The Art of Attractions | Through the Eyes of Children
Among the reasons we love theme parks is because they allow us to revisit the childlike wonder and innocence that we otherwise feel compelled to tamp down as adults.
We can marvel at the majesty of a well-crafted attraction and allow ourselves to get lost in its story. We can let our emotions get the better of us. We can ride a carousel and be transported, as if on a time machine, to when we were very young. We can squeal and scream with abandon aboard a roller coaster. Try doing that virtually anywhere else. Better yet, don’t.
I enjoyed doing all these things. Then I had my two sons and got to experience parks through their eyes. I got to observe and revel in their childlike wonder and innocence. It gave me a whole new appreciation for parks. I remember the chills I had when my oldest boy, his eyes as big as saucers, embarked on his first Caribbean adventure with animatronic pirates when he was about 3. Likewise, I recall the joy I felt when my younger son, then a toddler, looked up in awe at Chip and Dale just before embracing them.
My children are adults now, and we continue to relish our park visits together. But I still get a kick, albeit vicariously, when I see young families at the parks. For example, I’ve long been fascinated by the ways audiences respond to “Turtle Talk with Crush” at Epcot.
Parents invariably have a bewildered look and are baffled by the interactive nature of the real-time animation featured in the show. Their kids, however, cheerfully engage in conversations with the surfer dude, as if it is completely natural.
More recently, I witnessed the same kind of pure, in-the-moment joy at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the two-night adventure at Walt Disney World Resort. Adults were sometimes hesitant to fully engage in role-playing for the experience. Children, however, embraced it with abandon.
“Kids are amazing at building community and going with the story,” says Ann Morrow Johnson, executive creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering and producer of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. “They totally understand that the Resistance needs their help. They actually teach the adults how to play. I think we have a lot to learn from children.”
I do too. When you design and present attractions, try to see them through the eyes of children. Pay attention to sightlines below 4 feet, and let your sense of wonder and innocence guide you.
I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one yakking it up with Crush.