Recently Joe Rhode had an intagram post on the “themed entertainment environment”. Reading it and thinking about this concept was a big “aha” for me on why I love theme parks and maybe travel in general.
To paraphrase Rhode, a great themed entertainment environment both transports you to place that is out of the day to day ordinary, but has a cohesiveness, richness and pattern to it that lets your brain easily accept your presence in that place. In this way, “Themed entertainment environments are refuges from chaos and lack of meaning”.
So this got me thinking. I always knew I love to travel to places where I could see something I have never seen before, but I usually thought of this as scenic vistas or city scapes. It never occurred to me that there was much much more than the visual at play in the places that truly inspired. Sounds, smells, how humid or dry the air is, lighting all work together to create the theme of a place.
Each one of these aspects is powerful: Boston reminds me of London partly because some of the architecture is similar, but mostly because they are at the same lattitude and the quality of the sunlight is the same.
Rhode also discusses how cohesiveness is important in themed entertainment because the brain doesn’t have to work as hard to take it all in. There is less “noise”. Our brains like pattern. This explains my “favorite places” I have traveled to - they are the ones that immediately put my mind at ease. Cities like Paris and Geneva stick with me in a way New York City does not (I love New York, but it is probably only cohesive in its lack of cohesiveness!) The landscape of Southern Utah has both novelty (to someone who grew up in North Carolina) and pattern making it one of my very favorite places to visit. Experiencing this combination is really at the heart of my travel bug.
This brings me to Disney. I have realized that man-made novelty for the purposes of entertainment, work just as well for me as what nature or civilization make. If it is done well. It doesn’t even have to be an entire park - it can be a ride like some of the original best of Disney. (I’m looking at you Haunted Mansion). This is one reason why crowds are problematic. When crowds are too large, they disrupt our sense of pattern, place and meaning. Getting stuck in the masses leaving Fantasyland by the tangled toilets is not a “refuge from chaos”. This is also why disruption of sight lines is a problem. It breaks up the pattern or cohesiveness of the place that makes it so pleasing. This is also where Iger got it partly wrong. People don’t have to be familiar with a place through IP to truly enjoy being in a themed entertainment environment.
So yesterday, all of the press articles about Black Spire Outpost came out. And they convinced me that this is going to be themed entertainment at its best.
Reading this article (which contains spoilers!) I am very hopeful the Imagineers have built a completely immersive, cohesive environment that will be totally new, but also familiar to someone who grew up with these movies. This is where Iger got it right. I think that familiarity and being immersed in it will truly take Galaxy’s Edge to the next level of themed entertainment. And I can’t wait.
Does this resonate with why you love Disney? Even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan is Galaxy’s Edge something you think you would enjoy?
***Note - I have never been to Universal and I am sure I would love the Harry Potter. Also, the crowds will most likely be an issue as discussed above.