Authors Note: I'm not changing the tone of these articles, and I'll still be musing on things like how theme park storytelling and immersion affect our lives. I'm just taking a break from that for a moment to publish an article I've wanted to do for a while now. Enjoy.
You’ve come a long way, and it’s okay to feel proud of that. The blood, sweat, and tears — other people’s of course — you’ve put into your career has earned you a reputation for excellence among your peers. Those that know of your existence anyway, but they don’t tend to stick around for very long.
Yes, looking in the mirror, you see a somewhat different face than the one that started down this long road to success. A few more scars maybe, some cutting-edge technology grafted onto your skin, but it’s still basically the same face that made the decision to turn one single instance of childhood trauma into a lifelong dedication of exacting revenge on a world that turned its back on you.
You’ve finally made it. You set your mind to a singular goal, focused your time and energy, and achieved what so many have dreamt of yet never imagined possible. From the ground up, you’ve built a criminal empire on the precipice of global domination.
Some said it couldn’t be done. Between the pleas for mercy, begging, and bargaining attempts, out of blood-choked throats they’d gurgled hurtful words like, “You’re insane! Someone will stop you…someone has to stop you.”
You don’t focus on the negative though, and that upbeat attitude of self-actualization has paid off in a big way! Yup, you did it; you made your dream a reality. So why not go to a place where everyone believes that dreams can come true?
Why not go to Walt Disney World? You’ve certainly earned it. The only question is: Where do you want to stay?
The Hall of Presidents may not have the grandeur possessed by some of the other locations on this list, but what it lacks in ostentatious intimidation it makes up for in purpose. Repurposing the HoP into your base of operations sends a message: the most powerful government in the Western world is simply for show — a charade, meant to distract from the real seat of power hiding in plain sight. Does the man control his shadow, or does the shadow control his man? You know the answer, as you exert authority over the continent not from the White House, but from the true source of this nation’s strength.
How it might play out:
Agent Pierce Fracture wiped sweat from his brow, moisture reflecting the noonday sun from the sleeve of his tuxedo. He felt overdressed, sure, but it would all be worth it if Sara took him back.
Saraphanie Hart, photojournalist, eyelash model, just the thought of her brought back so many memories. He could almost smell her now — the scent of a summer thunderstorm hitting warm clay. This would be the vacation that would turn their on-again, off-again relationship into something serious…an on-and-on relationship, maybe. He had time to kill before his totally unexpected yet not-at-all-creepy ambush proposal, so why not cool down in the Hall of Presidents for a bit?
As he impatiently paced about the waiting area, Pierce noticed that he was now soaked with something other than sweat — he was soaked with patriotism. He was absolutely dripping with American pride. The displays in the HoP evoked the same feelings that lead him to join the armed forces, rise to the peak of military excellence, only to be transferred into the international clandestine fighting force known as the Preemptive Unit to Negate Coercion of Humanity. The organization only recruited one operative from each major nation; representing America as an agent of P.U.N.C.H. was Pierce’s proudest achievement.
Those feelings only intensified as the show’s introduction began. There were few things more powerful than Agent Fracture’s right hook, but American democracy and the ability of those in our government to use carefully crafted laws to uplift citizens from every cultural background and lifestyle put his patented punch to shame. It’s just sad to think that those same laws can be manipulated for selfish purposes by the Queston Fulchers of the world.
Wait, why was he thinking of corrupt political mastermind Queston Fulcher at such a patriotic time as this?
As he gazed at the animatronic heroes of his youth, he noticed that each of their faces were in the same likeness. No, this certainly wasn’t laziness on Disney Imagineering’s part. He’d seen the show before and marveled at the carefully sculpted presidential brows and jawlines. Each and every president, including Taft, now wore the smug visage of Queston Fulcher himself. Then, the narration began to change:
“Agent Fracture, what an unexpected surprise." The words came pouring down like potato chips thrown at a ceiling fan.
