Monday, August 30, 2010

MGM Grand Adventures Tour

MGA Park Blueprint
Originally uploaded by Mike Brister
Some months ago, I passed on my old photos and documents of the (now demolished) MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park in Las Vegas to a guy at the theme park blog, News Plus Notes. Since then, he's been writing a series of posts about the park as a guided tour featuring all kinds of interesting facts, some of which I had forgotten and others I never knew... and I worked there when it first opened. He just completed Part 6 and the tour of the park lands. There is a part 7 coming out later going about the demise of the park. If you find old dead parks interesting, I recommend checking out these links:

A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 1
A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 2
A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 3
A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 4
A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 5
A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 6   (my old job is in this one)
A Look Back at MGM Grand Adventures Part 7


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Design a Week #4 - Seahorse Aquarium Courtyard

For my personal design project / own amusement this week, I decided to do something simple. My focus was on a little piece of landscaping / area development. The subject is a large aquarium facility (like this one) and all I did was the front courtyard.

I wanted to try and make something that looked organic and didn't use the high saturation colors I usually go grabbing for. In this case, the shapes are "inspired" by a seahorse and the colors are intended to look natural. I also roughly split the courtyard in half with the sea represented on the left and land on the right. The two blend together in the open-air entrance to the building.

I put no thought at all to the contents of the building and only mocked up an entrance area. What building is here would be too small in reality. Maybe I'll try out some fancy external architecture another week. The unique element (that I personally haven't seen before) is that the pools inside the building for the large aquatic mammals extend into the courtyard as part of the landscape. I realize there are security, handrail and ADA issues with this but I'm trying to keep it conceptual and not too technical.

See more pictures at Flickr (which does not require a membership).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Design a Week #3 - Caverns of Charybdis

Here is this week's design project for my own amusement.  This one took 2 weeks because of my unusual work schedule and the Sketchup complexity.  This time, I've figured out how to do a "ride-through" video.  You can watch the video on the right or click HERE to see it without the vehicles and track.  There are short scene descriptions behind the cut as well.


The Charybdis Caves River Ride Company provides a unique adventure for the whole family! Our 4-passenger barrel boat rides combine the thrill of river rafting with the mystery of cave exploration. Hop on board our unique and unsinkable barrel boats and take a spinning journey through the legendary whirlpool caves of the Charybdis River.

In Ancient Greek mythology, Charybdis was the sea serpent goddess responsible for the creation of whirlpools. Local legend tells us that Charybdis sleeps below the river in these caves and the numerous whirlpools are the gateway to her realm. We’ve never seen her ourselves and our boats are specially designed not to get stuck in the whirlpools. Sorry, you probably won’t encounter any monsters on your ride today but the caves are spectacular. Time to board. Your swirling journey on the Charybdis River awaits.

The Caverns or Charybdis attraction is a combination of dark ride, river rapids ride and roller coaster. Although the boats are in contact with and propelled by the movement of the water, they are not floating. Instead, they are suspended from a single rail track hidden in the ceiling. This track keeps the boats upright and controls their path. However, the boats are free-spinning and swinging so they move in a unique way depending on rider weight distribution and contact with water and the sides of the flume. By moving the track out of alignment with the flume, spinning and tilting is intentionally created. The ride is also enhanced in several scenes by lifting the boat out of the water completely to allow for short “suspended roller coaster” effects like drops and banks.

I have some still shots in a Flickr Set as well:

The 12 show scenes are described below with brief technical notes after each.

Scene 1: Load
Riders board boats that look like large half-barrels with a fake sail mast mounted on top. The boats seat 4 passengers on 2 benches that are back to back.

Tech: The spinning mechanism is locked in this scene for ease of boarding. Boats are advanced through the load stations by chain drives on the overhead track.

Scene 2: Caves
The boat bob and spin through the iridescent caves. The boat also tilts and bounces slightly off the rocks at the edge of the river.

Tech: The boats are propelled by the movement of the water but the tilting and bumping is caused by moving the overhead track out of alignment of with the flume.

Scene 3: The Whirlpool
The boat enters a large chamber with a swirling whirlpool in the center. Instead of passing around it as planned, the boat gets caught in the whirlpool and sucked down through it.

Tech: The overhead track lifts the boats just above the water for this scene. This circular drop to the lower floor is gravity driven like a roller coaster.

