My family and I are going to Disney World soon. Most families take such trips to please the younger members of the family, but we go there for me. It is not the most relaxing place, of course; the planning I put into a Disney World trip rivals the effort I used to put into law school exams. But "The Happiest Place on Earth" is one of my happiest places, too.
I started attending Disney parks when I was in elementary school back in the early to mid-1970’s (a/k/a The Dark Ages to those individuals born never knowing the hardships we suffered without smart phones and Google.) We lived in San Diego then, and visited Disneyland a few times. My memories of those trips are happy ones. I may be one of the few people who remember using tickets for the rides, rather than a single admission price for everything. The tickets were graded A through E, and cost different amounts. “A” tickets were for the smallest, slowest, least thrilling rides, and “E” tickets were for the most popular, most thrilling rides. Visitors bought ticket books at kiosks in the park with differing amounts of all 5 tickets in them.
From the first visit, I was hooked. Disney keeps their parks scrupulously clean, and their service is impeccable. I’ve never had a bad visit to any of them.
These days, since we live in the Southeast, we travel to Disney World. As I’ve gotten older and done more writing, I’ve discovered a second reason I love Disney parks – their total immersion in a story. Every ride at a Disney park has its own story. Every area of each park has a theme, and that theme is reflected even in the most minute details.
When you wait in line for a ride (and trust me, you will be waiting in line for a lot of rides), the story behind each ride is set out around you in the decorations and displays designed to keep you distracted from the fact that you just spent 60 minutes standing in line for a five-minute ride. The ambience created by the attention to detail is unique to each ride. I not only ride the rides for fun, but also to study the setting and details for the rides and try to glean lessons from Disney’s story telling methods to my own writing.
The new Pandora area at Animal Kingdom is a perfect example of the attention to detail. Based on the world of the movie “Avatar,” called Pandora, rock formations float in the sky, and exotic flora and fauna line the pathways. Pandora is especially striking at night – just like in the movie, the vegetation emits an otherworldly bioluminescent glow. As you get near one of the two main rides in Pandora, called Flights of Passage, the line transforms into a hiking trail alongside a waterfall. As you travel along the hiking trail, you learn that 100 years have passed since the time of the original movie. A group of the Na’vi and humans are working to clean up pollution left by a mining company that threatens the entire planet. You go through a deserted control room left by the mining company, but as you exit the deserted control room, you see that Pandora’s vegetation is beginning to reclaim the building. By the time you reach the ride, a simulated flight on an animal called a banshee, you are completely immersed. What a wonderful way to tell a tale!
What places do you visit that help you tell stories?