Magic Markers for Theme Park Designers

20 Apr 2012 Design Tools

One subject that has not addressed yet is the question of design tools: That is, what tools are used by designers to create theme park attractions?

Magic Markers

There are three brands of markers that seem to work the best for rendering, and each have their advantages. Prismacolors are nice because they are a dry marker. The dry marker allows you to get more detailed with your color. The triple tips allow you to work in detail or on larger surfaces. There are scores of colors in a variety of different sets. They work well for most applications. Pantone brand markers are very similar to Prismacolors in function and performance, very dry and usable for many applications.

The difficulty in using these markers is keeping a ‘wet edge’. When filling a surface, if you let a surface dry and then try to add more color you’ll get a bleed line within the space. Bleed lines can ruin a drawing and must be avoided. Of course, if you scan the drawing, the lines can always be photoshopped out. But there is something to be said about a perfectly rendered marker drawing.

Chartpak is another brand of markers that are used quite often in themed attraction development circles. The difference is that unlike Prismacolors, they are extremely wet. The wetness is an advantage because you can quickly cover an area on a piece of paper with a nice wash of color. Care must be taken to stay away from edges, because this marker bleeds a lot. However, an astute illustrator will use the black lines on a drawing as a buffer zone within which the bleed will stop. The Chartpak markers bring a wonderful, water color-like feel to a drawing and unlike Prismacolors, can be blended together to some extent. A disadvantage of these markers is the high level of toxicity. Use only for short periods of time.

Photoshop is quickly replacing the need for markers. A paint bucket tool in Photoshop eliminates a lot of mistakes and allows for editing later. Still, there is a rich quality that can be obtained with a properly rendered marker drawing. It is an art that we should not soon forget.

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Marc Fraser Davis

March 30 , 1913 – January 12 , 2000 ) was a prominent artist and animator for Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men , the famed core animators of Disney animated films.

Some of the animated characters Davis mainly designed and animated are Thumper from Bambi ( 1942 ), Brer Rabbit from Song of the South ( 1946 ), Cinderella ( 1950 ), Alice of Alice in Wonderland ( 1951 ), Tinker Bell in Peter Pan ( 1953 ), Maleficent and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty ( 1959 ) and Cruella De Vil of 101 Dalmatians ( 1961 ).

Davis also designed the characters for many Disneyland ride and show animatronics: The Enchanted Tiki Room, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Ford’s Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, America Sings, The Haunted Mansion, “It’s a Small World,” Western River Expedition, and the Country Bear Jamboree.

His wife Alice Davis created the original costuming for figures in the Disneyland rides Pirates of the Caribbean and “It’s a Small world.”

In 1989, he was named a Disney Legend . He was also the receipient of the much coveted Mousecar.

Davis died in January 2000; that same month, the Marc Frasier Davis Scholarship Fund formally was established at the California Institute of the Arts .


On Disneyland rides: “We really don’t have a story, with a beginning, an end, or a plot. It’s more a series of experiences building up to a climax. I call them experience rides.”

Working on the Jungle Cruise in the 1970’s

Terry Speicher: Theme park designer with ITEC Productions and a former Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise Skipper from the opening days of Walt Disney World.

Interviewer: Tell us about how you got started at Jungle, and how long you were there.

TS: OK. It was a very cold winter in Indiana, around December, 1972. Eastern Airlines was advertising on the Larry Lujack Show out of Chicago, with the slogan, “If You Had Wings,” and all kinds of hype about Disney, ending with clips about Disney World, Mickey Mouse, and warm Florida. I couldn’t resist. I’d had enough of gray skies and wet snow. I took $500 and my old Corvair, kissed my folks goodbye, and drove down: I was going to work for Disney. What I didn’t know was how many other people had the same idea. There were 30,000 applicants for 7,000 jobs when the park opened, and this was only a year later. I was lucky enough to be hired and assigned to Main Street Adventureland, where Ed Beaver took one look at the three guys with me and said, “Trains.” Then he took one look at me and said “Jungle Cruise.” I still have no idea why, but I was given a script and told to go home and memorize it by the following Monday (this was Friday). I’d never memorized any script before, and I was nervous, but I learned how to give the spiel, and then the fraternity experience began. I found the Jungle to be more than an ordinary job and the people who worked there more than ordinary people. Most of them were overqualified for these positions, and they provided a certain camaraderie and humor akin to what you see on M*A*S*H. You’d get on the boat, where the previous captain would tell you he’d loaded the gun (a real Smith and Wesson .38) for you as a courtesy. You’d get to the hippo pool and fire, and the first two shots would go click, click. On the third shot, an unbelievable ka-boom would resound–he would have double loaded one of the blanks for you. In those days, each captain would work out his own interpretation of the script, including me. There was an ongoing war (and probably still is) between the official script and the one that was actually delivered once the boat was ten feet away from the dock.I stayed at Disney for 4 1/2 years, of which I probably spent a year and a half on the Jungle. I wound up as lead on the Jungle at several different times, worked as opening lead at “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and was also a lead on Main Street. During rehab, I had the pleasure of replacing the hair on the animals in the veldt.

Interviewer: Do you have any favorite Jungle Stories or memories?

TS: We used to go into the rock rooms to cool off. We had “borrowed” a special key, but that became a slightly risky enterprise. One day the landscaping crew obligingly left a set of pruning shears behind when they went to lunch. Jerry Starcher (“Stump,” for short) and I decided it was high time the Jungle Cruise had more than a dock box for comfort, especially for the leads. We went into the room in the queuing area and used the nippers to cut through the AC ductwork, added a leftover grille, and voila! the Jungle Cruise office was born. (I tended to make offices wherever I went. Eventually I created a lunch area on the catwalk above the lagoon at Pirates. They never could prove I’d relocated the WDW bandroom’s water-cooler/refrigerator to the Pirates tower, as all identifying  markings had somehow disappeared.) The very best early Jungle Cruise exploit I remember (though I wasn’t involved myself) was about a captain who intentionally disabled his gun so it wouldn’t fire. After he pointed it at a hippo and it went “click” several times, he put a rubber knife between his teeth, jumped overboard, stabbed the hippo, swam to shore, jumped back on the boat in the shrine, changed shirts (he’d stashed one under the bow), received a standing ovation at the end of the cruise, and would have gotten away with it except for the congratulatory cards and letters that poured into Operations two weeks later, including photographs. Unfortunately, he was fired. (He had set the whole thing up so that a plain-clothes Jungle Cruise captain was on board, so the safety of the guests was never in question.) But my favorite memory of the Jungle Cruise involves a father with a little kid on a very hot, extremely hot July afternoon. This guy was shuffling along in the queue with the kid on his shoulders, and whenever he got really hot he’d lift the kid up in the air. Each time he did this, he’d hear a “thwacketa-thwacketa-thwacketa” sound and look around to see where it was coming from. It took about three times for him to realize that he was sticking the kid’s head into one of the ceiling fans. The kid was too surprised even to cry.

Interviewer: What are you doing now?

TS: That, of course, was all many years ago. In the intervening time, I’ve raised a family, opened and run my own electronics company, gotten a pilot’s license, traveled, and recently come full circle working for the entertainment industry, as an engineer for a company that builds ride and electronics systems for Disney and Universal. Strange how once it gets into your blood, it seems to stay there. My experiences on the Jungle made an extrovert out of an introvert and provided me with an extremely pleasant memory. On subsequent visits to the park with my family, I’ve noticed that things on the Jungle Cruise seem to be somewhat subdued by comparison.

Interviewer: You submitted a photo featuring you and Julie Nixon – tell us about that experience.

