Opposite Attractions: A Theme Park Design Show

A comedy design challenge podcast about creating theme parks that are 'technically possible'.

Disney's Wonderlands (Part 6: HQ Tour)

Taking up the rest of the indoor area around the central courtyard not already taken by shops, food, and the theater attraction is what is simply known on park maps as "Tour The Headquarters". The actual amount of square footage for this attraction is fairly large, taking up the entire second floor of the main "U"-shaped building and some sections of the first floor (mainly the entrance, exit, and a few smaller exhibits.

The first floor exhibits will serve not only to help explain more of the backstory of the S.E.A., using both characters that are already known in other parks, but also connecting those characters to Alice (for anyone that hasn't seen or doesn't remember the Alice/S.E.A. media blitz from before the park opened) and also giving little hints toward what awaits in the back half of the park (for new visitors). Of course, this wouldn't be Disney without some in-jokes and hidden fun, so there would surely be those kinds of things peppered throughout this section as well. Guests would find maps, photos, and even 'artifacts' from Alice's travels through the titular Wonderlands.

After climbing the stairs, guests will enter an open space with rooms to the right and left. The left side will take guests above the theater queue and the main shopping area. At the entrance, guests will be given a map of the layout of this side of the tour, which also features a scavenger hunt/riddle solving bit as they move throughout the area. Here, with the help of the map, guests will get the story of the current Ombudsman of the S.E.A. HQ, Sir Wilton Flowers, who also serves as head of the S.E.A.'s Botany division. He is a tall, lanky man that is always seen in a top hat, slightly flattened and adorned with a (presumably plastic) sunflower. His face is perpetually dirty, but his actual clothes are spotless in all photographs, even when they should be a complete wreck. In one of the first displays, guests will find one of his used botanical aprons, torn to shreds and covered in dirt, and also a picture of him wearing the apron, again looking more like he just picked up and put it on for a laugh rather than did any work in it. In the same display is a reproduction of one of his trowels, his initials etched in the handle, and a replica of his most prized plant - a four foot tall dandelion named "DeeDee".

Wilton became the head of the HQ after all the other department heads called in sick to a meeting, including the person who was supposed to be giving the meeting, who called Wilton on the phone and broke the news to him. A set of framed photos on the wall shows the panicked look on Wilton's face as he receives the call - the photo having been taken by one of the interns. You can read a short transcript of the call, which mentions things like train whistles blowing in the distance and a female voice asking about a drink order while the S.E.A. chairperson mentions being trapped at the hospital for the foreseeable future.

Each other set of displays in this area covers many of the other departments not fully realized with attractions in other areas of the front of the park:

Space Travel - showing a model rocket made from a totem pole that obviously didn't get off the ground
Oceanography - some Nemo related paraphernalia for long-time Disney fans
Dream Exploration - Knick-knacks and props from the Dreamfinder.
Culinary Adventure - successes and failures of the resident chef of the S.E.A., including broccoli pizza
Plus more I haven't completely thought out yet. I'll add them here as I think them up. Probably want six to eight total.

Back in the center room, the right side will lead to a smaller, more secure-looking room that has a cast member at the entry way to only allow a certain number of people in at a time (around 20 or so). The wall will have the stereotypical appearance of a bank vault, with a large door that is slid open just far enough for people to get through, but no farther. Upon each group entering, the door will be slid closed and a three-or-so minute experience will occur where guests will come face to face with the portal Alice was able to use to move between the Wonderlands. The portal itself appears as though it could be walked through to a deeper room, only to suddenly 'turn on', the effect achieved by simply being a screen with the other room a static image that is suddenly filled with a colorful world, which will be somewhat random. Alice appears, shocked to be seeing people near the portal, only to then realize she has a tracker hidden on her person that the S.E.A. is using both for safety and to find her in order for her to explain how she created the portal, like "some kind of tour guide". She goes along with it though, explaining how she designed the portal before it suddenly malfunctions, causing some wind effects in the room as she bounces between various Disney universes, meeting some characters who seem shocked that she is there, before ending up in her own Wonderland with the Queen of Hearts threatening everyone - which leads to Alice destroying the tracker and shutting down the portal and sliding the vault door back open to allow the guests to exit as a few emergency lights flash around the room. The cast member that let you in the room comes in and turns off the alarm, remarking that it's a good thing they hid a couple extra trackers on Alice so they could keep an eye on her.

Guests will notice that during the tour, any wall where a window would look out toward the back half of the park is solid, with windows only looking out to the courtyards around the front areas of the park. This is to continue to keep those areas mostly a surprise for first time visitors.

In the next post, we will begin our tour around the rest of the front half of the park, starting with a deeper look at the side featuring the R&D and Residence areas of the HQ. Stay tuned.