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  • [Question] How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

    It's apparent with a park like DCA that the theming is evolving into something quite different than what was originally designed. You see the same thing in Disneyland - although they had a much broader variety of themes to work with from the "get-go". I'm always a little amused by the "Theming Police" who are so vocal about any perceived breach of theming. The culture keeps changing - Disney wants to capitalize on their new movies - and the public is constantly looking for something new and relevant. It's got to be a challenge for the Imagineers to find the right balance as they continue to move through this evolution process. I suppose it would be preferable if Disney avoided movie tie-ins entirely - as most movies tend to become less relevant over the years (i.e. Swiss Family Treehouse & 20,000 leagues submarine voyage) - but on the other hand, it's pretty hard to pass up the promotional opportunity of capitalizing on the popularity of Jack Sparrow or Nemo. I guess the question comes comes down to how important is having a consistent theme in your "theme park"? Should every ride be forced to fit into strictly defined themes - or should those themes just serve as a general guideline. Would you rather have fresh ideas "shoehorned" into existing "lands"? What happens a theme park ends up with too many themes?

    What do you think?

  • #2
    Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

    I think it is very important that Disneyland themes things well. I go there for a bit of escapism from the real world, and to feel like a kid again.... After the issues with DCA, you would think that Disney would get it.If I wanted to go to a park w/o theming, I would just continue to go to Lagoon all the time. Theming is what makes Disneyland sooo special. I don't mind the movie tie ins, as long as they are done well.
    Last edited by Jazziered; 11-28-2009, 03:03 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

      With theming, you have Matterhorn Bobsleds. Music, costumes, architecture, ice caves, monster, crystals, waterfalls, splashdown in an alpine lake. No movie tie-in but still the complete experience.



      Without theming, you have Mulholland Madness.



      I'd just as soon have them drop the whole "California" theme and just consider the whole resort as one park, and let each part of DCA have its own independent theme. It would develop more character.

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      • #4
        Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

        The way a lot of things are going right now, each ride should have its own theme lol. But I'm crossing my fingers that this billion dollar upgrade will somehow include all theming into California.
        "The views and opinions expressed on this post are mine and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of The Walt Disney Company."

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        • #5
          Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

          "The way a lot of things are going right now, each ride should have its own theme lol."

          I love great theming. But, keeping all the rides in a given land closely themed must seem very restricting if an imagineer comes up with a fabulous new idea that doesn't easily fit into any of the existing lands that an adeuquate amount of square footage.

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          • #6
            Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

            I think themes are important, they add to the atmosphere of the Resort and the rides themselves. Stepping into the different lands and seeing the elaborate designs is just awesome, I even have fun waiting in line getting to see the story elements from some of my favorite movies brought to life in front of me. A few good examples is the experience of waiting in line for Indiana Jones as it sets up the journey you're about to take (the temple, the spiked heads, the tutorial interview to name a few). Or heading into the Haunted Mansion and seeing the graves outside, the statues, and the house itself. I tell my good buddy Matt (who's going to Disneyland for the first time in February) all the time how cool the atmosphere of the park as a whole is and theming puts the Disneyland experience above other theme parks, in my opinion.
            "It matters not how strait the gate how charged with Punishments the scroll I am the master of my fate I am the captain of my soul" -- W.E. Henley

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            • #7
              Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

              Originally posted by Bob Weaver View Post
              With theming....



              Without theming....


              The same comparison could be set to Everest and Primeval Whirl.
              Last edited by dead_Mau5; 11-28-2009, 04:53 PM.
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              • #8
                Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

                At least Primeval Whirl has somewhat more of a theme and a back-story than Dumpster: The Ride (Mulholland Madness)

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                • #9
                  Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

                  Well, we're talking about at least two distinct topics - theme and theming. Theming is just the disguising of the park's real-world building blocks with forms and materials that create the illusion that you are somewhere else altogether. Theme, on the other hand, refers to a set of visual motifs, storytelling intentions, and so forth that are used to unify an attraction, restaurant, land, park, etc. You can't have theme without theming, but you can very easily have theming without an overriding theme. MonteJ, your original post is asking about theme, not theming, so that's all I'm going to express my opinions on. (It's also the more controversial topic, I think, so this should get interesting. )

                  Based on a combination of my personal experiences, conversations with and observations of other people, Disney's own "teachings", and common sense...I believe that deciding on a theme is very important. It's not THE most important deciding factor in a park's success - I think that will always come back to the number of exceptionally fun attractions - but it's important nonetheless.

                  When you enter an environment - let's say a land - with a clear, cohesive theme, there's a lot more potential for true immersion, for suspension of disbelief. That's an amazing feeling that allows for much more emotional connection than a confused mishmash of unrelated elements. (Unless part of the theme is that smorgasbord feeling, in which case you'd better have a good reason and be really careful about communicating that in an effective way.)