TS: As I turned the corner after Trader Sam, I saw every Disney dignitary who was anybody was standing on the dock, along with half a dozen secret service men and a gaggle of tongue-tied Girl Scouts who were there to provide a PR photo op. Somewhere in the middle of this mass of people was Julie Nixon Eisenhower. At the time, Nixon was still the president, and I’d voted for him, I regret to say, so this was a pretty big deal. It isn’t often that you get to give a “command performance.” Julie, the secret service guys, the girl scouts, and the “ambassador” tour guide were our only guests on that voyage–the people who’d been waiting on the dock were shuffled into permanent wait mode until the hubbub died down. The secret service were on the back of the boat and all over the dock, and, although I didn’t think about it until afterwards, I suppose there was a dangerous moment when I brandished the gun and shot the hippo (in those days we used real Smith and Wesson 38s, just blanks, of course.) You can bet their guns didn’t have blanks in them.

It wasn’t all that exciting because we got lots of celebrities, as you probably did as well, working on the Jungle. I was actually more impressed with the armed guards than with the president’s daughter (I was also more interested in the tour guide.) Just as a side note, on another occasion, when I was working at Pirates, Cliff Robertson damned near got me fired–he called to tell my supervisor what a great job I’d done the previous day of giving him a “behind-the-scenes” (very abbreviated, but he didn’t know that) tour of Pirates, which of course I wasn’t supposed to do. All my time at Disney, both on the Cruise and in Main Street/Adventureland, convinced me that even “important” people were just people, and to this day I use the skills I learned there every day.

Working on the Jungle Cruise in the 1990’s

JGR: Nathan, welcome! Thanks for being with us!

NN: Thanks.

JGR: The first thing I have to ask is how did you become one of the few skippers to work two Jungles?

NN: Well, the hardest part was getting hired into the college program at Disneyland, where only about 10% of applicants made it in. Actually, I didn’t even make it at first. I got a rejection letter. But I started a letter writing campaign to my recruiter. They offered me the job the day after I gave up hope. And lo and behold, the offer was for what I consider the best job at all of Disney. . . the Jungle Cruise.

JGR: Wow! That’s great.

NN: Then after college I decided that I wanted to design theme parks for a living. Sort of a dream of mine. So I moved to Orlando, where a lot of the design companies are located. I figured since I was in town, why not do the Jungle Cruise again? Getting hired on at WDW was easier. I basically walked in the door and begged (and flirted) to get them to send me to Jungle Cruise…. and they did! I was ecstatic! My friends at all WDW roll their eyes every time I start to talk about Disneyland Jungle. But I have a lot of great memories from the place, so it’s really still a part of me. It was like living in a parallel universe. Everything was the same, yet everything was different.

JGR: Cool. Now, we all know about the WDW Temple/Shrine – what are some of the other major differences, from your point of view as an operator?

NN: Well, the spiel is more or less the same, but the jungle is all backwards. At DL the elephant pool and “temple” area is more or less first. At WDW, it’s last. Besides that, they don’t use spotlights at night, which makes a big difference. WDW has much better “stick” microphones, which allows you to do a lot more things with your voice.

JGR: That’s funny, because when I was at WDW, we had the old CB mics and Spotlights (showing my age, I guess).

NN: I tried to get out the spotlights one night, but no one else would use them. They take a bit of coordination. I still like the CB mikes. They are perfect for pulling off a good, dry spiel. Oh, and of course… the ride at WDW is 10 minutes, as opposed to 7 at DL.

JGR: I know you’re probably asked this a lot, and I don’t want any sissy-I-like-them-both-equally- momma-with-two-sons crap: Which is the better jungle?

NN: Okay, I’ll give ya a clear answer, but you’ve gotta bear with me. First of all, I think that both have some great advantages over the other… I like WDW because I’ve had time to make a lot of great friends, whereas in College Program at DL, as soon as I got there it seemed like it was time to go home. But if I had to pick one… it would have to be Disneyland for several reasons: 1. It was the original. 2. Being from Oregon, I grew up on the west coast, and Disneyland was what I grew up with. 3. They actually have more animals to talk about (no toucans at WDW, or water buffalo at the python, no monkeys right near the veldt, etc). The Disneyland show scenes are spaced out a whole lot better. It’s much easier to spiel to, and there seems to be a nice flow to it. A lot of times WDW show scenes are close together, and then there are large gaps. For some reason at the end of the WDW ride, there is a big blank spot where we are supposed to point out the plant life. Talk about anti-climatic! The longer WDW ride is nice, in many ways too though. But most of all, and I know you are gonna think I am crazy for saying this: when I worked at DL Jungle, there were only guys. It was sort of like a fraternity… a boys club. Everyone looked up to the “Jungle cruise” guys for some reason. And not being around girls for a while wasn’t too bad. After all, there was plenty of good flirting potential at Fantasmic guest control.

JGR: Actually, I don’t find that crazy at all – I worked with an all male Jungle at WDW. Nathan, tell us a little about your theme park designing job – have you worked on anything we’d recognize?

NN: Well, I am just Mr. “almost good enough to scrub floors” designer. So I am just getting started. But my company did some of the major show sets for the new Twister Ride at Universal Studios Florida. They also designed the look and feel for the Batman roller coasters at the Six Flags parks. Besides that, they designed the sculptural characters above the “World of Disney” store.

JGR: Cool! How did you get involved with that (besides working at Jungle, obviously)? NN: Well, when I was at Disneyland I kept trying to get into Imagineering, with little luck. But I fell in love with the idea, so I changed my major to the closest thing I could find to it (and still graduate reasonably on time): architectural engineering… and about that time, I made contact with a CEO of a company that designs such attractions. He basically laid it all out, in terms of what I needed to do to get started. I followed it to the letter, and started networking and learning the things I thought I needed to know.

JGR: Any plans for the future to try again to get into Imagineering?

NN: The first thing I learned about this business is that it is very turbulent. When I got to Orlando, I was almost immediately hired by a company that designs sets and exhibits. Shortly thereafter, I was fired (It’s kind of fun to say you’ve been fired, actually). Then I got my “Dream job” with a company much like the one I am with now. We were designing theme parks in China and Korea. But with their financial crisis, they couldn’t afford to pay their bills, and our company went under. Generally, in this business (including with Imagineering) you work on one job (say, a ride like Splash Mountain). When it is complete, you lose your job. With luck, there is always a project right behind it that you can get signed into, but that’s not always the case. After EPCOT was finished in the 1980’s, about 2000 Imagineers lost their jobs.

JGR: Wow!

NN: In answer to your question, though, yes I would definitely like to work at WDI at some point down the road, given the right fit. But for now, I love where I am in work and in life. My friend Carley and I both want to stay at Jungle until we are 70! No joke! That’s the plan.

JGR: Great plan!

NN: We will be CT (seasonal) by then, I’m sure…

JGR: Do you ever get back to the DL Jungle for a visit?

NN: No, I’ve never been back. And I do miss it a whole lot. But then again, Disney is never too far away from me.

JGR: Any advice for Present Skippers, or Future hopefuls?

NN: Well, I think for new skippers, it’s best not to try to be too much of a crowd pleaser. I mean, it is very easy to get carried away and start throwing offensive one liners into a spiel to try to get a reaction. But the bottom line is that some boats don’t react to anything you do. I have had back to back to back boats. The first one where they are rolling on the floor, and the second one you give the exact same spiel, and all you get are blank looks. The third time, they are crying because they are laughing so hard. So after 18 months at DL and WDW jungle, I came to the conclusion that it’s up to the guests to have fun. I’ll always have fun, whether they do or not!

JGR: Last question (fodder for the message board – like it needs it): If ten WDW skippers and ten DL skippers had a rumble in a dark alley, who would win?

NN: Hmm… let’s see… Ya got those tofu-eatin’ Californian blondies on one side… and those rough and rugged southern boys on the other side (and me)… I think I’m gonna have to go with the Floridians on this one (and all those New Yorkers who seem to find their way to Jungle).

JGR: I was gonna say WDW cause they’re used to the dark from the shrine!

NN: Maybe that too. . .

JGR: Well, thanks a ton, Nathan, for joining us this month.

NN: Oh, no problem. Hope you got some stuff you can use. Remember, “If loving the Jungle is wrong… I don’t want to be right!”

JGR: Great tag line!

