Saturday, October 22, 2011

Signage. Funny word right? It describes any sort of graphic design, symbol, emblem, or even words that give direction, or warning. Billboards, marquees, movie posters, and even the little blue and white placards indicating the men's or women's restroom are examples of signage. Walt Disney World uses signs to direct people where to go, what time things start, and where there are great places to take a quick snapshot with your camera. Today we'll start off with...

Entrance Signs: The most exciting part for me is arriving in WDW. There's no better way to feel more welcome than with a large sign making you feel like you're home. The entrance sign for Walt Disney World actually spans an entire 3 lanes worth of traffic. It's like driving into a portal leaving your daily life behind. It lets you know that you've least for the next week or so (depending on how long your trip is going to be).

Road Signs: You'll find a lot of them along WDW's main road (World Drive). Outside of the park and all over the U.S. You see the standard green, brown, or blue style of road signs indicating exits, parks, or places to lodge or eat. Inside the road signs inside are a bit different. Michael Eisner (still CEO at the time) hired the design firm of Sussman/Prezja to create 1,000 freeway, road directional, and regulatory signs. They broke away from the traditional look and uses colors like red, blue, yellow, violet, and even green (more of a turquoise actually). While the signs aren't as elaborate as the ones used in (for example) the Magic Kingdom they are a clear and easy way to find your destination.

Attraction Signs: Probably the least ambiguous signage in the entire place. Quick and to the point, the signs used here are for one purpose: To tell you what you're about to ride. Like other signs you'll find they're themed to the area that they're in. The Pirates of the Caribbean sign is a mast sporting a black sail while Space Mountain's is a clean cut, sharp edged, vision of the future. No sign feels out of place so you know that you are right where you need to be. Attraction posters are a part of this too, but I want to save that for another post.

Wait Signs: Wait signs are exactly what they sound like. It's a sign that indicates how long you have until you can find yourself at the front of the line. There's an adjustable time display that clearly lets you know if it's worth the wait. It makes it easier to plan your day, or to see if you need to utilize Disney's Fast Pass system.

Directional Signs: The signs that point you where you need to go. Where's that restroom? Why it's right over there! Need something to eat? Head on over to Pecos Bill's. Just take a right! With a combination of maps, and signs, you'll always be able to figure out where you need to go. Even when asking a cast member where to go their hand turns into a sign: CLICK ME! (a pointer, and middle finger combination as it's the only non-offensive gesture you can use to point at something).

Construction Signs: Well not exactly construction signs. More like signs that are in front of a construction barrier. The parks are all about keeping up illusions Even these signs are themed for whatever area they're being utilized. We're never meant to see the process of an attraction or store being built so this helps keeps everything a mystery.

After reading all of this I bet you're going to look at the signs all around you. Are you going to check to see if they fit the area they're being used? Are they easy to read? Are they fun to look at? Signs don't have to be boring, or out of place. They can help an area become more interesting or help you figure out where you need to go, or even places you can't go. They're something people use ever day, but take for granted. If a lot of effort is put forth you will never have to second guess yourself when using them.

I'm including a Photobucket link below to show more examples of WDW Signage.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Monorails. Your highway in the sky to the Magic Kingdom, The TTC, and Epcot. Quite honestly my preferred method of travel when you just want to rest your feet and take in some scenery. What makes WDW's Mark VI monorail so magical compared to other forms of transportation? Lets take a look.

I'm going to start off with sound. These things are quiet! How quiet you ask? Try standing under the monorail track in Future World at Epcot (pictured) and not hearing one until it's right over top of you. This is all due to them being powered by a 600-volt electrical system. The rail it travels on supplies the power to the monorail through a busbar and puts it in motion without the help of a fuel powered engine. This keeps them quiet, and cleaner than a bus or a boat.

Scenery. Now this might not be very important to most people, but I'm the type of person who enjoys being able to see as much as I can while I'm on vacation. No better way to see the Walt Disney World grounds than taking the 14.7 mile monorail trip. In fact it's the only way to get a grand tour of Epcot, the Seven Seas Lagoon, 3 of WDW's 24 resort hotels, and the Magic Kingdom from above without having to take a helicopter ride. Not to shabby for a ride that you can enjoy without having to purchase a park ticket.

The cars. Each of the twelve MK. VI monorails in service (identified as Red, Coral, Orange, Gold, Yellow, Teal, Lime, Green (yes, there's a difference), Blue, Silver, Black, and Peach) has 6 cars that it uses to transport approximately 250,000 passengers daily. Inside of the cars you'll find soft blue seats that fit anywhere from 4-5 people at at time with plenty of standing room to spare. With it's constant gliding (unlike a bus which makes many stops due to traffic and lights) its very comfortable even when standing. Much unlike a NYC subway or Chicago Metra train, you're not going to find piles of dirt and graffiti. The cars are well maintained and stay as clean as the parks (which is another post all in itself).

The spiel. This is something you're not going to find on your average train ride. What exactly is the spiel you ask? An almost familiar voice sounds over speakers inside of the monorail cars to tell you what you're seeing, and other events that may be occurring inside of the parks. Below is a Youtube link containing one of the spiels from the late 90's (Sorry, I keep saying spiel).

