Prologue Room from the Living Library

Living Library: 2014 Disney Imaginations Design Competition

This project was conceived by the Savannah College of Art & Design Team and created for the 2014 Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition. This project is the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and all rights to use these ideas are exclusive to Walt Disney Imagineering. The competition is a way for students and recent graduates to showcase their talents and for Walt Disney Imagineering to identify new talent.
All content ©2014 Walt Disney Corporation, Walt Disney Imagineering and the 2014 Disney Imaginations design competition.

The Living Library was a team project created for the Disney Imaginations design competition. My primary role on our four-person team was producing illustration and concept artwork. The design brief from Walt Disney Imagineering was as follows:

PROJECT CHALLENGE - There are many wonderful urban environments around the world where millions of people live, work and play every day. Select a large and densely populated urban area, and design an experience that temporarily or permanently transforms the city for the enjoyment of its citizens and visitors. The experience must take advantage of existing infrastructure, and may be above, below or anywhere in between existing development.

We developed a concept called The Living Library, a one of a kind experience that blends storytelling, gameplay and learning in a real, fully interactive, fully immersive themed environment. The concept is housed in San Francisco’s Candlestick park, the former home of the San Francisco 49ers, and makes use of all aspects of the stadium, from the surrounding concourses to the central bowl, even the sub-levels beneath the building. The Living Library allows guests to be active participants in some of their favorite stories, giving them a chance to really live out these Disney adventures. Guests move through themed environments (made up of both physical and projected effects) and must solve various puzzles and challenges in order to move on (think Legends of the Hidden Temple on steroids). Eventually, guests work their way to the center of the stadium where they find themselves in a massive recreation of Peter Pan’s Neverland.

These concept sketches became our starting point for a story-driven adventure with many paths going forward.

library sketch library sketch library sketch Prologue Room
Prologue Room from the Living Library

When guests enter the Living Library, they are escorted to a small reading room, or what we call the prologue room. While in this prologue room, they are told to find a specific book and place it on a pedestal in the center of the room. Initially the pages are blank, but as they look closer, writing begins to appear and the entire room comes to life. Guests discover that the room they are in is the beginning of a new story, one that will be “written” as they experience it.

Prologue Room

A key element of the concept for the Living Library was our puzzle rooms, or “chapter rooms” as we often called them as each represented the next chapter in the story that guests were living. We had alot of talk over what these puzzle rooms would be, how they would function, and what impact they would have on the overall experience.

Chapter Rooms

We wanted to make our rooms adaptable to make sure guests had as unique an experience as possible every time they visited. One way to do this would be to make each room support multiple puzzles and challenges. For example, this early rendering of a pirate themed environment had many possibilities.

Pirate variations

A guest may have been in this room during a past visit, but the tasks they had to accomplish then would not necessarily be what they need to accomplish now. Guests could have collected skulls last time, but now perhaps they have to raise a series of flags in order to move on to the next room.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Another element necessary to maintain the perceived randomness of the experience was to design quick change rooms, that is, “blank canvas” areas that could be rethemed instantly using practical effects and projection technology to become an entirely different Disney property. You can see this idea at work in these two rooms, one themed to Tarzan and the other themed to Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones

A key turning point in our design process was deciding whether the puzzle room experience should involve multiple Disney environments (i.e. guests jumping from Toy Story to Cindarella to Mulan to Wall-E) or if guests should progress through a single story to maintain continuity. We finally decided that we didn’t want to limit the capabilities of the facility by only having four or five environments. Also, we thought this ran counterintuitive to how kids play with their toys. Jeff, our 3D modeller and animator, made one of the best points in defense of this idea during our presentation. He noted that when kids play they don’t separate their toys by intellectual property, keeping Monsters University toys over here and Mickey Mouse Club toys over there. Everything is in the toybox and everything is part of that imaginative story they are creating.

To ease the potentially jarring effect of transitioning between unrelated environments, we developed the “adventure guide” concept, a sage-like Disney character that guests would choose at the outset of their adventure through the Living Library. This guide would appear in “transition hallways” as a projected effect on a fog screen (similar to the projected Davy Jones or Blackbeard found on Pirates of the Caribbean rides in Disney parks) and would help cleanse guests’ sensory pallets and prep them for their next experience.

Rafiki, your adventure guide
Alice in Wonderland Hedge Maze
Snow White and the Dwarfs Mine

With all these different Disney story lines, there are bound to be a few that no one in the group likes. How do we keep families from experiencing Oliver and Company or Home on the Range (two films that, for whatever reason came up quite often when our team was discussing not irritating the guests—btw, James Earl Jones came up often as well, but that’s an entirely different story) when absolutely no one in the group enjoys either film? We decided that the Living Library system, called Oracle, should be tightly integrated with MyMagic+, part of Disney’s NextGen initiative. We would encourage guests to establish a personal profile in which they could choose favorite characters and stories. This would ensure that no one got Dinosaur if no one liked it. (It’s worth noting that dad’s number one favorite character is Jessica Rabbit. Mom isn’t much better, however, as three of her favorite characters are all played by Johnny Depp, not to mention Ty Pennington is bringing up the rear…)

Magic Bands & Guest Personalization

The entire experience culminates in Neverland, a huge, open-air playground in the middle of the stadium. These sketches, based on a watercolor map created by our team leader Morgan Richardson, show the concept development.

Neverland sketch
Entering Neverland sketch
Entering Neverland

Of course, since the Living Library is a theme park, there will be plenty to eat and guests are always encouraged to visit the gift shop.

Ending Gift Shop
Beauty and the Beast
Jungle Book Temple
Grandmother Willow
Living Library Lobby
Nightmare Before Christmas
Toy Story
Attraction Poster