Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's Hong Kong Disneyland 7th Anniversary ! - Exclusive Interview with Imagineer Tom Morris about HKDL Creation



It's Hong Kong Disneyland 7th Anniversary this week and to celebrate it i repost - in two parts - a great interview done in 2005 before HKDL grand opening with WDI Imaginer Tom Morris who was HKDL Executive Creative Show Producer with plenty of HKDL WDI original artwork. Tom, senior show producer at Walt Disney Imagineering was previously the show producer for Disneyland paris Fantasyland. He was also the show producer for DLP gorgeous Sleeping Beauty Castle and more recently for Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racer!


Alain Littaye: Hello Tom. Many thanks for this interview . What were the challenges in building a Disney theme park in Hong Kong?

Tom Morris: Hello Alain. Well, first, we have the challenge that we always have when we take a park overseas, which is to select the most classic attractions that we’ve done in the past, but also we have to think about a special one that we need to do for the visitors who will be coming to the park in this particular region. And the second thing is the climate, the weather conditions of Hong Kong . For Paris, it was about cold and four months of drizzle, here , in Hong Kong, it’s about heat and a lot of rain, more than in any of our other parks, significantly more. And that brings a lot of challenges in terms of coverage and drainage. And of course, probably the biggest challenge of all here is the fact that it was all just water five years ago! It was a big civil engineering challenges...All the land was under water four years ago.
I remember that the first time we came out here in 2001,we came on the site in a boat! We were floating 15 feet beneath where i’m standing right now...So this whole site - i think 300 acres of landfill were created just in the last five years . The whole resort is around 4 or 500 acres, but 300 acres or so were just landfill.





A.L: And i think it’s pretty difficult to “visualize” a park when the land is under the ocean!...

T.M: That’s right!...So, these were the challenges, but some of the great benefits and a gift is having these beautiful mountains as backdrop for this park...There is mountains on one side, and , on the other one, the resort hotels benefit of a beautiful view on the Hong Kong skyline and the South China sea. It really is a remarkable site , so conveniently located, only at 20 or 30 minutes from any point in Hong Kong territories...



A.L: I wonder if it’s not - in terms of scenery - the best site you ever had for a Disney theme park...

T.M: I think you’re right. And, other than the heat, it’s just beautiful, gorgeous, even the thunder storms are quite spectacular here! they create beautiful waterfalls on the mountains, right after a big rain.

Note: There was another challenge for HKD: the old chinese art of “Feng shui”. The ancient Chinese practice involves ensuring that there is a good flow of energy, or "qi" when you’re building new houses, or, in this case, a theme park. Buildings and other structures need to face a certain direction depending on their surroundings. Elements such as wood, fire and earth have to be carefully balanced.

A.L: There is a long “promenade” which brings the visitors to the entrance of the park

T.M: Yes, the “Disney promenade”. I was not involved directly in the design, but it’s a wonderful walk way from the transportation center leading to the park and to the hotels and the ferry pier. I think it’s a kilometer long, there is four plazas with water features and topiaries..., beautiful gardens and this great fountain at the entrance of the park. Every hundred meters there is resting place. But from the train station to the entrance of the park there is only about 150 meters, so most people will only walk that much from the station to the park...











A.L: Main street and the castle looks like an almost perfect “copy” - in the good meaning of the word - of the one in Disneyland in Anaheim...

T.M: I think it was just a kind of hommage to the original castle , the original main street and train station that was personnally supervised by walt disney. So we wanted something here that actually have some of the “DNA” of walt’s vision...and we thought main street would be the appropriate place to do that, a tribute to his chidhood and his nostalgia...
and also there is a little bit more of the feeling of the disneyland version...put it in a kind of cinema terms main street feels more like “the music man” and the one at walt disney world is more like “hello dolly”.
We wanted something a little more intimate, in fact the smaller scale works very much in favor of main street , i believe. There is more wood, there is a heavier use of wood molding than the facades of the disneyland version of main street...it’s less stone-based and more wood-based. And that is unique, very unique for hong kong, because you do not see wood anywhere.
The victorian colonial architecture in hong kong is all about stone buildings, and here this kind of combination of queen anne architecture you know, with all the gingerbread on it, it’s something that’s very unique...For all the people of this region , i really think it’s a completely different and new look , so we wanted to have something that was for them , i guess “exotic”.













