Monday, January 4, 2010

Some ideas on stuff to fill a park...

When you think of Disney parks you usually think of the big attractions - or the iconic attractions...stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or maybe Tower of Terror or Soarin'. Or maybe you think of the iconic architectural and design features - Main Street USA, the Tree of Life, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty Castle, or Spaceship Earth.

But you don't usually think of the little things. Oh, this is not to say that you don't notice them, or that the crazed Disney blogger doesn't think of this level of detail (because many of them do), just that when a casual or even not-so-casual fan thinks of Florida's theme parks, or of the Anaheim parks, the attractions and big stuff is what comes to mind.

And you need the big stuff - it's the trademark, the "weenie" as Walt would call it. But there is so much little detail in these parks that people will pay to look at, to enjoy, to make a part of the overall experience, and I don't have to tell this to a major Disney fan. They know it. They know where the stuff is, what it does, maybe some of the history of the details.

Some of it is Disney-specific, like the windows. Those names in the windows, along with the business they "advertise", that's Disney history. Only at a Disney park will you see something like that. But there are some details, some "smaller" things, that might translate to a smaller theme park.

I've always loved trains. There's a little train set-up back near the Germany pavilion in World Showcase that is always fun for me to look at for a few minutes (at least). Around Christmas my family usually goes to the John Hancock building in Chicago at least once to look at their model train set-up,and we stand there and stare at the trains and also at the other pieces that are in motion. And Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has one of the biggest train set-ups in the world. There are always people crowded around these displays, studying the trains and the buildings and the details incorporated into the set-ups. The MSI's train setup tells us a story, that of transportation between Chicago and Seattle. The story includes the features of the lands between the two cities, as well as trying to represent the people and the towns between them.

I've often thought that those Department 56 village collections are cut from the same cloth. The level of detail you can incorporate in your village is limited only by your imagination and your artistic skill. The buildings are very fun to collect and put together in a representation of the town of your dreams.

Has anyone ever heard of a "Cabinet of Curiosities"? These were the forebears to our museums of natural history and collections. The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin is sort of a "cabinet of curiosities", in that it presents collections of stuff that, while not authenticated or curated in a rigorous manner, give the viewer plenty to look at and wonder over. Douglas Preston and Lee Child used this phrase as the title of one of their Pendergast novels, and gave their readers a little historical insight into the existence of these collections. There is plenty to be curious about, and collecting and displaying this sort of stuff could be a lot of fun, for both the collector and one experiencing the collections.

I've always been interested in the technology that goes into rock concert stage shows. You know what I mean, we've been watching things explode up on stage there for years. Some cutting edge video technology is used nowadays. Sound system technology is very advanced. The instruments even get into the act. Could an exhibit like this be used in some sort of themed exhibition? Or maybe a "Rock Band" or "Band Hero" type of attraction?

I like the idea of a micro-zoo or a micro-botanical garden also. (I like the idea of a bigger version of both of these types of attractions, but we're talking about something that will fit within a theme park.) Depending on what the theme is, some sort of exhibit featuring animal life, or using plant life to give a lush-ness to the surroundings is highly desirable.

There is a big old device at the Museum of Science and Industry, I think it's called Jolly-Ball or something like that. It follows the progress of a ball through a big vertical board, where the ball rides down tracks, through troughs, through spirals, up elevators, in miniature streetcars, through a boat, and more. It takes about 5 minutes to complete its journey, and I've never seen it without a bunch of kids standing there watching it, or waiting for it to begin. My kids are usually right there in the front. It's hypnotic, to stand there and watch the thing.

Stuff like this is the sort of stuff I could see using in a themed environment to give the guests plenty to look at besides experiencing whatever would be the signature attractions of the park. More thinking out loud coming...I think...

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