Many people don't know this and hotel guests and cast members are forever getting stuck behind a day visitor paying to park and asking a dozen questions.

None of the other toll booths at WDW give motorists a choice of direction. Once you pass through the other parking lot entrances, the only place to go is that theme park's parking lot. So why is the Magic Kingdom different? To answer this question, we must look back into Disney history.

Walt was far more interested in building the "city" of EPCOT than the Magic Kingdom. But he knew that the amusement park needed to be built first to help generate the funds necessary to construct his futuristic community. To that end, he wanted the Magic Kingdom placed at the north end of property. He also wanted all of the "vacation" hotels to be clustered around the Magic Kingdom. By doing this, these facilities would act as the "weenie" and draw guest through a large portion of the property, and eventually, past Epcot to get to their vacation destination.


WDW Concept Map


After Walt's death, the bean counters wanted to construct the Magic Kingdom closer to the interchange of Interstate 4 and Highway 192. This would have saved the company untold dollars as not as much infrastructure would be needed. It would also make the Magic Kingdom more accessible to motorists. But Roy wanted to honor Walt's wishes. He also knew that the property's needs would eventually have to be attended to and it would be better to do it now rather than later.

Although concepts for the "city" of EPCOT were bantered about for a number of years after the opening of the Magic Kingdom, for the most part, this dream died with Walt. Eventually, the company built EPCOT Center (a theme park) and placed it somewhat in the same vicinity as where the city would have been developed. They also connected this new park to the TTC with a monorail.

When Michael Eisner took the reins of the company in 1984, he was directed by the Bass brothers (who were major stockholders) to develop the property far beyond what his predecessors had done. And Michael did just that. He built two more theme parks, more golf courses, two water parks, many hotels, a learning center, a sports center, a motor racetrack, and expanded Downtown Disney. However, he did not build more monorails due to their excessive costs. Instead, the company opted to use buses to transport guests around property.

Because the property was so vast, these new facilities could be placed almost anywhere. But I'm sure serious thought was given to each new facility's location. Still, I have a few problems with the decisions that were made and feel the Imagineers could have done a better job. Let me give you a few examples.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't like the toll booth arrangement at the Magic Kingdom. This should be simplified. Hotel guests should have a way around the booths. Only those parking at the Magic Kingdom should have to pass through these pay stations.

Disney's Hollywood Studios was positioned in a location that makes it difficult for the park to expand. It's bordered by major roadways on two sides, the main entrance on another, and its own parking lot on the fourth. In addition, an office building was built in it's backstage areas, limiting even more growth.

The parking lot has two entrances, one of these being off of the signal-laden Buena Vista Drive. This second entrance is woefully inadequate to handle the traffic it does.

To exit the Studio, you are dumped back onto signal-laden Buena Vista Drive. You should exit the Studio onto a "highway" as the other three parks do. Signals just slow things down.

As Disney World had untold acres of undeveloped land, I was always amazed that the Imagineers chose this location for the Studio. Why didn't they position the park where it could grow and provide a decent exit and only one, all-purpose entrance?

The company built the Walt Disney World Speedway right in the middle of the Magic Kingdom parking lot in 1995. The track was designed to fit within the boundaries of the existing infrastructure, requiring minimal rerouting of existing roads. For several years, the track was home to the annual Disney 200. During the rest of the year, it was used for lesser events and test driving. However, its location turned out to be a nightmare. First, the constant engine roaring infuriated Polynesian guests. Then the issue of parking became a problem as the Speedway was sharing the Magic Kingdom lot. All in all, it was a disastrous decision to place this facility here and the Disney 200 only lasted five years before it was discontinued.

Downtown Disney was placed too close to State Road 535 (S. Apopka-Vineland Blvd.). Entering Hotel Plaza Blvd (on route to Downtown Disney) from this roadway during the off-season is bad enough, but come the busy times of the year, Apopka-Vineland is almost impossible to navigate.

Downtown Disney also sits along signal-laden Lake Buena Vista Drive. Driving along this roadway can test the patience of any sane person. Disney is currently in the process of expanding this six-lane road to a ten-lane road. I hope this helps, but I'm not holding my breath.

I like the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. I think they are a lot of fun. But I hate where they are located. They should NOT be visible from Epcot's World Showcase. This "mistake" bugs me a lot.

