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TDS Journey to the center of the earth and 20000 Leagues artwork !

Discussion in 'Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai' started by loaloa, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. loaloa

    loaloa Member

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    Tom Thordarson is a fantastic artist and was the the concept designer for Tokyo Disney Sea's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" the top rated thrill ride of Tokyo Disney Sea. Tom was also a key team player in the early design phases of many other attractions for Disney Sea, especially 20000 Leagues under the Sea at Mysterious Island.

    You can see in a special and awesome article never seen before artwork that Tom Thordarson did for these two rides. Those of you who had the luck to visit this gorgeous theme park and remember Mysterious Island rides will understand how important Tom Thordarson's contributions were to the design of these rides.

    All the pictures can be seen here:

    http://disneyandmore.blogspot.com/2009/04/tribute-to-tom-thordarson-aka-thor_06.html


     
  2. Jasonflz

    Jasonflz Well-Known Member

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    Tom Thordarson really did amazing work on capturing the mystery and beauty of the center of the Earth and under the sea. Both of these attractions were very well put together. Forget Beastly Kingdom, bring MI to DAK.
     
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  3. EPCOT Explorer

    EPCOT Explorer New Member

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    DO WANT. Now.


    kthxbai.


    TDO! You really want to make DAK amazing!? Bring this in.
     
  4. EpcotServo

    EpcotServo Well-Known Member

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    Great Article. I would've called it "The Architects of Envy".
     
  5. Jasonflz

    Jasonflz Well-Known Member

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    Awesome avatar EpcotServo.
     
  6. Jasonflz

    Jasonflz Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I prefer Vans.

    :lol:
     
  7. Tom Thordarson

    Tom Thordarson Active Member

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    I was just informed of this article. This is Tom Thordarson. I want to thank you fro the wonderful recognition and review. This was a very special attraction for me. I lived and dreamed this ride from a white piece of paper through development of the art Direction models and character development. Installation and fied art direction was done by Gwen Ballentyne. It's brought me a lot of joy to hear of the success of this ride. I had littl eto work with...they pretty much gave me full reign and just to loosely attribute the story off the books by Jules Verne. Again, thanks for the kind words! ~~Tom
     
  8. DDLand

    DDLand Well-Known Member

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    Welcome!

    Journey to the Center of the Earth is commonly called a "thrill ride," but I don't think that the designation quite communicates its true nature. The attraction doesn't create the intense emotions because of steep drops, high speeds, or inversions; instead it carefully plants fear in each guest.

    On this ride awe slowly turns into fear. Confidence in man's technology becomes a realization of our nothingness. An internal process is undertaken.

    If I had to sum up why Journey to the Center of the Earth works so well, I would primarily point to pacing. The ride eschews the traditional Disney idea of thrilling early; instead the ride shows considerable restraint. It builds to a remarkable conflict.

    The ride is really a psychological thriller, more like Tower of Terror than Test Track. The Journey is a mystery, with the conflict becoming more and more real by the second. It would have been all too easy to build a ride that sped you through some caves and out and around for a few seconds, but you didn't. Instead an attraction that is one of the most sophisticated and ambitious was built. You boldly decided to put a strong narrative before mindless thrills.

    You and your team's work are one of the high water marks of Walt Disney Imagineering! You deserve to be proud! I only first went on it earlier this year and found it still incredible 15 years into its life; an achievement not all attractions can muster. I think it's timeless, a true Disney classic. When you can make adults suspend disbelief and be afraid of a lava monster, you know you've done well. It makes RSR's look like child's play.

    Also kudos to Gwen as well; the big reveals and use of space is remarkable. This attraction was firing on all cylinders.

    I'm glad you've decided to contribute on the site!

    Edit: You also brought back the Hydrolaters!
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  9. Tom Thordarson

    Tom Thordarson Active Member

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    Thanks so very much! Yes...when I suggested a "dry hydrolator" sort of approach to making the guest feel like they were dropping down miles below to the load....I got a raised brow at first. But I pitched the idea as a "theater of the mind". We didn't need to see rolling rock pass by...we just needed other sensory clues. I storyboarded it out and made the sound affects with my mouth as I pitched the idea...like the freight elevator floor warning bells and other sounds we heard along with the signal lights that passed by the iron shutters of the upper walls of the "terravator". We then mocked it up with a plywood and light full size walk in "box". Everyone on the team "bought in " to the idea and so it went to be built as the part you experience today. Even Michael Eisner enjoyed the mock up!
    A lot of thought was put into that ride. I kept pitching that every rock formation needed to "tell a story"..and affect the minds of the guest as they were on this ride. The swirling, crystal formations in the beginning are more relaxing and enchanting...and as you progress, the rock formations become more intense...threatening and exciting. Jagged in the sub- terrainian sea scene. All these things I was doing to draw the guest into a sort of "psyche" that lead up to the Lava Monster encounter. I spent the first year in my office in the MAPO Building alone drawing hundreds of story boards and inspirational sketches. weaving a story and adventure. We finally edited it down to match the timing of the ride based on track length. Thanks again for the comment! Happy to answer any questions!
     
