The Waiting Game By Will Wiess

“We spent a whole afternoon and only rode two rides. I’m sure you can understand our disappointment.”

“We paid close to $50 a person to wait in line for almost an hour…I plan to urge others to avoid it (the park) at all costs.”

“I’m tired of waiting hours in line for just a 2 sec. ride.”

If you’ve ever wondered how wait times are affecting the major theme parks, pay close attention to some of the complaints registered with With no existing research able to accurately monitor the impact, it is an issue long ignored by many park designers. In most cases, shortening those waits equate to increased costs for parks. It is argued, standing in line is an accepted by-product of any theme or amusement park.

But all that is starting to change.

At present, nine major U.S. park chains have, or will soon implement, various versions of the ride reservation system. Disney recently adopted their own, dubbed Fast Pass, for most of their theme parks. (Though some have credited them with pioneering the system, the idea isn’t a new one; time tickets have been used successfully at World Fairs for years.) The concept is fairly simple. Guests insert their “passport” into an electronic turnstile, after which a receipt prints out their reserved time in which to board a specific attraction with a minimal wait. By evening the demand, they hope to decrease hourly wait times.

They must be doing something right; after nearly two years of testing, Universal launched their own system, known as Universal Express. Paramount and Busch are both following suit.

But it doesn’t stop there. The future could very well be found in a few Six Flags owned properties, who recently introduced the Lo-Q System. While pagers issued to guests allow them to effectively plan their entire day of rides, they can also act as a locating device. (By the way, other Six Flags parks use a time ticket system called Fast Lane.)

So why the sudden change of heart? Exit surveys are becoming increasing filled with comments similar to those found on PlanetFeedback. The fact is, we live in a wired world where time has become a precious commodity. Guests are ever more irritated with paying exorbitant gate fees, only to stand in line for the average four-minute ride. In rare cases, outright violence is the end result. Not long ago, a Disneyland Cast Member was assaulted by an irate guest who had mistaken him for someone cutting in line.

But the benefits of line reduction programs go well beyond guest satisfaction. As customers waste somewhere around 25 per cent of their day in line, the parks are missing out on time (and money) spent in restaurants and shops. With an industry serving 316 million guests per year (according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), the remuneration is potentially enormous.

There are countless ways at accomplishing this reduction, some more economically feasible than others. Let’s take a quick look at just a few:

Increase hourly capacity. This is the obvious first choice, though probably not the most cost efficient one. For a major “E-Ticket” attraction, Disney shoots for somewhere around 1600 riders per hour. Increasing the capacity could mean anything from extra vehicles to a quicker experience. You can count on one thing, though: it’s going to cost.

Effectively communicate attractions with shorter waits on a regular basis. Most of the major parks keep a time board, showing current waits for major attractions, near a central hub. Simply adding more of these around the park could result in a dramatic difference. Likewise, successfully advertising off-peak times to the general public could also prove beneficial.

Use a ride coupon system. A practice commonly used by fairs and carnivals, Disney also once utilized ride tickets. This is where the term “E-Ticket,” now only a name reserved for their most expensive attractions, first came about. Instead of today’s “passport,” guests purchased coupon books with ride tickets marked A through E. The latter was reserved for the most popular attractions, like the Matterhorn Bobsleds or the Submarine Voyage. Again, the goal was to even the demand and encourage guests to experience each attraction. (It should be noted, however, that most customers tend to favor the perceived value of a single-priced pass.)

Leave out the queue altogether and opt for a large pre-show. While this is an idea that could dramatically affect capacity, it may not be feasible for all types of attractions. Incorporate your park into a single, cohesive story. It seems feasible for future designers to create a park where guests are encouraged to experience each “chapter.”

In the end, it will probably never be economically practical to fully eliminate the lines. Hundreds of millions of visitors will hit the turnstiles of worldwide parks this year, resulting in thousands of waiting hours. Therefore, when it comes to guest satisfaction and return, it’s the details that become all the more important. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Create thematically related distractions. Numerous parks have incorporated show stories into their queuing areas, and many have added guest interaction. Good examples include Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Men In Black: Alien Attack.

Beware of spatial layout. The trick is to develop queues that encourage the perception of progress. Narrow, winding queues, similar to Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure, is one way to pull it off. Rarely is there a point where guests can see how long the line is ahead of them, allowing for the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Curb unused resources. Guests want to know that all personnel and equipment are being used to their full extent. Idle operators and unfilled ride vehicles will very quickly add to their frustration.

It’s easy to see that there are a million things we can pay attention to when focusing on the reduction of lines. One thing is very clear: this is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite an uncertain economy, theme park attendance is on the rise. You can be certain that those with the least amount of waiting will win in more ways than one.

Will Wiess is a freelance writer for the themed entertainment industry.

An Introduction to Themed Attraction Design: Defining Terms

An Introduction to Themed Attraction Design: Defining Terms

The following is a general overview of the terms and terminology you will encounter as a theme park designer. The terms are a combination of those you will see in theater, engineering, theme park operations, architecture and more. A theme park designer must know all of these terms to be able to communicate effectively with the various disciplines involved in the design of theme park attractions. This is not a comprehensive list, but it is useful nonetheless.

“Ride Vehicle” – The vehicle that guests board to experience an attraction.

“E-Ticket” – Back when the original Disneyland opened in 1955, your paid admission included a ticket book. Attractions were grouped from A to E depending on the popularity of the ride. Each book came with a certain amount of tickets for each type of attraction. The E Tickets were the most popular attractions, and thus, the term stuck. An E Ticket attraction has become synonymous with the highest budget, highest thrill attractions.

“OPS” – Theme Park Operations. This department is tasked with operating the theme park attraction, to safely load and unload guests from the ride, and to keep it running at maximum capacity.

“Theming” – Any prop, set, or otherwise extraneous material used in creating a themed environment. Example of use, 1) “We need some more theming here on this wall.” 2) “This piece of theming has fallen off the wall.”

“Iron ride” – A ride with little or no theming.

“Show Action Equipment” – Mechanical devices that control an element of a ride system, an animatronic figure, special effects, pyrotechnics or lighting. Often installed as a stand-alone piece of equipment meant to perform a specific function.

“Dark Ride” – Typically, these small rides were composed a ride vehicle of 2-6 riders, a track that winds through a series of theater flats and painted sets, separated by “bump” doors.  Most of the early Fantasyland rides at Disneyland are dark rides.   Examples of this are: Mr.Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. Newer dark rides include Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin (Disneyland) and Winnie the Pooh (Magic Kingdom, WDW). Dark rides are the staple of a theme park because they are story-oriented rides and generally focus on a storytelling experience.

“Motion simulator” –  The name “motion simulator” probably originated from the fact that Star Tours was originally developed from a Boeing 747 flight simulator in the mid-1980s. Examples of motion simulators are numerous, but two of the motion simulators are Star Tours at Disneyland and Back to the Future at Universal Studios. One characteristic of motion simulators is their high fatigue factors as few people feel comfortable in a motion simulator longer than about 4 minutes.

“Motion base” – The machinery that moves the motion simulator. A motion base sits between the ride vehicle and the ground.  Recently, designers have gone one further step in ride development by putting a motion base on a ride track.   Examples of this type of attraction are:  Earthquake at Universal Studios Florida, Cat-In-The-Hat at Islands of Adventure, Winnie the Pooh at the Magic Kingdom, Spiderman at Islands of Adventure, Journey into Imagination and Test Track at EPCOT, Indiana Jones at Disneyland and Countdown to Extinction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  These are some of the newest and most expensive rides because of all the extra technology that goes into them.

“Gobo” – A piece of metal or glass, which fits into the gate of a profile spot and projects a pattern onto the set. Gobos can be very complex. They are first fitted into a gobo holder. Holders vary in size (each type of lantern requires a different size), although the gobos themselves are of a standard size. Most basic gobos are made of metal but very complex patterns can be created on glass gobos. Also called Template.

“Muslin” – Material used in construction of soft flats. Also used to make mock-up costumes.

“Flume Ride” – A flume ride is any type of ride that utilizes a channel of water to carry the ride vehicle.  Examples of flume rides are numerous as they date back to the earliest American amusement parks in tunnels of love.  Log flume rides are common throughout the world today, as are roaring rapids river rides.  Good examples of these types of rides are Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

“Proscenium” – The outlining frame of the stage opening that separates the house from the stage. Also called the Proscenium Arch.

“THRC” – Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity. A simple calculation that multiplies the number of riders in each ride vehicle by the number of dispatches per hour.

“Dispatch” – A dispatch occurs each time a ride vehicle is launched from the load platform.

“Dispatch Interval” – The time between dispatches.

“Load Platform” – The area where guests are safely loaded onto an attraction ride vehicle.