                  A common complaint, and one that's already been brought up, is that themes are restrictive. To me, this is about as valid as claiming that societies that incarcerate murderers are intolerant. Yes, to a certain degree, they are intolerant...that's the point. Intolerance and restriction are not inherently evil concepts. When they're implemented correctly, they simply weed out the bad stuff. A well-thought-out theme doesn't tell the Imagineers what they can't do - it provides them with a specific creative palette within which many superb ideas can be explored. An exemplary theme contains within it the inspiration for numerous adventures to build for the guests.

                  Now, it does indeed get trickier when you factor in Disney's understandable desire to capitalize on new, popular franchises. Those are never created with theme park themes in mind, obviously, which makes it rather more difficult to include them in the parks. But I think that the key here is intelligent balance. When a franchise comes along that happens to have clear thematic ties to an existing land, jump on it, and do a really outstanding job. Then when a tempting franchise comes along that does not have anything to do with anything in the parks, you can feel a little more comfortable opting for another franchise or an original idea instead.

                  Furthermore, Walt had the right idea in creating Fantasyland, a land that exists primarily to allow expression of the franchises in the theme park medium. IMO, if Disney is so (rightly) infatuated with Pixar's films, they should have just made a Pixarland within DCA from the get-go, theming it to the actual studios (which are in California and truly represent the Californian ideals of creative innovation!) as they later did at DHS. This allows for a cohesive, immersive theme that also allows lucrative franchises to be frequently brought into the parks.

                  Just my two cents. If my role in the derisively-named "Theming Police" provides amusement for some of y'all, I'm glad my pathetic lunacy can bring a smile to your face.

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                  • #10
                    Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

                    Originally posted by dead_Mau5 View Post
                    The same comparison could be set to Everest and Primeval Whirl.

                    They both have major backstories believe it or not.

                    Dinoland USA- specifically Dinorama has a major, in depth backstory lol- surprising right? DAK rocks

                    one hundred and one

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                    • #11
                      Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

                      Originally posted by Imagineer Scott View Post
                      Dinoland USA- specifically Dinorama has a major, in depth backstory lol- surprising right?
                      Having been there, it's not surprising. What is surprising is that they came up with an in-depth backstory for the purpose of making fantastically talented artists mimic the skills of untalented carnival ride decorators. I rode the uncomfortable and unenjoyable Primeval Whirl once - never again. Dinorama is an embarrassment in the midst of an ever-improving park full of execllent themeing.

                      So to answer the original question... theme is a great starting point and guidepost. It's definitely one of the major factors that separates the Disney parks from most of their competition. But even theme shouldn't get in the way of a good idea. If it did, we'd never have gotten the Matterhorn, which in its original Yet-less incarnation, didn't really make sense in Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. I'm glad they built it anyway.

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                      • #12
                        Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

                        Originally posted by MonteJ View Post
                        I guess the question comes comes down to how important is having a consistent theme in your "theme park"?
                        Oh, I don't know. It's only the difference between DL and Six Flags. Pssst...there's a reason Walt's ideas revolutionized the industry.

                        Should every ride be forced to fit into strictly defined themes - or should those themes just serve as a general guideline. Would you rather have fresh ideas "shoehorned" into existing "lands"? What happens a theme park ends up with too many themes?
                        No, I'd rather the Imagineers be allowed to come up w/ creative new ideas that fit within the lands as they stand. Proper theming should make you feel, as was originally intended, that you are in a real jungle outpost or a city of the future, not just someplace that's "themed" to look like a jungle outpost or a city of the future. Using theming as a general guideline dilutes this idea and makes for a less believable experience.

                        I love great theming. But, keeping all the rides in a given land closely themed must seem very restricting if an imagineer comes up with a fabulous new idea that doesn't easily fit into any of the existing lands that an adequate amount of square footage.
                        I only wish that was the problem. The real problem is, as I've said before, is politics. Currently, the "slap a character on it" school of theming rules the day. The Imagineers can come up w/ all the amazing rides they want and the only place they have a prayer of seeing the light of day is Tokyo.

                        Who knows? The next "Pirates" could be on a drawing board in Glendale right now and we'll never know...because Marketing would rather have "Haunted Mansion featuring Hannah Montana."
                        Disneyland Historic Preservation Society
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                        • #13
                          Re: How strongly do you feel about "themeing"?

                          Themeing is very, very, very, very, very, very, verrrrrrrrrry important. Themeing is what makes Disneyland, Disneyland
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                          • #14
                            Re: How strongly do you feel about &quot;themeing&quot;?

                            You're right Data - I really am refering more to whether or not a ride fits into the theme of whatever land it's in rather than whether or not the detail or quality of it's environment is what it should be. Ideally, you would have BOTH - but I think the Disney Parks are facing some unique challenges right now.

                            As old rides are replaced (for whatever reason) it seems like the Imagineers are having an increasingly difficult time replacing them with rides that fit in the existing theme of that land (i.e. Tomorrowland, Paradise Pier, Hollywood Studios, Adventureland, etc.)

                            Sometimes Disney has just put a ride into an existing space - even if the ride didn't really fit the theme. (i.e. Monster's Inc. as a replacement for Superstar Limo.)

