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United World Kingdom

Posted August 3, 2009 by Trader Sam

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There’s a neat Fan Board update today. In particular, I wanted to focus on Becky’s childhood United World Kingdom.

If you’ve been watching the Fan Board, then you should be aware of Becky’s large holiday layouts. Today, I learned of her source of inspiration and how it started. The email was a little large for the Fan Board, and there was an awesome hand-drawn park layout that could only be appreciated if you saw some of the details (again, too large for the Fan Board). So, I thought I’d post the story here, along with a larger park map image. Take it away, Becky . . .

A long, long time ago… in a basement far, far away…

(far away from Anaheim or Orlando anyways)

The UNITED WORLD KINGDOM was born.

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Sometime after my first visit to WDW in 1979, I was bitten by the theme park bug.  More than just as a tourist, I wanted to become an imagineer.  So, I set about designing a theme park to both rival Disney World, and bring together some of the best Disney ideas with what I thought would be better uses for their architecture.

Hey, I was 9, nothing was impossible.

The model pictured here was built and evolved on the top of a ping-pong table between 1979 and 1988, when the model was dissassembled forever.  Remnants exist, but it can never be restored.  The ping-pong table itself is long gone.

Some highlights of what this cramped model contained:

1: A shorter Main Street.
2: World architecture and exhibits including a Japanese pavillion, Eiffel tower and the Taj Mahal.
3: A Titanic exhibit.
4: A live animal Jungle Cruise.
5: A Batman ride.
6: Anime mecha.
7: A simulator to let people explore the moon.

And my personal favorite:

8: Mount Everest.  Inside was a roller coaster.  That probably doesn’t sound too original, but my coaster vehicles were WWI airplanes on separate tracks to simulate a dogfight.

The model was dissassembled in 1988, but the dream did not die.  New trains were designed and built, elevated track was constructed, the castle was redesigned and rebuilt and many more preparations to build a bigger and better model moved foreward.  But the model’s fate was sealed in the mid 90’s when I built a new tradional train layout in the space where the UWK had stood.  From then on, it was a paper theme park.

Realizing that I’d never have enough room for a true model in my small house, I started work on a map.  The Jungle Cruise evolved in the “Nile Cruise” in ancient Egypt.  Main Street got a massive hub and Frontierland a new “Mine Train” roller coaster built on an island.  The engine would disengage and set the mine cars loose for a greater thrill.  “Tomorrowland” became “Spaceport UWK” with a rocket garden and new retro-futuristic cars to race around on the track.  I placed a pirate ship in Adventureland and a giant Ferris Wheel behind the castle with “Wayne Manor” right beside it.

I scanned some of the map pages and did a rudimentary reconstruction last year.  I plan to finish that old map.

So July 17, 2010 will come and go and the UWK will not have it’s planned opening day celebration, 55 years after Disneyland.  Yes, I had some really cool rides, an inside the park hotel inside a big silver ball and the Statue of Liberty.  But the presidents won’t greet the world inside the White House, a cast of thousands won’t be moving a giant sphynx and the Titanic won’t sink regularly on the hour.

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0 Comments

  • becky:

    Thank you for posting this!

    More to come, the station is finished with some extra parts!

  • Trader Sam:

    This definitely brings back memories. I didn’t really become a big Disney theme park fan until middle school. Back then, I’d make my own versions of popular Disneyland attractions using whatever objects I had lying around. I often used Jenga blocks to build structures. Of course, nothing was permanent, so I changed things frequently. I also collected vinyl characters that used to be sold at the parks and the Disney Stores (they were in big bins), and I’d use those as in-park characters.

    • becky:

      Hiya!

      Take a close look at those pics I sent you. You may notice A LOT of styrofoam packing materials! lol Not to mention the styrofoam cups the “monorail” depended on for support!

      We didn’t have fancy shmantzy new fangled computers to draw our buildings for us back then either. If you couldn’t draw it with magic marker on old gift boxes or poster board, it didn’t get built! Paper towel tubes were great too. Wrap them in copy paper and electrical tape, add some drinking straws and a few corks, put the whole thing on an old portable record player and you’ve got yourself a nifty star jet! The Taj Mahal was a fishbowl with a funnel on top wrapped up in masking tape! Old hair curlers made the skyway buckets with christmas tree hooks to keep them on the wire! It’s hillarious how much actual crap made it’s way into the model!

      I think it was 1981 when I accquired the “Exin Castillos” building blocks I used to design my castle. The commercial models like the Statue of Liberty, White House, Robert E. Lee sidewheel riverboat and Robotech figures were acquired piece by piece out of my allowance over the years whereas the globe that got concealed with foil was a Christmas gift. The green passenger cars of the Marklin train inside the park was the final acquisition. I bought it in the summer of 88 to run in my dorm when I wasn’t working at Cedar Point. It was probably only installed for a week or two before the park came down.

