THE HAUNTED FOREST
Home of the Wicked Witch of the West
This was to be the perfect place for Teens and Young Adults; the ultimate “thrill ride” and “scary place” for those who look for that kind of thing. We thought this was the perfect way to create a “land” where younger children would intuitively wait to visit, not wanting to journey into the deep and dark forest the Wicked Witch calls home. Strange sounds emanate from the forest at all hours, mixing in with the screams and shouts of those brave enough to ride with the Winged Monkeys or to traverse the River of Doom.
THE BROTHERS HILDEBRANDT did a fantastic job of catching the “dark and foreboding look” that we wanted for this land. The idea was that the entire “ LAND IN THE WEST” was always dark and scary. Signs (as in the motion picture) would encourage you to keep away. “I’D TURN BACK IF I WERE YOU” and “STAY OUT – THIS MEANS YOU!” would be among the many such warning signs. The continual darkness was due to the fact that were going to place an immense and very high “shade roof” (or series of roofs) over the entire land so that sunlight would not penetrate. Since you are journeying “deep into the forest” we would stage the trees in front to hide the roof top above, while having the trees get thicker and thicker, blocking any view of the roof as you journey into the Land of the Wicked Witch. Young children would natural resist going to this “land” because of the way we set up the approach. In addition to providing a controlled lighting situation by day and by night, the hidden rooftop also giving us a land where hot days, rainy days, and even snowy days, would not penetrate our deep and dark forest.
The journey itself would have you passing by and over “The River of Doom”, while you would hear and see glimpses of the “Winged Monkey” hanging coaster as people zipped through the thick woodlands. Ahead, as you started the journey, was the Witches Castle built in forced perspective. You would lose sight of it once you were in the forest itself of course, so that by the time you arrived in the courtyard, the scale would match what you imagined it would when you first caught glimpse of it at the forest’s edge.
Along the way there would interactive experiences as well – most of them smaller mini-events, but little show areas one could discover if you went a bit “off the beaten path.” If you followed the signs that say “THIS WAY” and “THAT WAY” all of them take you into a short circuitous route that leads you back to where you started. The “Well of Echoes” would echo back your voice, but in a distorted and evil way. An overlook allowed you to see in a dark grotto where the River Of Doom rafts would spin by. The “Changing of the Guards” was an almost continuous show with the famous “Oh-EE-Oh, Oh-EEEE-Oh” song/chant going on as you would pass into the Castle.
THE CASTLE COURTYARD provides a “center meeting place” from which all of the rides and shows within THE HAUNTED FOREST would start and end. The Courtyard also had a “GALLOWS STAGE” at the center which would be where the WINKEE GUARD show would take place.
THE RIVER OF DOOM was a major water ride that would depart from a Dark Grotto below the Castle, taking guests on a journey into the Realm of the Gnome King. Our idea was to create a “show” of sorts in the world of the Gnome King, with evil Gnomes out to get us, and with several “traps” set to do us in. Ultimately the River leads us into the Haunted Forest and moves through it and finally back into the Castle, spinning through a rapids area that forms a moat around the Castle.
THE WINGED MONKEY ride departed from this upper level in the Castle, where each guest would appear inside the LARGE CRYSTAL BALL that the Wicked Witch observes as she sends her Flying Monkeys (and you) out on the mission to find Dorothy and her companions.
After launching from the Chamber of the Wicked Witch, riders would shoot high into the air, following projected images of seemingly hundreds of Winged Monkeys as they are taking flight. THE WINGED MONKEY Hanging Coaster would depart from the Witches Castle at a higher level, and proceed up even higher before rushing headlong into the Haunted Forest where it would whip through trees, fly over the River of Doom, and cascade through and above the higher walls and turrets of the Castle.
This Elevation of the Wicked Witches Castle gives a pretty good idea of how the overall structure would work, though the “shed roof top” is not really pictured here.
THE NORTHERN KINGDOM
Home of The Good Witch of the North
Since Glinda the Good Witch was from the North, and because L. Frank Baum had written about Santa Clause and even suggested a tie to the World of Oz, we decided to run with the idea of the North being “Snow Country” – a world where Ice and Snow are found all year. The idea was this would be a great place in Summer and Spring, but during the cold Kansas Winter, Ice and Show festivals could take place here as well. We don’t find the snow, we celebrate it with a Christmas Village, with a year-round Santa Clause connection, and with a celebration set in a Winter Wonderland.
THE CASTLE OF GLINDA was to be a shining Castle of Ice that could be seen high above the colorful storybook village below. We imagined the Northern Area as one where artisans, artists, inventors and toy makers all lived and worked in a small and delightful Village. The land was watched over and protected by Glinda’s goodness.