“Steel Coaster” – A roller coaster that has structural components primarily made of steel. Steel coasters are faster, smoother and can be made to perform a varied number of inverted maneuvers including loops and cork-screws.  Some ride manufacturers specialize in steel coasters, some specialize in “woodies,” and some manufacture both.  The first steel tube coaster was invented by Arrow Dynamics for Disneyland in the 1950’s (The Matterhorn Bobsleds). Generally, wooden coasters are slower, bumpier, and do not loop.

“Inverted Coaster” – A coaster that hangs from the track.

“EPCOT” – Every Paycheck Comes on Thursday.

“Costume” – The uniform worn by a theme park employee. Especially while working in a themed environment.

“Set Dressing” – Items on a set which are not actually used by anyone but which make it look more realistic (e.g. curtains over a window, a bowl of flowers on a table, and so on).

“Ride envelope” – The area of space within a ride vehicle must remain within while passing through the show. The ride envelope often includes clearance so that a guest may not hurt himself by reaching out of the ride vehicle.

“Velours” – Curtains hung both to mask the backstage area and to shape the onstage area.”

“Cyc Lights” – Type of powerful lighting instruments used to light the cyc with a smooth wash.

“Cyclorama” – Also known as a cyc. 1) A very large piece of white fabric, tensioned on two or more sides, which covers the entire back wall of the stage. It can be lit in various colors or have slides or gobos projected onto it. 2) A curved drop or wall used as a background to partially enclose the set. Quite often used to depict the sky. May be painted or lit.

“Scrim” – A gossamer screen-like material that, depending upon which side it is lit may appear either transparent or opaque. May be painted or unpainted.

“Flat” – A theatrical set element composed of plywood. Usually approximately 2″ thick. Painted flats may be used in a variety of ways to enhance a set design.

“Entertainment” – Actors, singers, dancers, characters and other show-oriented performers.

“Barn Door” – An arrangement of four metal leaves placed in front of the lenses of certain kinds of spotlight to control the shape of the light beam.

“Merchandise” – The department responsible for the selling of goods at retail locations.

“Cycle Time” – The actual time it takes for a ride to dispatch, advance through the attraction, unload, advance, load, and then dispatch once again.

“Wait Time” – The time spent waiting in line for an attraction.

“Lap Bar” – Used to secure a guest into a ride vehicle.

“Bump Door” – In a dark ride, a bump door often separates one show scene from the next. A ride vehicle bumps the bump door in order to drive it open.

“Scenic package” – What theme park designers usually assemble in order to communicate the creative ideas for a ride. Also called a “Show Package” or a “Show Set Package”

“Line” – The People standing waiting for their turn to ride on an attraction.

“Queue” – The serpentine building or holding area where the people stand. For example,1) “The queue area was completely full.” 2)”Would you please go open up some more queue?”

“Queue Rail” – Railing used to define a queue.

“Queue Rope” – Rope used to define a queue.

“Stantion” – A post, approximately 36-42″ in height. Often used with rope to create a temporary or permanent queue.

“Blue Sky” – A brainstorming session where ideas and loose concepts are generated.

“Schematic Design” – Blue Sky concepts are translated into the first working plans, sections and elevations.

“Concept Design” – Similar to blue sky.

“Design Development” – Schematic Designs are refined and many changes are finalized or refined to a nearly permanent condition.

“Contract Documents” – The final drawing package where all the necessary elements of a theme park ride, show or attraction are included.

“WED” – WED Enterprises was the company that originally created Disneyland. WED stands for Walter Elias Disney. Later, WED was changed to Walt Disney Imagineering.

“MAPO” – Manufacturing And Production Organization is located in North Hollywood. It originally started as the division of WED responsible for Audio-Animatronics. The first Animatronic built by WED was the robin in the 1964 film, Mary Poppins. The success of the film and the robin lead to the name MAPO (MAry POppins). After the division moved to its larger site, the name became the acronym it is today.

“WDI” – Walt Disney Imagineering.

“Universal Creative” – Universal Studios’ version of WDI.

“Pulse” – Sometimes rides allow a large group of guests to enter an attraction or queue all at the same time. This is called a pulse system. Usually associated with a pre-show.

“Pre-show” – Builds the story prior to the actual attraction. Examples of a pre-show are numerous and go all the way back to the original audio-animatronic figure “Jose – the McCaw” at The Enchanted Tiki room at Disneyland.

“Foliage” – The trees and foliage that the horticulture department installs in a theme park overnight.

“Ride Operator” – The employee who operates an attraction.

“Static Prop” – A Prop in a show set that does not move.

“Animated Prop” – A Prop in a show set that has movement (animation).

“Show set” – Synonymous with “show scene.” A set or series of sets specifically designed to advance the storyline of a theme park experience.

“Animatronics” – Any robotic figure designed to resemble a human, animal or other character on an attraction. Animatronics may have a single movement, or several complex sequences of programmed moves and sound. In general, an animatronic has at least some animation by nature.

“Animation” – The plural form of Animatronics. Example, “All of the animation went down at Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“101” – The Disney code for an attraction that is experiencing technically difficulties to the point where guests are no longer being cycled through the attraction.

“102” – The status of a ride that has just reopened after a 101.

“Show Scene” -A show scene is a set design translated for use in a theme park attraction. A theme park attraction is usually broken up into a series of show scenes. Each one of these scenes is meant to tell a single story. Sometimes there may be a single show scene for each room. Sometimes a single room can have multiple show scenes. The scene includes the set design, props, animatronics, lighting, f/x, and architecture.

“On Stage” – Any area that a theme park guest can see.

“Back Stage” – Any area usually off limits to guests.

“E-Stop” – Rides have emergency stop buttons, designed to immediately halt a ride if a guest should fall onto the track, or the operator should have to stop the ride for any reason.

“Shotgun Gates” – The gates that regulate the loading of passengers into a ride vehicle. Usually a roller coaster. Shotgun gates open so that passengers may board the ride.

“Spiel” – The story or narrative told my an actor while performing on a theme park attraction. Usually over a microphone. Example: Jungle Cruise (Disneyland), The Land (EPCOT), Storybook Land (Disneyland), Jaws (Universal Studios Florida).

“Marathon” – An actor who decides to ride a ride while performing a spiel again and again without a break. A marathon can help reduce the wait time of an attraction by allowing an extra ride vehicle to remain on the attraction.

Remember these terms as they will be referred to frequently throughout’s numerous articles, message boards and interviews.

How to develop a theme from scratch using an image board

Blue Sky Theme Park Attraction Design

Developing the theme for a new theme park attraction may seem like a simple task. Begin with a ride, a restaurant, a retail location or space. Then select from a library of themes and apply it like a template to the space. This thinking may appear to work in some cases. A pirate theme, jungle theme or a space theme comes to mind. But what about when the answer is not so obvious? The question, “What should it really look like?” is a question that every themed attraction designer must be able to answer. That answer often comes from a design tool called an image board. Putting together an image board is a truly helpful exercise in theme development. This article will demonstrate how to put an image board together.

To begin, find a large blank wall. This is your canvas. Sometimes a white bed sheet or a foam core board can be used. Make the area large enough to hold as many images as you think necessary. Then begin pulling images. Look in magazines, the internet, books, and any other place you can find an image related to your theme. Place the images on the wall to form a very loose collage. Fill the wall. Sometimes the images will relate to people, sometimes to props, sometimes to the environment. Put them all on the board and then let the images speak.

Pull as many images as possible. Image after image, layer upon layer. Pin them to the board. What you will find is that while every image will not fit, some elements in the images will establish themselves as a trend. You will soon discover the elements you should include as part of your theme. Try it! The results are fantastic.

To give you an example, let us suppose that we are developing a water ride based on Chinese mythology. What might the boats in the attraction look like? I pulled 10 representative images from the web using “Chinese Junk” as a google keyword. Placing them on our sample image board below, these images begin to paint a picture. While all are not alike and some may not even be appropriate, each image tells a story about what elements should be present in your theme.

As you look at these images below, try to spot trends on the image board and then apply that thinking when you create the theme.

To finish the process, identify all the typical elements within these images. What does a junk sail look like? What does the rope look like? What do the decks look like? What does the rudder look like? What color palettes are typical? How are these boats armed? What kind of wood are these boats composed of? What do people wear on these boats?

How do I make my theme park idea a reality?

Eddie –

My name is Anthony Preston I have been reading about Eddie and he sound’s just like me. When I was 5 years old I took my first trip to Disney World. I really liked the first thing I saw, which was the Indiana Jones epic stunt spectacular. It really impressed me. I grew up going to Disney world alot, and I wanted to be a theme park owner.

I have been working on theme park ideas since I was six. And now have a great plan. I want to create a theme park called ‘The Secret World’. But it is not so easy for me. I need some professional help. Can you please tell me where I should start?

