Neon coves, rings of low-voltage track lighting, and flashing beacons mix with dappled textures, layers of patterns, and high-tech virtual reality games at DisneyQuest, the new five-story indoor themed playland at Downtown Disney West Side in Orlando, FL. The first in a rollout of Disney's latest family fun centers, this 100,000-sq.-ft. (9,000 sq. m) flagship DisneyQuest opened last June with a blitz of lights and exciting new interactive technologies.
The rollout scenario was one of the project's concerns for Paula Dinkel, principal lighting designer for Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) in Glendale, CA. She served as lead designer for the lighting team, which included Cindy Breakfield, Stacey Westbrook, and Laura Yates. Repeatability, durability, and flexibility was her mantra throughout the design process. "DisneyQuest is like a theme park in a building," says Dinkel, who notes that there are interesting things to do for adults as well as kids.
Stepping inside the building, guests are whisked upward in the Cybrolator, which takes them to the third-floor Ventureport, or gateway to the four entertainment areas of DisneyQuest: Explore Zone, Score Zone, Create Zone, and Replay Zone. "Each zone has its own distinct look that begins at the portals," Dinkel points out.
One of the star attractions at DisneyQuest is Cyberspace Mountain, where each guest designs a personalized roller coaster on a computer, and can actually "ride" it (choosing a personal level of scariness) on a flight simulator with 360-degree rotation in both directions. The coaster area is in the Create Zone, an area of relaxation where guests can learn to draw Mickey Mouse, play with Sid's Create A Toy, morph their own photo at the Magic Mirror, or create an animated scene, all at interactive computers. In the coaster design room, where the walls are painted neutral colors, Dinkel added washes of deep cobalt blue with dichroic filters in recessed architectural fixtures in a soffit. These create what she calls "intense scallops" on the walls, and are accented with red LED ropelight along the soffit edges.
The eight flight simulators are reached by a walkway lit with the same intense blue on a series of metal arches. Red LED ropelight in a narrow cove glows under the soffit. There are also red strobe lights, one at each simulator door, to alert the ride operator that the vehicle has stopped. The simulators are painted red and white and lit with Times Square track lights with red patterns. Dinkel says that "rotating beacons add a sense of excitement to the ride."
The Explore Zone has a jungle theme and is lit accordingly. The scenic flats are two-dimensional jungle trees, so the lighting has to add interest and depth. "There is pattern on pattern on pattern of foliage," says Dinkel, who added overlays of light green and dark green leaf patterns onto the scenery to get a sense of depth. There is also custom carpeting, with a gray and blue design of rocks on a background of orange and brown dirt that gave the LDs their color cues.
In keeping with the motif, Dinkel added a soft blue overall wash using Times Square's Baby Broadways, while palm leaf patterns in amber pull the earth tones out of the carpet. "I took the pattern out of focus to provide even more texture," says Dinkel. Guests enter the Explore Zone though portals that are designed like a tiger's mouth, in a face with eyes that glow. Phosphorescent beads embedded in the floor that spell out "Explore"are lit with Wildfire UV fixtures.
The vibrant colors of the murals and scenic treatment in this zone are the result of a process perfected by WDI scenic artist Susan Dain. The computer art was printed on polyester, using a continuous tone process, and then enhanced by the lighting. "The combination of techniques makes the colors almost leap off the walls," says Dinkel. "Focusing Explore was one of the big 'wows' of the project."
Comic book superheroes and villains populate the Score Zone, which is designed like a comic book city. To emphasize the scenic designs, Dinkel used a range of very saturated colors, from rich magentas to turquoise greens and deep cobalt blue with amber gobo overlays. The colors seem even brighter as the ambient light level is fairly low and the contrast is high. The fixtures are primarily Times Square MR-16 pattern projectors and MR-16 floodlights, with Tech Lighting's low-voltage monorail system at the Alien Encounter attraction. These fixtures have a combination satin nickel and brass finish with the lamp sitting in a metal ring, and dichroic glass filters.
