Last year, I submitted a project to the Storyland Studios Design Challenge. I tried something unusual with this concept, going for something that isn’t really a ride or a park like some of my other projects. It did not place in the competition, but I am proud of the results.
The submission starts below and includes images, two videos, and two supplemental pdf documents below.
This project is an interactive exploration theme park that takes guests into a mystery that takes place across time. The overall concept came from the big idea of using time as a narrative and design tool to create a dynamic setting for a theme experience land. Instead of exploring many locations in one time, this approach allows guests to explore many times of one location. This bluesky concept, to play with the passage of time in one setting, led to the development of a time travel storyline that supports a narrative reason for guests to visit multiple times of a fictional downtown city square.
Along with the story, the logistic layout of the project was simultaneously developed to ensure they supported each other in every way. The layout developed into a series of connected “pods”, each the same location at a different time and connected by “portals” that branch between the same locations in adjacent pods. The plot elements were shaped to explain this travel and the story reason for why each location is vital to the experience.
The result is a theme park experience that encourages guests to dive into the details of the themed space in order to understand and analyze how this imaginary world changes around them. The interactive mystery experience is also supplemented with multiple attractions throughout the experience, from large anchor attractions to small personal entertainment experiences. This type of concept for a hyper interactive themed space for exploration is not new, but I think it is the perfect platform to use to tell a large scale single narrative story.
The ability to travel in time is finally unlocked in 2098. Invented by an experimental physicist, Adam Haley, the technology allows for instantaneous travel through portals of electrified and separated matter, permitting users to step into the exact same location at any time in the history of the universe. This technology undoubtedly changed the course of human history, past and future, for good and bad.
Decades after it’s adoption and commercialization, incidents begin to occur and Haley discovers in the data that a catastrophe is coming. The network between time is starting to collapse, which could cause unimaginable results that threaten time itself. After much debate, Haley knows what he must do about it. He must somehow prevent himself from ever inventing time travel, no matter the cost
He fears the instability that would happen if he just went back to tell himself to not do it, so his plan is to change little pieces of the past to keep him from ever ending up in the situation to invent it. He overwrites the control system and begins to open portals into the distant past and make changes, but he discovers that nothing works. Time travel always ends up happening. So he has one option left, and decides to go back to the day he invented it to stop himself. But at the exact moment when he meets his past self, the time catastrophe hits and he is pulled into an unstable portal, where time is folding on itself. Portals all over are suddenly opening, bringing people and things through them with no control. How will he save time and himself along with it? And what is going to happen to all those people stepping through those new portals?
THE GUEST EXPERIENCE
For guests, the story begins outside the project. This would ideally be built as an anchor to some kind of outdoor recreation and retail environment. In the public and outdoor first iteration of the downtown square, guests discover a mysterious glowing portal that has just opened up earlier that day. Rumor is that it leads to the future. Though barricaded off, entrepreneurs have begun selling tickets to the future and guide paying guests past the barricade and into the portal.
On the other side is the year 2155, where they are surprised at the influx of new guests. But they welcome them and introduce them to the history of time travel. They also offer a guided tour of the city on an aerial transit balloon, which is the first anchor attraction. Guests are able to explore this world and eventually find another open portal and step through it, going back to the past. They are able to explore 4 more iterations of the square, all at times that are significant to the overall story about Adam Haley and his mission to stop time travel. At the end of the last pod, guests find themselves stuck in the time network, but are rescued by a vehicle from the far future, which sends them on a fast paced trip through time and back home.
Throughout the experience, guests are meant to explore and investigate to whatever level they are interested, potentially revealing multiple levels to the story that depend on what is found and how invested guests are in the mystery. Guests could range from just enjoying a fun trip through time, ignorant of the story, to investigating the primary plot of Adam Haley, to discovering secret layers about the good and bad of the people and places they visit.