Thanks – Anthony

Anthony – This is a tough question. Companies like ITEC Productions usually design and create based on a client that has funding or financing to execute or they flesh an idea out in order to go get further seed money to construct their park. In your case it seems to me that you need to articulate your vision first and then determine the fiscal feasibility with someone with the dough to bring it to reality.

My realistic side says that you develop your idea into a credible, logical state and use it as a portfolio piece to get in the door at a design firm or a park. Then you can hammer away at them to fund your vision while doing their bidding on other things. It seems like a high risk long shot to just hope that you’ll find an avenue to execute your vision in the near term. So my suggestion is to use it as a means of getting into the industry with the hope that it may fit into a later strategy of realizing your dreams.

– Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

How do I put my ideas into tangible form?

Eddie –

I have always had “ideas in my head” for themed attractions. But I have always struggled getting them out of my head and into a tangible form for others to see and evaluate. At 29, I am looking to totally change my career and pursue the themed industry. I have wanted to do this my whole life but I have always struggled to find the right approach to get into the business. With that said, I have a good friend who is a C.A.D drafter and he is willing to teach me the program. Do you think this is the right direction for me to go?


Steve Fenton

A. I’d say evaluate your talents as everyone has ideas but few can ever execute them and do so in a superior way. Ask yourself what the best way is for you to express your idea? Are you a good artist? Writer? Can you team up with someone to flesh out your early concepts. CAD drafting, is a good technique but is part of the execution. To express yourself and really convey ideas, think of the other areas that best suit your talents. i took set design, screenwriting and other story related courses. If you have a chance to learn something do it, it’ll always come in handy.”

Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

How is math used in Disney Imagineering?

Dear Eddie,

I’ve wanted to become an Imagineer for as long as I can remember. I am doing a report for algebra class. We have to pick a job that we would like to have when we grow older and explain how math is used in that job. Can you please tell me from your standpoint how it is used and what type of math is used most commonly.

Thank you in advance, Brendan Generelli

Brendan –

Well, depending on where you land at imagineering, math plays a crucial role in each area. In the engineering realm, everything from calculus to basic math is used to create the geometry, speed, force simulation, etc, for thrill rides. It is practically all math and calculations.

In my area of creative, basic math is involved in determining the hourly capacities of a proposed ride. It is the dispatch interval, how many seconds pass between sending out a vehicle. Divide that into an hour, then multiply the number of dispatches by the average number of guests in each car and you have THRC, the theoretical hourly ride capacity. This also is useful in determining the financial feasibility of a ride and is compared to the total guests in the park per hour as to whether it can be marketed as a major draw. Here math is used to see whether enough guests that come on a given day can actually ride the new Attraction. This whole thing goes on and on. But I think you get the idea on how math is crucial to the process.

– Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

Hall of Presidents:

20 Apr 2012 Show Writing

Script from the original show, which ran from 1971 to 1993. Group: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Narrator: These immortal words when first they were written, proclaimed to the world an idea new among men. They expressed a shining wish for a better way of life. This was the American dream. But that golden goal was not to be had without cost. It was born in adversity, tested by time, perfected and proven only after long experience and trial. This is the drama of a new concept of freedom, of the inspired code of law creating that freedom.

Narrator: It was the year 1787. In the city of Philadelphia the Constitutional Convention was in session. After four long months of debate and discussion, a new Constitution to replace the old and ineffectual Articles of Confederation had finally been written. It was the mutual effort of the best minds in the land, men long experienced in the human art of government. By unanimous consent, George Washington had been chosen president of the convention.

George Washington: Gentlemen, the warmest friends this Constitution has do not contend that it is free from imperfections. But there is a constitutional door open for change. I think the people can decide on the alterations and ammendments which time may prove necessary. Besides, they will have the advantage of experience on their side.

Benjamin Franklin: General Washington, Sir.

George Washington: Mr. Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin: Fellow delegates, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged to change opinions which I once thought right. The older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgement. I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of this convention who may still have objections to it, would with me doubt a little of his own infallability, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

Narrator: This was the moment of decision.

Speaker: New Hampshire. Massachusetts. Connecticut. New York.

Narrator: When the ceremony was over, thirty-nine delegates had come forward to write their names. Only three withheld their signatures. Thus, on September 17, 1787, a new Constitution to govern the American colonies was signed at Independence Hall. This newly created government was unique. In a world of kings and emperors, would it actually work?

Narrator: The first test was not long in coming. It occured in George Washington’s second term as president, an incident known as the Whiskey Rebellion. In colonial times, corn was an abundant crop but difficult to transport. And for convenience was often converted to distilled spirits. Since this important byproduct was shipped from state to state, the federal government saw fit to levy a tax upon it. But the people objected in principle, and before long their opposition had flared up in riots. Here was the first challenge to the federal authority.

Governor Mifflin: The question remains whether the President has any legal right to use force.

George Washington: As to the legality of it, Governor Mifflin, I have here an opinion from Justice Wilson advising that the courts of your state are unable to deal with the crisis through ordinary judicial proceedings. Under the law this would empower me to use the federal militia.

Narrator: Fortunately, the rebellion ended without bloodshed. The mere size of the militia overawed all further opposition. Washington had shown his people that the government was prepared to ensure domestic tranquility when necessary. Some forty- odd years later, President Andrew Jackson would know the threat of secession.

Speaker: The Federal Government’s Tarriff Acts are hereby declared null, void, and no law in the State of South Carolina.

Crowd: Cheers

Speaker: Should force be used to execute the measures declared void, such efforts will be regarded as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union.

Crowd: Cheers

Andrew Jackson: Tell them from me that they can talk and write resolutions and print threats till their heart’s content. But if one drop of blood be shed there in defiance of the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man of them I can get my hands on to the first tree I can find.

Narrator: With the people behind him and Congress supporting him, Jackson stood by the Constitution. For the moment the crisis passed. But it would come again. By 1858, the cause of Sectionalism had grown stronger and much more bitter. The burning issues of the day were brought into national focus by a series of debates between the glib and talented Stephen A. Douglas and a self taught lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.

Spectator: Hooray for Honest Abe Lincoln! Give it to him good, Abe!

Abraham Lincoln: Judge Douglas says he, he doesn’t care whether slavery is voted up or voted down.

Spectator: Neither do we, Lincoln, you know-nothing!

Abraham Lincoln: Well friend, I may not know much, but I think I know right from wrong. Now you say that you don’t care whether slavery is voted up or down. Now any man can say that, who does not see anything wrong in slavery. But no man can logically say it who does see wrong in it. Because no man can logically say he doesn’t care whether wrong is voted up or down.

Crowd: Cheers

Abraham Lincoln: I say this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Spectator: That’s what you think, you long drink of water!

Abraham Lincoln: Yes, my friend, that’s what I think. That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silenced.

Crowd: Applause

Stephen Douglas: As I say, I have known Mr. Lincoln for twenty-five years. He is a fine lawyer, possesses high ability, and there is no objection to him, except the monstrous revolutionary doctrines which he conscientiously entertains and is determined to carry out if he gets the power.

Spectator: Don’t worry, he ain’t gonna get it!

Spectator: Never! No never! Not that hillbilly rail-splitter!

Stephen Douglas: Alright, and I tell you, that this doctrine of Lincoln’s declaring that men are made equal by the Declaration of Independence and by Divine providence is a monstrous heresy.

Abraham Lincoln: My countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with those great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence, if you have listened to suggestions which would take away its grandeur, if you are inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Think nothing of me. Take no thought of the political fate of any man whatsoever. But come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me out and put me to death. Do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity. If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute book in which we find it and tear it out. Who is so bold to do it?

Spectators: No one! I won’t! Not I!

Abraham Lincoln: If it is not true, let us tear it out!

Spectators: No! No! Never!

Abraham Lincoln: Well let us stick to it then, and let us stand firmly by it.

Crowd: Applause

Narrator: Abraham Lincoln lost that election of 1858, but in losing, he won. For the people couldn’t forget this plain-spoken man from the prairie, and two years later they sent him to the White House.

Abraham Lincoln: Without union, the Constitution is only a piece of paper. I know there is a God, and that he hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming. I know his hand is in it. If he has a place and work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything, and with God’s help, I shall not fail.

Narrator: April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter. The canon spoke for war. Civil war, bitter, violent and devastating. After four weary and wounding years, the conflict ended. The Union was saved. The Constitution had survived the fiery ordeal. America was one nation, finally and forevermore. In the century to follow, America would know a period of amazing achievement. A time of startling inventions, a time of unbounded creative energy. There seemed no limit to man’s far-reaching horizons. It was a time of transition, a time of progress. But the fundamental philosophy of freedom, the belief in the rights of the individual and the dignity of man remained unaltered. The Constitution was still the rock. Under its guarantees, men were free to speak, free to worship as they pleased, free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and free to explore new dimensions of their universe.