"The rest of the audience doesn’t have your mental training, and as you can see, notices nothing amiss. As my hypno-gas fills the room, they are more susceptible to suggestion. What I am suggesting is a new America, where laws are used not for liberty, but for subjugation of those without the finances to afford the freedom my government can provide. Election day will be upon us soon, and these humble vacationers will feel compelled to vote for who I tell them to.”
The animatronic presidents all turned their heads at once, eyes strobing with a sequence of blinding, hypnotic lights. Pierce had to stop this, but how?
Modern aesthetics and a truly unique exterior make this structure perfect for the overlord with a sense of style. The Contemporary houses multiple meeting spaces to keep your evil empire running. The sophisticated cuisine and above-it-all view of the California Grill makes it the perfect place to wine, dine, bribe, and threaten your way to the top of the villain food chain. The most important aspect of the Contemporary, of course, is control over the monorail system. What supervillain doesn’t want their own monorail?
How it might play out:
Agent Pierce Fracture wiped sweat from his brow as he stepped onto Disney’s monorail service. He was comforted to notice that the usual smells of recycled plastic and recycled underwear were replaced by the cool refreshing scents of cinnamon, mint, and just a hint of brimstone.
He was also surprised that there were so many helpful Disney cast members aboard, checking tickets and, for some reason, passports. Instead of their usual shirts and shorts, the cheerful staff had donned seasonal outfits of black body armor and assault rifles.
“Wait,” agent Fracture thought, “Those aren’t Mickey ears on their red armbands like I first assumed. That is a stylized avian V — the trademarked symbol of the Vulturion Corporation.”
If Vulturion’s owner — billionaire Vinston Schredger III — had taken over the monorail, then he was certainly using Fracture’s own resort of choice as a base of operations. Pierce was taking a train straight into the vulture’s nest, but he had no other options. Sara was getting ready in the separate room she had insisted upon right now. Plus, monorails can’t turn around.
Once off the monorail, Fracture ran to her room. Pounding on the door got no response from her; then again, it never did. He called her phone.
“Hello hunny bun,” rasped the voice of Vinston Thredger III, words scraping the air like iron shavings in a rock tumbler. “Sara has other plans tonight. I’ve taken her to the California Grill, I feel she could use a better class of company this evening.”
“Schredger, I swear if you hurt her…”
“Well that is up to you, Agent Fracture. We are simply enjoying a civilized meal and a wondrous view. If you stand down, things will continue as such. If you do something impulsive, like try to fight your way through the 40 highly-trained henchman guarding the elevator, well then things will go differently. I’ll be treating her to an amuse-bouche…of pain”
Schredger was powerful — old money. Like, since the invention of money, old money. He had the resources, but Pierce had something playing in his favor: codependent love and anger issues. He could save Saraphanie, but how?
Nothing says awe-inspiring majesty, or terror-inducing power, like the feared and respected animals of Africa. Have an obsession with big cats growing up? Enjoy hunting for the thrill of the kill, even “the most dangerous game”? Well, have I got a lair for you. Animal Kingdom Lodge combines grand, larger-than-life architecture with some of the best dining on Walt Disney World property — Jiko, Boma, The Mara, and Sanaa — so you can feel like an apex-predator and eat like one too. Its outstretched plains provide ample room for training your paramilitary troops; if the occasional henchman gets eaten by a lion, it’s just a lesson to the rest: don’t get lazy.
How it might play out:
Henchman Phil Blumprouder wiped moisturizer from his brow. He inherited his mother’s fair Nordic skin, and it really wasn’t doing too well with all this outdoor training.
Training was hard — like really, really hard. His lower back hurt all the time and his wrist now made this weird clicking noise when he moved it. Not every time he moved it, just when he circled it up and to the left, which he didn’t really do that much before it started making that sound. Now he couldn’t stop doing it.
As he stood in the lavatory of his henchman-issue savanna-view room, slowly circling his wrist up and to the left, he was jolted to attention by the resort-wide alarm system.
Was the lodge under siege? No, that was a different alarm, which was just a recording of cats in heat. This alarm had a bit of a melody to it; Phil hummed along, trying to place the tune.
