|The first hand carved rock formation on the TMMC, McKennon Arch|
First off, what we're really modeling here is a specific type of geology - not just random "rocks." One thing that makes the artificial rocks at Disney parks so convincing is the Imagineers basic understanding of the geologic features required for place-making in their story. In the case of the Big Thunder attractions Tony Baxter and his team did a great deal of research into places like Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon to make their make-believe formations look and feel believable.
|Bryce Canyon National Park, UT|
|Big Thunder Mountain, Disneyland, CA. |
See the resemblance?
|Monument Valley, AZ-UT|
|Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom|
Going Back to the Source
While I could just attempt to recreate what exists in the parks, I find it more fun and interesting to do a little "imagineering" of my own and try to design things with the same sort of process that WDI uses. That means going back to the original sources of inspiration and building from there. Personally, my favorite formations in the southwest are located in and around Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, an area in which I've spent a lot of time and know fairly well.
|Park Avenue, Arches National Park|
|The Organ, Arches National Park|
|Delicate Arch, Arches National Park|
So, now, with the geology of a specific region chosen the job of recreating it in miniature can really begin. The Moab area has several thick layers of red sandstone known collectively as the Entrada formation. These layers erode into fanciful fins, balancing rocks, arches and bridges. Just below the Entrada is the lumpy, limestone Carmel formation which often resembles stacked blocks of stone and forms pedestals for the balanced rocks and hoodoos above. Below the Carmel formation is the cream colored Navajo Sandstone, a dome forming layer which is actually the petrified remains of an ancient blowing sand desert. Understanding where these layers are in relation to each other and how they characteristically erode brings a unified design to the entire model and a certain believability that just randomly placing rocks could never duplicate.
Building a Butte
|Baxter's Butte (so far) on the TMMC.|