Much luck to you

The Disney Jungle Cruise Spiel

20 Apr 2012 Show Writing

We have made this list in an effort to preserve the many hundreds of witty jokes that have been “spieled” on Disney’s Jungle Cruise for the last 45 years since Disneyland opened. Many of the very best lines are lost over time as even the official Disney scripts change every few years. We hope that this will be a permanent repository for some of the best (and worst) humor ever delivered in the “Tropical rivers of the world.” This is not an official script.

While in line:

Those of you adventurers entering the world-famous Jungle Cruise, please notice there are two lines, one on the right and the other on the left. If you’d like to keep your family together, please stay in the same line. However, if there is someone in your family you’d like to get rid of, just put them in the opposite line and you’ll never see them again.

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please. Would the party that lost the roll of 50 $20.00 bills, wrapped in a red rubber band, please report to the turnstile … we have good news for you. We found your rubber band.

To speed things up, we ask that you tell the loaders — the men who will be helping you into the boats — how many there are in your party. For instance, if there are four people in your party, say “Hi, Mr. Smiling Boat Loader, there are four people in my party…” and he will save you four seats. If there are eight people in your party, say ” Hi, Mr. Smiling Boat Loader, there are eight people in my party…” and he will save you four seats.

Those of you who have just entered the Jungle Cruise are probably resigned to the fact that, being at the end of the line, you have a long wait. Well, we aim to please here at the world-famous Jungle Cruise. So, on the count of three, I want everyone to turn around. One … Two … Three. There- those at the back of the line are now at the front. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Your attention, please. We do not allow cutting in line here at the world-famous Jungle Cruise. Anyone caught with a pair of scissors will be asked to leave.

There are 87 varieties of poisonous snakes on the North American continent. We at the Jungle Cruise are proud of the fact that we have 82 of these varieties in the wooden rafters directly over your heads. Fear not, though, they will NOT attack a moving target, so please try to keep the line moving. If the line won’t move, simply run in place.

Today only, ladies and gentlemen, we will be allowing veterans to board the world-famous Jungle Cruise without waiting… veterans of the Civil War, that is, in full dress uniforms, accompanied by their great grand parents and their horse. Everyone else will have to wait in line.

Some of our scouts here at the world-famous Jungle Cruise claim they have spotted tigers in the waiting area the last couple of days. But we know that’s ridiculous. After all, tigers are striped, not spotted.

We have some pretty smart animals back in the jungle. Take monkeys, for example. You ask them to name one of their relatives, and they go ape. And snakes, they’re pretty clever too. Ask them what the 19th letter of the alphabet is and they’ll say S-S-S-S-S. Tigers are known for their intelligence, but you can’t trust them. Yeah, you never know when they might be a lyin’ (lion). But I think rhinoceroses are by far the smartest animals in the jungle. Just last week, I asked what four minus four is, and he said nothing.

Adventurers and adventurettes, horseplay is not allowed while waiting to board the world-famous Jungle Cruise. If you want to play with your horse, you’ll have to do it elsewhere. We do, however, allow you to monkey around in line just as long as you don’t go bananas.

It’s a four-hour wait from there. Have you been upstairs yet?

Other Assorted Jokes:

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhinoceros? Eckiphino. Well, that’s not really what you get, but you must understand, this is a family attraction.

Why did the elephant ride on the Jungle Cruise? Frankly, I don’t know, but I wish someone would find out- he’s sunk five of our boats in the last week alone.

Why did the ape get a job? He was tired of monkeying around. Why did the elephant quit his job? He was tired of working for peanuts.

Knock, Knock… Who’s there? … Toucan. … Toucan Who? … Toucan not fit through the turnstiles at the same time.

Knock, Knock… Who’s there? … Safari. … Safari Who? … Safari, so good. You’ll be on the Jungle Cruise in just a few minutes.

Boat Loading:

That cushion in that back of the boat is actually a whoopee cushion. Don’t believe me, go ahead sit down. (People sit, Skipper makes farting sound over PA.) How embarrassing and in front of people you don’t even know.

(To the boat loader) So how does that new vacuum of yours work? Boat loader: It sucks!

Watch your step as you enter the boat. If you’re entering from the back, come up to the front. If you’re in the front, just follow the simple instructions of your simple-minded loader.

Please listen to the boat loaders. They used to work in a sardine factory until they got canned. They didn’t mind too much though- they worked for scale.

Come all the way to the front- up by me. There’s no truth to the rumor that you get a longer ride in back.

Slide all the way forward now… That’s the only way we have of keeping the cushions clean!

Some of you might want to come up and sit on our sacrificial altar (pointing to the center cushion). We like to balance out the boat so when we sink, we go down evenly.

Please move in together as close as possible and try to cover up all of the blue seat cushions. There have been extensive scientific studies that have proven that the color blue attracts deadly flying piranhas. (Using color of boat for blue.)

Please remember that the tighter you get the better the heating system on the boat works.

(As people load in the back) There’s no dancing in the back there, folks… no dancing… you will have to be seated. Dancing is only allowed on the promenade deck.

If you could just sit in the doorway there- it keeps the wild animals out and the chickens and turkeys in.

I get paid for the number of people I take out… not the number I bring back!

Don’t worry if it’s crowded now… there’ll be lots of room on the way back.

How many of you are on the Jungle Cruise for the first time? Good! So am I.

Let’s get one thing straight… if we start to sink, the captain will be going down with the boat. I’d like you to meet your new captain (looking at nearby guest)… What did you say your name was?

Those of you sitting in the back are going to get a charge out of this trip. Yeah- you’re sitting on thebattery. Some people find that revolting, but I think that there is a positive and negative side to everything. Shocking, isn’t it.

Pulling away from the dock:

Were out of here like a bad LA football team.

Well, folks, there’s the Jungle, and as Captain EO used to say (in a high voice) “Fire up the thrusters! We’re going in!”

Welcome aboard the Leaki Tiki. Adventure lovers, my name is (name) and I’ll be your captain- unless we run into trouble- in which case your new captain will be taking over. (Looking at nearby guest)… What did you say your name was?

Hello, everyone. I’d like to welcome you aboard the world-famous Jungle Cruise. My name is (name) and I’ll be your skipper for as far as we get.

Hello, everyone, and welcome aboard the Jungle Cruise. My name is (name), and I’ll be your skipper, guide, social director, and dance instructor for the next three months.

Hello everyone and welcome aboard the World famous Jungle Cruise. My name is (name) and I’ll be your SKIPPER today — on a three hour tour. (pause) On a three hour tour. (the last line should sound like the gilligan’s island song a bit more than the first one)

Where are you from (sir/madam)? (Guest answers) Sorry? (Guest repeats) Oh- I heard you the first time, I was just sorry.

Everyone turn around and wave good-bye to the folks back on the dock… They may never see you again.

Now, let’s everyone turn around and wave good-bye to those people on the dock we’ve left behind. (In low voice) Come on folks… pretend like you’re having a good time.

OK… before we go much further, everyone raise your right hand and repeat after me. “I hope…. we do return.” Good! Better turn and take one last look at the dock- you may never see it again!

Before I came to the Jungle, I worked in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn’t concentrate. My boss almost beat the pulp out of me…

You know they saw you can always judge the quality of a ride by it’s line, well how long did you folks wait? My point exactly. (Good at night with short lines)

Hello and welcome to the world famous Jungle Cruise. My name is (name) and I’ll be your captain, cruise director and dance instructor for the next five exciting days and six romantic nights.

A Jungle Cruise version of the Haunted Mansion spiel:

Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this boat actually leaving the dock? Or is it your imagination? And consider this dismaying observation: this boat is completely surrounded with water, and I’m you skipper. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! Of course you could always swim away!!! (flash lights on and off and make the sound of thunder at night)

Other Disney Attraction spiels to repeat for rowdy crowds and annual passholders:

Ala Pirates of the Caribbean: (In a high voice) I think you knows too much. You’ve seen the cursed treasure. You know where it be hidden. You may not survive to pass this way again. (Deep echoing voice) DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. . .