Mission Control: Ten, nine, eight, ignition sequence start, six, five, four…

Mission Control 2: There’s fire.

Mission Control: Three, two, one zero.

Narrator: Look to the stars, say the wise men, there lies the future. In remote and distant worlds lies the riddle of tomorrow. But where is its answer? If a free world is to endure, then the principles of self-government must be perpetuated. The Constitution is the rock, and the leaders of tomorrow must be as dedicated to its preservation as were the leaders of yesterday, as are the leaders of today.

Narrator: In this Hall of Presidents, let us pay homage to the immortal men whose illustrious names have been indelibly inscribed on history’s roll of honor.

Narrator: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon.

Narrator: From these men the free world may take new inspiration and hope. And, if it be wise, new wisdom from old words of prophecy.

Abraham Lincoln: This government must be preserved in spite of the acts of any man or set of men. Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest among us are held the highest privileges and positions. What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not the frowning battlements, or bristling seacoast, our army and navy- These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere- Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves, must be its author and its finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time . . . or die by suicide. Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite to exist only for a day. No . . . No . . . Man was made for immortality.


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword. His truth is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. His truth is marching on.

Note: This script has been transcribed.


The Coming Revolution in Themed Entertainment

A transcript of a speech by Bob Rogers at a forum on the future of themed entertainment From the IAAPA Tradeshow, Orlando, Florida 1997

Introduction Harrison “Buzz” Price

Bob Rogers is a Renaissance man, a technology buff, and a great storyteller.  After leaving CalArts, he was an in-and-out man at Walt Disney Imagineering, working on Florida Disney attractions and Pavilions at EPCOT.   In 1981, looking for steadier employment, he founded BRC Imagination Arts; and his productions there have won him many prizes: Kennedy and Houston Space Centers, Spirit Lodge, Rainbow War, and Vancouver Expo where he stole the show.  You all know his talent.  He will tell us about the coming revolution in themed entertainment.

The Coming Revolution In Themed Entertainment Bob Rogers

Buzz says that I was an in-and-out-man at Disney.  What he means by that is that I have been fired by the Disney organization three times now, and each time told I will never ever work there again. This morning I will demonstrate why. . .

In the early 1950’s Walt Disney ignored the conventional wisdom of his day and re-invented our business.  Walt died in 1966 but his revolution continued on without him, and it was codified by less original thinkers.  Today that revolution has become the establishment.  It’s well-developed rules select against new ideas while replicating old ones.  Derivative thinking regulates our industry’s economic models and it’s creative options.

Today it is time to once again re-invent our industry. To understand the coming revolution, look to the original revolution.  Its implications and insights are still ringing throughout our industry.    Now the public relations story says that it all started at a merry-go-round in Los Angeles, California where a father, Walt, had taken his two daughters in a failing attempt to find some family fun.  Well, that’s pretty and that’s cute, but I’m here to tell you that the real revolution began late one stormy November night in a hotel room in Chicago, and I’d like to take you there:    You have entered a classic smoke filled room.  There are Cuban cigars, caviar, an entire case of Chivas Regal and seven men.  It is 44 years ago tonight, during the annual meeting of the National Association of Parks Pools and beaches;  the organization which later became the AAPA,  which only recently became the IAAPA.   Walt Disney is not here; the three men representing Walt know relatively little about theme parks. They are Buzz Price, Dick Irvine and Nat Weinkoff. The other four men in the room are here to confidently tell the first three why Walt’s ideas will fail. They are the giants of our industry in 1953, the most experienced, successful and respected owners and operators of amusement parks. They are William Schmitt, owner of Riverview Park in Chicago, Harry Batt of Pontchartrain Beach Park in New Orleans,  Ed Schott of Coney Island, and George Whitney of Playland at the Beach in San Francisco.

The three from Disney unroll this bird’s eye master plan drawn by Herb Ryman and they stick it to the wall with masking tape, and they stand back and invite comments.


It’s a massacre!  Now I’m going to tell you what they told these guys that night, and as I do that, I’d like to think that this sounds like a meeting that you’ve been in while your work has been reviewed recently.   1. All the proven money makers are conspicuously missing: No roller coaster, no ferris wheel, no shoot the chute, no tunnel of love, no hot dog carts, no beer.  Worst of all, no carney games like the baseball throw. Without barkers along the midway to sell the sideshows, the marks won’t pay to go in.  Customers are likely to slip out of your park with money still left in their pockets.   2.  Custom rides will never work. They cost too much to buy, they will be constantly breaking down resulting in reduced total ride capacity and angry customers.  Only stock, off the shelf rides are cheap enough and reliable enough to do the job, and besides, the public doesn’t know the difference or care.   3.  Most of Disney’s proposed park produces no revenue but it’s going to be very expensive to build and maintain.  Things like the castle and the pirate ship are cute but they aren’t rides, so there isn’t any economic reason to build them is there?   4. Town square is loaded with things that don’t produce revenue, like town hall for the fire department,  and of course town square itself.   5: The horse cars, the horseless carriages, and the western wagon rides have such small capacity and cost so much to run that they will lose money even if they run full all the time.   6:  You can’t operate an amusement park year round,  120 days per year is the best you can do.   7.  Walt’s design only has one entrance. This is going to create a terrible bottleneck!  Traditional wisdom dictates entrances on all sides for closer parking and easier access.   8.  You’ll lose money providing all those design details and nice finishes.  The people are going to destroy the grounds and vandalize the ride vehicles no matter what you do, so you might as well go cheap.   9.  Walt’s screwy ideas about cleanliness and great landscape maintenance are economic suicide.  He’ll lose his shirt by overspending on these things which the customers never really notice.   10.  Modern mid-twentieth century amusement park management theory dictates:  Build it cheap and then control your costs.  Employment theory is similar.  Pay your employees the least you can and then ride them hard and get ready to fire them, because they will steal from you.

The bottom-line: The customers only spend about 1 dollar per capita when they go to an amusement park and they will never spend any more. Mr. Disney’s park idea is just too expensive to build and too expensive to operate.  Tell your boss to save his money they said, tell him to stick to cartoons. Tell him to stick to what he knows and leave the amusement business to the professionals .

The establishment of 1953 had spoken!


And then there was this revolution.  About six weeks ago, I had the rare privilege of to discuss this revolution with one of the men actually there that night. He’s here with us today. Mr. Harrison Price.

He said,  “Before Walt came along, the entire industry was getting one dollar per capita. The main thing that Walt did was to figure out how to get the per caps up to $4.50 in the very first year.  And by the second year they were up to 6 dollars. The rest of the industry was astonished.”

How did Disney do this?  Well it was very simple.  It comes down to stay time.  Before Disney, the stay time at an average amusement park was less than two hours.  But Disney created an environment with an ambiance that was so refreshing and pleasant that the stay time went up to an unheard of seven hours.  And because the stay time went up, the per capita’s on food, retail, and ride tickets went up.  And the place was an attraction in itself so he could charge people to get in, which wasn’t done elsewhere. The result of all this theming, landscaping, and entertainment balance was a revolutionary new and different income profile not seen here, very clearly.   There were two other things about the planning that also seems especially important, and each involves putting the guests’ experience first:

1.  Walt planned the circulation patterns first.  That’s the place where the people walk.  They planned that as a first priority.  Up to that point, designers usually focused on the positive space. That’s the thing being built; rather than the negative space, the place where people will be. And he planned every attraction from the perspective of the guest rather than the operator or the manager. Walt focused on the people.

2.  Second and very dear to my heart,  and perhaps more important. . . Disneyland was the first major attraction planned by storytellers rather than engineers, architects, operators or curators.   After Walt’s death, Walt’s audience friendly revolution hardened into the new establishment.  Many of the current rules are just as dogmatic as the rules that Walt defied in 1953.  And surprise! Many of them are the same rules. All of these hard, fast rules are just begging for a new revolution. So now it is time for you to re-invent the business.

The motto of your new revolution should be the same one that Walt used in the original one:  Follow the guests.   Walt’s revolution changed the design priorities.  Ride operators had focused on their own problems of operating rides: mainly keeping capital labor and maintenance costs down.  Walt’s original revolution focused instead on the guests’ experience. . . putting the guests’ priorities first: Cleanliness, service, adventure, music, magic, fun, happy feet.

Today attractions are once again being designed to solve the operators’ and owners’ problems instead of the guests’ problems. All you have to do is talk to the guests.  They’ll tell you what they don’t like!   Based on that, here are seven of many possible directions for the next revolutions in themed attractions.