Scene 4: Temple of Charybdis
Riders splash down into a decaying underground temple made of Greek columns. Suddenly, the tail of a giant sea serpent snaps one of the columns in half over the boat. As riders pass the tail, they see another barrel boat that crashed into this temple long ago.

Tech: The boats land back in the water after the drop and are propelled by the water movement again.

Scene 5: A Rock and a Hard Place
In a large chamber filed with rocks and whirlpools, the boat spins and bounces around the large green humps of the sea serpent.

Tech: The boats briefly lift out of the water and are driven by inertia and gravity over the whirlpools.

Scene 6: Wonders of Water
In another chamber of the underground temple, Charybdis displays her power over water. The boat twists and turns through the rooms while surrounded by a spectacle of dancing water spouts and overflowing vases.

Tech: This room features small choreographed dancing fountains integrated into the scenery between the flumes.

Scene 7: From the Depths
The boat swings violently as it is pulled toward a large vertical whirlpool on the wall. The sea serpent erupts from the center of the whirlpool and leads the boat around the corner into a large chamber.

Tech: The boats are lifted above the water and gravity driven through a sharp turn, which causes the boat to swing toward the whirlpool.

Scene 8: The Monster
In a large chamber, the monster Charybdis reveals herself as a 30’ tall monster. She grabs the boat, lifts it high up to her face and tells the riders that they don’t belong in her realm. She then throws the boat into a spinning vortex.

Tech: The large animatronic Charbdis moves her hand in sync with a chain drive that pulls the boats out of the water and up to the top of the room.

Scene 9: The Vortex
Riders fall from Charybdis’ hand into a spinning tunnel of water created by her spiraling serpentine body.

Tech: This is a gravity driven drop back to the 2nd floor.

Scene 10: The Tail End
The boat splashes down into cave where the barrel ride started. Charybdis reminds them of their encounter with a quick wave of her tail before they leave.

Tech: After the splash down, the rest of the ride is propelled by the movement of the water in the flume.

Scene 11: Back to the Caves
Riders pass through the last of the iridescent caves of the Charybdis River before returning home.

Scene 12: Unload
Riders disembark the boats in a similar room to Scene 1.

Tech: The spinning mechanism is locked in this scene. Boats are advanced through the unload stations by chain drives on the overhead track.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Design a Week #2 - Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby

Here is this week's Design a Week project. This time, I took the idea of a shooting gallery and tried to see if I could create one that didn't use guns. The overview is shown below with most of the game details at the bottom. I freely admit that this design contains copious amounts of Googled cartoon clip-art. I'm not a cartoonist.

Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby

Otto Rex, 5 time World Champion Demolition Derby Driver and owner of the Crash ‘n Smash Driving School, invites you to be a driver in the Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby!

Get behind the wheel of one of Otto’s state-of-the-art Smash Buggys and collide your way through 3 levels of cartoon destruction. There’s no accelerator and no brake but there’s lots of stuff to bump and break. You’ll be competing in 3 unique, 360 degree arenas against other Smashers for the most destruction and the most points. There are no guns in this shooting gallery. Just drive at the prize and what you hit is what you get. You know you think about it every time you’re in the antique store. We say it’s OK by us. Take your inner “10-year old boy” out for a destructive test drive in a warehouse storing delicate artifacts or a museum filled with priceless works of highly breakable art. Next, help bounce the critters back in to their pens at the farm or cages at the zoo. And if you’re good enough, you may be called upon to test your smashing skills against an army of cartoon ninjas or the zombie apocalypse!

Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby is a new attraction that combines the fun and skill of a shooting gallery with the exciting chaos of classic bumper cars. In each of the 3 game arenas, 8 Smash Buggy vehicles are completely under the control of the passengers. On the inner and outer wall of the donut-shaped arenas, cartoon scenery and targets of varying point values run for their lives. The Buggy drivers accumulate points by colliding with the cartoon images. Sensors in the walls detect the hits and misses so the animation is fully interactive with the vehicles. Each arena has 3 possible games chosen at random and played for 2 minutes and each level introduces a new element of complexity. After each game, the vehicles autonomously drive to the next room before the games resume. After the final game, scores, ranks and replay video of the best smashes play on a large video screen as the vehicles return to 1st floor for the drivers’ exit.