      Anyhoo. Coming up with something to do with an odd shaped “something” is a talent I’m happy to say I never lost!

    • Trader Sam:

      Yes, I’m very crafty when it comes to turning nothing into something. I even used the cardboard from shoe boxes and cereal boxes as building materials. For my own Christmas Town, I never worked from any blueprints, just from my imagination, building on-the-fly. Too bad I had to give it all a dignified death last year. Letting everything slowly deteriorate because of five nosy cats would have been unjust.

  • destino:

    Wish you’d post bigger, and more photo’s from Becky’s UWK. This is wonderful stuff, and a great story!

  • Trader Sam:

    I have recently decided to increase the viewing size of the Fan Board imaged to a maximum height and width of 500 and 700, respectively. Becky usually assembles her images into a collage, so it does get a little hard to see her work. For future reference, Becky, you might want to submit the individual photos so that everyone can get a better view of each.

    Unless I’ve accidentally skipped over someone, I’ve posted every Fan Board submission ever sent to me. So, if you want to see more of Becky’s stuff, you’ll have to petition her directly.

    • becky:

      Well, I have supremely slow dial-up, I usually collage so it won’t take till a week from next Tuesday to upload them. But hey, if you guys want to see more I’ll certainly oblige!

      Unfortunately, simple 110 cameras back then were nowhere near up to the job of macro-photography. And of course, I didn’t even know what macro lenses were back then either. I learned from trial and error that I had to stick with a 3 foot focal length to get anything with those point and shoot lenses, but that usually made everything dark. It wasn’t till I moved up to 35mm that I finally got a prescious few good photos.

      If you guys want, I’ll try to edit some of those dark and blurry photos to make something out of them. However, I don’t want to over-run Sam’s site with my stuff, ya know? So I’ll leave it up to him to decide the what, whether and when’s after I send him stuff. IF, he says it’s OK, and WANTS the stuff, I’m sure he’ll post it.

      I do have a few projects on the board that are true Disney related and maybe we can figure out how to disseminate some of that material down the line too.

      I DO want to thank everyone out there that’s shown an interrest in my work!

      Becky

      • Friend of the Mouse:

        But Becky, What about Cinderella’s Castle at WDW. I have been waiting so patiently.

        • becky:

          Weeellll…what can I say.

          In simple terms, I don’t exactly know how to make it work the way I want. It’s very frustrating and that frustration has lead me to walk away from the project several times. I’ve even considered asking Sam to take over where I left off. But I suspect that wouldn’t make a difference, he’d start over from scratch and do it his way (which is awesome by the way). I’ve also wished half-heartedly that he’d do it anyways and beat me to the punch. I guess I feel like my work isn’t up to the standards you all expect.

          When I design, I use Metasequoia, a rudimentary 3D rendering program that’s available free on the net. I’ve tried to use Blender, but I just can’t figure it out. And since I have experience with Metaseq, I can usually work faster when the designing mood hits me.

          After the 3D model is created using primitive shapes, I send it over to Pepakura Designer 1.1 to unfold it into 2D patterns. Many of my polygons get broken up into barely distinguishable pieces. I then have to re-assemble them on the sheets into the parts I want to have. Then I have to print all the parts in this simple form, scan them with my printer into photoshop (since I can’t save Pepakura files right now) and do all the artwork from there.

          Once in Photoshop 2.0, I reference against whatever photos I’ve been able to find to create as reasonable a facsimilie of the real thing as my limited software and knowledge of it can handle. And often the photos of the details I need are grainy at best when enlarged.

          When the parts sheets look good, I print and build, piece by piece, section by section. Along the line I may decide that the finished model will be too light when finished, so I go back and rework the parts and build over from scratch to see how the new version looks beside the old. This can happen several times, and I tend to get burned-out on the idea of castle building pretty quick.

          As of today, The outer walls with all the turrets of the base level are in pretty good shape. However they DO need more detail, so I’ve been planning to start reworking them as soon as I had enough cardstock and toner to handle it all. That just became possible today after a trip to Staples. Inside the base, I’ve created a network of support walls to hold up the roof and upper levels of the castle, which is where the most complicated architecture is. I also want to rework the tunnel which I’m not happy with.

          Day before yesterday I started re-doing Space Mountain, my old build hasn’t weathered very well and it’s time for a new clean version in my collection. In conjunction with that, I’m redoing the RCA sign and WDW style blue base with special reinforcements to lengthen the time between my rebuilds.

          So, that’s what I’ve been up to. In the interviening time since I last had a “Disney state of mind”, I’ve built a dozen rockets including the Space Shuttle Challenger on the launch pad. I’ve done half a dozen Japanese castles, and about a bazillion greeting cards. I built mineature versions of the Big Thunder Mountain Train and Moonliner too. Plus, I spend a lot of time restoring and repairing old toy trains.