I love the addition of the moderate and value resorts to Walt Disney World. This allows a wider audience to enjoy the many perks available to on-property guests. However, none of these properties are adjacent to a theme park. This makes them less desirable than a deluxe resort. Even the DVC properties Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are removed from the theme parks and require auto or bus transportation to reach WDW entertainment.

I'm not blaming anyone for the layout of Walt Disney World. It happened over time and the Imagineers tried to make the best decisions they could as new ideas were born and old ones dismissed. But it did get me to thinking, how would the Imagineers design the entire property if they knew in the mid 60's that no EPCOT "city" would be built, but instead, four theme parks, 20-something hotels, water parks, and everything else that happened over the last 43 years. So, I took out pen and paper and started my own design from scratch.

The Walt Disney World property is basically a rectangle with a lot of irregular borders. For simplification, I'm just going to use a basic rectangle with straight edges. Please bear with me as I lay out my plans. This is an elementary concept that would have to be tweaked depending on the land and water that naturally exists. But remember, when Walt Disney World was first being planned, the Imagineers turned a swamp into Seven Seas Lagoon. They also constructed 47 miles of canals, 22 miles of levees, and 24 water-control structures and floodgates across the land. These facts let me be free with my design as I know Disney would be willing to move mountains (if Florida had any) to create the perfect vacation destination.

So here goes. My idea for the "perfect" layout of Walt Disney World if I could build the entire compound from scratch today.

Okay, my first decision might sound blasphemous to many of you, but I would not put the Magic Kingdom in its current position. Walt wanted it at the north end of property so it could be the weenie to draw guests past EPCOT, but we have no need for this in my design. And when you think about it, the ferryboats and monorails easily add 20 minutes each way to a day visitor's schedule on a good day. On a busy day, even more time. And if the idea of a lake in front of a theme park was so good, why hasn't it been recreated at any other Disney park? However, I would still create Seven Seas Lagoon. More on this in a minute.


Jack's Concept Map


I would have World Drive travel up the middle of the property, much as it does today. I would locate the Sports Center at the north end of property, near Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. This facility would circle much of the lagoon and lake and contain the three golf courses, water recreation, the Richard Petty Driving Experience, and all of the sports facilities found at Disney's Wild World of Sports complex today. The water parks and miniature golf courses would also be found in this area. Remember, my maps are not to scale. They're just here to give you an idea of general placement.


Jack's Concept Map


I would put Downtown Disney smack-dab in the middle of the property. World Drive would run beneath this shopping district. Walt originally proposed having automobile traffic run beneath EPCOT.

Even though my drawings don't show it, there would be adjacent parking lots for all facilities.


Jack's Concept Map


Now for the theme parks"¦ I would create four "villages," each one anchored by a park. In a way, my design mimics the layout of the Magic Kingdom, only on a much larger scale. I have a central hub (Downtown Disney) and the sports center and the four villages radiate from this central location like Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland.


Jack's Concept Map


If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a Left Brain sort of person. I'm a logical, orderly, linear thinker. We would need a group of Right Brain people to come in and humanize my design. For example, in my drawing I have the four villages laid out very neatly. In reality, some villages would be closer to Downtown Disney and others further away. And their size would also vary greatly. After all, Epcot is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom is five times the size of the Magic Kingdom. In addition, the suitability of the land and property boundaries would also play a part in the design.

Walt's original plans for the city of EPCOT called for a monorail system to connect the major locations around property. I would do the same. NO MORE BUSES.


Jack's Concept Map


Like the Magic Kingdom monorail, my system would be a double highway-in-the-sky with each side running in the opposite direction. But unlike the Magic Kingdom's version, these monorails would stop at every station. By doing this, no area would be more than three stops away.


Double Monorail


Each village would contain one theme park, two deluxe hotel/DVC resorts and one each moderate and value resort. One of the villages would get the extra bonus of the campground. This way, no park would be superior in its lodging options. So if Disney's Hollywood Studios is your favorite park, you could stay right next door in whatever type of accommodation you like. In other words, no resort would be "stand alone" as some are today. Space could be left for additional growth within each village or new resorts could be added near the Sports Center, creating another village.

The current Epcot hotel complex (Yacht, Beach, Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin) is a good example of what each village might look like in my new design. There would be a small lake in which the various accommodations would be clustered. However my lakes would be larger than Crescent Lake. I don't like the crowded feel that currently exists with the Epcot Resorts. There would also be a promenade that connects all of the hotels. And there would be "backdoor" entrances into every park for hotel guests.

