Park Hopping in VR

As an early adopter of digital cameras (my first was purchased in 1996), I am no stranger to adopting new tech before the rest of the world decides it’s useful.

In the early 2000s, I became fascinated with panoramic photography. I learned about special mirrors that let a camera take 360 panoramic photos with just one shot. Around 2005 I purchased a SurroundPhoto attachment and a Nokia camera specifically to use for this purpose. Here is what an image looked like:

SurroundPhoto one-shot 360 mirror lens.

If you’ve ever looked at the files that come out of a modern RICOH Theta VR camera, you will find this image a bit familiar.

Using special software, this weird image could be flattened out into a panorama:

Disneyland 2005 panorama taken with the SurroundPhoto.

I had already created a virtual tour of Disneyland by taking four pictures in each spot (facing north, south, west and east) and linking them all together as web pages with a custom program I wrote. I wanted to do the next version using 360 panorama VR-style photos.

Someday maybe I will.

I had also gotten my first digital camcorder in 1999 and was recording everything I was allowed to during my Disney trips. I have hundreds of tapes rotting away in storage. Some of them are in 3-D thanks to learning about the NuView camcorder attachment:

MuView 3-D camcorder attachment.

This odd device attached to the front of any pre-HD camcorder and used a special lens system to record what a left and right eye would see as separate scan lines in the old video signal.

I took this with me on a few trips and recorded a few hours of 3-D video, which I could later convert to red/blue anaglyph. I made copies of my 3-D home movies available on DVD (because I also was an early adopter of a machine that could burn DVDs). It’s hard to believe that burning DVDs was a big deal. (Somewhere I still have tons of the paper red/blue 3-D glasses.)

After that, I was an early adopter of HD video (even though I wouldn’t own an HD TV until years later). I still have many tapes I have yet to even look at.

Someday maybe I will.

And as far as “real” VR goes, I did get to play Dactyl Nightmare, the first consumer VR experience, at a Dave and Buster’s near Dallas back around 1993 or so. I then saw a demonstration of VR at Epcot in 1995, then got to play DisneyVR at the Tomorrowland Starcade at Disneyland in 1996.

DisneyVR at the Disneyland Starcade on May 20, 1996.

Yet somehow I missed adopting VR at home, beyond playing with a “put your phone in this thing” Google cardboard device.

So apologies for this announcement being so late.

Ladies and gentlemen . . . in VR! in VR.

You don’t seem too impressed.

Maybe someday you will.

My abandoned Disney theme park book project…

I recently stumbled across eight chapters of a Disneyland/Walt Disney World book I was working on a long, long time ago. Today, there are hundreds of such books, and many speciality book publishing companies (such as Theme Park Press) that publish niche books like these. But back then, well, we had some Disney history books, and official and unofficial guides, and that was about it.

I thought I’d share an excerpt from a draft of the opening to one of my chapters — Disneyland for Walt Disney World Fans — which, as I read through the whole thing, still seems as applicable today as it was back in the early 2000s. (This project was started in the late 90s as Disneyland was building Disney’s California Adventure and becoming a “resort”, and revisions where being made after that expansion.)

Let’s take a quick look… I’m commenting out some of the text due to it being laughably out-of-date (several places I mentioned back then don’t even exist today), but hopefully you’ll get the idea…

Chapter __ – Disneyland for Walt Disney World Fans

If you are a Walt Disney World fan, you should already have an idea of just what Disney World is, at least to you.

What the Disneyland Resort Isn’t

The Disneyland Resort is not a huge, sprawling entertainment complex sitting on 43 square miles or property with endless golf courses, outdoor activities, and resorts. It has no water parks, no nightclubs, and no campgrounds. Instead, it is two theme parks, three high end hotels, and a shopping district featuring touristy eateries.

If you could spend an entire week in Florida and happily never set foot on one of the four Disney theme parks there, a vacation to Disneyland may not be a fitting alternative.

But, if you cherish all things Disney, and enjoy rides and theming…


A Disneyland Resort vacation can be augmented with several non-Disney theme parks and experiences that are nearby.

  • Knott’s Berry Farm – Just fifteen minutes away is one of the original theme parks in America – Knott’s Berry Farm. (I’d visited Knott’s numerous times by then, and was considering devoting a small section to what it had to offer. Since then, Knott’s has been purchased by Cedar Fair and it has become much more of a coaster thrill park.)
  • Universal Studios Hollywood – Located within an hour away (depending on traffic) is the orignial famous Hollywood studio tour. (This was another area where I had a section dealing with the major “must see” offerings at Universal, as well as a comparison between the Hollywood and Orlando versions. With the addition of Islands of Adventure, I would have had to expand upon that quite a bit.)
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain…(Since I grew up in a state that had, at one point, THREE Six Flags parks, I probably wrote a bit too much about Magic Mountain. Ultimately, it would have been a parallel to going to Busch Gardens or similar in Orlando.)
  • SeaWorld – …(Another bi-coastal comparison. The idea was to pitch “Disneyland + SeaWorld” versus “Magic Kingdom + SeaWorld” but ultimately, I would have also included things like the San Diego Zoo and other unique California offerings.)…
  • Legoland – …(I had not yet even begun to write about Legoland.)…
  • …(I had planned to do some visits to the various parks so I could speak about them with more knowledge than what a brochure gave me)…

Water Parks

Although none of the local water park attractions can come close to the immersive attention to detail that Disney’s Florida water parks offer, for those who just want to get soaked, slide or swim, there are plenty of Southern California generic water park experiences to be had.

