23 November 2009

The world they live in

Signs and walls have a lot of power over guests at Walt Disney World. While there are plenty of people who are there to ride everything in as quick a manner as possible, there are also guests who’s pace is just a bit slower, even if it is their first visit, and relies upon the sights, sounds, and descriptive information of the world around them as they carve their our adventurous path throughout the many available experiences. Similarly, refurbishment walls, while disheartening when surrounding your favorite attraction, can inform, entertain, and spawn wild imaginary images of what may be going on behind them or what awaits us when they come down.

The first line of attack for an attraction is the way it is presented in the various park guides. While headliner attractions are sure to be easy draws, every attraction must find its hook that makes guest want to absolutely see what the experience has to offer. Over the past almost four decades, however, park maps have changed the way they present what an attraction is. Don’t believe me? Here is a slice of how the Magic Kingdom Guidebooks and Guidemaps have altered their verbal teaser for one of the marquee Adventureland attractions, the Jungle Cruise.

1972 – Board an explorer’s launch for a “danger-filled” cruise down tropical rivers of the world.
1985 – Board an explorer’s launch for a “danger-filled” cruise down tropical rivers of the world.
1991 – Dodge danger as your fearless guide pilots your launch along the rivers of the world.
2005 – Take a whimsical cruise through jungle rivers.
2009 – Silly safari boat tour.

If asked to pick one of these attractions, which one would you be making a mad dash for at rope drop?

But all is not lost, while the paper guides that many guests cling to, and enthusiasts gather on their way out the gates for their collection, the witty wordplay to draws in guests is not entirely lost inside the parks. In fact, the current sign at the entrance to the Jungle Cruise reads:

Board a jungle boat to travel exotic rivers of the world, guided by a witty and experienced skipper.

Now, that is a tempting proposition!

Refurbishment walls, while keeping guests out not drawing them in, must impart a similar sense of longing. Eliciting a response of breath-holding until an attraction opens, or reopens, rather than the discouraging effect of a closure must be the goal of the refurbishment walls. When the beloved Haunted Mansion shuttered its crypts for a period several years ago walls complete with brick pillars, planters, gates, and a note from Master Gracey sprung up. Even Phineas, Ezra, and Gus, otherwise known as the hitchhiking ghosts, got in on the act.

As with all highly trafficked areas, there is always routine upgrades and maintenance that must be completed in and around Walt Disney World. The key here is to make sure that the mundane is also seen as a part of the on stage attraction to the area the construction happens to be in. From a lift being used on the Tomorrowland refurbishment being listed as property of Tomorrowland Public Works to using quotes from Walt Disney, the world outside has to blend in with the world that has been created.I have said it before, words have power. How something is described can tailor the guests reaction to it. Whether it is a refurbishment wall with the moving words of Walt Disney or a sign luring guests to their fictitious doom, Walt Disney World has the power to dispel negative thoughts, entice wild ideas, and keep the smiles flowing. It all boils down to meaning what you say and saying what you mean.

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