Theme parks are my favorite form of art. For me, my fascination with them comes from how they are cities in a bottle, little encapsulations of civilization itself. In them, imagination is made reality, and Art is brought together with Science to create an experience that so far only they can pull off. All Art exists to bring some sliver of someone’s imagination to some sliver of reality, and what theme parks can do is unify numerous disciplines of human endeavor to bring a much larger shard of imagination to a much larger shard of reality.
Disney parks in particular adopt a story-oriented perspective for bringing their parks to life. From its beginning, the people in charge of building Disneyland were artists first. The natural outcome of this was great care for details in the execution. This focus on story detail permeates their work, from not only their artistic choices but to their engineering choices as well. When an artist asked for something, the engineers at Disney try to do what they are asked, law of physics be dammed. Like magicians, Disney’s imagineers use science to bend guests perceptions of reality, and make fantasy seem real. Science ordinarily is used either to tell Chronicles of reality, describing the laws of the Universe, or for an increase in productivity for economic development. And while Disney certainly does not miss the economic potential of their theme parks, Science here has the opportunity to be used for the telling it Sagas, fantastic expressions of cultural psyche.
The vehicle by which these stories are told is the crafted environment that is the park itself. While there are obvious elements to environmental story telling, like period buildings, costumed characters, and themed food, but even things like the texture of the concrete, the style of fixtures, and the overall layout and crowd flow of the area in relation to its points of interest ask contribute to the story and the feeling of the story. These are non obvious things and are not typically considered artistic forms because of their perfunctory nature in outside civilization in our cities, but still Disney cares to take attention on them because to a guest’s experience, those details do matter, even if not on a conscious level. Even if it is for only a short time, guests “live” within the theme park for their visit, and their basic needs like food, water, water, etc must be cared for, and Disney does so to the utmost degree, never compromising the story elements of their particular land. As an aside, it seems funny to the author that we do this in the private “city” that is theme parks, but not in our real cities which actually generate the wealth and civilization that can consume the theme park…
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