1.  Anyone? Hazard a guess?  What do people not like about theme parks? Lines! NO LINES!  Too much of a theme park visit is spent waiting in line.  Today, the establishment’s idea of correct park design deliberately causes lines. Master planners intentionally set ride capacity targets below the projected demand in order to minimize the owner’s capital cost. The prevailing wisdom is “Ahhh, they’ll wait, they really don’t have a choice anyway.”  So a line is a master planner’s method of rationing rides. Now that’s a dirty trick! We promise our guests a day of fun and rides at our park, and then after they’ve paid us to get in we use these lines to ration the rides.    Could lines and waiting time be eliminated or at least greatly reduced? Of course they could!  In the coming revolution, the long line is dead.    2.  A return to gates within gates.  At the original Disneyland in 1955, the main entrance ticket booth sold you a pass to get into the park and it came attached to a book of ride tickets,  A through E.  If you used all those tickets you could buy more.  Later Disneyland, and soon all the parks went to a one price admission.  Today, guests expect to go on everything within the park at no additional park at no additional cost.   But wait a minute! This system is being challenged. After paying almost forty dollars to get into EPCOT, you would have to pay an additional four dollars to drive the Daytona. This summer Knott’s Berry Farm successfully charged extra for rock climbing and laser tag and other specially ticketed attractions within the gates of their park.   Surprise!  The public seems to be going along with this!   Will the 1955 Disneyland style of ticketing come back?   3.  Faster obsolescence.   Today, new becomes old faster than ever before.  Yet state of the art attractions, like Jurassic Park the Ride, Superman the Ride, and Indiana Jones the Ride are becoming more expensive and less adaptive. Now if the traveling version of Cirque du Soliel can completely remake itself every couple of years, why can’t a themed attraction remake itself every couple of years?  Home grown haunted houses . . . the kind done on residential streets by amateurs are often new and completely different each year. So if the amateurs can do it, why can’t our industry?  We are the ones with all the tricks.   Reinventing a park every two years would reverse the current trend toward ever more expensive attractions amortized over twenty years. Your likely revolutionary strategies to achieve this will include new forms, new formats, and new ideas built to recover their costs in a single season showing large profits in two seasons.  More reliance on theatrical techniques that engage the audiences imagination instead of using money as an imagination substitute.

Flexible attractions with adaptability designed in.  For example:  Take a more theatrical approach.  Require the audience to willingly enter the story.  Put more emphasis on light, sound, illusion, artistry, and the power of suggestion. . .  And above all, more emphasis on great storytelling to fire the guests interests and imagination.

4.  More refreshing.   Back in the early 1950’s, Walt noticed that the atmosphere at most parks was not relaxing. The colors and graphics were  garish, the barkers were irritating, and the employees looked dangerous, and the place was noisy and dirty.

Stay times were around two hours partly because in that environment, people got tired faster.  Walt got those seven hour stay times by using lush landscaping, a relaxing ambiance, and a balanced blend of big thrills and little discoveries to keep the guests constantly relaxed and refreshed.

But today, the once refreshing visit to a Disney, Universal or other theme park has become a frantic experience that many guests do not find relaxing.  Because of the high cost of admission many guests feel pressured to get their money’s worth.  But there is too much to see, and not enough day to do it in.   They are fighting crowds and the logistics of getting around; and instead of refreshment, the result is an amount of stress that no amount of happy elevator music can hide.

What is happening here?  What are we doing to ourselves?  Are we actually overproducing our parks? By adding only E tickets, and not enough A’s and B’s  (and actually, after a park opens, you never add an A or a B).  Are we making our parks too stimulating?  Could we actually do better for our owners and our guests generating higher profits and greater satisfaction by spending less and charging less? The coming revolution will certainly continue to create pockets of high excitement, but between those pockets it will bring back the refreshing soft touch.   5.  Better food.  With very few exceptions theme park food is awful.  McDonald’s serves better!  When will we fix our food?   6.   Offering first class seats.  Why do we insist on selling only coach class experiences in our theme parks?  A coach class ticket from Los Angeles to Paris can be bought for about $800.  A first class ticket on the exactly same plane costs just under $10,000, but both seats go to the same place.  Now the difference in experience is worth the difference in price to a few.  Why don’t we apply that kind of thinking to our business? Already in our shop in some of our designs, there will be coach class and first class experiences. **

7.   Meaningful and intelligent fun.  We possess. . . you possess the most powerful communications storytelling tools of all time. Why don’t we apply those tools to subjects that really matter to our guests?  Things that our guests think about or worry about all the time?  Things like family, community, sex, life, death, faith, the future, and of course, who Kathy Lee is dating now.


Creating deeply meaningful, intelligent fun that is also highly entertaining and highly repeatable. . .  that would be a real revolution. This is just a short list of strategies it’s only a beginning.  It’s easy to add ideas to it.  Just follow the guest.  Improve the guest experience and you will be rewarded.  If that means that you have to re-invent some of the rules, then let’s do that.   Today’s conventional wisdom is still filled with wisdom.  But in some areas, especially around the edges, it often reminds me of a middle ages map of the world with its frontiers full of devouring dragons and giant waterfalls where you can fall right off the flat edge of the earth.  The message of those symbols is avoid danger, stick to the known.   Well today we are at the dawn of a new millennium, and a new age in themed entertainment.  But our technology and our audience is changing far faster than we change the rules we use to organize them.  There is treasure all around us.   In 1953, as now, the future belongs to those who dare to create it.


Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Frank Thomas

Franklin Thomas (September 5, 1912, Fresno, California – September 8, 2004, Flintridge, California) was one of Walt Disney’s team of animators known as the Nine Old Men.

He graduated from Stanford University, attended Chouinard Art Institute, then joined The Walt Disney Company on September 24, 1934 as employee number 224. There he animated dozens of feature films and shorts, and also was a member of the Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, playing the piano.

His work in animated cartoon shorts included The Brave Little Tailor, in which he animated scenes of Mickey Mouse and the king; Mickey and the bear in The Pointer, and German dialogue scenes in the World War II propaganda short Education for Death (shortly before Thomas enlisted in the Air Force). He also worked on Pooh and Piglet in two of the Winnie the Pooh featurettes.

In feature films, among the characters and scenes Thomas animated were the dwarfs crying over Snow White’s “dead” body, Pinocchio singing at the marionette theatre, Bambi and Thumper on the ice, Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti, the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty, Merlin and Arthur as squirrels in The Sword in the Stone, and King Louie in The Jungle Book. Thomas was directing animator for several memorable villains, including the evil stepmother Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

He retired from Disney on January 31, 1978.

Thomas authored, with fellow Disney legend Ollie Johnston, the comprehensive book The Illusion Of Life, first published by Abbeville Press in 1981. Regarded as the definitive authority on traditional hand-drawn character animation (particularly in the Disney style), the book has been republished numerous times, and is often considered “the bible” among character animators. Thomas and Johnston were also profiled in the 1993 documentary Frank and Ollie, directed by Thomas’s son Theodore Thomas. The film profiled their careers, private lives, and the personal friendship between the two men.

Thomas’s last appearance in an animated film before his death was in The Incredibles, although he voiced a character, rather than animating one. Frank and his friend and colleague Ollie Johnston voiced and were caricatured as two old men saying “That’s old school…” “Yeah, no school like the old school.” The pair had previously been heard, and caricatured, as the two train engineers in Bird’s The Iron Giant.

In-Pavement Fiber Optic Lighting

I am very interested in learning about the fiber-optic lighted pavement features at Epcot Center. Where can I get information about this type of light feature?

I’d appreciate any help. Thanks

– Joseph

For any fiber optic application, there are basically three components: 1) The illuminator… this is the light source 2) The color wheel. This is a machine that rotates a colored gel in between the illuminator and the bundle of tubing. The color wheel is generally arranged so that two or possibly even three colors are lit at once. 3) The bundle of fiber optic tubing. The tubes are packed together at the source so that light is shot into several hundred tubes at once. From the source, the tubes in the bundle and then split and run to their final location apart from each other. When it comes to setting them in concrete, you essentially get the entire design set up before you pour the concrete. The fiber optic tubing is set in the proper place, but they are left with several extra inches of “slack.” After the concrete is poured the tubes are clipped to their proper length (flush with the concrete). The result? A cool design integrated into the pavement at EPCOT Future World, or wherever you desire… – Nate Naversen

“Earning My Ears”: How I got my first job with the Disney company

20 Apr 2012 Career Advice

by Nate Naversen

This is a story of how I got my first job with the Walt Disney company.  It’s a story of perseverance and how I managed to turn failure into success in my job search.  Now just for clarification’s sake I don’t consider myself any better or any more qualified than anyone else just because I was successful in getting hired by Disney.  Indeed, there are many more qualified candidates than I.  But I was probably more persistent than most, and that was what made the difference for me in this case.  It was a good lesson to learn, and I hope to pass on my experience to you.  Please do not take this advice as a way to get the Disney company to hire you.  Too many people put Disney on a pedestal and sacrifice good jobs at other companies for not-so-good jobs at Disney.  My hope is that this article will help put you in a good frame of mind to be successful in any future job search.  In this great country of opportunity, no goal is too high for those of you who dream big.