(In high pitched pioneer voice from Thunder mountain) No hold on to those hats and glasses folks. Cause this here is the WILDEST RIDE IN THE WILDERNESS!

“Cinnamon Toast and Taco’s In the door.” In case you have ever wondered what the spanish speaking announcement is saying in the line for the Matterhorn Bobsled ride – that’s the translation, folks!

Welcome to Fantasmic, tonight our friend and host Mickey Mouse uses his vivid imagination to create magical imagery for all to enjoy. Nothing is more wonderful than the imagination, for in a moment you can enjoy a beautiful fantasy- or an exciting adventure. But beware, because it can also turn your greatest fears into an overwhelming nightmare. Are the powers of Mickey’s imagination strong enough, or bright enough to withstand the evil that invades Mickey’s dreams? You are about to find out. So sit back, relax and experience fantasmic. A journey beyond your wildest imagination. . .

Rain Forest:

As we leave the last outpost of civilization, we travel deep into the mouth of the Irrawaddy river of Asia into a tropical rain forests, where it rains some 365 days a year. (Alternate: We’re now leaving the last outpost of civilization and entering the jungle by way of the Irrawaddy river of Burma.)

As you can see, countless varieties of plant life grow in abundance here. In fact, we’ve counted more than 100 varieties of rare bromeliads in this area. Many of these tropical plants get their nourishment simply from the air.

Now please watch out for these carnivorous vines (pointing). Last week, one of them reached into the back of the boat and pulled a woman right out. It was awful! And just before she disappeared, she was feeling just vine.

(Pointing) In fact she was sitting right where that (lady/man/girl/boy) in (color) is sitting!

Feel that mist on your faces… Don’t worry that’s only the monkeys in the trees.

Feel that mist on your faces… Don’t worry that’s only poisonous bacteria that will eat you all alive

Indiana Jones Ride:

Look here we have a bunch a very strange jungle species, ya see that one there (pointing to a male) the one with the wider hips that’s the female of the species.

Look here we have a bunch of Asian albino hairless apes. Ya watch (waves to people, they wave back) monkey see, monkey do.

Over there is what we call the Indiana Jones Adventure and the Temple of the Four-Hour Line.

Those folks over there are all lost, looking for the Jungle Cruise I think. Hey guys! The Jungle Cruise is that way!

Ancient Shrine:

See those crocodiles over there we have trained the to stay perfectly still so you can take better pictures.

Do you know what the difference between the crocodiles and alligators are. The crocodiles are made of plastic and the alligators are made with fiberglass.

You know the crocs are always looking for a hand out. Ya but be careful, I once had an English teacher on board and she didn’t listen to me and now she’s teaching shorthand.

Just so you know, all of the animals at the world famous Jungle Cruise are real. Except for the ducks. They are mounted on rails, just like the boats.

Elephant Pool:

Look here…it’s the republican national convention. You can take picture because they all have their trunks on. Oh by the way… If you want to see the Democrats they’re back at the Hunchback of Notre Dame Festival of Fools.

And it looks like a whole herd has come down to bathe! Don’t scare them now… of course, the big shot gets the private shower… but I kind of like the little squirts myself.

And look at all the elephants out here today! This comes as a complete surprise to me cause I had no idea these guys were going to be here. If you want to take pictures go ahead- all the elephants have their trunks on.

And just ahead, you’ll notice an alligator playing with an elephant. That’s something you don’t see everyday. (Long pause) But I do.

See that elephant right there, that’s the richest elephant in the whole jungle. Yeah – it’s ‘Donald Trunk’.

Hey look (pointing at the elephant facing away from the boat). There’s a full moon in the jungle tonight.

Bengal Tiger:

(In low voice) That’s no house cat over there. Bengal Tigers can jump over 20 feet, and we must be at least, well… 19 feet away! Don’t worry, he’ll jump right over us.

That Bengal Tiger over there weighs about 500 pounds. He’s looking right at you (sir/ma’am)- better keep smiling.

That Bengal Tiger can jump up to 35,000 feet…out of a plane that is.

Everyone look at that huge Bengal Tiger! Bengal Tigers weigh 500 pound and can jump over 20 feet.

Squirting Elephant:

As we leave the elephant pool, we head into… uh-oh- a big one is coming up on the right and it looks like he’s aiming for us! (Elephant squirts over bow and goes down again, then comes up) Oh no! He’s coming up again – you folks on the right get down! Well… I guess he didn’t have time to reload. (Or) Well… I guess he didn’t have enough trunk space.

OK, we’re leaving the elephants now and pressing further into the… Wait a second, it looks like one of the larger elephants did not want to be disturbed. He’s coming up again… you folks in the back get down! (After elephant does not squirt) Sir in the (middle/back)- that was very clever the way you hid behind your (child / wife / that lady… do you know her?)

As we leave the elephant pool, we head into… uh-oh- a big one is coming up on the right and it looks like he’s aiming for us! (Elephant squirts over bow and goes down again, then comes up) Oh no! He’s coming up again- you folks on the right get down! (Elephant comes up but does not squirt — make a silly laugh at them) I guess he forgot to reload.

Safari Outpost:

You know, a lot of safaris camp around this area. Hmm…. that could be one up ahead. (Points) Uh-oh… this one has some uninvited house guests! They do have a unique way of washing the dishes. (Points to water) Those gorillas sure did a sloppy job parking that jeep! But I guess monkeying around comes naturally to ’em.

You know, a lot of safaris camp around this area. Hmm…. that could be one up ahead. (Points) Uh-oh… this one has some uninvited house guests! One of those gorillas is going to have an eye opening experience. Should be mind blasting. I couldn’t get that jeep started. They got it to turn over.

Well, safari so goodi. Let’s move along.

Nothing to be concerned about. Just a bunch of gorillas having a good time. I wouldn’t get too close, though. They may look like a nice bunch, but let me tell you- those guys are really animals.

Now please, if you’re wearing yellow, don’t make any noises like a banana… it drives them ape! They find it very appealing.

Ah, that explains things! It looks like that safari has some uninvited house guests! (pause) (Yelling to gorillas) Hey! Where’d you guys learns to parallel park anyway? (Back to guests) Ah, they’re not listening. I guess they’re too busy monkeying around.


Since we are in an area filled with rare tropical foliage, I’d like to take a moment to point out some of the plants to you. There’s one, there’s one… (Point left, point rear left, point right, etc)

I’d like to take a moment to point out the plant life and tell you everything I know about them. (point with silence)

Anybody know the names of those? Anybody? Oh well.

See that bamboo over there? It grows to be 6 stories tall, but people say it can grow to 7 stories but that’s a whole other story.

Gorillas & Crocodile:

Now there’s a croc with a snappy personality! Ha- he’s going to get himself a knuckle sandwich if he’s not careful.

Well, will you look at that- some of the camp’s food made it downstream. But I don’t think it’s going to waste.

Look there that’s something you don’t see every day… I do.. Every day every 15 minutes

Schweitzer Falls:

(Skipper has back to falls, distracted by the gorilla/croc scene) Uh- oh, lean in back there! Lean in! (Motions to guests and spins wheel around) Whew! That was close!

And now, we’re approaching the beautiful Schweitzer Falls, named after that famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.

This is the backside of Schweitzer Falls, named for the backside of the famous explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.

Ahead is beautiful Schweitzer Falls, and I (wheel appears to jam and skipper tries to free) Oh no! You folks in the back lean in! Duck! Whew! That was close! (Best to use body language with all foreign crowds)

Don’t worry about the waterfall; it won’t get you wet. The water in the falls, like everything else at Disneyland, is completely synthetic. To the left is the beautiful Schweitzer Falls, and if you look over here to your right…. and then back to your left, you can have a second look at Schweitzer Falls.

Nile River:

We’ve turned on to the Nile river of Africa, the longest river in the world, winding across more than 4000 miles.

We’ve now turned down the Nile River the longest river in all of Anaheim that’s right a whole 200 feet.

