Regardless of level of expertise or amount of passion, those who are invested in entertainment know that Disney is simply the best at what they do.
While Disney is arguably most famous for its extensive and ever-growing library of films (hello Pixar acquisition and recent Fox merger), its clear to see that peak Disney creativity lies in its many theme parks around the world. From Anaheim to Tokyo, Disney has worked tirelessly over the last 64 years to establish its reputation as best in the business.
What does Disney do so much better than its competitors to combat any serious threat of encroachment? Theming.
Disney has developed countless elaborate and ground-breaking rides over the last decade, from the VR-esque Flight of Passage in Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, to Shanghai Disneyland’s jaw-dropping rendition of Pirates of the Caribbean complete with an animatronic Davey Jones so lifelike you’ll fall out of your slightly damp seat.
However, Universal has stepped up its game as of late, especially with the advent and massive success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
So, that begs the question: What does Disney do so much better than its competitors to combat any serious threat of encroachment? Theming. And more specifically, the subtle art of the queue line.
A dedication to elaborate and immersive theming is what truly sets Disney theme parks apart from the other major players in the industry, and certainly from smaller regional and less trafficked destinations.
Regional theme parks that operate and entertain on a much smaller scale rely on charm and convenience, while Disney’s competitors focus more on the destination than the journey. Walt Disney was a storyteller above all else, and the attractions that he helped create, and those that have been crafted with his “vision” in mind, spare no expense or detail in regards to setting the scene for visitors.
Cue The Line
The queue for the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland is best described as a nostalgic and welcomed assault on the senses: the distinct smell of chlorine, a gradual transition from a sunny exterior to a cool, dank, nighttime setting complete with fireflies. Despite its simplicity, the Pirates queue accomplishes the paramount task of creating a distinct sense of place in a subtle way.
Audio is a powerful tool, and Disney is a pro at telling a story through soundtrack alone.
Audio is a powerful tool, and Disney is a pro at telling a story through soundtrack alone. The distinct story of the Jungle Cruise, which is found in Disney parks all around the world in varying forms, isn’t as black and white as some of Disney’s other attractions. However, the radio broadcast that plays over the loudspeaker, complete with 1940s big band music and news bulletins, helps guests envision themselves in a particular time and space.
The Hollywood Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando (RIP Tower of Terror in Disneyland) is another fantastic example of music as a stage-setting device, as hauntingly beautiful 1930s jazz emanates from a seemingly ghostly source and builds up an otherworldly sense of dread.
I’d Rather Wait
No one enjoys waiting in line for anything, but the queue for Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one that fans argue is worth standing in.
The lead Imagineer (Disney engineer, if you will) for Everest, Joe Rhode, traveled to Nepal with his creative team to research each and every aspect of this attraction, and it definitely shows. The museum that guests wind through as they make their way to the load station is chock full of actual artifacts from Rhode’s trip to the Himalayas, which adds authenticity and intrigue to the ride itself. Dusty camping gear and brightly colored prayer flags make it difficult to believe you’re in central Florida.
Not to mention, all of the Yeti paraphernalia that inspires thought and invites guests to debate amongst themselves about the possibility of such a creature actually existing. It’s truly a great way to pass the time.
Not to mention, the queue for the aforementioned Flight of Passage attraction holds an animatronic so impressive that guests will forget they’ve been shuffling through room after room for hours.
The Extra Mile
There’s no contest: Disney reigns supreme in the world of theming. The care and attention to detail that goes into every project that Disney undertakes is evident and abundant, and not merely focused on any singular aspect.
Disney tells stories, and great stories have a solid beginning, middle, and end. As technology continues to press on and allow for more complex possibilities, Disney theme parks press forward with one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
Immersion is the colossal cornerstone of Disney’s brand, and their unwavering dedication to well-rounded and in-depth experiences is what continues to solidify their spot at the top.