A.L: Do the interiors of the main street buildings have the same quality of details that they have in disneyland?

T.M: Oh, yes. And may be more. Because we brought back some of our best interiors designers to work on those shops on main street, some who worked on disneyland paris . the shops have very distinct personnalities, we wanted to make sure that the shops really feel like they have their own individual business owners and entrepreuniors...so that was a very important piece of it, each shop having its own kind of color scheme or design image system associated with a different lighting , different woodwork, a different way of presenting the story . We have a beautiful jewelry store on the street, we have a bakery, a fantastic candy store, we have what’s called the corner café, of course the “emporium”,and they’re all very developped like they’re owned by different people, and that was very important . we’ve also integrated a little bit of an “emigrant” story into the street, too. So that, if you look carefully at the props and photographs, you’ll begin to discover that some of the owners are immigrative from austria, or from china, or from russia...so we wanted to have that slight overland--story telling as well...















A.L: I think you have a beautiful chinese restaurant on main street...

T.M: We do, it’s beautiful. It’s the Plaza Inn, and it borrows some architecture from disneyland’s main street on the outside. And on the inside, you step across another world. You’re in China at the turn of the century, about that time period where both america and china shared a mutual fascination and appreciation with one another. So you will see a lot of western influence and , too, chinese furnishings...it really is what we called a “east meet west” material...and we have murals that are reproduction from the pre -production artwork for “Mulan” done by the production designer of disney feature animation...They’re at the back of the restaurant, forming these beautiful landscapes and we have chinese lanterns that changed colours...it’s a very magical place, and at the end of the day it’s a very “disney” experience...you know, it’s a fusion of western and eastern experience, but then at the end of the day , it’s “disney”, because of the colours and the lighting.







A.L: About the castle, is there any walk through inside of it, like the one in disneyland?


T.M: Not yet, but we reserved space inside of it for future development , once we get an idea and understanding of what people need and want to the park...it can go to merchandise, or to an attraction, or to some sort of interactive attraction , once we get a sense after we opened of what our audience wants to see more of...but there is space available inside the castle.















A.L: The park have four lands instead of five in the other magic kingdoms...

T.M: That’s right. We combined attributes of Frontierland and Adventureland in one big land on the left, another one big land on the right with Tomorrowland , one big land straight ahead with Fantasyland , and of course main street,, so it becomes like a quadrilater. We took attributes of Frontierland, basically the big river which we called here the “River of adventures”, and we put an island on it - the Tarzan island . We have the river traffic that usually Frontierland have by putting the jungle cruise boats on the river . So every minute or so, there is a jungle cruise boat which leave for a cruise on the river. It’s dinstinctly Adventureland in its “flavour” and we thought it was best to keep the american “icon” only for Main street. Main street is the piece of the park that represents america and nostalghia and we wanted the left part of the park to be very shady, very green, to use a lot of water... we wanted these four lands to very very distinctive. Plus, the stories that are in Adventureland are for the local audience to be able to have Tarzan, the Lion king, and characters from the newer films give it a little bit more relevant.

We keep space around the land, so the idea with Adventureland is that eventually you will be able to stroll around the key romantic regions of the world. We have Polynesia, south seas, part of Africa, part of south east Asia with Thailand and Cambodgia, there is flavours of elements of all these regions today in Adventureland...
And then , in the future, eventually, people will visit other locals like Carribean, and, we think, may be North America... And in that North America neighborhood of Adventureland one will probably find some of the attractions that you will find in the Frontierland of the other parks.

A.L: But i think it will be hard to put the “dry” desert theming of “Big thunder mountain” in Adventureland...

T.M: We haven’t decide on any specific attractions for the future, but what we’ve done is we’ve create a neigborhood or a parcel of Adventureland that is representative of north america. So in this idea of going to all these “ports of call”, we can imagine that one could be along the pacific north west, and that could contain some of the attractions that one might find in Frontierland...



A.L: By the way, this Adventureland seems to be the biggest ever built..