We’ve now turned down the Nile River and if you don’t believe that you must be in denial.

Bull Elephants: Up on the Elephants bank, we have African bull elephants. Those enormous ears and great tusks distinguish them from the Indian elephants we saw earlier.

Do you know how you can tell that that’s an African elephant? (wait for response)… It’s because we’re in Africa

On the left bank there- it’s a huge bull elephant. The large sloping forehead and enormous ears mark the African bull; the second most feared animal in the jungle. On the other, THE most feared animal in the jungle- his mother in law

Look there, that’s Skippy (alt: Speedy, Dumbo) the fastest elephant in the jungle watch (lights first elephant then flashes it to the elephant on the right) Pretty amazing huh?

African Veldt:

Look at that family of baboons, there’s Pat & Shirley Baboon, Daniel Baboon, and the hair stylist Vidal Baboon .

Don’t worry kids! That zebra is just sleeping. Those lions are his friends!

The Lions are protecting the sleeping zebra.

Do you know why it’s so hard to eat zebra? You keep getting white meat – dark meat – white meat – dark meat.

Look it’s Simba and Nala from the Lion King.

How do you tell the difference between the male and female Zebras? The males have black and white stripes and the females have white and black stripes.

(Pointing) By the look of those baboons up there, something’s up on the great African veldt. Ah-ha! It looks like that pride of lions has made a kill, and the clean-up crew, those hungry vultures, are waiting for their share. This region points out the basic law of the jungle- “survival of the fittest.”

Oh, it looks like the entire baboon family has come down to the water’s edge today, along with the other residents of the African veldt. See the striped animals over there? Those are zebras. And the big tall ones with the long necks? Those are giraffes. And the black ones over here with horns- well, I’ve never seen them before. They must be gnu!

We’re about to enter the Africa veldt, an immense grassland home to an endless variety of wildlife- baboons, wildebeests, giraffes, gazelles, gnus, g-lions, g-zebras. (hard g-sounds)

Here’s a little advice. Never play poker in the jungle, because there are lots of cheetahs around. If they say they’re not a cheetah, then they’re probably just a lion.

Okay, I have a confession to make. I was once the second giraffe on the grassy knoll.

Up on the grassy knoll, a fake giraffe is choking on a plastic leaf.

Just for your information, all of the animals here on the veldt are real. But their feet have been bolted to the ground for your safety.

(Pointing to Lions eating zebra) Over there is the original hard rock cafe.

Over there is an example of the first Law of the Jungle: Don’t be a zebra.

Watch out for those vultures folks, they are always looking for charrion bags.

Trapped Safari (Rhino):

There’s that lost safari we’ve been looking for. Obviously mixed up in some kind of native uprising. That rhino seems to be getting his point across, and I’m sure that guy on the bottom will get the point in the end! Hey I know that guy on the bottom, his names Juan. Ya, and it looks like that rhino is going to get a hole in Juan. Well, bottoms up, fellows!

Uh-oh… look! That safari’s in a tight spot there. But that rhino seems more than willing to give them a lift.

On the bottom, there’s Ahontis. Looks like the Rhino is trying to poke Ahontis.

Well- you know what they say… safari, so good-ee. So I guess we’ll be moving on.

Hippo Pool:

We are now turning onto a pool of dangerous hippos, so please, sit still and don’t rock the boat. These huge creatures are quite curious and could easily upset our boat. So please, don’t do anything that might attract them!

Last week, they overturned six of our boats… only FIVE of them were MINE, though!

Don’t worry, the natives tell me that they are only dangerous when they wiggle their ears and blow bubbles….

Don’t worry, the natives tell me that they are only dangerous when they climb up in the trees and start doing big hippo cannon balls right down on top of us

How many of you are willing to go on? (Show of hands) How many of you want to turn back? How many of you are apathetic about the situations? Uh-oh… it looks like one of them’s going to try to charge our boat! (shoots) Looks like we’ve scared them off. I bet he’ll have a headache tomorrow!If we’re all real quiet, you can sometimes hear the baby hippos calling for their mothers. (Low voice) Shhh- be real quite now… listen …. (leaning out of boat, yells) “Hey mom!”

Uh oh, that large hippo is going to attack us! Watch out! (shoots) I just saved your lives, folks. (pause) YOUR WELCOME! (If applause) Please. . . . Don’t. . . . Stop. . .. . Please don’t stop!

Now as we enter the Hippo pool, I want to tell you about a ancient ritual that they have… They place their young in the trees to feed on the leaves until they are 6000lbs and then they cannon ball through the jungle foliage to the boats below and sink them to the bottom of the jungle rivers a whole 2.5 feet down. Oh, look there’s one now (shoots up into the trees).

Entering HeadHunter Country:

We are now entering the most dangerous part of our journey. Shhh. . . This is a bad place to be headed.

Over there are the remains of my last crew. (pointing to the skull canoe) You can tell they had a good time. Look, they are still smiling! That’s what happens after about 10 hours at Disneyland, folks. Those smiles are just plastered right on their faces.

We’re entering headhunter country now… be very quiet. In that canoe over there… the remains of my last crew. They had a good time, even to the end- they’re still smiling.

Shhh… we’re entering headhunter country now… don’t make a sound. In that canoe over there… some of the native’s arts and crafts. Art’s the one on the top!

We’re not out of danger yet- this is headhunter territory. Remove your jewelry please. The natives have been complaining of indigestion.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the headhunters. They normally only attack children wearing glowing jewelry (for night cruises)

Native Village:

The natives seem to be celebrating the kill of that lion… maybe we can sneak by. Don’t attract their attention.

I studied their language in college lets see if I can translate for you… Put your right foot in, shake it all about, Put your right foot out, shake it all about…

Hey look it’s the Village People, let’s see what they’re saying.. Y-M-C-A…

This group is trying to come up with a name for themselves for their upcoming CD, they have two choices, either the Village People or Fine Young Cannibals.

Attacking Natives:

Keep your eyes on these bushes on the right there. (Turns around quickly) They’re on the LEFT this time.

(Pick the color of the shirt of a child) Head hunters always attack kids wearing (blank) colored shirts

Uh-oh, it looks like a native war party on the left. You folks, please get down on the floor. (Makes whooshing sound into mike) Ah, those are spears by the way.

sshhh sshhh shhh sshhh shhh (eventually changes from shhh sound into a panting sound. Then in a surfer dude’s voice) WHOA! Great sound effects!

Women and children- stand up! All the men- get down! If they hit you with a spear, just pull it out and throw it back at them- we’re not allowed to keep souvenirs. We certainly don’t want you to be stuck with it for the rest of the trip.

On the left, a friendly group of native traders. Ukka Mucka Lucka… Ubonga Swahili Ungawa… Wagga Kuna Nui Ka… It’s a good thing I speak their language. (Turns to guest) They want to trade their coconuts for your (wife/child/husband)… I think we should hold out for at least four.

Okay ladies and gentlemen the natives usually attack from the right hand side of the boat. (Native attack) Wait one minute here! What are you guys doing on the left side of the boat? You know I told you to attack from the right and another thing what are you doing just standing looking stupid with those spears in your hand your supposed to throw them! Get back down and try that one again! (Timing is right so the natives go back down on skippers command)

If you get hit by a spear, pull it out at throw it back. You can’t keep souveniers. We wouldn’t want you to get stuck with one.


Beautiful Schweitzer Falls is upon us again. The overhanging rock formation will afford us a different view this time. I have a special treat for you, folks. You may never have seen this before… there it is- the backside of water!

Now hold onto your seat cushions because we’re about to do something really special- no extra charge. Are you ready? We’re now going UNDER water!


On that old stump there are spectacular toucans, some of the most colorful birds in the jungle.

Toucan do much better than one can.

Over there are three toucans- also known as a six pack of birds.

Rapids of Kilimanjaro:

Uh-oh, up ahead- the treacherous rapids of Kilimanjaro. Very sharp and dangerous rocks through here… notice the huge waves crashing against our hull. (Makes crashing wave sounds in mike)

Ho hum… here we are at the famous rapids of Kilimanjaro. We’ll probably have to shoot them. (Leans over and shoots rapids with thumb and index finger.)