In the lower section of the Score Zone, Dinkel used deep blue-green with an overlay of a rose window pattern in amber. "This looks like a church window, but we aimed it straight down to create the look of manhole covers on the floor." In the Underground, she also used fiber-optic accents from Remote Source Lighting in coves and red LED ropelight to "add a little bit of zing in a low-light environment and a glow behind the soffit." Worklights with wire cages flicker to give the feeling of motion in the tunnels without too much distraction from the games. "It's like a power drain in an engine room," Dinkel notes.
At the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam in the Score Zone, eight High End Systems Intellabeams(R) are programmed to interact with the game and the 12 players. Computers send a signal to an Alcorn McBride playback unit which uses DMX relays to control neon light boxes in a large frame around the projection screen. At the end of the game, Altman ellipsoidals flash on and off over the winner. The pinball game itself is lit with deep magenta dichroic filters in Times Square theatrical-style metal-halide fixtures. "They look like fresnels but have a long lamp life," says Dinkel, expressing her concern for easy maintenance of the system. Another of her key challenges was keeping glare off the game screens, so in many cases she used indirect, diffused light. The games themselves contribute to the ambient light.
The main attraction in the Replay Zone is Buzz Lightyear's Astroblaster, an updated take on bumper cars. This zone's design is a 1950s retro look with fiber-optic clouds, custom chandeliers and cutouts, and odd-shaped gobos, like lima beans and amoebas, made by Apollo Design Technology. "There are no straight walls," says Dinkel, who explains that the bumper cars move on a self-powered floor outlined with LED ropelight. The object is drive-and-shoot, with two people in each car, which have tiny flashing strobe lights inside to add to the excitement of shooting yellow balls at your opponents.
The three-story game area has portholes, cutouts, and bridges that span from floor to floor, as well as a dark blue fiber-optic curtain that measures 80' (24m) tall and surrounds the game on two sides. Manufactured by Advanced Lighting Systems, the curtain uses 18 illuminators from Remote Source Lighting, with a pale turquoise color (to match Rosco 73 Peacock Blue). "It's a big space and you see a lot of wall when standing on one of the three floors overlooking the game," Dinkel says, explaining the choice of the curtain. "Buzz Lightyear, the toy spaceman, flies overhead, so dazzling stars seemed appropriate. There are also sparkle wheels in the illuminators to make the stars twinkle. Turning it on was the first 'wow' in the construction--really the first moment when we started to get a feeling of what it would be like when finished."
Vistas from the Ventureport look up to the Wired Wonder Cafe on the fourth floor and to the fifth floor where the Food Quest restaurant is located. A dome crowning the space has impressionistic paintings of stars and moons lit by pink-white neon running around a cove. The circular opening under the dome has an oversized armillary sphere, or ancient astronomical device, that surrounds the Ventureport. The centerpiece is the Armillary Gun, a creation of WDI Imaging and Effects designers, which includes programmed crackle and flow neon.
Large rings of Tech Lighting's low-voltage monorail side-mounted on the soffit of the Ventureport echo the circular shape of the opening. Additional track is bottom-mounted on the fourth-floor soffit, and in a ring on the flat part of the ceiling around the dome. Amber filters are used on the light side of the sphere, and magenta and purple create shadows on the dark side. Blue neon in coves adds a glow to the walls and ceiling, while custom wall sconces are mounted above the dining tables.
Throughout DisneyQuest, Dinkel intentionally limited the fixture and lamp types in consideration of long-term maintenance. Control for the lighting system is provided by an ETC Unison architectural system and ETC dimmers, which are located in two electrical rooms, one on the second floor and one on the fourth level.
"This is a very friendly environment for families, couples, and even individuals," says Dinkel. "We want to be able to refocus and add new patterns and colors without too much expense as they add new games." And since no one can predict the longevity of any given attraction, the lighting was kept as flexible as possible. It was also designed to be repeated, as DisneyQuest gets ready to roll across the country.