Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Makes a Disney Park - Disney?

Photo Copyright The Pro Football Hall of Fame

In case anyone hasn't seen it - the Pro Football Hall of Fame has made quite a splash lately with the announcement of the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village. The Pro Football Hall of Fame President envisions the devolpment as a football "Disney World". The village will be based around the current Hall of Fame campus in Canton Ohio, and will be a $700 million mixed-use development including a hotel, and an indoor amusement park themed around football called the "Hall of Fame Experience".

According to an article which ran in the USA Today, Hall of Fame President David Baker commented;

"If Disney (properties) are the 'Happiest Place on Earth,' " Baker says, "we want to be the 'Most Inspiring Place on Earth.'
"Football is a great metaphor for leadership, and we can play a role. The game has an incredible history, and kids can get to learn to play the game the right way. We can help build men and women the right way. We can help take care of players — former players like our 'Gold Jackets' (a term used to refer to living Hall of Famers), present and future players. We can enhance the experience for fans."
So thinking about the fact that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has "Disney" aspirations - I wanted to spend some time and discuss what makes a Disney theme park - well "Disney". Understanding what makes Disney parks so special is key to our mission here at Save The Magic. It's helpful to understand what should be saved, and what is so special and unique about Disney parks.

  • Walt originally conceived of Disneyland as a place where families could all have fun together. At the core - the very first principle of Disney Parks is an inclusive environment that all can enjoy. Walt hated having to watch his kids play while he was stuck on a park bench. Fun for all is the basis upon which disney parks are built. 
  • Disney parks provide for isolation from the real world. They allow a visitor to have a suspension of disbelief, and nothing in a Disney Park should shatter the illusion during your visit. 
  • Disney parks are generally clean, safe, well maintained & landscaped.
  • Disney parks are based on telling stories and carry a "theme", and are theme based. Everything from the landscaping, to the retail, to the attractions all carry the story and continue the theme. 
  • Attractions are not "Rides", and each attraction is heavily realistically themed, and is themed to the appropriate area of the park where the attraction is housed. Most importantly each attraction is a medium to tell a story. 
  • Nothing should be out of place - nothing should be discordant. For example, you should not have a cowboy in tomorrowland. 
  • Disney parks have a sense of order. Order is the goal in a Disney park. Guests dont feel threatened while at the park, but rather guests have a sense of reassurance. Disney parks communicate that the world is actually "ok". This reassurance comes from several places at a Disney park. Some of the feeling of reassurance comes from the design and subject matter of the park. Some of the reassurance comes from communicating to people thorough nostalgia and memories. (For example Main Street reflects a time that never was (at least not how it is presented) but more a time that people may have wished was. This communicates a warm sense of nostalgia, and level sets the guest's experience with the right mindset.)
  • Disney parks are planned environments. Things don't happen in a hap-hazard way within the Disney park environment. Everything is controlled, from the environment to the number of choices that are presented to you in any given area. Attractions are not just jammed into any open space available, but rather planed in such as way as to advance the story of a given area. Everything in a Disney Park is also a faithful replica of the real. 
  • Disney parks exist to tell stories, and most of the stories told in a Disney park are told visually, in high quality. Part of the visual story telling is interaction with characters from Disney stories. 
  • Transitions between themed areas is handled artfully and with the utmost skill. For example moving from Main Street into Tomorrowland seems normal and natural. 
  • Disney parks have Wienies. That is a term that was coined by Walt. But the idea is you can put a Wienie on an end of a stick and entice a dog to follow it - by the same token good theme park design always allows for something to draw the visitor forward. For example, the castle at the end of Main Street draws you forth into the park. 
  • Last, and certainly not least, but Disney Parks always focus on the details, for it is in the details that the experience is made. For example Disney will use a very expenseive glass chandelier in a restaurant serving in-expensive hot dogs. Could they have skimped on the chandelier and used something much cheaper? Of course - but the key point is that it wouldn't be as authentic and it wouldn't be as good. Details are important. 
So there you have it - a short list of the things which are key to making a Disney park - "Disney". In the coming weeks I will be taking each of these topics, and will be looking at them more in depth in an effort to show just what is worth saving, and what is being lost.

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