I have done a lot of thought about what makes Disneyland different. After much contemplation, I have come to a conclusion. DL is NOT an amusement park.
Now, some might think me crazy for that statement, but hear me out before you form a conclusion.
DL is not an amusement park; it is a “fantasy park.” A fantasy park is different from an amusement park. An amusement park is just a place where you have fun. DL is more than that. At DL, one has fun by having dreams fulfilled. Having your dreams fulfilled, IS fun! Now I know that it sound like this is splitting hairs, but I think that it is the key to DL’s success, and explains why Disney’s management has fallen short on some “Amusement parks” and rides that it has recently designed.
What is a “fantasy park?” It is a place where you can experience your fantasies. It is where you can have your dreams come true. Want to explore the remote jungle locations? Want to fly to the moon? Want to go back in time and experience the old west or walk down a street around the turn of the century? Would you like to meet Abraham Lincoln? And wouldn’t everyone like to have his or her own castle? Small kids’ fantasies might be to drive their own cars, be swallowed by a whale or chase Alice’s white rabbit.
Maybe those are not your fantasies. Maybe yours are more of the adult variety. Do you want to achieve world peace and know a world where everyone got along? Or maybe you would just like to experience today the wonders of tomorrow. Or maybe, just for a few hours your fantasy is to escape traffic, bills, crime, trash, ugliness, and responsibility and be a kid again.
Many have misunderstood DL. Pressler perhaps misunderstood DL the most. He thought that DL was a shopping mall. He thought that Walt Disney was just a genius because he was able to “disguise” his shopping mall so convincingly. Eisner also go it wrong. He thought DL and the other parks were just moneymaking machines, devices to get people to fork over cash for a few pleasurable moments. Walt did not make that either. Eisner might have transformed the parks into that, but Walt certainly did not design it that way. Most modern Imagineers believe that DL is a place where you experience “stories” on rides. Well, DL’s rides do have stories, but that is not at the core. DL rides are wish fulfillment. DL’s rides fulfill people’s dreams. What is imagined can come true at DL. That makes DL a very special place.
Not understanding this core concept lead you to a dead end when new rides or parks are designed. One just ends up repeating someone else’s concept, like a world’s fair or a movie studio tour, or zoo themed “amusement park.” Once one understands that DL is about having dreams come true, one realizes that there are many more dreams in the world. DL alone could not contain them all. If Disney focused on making fantasies come true, then all of its parks could not contain all the wonderful fantasies that could come to life.
Now, am I wrong? Do you agree or have I missed something?