“Oh wait,” thought Phil, “that’s ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe. Huntress Talonia is feeding someone to the lions!”
Phil wasn’t big on murder, but he loved a good spectacle. Why, that’s what brought him to Walt Disney World in the first place. Huntress Talonia’s decision to turn the peaceful savannas of the Animal Kingdom Lodge into a hunting ground and execution center, filling it with Africa’s most lethal animals, was the kind of showmanship that Phil appreciated. Ideas like that, combined with unparalleled workplace team-building exercises, were what got him on board with her stylized villainy.
Huntress Talonia knew theming, and she knew immersion. She was about to immerse some poor fool right now…immerse him in fangs! Phil chuckled at his joke and went to watch the show.
He playfully elbowed his fellow henchman, who had thoughtfully saved a good viewing spot of the execution for him. As he looked down at the victim though, a tuxedoed man with a jaw as strong as an oak doorstop and hair the color of artificially darkened olives, he couldn’t help but feel as though he knew him. Huntress Talonia’s voice came on the loudspeaker, cutting its way through the air like a sharp can lid through clam chowder.
“Now, Agent Pierce Fracture, would be an appropriate time to pray. As you are about to become it. Prey, I mean. I usually phrase these things better, I wasn’t really expecting this today and I have a lot on my plate already. Anywho, release the lions!”
Now Phil remembered where he knew the handsome, soon-to-be-cat-food man from. Agent Pierce Fracture used to be Piercey, the inspirational swimming coach at Phil’s community pool. As a child, Piercey taught him the basics of the backstroke, but more than that, he taught him self-confidence. Piercey had been the second most influential figure in Phil’s brief swimming career, coming in just behind the late, great Johnny Weissmuller.
Phil had to save him, but how?
If you need an explanation for how an attraction called “Tower of Terror” could be a great supervillain lair, your heart may not really be in this. Not only would it be wonderful to live in Hollywood Studios' Hollywood Tower Hotel, creepy-themed bellhops bringing you fresh monogrammed towels every morning, but it also has a built-in interrogation device. Yes, as it stands now, the Tower’s elevator is just a fun-filled attraction. Clearly, though, the basic nuts-and-bolts of the thing could be converted to something more sinister.
How it might play out:
Agent Pierce Fracture wiped sweat from his brow. Again. He really was not used to this humidity and it was becoming something of an annoyance.
Amidst all of the difficulty in planning, travelling, and halting terrorism that comes with a Walt Disney World vacation, it’s important to remember the emotional impact a great theme park experience can have. With that sentiment in mind, Agent Fracture decided to take a few moments and honor a fallen comrade.
Frank “Dozey” Schlubbins — not a member of P.U.N.C.H., just an average beat cop and Fracture’s best friend. Pierce recalled his last conversation with Dozey as he lay there, fatally wounded from the horse-drawn zeppelin accident which would claim his life.
“If I don’t make it back from this, I just want ya to do one thing for me Piercey. I want ya to take my badge, hold it in the palm of your hand, and open it when the elevator drops at Tower of Terror. I heard it floats Piercey, just like I’m gonna float away here soon to the great beyond…Also, tell Agatha I love her and that I see her point about Downton Abbey...things don’t have to be relatable to have entertainment value…Still not my thing though…I heard it floats…”
The Tower’s cast members were accommodating — and let’s be honest, emotionally moved — when Pierce told them of his plan to honor Dozey. So nothing seemed amiss when he was lead to his own private ride vehicle. What did strike him as odd was the conspicuous lack of a seat belt, lap bar, or restraints of any kind.
Then, coming from the loudspeaker, like bullets fired at a chalkboard, he heard a sinister cackling voice:
“Oh, poor little secret agent misses his best friend? Well, you’ll join him soon enough Fracture. You thought you were merely on an exciting Walt Disney World attraction. You’re not on the Tower of Terror, you’re on the Tower of Demise!”
