Based on the forever-popular children's books by Dr. Seuss (the nom de plume of Theodore Geisel), Seuss Landing has immortalized that troublesome cat in the red-and-white hat, along with dozens of Seuss' cleverest creations. "Our bible was the Seuss library," says Lisa Girolami, producer of Seuss Landing, a 10-acre island within USIOA. "We added another layer to the stories, using Seuss' own characters and reproducing them religiously in three dimensions.
"But Seuss drew for the printed page," she continues, adding that one of their biggest design challenges was to create the backs and sides of the characters. An equally daunting challenge was to respect the curves of the Seuss drawings in creating free-standing architecture, props, and accessories without using one single straight line.
The Seuss theme is ubiquitous, from the Green Eggs and Ham Cafe, where the green eggs are made with parsley paste, to topiary shaped like the Cat in the Hat. The facades of the structures were carved in Styrofoam, then painted using a palette of over 500 bright colors (including pinks, yellows, oranges, reds, blues, and greens) with ultraviolet inhibitors built right into the paint. "This helps keep the colors bright," says Girolami. "Durability is the big thing. We tried to break everything ourselves, just to make sure that what's in the park will last."
Many of the facades in Seuss Landing were hand-sculpted by KHS&S, a design contractor with offices in Orlando. Once the steel framing was in place, KHS&S applied expanded polystyrene foam (up to 24" thick), which was then hand-sculpted. The challenge in this process was the unusual shape of the buildings, which required close coordination of the various layers on each facade. Specialty items took time to perfect, such as the 31' hat of the Cat in the Hat, which required more than two weeks for the foam to be applied and another two weeks of carving.
A series of Seussian props, especially those with water systems, were engineered and produced by Technifex, with the scenic cladding by Scenery West (as a sub-contractor to Technifex). "The concept and the drawings came from Universal Creative," says Monty Lunde, president of Technifex.
For the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish ride, Technifex provided several groups of fanciful fish. Fiberglass "bad fish," located around the perimeter of the ride, spout a laminar stream of controlled water using Wet Designs Leap Frog(TM) nozzles. "There is no air in the water, so it creates a coherent stream," Lunde explains. The water is lit using Lumenyte fiber-optic illuminators with dichroic filters (red, blue, green, amber, etc.) to add color.
Technifex also provided mechanical starfish that spray water in the bottom of the pool and pole-mounted fish with nozzles in their mouths. These spray unsuspecting riders who do not follow the instructions on the soundtrack to stay out of the way of the water.
In the interactive If I Ran the Zoo play area, Technifex created all of the computer-controlled mechanical props and animals, many of which also have water elements that are met with glee by kids of all ages. "We provided the integration and engineering of the water systems and the fabrication of the mechanical systems," says Lunde. "The interactive props take the input and give you a preprogrammed output in return."
An abundance of Seuss and Seuss-like characters spin around on the Caro-Seuss-el, an updated version of an old-fashioned carousel. Designed by Dave Morgan of DH Morgan Manufacturing, the Caro-Seuss-el follows the "Seussian" design theory with its curved rods and round external "gears." The gears are decorative, but when the central core of the carousel turns, the interior motor turns the gears as well. "It is a simple but effective design solution," Girolami points out.
"This is the first interactive carousel," she continues. "The characters not only move up and down, but riders can make the eyes open and close, and make the heads bow." The members of this menagerie have such Seussian names as Aqua Moptop and Mulligatawny, as well as orange and pink Cow-Fish, and Horton the elephant perched on the top of the tent-shaped structure. "Some of the characters are taken from the books, and others are secondary characters we named ourselves," says Girolami.
Inside the carousel's domed roof is a fiber-optic ceiling with several thousand star points executed by Brett Lazarus of Lazarus Lighting, in conjunction with Universal's in-house designers Chris Lauren and Mark Riddlesperger. The design has Seuss characters mixed in with the traditional constellations seen on a starry night. "You look up and see the Big Dipper and Horton," says Lazarus. "The ceiling is midnight blue with grayish blue images. They painted the characters and we put end-emitting fibers around the edges to enhance them."
The exterior lighting in Seuss Landing, which uses more than 1,200 fixtures and 200 control circuits, was designed by Michael Finney and Tom Ruzika of The Ruzika Company. The light poles are of course curved, and many of the fixtures are round in keeping with the Seussian design ethic. "We keyed off the art direction," says Ruzika, whose firm worked on the project for over four years, beginning in 1995.
Arches along the waterfront of the Seuss Landing lagoon are lit with twelve Irideon AR500s, which were programmed using a Strand 520I console. "We used soft pastels to echo the Seussian acid-trip colors," says Ruzika, who also worked with lighting designer Ken Daniels on a series of outdoor fixtures that were custom-designed to complement the Seuss theme.
