In the second volume of Disney Imagineering Unleashed, Epcot resident Jack Rothman finds himself once again the unlikely hero, this time in a plot to destroy Disney's Discovery Bay.
When Disney fired Imagineer Hector Delgado because his designs were too grand even for Disney to build, the spurned genius vowed revenge. In league with high-ranking company executives making their own power play, he brings death, destruction, and chaos to Discovery Bay, the newly opened land in the Magic Kingdom. Reluctant hero Jack Rothman finds himself drawn into the plot and must face the deranged genius Delgado inside Mount Prometheus, the crowning achievement of the Disney Imagineers.
The Storm over the Bay is the second novel in the Disney Imagineering Unleashed series. Each book in the series is set in an alternate version of the Disney theme parks where the wildest dreams of Disney’s Imagineers didn’t die on the drawing board but were actually built. From Discovery Bay and the Mineral King Ski Resort to the incredible Epcot City, the dreams of Disney Imagineering come to life - as do the schemes of rogue Imagineers and corporate terrorists who plot to bring it all crashing down.
An action thriller rolled into a Disney what-if!
Forty-two chapters of thrilling Disney what-if action!
Shaun Finnie is a freelance author and amateur Disney historian from England. He has written several books and many articles about the Walt Disney Company over the years as well as several collections of short stories and a series of novels collectively called Disney Imagineering Unleashed. This book is the second in that series.
The Electric Spark Gap Loop, Disney's newest coaster, is not for the timid—or those who wish to get off alive.
Jack watched the bolts of energy playing around the top of the Electric Spark Gap Loop building. Sure, the man-made lightning was only for effect, but he still felt a jolt of envy that he was outside and not having fun on the ride with his son and Adriana. Even at his age, a new Disney theme park attraction was something to be excited about, and the new section of the park was full of them. Floating past dinosaurs on the Lost River Rapids, flying high over the entire Bay on the Western Balloon Ascent, grabbing a bite at the San Francisco Chowder House and Energy Factory before seeing all the weird things in Professor Marvel’s Gallery. Even that creaky old classic, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, had been re-themed to fit into the new expansion. Discovery Bay would, the advertising blurb had said: “Bring to life a time and place that climaxed an age of discovery and expansion.” From what the Rothman family had seen, it did. Jack couldn’t wait to experience it all.
The mining town curved in a tight arc around a small body of water on which sailing ships bobbed on the artificial waves. Looming above was the dark, dominant face of Mount Prometheus, the smoldering volcano that erupted twice daily and within which sat even more rides and attractions. It was Captain Nemo’s famous Vulcania lair made real. The volcanic mountain wasn’t quite as tall as the New Cosmopolitan Hotel which rose up through the skin of Epcot’s central dome, but it was still tall enough to need a red light at its apex, due to aviation laws. Mount Prometheus had such a light, but in true Disney tradition the legal requirement was combined with artistic design and the warning light had been cleverly integrated into a glow of fiery lava. The rules had been upheld without compromising the theming of the mountain.
One aircraft that wasn’t bothered by these laws was the full-scale mock-up of the Hyperion dirigible that appeared to be floating out from a huge cavern in the side of the rocky peak. This huge flying ship indicated the entrance to the interior of the mountain and the queuing area for a magnificent new ride. This ride, and the creation of Discovery Bay itself, had been passed for construction due to the unexpected success of The Island at the Top of the World, the first film available for home viewing in holographic format. Truth be told, it had only been released to test the new technology. Who would have thought that a remake of an almost forgotten movie from two generations ago could lead to all this?
“What do you think?” Ellie stood before him with a ridiculous Minnie Mouse hat perched on top of her head. She batted her eyes innocently.
Jack faked a stern face. “It suits you perfectly,” he tried, though he couldn’t keep the pretense up for long. Even shopping was fun when his wife was there, but honestly, he’d rather be on the ride with his son.
The son in question was having a fantastic time on the Electric Spark Gap Loop ride. He and his girlfriend where whooping in delight along with the other riders on the indoor coaster as it spun around a pair of immense pillars like the coils inside a battery. The ride was meant to represent a demonstration of a massive electromagnet. The two pillars that formed the powerful humming and throbbing magnet were designed to pull the roller coaster vehicle up a steep track and then suddenly reverse the magnet’s polarity, forcing the car away into a corkscrew loop through the Bay’s power station. With only the smallest amount of low level lighting, most of the illumination came from the bolts of electricity that surged between conductors protruding from the top of the columns. The track twisted and turned to simulate the path of the current, but even with all its loops and spirals, by far the most exciting moments were those when the track passed right between the conductors and was struck several times by strong, blinding and totally random bursts of power. Like all the best thrill rides, it was, Heath realized, exciting just to the point of being a little frightening. That fear, along with the underlying knowledge of safety, was what made it enjoyable. Adriana didn’t care about that or any other theories, of course. She was too busy screaming and grinning in equal measure. It was fast, furious, and unpredictable, which pretty much summed up the way the young woman lived her life. She loved it, and the longer the ride went on, the faster it seemed to get.
