Themed Attraction Design, Part Five
Fantasy – The Essence of Themed Entertainment

When creating a theme park attraction, an important aspect to consider is what we call the guest experience. This guest experience can be enhanced when it allows a guest to live out his or her fantasy. Simple put, it takes a guest to to a place that does not exist in real life and allows a guest to do something that they have always wanted to do. The most successful themed attractions accomplish this, whether intentionally or not. This article will examine prominent examples where fulfilling a guest fantasy is an integral part of the guest experience.

Says Tony Baxter of Walt Disney Imagineering, one of the best examples comes from a line right out of the Star Tours ride at Disneyland.

Rex: “O.K., I’ve always wanted to do this – we’re going in!” (We fly toward the surface of the Death Star, and just about hit the back of an X-Wing fighter in front of us)

“Yikes!” (Rex pulls the ship back to avoid hitting the X-Wing fighter.)


What child, having grown up with the Star Wars movies, didn’t ever want to fly down the Death Star Trench? At Star Tours you get the chance. Star Tours is just one example of a prominent theme park attraction that utilizes fantasy as an integral part of its guest experience.

At Universal Studios, this concept of allowing you to experience the most memorable and loved moments from the silver screen is captured succinctly in the tag line, “Ride the Movies.” The entire park allows a guest to experience many of the most successful movies of all time.

In 1998, when Islands of Adventure opened in Orlando, Universal took the concept of experienced based attractions to the next level. Now the entire park was branded to specific experiences that test audiences responded most strongly toward. The message was clear: Give people what they want, and allow them to experience what they want to experience.

Of course, this is nothing new. Even when Disneyland opened in 1955, great guest experience was a central theme. Here a child in the 1950’s could do all the things that he ever dreamed of: Ride a rocket ship, fire a musket with Davy Crockett, fight the Indians, drive a car, drive a train, visit the jungle, visit the circus. For a child in a world based on limits, being able to experience these events is powerful and life changing.

What is the next step in themed entertainment guest experiences? While audience are more sophisticated and more fragmented than ever… there will always be a hunger for great experiences. The most successful theme park attractions will find new ways to allow people to live out fantasy as the means to achieving great guest experience.

Fantasy – The Essence of Themed Entertainment

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