NO HOTEL WOULD BE VISIBLE FROM WITHIN A THEME PARK!


Jack's Concept Map


When approaching a village by car, the roadway would split. Day guests going directly to a theme park would pass through a toll booth. Those going to the hotel complex would be directed to each resort's own parking lot.

As I mentioned earlier, Walt wanted monorails to connect the major locations around property. In addition, he wanted PeopleMover stations adjacent to the monorail platforms. He would use this slower moving transportation system to transport guests to the smaller attractions. So to get around within any of my villages, guests would ride on PeopleMovers.


Jack's Concept Map


Running in the opposite direction of the People Mover would be a watercraft system. Although not nearly as efficient, boats add a lot of ambiance to an area.


Jack's Concept Map


Remember, each village would look entirely different from the other three. The lakes' shapes would be varied and the hotel theming would be as diverse as it is today. In fact, I like many of the current hotel designs. There is no reason we couldn't reuse some of the present-day motifs. So of you like the way the monorail runs through the middle of the Contemporary, let's recreate it. If you like the laidback atmosphere of Port Orleans, let's recreate it. But if we're starting from scratch, new designs would also be welcome.

So there you have it. My idea for Walt Disney World if I had created the master plan back in 1965 with 2014 knowledge. If you like my ideas, great. If you have your own ideas, share them. If you hate my plan, no problem. None of it really matters as this was an exercise in futility. But I enjoy playing the "what if" game and I hope you enjoyed my vision of Walt Disney World.



The previous post in this blog was AllEarsNet TV - Jack's Pirate Room.

The next post in this blog is Saratoga Springs - A Relook.

Comments (35)

Amy Nicholson:

I thought this was brilliant!!!! I'm a left-brainer also :-)

Nancy Crossman:

I agree with Amy. Brilliant !!

Jillian:

Jack, this is so well thought out and fun to read! Your layout would solve so many problems, the first one that came to mind was the "tired of the food court at an isolated resort" one. In your plan, after eating at your own food court for a few days, just take the people mover to one of the other resort's food courts in your area! So much easier than trying to get to another resort or only eating in the parks. No one would ever need a car, either. Thank you for an excellent and thought-provoking read!

Jillian

Jack's Comment:

It has always bothered me that if you don't have a car, it is extremely difficult to get from one resort to another. To do so, you must take a bus (monorail or boat) to a theme park, then transfer to a bus (monorail or boat) going to the resort of your choice. Even Disney says to allow an hour for this commute. It shouldn't be that way.

Tricia:

I like your Idea. My only worry is the number of monorails that would need to be running to keep up with the volume of people.

Jack's comment:

You bring up a good point. But I think my plan would work. Remember, only resort guests would be using the monorails. Day guests would be parking in their own lot and using trams to get to the front gate.

My monorail tracks would be significantly longer than the existing monorail tracks at Disney World today. That means that the tracks could easily accommodate more monorails.

Jenny Sperandeo:

Hi Jack! Great job imagineering!!! I liked your ideas. Your way would keep every resort guest more connected to the Disney experience. Guests wouldn't feel their "value" or "moderate" accommodations were lacking in the feel that Disney has provided their "deluxe" guests. I love all the Disney resorts I have stayed in, but some do feel a little more removed than others...

PS Do you plan on touring the Polynesian DVC huts on the water when they are completed? Also, do you think you would ever want to vacation in one? I kind of feel they will be obstructing some of the Poly's views...

Jack's Answer:

AllEars is often invited to press events showcasing new facilities, but not always. We never know what we will and will not be attending. So I have no idea if we'll be covering the opening of the new Poly rooms out on the water. And if we are invited, Deb Wills may attend rather than me.

I'm not a DVC member so I doubt that I will ever stay in one of these units. But who knows. Although I'm holding my opinion until they are complete, I'm initially not happy with their addition. I think they encroach on Seven Seas Lagoon too much.

Josh Weiss:

Hey Jack
I love the idea of having the monorail go through all of the theme parks, along with your idea of having a people mover station for the hotels. It would be a lot better than buses plus would offer better views around the parks. Can't wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

Susan:

I love your ideas. I never like the disconnected feeling you get when staying at many of the resorts. This also reminds me of when I was a kid and used to try and design the perfect house.