"The art directors took the lead and we collaborated on the angles and coverage for the lighting," Ruzika explains. Fixtures include Hydrel's PAR-56 7100 series, round fixtures that Ruzika refers to as "bowling balls." Specified in a bright yellow and sitting on curved poles to light Horton sitting atop the Caro-Seuss-el, these fixtures fit right into the Seussian theme.
Steve Young of The Ruzika Company was the lead designer for the show lighting at The Cat in the Hat, a wacky dark ride based on the most famous of the Seuss books. The action of the ride follows the plot line of the book, with the Cat in the Hat and his accomplices, Thing One and Thing Two, upsetting a house and finding lots of mischievous things to do.
The front yard of the house serves as the queue line, with picket fences and a front porch that leads inside to the ride track (built by MTS in Minneapolis). Guests sit on blue plastic sofas that whisk them through the house. "I actually bit the fabric on the sofas to see what would happen," says Girolami, in anticipation of the hordes of children that would go on the ride. Its Seussian color palette is based on the red, white, and blue of the book's drawings, and there is even Seussian rain created by laser projections on the windows.
The concept of the ride lighting was determined by Major Robinson, art director for the project. "His view was that the ride should be filled with life and light," Young says. "But halfway through the process we realized that it was too bright and revealed too much mechanism. We made it darker and much more saturated."
ETC Source Four ellipsoidals and PARs are used throughout, with 14 different custom glass gobo patterns (some in double gobo rotators) made by Rosco. The saturated color filters are Fade Not Dichro X from Special F/X.
There is one Martin MAC 500 fixture in the ride, as part of the special effects package provided by Scenic Technologies New York, a PRG company (which also provided the laser rain effect). This fixture has a special "bump" gobo seen at the beginning of the ride. "The voiceover mentioned hearing a 'bump, and that bump made us jump,' as the unseen Cat opens the door," explains Young. The animatronic characters in the ride were created by AVG, a California company.
"Once the Cat arrives, the tilts and curves of the walls change and we go crazy with color," notes Young. "When the Things are let out, the design gets even more crazy." The kitchen scene is one of the wildest, with cabinet doors flying open and dishes tumbling out. "This is the moment when the kids realize what the Cat has done to their house," says Young, pointing out that the kitchen has a green wall next to a purple one and a magenta one.
Four-hundred-watt UV fixtures by Wildfire are used in three of the ride's scenes, with short, 2' UV Effects Master tubes used to fit within the curves of the walls. Fluorescent tubes wrapped with Special F/X polyester color are used to emphasize the depth behind walls that peel away in a scene where a piano comes crashing down. "The light is deep fuchsia and deep purple, with a shatter gobo and a realistic star gobo in double gobo rotators to emphasize the crashing effects in the room," explains Young.
The lighting control for The Cat in the Hat ride is run via Anitech's new lighting control module, the LCM4020, which was Beta-tested at The Cat in the Hat. It has 32 simultaneous cue stacks, which eliminate the need for multiple lighting consoles in each venue. "Now there is just one card for each venue, except in The Cat in the Hat, which has three cards. It could be run on one but the nature of the Beta testing and installation made it necessary to break the system into three cards," explains Tim Linamen, a lighting designer for Universal, who supervised the planning and installation of The Cat in the Hat ride.
"It makes it feel as if there are no restrictions to the creative designs," Linamen continues. "The Anitech system gave us a lot of versatility in the ride. One cue can go on any one of the 32 cue stacks and be run whenever needed. You don't have to work out the timing with all the other cues."
The Anitech system was programmed by Linamen in conjunction with Jon Langrell of ITEC Entertainment Corporation, which also provided show control programming for the ride. The show control system was provided by ITEC, using the Allen Bradley PLC5 platform. Programming was supervised by Phil Brogan of ITEC and Duncan MacKenzie of Proskenion Design.
The scenery, many of the props, animated effects, and special lighting effects for The Cat in the Hat ride was built by Scenic Technologies, a PRG company. "This is the first time Seuss has been recreated in this manner, and we had to create something that would last a long time," says Dave Cunningham, Scenic Technologies project manager for the ride. "There is a lot of integration between the scenery and static and animated props," he notes.
This integration is evident in the interlocking of the audio tracks with certain scenic effects as well. The original music for Seuss Landing was supervised by John Rust, the in-house soundtrack producer at Universal Creative. "We worked with Audrey Geisel, Ted's widow, and decided we wanted a new sound for Seuss Landing. We took all of the Seuss drawings and recreated the instruments he invented, such as a cello with a mouthpiece on the neck. We created a Seussian orchestra with these custom instruments, and the result is wonky and left of center," he says, adding that the music, like the scenery, has no right angles.