The monorail isn't something that is restricted to the parks alone. You can find them all over the world in larger cities transporting people to where they need to go. I wish it were something that I could take to work every morning. It would make an amazing start to the day. I think that's why they fit so well in WDW. It's just that little something special that you're not going to find in your average town.

Don't forget to stand clear of the door.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I know what you're thinking, “MATT! It's just a place to stand while you're waiting your turn for an attraction!” No. It's a bit more than that. If done properly the queue itself can be entertaining. Sure not as fun as the ride, but it's better than waiting around in an empty void, shoulder to shoulder with strangers. Below is an example of a queue found at another theme park (which will not be named).

Notice the cold metal, messy concrete filled with dead leaves, fluorescent lighting, and the plain white columns. If it weren't for the stanchions I'd say it looks like a gas station. I can't even tell what ride it is for. There's no set theme. I can't even make out an end, or beginning to the queue itself. This could be the line for the bathroom for all I know. Here's another example.

We see more bare metal, and signs that people just don't care what happens to the surrounding environment (the spots of chewed gum right next to the trash can). Even the trash cans are boring! I'll save that for another post though. To me (and I'm sure to all of you), it's very uninviting. I'd have more examples of this, but honestly all of the pics look the same. Now we'll look at what Walt Disney World has to offer in the ways of the queue. I'm going to use Pirates of the Caribbean as my primary example.

This is the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. If you'll notice on the right and faaaaaaar left we see a sign that says “Castillo del Morro”. It is welcoming us inside of a Spanish castle. We see the use of wood, and aged metals. Even the stanchions are decorative. A lot of thought and care has gone into this area as it is the most important part of the queue. It draws the guest into the ride. There is no chance that someone will ever feel the need walk up to a cast member to ask what ride they are entering (even if the cast members would be more than happy to help out). We'll go a bit deeper.

Now we're really getting into it. Inside we see the theme carrying throughout. We have lanterns to simulate candle light. We have a mast and sail of a boat off in the distance. Notice that there are two separate lines to get in. This is so that there isn't a mass overflow of people hanging outside of the ride blocking the walk way. This keeps everything neat and tidy. No one seems upset to be standing in line. It's even a nice temperature inside to cool you down from the hot Florida weather. We'll continue walking.

At this point the stanchions have been removed from the equation. The area is approximately 3-4 people wide and we are still inside of an old Spanish castle. The aging has been purposefully added to give the area character. It makes it feel as if people used the space. To keep it even more interesting we can peer through the windows on the right to see something like this:

Here we see a pair of pirates that have been in prison just a biiiiit too long. They're locked in an unbeatable stalemate during a game of chess (As designed by animator/imagineer Marc Davis). This is an example of staging. It's a sight gag to keep folks interested while they're waiting to get on the ride. If you'll notice there is no blood, or signs of violence. They're only skeletons because they've been waiting so long.

A little further up we see more evidence that we're in a castle. There's turrets, powder kegs, broken pieces of a crows nest, and even a cannon. Nothing feels more piratey than a cannon. You'll also notice that we're heading toward the outside of the castle. I know it seems a bit long, but keep in mind of the heavy traffic that WDW gets during the busy season. You have to make sure there's enough room for everyone. We're nearly to the end of the queue!

At last we've come to the end of our journey. Well...maybe it's the beginning since the whole point of the queue is to get to the attraction. Even at the precipice of the ride we're outside of the castle surrounded by more powder kegs, castle catacombs, and boats. We're even standing on a pier! If you'll notice the line splits in two again. It's all about keeping people moving even if things get busy.

I've shown you the horrors of waiting in line, and how much better waiting in line could be. It all lies in the theming, and the details in that theming. When you step into Pirates of the Caribbean you still remember that you are in Adventureland, and it carries itself even inside of the attraction. Really thats the whole point of WDW. You forget about everything going on outside, and you can allow yourself to imagine.

The ride queue plays no small part in this.

Below I am sharing a Photobucket link to other queues scattered throughout the parks. Just take some time to look at all of the little things they've added to keep the illusion alive.

For other WDW Queues Click here!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm going to start off by saying I am definitely not an electrician. I don't know what it takes to light a room beyond adding a few lamps and plugging them into a wall. What I do know is that I like it when a lighting technician is hired to make something come to life. To show us a side of a person, place, or thing that we can't see during the day time. No place does this better than WDW.
Specifically Epcot.

You've seen fiber optics before. They're used all around you whether it be your telephone, cable television, or even the internet. They can be used for decoration too. Even fake Christmas trees have them! I bet there's one place you'd never expect them: The pavement. One way Epcot likes to surprise it's guests is with the use of fiber optic lighting laid right into the ground you walk on. This is something you'll only see at night when you're passing through Future World.

It's like a little show in itself. The lights flicker and dance. Some of them just look like a star field, and can be seen from a few angles. I'll let this video handle the rest.

Thanks to Makin' Memories Photo on Youtube for the video.

I found a pretty amazing photo capturing just how cool it really looks when you're standing right in front of it.