Let me just say first of all that I remember visiting Disneyland as a 10 year old thinking, “Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great to work here some day!”   Later I shrugged away any such ideas as a kids’ fantasy.   Well, it was later the following during my second year in college that I got a call from my good friend, Will, who was then attending Washington State.  He told me he had just been accepted into the Disneyland College Program, and that he would be spending his summer down in Anaheim working at Disneyland. “Such fun,” I thought.  I already had a job that summer as a competitive swim coach which I truly enjoyed, but the seed had been planted. This was the first time that it dawned on me that people actually do have amazing jobs. . . that it is truly possible to have a career that you are excited about.  After all, I was very excited about Disney, as so many are, so why couldn’t I go work there? Truly, there was nothing stopping me short of going out and getting it.

The following January I attempted to get into the Disneyland college program.  Right off the bat I ran into a slight problem, though.  You see, I went to the University of Colorado, but Disneyland only recruited in the Pacific states. It took a little doing, but soon I was able to convince my parents to help me to purchase a plane ticket from Colorado to Pullman, Washington where Disney recruited (and my friend Will could house me for the weekend.)

Will warned me that the odds of being accepted into the Disneyland College Program were very slim, as only 10% of the applicants were accepted into the program.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Maybe I was better off going for that Air Force fighter pilot slot?”   Nonetheless, I had made up my mind about what I wanted to do: get Disney to hire me. I knew the competition would be stiff, but I had a great chance, right?   After all, I was a clean-cut, good-old-fashioned, red-blooded, All-American boy-next-door type. I was the type of kid Walt was looking for.   How could they not hire me?

Well, when I went into Disney’s recruitment presentation, and it was like my worst nightmare come-true. There I sat in a room full of 200 other college students who looked exactly like me !  The Disneyland College program only accepted about 150 students each summer, and this was one of only 30 universities they recruited from!   Surely, the odds would be slim for me.  Steadfast in my determination, I watched the presentation and signed up for an interview, but with a lot less confidence than I had at first.

Now the interview the next morning was truly what I would consider a stress interview.  Because of the number of people who were applying for the job and the amount of time the recruiters had, interviews were conducted four at a time. There was a small room, where four potential Disney cast members went in and were asked questions by one interviewer.  Also, because of the time constraints, the entire interview was conducted in only twenty minutes. One wrong comment could earn you a hidden “X” next to your name, spelling certain disaster for anyone hoping to be hired that summer.  Will told me that the recruiter would either pick one of the four candidates for the job, or choose not to choose any of the four.  Now those are some great odds to defy!

Well, I went to my interview that morning on the Washington State campus, having gone to great lengths to make my appearance perfect for the recruiter.  I think I even clipped a nose hair that morning in preparation.  I was either extremely meticulous or extremely worried. . . I’m not sure which.

When I arrived, it was just as I had been told.  There were four of us: two boys, and two girls. The first girl was definitely dressed for success with a nice green dress on and a little binder clip board.  The second girl, who I later met again down at Disneyland was even more well dressed than the first girl.  She wore a funky designer dress and had her hair done up in a business-style crop. The young man impressed me less than the others because he wore old pants and muddy work boots.  He surely could not impress an interviewer dressed like that?  His lack of good interview appearance wasn’t comforting to me at all though:  first of all, he seemed very nice;  and second of all, I knew I had to beat all three of them to win the job. What a task!

During the interview the first girl made a critical mistake. When asked why she wanted to work at Disneyland, she said,  “Well, it’s either Disneyland or an Alaskan fish cannery, and I really don’t want to clean fish all summer.”  It was a terrible answer in my opinion, and I judged from frowning expression on the interviewer’s face that he probably was going to put an “X” by her name with that comment. The young man in the interview turned out to be a nice fellow, but he was a little less refined than the rest of us, so I assumed we would probably beat him out too.

But the last girl,  Shannon, had the perfect girl-next-door smile and nailed every question.  I knew it was probably down to the two of us. . . although I really couldn’t tell you how well I answered the interview questions.  I was too nervous.  The one thing I do recall was the interviewer asking me what job I would like to do at the Magic Kingdom.  I told him that I just wanted to work there that summer. . . that I would take any job.   “Give me the job as the custodial sweeper,”  I exclaimed.  “I’ll take anything!”

Well, there was nothing to do but to wait for a letter in the mail after the interview.  I’m not sure what was worse: The interview itself, or the waiting period afterward.  Will told me that when I got their letter I would know right away whether I had been hired or not.  “The hirees get a thick packet,” he explained.  “The reject letters come in a thin envelope.”  The weeks passed, and I waited, until finally spring break came around.  From Oregon I called Colorado to ask if I had received any mail.  “Not much, Nate,” my roommate said, “Except this letter from the Disney.” I was excited, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Boulder to open the thing.    “Tell me,”   I said, “Is it a thin letter or a fat one?”  “It’s just a regular letter,” he said.

When I got back to Boulder my wait was finally over. The answer I got from the Disney company was not the one I was hoping for, but it was just the answer I was expecting after what my roommate had told me. It was one of those typical form letters stating,  “You are very qualified, but were not chosen, we will keep your resume on file,  etc. . . ”   Just as I thought.  I got the thin rejection letter.

But in the midst of my disappointment I got an idea. . . a glimmer of hope to hang on to.  I put myself in the shoes of all the other college students in my position and asked myself what would they do when they got a thin envelope?  Well, I figured they’d do what any sane person would do. . .shrug their shoulders, say, “Oh well, I tried,” and go find another summer job. In my thinking, 900 people just took themselves out of the competition.

But the competition was not over yet in my mind. I assumed that of the 150 that made it at least 5 or 6 would change their mind and take another summer job. After all, Los Angeles is a scary, far off place to those coming from places like Pullman, Washington or Moscow, Idaho.  Surely someone would change their mind?  My goal was to get the spot of the person who changed his or her mind.

So that was my new strategy. . .  to nab one of the last 5 spots I assumed would be there.  That very day I sent my second thank you letter to my interviewer, Jay. (The first thank you was right after the interview) And thus my letter writing campaign began.  In my mind, keeping in contact with the interviewer was one of the keys to my success in this matter.

I wrote one letter each week. Not enough to be a pest,  but enough to stay in the back of their minds given the few short weeks until summer. I wrote the letters attempting to be as upbeat and excited about the college program as I possibly could without sounding too obnoxious.  I stressed my commitment to Disney as a career goal,  my personal assets (like good attitude, work ethic, being able to work with people, etc…) and the fact that I wanted the spot of the person who changed his or her mind.  Stressing those characteristics, I sent my letters, saying a silent, and somewhat silly prayer before dropping each letter in the mailbox. If nothing else, my letter writing skills improved dramatically in those few weeks. Later, I decided that God listens to even silly prayers, and sometimes He blesses people not because they deserve it,  but just to demonstrate how good He really is.

Three weeks from the end of school, I had not heard a word from Disney, and had all but given up all chances of getting the job.  So I prepared myself to go back to my old job at the pool.  And ironically,  it was the day after I had given up all hope that I got the phone call that forever changed the course of my short life.  Bridget Lindquist was her name, daughter of then Disneyland President Jack Lindquist.  She said, “Hello,  Nathan, how would you like to work on the Jungle Cruise?”  My heart leaped for joy.   I don’t remember what happened after that, but I obviously told her “Yes” before I hung up, because I actually did end up at Disney that summer.

I remember calling Will,  telling him to ask me what I was going to do after finals.  “What?” He asked.  “No no,” I said, “Ask it like I asked it!”   After some coaxing, he finally said “Okay you big dork,  what are you going to do after finals?”   “I’m going to Disneyland!”  I exclaimed, just like in the Disneyland television commercial.  It was the happiest day of my life to that point.  He sounded pretty happy too.

As it turns out,  Shannon actually had won our interview.  She won the custodial sweeper job, too.  Me, the “loser” ended up with what I consider the best job at the entire Disney company…. Jungle Cruise Skipper on the ” World famous” Jungle Cruise.   I’ve never felt so good about losing in my life.

It just goes to show you that sometimes an initial no in a job search is not always a permanent no.  Every wall is a door of opportunity if the right thinking can be applied to initial failures and if you stay persistent.  As for me,  I still remember the day God answered my silly little prayer.

So there you have it.  When you get turned down for a job, you may not be as out of luck as you might think.  Anyone can be hired at any time, especially in smaller companies.  Persistence in letter writing to perspective companies will help you succeed in the future.  I still make it a point to drop letters in the mail to those I have met while searching for jobs.  They are personal notes,  and are the true key to networking.

I hope this helps you.  That was the start of how I found my true passion in life, theme park attraction design.   For more information about jobs searches in the themed entertainment industry, be sure to check out my other article, “How to Become an Imagineer.”

