Vote of the week: Knowing the secrets of theme park design

By Robert Niles: Yeah, I’m a geek about theme parks. I love learning the tricks of how attractions work. As editor of Theme Park Insider, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with many theme park attraction designers over the years, including Walt Disney Imagineers and designers from Universal Creative and SeaWorld.

Scale model of the New Fantasyland
The scale model of the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, on display at the Disney Parks and Recreation “Carousel of Projects” pavilion presented by Walt Disney Imagineers at the D23 Expo in Anaheim this month.

Yet as curious as I am about the details of so many theme park attractions, I can’t get these pros to give up their secrets. It’s an extension of the magicians’ code: They’re not going to “break the magic” by telling you how its done.

But is that really necessary? Is it always true that if someone knows the secret of a trick, he’s less impressed with it?

Personally, I don’t think so. I’ve spent plenty of time backstage at the Magic Kingdom, and that experience didn’t cause me to love theme parks any less. My work at Walt Disney World actually intensified my love of the parks. Seeing the inner workings of Audio Animatronics and ride systems didn’t break the spell for me – they cast a spell that’s led me to spend so much time visiting and reporting on theme parks.

I do know people who feel the opposite, though. They know don’t want to know how things work; they just want to enjoy the show. So I thought this would make for a great Vote of the Week discussion.

Over the long term, do you think you’d like theme park attractions more, or less, if you knew more about the technology and tricks that made them work? Do the tech details turn you off, or turn you on – making you feel more connected to the ride or show and the people who produced it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please, if you’ve been a long-time lurker and have an opinion on this, consider this your invitation to jump in and leave a comment. And, as always, thanks for reading Theme Park Insider.

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