Karen:

Hi Jack!
Great plan...too bad the Disney designers didn't have your vision!
I've been trying to follow the Disney Springs updates and am surprised it's moving so fast...I know personally how horrific the bus system is and the need for parking expansion - but I guess I don't understand their construction rationale - whatever happened to Avatar? We went to Downtown Disney in late May and for the first time the crowds actually scared me. I was grateful that we were at the French Quarter and could escape via boat!

Jack's Comment:


The Downtown Disney is transformation is moving fast. But it still has a long way to go as it isn't scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2016.

Avatar Land is moving along. I drove past the Animal Kingdom today and saw four cranes moving stuff around.


Robin:

Interesting ideas. I really like the idea of more monorails and no buses!

John Snider:

Great, great stuff Jack.
You can't beat more monorails and more people movers! Being ambidextrous, I value both left and right brained thinking. I think your design works perfectly for both the logical/analytical and the creative minds.
A couple of issues that might come into play:
Animal Kingdom next to I-4 might disturb the natural feel of the park - road noise, smells, etc. Not a big issue though.
Preferences to stay next to the more visited parks like MK and Epcot could drive prices higher and/or require more than the standard hotel configuration you set.
Like you said though, an exercise in futility, but fun to consider nonetheless.

Jack's Comment:

When I placed the parks/villages on my map, I gave absolutely no thought to any outside influences. You are absolutely correct that the noise and pollution could be a problem for the animals. So let's swap the Animal Kingdom Village with one of the others. No problem. :-)

Thanks for the suggestion.

Sarah:

Your ideas are fantastic Jack! I espcially like the hotel complex idea. We are DVC members and our home resort is The Boardwalk so we stay there most often. And I think it has spoiled us. When we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge there was a definite disconnect. It is an entirely different feeling than the Epcot resorts.

I love the idea of the Peoplemover as more than a ride! I think Walt would love it too!

Thanks,
Sarah

Jill Hogg:

Hey Jack,

This is the blog I've been waiting for! Love your ideas! I would so love to see WDW devoid of so many cars and busses. Monorails and people movers are so much cleaner and more quiet! I imagine there would be lots of lush, Florida foliage surrounding each village, making them more beautiful and to absorb noise. (Not to mention cleaning the air). Someday, you really should take the time to sketch things out properly - I would love to see it!

James:

Hey Jack!!

I've always loved your blog, but this is my first comment. I noticed you said that the campground would be included in a cluster. I would say it doesn't have too. Many campers like to stay at Fort Wilderness simply because it feels so disconnected from the parks. I'd say that keeping it where it is along Bay Lake and almost isolated from everything else would be perfect (except for transportation.) Other than that, I love this idea. I get a kick out of these sort of simple maps also.

Jack's Answer:

You make a good point about Fort Wilderness.

I know one thing, I would bring back the steam trains for transportation within Fort Wilderness. But this time, I'd do it right so the trains wouldn't be breaking down continually.

Eric:

Jack,
As always, an outstanding column! I agree, this layout makes much more sense. We're often "stuck" in traffic going to/from DTD onto/off of 535 and it takes forever (or feels like it) to get past the shops. I hope the proposed off ramp from I-4 into Disney Springs makes it somewhat easier to navigate. Also, the entrance/exit time into DHS can be backed up as you pointed out. I love the parks; however, your layout makes much more sense! Looking forward to your next column!

Keith:

Hi Jack,

Interesting blog! Sounds like you had some fun imagining it. Just curious, what would you do (if anything) with Discovery/Treasure Island in Bay Lake?

Jack's Answer:

I miss Discovery Island. I thought it was a wonderful place to escape from the crowds. However, once the Animal Kingdom opened, there really wasn't a need for this attraction and I understand why Disney closed it.

In my vision of Walt Disney World, I'm not sure what I'd place here. I don't know how it would play a part in a Sports Center.

In today's world, I wish Disney could come up with something for this island. I heard rumor years ago that they were considering honeymoon cottages. I semi-liked this ides. I like the idea of bungalow/rooms on the island, but I don't like the idea of restricting them to only honeymoon couples. I would want them open to everyone. But this was just a rumor and I have no idea if there was any truth to it.

Julia Marsh:

I think your plan is good for now, but you are falling into the same trap as the Imagineers.