  • …(list and disucssion of various nearby waterparks; again, without first-hand experience with them, there would have been some research involved)…

Touristy Attractions

Just like the nearby International Drive near Disney World is full of more tourist attractions, shows and experiences than you could comfortably shake a stick at (let alone expect to see them all even after many visits), the Disneyland Resort area is also home to similar experiences.

  • Medieval Times – …
  • …(there are so many of these around here; I was going to base this on a similar project I was planning to do on Wisconsin Dells. Likewise, there was a similar section about the touristy things to do near Walt Disney World)…

And so on…

Since I still have a chance to resurrect this project through a new publisher (sadly, the original went out of business years ago), I won’t go into further details. But, I will say that it mostly covered common things found at both resorts (i.e., the apples to apples comparison) rather than trying to compare a golf course in Orlando to a swimming pool at the Disneyland Hotel.

I certainly enjoyed spending a few evenings reading through my early ramblings, and I hope you enjoyed this quick peek at what could have been (and maybe one day still will be).

Until next time…

My Haunted Mansion text adventure from 2002.

Apologies for digressing away from digital photo essays for a moment, but I thought I’d share something else from my archives.

Growing up in the 1970s with a dad who liked gadgets, I was exposed to lots of early digital tech. I recall playing PONG at a Shakees pizza parlor with my father, and him bringing home the first home PONG game (and various others afterwards, including the very first Atari VCS game console). In the early 1980s, instead of getting me a new game machine, he suggested a home computer. In 1982, I became a computer nerd. (For more on this, you can visit my Sub-Etha Software site and see screen shots of some of the early “video games” I wrote.) It was through that early home computer that I first learned of text adventures which, at some point, became “interactive fiction.” (I think this is the same type of thing as comic books becoming graphic novels.)

But I digress. From my digression. I think.

After being laid off from my tech job after 9/11, I was looking for work and trying to learn “new” skills. (This layoff is why there is a one-year gap in my Disney photos around that time.)

I thought this “Java” thing sounded interesting*, so I got a book and started learning it. Since many roads lead to Disney with me, I decided to write something Disney related. I decided to write a text adventure based on the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.

*Side Note: I actually had been working at the first company to license SUN’s Java for embedded use, and one of my coworkers was on the Embedded Java committee at the time. It sounded funner for me to treat it as something new and quaint, considering how old and almost obsolete it is these days.

The start of my Haunted Mansion text adventure written in Java back in 2002.

When coming up with an adventure game, one of the first things you create is a map showing all he locations. Since the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions both were a bit different (load area, Library room only at Magic Kingdom, different locations of Little Leota, etc.), I decided I would create a map that could represent either Mansion, depending on which route you took as you moved through the game.

Here’s the map, representing a two story building with an attic. (The graveyard was not yet mapped out.)

You would start in the foyer (lower left block of the first floor), then depending on your route, you would go through the rooms of Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.

For example, in either Mansion, you would go from the Foyer north into the portrait Gallery. Then, if you were following the Magic Kingdom version (that does not have the storm hallway and changing portraits), you would head east to the load hallway (where you’d get on the Doom Buggies), and then immediately be at some stairs.

For the Disneyland version, you’d start in the Foyer and go norther to the portrait Gallery, then continue north through the storm and changing portrait corridor, then past the “follow you” busts and then to where the stairs are (at the end of the loading area).

It may seem a bit confusing, but if you follow the route on the map correctly you will go through all the scenes in the proper order for each version of the ride. There were also some new rooms included, which were just part of the game. For example, a Magic Kingdom in the load hallway, there is a chicken exit door. I had a secret room behind that door in the game, and did that with some of the hallway of doors as well. I even allowed you to go down the “endless hallway” (where the candle is floating) and explore some of the doors there, AND get into the ballroom where the dining table, dancers and organ are. I even included a kitchen. I mean, there had to be one, right?

My game would also play sound loops for different sections of the games. Most folks were still using dial-up Internet back then, so sound files had to be small and short, but I had loops that would play in the storm hallway, the ballroom, load area, etc. that were taken from the actual ride.

It was a fun project. The full game was never completed, but I did have it so you could walk through all the rooms, see descriptions, pick up and drop various objects, etc. I was even working on a GUI for the game which would show a photo of the room, and let you click buttons on the screen to choose a direction (and maybe even simple commands like GET, DROP, etc.).

In the unlikely even that you have Java enabled in your web browser (which I don’t think anyone should, at this point, due to all the security issues over the year), an early prototype of this game is still on my website:

I suppose I should rewrite in in JavaScript sometime and finish it.

And then, there’s also the Disneyland Main Street adventure that I was working on with Refurb Mike…

Map for my Disneyland Main Street adventure game in 2002.

Until next time…

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