(Steering wheel back and forth) Notice the skill and finesse your skipper uses to guide the boat through safely. Those of you who wish to take pictures, feel free.

If we start sinking, we’ll have to lighten our load. (Turns to guest) You folks over there want to get your belongings together? You may be leaving us shortly.

That last rock on the right is a 1:100 scale model of the Matterhorn Bobsled ride! (check it out, it really looks like it. .. )

Hang on… we’re coming across some white water here. One of those jagged rocks could easily rip the bottom right out of our boat. If we start to go down, just grab for the bright red seat cushions. (color not on boat) They’re the only ones that float.

We’re now entering the incredibly dangerous white water rapids of Kilimanjaro. Grab hold of something solid, like those safety bars of the person next to you because we’re going to be bouncing up and down a lot! (jumps up and down, side to side) Whew! Did you feel the sheer power of that?

On the right here are some fascinating rock formations. Really interesting. It’s sad though. I come through here all the time, point these out to people, but they just take them for granite. (Alternate: See that rock right there, it’s actually made of limestone, but many of my crews just take it for granite.)

Python/Water Buffaloes:

Hey look there, what kind of snake is that? (People answer with the names of kinds of snake) No, it a plastic snake.

Python’s are one of the less intelligent animals in the jungle. If they were smart do you think that he would be hugging that dead tree stump when food is all around him.

Up ahead is our pet snake, Monty. (pause) Monty is a python

Yup, there’s one little python, sitting in a tree, H…I…S…S…I…N…G

Uh-oh… Look ahead there! A huge python. It looks like he tried to put the squeeze on that baby water buffalo… Actually, he’s very affectionate, and if we get much closer, he could get a crush on you!

And on the left, a huge python, one of the jungle’s most fascinating and studied creatures. After all, look at all the animals that totally get wrapped up in the subject!

That huge python is over 24 feet long and known to swallow little children whole!

Trader Sam:

There’s old Trader Sam, head salesman of the area. Business has been shrinking lately, so this week only, Sam’s offering a two-for-one special: two of his, for one of yours!

There’s old Trader Sam… Three explorers came through here last week and Sam invited them for dinner. When he told them what the menu was, they completely lost their heads.I got their late. All I got was the cold shoulder and some finger food.Trader Sam was thrown out of college, ya, he was caught buttering up one of his professors, now he’s a psychologist. You can tell who is clients are, he a shrink to the ones on the left and the ones on the right are his basket cases.

Return to Civilization:
Thank You for riding and have a good day. And as Michael Jackson would say (In a feminine voice)

Thank You for riding and have a good day. And as Charley Browns teacher would say (In the teachers weird voice) Wa, wa, wa…etc. And now as Millie Vanilli would say (mouths the words) Thank You for riding and have a good day.

And now, probably the most dangerous part of our journey- the return to civilization! I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed our cruise. However, if your in-laws are still with you, you’ve missed a golden opportunity. However, bring them back later tonight for our “in-law” special… halfway for half fare, no questions asked.

Well we’ve laughed and we’ve cried. We’ve almost died! I love you like family. Now get out! I’m sorry, that was rude. Please get out.

And now, the most dangerous part of our journey- the return to civilization and those California freeways. Talk about a jungle!

The Jungle Cruise was brought to you in part today my the letters, “e”, “r” and the number “101”

You know, many times people ask me how many people work at Disneyland. (Counting the visible cast members) Hmmm, I’d say about one out of seven!

As we approach, please notice that there’s a dock on the left, and a dock on the right. But don’t let it confuse you. It’s a paradox.

Make sure you have all personal belongings with you… cameras, purses, small children… anything left on board will be thrown screaming to the crocodiles.

Any children left on board become property of the Walt Disney company after 24 hours.Please make sure you have all you belongings with you including your small children, if you leave them we will be forced to take them back to It’s a Small World and glue their feet to the floor and make them sing that hideous song over and over and over.

Please keep your hands inside the boat, I sure don’t want my new dock ruined. If you liked your ride my name is (name) if you didn’t my name is Tom and I work on the Submarine Voyage.

Unloading: Two of the world’s largest pygmies will assist you from the boat.

Please take your kids by the hand and watch your step.

You will be helped off the boat by two of the black footed albino pigmies over on the dock. These guys weigh over 500 pounds and can jump OVER TWENTY FEET!

OK rise like bread folks, no loafing around. I know my jokes are stale and crumby, and I’m sure I could do butter but its the yeast I can do on the sourdough I make here. I think I get my rye sense of humor from my dad. It’s no wonder. He’s Danish. I was born under a croissant moon and I used to be the toast of the town, until one day I just got spread too thin. Hey, where are you going, I’m on a roll! Oh well I guess you have to jam. OK, everybody stand up please.

Those of you on the dock side will be helped out by the front, those of you on the water side should turn around and you’ll be helped out by the rear… of the boat that is. This is adventureland, not fantasyland!

The jungle cruise has been brought to you today by the hippo farmers of America. Hippo: The other-other white meat.

When I count to three, everybody stand… the last one standing is a baby hippo. Ready? One… two… four! Look at all the baby hippos!

Do stand up… off your seats, on your feets. All right… if you don’t stand, you’ll have to go again! I knew that would get you up. Look down and watch your step as you exit. If you feel faint, don’t hesitate to throw your arms around the necks of the unloaders… that’s ladies only, please!

If you feel your feet getting wet as you leave the boat, you’ve probably gone out the wrong side. Don’t fall in the water as you leave… we’ll have to charge you extra.

Well folks, I hope you all enjoyed your trip around the jungle. I had such a good time- I’m going to go again! (low voice)… and again, and again, and again…

Bye now.. come back and see me again when you have the courage… and enjoy the rest of your stay in the Magic Kingdom. Aren’t you going to say good-bye, after all we’ve been through together?

Please be sure to tell your friends how much you enjoyed the Jungle Cruise… it helps keeps the lines down. Please don’t go out the window- you’ll get a window pane. That would be a shuttering experience. It would be enough to make a venetian blind.

Please exit the boat the same way you entered… pushing and shoving.

Watch your step, and please don’t step on small children indiscriminately. Pick the one you want and make sure you get him!”

If the unloaders grab you on the elbow or wrist as you pass, that’s their way of saying they love you. You can repay them by stomping on their foot or kicking them in the shin. Of all the groups I’ve taken on this ride, you’re the most … recent.

If you want to see me later, you can catch me at the Comedy Club at Pleasure Island. I’ll be the one in the restroom handing out mints and washing the combs in that blue water.

We hope you enjoy the rest of your day here in this magic and enchanting land that we call … work. If you would like to see me on the David Letterman Show next month… please write him a letter and tell him you would like to see me there!

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: John Lounsbery

John Lounsbery, one of Walt Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men,” was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 9, 1911. He graduated from the Art Institute of Denver, in 1932. Moving to Los Angeles, he submitted his work to the Disney Studios and joined the animation team in 1935.

His character animation work included Ben Ali of “Fantasia,” Honest John in “Pinocchio”, Timothy in “Dumbo” and Tony in “Lady and the Tramp.” Moving into the role of Animation Director, he worked on “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan”, “Sleeping Beauty” and ‘Winnie the Pooh” to name a few.

His untimely death occurred in 1976, while working for Disney on “The Rescuers.”

John Lounsbery was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 1989.

Dark ride inventor John Wood

John Wood is one of the driving forces of themed entertainment today.  Here’s our conversation with the President of “The Great American Dark Ride Company,” the Sally Corporation of Jacksonville, Florida.

We have constantly been creating characters, shows and rides to satisfy our need to succeed and our customers hunger for entertainment. A company like ours has to reinvent itself to some degree regularly.

— John Wood


Nate Naversen:  Hi John, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

John Wood.  Thanks Nate.  It was my pleasure!