You need to plan for what the park will look in the next 500 years. (yes, 500)


They are going to add additional parks it is only a matter of time. I think there will be one that is geared more for teens with larger roller coasters. (Heroes and Villains park anyone? I imagine that there will be a park that encompasses Star Wars, Marvel (the lease to Universal will expire) and the villains

Your plan needs to work in how each additional park will be placed. how will parks be expanded. (I do not like expanding parks a rather have more smaller parks. Epcot is just too large)


I think your plan would work if you eliminated Downtown Disney as a hub in the middle. There are only some many thinks that can spoke off a hub until it gets too congested. (to see this problem look at DC. It is a hub and spoke system that failed.)

Jack's Comment:

You're correct. More parks will be added someday. I don't know if it will be in my lifetime, but it will happen.

I think my plan could easily accommodate two more park/villages. I would just put them south of the existing villages and extend the monorail. Remember, my proposed plan would use only slightly more land than has already been developed today. I've just rearranged what already exists. And Walt Disney World has lots of room to expand.

Regardless, it's all nonsense since it's never going to happen. But I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

Scott Cook:

Hi Jack, Being a left-brainer myself, I gotta admit, I like these plans. I think we could all play the "what would Walt do?" game to second guess any decision made since his passing. But my favorite "what if" question would be, what if Walt lived into the mid-1980's? I bet WDW would be a very different place and I hope that in some parallel universe we may all be able to experience it someday.

Jack's Comment:

I wrote an entire blog about "What would Walt do." In it, I discouraged the practice as none of us have any idea what Walt would do. However, I totally agree with you. If Walt had lived into his 80's, Walt Disney World would not be the place it is today. I have no idea what it would be, but it would be different.

Deb:

Disneyworld would not be Disneyworldi if not exactly as it is

Jack's Comment:

I absolutely, positively understand your emotional attachment to Walt Disney World exactly as it exists today. In fact, in many ways I share your sentiment. However, if WDW had been built using my plans in 1971, you wouldn't know the difference today. You'd think that was how it was supposed to be.

But luckily for you, my ideas are just pie-in-the-sky. :-)

Diane:

Hi Jack,
I appreciated your comments about the Swan and Dolphin. I always thought their architecture was way out of scale with everything else around them and makes the area feel extra crowded. Because of that, I never thought the moderate resorts' more distant location was much of an issue. My favorite is Dixie Landings (sorry--honeymooned there in 1993 and still can't call it Riverside). I like that you don't see any tall buildings around it. It feels very resort-like, leafy and lush, and like a real escape from the activity of the parks. Very relaxing. But then again, we usually rented a car on our stays there, so our mode of transportation was very direct.
Thanks for the mental exercise,
Diane

Jack's Comment:

As I said in my blog, my lakes would be bigger than Crescent Lake. I feel the Epcot Resorts are too close together. Something I didn't say in my blog was that I would have buffer zones between every resort within a village. I totally understand your love for Port Orleans Riverside and I would not do anything to diminish this feel.

Shirley Garcowski:

Great ideas. This would eliminate the necessity of renting a car. We currently do not use Disney transportation because it takes forever to get anywhere, especially if you're going from one hotel to another. No direct route.

The only thing is that I would miss the ambience of our favorite resort, Wilderness Lodge, since by putting it where they did and not putting up other hotels in sight (and no monorail, although sometimes I sorely miss not having one), you really do get the feel that you are in the Pacific NW. If only they'd top some of those trees on the side that faces MK so you could see the castle and fireworks as in years past.

Excellent idea for an article though, Jack.

Jack's Comment:

There is no reason the ambiance of Wilderness Lodge couldn't be retained with my plan. Only the resort's entrance would sit adjacent to the lake. The rest of the property could still be surrounded by trees. In fact, buffer zones between resorts would be mandatory.

Brad:

