Thursday, February 26, 2015

4 Walt Disney World Attractions that Exemplify Imagineering-ness

     Disney is constantly inventing, tweaking, and plussing their parks. The entire Imagineering department of the company is dedicated to nothing but adding new facets to the Disney theme park experience. There is a spirit among these people that is always moving, re-imagining, and somehow never at rest. Imagineering never really pats itself on the back. Today, I want to share the four attractions that I think show the true heart of Imagineering in Walt Disney World. My criteria are as follows: The attraction must give the guest more than they were expecting. It must break new ground in some way. It must be a powerful positive experience for the guest.

  1. Haunted Mansion: For this one, I could have chosen Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, or a series of other attractions. They all possess the same intangible quality that has turned them into cult-ish sensations in Disney Parks. In the Haunted Mansion, Disney could have simply created some scary rooms and a couple ghost figures and called it good. However, they chose to create ground-breaking illusions by contracting special-effects experts in their field, hire professional musicians and song-writers to create the original and catchy score, bring in fantastic voice actors to be your ghost hosts, and write and stick to a story that is continuous throughout the entire attraction. You want to see Disney Imagineering at its most classic? Ride the Haunted Mansion.
  2. Expedition Everest: I have to explain this one a bit. Many of you will notice that Expedition Everest is the same story and principle of Matterhorn Bobsleds in Disneyland Park. However, Expedition Everest is a massive improvement on that ride. Disney could have built a Matterhorn ride in Disney World. It would have been incredibly popular! However, they instead sent a huge team of researchers to Nepal, built the most complicated Animatronic figure every created for the new Yeti, and to a "t" recreated a Nepalese village at the base of Mount Everest. Further? They made a ride that is smooth, thrilling, tells a story, and goes backward and forward. This is a masterpiece. In Disneyland, Walt created the first steel-roller coaster ever. In Walt Disney World, the Imagineers took that concept and turned it into something spectacular and newly innovative.

  3. Kilimanjaro Safaris Disney's Safari ride is unique. Sure there are other rides that you can go on which will show you animals from a vehicle. They're everywhere. Disney here took that idea and plussed it over and over until they made something fantastic. What is so ground-breaking here? Well, when you go through the ride, it seems like all of the animals exist in the same area. It feels like you are simply travelling through an open-area, and like one animal could go where it wants. You can't see a bit of the enclosure. However, Disney has expertly hidden walls, wires, and other little tricks which keep the lions away from the giraffe. In addition, there is a story here. The animals are actors in the story in which you are a part. There is a point to this ride: poaching is wrong because the animals of Africa are worth protecting. Disney is standing for something.
  4. Tower of Terror: For the sake of this article, I am referring to the Hollywood Studios version in Florida. You'll see why. In the Tower of Terror, Disney took two ideas and combined them. First, they took the story of a haunted hotel, full of detail and hidden story elements. It is a perfect, beautiful, absorbent aesthetic experience. To this, they added an up-and-down style thrill ride. With the combination of these two elements, they created a thrilling, exciting, beautiful, story-based attraction. The real kicks here are the surprises. Guests go on expecting to get into an elevator and go up and down real' fast. However, once you get up to the right floor, you start moving... forward. you move through a vortex of hotel/twilight zone space, and are shocked when you suddenly find yourself in an elevator shaft being dropped or lifted in random sequence. This attraction is a perfect example of Disney doing much more than guests are expecting. 
     Which attractions would you have chosen for this article? 
     Thanks for reading!