NN: First off, how did you get your start in the amusement park industry?

JW: We actually founded the company in 1977 with the idea of creating reprogrammable moving and talking mannequins for a variety of purposes. Our first trade show exposure of these exciting new products was at the National Association of Display Industries in New York (NADI). This show includes Christmas Displays and Mall Displays. There was some genuine interest in our novel products, but it proved to be a difficult market for us to sell.

I first learned about the IAAPA Trade Show during a product demonstration at Kennedy Space Center and immediately signed up for the 1978 show in Atlanta. The market response was much better and we believed we had found a home! Interestingly enough however, we also discovered that other entrepreneurial companies were creating animatronic figures and were getting started at the same time. Animator Aaron Fector from Creative Engineering (Showbiz Pizza) joined the association the year prior, Advanced Animations also exhibited in Atlanta that first year under the name “Kimchuk” and Creative Presentations was on the scene demonstrating some of Kenny Acton’s animation. At that time, CPI was located in Chicago. CPI has since dissolved but many of the individuals important to its success are still in the industry.

The amusement park industry proved to be a good fit for Sally’s personality and the company evolved to meet the needs we found in this fun industry. By the way, the original three founders of Sally were all named John and I am the last of the three original roboteers still involved in the business.

NN: Roboteers. Is that a term that you three coined?

JW: Actually, I have used the term to help described what I do. It seems to be pretty effective and most people catch on.

NN: I heard a rumor the Sally Corporation is named after one of your first robots, Sally. Is this true?

JW: Yes. Sally was the name of the first animated character we produced. She was actually invented by John Rob Holland, a dentist and friend of mine while he was in dental school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It seemed to be a catchy name at the time.

NN: What are your favorite kinds of projects?

JW: In our business, the new custom attractions are always the ones that are the most exciting and enjoyable (providing they are successful). We really enjoy the design/build projects that have allowed us to create themed attractions and dark rides from top to bottom. Our company has evolved from being a manufacturer of lifelike animatronics into a company that combines the special skills of electronic technicians, mechanical fabricators, talented scenic artists, professional sculptors and molders and talented designers of special effects, animation and show elements – all under one roof. It creates great team work and a superb sense of satisfaction when the attractions open to the public. Each department is interdependent on the other to achieve the quality our customers and, incidentally, their customers expect.

In addition, we have truly enjoyed seeing the success of the interactive dark ride in the worldwide marketplace. In 1986, we presented the concept of a shooting game and a dark ride adventure combination in the form of Ghostbusters – The Dark Ride. We knew the combination was a winner but it was not until 1995 when we had an opportunity to finally build and install such an attraction – The Great Pistolero Roundup.

NN: A shooting ride: Do you believe this was this the first ride of its kind?

JW: No, I have heard there were other shooting dark rides in the past and actually rode on one in China in 1985. It was a simple ride featuring fiberglass animals in an outdoor setting. A jeep-like car had two gimble mounted rifles and a scoring console. Tom Wages (currently general manager at Lake Compounce and at the time, president of IAAPA) and I would compete to see who was the successful shooter at each targeted scene. It was a blast!

NN: Do you think that the success of the Great Pistolero Roundup helped spur the development of Men In Black (MIB) and the Buzz Lightyear rides at Universal and Disney?

JW: I am not sure but we would be happy to take part of the credit! We had a lot of the Disney folks ride our first exhibit of “The Great Pistolero Roundup” but I believe they were already thinking of the idea at the time. It gave us great pleasure to have a number of interactive rides installed before either one of these came out.

Since that time, we have opened seventeen interactive dark rides in six different countries and I believe there will be many more in the future.

NN: Wow, that’s quite impressive!

JW: In the year 2000, we had the opportunity to take this technology full circle and create a major attraction with 3D animatronics with a high capacity performance (similar to the original specifications of Ghostbusters). The Labyrinth of the Minotaur at the new park Terra Mitica in Benidorm, Spain has set a new standard in regional fun attractions and certainly holds a special place in our heart.

NN: That’s wonderful! Will you describe the ride for us? What’s it like?

JW: The “Labyrinth of the Minotaur” features over seventy fully animated figures including Hydras, Dragons, Spiders, Centaurs, Minotaurs and a variety of other equally exotic figures. Like the great Greek myth, riders go through a maze-like cave where they must pass by a gauntlet of creatures. Each automatic guided vehicle (a trackless smart dark ride system) carries six people with crossbow like laser guns. Their challenge is to extinguish all of the targets in each scene and continue on their quest to meet and defeat the Minotaur. At two points in the ride the scores are tabulated and the riders are allowed to continue only if they have received a sufficient score. It’s much like a video game and it is really a lot of fun! We are also pleased that it is the most popular ride in the new park!

NN: Your web site talks about your role as both company chairman and as a developer of brands. How much do you get involved in the design process?

JW: In a variety of ways. In fact, the design team may say I get involved too much! In reality, it is my job to interpret the client’s needs to the design process. In addition, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world and see attractions that have worked and those that haven’t. Whenever possible, I try to utilize this successful elements that I have enjoyed and seen work for others.

NN. What do you see as the future of themed entertainment?

JW: Themed entertainment has enjoyed explosive growth since the early 1980’s. Its growth was fueled by the development of the Universal Studios projects and expansion of Disney’s parks. During the same time frame, Las Vegas and the Casino industry also saw the merits of immersive themed experiences and their relationship to customer satisfaction. To me, it has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that people enjoy the feeling of fantasy and escapism that one gets when they visit an exotically themed environment.

At this point in time, Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles may be reaching maturity in their themed attraction growth (at minimum, the pace will be slower in the future). However, the rest of the world is still catching up. Most of the regional parks are beginning to see the value of themed attractions designed for the whole family and not just the teenage market. As a result, there are countless new opportunities in this broader market. If the providers of themed entertainment will adapt to the new marketplace, they will be able to enjoy its growth and success but, it takes a different mindset in order to survive and thrive.

Universal and Disney utilize a variety of special contractors in order to achieve the dreams of their talented designers. Most regional parks and attractions do not have a creative team or the patience to put together the small pieces to this grand puzzle. Simply put, they want a product they can buy. The individual suppliers need to develop consortiums or strategic partnerships around creative new concepts that can be successfully designed, executed and installed in a timely and cost-effective manner. I believe the parks are looking for bold new ideas and unfortunately, most of the suppliers are waiting for the ideas to come to them.

NN: I suppose that’s a great niche for a company like yours that truly provides turnkey darkrides to the theme parks of the world.

Okay, next question: there is an industry slump that seems to be going along with the weakening economy. Has it affected Sally Corporation?

JW: The “industries slump” is coming on the heels of massive Universal, Disney and Warner Bros. developments worldwide. In addition, the Asian market has slowed down drastically due to their economic collapse and the failure of some of the new projects that have been constructed there. New investors and entrepreneurs have realized the fun business is not always that much fun and, like any business, it takes skill, work and management of the details in order to be successful. Three and four years ago, we were most certainly affected by the slump in the Asian economy but, we are currently enjoying a steady stream of business and continued growth. I believe we are still market driven but our market is much broader than Universal and Disney parks. In an industry as small as the amusement parks and attraction industry, it is best to design products that will fit everyone in the industry and not just the top few.

NN: That’s good insight. What advice do you have for young people who are trying to get started in this industry?

JW: The first thing that young people need to realize is the fact that it is a business and not an extension to their summer recreation. With that being said however, the best training ground is probably in the park itself where you can get a feel for customer satisfaction, product reliability and the operational requirements for the working park.

NN: I know that from experience! It really does make a difference.

JW: While you are there, be sure to observe the little things that make people happy, the small components that make attractions special, the things that work and the things that didn’t quite work and then ask yourself why. Be mindful of the power of a positive attitude and the infectious nature of teamwork, trust and success. For my employees, it’s important for newcomers to have a sufficient skill level to carry their own weight. Most of the additional training comes on the job working on a product that has to be built to a certain quality standard and within a certain restricted time frame. Skill, attitude, desire and the ability to work within a team are all invaluable resources for a young person to have in this industry.