T.M: Yes, i think in terms of “on stage area” i believe it’s the biggest Adventureland. And it’s quite large: imagine the rivers of america and several little neighborhood along the side of the river...




A.L: Can you tell me more about Tarzan island ? One of the good idea is that the Tarzan tree don’t have the exact shape than the Swiss robinson tree...

T.M: Right. It’s based on the Tarzan tree that was done at Disneyland some years ago, with the scenes of the highlights of the movie, and interactives at the base of the tree, the same you’ll find at Disneyland, and little baby elephants...and you take rafts to reach the Tarzan island. For the future, one of our plans is to expand the island theming.







A.L: Is the Jungle cruise identical to the one in the united states?

T.M: Yes, it share some scenes from the other jungle cruise, it has the Cambodgian ruins, the gorillas that trash the camp, and the hippos scenes, the natives, etc....but we have enhanced some effects : the elephants - how could i say - are a little more “invasive” than they’ve been in the past...we don’t mind getting our guests a little bit more wet on this attraction, not uncomfortably so, but just to get a little bit more surprised and more fun... And we have developped some other new effects with the natives scene - where the natives attack the boat, new effects too with the hippos, and a brand new scene for the finale of the attraction where you get caught in the cross fire of a battle between gods of fire and water ... this big finale of the attraction leaves people with a big smile on their face...













A.L: Are the “Liki Tikis “ a reminiscence from the “Tiki room” ?

T.M: No. They are some tikis that are in the style of those of the tiki room and they are over “professor porter’s” shop nearby , but the “Liki Tikis” are eight totem poles that blow steam and throw water. They are probably more reminiscent of the four totems that are in the magic kingdom in disney world.



A.L:Talking about reminiscence, i saw that you’ve recreated the “tahitian terrace”, although i think it’s a different one that the one which was built in Disneyland many years ago...

T.M: That’s right , but we have the “spirit” of the Tahitian terrace, that’s why we have some of the tikis from the tiki garden of the tiki room...but the tahitian terrace is where you can get chinese and asian food, barbecues, noodles, sushis...with a very pleasant environment with a patio with trees and beautiful light and tikis, of course. And it’s under a big thatch roof which is similar in some respect with the original tahitian terrace in disneyland,but it’s specially designed for this new park. Somewhere similar to main street , where we borrowed the original architecture but the inside is all new and all customed...






A.L: Is the “festival of the lion king” the same show than the one at animal kingdom?

T.M: It’s very similar, but the musical numbers and the costumes have been updated, and i think there is an additional musical number and more show action equipment involved. And a bigger theatre, too.




A.L: The “professor porter’s trading post “ is the only shop in adventureland...

T.M: Yes, the “Professor porter “ is the father of Jane in the movie, and his shop is the one of a excentric explorer scientist , and he has built a permanent trading post where you can see his personnal belongings that he brought with him to create a “home sweet home away from home”





Don't miss tomorrow the part two of this long interview article always with Imagineer Tom Morris as well as Tim Delaney who designed HKDL Tomorrowland!

In the meantime, those of you who like WDI renderings will be happy to know that you can find 250 gorgeous WDI artwork in the Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book which has until September 30 a great special offer!

Don't miss the special offer on the DLP book! : Order a copy of the acclaimed Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book this month of September and save $45 including Free Shipping! You'll find all infos to order an ENGLISH edition HERE and for the FRENCH edition it's HERE. Watch below the video showing the whole book!









Choose quantity and enjoy an additional discount !






Pictures and artwork: copyright Disney - Hong Kong Disneyland

4 comments:

Nicolai said...

Thank youz for this very interesting interview Alain! Haven't read it yet, so thanks for reposting!

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just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all...



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danielz6 said...

Very interesting concept of the jungle cruise as a "hub" for adventureland with surrounding minilands all part of the greater adventureland. This concept is being realized with grizzly gulch(the Pacific Northwest he was hinting of) and mystic point, and there is still land for another miniland below GG. Wonder what they'll put there? Central American/Indy Jones mini land would be perfect!
Or maybe something original! South America hasn't been done yet. Emperors new groove ride!? Or Australia with a rescuers down under attraction?

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