          Yesterday, I was so touched by everyone’s interest in my old theme park concept that I decided to go back after it and maybe, just maybe get something to come of it before I die.

          Today I started rendering a model of my own old castle design in Metaseq and have 40% of it finished in just a couple of hours work. Since it’s my own design and accuracy is not an issue, I should have the model of the castle I always dreamed of but couldn’t build out of blocks in a week or so if everything goes well. I’m sorry to dissappoint, but that project has superceded anything else I want to work on at the moment. Even if Sam completed the Chateau tomorrow I’d still be hard pressed to build it until this old dream of mine is realized. I’m just too excited to concentrate on much else.

          Cinderella’s Castle is the most awe-inspiring piece of architecture I’ve ever seen, and there are few places I’d rather be in this world than sitting in it’s shadow. I want a model of it. That’s why I started my own since there aren’t any good ones out there. I’ll never understand why Disney never produced an injection molded styrene model kit of it in the past 38 years, so paper is the best I can do.

          It will get done. And somehow I’ll get it into everyone’s hands.

          Love and huggs!
          Becky

        • Trader Sam:

          I hate building multiple test models. I have it down to a science now, so I only have to build one model. Whew!

          I also get kind of sick of doing the same subject matter over and over again. That’s why I’ve waited so long to start SBC Paris. Castle after castle gets tiresome. It’s the same with sea vessels.

          Avoiding working on a paper model is a slippery slope. I have a nearly-finished Monorail Mark VII (yup, the new retro ones at Disneyland) that I haven’t worked on in just over a year. Hmmm . . . that could be an interesting post, complete with teaser photos.

      • Trader Sam:

        I’ve noticed that you always send your images as bitmaps. Why not use jpegs at 70-80% quality? Compared to bitmaps, you’ll get smaller file sizes, and you can submit larger photos.

        I received your station photos. That’s a nice build!

        • becky:

          OK, but how do I do that exactly? I’ve tried to reduce file size a number of ways and they usually just turn into crappy photos. Keep in mind I’m using Photo Deluxe 2.0, when I save as jpeg’s the pics get pixel-grainy. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

          And thank you! I like the way the station turned out too! I subscribe to a magazine that I’ve been trying to get pictures into for quite some time. I’m hoping that your station model will finally put me over the top in the “unusual toy train layouts category” enough to finally get in! So if that works out, I’ll talk to you before it gets published to get the credit you deserve.

        • Trader Sam:

          You said you have Photoshop. Just use that. Unless it’s such a relic that it can’t save as jpegs. I’m not familiar with Photoshop 2. There are also online sources that can convert your images, either directly online (uploading will take some time) or downloadable software that you can use on your computer.

          I highly recommend IrfanView to noobs and professionals alike. You can convert between file types, change sizes, change names, and do batch operations. There’s nothing like being able to convert, rename, and resize dozens (even hundreds!) of images all at once. You can overwrite the original files, or have the new images saved in a new folder. The program is a little odd at first, but once you get the hang of it and learn all of the different settings, it’s pretty powerful.

          I often use IrfanView to rename digital photos. Photos are always saved with ‘.JPG’ instead of ‘.jpg’, so I use it to rename the files. I also use it to resize artwork to within height and width requirements for my portfolio site. I really do love that little program.

  • Robert:

    Hi Sam,

    I’ve visited your Twitter Page, and Nava Design’s and i was blowing away by how the upper tower looks like the real thing. Can’t wait for more result and of course the PDF files to build my very own.

    Greeting’s Robert (Netherlands)

  • destino:

    Becky, I am really looking forward to ore of whatever you do. Nice work on the station platform! Photoshop 2 should do whatever you need it to. I usually scan my pics in at 300 resolution, which will generally fill up my screen. I’ll resize them to 640×480 at 72 dpi. Full screen image. Save it as a jpeg, medium quality. Should really be a small file. Photo deluxe never seemed to work right. It always had shortcuts that wrecked images. Use photoshop! And send in more images if you have ’em!

    • Trader Sam:

      See? Definitely use Photoshop. It’ll also give you a chance to clean up, crop, or whatever if needed. I like to use the filters to adjust color, contrast, etcetera.

      • becky:

        Well, I did. I punched up the color saturation at least 30%, worked contrast, brightness, sharpness, all the fidldy bits to get what you saw. I will work on more of the pics, but those few were the best of the best. 90% of what I have is blurry and dog-eared, and the rest look like sepiatones for some reason.

        I’ll send you a Metasequoia screen shot of what I’ve been working on the last 2 days. And it now has a name. I’ll give you some hints. She’s the Disney girl who married a prince but doesn’t have a castle of her own. She has a grotto, but no castle, which is strange all things considered.

        Becky

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