NN: In a topsy turvy industry Sally Corporation has been around since 1977. To what do you attribute the stability and longevity of your company?

JW: Along the way luck has played a major role in our longevity. There have been a number of times when we had our backs up against the wall when we landed that new project, got that new idea or found someone who believed in us enough to invest in us.

Secondly, we are driven to succeed. In other words, we are driven to keep our employees employed and happy and keep the momentum for our company and our products building. Because of the fact we were not in LA or Orlando and could not rely on a steady trickle of business from the big boys, our business plan was structured differently. It was important for us to sell to retail establishments, museums and private businesses. In addition, we analyzed the pitfalls of our business and have done everything possible to avoid them (after we fell into them at least once!). Every company needs to analyze what makes them successful and aides them in obtaining their goals. They also need to try to forecast the potential dangers along the path and pick the direction that has the greatest chance for success. Most importantly, however, is the fact that when you are in the robot business, you have to make your own future. There is not a book you can read that will tell you what you can or cannot do. You have to analyze it for yourself.

NN: Maybe you’ll be the man to write that book! Please continue:

JW: We have constantly been creating characters, shows and rides to satisfy our need to succeed and our customers hunger for entertainment. A company like ours has to reinvent itself to some degree regularly.

NN: Especially in the last few years, there’s been a big move toward storytelling in the themed entertainment industry, led most notably by people like Bob Rogers and Jack Rouse. How much does “story” play a part in the rides, attractions and exhibits you create?

JW: The story always plays a key role. A dark ride is usually an abbreviated part of a bigger story. Often, it is the queue line and preshow that allows you to tell more of the story than the actual experience itself. Bob and Jack have been involved in many theatrical presentations where the audience is sitting for 10 – 20 minutes and a story can be told from beginning to end. A dark ride usually lasts 3 – 6 minutes and often becomes a condensed version of a broader story. Nevertheless, the theming needs to be consistent, the storyline inclusive of a beginning, middle and end and the method of communication both entertaining and believable.

NN: Do you have any advice for the readers?

JW: Communicate clearly, completely and honestly with your suppliers, your employees and most importantly, with your customer. Make every effort to provide the best customer interface possible. Secondly, get involved. 30% of our business comes from referrals and a number of those started with casual or deliberate discussions we had with designers and operators. Thirdly, make your own breaks don’t wait for someone else to make them for you. Finally, never stop thinking about your business – plan for the future and stick to the plan.

NN: Do you have a favorite theme park?

JW: Disneyland is still my favorite park although I’ve had the good fortune to serve on the Applause Award Committee for the past fifteen or more years and have visited some of the finest parks in the world.

NN: The Applause Award committee is through IAAPA?

JW: The Applause Award was actually created by Liseberg Amusement Park and was initially presented by their management team to individual parks like Disneyland. In order to obtain greater publicity for the award, they partnered with Amusement Business and developed a “Board of Governors” of individuals within the industry. The Board is responsible for visiting the various nominated parks and voting on a biannual recipient of the award. John Graff, CEO of IAAPA is a nonvoting member of the Board and the award is given at the annual meeting but is not an IAAPA award.

This year’s recipient Hersheypark, is one of my favorites as is the mega ride park Cedar Point, the beautifully themed De Efteling in the Netherlands, Liseberg in Sweden and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

NN: What’s your favorite dark ride?

JW: My favorite dark ride is the Labyrinth of the Minotaur. Although I admit for years, it was Pirates of the Carribean (today however, it has lost all its appeal to me). Years ago I really got a thrill out of the Eastern Airlines “If Man Had Wings” and I still love Space Mountain every time I get on it! My favorite small dark ride will always be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – it is pure fun. I am also partial to our most recent award winning ride – Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion. It was great fun collaborating with the Paramount Parks Design and Entertainment team and the final product is something to experience!

NN: Which of the Paramount park(s) are home to the Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion??

JW: Paramount’s Canada’s Wonderland and Paramount’s Carowinds

NN: Thank you very much John. This was a very informative and fun interview!

JW:  You’re welcome Nate!

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: John Hench

John Hench (June 29, 1908 – February 5, 2004) was an employee of The Walt Disney Company for more than sixty five years, an exceptionally long tenure which saw the rise of nearly every Disney animated feature and theme park.Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Hench attended numerous art and creative schools across the country, including the Art Students’ League in New York City, the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Starting in 1939 as a story artist, he weaved his way through the animation department doing everything including backgrounds, layout and art direction, even effects animation and special effects. Walt Disney respected Hench as one of the studio’s most gifted artists and teamed him with Salvador Dalí on the animated short Destino, a project begun in 1945 that was not completed and released until 2003.

By 1954, Hench was in the studio’s live action department, as lead developer of the hydraulic giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, helping to win an Academy Award for Best Special Effects for the film.After working on that live action project, he moved to WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering), to design attractions for an innovative new entertainment medium; Disneyland. Since then, Hench has become synonymous with Disney theme parks, designing the iconic Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland and creating the original groundbreaking designs for Space Mountain. Because of his resemblance to Walt Disney and his frequent visits to the Disney theme parks, he was often asked to sign autographs and pose for pictures with park visitors who thought they were meeting Disney himself. One of Hench’s most recognizable works is the well known Olympic Torch. Nearly all of the most recent versions have been modeled after his design for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California.

In addition to all of these lengthy achievements, Hench also was the “official portrait artist” of Mickey Mouse, painting the company’s official portraits for Mickey’s 25th, 50th, 60th, 70th, and 75th birthdays. Hench and his wife were both longtime devotees of the Hindu saint Ramakrishna and members of the Southern California Vedanta Society.

In 1990 he was awarded the prestigious Disney Legend award, the company’s highest honor, presented to him by Michael Eisner.Hench continued to maintain an office at Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, California and worked there daily up until a few weeks before his death. His name tag and 65-year service award are prominently displayed in the building’s lobby, and permanent tributes by fellow “Imagineers” line its hallways.

In early 2004, Hench died of heart failure after a brief hospitalization in Burbank, California.

Imagineering Bio: Joe Rohde

Joseph “Joe” Rohde is a veteran executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, the division of The Walt Disney Company that designs and builds Disney’s theme parks and resort hotels. Rohde’s formal title is executive designer and vice president, creative.

He is the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. He also is the principal creative force behind the park’s Expedition Everest thrill ride, which debuted in 2006.

Rohde joined Imagineering in 1980 during the development of Epcot as a model designer and scenic painter for the theme park’s Mexico pavilion. He later worked as a designer on the refurbishment of Fantasyland at Disneyland, the Captain EO 3-D film attraction starring singer Michael Jackson, the Norway pavilion at Epcot and the Adventurers Club, a 1930s-themed bar and lounge that opened in 1989 within the Pleasure Island entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort.

Rohde was featured in an April 2006 Travel Channel documentary titled Expedition Everest: Journey to Sacred Lands. The program was produced by Discovery Networks during expeditions to China and Nepal in 2005 called Mission Himalayas. The treks were sponsored by Disney, Discovery and Conservation International to promote the Expedition Everest theme park attraction and conduct scientific and cultural research in remote areas of the Himalayas.

He was born in Sacramento, California and raised in Hawaii. Rohde received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Rohde is known for a collection of earrings he wears in his left ear, souvenirs of his travels to remote corners of the world.

Jack Lindquist

Jack Lindquist (b. March 15, 1927 in Chicago) served as the president of the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California from 1989 until he retired in 1993. He was a Disney employee from 1955 until his retirement, and was a marketing executive in the theme parks division for almost thirty years, including a stint as the first advertising manager for Disneyland.

As a child actor, Lindquist appeared as an extra in several episodes of Our Gang, and appeared in the film Best Foot Forward with Lucille Ball.

After Lindquist retired, he received a commemorative window on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland that reads J.B. Lindquist, Honorary Mayor of Disneyland. In 1994, he was named a Disney Legend.

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

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