  10. RandySavage

    RandySavage Well-Known Member

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    ^Tom, Great to have you here and to thank you for your hard work and talent that were key to bringing these iconic experiences into reality. Like most here, I'm a big fan of Mysterious Island and its attractions - certainly a contender for most immersive & transporting themed land on the planet.

    I'm also a big fan of your style of artwork/renderings - they have a certain warm glow to them (similar to the great Bryan Jowers). I believe this is one of yours... can you share any stories about what this attraction would have been like (which looks like it was for a Dino coaster in Hong Kong Disneyland):
    [​IMG]

    I'd also be keen on learning what other parks/attractions - built or cancelled - that you worked on.

    Cheers!
     
  11. mandstaft

    mandstaft Well-Known Member

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    Tom, thanks so much for jumping in! Are you still with Imagineering? If not, what do you do?
     
  12. Tom Thordarson

    Tom Thordarson Active Member

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    Ahhhh... This was a pastel and acrylic color sketch I did as part of a bunch for a potential rides in Hong kong Disneyland. At the time, Disney had recently opened "Countdown to Extinction". There was a lot of money spent on the "carnotaurus" animatronic Dinosaur for that ride. I was asked to tinker with some thrill rides that could "re-purpose" the molds and already engineered dino in another Disney attraction as I recall..or at least "encouraged" to incorporate them if applicable. This sketch was a sort of "runaway excavation train" ride I came up with. It was part of a series of key art pieces describing a ride where it started off as a simple "dino dig" and of course, ended up in an out of control thrill ride through the whole cavernous excavation and such.
    Brian Jowers was about two offices down from me. He is a good friend of mine..and we often critiqued each others work and had many many great laughs together at WDI. I am a concept guy, I always would tell Disney. I LOVE the part many are most frightened of...the "blank white paper" stage of a project where no one has any idea what the hell to do or imagine yet. This is the most thrilling to me...because a drawing or painting cannot be matched as to what it does to a group in a meeting. Eyes light up...and the "magic" is conceived a that moment. Even words or a script cannot compare to the first images made by an artist. It becomes..."real" at this moment.
    I can say in my career, perhaps 2%-5% of what is concept ever makes it to "reality". So many factors can kill a great idea. I can tell you if we went through all the archives of the concepts I have drawn up at both Universal and Disney over the decades, it would fill 100 theme parks! ! lol. Budget, foreign taste and preferences...many things can prevent an idea from moving forward.
    Too many to name all, but my two favorite Disney attractions I did in fairly detailed art were the "Under Sea Grand Prix" for Disney Seas. ( This eventually became "Storm Rider" when I left the project) and the ideas I worked on with Marshal Monroe (Special effects R& D guy at WDI) for replacing the "Submarine Voyage" at Disneyland.
    You can see a lot of the art for "Undersea Grand Prix" on the "Disney and More" and other website forums. Internal Imagineering LOVED this ride. It was a wild idea I just conjured up and went nuts with it. However, what killed it was that Oriental Land Company, the partner with Disney for Disney Seas didn't like it. Why? Well, they said it had too much "humor" in it...and Japanese culture doesn't find "undersea creatures" funny! Oh..except an octopus...an octopus is funny in Japanese culture." LOL! So...this ride never made it to completion.
    As for the Disneyland sub-ride. Long story short, the Disney animated feature "Atlantis" was in production at the time. Tony Baxter had myself and Brian Jowers and Bob Barnack working up concepts for taking the then closed, Disneyland sub ride and making it into a fantastic undersea adventure , based loosely off of "Atlantis". We came up with an absolutely stunning show. HIGHLY impacting and intense though!! Marshal Monroe was on this one, excited to test the new underwater projectors they were developing.
    We did this entire mock up in Anaheim in the sub lagoon late at night. I was pushing, again for a "theater of the mind" thing...with sub woofer and directional induction sound, and the climax of the show was that the last thing you saw out the sub windows was the sweeping of giant Laviathan tentacles ...you heard them too...crushing the cabin of the sub. Lights went to just the low emergency power out red inside....as the giant octopus dragged you into the depths of the sea. We had rivets that appeared to pop out of the sub window frames and small spritzes of water...as though the sub was beginning to implode!! Then a glimpse of the HIGHLY realistic Laviathan eye peering into the porthole windows (high def underwater rear projection through bubble curtains).
    The show, we did fro Michael Eisner and Paul Presler late one evening out in the submarine lagoon at Disneyland. It blew them away! HOWEVER....it was said...this was just WAY too intense for the mainstream Disney guest. We would have people peeing in their seats!! ...and so this concept was never to happen. "Finding Nemo" became the use of the underwater projectors and the replacement for the classic Disneyland sub ride of yesteryear.
    Well there's a few things to feed your brain! lol Hope that answers your question.
     