Much luck! Nathan Naversen

How is a new themed attraction generated within the theme park industry?

20 Apr 2012 Dissertations

The Central School of Speech and Drama, London
by Lynsey Brown


My college experience as a scenic constructor within the theatre industry has encouraged me to find out more about the theme park industry within my profession.

I have always been excited and even amazed by theme parks and their attractions because they involve you in an environment that stimulates all your senses to achieve unbelievable experiences.

I chose this area for my enquiry for I believe if you have a passion you should pursue it. It was important to find how my role of a scenic constructor would fit in to the theme park industry at present and in the future.

During this IST term I spoke to and visited professionals within the industry, and through rigorous research into the subject revealed an overall sense of the variety of different methods and their approaches to working in this sector of the theme park industry.

I will be specifically looking at the designer’s input and the construction process and will be comparing these processes to theatre, would this be the same as or different to my experience within the theatre industry?

What is a themed attraction?

It is a common misconception that amusement parks and theme parks are the same, but that is not so. The words amusement and park mean quite literally: a place to be amused. The words theme and park, when used together very literally mean: a place for stories, the theme park uses story telling to move emotions.

A themed attraction can be any type of visitor attraction from small exhibitions within museums, to large budget special effect attractions within theme parks. Researching into themed attractions and designs I have heard the term dark rides used. The first dark rides were the tunnels of love at classic amusement parks. They are called dark rides because they are generally inside a building or within a themed attraction, e.g. Judgement Day in the London Dungeon and Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney. Dark rides are the basis of a theme park because they are story-orientated and have a single theme that runs throughout.

Created themed environments immerse an audience in the atmosphere of an attraction and although you will walk round some, others will have a ride within them to transport you in a sequential manner.

An example of this is Madame Tussauds. It began as and still is a waxwork museum with themed rooms like the Garden Party and Grand Hall. Now they have installed the ‘Spirit of London” ride and various other themed sets, it has become one of Britain’s most popular themed visitor attractions, totaling 2 million visitors a year.

Themes for attractions will range from natural disasters to historical facts like that of the London Dungeon. All of the Dungeons created in Britain have their themes, which are usually based on horror and facts surrounding the town or city in which they are placed.

Themes are chosen initially through market research and subsequently what the public demand through targeted survey groups. This process has resulted in staggering attendance figures of 750,000 visitors a year for the London Dungeon.

The attraction’s ‘theme’ will also depend on its location and when placed in a theme park with a movie style theme, e.g. Earthquake will be created within Universal Studios, Florida that re-enacts a scene from a famous movie.

Brief History and the future

Before theme parks were invented the roots of the industry go back to amusement parks in medieval Europe, featuring live entertainment, fireworks, dancing, games and even primitive rides. The world’s oldest operating amusement park, Bakken, north of Copenhagen opened in 1583 and is still operating today.

In the late 1800’s, the growth of the industry shifted to America; initially they were simple operations consisting of picnic facilities, dance halls, restaurants, games and a few amusement rides.

The amusement park entered its golden era in 1893 with the introduction of the Ferris Wheel and a wide array of rides. This was a huge success and dictated amusement park design for the next sixty years.

The amusement park industry grew tremendously over the next three decades and by 1919 over 1,500 amusement parks were in operation; new innovations provided greater and more intense thrills. Unfortunately this did not last as America entered the Depression and by 1935 only 400 amusements parks still remained.

With the end of the World War II, attendances and revenues grew to new records. A new concept, the Kiddieland, took advantage of the post-war baby boom, introducing a new generation to the joys of the amusement park.

The industry was again in distress in the 1950’s as the public turned to entertainment elsewhere like television. What the industry needed was a new concept and that new concept was Disneyland.

When Disneyland opened in 1955 many people were skeptical that an amusement park without the traditional attractions would succeed, but they offered five distinctive themed areas, providing guests with the fantasy of travel to different lands and times with different stories.

Disneyland was an immediate success, and as a result, the theme park era was born.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, theme parks were built in many major cities across America; many of the old traditional amusement parks could not keep up with competition and faced closure. In addition they also borrowed ideas from theme parks and introduced new rides and attractions to their existing parks.

Alton Towers became a theme park in 1980 with the Corkscrew ride. In 1990 the Park became part of The Tussauds Group who have opened many of London’s tourist attractions like Madame Tussauds and The Rock Circus. Although other parks have been around a lot longer than Alton Towers, Drayton Manor Family Theme Park is one of the oldest parks in the country. It began in 1949, as an ‘Inland Pleasure Resort’ and is still there to this day introducing themed areas.

Theme parks continued to develop into the 1990’s and on average visitors can stay up to 3-4 days. The average time spent in amusement parks was only 2 hours.

Designers and creators or imagineers as they call themselves in Disney are taking a more theatrical approach, requiring the audience to willingly enter the story, with more emphasis on light, sound, illusion, sets and artistry.

The industry has ever-increasing technology at our disposal to satisfy the ever-increasing sophisticated demands of the industry. There are high tech developments and technological advancements being created now, like the new ride at Islands of Adventure, Spider-Man, which integrates a whole range of new high technology.

Although I have been trained as a scenic constructor in the theatre industry, I do not feel daunted by all of the new technology, but excited that I will hopefully get the opportunity to be involved with it in my career.

Criteria for successful theme parks and attractions

Creating a successful themed attraction demands excellent design and the synchronised use of sound, motion, senses, illusion and a multiplicity of effects and skills coupled with imaginative story telling.

The first step is for the development and management company, like Merlin Attractions or Tussauds Group, to research an area in which they think an attraction would be successful. Through rigorous market research and public surveys an idea concept is established.

Once a yearly visitor figure is estimated this gives the company their budget amount required to spend on the particular attraction. They then approach various theming companies with the idea and state the visitor numbers they need per day and what the dwell-time will be. The theming companies then submit their project plan and the client decides, again through public surveys, whether or not it will be a success.

Return visitors are the key to successful attractions; a single memorable element is an essential ingredient. Success depends on drawing visitors in and recommending friends. If this doesn’t happen the managing company would monitor visitor satisfaction, which helps them to improve visitor attendance.

There has to be a real need to find new methods of enhancing attractions to entice visitors back, no returns means no attraction. This puts a lot of pressure on the theming companies.

There has been a recent 4% fall in visits to UK museums, which is attributable to lack of quality theming and imaginative flair. I believe this proves that theming has had a huge added advantage of being entertaining, inspiring and educational. An example of this is the animatronic dinosaur at the Natural History Museum, which may be the introduction of that imaginative flair that could salvage the recent fall in UK museum attendance.

How does the designer use that information and arrive at solutions when creating an attraction?

When creating an attraction, companies like Merlin Attractions first decide whether it is worthwhile becoming involved in a particular project. The result of their market research shows if the figures will bring in the return and if it does not they will only become involved if they are assisted with the investment.

The client will indicate some themed areas the designers will need to cover and how much space they have and of course the budget – the rest is down to the theming company and discussing requirements with the client.

In order to meet these requirements the designers need a good background knowledge of what entertains the general public, what is technically achievable, safe, and practically operational and have an imagination to deliver good ideas.

There are golden rules before designing an attraction in order to make them successful, aesthetically and technically. Designers need to consider how they want the attraction to succeed. Are they going to use ride systems, is the visitor going to watch sitting down or will they walk through? These are fundamental decisions that are discussed and solved between the client and the theming company.

When designers work with a concept they produce initial ideas about the kind of set, effects, layout and profile they want to create in the particular attraction or ride. These will primarily be a list of imaginative ideas that they will submit to the creative team who tackle the challenge of developing these ideas into a set of plans from which the attraction can be built.

They will need to make fundamental decisions on how they apportion the budget between scenic embellishment, landscaping, special effects and finishes etc.

The ideas are initially sketches for there is no point producing high rendered design if the client is not happy. Once discussions with the makers have occurred they can start to think about producing drafted drawings either from CAD or by hand that will state all measurements.

Progressing to a scaled model helps realise the designs. Final submission of concept will outline all aspects of the idea resolving technical issues, composed music, show programming, lighting, special effects everything from where the power should enter the facility to how the animatronic figures are going to operate, all defined in detail.

Compromises also continue throughout the making and fit up process. They usually occur when discussing materials for a prop or scene. Using different cheaper materials that result in a similar outcome, could free up money for something new without going over budget. This compromise should have a minimum impact on the final appearance.

Now health and safety laws govern us more, many solutions to the design are dependant on rules and regulations that may have to change the design slightly.

Building compromises on site occur for structural reasons; if something is not feasible compromises need to be found to keep the end product to the client’s satisfaction.

On site, during fit ups, especially when there are a collaboration of companies involved, frequent changes happen due to falling behind schedule or adhering to original plans, creating a knock on affect for finishing themed companies.