Thrill rides are a way to experience a small tingle of fear in a controlled environment, but for many of its riders, the Electric Spark Gap Loop pushed that fear over the edge. With each pass around the conductor towers, it got a little faster, nudged a little closer to the safety buffers, and felt as it if were teetering on the brink of tipping over on the corners. Of course it was all perfectly safe and the safety brakes would prevent such accidents, but, if Heath didn’t know better, he’d swear that they had been turned off. Either the Imagineers had pushed it right to the very limit of what was acceptably safe ride design, or something had gone very wrong. His head said that the ride had just been designed to be extremely intense, but his heart disagreed. This was too much. It needed toning down, and toning down a lot. This was one of the reasons that Disney held these pre-public days,, to test how people reacted to the new attractions. It wouldn’t be the first time that the company had opened an exciting ride to great fanfare only to be forced to lower the intensity later due to customer response.
Electricity arced around the ride vehicle creating showers of brilliant white sparks each time it hit the cage. Each burst temporarily blinded the riders, which added to their excitement and the disorientation caused by the loops. Heath was certain now that they were travelling even faster, rocketing out of each bend into the next. The immense battery components flashed by in an electric blur, but something else caught Heath’s eye. Just for a moment he thought that he saw the figure of a man outlined against the crackling blue lights, half hidden in a recess. If it was indeed, human then the man was huge and standing perfectly still, hugging the shadows. It could have been a rounded silhouette or perhaps just a large, curved section of the ride structure, but it could just as easily have been an obese man watching the ride, studying the beginnings of fear rising in the people aboard. And if it was a real person hiding away in the shadows, then Heath could have sworn he saw it grinning.
Try as he might, though, he couldn’t fix his mind on what he’d seen, or thought he’d seen. His brain was too busy trying to work out if his escalating fear was justified. The electricity levels seemed to be rising far too high and his nostrils filled with the sulfuric smell of burning plasma. Bright sparks flew everywhere and Heath had no way of knowing if they were simply pyrotechnic effects or the real thing, and even if they were real, were they just “Disney real”? Such was the company’s reputation for attention to detail that it was perfectly possible that everything was operating precisely as it was meant to, but Heath wasn’t sure.
The static electricity crackling around the ride vehicle’s surrounding cage made Heath’s dark surfer-dude hair straighten out from his head as if blown by a fan, but this was nothing compared to what was happening to a young woman a few seats ahead. Her long, fine hair fanned out like a halo around her, whipping first one way then the other as the little train sped on. Her ride companion, a girl who looked like she might just have entered her teenage years, had her head buried in her safety harness and appeared to be silently weeping. Heath turned his head to the side and saw Adriana. She was the exact opposite, whooping and hollering in delight as the intensity of the ride ratcheted up yet another gear.
Then, without warning, it was over. The ride plunged into total blackness and the car jerked to a sudden and painful halt. The safety harness dug into Heath’s shoulders and midriff as the brakes bit. “Was that part of the ride?” someone asked. The sobbing girl was no longer silent and murmurs of relief and astonishment filled the air as the car gradually began to trundle toward the station. Only Adriana was still laughing.
“How good was that?” she asked in a voice that left no room for doubt as to exactly how much she’d enjoyed it, but in the seat beside her, Heath wasn’t so sure.
Continued in "The Storm over the Bay"!
Walt Disney is long dead, but his artificially intelligent holo self is very much like the real thing.
Whenever the board of a major company made a public statement of confidence, it was usually a sign of private panic, everyone knew that. The confidence that Disney’s leaders had shown in Corey Braithwaite was further brought into question when the only words he offered the assembled press men and women were of introduction. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to hand you over to my colleague, Mr Walt Disney.”