Because Santa Claus was a character that L. Frank Baum wrote about, and because he even suggested a connection to OZ, we thought why not bring this to the North Country? So SANTA’S WORKSHOP was found not far from the Castle of Ice, and guests would find Santa there day and night, ready and willing to listen to Children and to take their wish lists for Christmas as well. A small dark ride was to be part of this area; a ride through Santa’s Workshop where hundreds of elves were at work on toys, dolls, and everything else a child imagines Santa’s Workshop to be.
SPECIAL BONUS ART – STORYBOARD PANELS from AERIAL ADVENTURES OVER OZ
We found this amazing set of storyboard panels that represents some our first work on creating what was to be “THE EMERALD CITY AIRSHIPS” and their Journey Over Oz. (You can read more about this attraction and see a magnificent Greg Pro rendering for this attraction in the prior Part 3 of this series of postings on OZ.)
Bill Stout created these initial ideas based upon a storyline we were starting to develop. The idea of this ride was to get BEYOND the borders of OZ that we know from the classic MGM movie. In our airship, we wanted to leave the Emerald City, cross OVER Munchinland and the Haunted Forest, and then discover mountain ranges, and harbors, and fantastic “worlds” of OZ that have never been seen before. Ultimately the Wicked Witch is after us, and the Winged Monkeys are sent to force us to land in the Castle of the Wicked Witch, but Glinda and others arrive in time to help us to escape and return home. But I think you can glimpse from these storyboard panels just how fantastic this Aerial Adventure in OZ was going to be.
SPECIAL BONUS ART- THE COWARDLY LION RIDE
The Cowardly Lions’ “SHOW OF COURAGE” Ride was planned as part of YELLOW BRICK COUNTRY (previously covered in Part 2 of this 4 Part series on The Wonderful World of OZ”) and was to be a fast paced dark ride for young kids and their parents. The building was designed as something from another era, built from stone and wood, and nestled into the woods, once could presume these “ruins” night be where a Pride of Lions might reside.
SPECIAL BONUS ART – THE EMERALD CITY RESORT
We also just found this concept rendering for the resort hotel that was to be built in Phase one of the project. THE EMERALD CITY HOTEL was to be a four of five star family hotel, built on property and connected to the park by THE EMERALD CITY MONORAIL allowing guests instant access to and from the park. We will have to save further details of the resort for a future posting.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ was a crowning achievement for all of us who worked on it. It was created at the height of Landmark Entertainment Group’s (the company I founded prior to Goddard Group) growing success. At this time we were developing, designing, and producing projects that included TERMINATOR 2/3D, JURASSIC PARK: THE RIDE, CAESARS MAGIAL EMPIRE, early concepts and planning for ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE for Universal Studios (including creating The Adventures of Spider-Man Ride among many other iconic attractions there). We had developed an amazing team of talent that included Greg Pro, Eric Heschong, Chuck Canciller, Wes Cook, Chris Smith, Greg Damron, David Thornton, Barry Kemper, Anthony Esparza, Richard Hoag, Robert DeLapp, Joe DeMeis, and we had outside artists that included the likes of Bill Stout, the Hildebrandt Brothers, Dan Gozee, and many more, all working on this project.
It was a project that had a lot of love, heart, and dedication in it. Everyone that worked on it really believed in it. And you can see the seeds for so many other rides and attractions that came to be elsewhere long after we invented the ideas here. The project was one that Harrison “Buzz” Price declared was “the best theme park design I have seen since Walt Disney show me Disneyland” which is about as good as you can get. The project was a dream come true for those of us working on it, and as you can see, it got pretty far down the road. (There are actually complete sets of architectural plans, sections, elevations for about 80% of the project completed. Perhaps we’ll put a few of those up at some later date.)
Kansas City wanted it, but there was a faction of people who didn’t want it – the typical “we hate anything new” types. And while the project had the support of the Mayor and Governor and local businesses – even the School System and so many others. Ultimately, in a vote by the City Council, the project was killed by one vote. (Of course there is more to the story than this, however, in the end it really did come down to this particular committee and this particular group of people who were voting on it.) One woman who was determined to see the project not come to life. A true “wicked witch” who was able – with her deciding vote — to stop this incredible project from happening. I tried throwing water on her but she didn’t melt. Too bad. (I would name her, – but she might put a hex on me.)
So of the many projects that are created and then never realized, this one I believe is at the top of the ‘what could’ve been” pile of great ideas that have not happened. I still hope that one day, in a friendlier – and perhaps more progressive place than Kansas — this great project will yet be brought to life. It is the one park that I believe, if it’s in the right location, and if it’s built and operated at a level of service and quality equal to Disney, that could become a classic Destination Resort with all the drawing power of the best Disney and Universal parks.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3