23 August 2011

The happiest cruise that ever sailed

There are some things in Walt Disney World that almost never get talked about, but are so blatantly obvious. Case in point, the backgrounds of almost any dark ride in Walt Disney World. To illustrate this point, we’re going to look at a preopening photograph of It’s A Small World.Taken in 1971, the eye is almost immediately drawn to the riding crop wielding tour guide, mother and two young girls gazing up in wonder at the spectacle unfolding before them. Beyond the group, however, we are then moved to explore the visuals presented in the form of a Ferris wheel and steamboat, both swaying and swinging as their miniature Mary Blair occupants sing along to the classic melody. Beyond that, the eye is pulled towards the glittering stylized plants and other fuzzy show pieces displayed in the background. By this time we think we’ve seen all there is to see in such a photograph, or attraction if we happen to be so lucky as to actually be taking part in a trip to Walt Disney World, and move along. What we almost always overlook are the blank, black walls that reside around and above the set pieces of the attraction.

These empty spaces are more a part of the story than you may realize. For attractions like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean, the darkness helps relate the fact that the stories are taking place at nighttime. The other reason for the unadorned backdrops is to create space behind and above the focal points and to produce a contrast for the colorful pieces in play throughout the various dark rides.

No matter how you look at it, the black backgrounds are overlooked, and that is precisely why they are there. As for our photograph from It’s A Small World, isn’t it great to see that attraction hasn’t been changed too drastically in the past forty years?

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