The first level of Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby takes place on the 1st floor of the building and is the easiest game. In this arena, the drivers attempt to crash in to as many static items as they can and build up points. There are 3 possible games for this level:

1. JUNKYARD DERBY - Smash your way through an old junkyard stacked high with rusty old cars and appliances. As items are bumped into oblivion, cranes drop new stacks of junk to be destroyed.

2. MYSTERIOUS WAREHOUSE - This arena is loaded with piles of unmarked crates. Crashing in to these crates busts them open to reveal mysterious artifacts with strange (and often amusing) properties from around the world. As the crates are demolished, new ones drop in from overhead conveyor belts.

3. MUSEUM MAYHEM - Priceless works of art are so delicate and breakable. We think they’re that way for a reason! Smash as much fine art as you can. Helpless Curators do their best to replace all of the art quickly.

The second level of Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby happens in the 2nd floor arena and the game gets a little more complicated. This time, the targets are moving. The faster they move, the higher the points. This level also has 3 possible games:

1. OLD MCSMASHY’S FARM - Try to help the farmer retrieve the animals that have escaped their pens... by crashing in to them, of course! Using the over-sized bumper on the Buggys, bounce the cartoon critters safely back into their enclosures.

2. ZOO BREAK - Animals are running free everywhere and it’s chaos at the zoo! Help the Keepers by bouncing the escaped beasts back to their cages. The faster the animal, the higher the points. Look for gazelles and cheetahs!

3. CRASHING WAVES - Did you know that the Smash Buggys are amphibious? That’s right, they’re boats too! Smash your way through the open sea, sinking ships and fighting off sharks and sea monsters.

The final level of Cartoon Crash ‘n Smash Destruction Derby is on the 3rd floor and the game changes here. Drivers must try to hit the correct targets while avoiding bad ones that will cause them to lose points. The 3 possible scenarios on this level are anybody’s game:

1. INVASION - You are called upon to save the world from aliens and robots from Outer Space. Squash the little green invaders with your Buggy and watch the green goo splatter. Be careful not to hit Earth’s Military forces though. It makes them mad.

2. NINJA ASSAULT - Take out the lightning quick Ninjas with a swift kick from your front bumper. Don’t knock over any of the priceless vases and statues though. It’ll cost you.

3. ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE - Living dead cartoon characters are rising from the grave and chasing the living. How can we stop them? By smashing them to bits and pieces! Don’t hit the survivors though. We’re here to save them.

SCRIPT SAMPLE (Load Introduction)

Rex Otto, Demolition Derby Champion“Greetin’s folks! The name’s Otto Rex. I’m the 5 time World Demolition Derby Champion ‘n owner of this here Crash ‘n Smash Driving School. Welcome to the world’s finest establishment for learnin’ how to bust some stuff up real good. By the time I finish stuffin’ your heads full ‘o skills, you’ll be the best of the best at crashin’ into things ‘n makin’ a whole lot a mess. Come to think of it, some a y’all might git good enough so as they take away your drivin’ license. Probably better off anyways.

“Today’s trainin’ is made up of three games of skill ‘n mayhem. Each one’ll be harder than the last but the awesome destructiveness gets bigger too. The goals are simple. Drive your car straight at the targets. What ya hit is what ya git! Everything ya smash into gits ya points. But be careful, in the final game, some things take ‘em away too. Oh, feel free to knock other Drivers around in the spirit of friendly competition but ya don’t git no points for that. In the end, be the Driver with the most points ‘n you’ll be our new Champion.

“Before we start with the smashin’, lemme tell ya what’s what. That contraption your sittin’ in is my own special design: the Smash Buggy! It’s easy enough to drive. There’s just one steerin’ wheel in the middle ‘n where ever you point it, that’s where you’ll be headin’. There are 3 games ‘n up to 3 of ya in the Buggy. Y’all oughta play nice ‘n share. Plenty of smashin’ for everyone. I betcha some of y’all are wonderin’ where the accelerator ‘n brake pedals are. Well, there ain’t none. This ain’t no Sunday drive. There’s only one speed and that’s full blast. Since the pencil-necks said we gotta play it safe, I left the seatbelts in. Keep those fastened so as I don’t git yelled at. I also put a great big bumper around your whole Buggy too. Ya hit somethin’ with that ‘n it’ll go a flyin’.

“All right, Drivers. Time to shine. I’m gonna take you to the first arena on auto-pilot ‘n then it’s all yours.”