  13. Tom Thordarson

    Tom Thordarson Active Member

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    I am no longer with Disney. I left to persue my passion for "Tiki" Polynesian fantasy art. My website is: www.thorart.com
    My work is known and collected in the "Tiki" scene and other areas. I am also known as "THOR"(childhood nickname) ... I still consult with all the Theme park Industry Companies, but my main focus is my personal art in Tiki!! I am currently the "Creative Director" for an amazingly fun collectibles and themed drink ware company called "Tiki Farm" (www.tikifarm.com). I design, art direct and sculpt many of their creations. Among other things, I am working with Disney on themed collectible mugs for "Trader Sam's" and other Disney venues! Having the time of my life..managing to never "grow up"~ LOL!
     
  14. RandySavage

    RandySavage Well-Known Member

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    It does. I could read these kinds of quick stories - about the creative process and left-on-the-drawing-board projects - from you all day.

    You note the Atlantis version of Subs. There was vague word of this concept for a while, but it's great to learn how some of the fx would have played out. Just recently the birdseye art hit the web (looks like a Jowers piece to me?):
    [​IMG]

    We were discussing the presence of the Nautilus in the above. If it was the same project, was the idea to mash-up the Atlantis and 20,000 Leagues mythologies?
     
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  15. Tom Thordarson

    Tom Thordarson Active Member

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    Me and Grampa.jpg From What I recall, we were given just some of the concept art images at the time for the Animated feature, "Atlantis". It was early in production and we spent a day over at the Animation Studios looking at the key frame art and the various concepts for the styling of the cartoon to be. The rest, we made up. The style was kind of "Jules Vernian" but more just plain "steam punk" though the word "steam punk" didn't exist yet. LOL! It was not the Nautilus we know of in "Twenty Thousand Leagues..." . The sub in "Atlantis" had a crystal powered element to it and was a bit different. We called it "antique future" or "Vernian".

    Brian Jowers did this piece just as "eye candy" to add to our presentation. I recall he just "had some fun" with this piece. I did a lot of concept art for the sub and scenes you would see out the porthole...which I never got copies of but are somewhere in the flat files at WDI archives.

    I do recall the day we watched the last of the old Disneyland Subs do their final rides at Disneyland as we worked on this new idea. I rode in one of the last subs. I have a video I taped someplace...will look for it. As the subs did a final circle around the lagoon with the captains waving goodbye inside the little widow of the tower...I actually could not stop myself...and cried like a fool...trying to not be seen as I leaned against the rail by the matterhorn. After all...that was the ride I loved most when I was just 5 years old and begged my parents to go on it over and over and over again. For me...the end of the original subs at Disneyland was not only saying goodbye to a classic piece of Disney...it was...well, for this Imagineer, saying a final farewell....to my childhood. Attaching an old photo of me and my Grandpa...I was obsessed with being a "scuba diver" and under water in the pool all I could get away with!
    This photo above was taken the very day after we went to see the submarines in the mid 60's at Disneyland...and my U.S Coastguard Grampa would throw rocks in the pool so I could retrieve them...at the risk of a "sea Monster" and everything!! LOL Enjoy!! Never grow up all!! ~Tom
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  16. Kman101

    Kman101 Premium Member

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    Very glad to have you here Tom! Always great to get insight. Eddie Sotto was here for a long time as well. Appreciate all that you can share!
     
  17. mandstaft

    mandstaft Well-Known Member

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    Glad you are on to new adventures, Tom! Sounds like you are the "right kind" of Imagineer- one who loves what he does and never gives up the dream! Thanks for all you've done and for stopping in here.
     
  18. mandstaft

    mandstaft Well-Known Member

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    SO glad I discovered this piece! Glad its led to some discussion. :)
     
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  19. Evan-500

    Evan-500 Well-Known Member

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    This is incredible, wow. I think we all knew an Atlantis version was being dreamed up for Disneyland, but to actually hear about it from you, Tom, is wonderful. I am so sad it never came to be.

    Is there any concept that got incredibly close that never saw the light of the day that you just wish us guests could have experienced? Aside from the Subs of course!
     
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  20. Tom Thordarson

    Tom Thordarson Active Member

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    Yah....would love to have seen this happen. Below here is one of many paintings and some rough sketches of some of the characters in the media I did for the "Undersea Grand Prix"...as I mentioned was a hit with Disney internal, but was nixed by OLC. It was like "star Tours" on steroids....a wacky "race" underwater with sea creature subs and a breed of intelligent "sea beings" like the humanoid shark pilot...etc.
    I was proposing a high def CG media and a very immersive small FX's theater. We were supposed to be like the other whale sub you see here at the "starting line laser" in the distant center of this color painting......in a pod under the belly of a large mechanical whale sub. OLC just thought it far too "wacky" and "funny" for such a "serious subject" as the sea.
    Here I found some of my sketches for this ride someone posted a few years ago on the internet. Not sure why or how they got them and the quality is not the best but here they are.
    60.jpg
    Electric eel sub concept, Disney.jpg
    59.jpg
    Character design for .jpg
    All above images C Disney
     

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