“That is a way dumber name, man,” Fracture retorted. “Tower of Terror has alliteration and simplicity. It’s already pretty great. You can’t really improve on it, ya’ know?”
“Oh wait, Tower of Torture, that is what I meant to say! Took something good, made it my own. Demise was a first draft, I scrapped it but forgot to make a note on my script here. Anyway, I’m the mastermind behind officer Schlubbins’ death. Name’s Count Clydesdale. Got a bit of a horse theme, just haven’t changed the tower to reflect that yet. I’m gonna kill you now!”
“Wait, isn’t it Tower of Torture? You can’t straight out kill me, you have to drag it out for a while.”
“Fair point, Agent Fracture. Fair point. By the end of this ride, Fracture…will be broken.”
Pierce just bought himself some time, he had to find a way out of here, but how?
When you want your villain status to reach “super” you gotta go big or go home. I have personally dreamed of building a lair in Spaceship Earth since I was ten years old, and with hard work and forethought who knows? Maybe one day. The impressive scope and iconic shape complement each other to create an environment perfect for planning your world conquest. Not only that, but the tour through the history of civilization is a perfect lead-in to your insane and perverse plans for the future of humankind. It is also narrated by Dame Judi Dench, adding some much needed gravitas to your evil abode.
How it might play out:
Agent Pierce Fracture wiped sweat off his palms. He was nervous, to be sure. The countless monsters he faced on a daily basis had never shaken him, but the idea of offering his heart was truly terrifying.
In the name of the mission he had seduced foreign operatives, used his masculine wiles to his advantage and never been met with rejection. But this was real, and it was about to happen.
He reached into his pocket and palmed the ring he was given by the Czarina Anastasia — the real one — after he saved her from one of Ross Rasputin’s exploding Faberge Eggs.
“I know what you’re doing, Fracture,” Sara spoke softly as they passed the printing press display. “As a photojournalist I’ve been trained to see things clearly; as an eyelash model I’ve learned to read between the lines. The tuxedo, the flop sweat — you’re about to propose, aren’t you.”
“Well, I uh..” Pierce stammered. “Golly, I’m no good at this…I love you.”
“Let me stop you there. No, you don’t. We’ve been on four dates and I was kidnapped on three of them. I’m not saying you’re not great and all, your jaw does look like it was bent into shape from iron girders, but you’ve got to give it some time. You’ve got to give me some time. Get to know me beyond the glamorous life of eyelash modeling and Pulitzer-prize-winning photography. Take it slow.”
“Yeah, I get it. Take it slow. Let’s just relax and be in the moment. Yeah. I can do that for you.”
That moment would be short-lived, as a voice came on the loudspeaker, words playing off the attraction's phenomenal acoustics like ax handles in a concrete mixer.
“It seems you’ve got your futures all figured out, Agent Fracture. Miss Hart, it’s wonderful to have you here as well. Why, we’ll need all the couples we can find on Spaceship Earth.”
“Umbrich Holsterfeld!” the couple shouted in unison.
“Yes, it is I. As we have such a long past, the three of us, it is only fitting you are present to see the final step of my plans. Just as man fought his way through harsh winters, hunting mammoths in the ice, increasing knowledge and civilization beyond the written word, to computers, to space travel, my plans for humankind have also evolved. You are not simply on Spaceship Earth — you are on Spaceship Earth. I have been selecting riders, couples mostly, and housing them for our future civilization.”
A rumbling began reverberating throughout the structure, strong enough to create an uncomfortable rattling sensation in Fracture’s teeth.
“Those sounds you just noticed, those are booster rockets being fired up. Yes, I’m taking Spaceship Earth into space, where we will find a new planet and build a new civilization in my perfect image. One which I hope you’ll be part of. A refusal to comply would be…unfortunate.”
Pierce turned to Sarah, gazed deeply in her eyes — the color of snow after it melts atop a warm tractor hood — and knew she, for once, felt the same as he did. They had to stop Umbrich Holsterfeld’s mad plans, but how?