I'm with you on the layout. It's not at all obvious that you should go through the toll booths to get to your hotel. It's quite confusing to someone who is visiting WDW for the first time. I could easily see the argument of, "NO! You're heading into the Magic Kingdom and we're trying to get to the Contemporary!!!," happening quite frequently in cars as guests arrive.One thing that's bugged me is the placement of the monorail with relation to the entrance at Epcot. It sweeps in mid-parking lot which seems asymmetrically distracting. It seems like they could have just as easily had it sweep over on the far side of the "french curve" Epcot interchange and then gone straight in flanking either side of the tram area.The "french curve" interchange directly North of Epcot also seems to be needlessly complicated. It also has the opposite issue of the Magic Kingdom's toll booth problem with basically making it look like you're about to get onto the road which goes just North of Epcot but you're actually going straight into the toll for the parking lot, no matter what, as you approach that road from the South side.I like your centralized and symmetric design along with the idea that the monorail would be used throughout. The way it's laid out now the monorail would be a complicated system to navigate if they tried to expand it. Even the Epcot monorail has always seemed like an odd add-on to me. Regarding Hollywood Studios: You're dead-on with the parking entrances and single exit being odd. It seems like the could have done better than that. It still seems like they could expand the park by simply moving the parking lot further out and moving the World Drive entrance over. There's land there. They'd, of course, also need to move the entrance to the park or build a second entrance for the parking lot moved further out. So the current entrance would be more like the back-door entrance to Epcot at the International Gateway.

Ryan:

I love your ideas. Interestingly enough i have studied the maps of the property as well several times and have come up with a way to lay 3 tracks of light rail to connect everything they have already and even a place for a new hotel. The light rail would allow you to get to all the parks as they are and all other Disney locations. In fact i took the design and turned it into a new board for the ticket to ride game for my family to play on. But thanks for all your ideas i love them.

Jack's Comment:

More monorails will never be added to Walt Disney World. They are just too expensive. However, light rail could be a possibility.

A cast member told me a number of years ago that Disney was looking into some sort of transportation system that would take guests directly where they wanted to go. Each resort would have a station. Guests would enter their private vehicle (like a PeopleMover car) and press a button for their destination and off they'd go. Of course, I don't believe everything cast members tell me and this sounded even more expensive than a monorail system.

Phil:

Hi Jack,

I am a big fan of your blog posts, like so many others have said. I did have a question for you regarding your map. Where would you place the water parks? I like the idea of having DTD in the center of it all, would you do the same with the waterparks? I wonder if they are utilized more by day visitors or by people on longer vacations. Either way, I think your ides are great!

Phil

Jack's Comment:

When contemplating my layout, the water parks did have me stumped for a while. I wasn't sure what to do with them. Then I decided to place them in the Sports Center area. I figured they are kind of "sportish."

Jim:

I really like the changes to the layout but buses cannot be eliminated due to bad weather. On several occasions we have experienced the dead monorail system and been forced to rely on buses or the ferry. There would have to be a way for resort guests to get around. That or figure out how to keep monorail running all the time.

Jack's Comment:

Actually, the monorails run quite well in the rain. They do it daily during the summer as it usually pours every afternoon. However, you are correct. Some backup system would be needed for the occasional breakdown.

Brad:

One other thought about the Magic Kingdom toll area and trying to get past it to the resorts: It seems like it would be such a simple fix. Just put an exit just before the toll area that says: RESORTS THIS WAY and put a fly over on the other side so that World Drive continues from the resort areas straight down to the highway World Drive instead of forcing all traffic to cross over in front of the Polynesian and then back down. It just seems like a dumb setup from the get-go.

john:

Since we are having some fun re-imaging Walt Disney World, I would like to consider another alternative: Is the current 4 park set-up the most efficient? Since Hollywood Studios has abandoned its original premise of being a working studio, many of its attractions could be relocated to other parks, and fit seamlessly into the theming. Some examples:
Star Tours: Tomorrowland (MK)
Indiana Jones: Adventureland (MK)
Tower of Terror: themed to fit a country in World Showcase (Epcot)
Beauty and the Beast stage show- New Fantasyland.

Perhaps a larger Magic Kingdom could also expand with its own "Hollywoodland" to include The Great Movie Ride, Lights Motors Action, Muppets, and other attractions?

Jack's Comment:

Wow! I like your thinking. You really do think outside the box.

On a related note...

After the success of the Indiana Jones RIDE at Disneyland, the Imagineers wanted to bring it to Walt Disney World. According to an ex-Imagineer friend of mine, so much squabbling took place whether to put it in the Studio or the Magic Kingdom, the idea was dropped completely.

Eileen Miller:

What a great way to make us think! You addressed so many of the issues we have all discussed over many of our trips to WDW. I have often wondered if the edict given to Michael Eisner might have made too much happen too fast - especially when it comes to the Studios. I would love to see some expansion there (it has become a 1/2 day park for my family), especially with so much wasted area within the park, and so many new movie technologies that could be explored. But they have nowhere to go.