                            Other times, they have created a new land that may or may not have deserved an entire land of it own. (i.e. Bug's Land, Toon Town, Critter Country)

                            An inherent problem with "Theme Parks" is that new rides are limited by the themes. I think that's particularly true at DCA.

                            I suppose that I personally would rather have a GREAT ride, with amazing detail & a unique atmosphere - even if it didn't fit in as well with the theme of the land it's in - but, I don't know at what point the whole experience begins to suffer when the themes become too vague or mishmashed.

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                            • #15
                              Re: How strongly do you feel about &quot;themeing&quot;?

                              Looking at your post, MonteJ, I've done a little homework on the difference of Amusement and theme parks, a theme park's entire land tells a story, an attraction fits with the land and tells a story, and the entire park tells a story. An amusement park just has random rides and shops with no coherent theme.

                              Now with that said, having a consistent theme in a Disney theme park (or any theme park) for that matter has been important ever since Disneyland was built. The five themed areas that Disney created tell a story of someone's childhood memories that everyone can relate to (i.e Main Street- growing up in the midwest, Adventureland- going to asia and exploring, Frontierland- always wanting to be a cowboy, Fantasyland- Fairy tale dreams, and Tomarrowland- going into the future).

                              History aside, theming is extremely important in any Disney attraction. Personally, I want to see some orignal attractions based on creative ideas that fit the theme of a land. But one thing people need to take into consideration is popularity and what the public likes. The Finding Nemo element of the Submarine Voyage doesn't fit the theme of Tomarrowland, no doubt, but I'll admit personally, that by going on it, I'm not a big fan of it, but it grew on me(but that is just because the Submarines were one of my favorite attractions when I was a kid). Waiting lines are very telling, and Nemo has proven to be popular with people (even on offdays, waiting lines can get up to 45 minutes), so that is not going to change; it's going to be there for a long time.

                              When it comes to applying theming to lands, this is where things get complicated. You can only put so many attractions, especially when something is limited (HPB), and even theming in a theme land as challenging as Tomarrowland can be hard. However, Disney's Imagineers makes no effort to try and expand thier creativity without using recent films as a crutch; but at the same time, when Disney created Disneyland, many of his attractions were themed to promote him films, documentaries, and TV shows, so there really is nothing to argue there.

                              Film tie-in's can work only if it is applied to the theme. Star Tours was perfect for Tomarrowland because it was applied to the "World on the move" theme, especially in transportation, which was one of the focuses of Tomarrowland (and an element of Future World). But something like BLAB (to which I'm not a big fan of) didn't fit with the theme of tomarrow, so there is an arguement there.

                              Okay, I'll stop.


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                              • #16
                                Re: How strongly do you feel about &quot;themeing&quot;?

                                Theme pretty much doesn't matter at all. Walt set rules for theme in his park when it opened, and then broke most of those himself within the first ten years.

                                Disney's true success lies in their ability to provide a product that the customers want, and adapt their themes to fill those roles. Other parks that were locked into a theme, such as Santa's Village and Knott's Berry Farm quickly learned that they needed to expand their themes or perish.

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                                • #17
                                  Re: How strongly do you feel about &quot;themeing&quot;?

                                  Originally posted by Imagineer Scott View Post
                                  Dinoland USA- specifically Dinorama has a major, in depth backstory lol- surprising right? DAK rocks
                                  Are you actually defending Dinoland USA's Dinorama?



                                  Originally posted by MrLiver View Post
                                  Theme pretty much doesn't matter at all. Walt set rules for theme in his park when it opened, and then broke most of those himself within the first ten years.

                                  Disney's true success lies in their ability to provide a product that the customers want, and adapt their themes to fill those roles. Other parks that were locked into a theme, such as Santa's Village and Knott's Berry Farm quickly learned that they needed to expand their themes or perish.

                                  Liver, there's a big difference between Walt's breaking a rule with something amazing and today's corporate culture of breaking a rule with slashing budgets and not coming up with a great idea to start.

                                  Disneyland also has many different lands... Santa's Village and Knott's Berry Farm didn't really have the same luxury. Knott's even now tried to have different themed areas but the way they handled it is quite a mess.


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                                  • #18
                                    Re: How strongly do you feel about &quot;themeing&quot;?

                                    Theme is pretty important if you want to make a the park become more than just a place you go to ride some rides, this is one of the reasons i don't like six flags.
                                    Happy Halloween!!!

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                                    • #19
                                      Re: How strongly do you feel about &quot;themeing&quot;?

                                      Originally posted by Coheteboy View Post
                                      Liver, there's a big difference between Walt's breaking a rule with something amazing and today's corporate culture of breaking a rule with slashing budgets and not coming up with a great idea to start.
                                      True. Writer Richard Pini once said something along the lines of, you have to learn the rules first, then you can decide when to break them. He was talking about grammar, if I recall correctly, but I think it applies to lots of things. This included.

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