"The Fostex system holds eight 20-minute tracks," explains Rust. "Wherever you are in Seuss Landing, you hear the same piece of music in the same key at the same time." The exterior loudspeakers in Seuss Landing are by Bose, with Baker Audio of Atlanta, GA, working with Bose and Bill Bittel, Universal's senior AV engineering manager on the blueprint, configuration, racks and installation of the speakers.
"There are vertical array speaker cones stacked in groups of four and hidden in poles and arches" says Rust, who notes that the "sweet spot" for the audio in Seuss Landing is at a very low 4' from the ground. "We got on our knees to hear the speakers," he says. "We knew we were going to have a pint-sized audience."
Additional ground speakers, green with round mushroom tops, are hidden in the bushes. "You really have to search to find the speakers, which is good in this kind of immersive environment," Rust states.
The audio system and sound design inside the ride was the realm of Soundelux, an Orlando-based company, with Kane Fritz serving as Universal's project manager for The Cat in the Hat (he now works at Soundelux). "We wanted to tie in the sound design to the Seussian theme and the scenery," he explains.
Their original intention was for a traveling sound system to follow the ride vehicles, with no bleed between the cars. This idea gave way to a high-performance static system with acoustic isolation added to the building to avoid cacophony inside the ride. "There is no onboard audio," says Fritz, "it's all point source and distributed."
Again, the speakers are primarily hidden. "We got in early and staked out space," says Fritz. "We spent a lot of time carefully integrating the speakers within the highly-themed scenery. There are sounds everywhere but you don't know from where," says John Miceli, principal of Soundelux Showorks.
The Soundelux speakers are hidden in and behind the curved walls, where the flush speaker grilles are painted with graphics to conceal them. There are also 17 zones of distributed sound overhead, where the speakers are visible, yet painted black to blend into the ceiling.
Playback is via an Anitech Media Pro4000 solid state system that allows both short play and long play of up to 10 minutes for longer looping effects. The Anitech system is locked to the Allen-Bradley ride control system, whose control protocol triggers the audio cues when the ride vehicles arrive at certain positions. This allows special audio effects to match their visual counterparts as the serial interface of the Anitech system listens for cues from the ride system.
Elsewhere in Seuss Landing, Soundelux added waterproof speakers to the One Fish, Two Fish ride. These speakers are currently hung on poles where they can be seen, but climbing vines will eventually cover them. At the Caro-Seuss-el, there are two groups of speakers hidden in the outer edge of the roof structure and in the inner core of the carousel. "This provides a stereo sound," explains Fritz, "with left in the center core and right on the roof rim." There is also a custom-designed truck that parks near the carousel and opens to reveal a stage for a street performance. This has a self-contained audio system with EAW speakers.
Hungry Dr. Seuss fans can pop into Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, a big-top restaurant with a Seussian circus theme. Here, ceiling-mounted speakers are hidden behind grillwork decorated with painted stars, while the speakers hung on tent poles are painted to look like part of the circus rig. The lighting follows the circus theme as well. "We wanted the patrons to feel as if they were part of the circus atmosphere and not just spectators," says Ruzika, who added Seussian star patterns in Source Four ellipsoidals with light pink and rose gel (Roscolux 36 and 44) "to make you look happy and healthy," he says. Hidden uplights with Roscolux 16 add yellow to accent the inside of the tent itself, which is painted orange and yellow with strings of light bulbs outlining the structure.
Four Martin MAC 250 automated luminaires are added to the two large circular trusses that serve as circus rings and lighting pipes. These have custom Seussian gobos with images of a juggler, balloons, and stars that skitter across the ceiling. Two Martin moving-mirror fixtures are used as specials to follow an animated trapeze artist who swings overhead in one of the rings. ETC Source Four PARs with circus colors, ranging from deep rose and lavender to blue and gold (Rosco 48, 58, 68, and 23) are used to light a mobile with circus characters that hangs in the second ring.
One of the most challenging characters to create in 3D is Rolf the Walrus, who balances on one whisker. "Seuss drew things that defy gravity and don't exist in reality," says Girolami, referring to Rolf. "We wanted to design him exactly how Seuss drew him, so everybody had to think beyond their normal box of thinking." Once his balancing act was accomplished, Rolf was accented with the rosy light of Rosco 44 gel in Source Four ellipsoidals.
Full of whimsy with lots of charm, Seuss Landing has done the Seuss books no harm. "The six-year-old in all of us can come out and play here," sums up Girolami, who is extremely proud of everything Seussian in the park. After all, where else can you quench your thirst with the juice of a moose or the juice of a goose, and spend all day with The Cat in the Hat out on the loose?