No Ordinary Woman.
Christy Durham enjoys going to Walt Disney World by herself.
That’s not a sentence one hears very often, but the Disney enthusiast says that she enjoys the environment, and the people watching. “I’m not sure if this is a real word or not, but Disney gives me this sense of escapism,” she says. “I feel like I can leave all my worries and troubles behind, and just be fully immersed in a world of joy and good times”. Christy swears by this feeling and often invites her friends, family, and co-workers to go to Disney with her. “Although, they have to be able to keep up with me when I go to the parks” she mentioned.
Keeping up with Christy is no easy task. At 75 years old, Christy looks and acts like she’s 50. “I do this thing that helps me prepare for my Disney trips,” she explains. “It’s called “wogging”. It’s one mile walking, one mile jogging. I do this for ten miles every morning. It gives me the stamina and endurance to get through a day at Disney. Think of it like training for a marathon.”
Anyone that knows Christy or has been on a Disney trip with her knows that she’s not kidding. She takes it very seriously, and if you can’t keep up, then you’ll be left in the dust.
Christy’s first time at Walt Disney World was less than a year after it opened, and the Portland native has been there 37 times since. She has the knowledge and experience to make her very wise when it comes to all things related to Disney Parks. However, she says the parks are rapidly changing. “The technology is so new and high tech, I don’t know how they’re going to keep up with it,” she says.
New Technology? Whose idea was that?
Christy’s right, Disney has been putting out new rides and technology faster than a vending machine gives someone a candy bar. With the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, guests will soon be able to experience the amazing new attractions. But this new ride technology has been paired up with another new game-changer, hyper-immersive theming within the land. With the opening of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Hollywood Studios, as well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando and Hollywood, this type of hyper immersive theming continues to be a trend. This trend of the combination of new, groundbreaking technology and hyper-immersive theming could be the future of theme parks.
Everyone knows that Walt Disney is the mastermind of coming up with the idea of Disneyland. However, Walt’s vision and dreams all started with a mouse. Mickey Mouse helped shaped what the Disney parks are today. “Walt’s interest using all media to bring Mickey and his stories to a wide audience sent Mickey journeying into comics, books, radio, television, and eventually Disneyland. Taking Mickey’s stories across media gave the character different ways to express his personality and to reach out to and engage with the audience” (Lee, 12). Because of Mickey’s popularity, the immersion of the mouse with Disneyland, and his appeal with the audience, Mickey helped skyrocket Disneyland’s success and Disneyland continues to be popular until this day.
However, that isn’t the only reason why Disney parks are popular. The use of theming and technology make the Disney parks stand out beyond their competition. In regards to one of Disney’s many theme parks, Cher Krause Knight mentions that “For some guests, Epcot will be their first taste of a new technology or another culture” (Knight, 138). This is true, Disney offers loads of new technology every year to keep up with the constant demand. To please guests and keep them on their feet, putting out these new experiences will keep them coming back year after year.
Who Feels Nostalgic?
Guests also come back for another big reason, the constant theming that brings a sense of nostalgia. “It was found that this nostalgia is used to distract audience members from the problems they are facing outside the theme park and encourage the development of positive feelings” (Cox). That first walk down Main Street USA will forever live in the memory of park guests, bringing good feelings and causing joy. The incredible theming is what brings the park guests back to Disneyland over and over again.
Disneyland isn’t the only theme park that makes money off its sense of nostalgia. Emily Mackay, the marketing director at Oak’s Amusement Park in Portland Oregon, believes that the reason why the park has lasted so long is its sense of nostalgia. “Oak’s Park is one of the nation’s top 10 oldest amusement parks” she says. “Oak’s Amusement Park is rich in history and culture and has been an important staple in Portland’s history for over 100 years”. Its sense of nostalgia and accessibility is what sets it apart from other big-name theme parks. “We don’t feel any competition from Disney or Universal” Emily explains. “Disney is a park you go to once every 5 years. Oak’s Park is a park you go to once a week in the summertime.”
When asked about the rides at Oak’s Amusement Park, Emily explained they stayed more towards vintage types of rides, with a few new types of rides here and there. “We have a new roller coaster and the Screamin’ Eagle, but most of our attractions are vintage, such as the roller rink,” she says. “It’s based more towards families and little kids. We hope in the future to introduce new types of rides and experiences for our customers and the people of Portland.”
However, Oak’s Park is getting backlash from the lack of theming. “We get a lot of guests confused why we’re considered an amusement park, and not a theme park,” Emily explains. “We receive a lot of backlash from migrated Californians saying that there’s not enough to do, and they don’t feel like they’re at a theme park. They just aren’t used to this type of amusement park.”
Theming vs. Technology? Who will win the competition?
The new openings of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland brings a new level of theming to the parks. “The contemporary world is increasingly converging towards the characteristics of the Disney theme parks. This process of convergence is revealed in: the growing influence of themed environments in settings like restaurants, shops, hotels, tourism and zoos” (Bryman).
Disney Parks have helped create a culture of theming around the United States, and one can see it everywhere from Las Vegas to New York City, Anaheim to Orlando. Because of this trend, Disney has created new competition in theming with its rival, Universal Studios. This is evident with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Kim Lapaglia, editor of Disney Food Blog, a very prestigious Disney media outlet says “Theme parks provide guests with an entire experience and days worth of touring opportunities. The immersion into their brand begins when you enter the parking lot and delivers all day and all night. And likely leads you to stay in a themed hotel for at least one night as well. This type of park is a destination. During your vacation, you play, sleep, and eat while escaping reality”. This new idea of immersive theming, amusement parks will never have the simple theming that Walt originally thought of.
Due to this competition for the most immersive experience, the future of theme parks will most likely be based upon this idea of nostalgic and impressive theming and new technology that brings in the consumers of the parks. Kim Lapaglia says “To compete with the upcoming Universal’s Super World of Nintendo, Disney Imagineers will be tasked to find ways to plus the experience of Disney World visitors. Innovation and imagination are hallmarks of the Disney brand. Right now, Disney is working on an Avengers Campus. Rumors of a 5th gate persist as well”.
Most likely, there will continue to grow a bigger rivalry between the two theme parks and how they can create a new immersive experience with the best technology that outranks all the competitors. In regards to this belief, Kim also asks “Will Disney open a 5th park at Walt Disney World for the 50th anniversary? If so, we may see a highly immersive villains experience. Plus, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel is going to be a game-changer! This will be an immersive vacation experience from check-in to check-out”. The technology and theming are forever improving and changing, and this trend will continue on.
Escapism. It’s a word.
When asked what Christy thought about all of this, she said, “New technology will stay, and this will be a forever trend. With the new rides opening up, the constant competition to be the best, and the new obsession with smartphones, technology will never go out of style.”
But what about the theming? Christy wants to remind everyone of her word escapism, and that “as long as there is want for escapism, there will always be a need for theming. Nostalgic or futuristic, I’ll take it all.”
Lee, Newton., and Madej, Krystina. Disney Stories : Getting to Digital. 1st ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2014. Web.
Knight, Cher Krause. Power and Paradise in Walt Disney’s World, University Press of Florida, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/osu/detail.action?docID=1661809.
Cox, Travis L. Turning Back the Calendar : an Analysis of Main Street USA’s Use of Nostalgia. Oregon State University, 2008. https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/3r075039n
Bryman, Alan. The Disneyization of Society, SAGE Publications, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/osu/detail.action?docID=254754.
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