I also like the idea of the 'village' for each park - especially the backdoor park entrance! I haven't been lucky enough to get to Disneyland/California Adventure yet, but the idea of entering a park directly from a hotel - the way you can with the Grand Californian Hotel there - has always appealed. It might be enough to make me splurge for a deluxe resort!

I have always wished for more monorails, too, and the idea of the smaller People Mover within each village was inspired. But given reality (sigh) I would be happier if they could do some kind of 'light rail'. We drive to WDW from NC so we have a car, but it would be nice to leave the driving to Disney while on vacation.

I know that Imagineers are always looking to the future, but I do sometimes wonder if, back in the late 1960's and 1970's, they were imagining so much growth, as I can't help but think they would have changed a few things. But I guess that's like thinking someone from 1950 should have assumed that something like a smart phone would ever exist - if nothing like it has ever been seen and the technology doesn't even exist yet, how could you make such an exponential leap in thinking? I doubt there was any way for those early WDW designers to fully grasp how huge WDW would become - despite Walt's talk of the 'blessing of size'.

Thanks for providing so much thought into this 'start over' idea. It's fun to try to re-imagine a place we love, and you've given us some great ideas to rehash. As always, a wonderful blog!

Robert Dickinson:

Pure Genus!! Great read. Thanks jack!!!

Rob

Matt S.:

I've always just liked having our own car. That way we don't get stuck in more lines or packed in a bus like cattle. At the end of the day, all I want to is lay down and rest my feet. I do insist on riding the monorail to Epcot though. It's a fun, enjoyable ride and the circle it takes around Future World is my always my favorite! Thanks for the post!

Adam:

It's an interesting thought experiment. I'm not much of a left-brained person, so my right-brain was crying out 'noooo!' at many of your suggestions. I can actually agree with most of your complaints. The whole of the Swan and Dolphin, while nice hotels, simply wouldn't exist in any real 'if we knew then what we know now', because no Disney CEO would ever allow them to happen. Though that said, I do actually like the view of the Tower of Terror for Epcot. I love that they thought about the Morocco pavilion when they were designing it. It's one of those Disney touches I always enjoy pointing out to people.

I'd have to really think about how I'd approach it. I think that Animal Kingdom is as isolated as it is for good reason. The same goes for DAKL. But DHS's positioning really reveals how desperate Eisner was to open it as quickly as possible. The placement of Downtown Disney is equally as frustrating. Heck, even the shape of it isn't great! It would be nice if it had a circular shape, similar to the parks. Still, anyone who has stayed in the back of Saratoga Springs would probably disagree with this. Being able to see the entire length of DD, especially at night, is a gorgeous sight.

Which I guess is my biggest problem with your design. I am prepared to be called a snob, and I am sorry that what I am saying may seem snobbish. I'm a recent DVC member. My home resort is the Grand Floridian. It will be a rare thing to have a theme park view, but even so I have beautiful views either of the resort itself, of the Polynesian and the Contemporary or simply of the manicured grounds. When staying in any deluxe resort, whether it's the timeless beauty of the Grand Floridian or the rustic adventure of the Wilderness Lodge (I can't wait to try the Villas at the WL! But that won't happen for a few years, at least!) the LAST thing I want is to look out my window and see a giant Coke can or a building covered in a Little Mermaid motif. I like Disney movies, but I don't like Disney movies nearly as much as I like the Disney experience at a WDW resort, and for me that Disney experience doesn't really involve looking at an amazing savannah where zebras and giraffes are running loose and then there's a giant tennis racket in the background!

I think if I made changes, they'd be small ones. While I like the idea of underground roads (the Big Dig here in Boston may have been a disaster, but the result has allowed for some beautiful green areas where once there was dank shadow under a highway) I have a bad feeling that Florida's marsh simply wouldn't allow it. Moving the Studios somewhere that it would have some growth potential, improving the overall Downtown Disney experience, mass transit options to every park (I'm afraid no matter how much we all hate buses, Fort Wilderness and the bigger DVC resorts would still require them!) and bringing back all those little touches that I missed by not being a Disney person until 2005, these are all things I can get behind.

