In PragmaticIdealist's recent In One Word, What Does the Name "Disney" Mean? thread, fo'c's'le swab said the following:
I found fo'c's'le swab's post to be interesting and deserving of further exploration.
In terms of theme park attractoins, what constitutes an escape? Obviously, if done well, fantasy and make-believe can still become an escape. Immersive surroundings, strong theming, and quality can allow even the most cynical guests to suspend their disbelief and escape into another world. Surely attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, are true Disney escapes - as you enter the attraction, you step into an alternate world. In Pirates of the Caribbean, as you board your bataeux and drift through the bayou you enter a different time and place. And as you approach the waterfall, you enter a different world altogether; the golden age of pirates. With the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, you escaped into the world of the Robinsons - you saw how and where they lived, and as you explored their house, you assumed the role of the family Robinson. Their treehouse became your house. At Indiana Jones Adventure, as you wind your way through the outdoor queue, you are enveloped in the outdoor surroundings of this ancient temple as it would have been in the 1930s, and as you enter the building, you're taken to another world, one of mysterious dieties, ancient cultures, and magical gifts.
But what about distractions? Distractions are attractions like King Arthur's Carroussel - a carousel in the middle of Fantasyland - charming, but not immersive. Or perhaps attractions like those found in DCA's Paradise Pier - none of them take you anyplace other than a cheaply-themed theme park, not to a classic 1930s board walk as they should be doing. And attractions like the original Matterhorn Bobsleds, where you were taken on a temporary distraction through a network of exposed rafters and support beams, not a escape into a network of ice caverns and abominable snowmen as it is today.
Escape vs. Distraction
So what theme park attractions at the Disneyland Resort, or even Walt Disney World are brief escapes and which ones are just mere, temporary distractions? And are recent attractions less immersive or offer less of an opportunity for escapism than Disney's classic attractions?
How do classic attractions at Disneyland, and Walt Disney World compare to newer attractions? Certainly "newer" attractions like Indiana Jones Adventure offers guests with a true escape into another time and place, into an adventure unlike anything guests can experience elsewhere. But what about attractions like DCA's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which is seriously injured by an under-themed outdoor portion, unlike its WDW counterpart which offers a true escape with its expansive outdoor garden queue and more richly detailed facade and lobby. And what about the recent Monsters Inc attractions at DCA and WDW's Magic Kingdom? Neither of these truly immerse us in the world of Pixar's monsters, but rather temporarily distract us in a partial representation of their world.
What does Disney need to do to re-immerse guests into worlds that can't be found anywhere else? What does Disney need to do so that its paying guests can escape once again and not just be temporarily distracted?
Do attractions like Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor live up to Disney's traditions of escape? What about the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage? Why? Why not?