There is always a set time for projects and the opening date never changes, only the time in which the theming companies have to install the themed set and effects resulting in a compromise of their time.

Staging solutions, materials and effects to meet the designer’s needs

There is a whole range of materials and effects that solve many design challenges, artistically and technically to create spectacular effects within themed attractions.

Designers will solve staging arrangements within the particular attraction from the layout to the theme or transport system, ultimately it is what the creative teams produce that brings it to realisation.

To achieve these themed designs the creative team work with a wide variety of materials and effects that create designers’ initial ideas and turn them into themed environments.

Depending on budget, structural, aesthetic or health and safety reasons these materials will be chosen carefully for they all have different properties.

All companies have very large resource books to source a particular prop or effect, if they can find it they will buy it rather than build it, which invariably works out more expensive.

The effects are quite specialised and need experienced and trained crafters to use the materials and create the best quality finish. The crafters are mainly split into carpenters, sculptors, scenic artists and engineers and branch off from those disciplines to, eg animatronic engineers and structural reinforcing engineers.

Creators usually move between skills, so a sculptor may well be able to paint and vice versa. This is encouraged in the industry partly because it keeps ideas and projects alive and mainly because it keeps people employed.

There are not only making craft materials to choose from but also lighting and sound effects have a huge impact on a themed attraction. The collaboration of all three can create very successful attractions.

How creators enhance the design with the wide range of skills and how systems are used within different companies?

There are many ways in which you can enhance a design even in very early stages when rough ‘fag packet’ designs are created into architectural CAD drawings.

These rough sketches are translated into 3D models on CAD, which helps the sculptors and set-builders to produce their scenery. 3D models are a very useful system that can enhance the design and describe it in ways a 2D drawing could not. Not all companies in the themed industry use model boxes unless they feel it will help the sale of a project. Projects have been known to go terribly wrong as a result of not having a model box.

All the effects mentioned so far are used whilst referring to some kind of reference, whether it is a photo, model or drawing. This helps the creator keep in mind the design source whilst producing it, which in the long run will reflect in the finished piece. There have been cases where lack of reference and supervision has resulted in the end product not reflecting the original design.

In some cases creators have tried to enhance the design on an existing ride but actually found that lack of research and testing of an improvement can lead to more problems.

Depending on the company all these approaches vary and some companies prefer to work with model boxes. Likewise some companies do not design in-house and will contract out to freelance designers; others will take on a project and from the concept idea design and build right through to installation.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they are the better company; it’s the one that submits the most competitive proposal that will win the project. It’s very difficult to find a theming company that is good all round.

Concept to Realisation – How does it differ to theatre?

The development of a themed attraction is in many ways very similar to the approach theatre practitioners have, and I was not surprised when the majority of the professionals I spoke to or read about all came from a theatre background.

Usually the method theatre practitioners from concept to realisation is fairly structured as we already have a story line or script and it is how the designer and director realises that play with their concept.

This is very similar to themed attractions as they are derived from a storyline, not as intense as a play or script. Eg the idea concept for the London Dungeon was based on historical events such as the Great Fire of London, the Plague and many others.

The next step, again, is very similar to theatre in that you cannot have a show unless there is a budget and it is very unlikely that the designers will design any kind of set or effects unless they know how much they have to spend. This also applies in the theme park industry.

Budgets within themed attractions are usually dependant on market research around the area of the site and by working out how many visitors they estimate, timed by the amount they will charge for entry will give them a round figure on how much to spend.

Once the budget is finalised you can start to think about what you can achieve with the materials and tools available. You need to assess all the plans and elevations at which point team discussions commence.

At Scenic Route, a particular company in York, assign Head of Departments from each discipline and they liase with the craftsmen on construction techniques. This is very similar to the process at Central and I believe it is very effective because that appointed person will deal with all aspects of the project, including any problems which may arise.

If there are several companies tendering for the same project they will submit the design proposals to the client who will then refer again to market research to ascertain whether the ideas will attain the desired attendance figures.

Within theatre finalised ideas and concepts will culminate in a model box produced by the designer. In the themed industry the designer does not always produce model boxes because they can be too complex. If required by the client they will be contracted out to a specialist model making company.

Design meetings and brainstorming ideas that follow are very similar in both industries. From these designs detailed drafts of the space and the set are produced very similar to the ground plans and side elevations in theatre.

Production meetings take place with appointed HOD’s throughout the process and when it comes to materials, the build and queries HOD’s will work closely with all craft disciplines to choose materials effectively for the job.

This kind of collaboration is very similar to the experiences I have had as a HOD at Central.

The building process is strictly scheduled particularly for an on-site project when installation of the attraction is required. Site visits are essential in order to communicate with other companies on site installing heating or water supplies etc before theming companies arrive. This prevents possible conflict of structures.

Fortunately when working within a theatre space, whether it is a studio black box or proscenium theatre, we begin with an empty space with all essential supplies installed, so ground plans are unlikely to change.

The fit-up process follows and is very similar to theatre with an appointed project/production manager working on-site controlling all activities. This is a very difficult integration process for many things do go wrong as in theatre.

Once fit up is completed theatre would progress with dress and technical rehearsals. The themed industry has the integration process, which usually allows them to run the attraction and test equipment installed. The director will work with show programmers to make adjustments in show timings to achieve the desired effect, just like any theatre practitioner would when creating a piece of theatre.

The opening night in both cases cannot be compromised. With the themed industry it is not unusual for severe penalties to be imposed on companies in their contracts for late completion.

Comparing company structures, what are the similarities and differences between the themed and theatre industry?

Within the themed industry many companies are used to produce themed attractions. These are contracted by management companies who run a whole chain of attractions like the Tussauds Group that have Madame Tussauds, Rock Circus, Thorpe Park and Chessington etc or Merlin Attractions who have the Dungeons and Sea Life Centres.

Similarly in theatre you have the main theatre company e.g. The Royal Opera House who will contract out various jobs to staging companies like Scott Fleary or Kimpton Walker.

Each of those companies will then specialise in a variety of skills and trades. All theming companies are different and like Scott Fleary, who do not specialise in scenic painting, some theming companies will not specialise in construction.

Sarner International in Shepherds Bush are not actually involved practically in the build of their projects but will advertise that they can design and build. Their main department is design and sound design, any lighting and build would be freelanced out but they will always follow a project through to opening. Their administrative side is fairly structured and they have Managing, Marketing, Technical and Creative Directors and production services who deal with the running of a project.

Space Leisure in Colchester who do own their own workshops deal with all the construction and installation of an attraction, but the design stages are undertaken off-site with regular free lance designers. Their administrative side is not so structured and their Managing Director will deal with all pricing, running and control over a job.

Scenic Route has a very large workshop and involved in the construction and installation process; they do not design in-house but contract out to regular designers. The administrative side is very structured and is split into departments ie buying, sales, marketing, production and project development.

A client company like Merlin Attractions do not design but have their own architects who turn their ideas into drawings. Their main job is in market research and finding new ways and sites to build new attractions.

My perception of the role of a Director within the themed industry is that it is split into many different roles from Creative to Managing. This differs within individual companies and only the company seems to structure that.

The designer’s role within the themed industry from idea concept through to design is very much the same process we use within theatre. They work with an idea concept, creating initial design drawings on the layout of the set and its staging, progressing to final designs either on paper or through a model and working closely with the craftsmen.

Within the themed industry there are more creative roles like sculptors and polystyrene carvers, whereas at Central it would prop makers.

Initially I thought scenic constructors consisted mainly of carpenters and engineers. Through further research I found they have a multitude of skills including animatronics and structural engineers or cabinetmakers and joiners.

Project Managers within themed attractions are very similar to the Production Managers or Stage Managers in theatre and are usually employed from an outside source. They are relied on solely for the running of a project, arranging necessary meetings and schedules etc.

Whether you are working on different theatre shows or different themed attractions the fact that each day is different and a challenge in itself, seems that either industry is very exciting to be involved in.


Referring back to my question ‘How is a new themed attraction generated within the theme park industry’? To generate it does not only rely on the actual making of the attraction but a whole process of steps that I have covered in my paper, from initial marketing research and surveys to designing a concept and the collaboration of crafts and skills to installation and running the attraction and improvements.

Developments within the themed industry are continuously improving, theme park and the theming companies that produce these attractions have to keep abreast of developments to progress and maintain their success.

It is considered that super technology, like that of The Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure, is the new secret to entertaining visitors within theme parks and their attractions. My opinion is that super technology will provide us with fantastic effects but believe that the same strategies and creative processes that have been used within the industry for the last century will be the backbone for the next.

As a scenic constructor I look forward to working with both creative processes and new technology to improve my knowledge and continue to create themed attractions all over the world.

Written by Lynsey Brown

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