Oh, and I know that the magic may have worn away just a bit because you get to visit the parks as often as you want, but I think that while the average person who visits the Magic Kingdom, especially first time visitors, may seem grumpy at that extra 20 minutes on their trip to the parks, the approach by boat or monorail is one of the most amazingly magical experiences you can pay for. I sometimes take the ferry in the mornings just for fun. The press of people isn't great, but looking around and seeing the awe on the faces of kids and kids-at-heart as they get closer to the Magic Kingdom, closer to a world of dreams and imagination, is its own special kind of wonderful.

(I won't vouch for how anyone feels about an extra twenty minutes added to their trip back. When you're exhausted, there ain't no magic to be had.)

(Though I will add that this is where I actually enjoy the buses. When it's late, late, late and you're heading back to your resort and everyone's in the same tired but satisfied state of mind, a sort of community builds. I've had sing-alongs. I've had strangers chatting about their day. I've even enjoyed that quiet of tired people with the destination soundtrack* the buses play. And there's always that collective groan when the lights turn on at each stop.)

*I think one of my favorite things they ever did with the buses was add a soundtrack to the drive that reflects your destination. A little bit of swampy ragtime when heading to Port Orleans, a little bit of majesty and wander when going to Epcot, a little mystery and wilderness beat heading to Animal Kingdom? It manages to add a lot of atmosphere, which is impressive when you're in a bus that contains advertisements for Disney Family shows that got canceled four episodes in and Disney movies that came out last Summer.

Jack's Comment:

First, I want to thank you for your well thought out opinion. I think it's great. I just want to say two things in response.

1. I didn't make it clear in my design and narrative, but there would be a lot of space between the hotels within a Village. You would NOT be able to see a Coke cup from that Grand Floridian. That would be tacky.

2. Imagineers get together and brainstorm. Because of that, they come up with much better ideas than any one individual could. To be honest, I think it would be fun to take my concept of starting from scratch and get together with a group of Disney fans like yourself and see what we could come up with as a team. I'm sure we make a much better design than what I presented by myself.

Melissa:

I like some of your ideas - like putting Downtown Disney in the middle, more monorails etc. I do NOT drive in the Downtown Disney area if I can avoid it - it's terrible.

However - I do not agree with grouping a moderate and a value resort next to the deluxe resorts immediately adjacent to a park.

As someone who stays almost exclusively at the deluxe resorts (unless I'm meeting friends who are staying at a moderate) - I am paying a premium. I am paying a premium not just for the style and amenities at a deluxe. I am paying a premium for better access to the park. When you are paying a minimum of $350-$450 a night - it is only fair that you get more than someone who is only paying $100.

I think adding the moderate and value resorts was a fantastic decision on the part of Disney. It's wonderful that no matter what your budget you can stay on site - and they are great hotels. The theming at Art of Animation looks amazing. However - it makes perfect sense that they are located somewhat farther away from the parks. Having some of the value resorts located immediately adjacent to the water parks and sports complex - that works perfectly. I also think a lot of the charm of the moderates is the fact that they are more removed and quiet.

Melissa:

One other comment - one of the best things about the Disney parks is that you do not see or hear anything from outside of the parks. It's like you are in your own world. I would not like a configuration where you might lose that.

That's why Disneyland can never have the appeal of Disney World. I am so happy that Walt was so forward thinking when he purchased such a large piece of property.

Melissa:

And yet two more comments...

It really is a shame they did not situate Hollywood Studios (or MGM as I still think of it since I was there for it's opening week) so that it could have a set of deluxe resorts adjacent. Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern.... They could even have one with a Tower theme - I'd stay in a haunted hotel! It would have been fabulous.

I love the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland and wish they could have come to an agreement and added it to one of the parks here.

Jack's Comment:

When designing the Tower of Terror for Disney California Adventure, the Imagineers wanted to create a combination real hotel and attraction. But logistics wouldn't allow.

NT3:

This is an interesting topic that I have never considered.

One thing I would change is your idea to stick a value resort everywhere. A value resort in the Magic Kingdom area would without a doubt be the most difficult room to get in Walt Disney World. I would maybe take one out of there and put it somewhere else...like maybe in the sports area, even though that's not part of your original plan, it might be a good idea to have a resort nearby for all the youth teams that play there.

Austin:

Hi Jack,

I love reading your posts and agree with many of your observations here.

Many of the "mistakes" that you have noted, sadly, can all be traced to one root cause: Beginning with the Eisner era, revenue/profit generation replaced show quality as the prime directive at WDW.

Up until the mid-eighties, the guest experience trumped everything else.

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