Everyone in the room saw this as an admission of the situation’s severity, but they were also deeply moved to be in Walt’s presence. Some had never even seen the sentient hologram up close before. Sure, they had all been spoken to by the image that greeted everyone by name when they walked through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, but this was different. There was nothing pre-programmed about this version of the original Mr Disney, as there was at the entrance and various other points around the park. The holographic Walt at the mouth of Mount Prometheus, for example, said stock phrases like, “Welcome to Discovery Bay’s hidden secret” or “Within this cavern you’ll find all kinds of delights, but make sure you don’t get lost!” but this version of Mr Disney was different. If the others gave the impression of being holographic Audio-Animatronics, this was like looking at a person reflected through a mirror—they might look a bit strange, but they were real, living, and, most of all, capable of independent thought.
The image seemed to give off the same quiet confidence that the man had during his lifetime, a simple yet powerful aura that showed he was capable of anything he might turn his hand to. Those hands may no longer be tangible, but given the chance, Walt could still be the most imposing figure in the room. And it seemed as though the current board were, at last, giving him that chance, even though it signified to many of those listening that they’d run out of other ideas.
The dead man greeted the assembled journalists warmly and began his speech. Unlike Braithwaite’s earlier announcement at the grand opening, it wasn’t a prepared statement, just more of a chat as Walt spoke without any notes.
“I had my own teething problems over in California on Disneyland’s opening day,” he began. “‘Black Sunday’” they called it, and they were right. Oh, we tried to cover it up, of course, but we were nowhere near ready to open. The asphalt was still wet in places, so as they walked along the street some of the ladies’ shoes sank into it.” A familiar chuckle burst from beneath the equally familiar moustache, the same one that a couple of the reporters sported. “Lots of people gate-crashed the party, so we had around double the expected number of guests on that first day. We would have had even more if it weren’t for the seven mile tailback caused by everyone wanting to get into the park. And we worked right up to the final minute to get things just so. Even then we didn’t finish everything on time. The clock well and truly beat us there. We didn’t even have time to plant some of the flower beds, so do you know what I did? I had my gardeners tidy the weeds up and label them with their fancy Latin names to look as if we’d planned it that way.” Another laugh, heartier this time, accompanied by a silent slap of his ghostly thigh. He hadn’t told these stories in decades and was clearly enjoying himself. The assembled ladies and gentlemen of the press were, as well, just as their counterparts from generations ago had. And, just like those newspaper reporters of old, Walt had these experienced hacks eating out of his hand, laughing along with him in a most unprofessional manner which transferred to the millions watching at home. “We had a gas leak and a plumber’s strike, too. They told me that we only had enough water for either the restrooms or the water fountains, but not both. Guess which I chose?” Another chuckle. Everyone was with him now, even the board members seated beside him. They had started out smiling dutifully in a show of public support, but now their laughter was genuine. All status disappeared as everyone in the room became a child again, listening to Uncle Walt’s story time.
The master storyteller had chosen to open with fun tales that they already knew and loved. The drama of opening day with a happy ending and a few laughs. It was nostalgia at its purest, and they loved it. Then abruptly he changed tack, and they willingly followed. His voice dropped in both pitch and volume. “And of course most of the rides couldn’t take it, either. So many things broke down at some point on that first day. Thankfully, I didn’t know about all of it until later, but I had a whole bunch of fine staff who just did their job quietly and efficiently back then, just like those great Cast Members out in the park today, but you know what? In the long term it didn’t matter. We can even laugh about it now. In less than two months we’d had a million people through the turnstiles, imagine that. I think you’d all agree that Disneyland turned out OK in the end, right?”
A chorus of agreement rang out among the hardened news crews. They were all completely under Walt’s spell. If he’d asked them to jump off a cliff, one or two of them might have even done it.
“So please,” he continued, “don’t be too hard on us about what you’ve seen out there in Discovery Bay today. Don’t judge this wonderful new land on a single day that might have included a few teething troubles. Wait until it’s been up and running for a couple of months, when we’ve had time to work out all the little wrinkles. That’s when you’ll really know how special this place is. Is it a deal?”
One or two of the greener reporters actually cheered their agreement and pretty much all of them were prepared to cut him a whole lot more slack than they were half an hour previously. Sure, they had to report the facts as they saw them, but there were many different ways of telling the same story. So what might have read “Disney’s Discovery Disaster” was now toned down to “Disney Delight Despite a Few Teething Troubles”.
Even Braithwaite was impressed. He had been fed constant updates on the levels of public confidence in the company through a hidden earpiece while Walt had been speaking. He got the latest fluctuations on the share price, too. The two usually went hand in hand, and this time was no different. Both had leapt up during the hologram’s speech. While he couldn’t be happy that these were obviously based on confidence in Walt rather than the company and the board running it, he had to give credit where it was due.
If nothing else, Walt Disney had bought the board some time.
Continued in "The Storm over the Bay"!