What is Themed Entertainment?

I have an exciting announcement to make. I’ve created a class! What is Themed Entertainment? In this lecture we explore the industry, what makes it tick, and how storytelling in this medium differs from others. We also explore exactly why it is experiences can be stories, and what stories themselves are, and why plot is not strictly necessary. This class helps fill a gap I’ve found in the industry, even in academic programs, where there just isn’t enough discussion about how exactly the medium itself works and why it works. If you’re brand new to the industry or a dedicated fan or just someone who wants an additional perspective that hopefully will help connect all the dots, this is for you! Let me know what you think!

On being trans in 2022.

So this is not going to be a post about themed entertainment. However, queer people are found way more in the entertainment industry than elsewhere, and that’s something to think about. To be quite honest, this isn’t a post I foresaw myself making even all that long ago. I was going to wait until trans day of visibility, but even waiting an extra month seems too long. Being a trans woman is not something I have ever particularly wanted to be the first thing people know about me, but in light of the state of the world, and particularly the state of the United States, I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable being any degree of quiet about it. Because by not being vocal about it, I’m unable to be as vocal about trans rights as I want to be. And right now there is a veritable shit storm of things to be vocal about. 

Continue reading “On being trans in 2022.”

World Building: Themed Experiences are Tools of Social Change

Sparkling lights, cheery music, the smell of popcorn, cotton candy, and crisp churros floating through the air — bright colors, immersive worlds, elaborate spectacles from dawn past dusk. This is the imagery that’s conjured up when theme parks and other immersive experiences are discussed: fun, frivolity, and above all a disconnection from the real world. 

Some topics that probably don’t come to mind? Infrastructure, transportation policy, civic planning, technological development, history curriculums, gender politics, race relations, and a myriad of other issues normally reserved for some domed building far, far away.

There is a widespread belief that theme parks and related experiences are simply repositories of fun, devoid of politics. But that notion is simply not complete. Themed experiences are absolutely fun, entertaining places where people go to decompress. But they also play a gigantic role in shaping culture. These experiences are the physical repositories of our shared histories, mythologies, hopes and dreams. They are physical models that the world outside the berm looks to for inspiration. 

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Theme Park Musing #10 – Queue Length

Hello all! I know it’s been nearly (or maybe over a year) since I last posted here…but I’m in grad school these days and have found myself, quite literally, without any free time for most of the last year. I do have articles I’m planning to write…but for now here’s just a little something I was thinking about over on the side-blog that I decided to post here as well.

See, I have a theory that the length of a queue is heavily, if not entirely, influenced by the length of the externally visible portion of the queue : how long that portion is and proportionally how full it is. 

That is that humans will continue to fill a queue no matter how long the interior portion is, no matter how long the actual wait time is, as long as the exterior portion is empty. Once the exterior portion begins to fill the amount of guests that enter begins to slow roughly proportionally to the percent filled until around 50-60% at which point the line will likely stop growing as long as there are no swells in the local attendance of the area (a show lets out for instance, or a bunch of people just entered the park). 

When there is a swell the line will quickly grow past its entrance and overflow, at which point the number of new guests entering will quickly cease (especially if crowd control doesn’t extend the line). People will go elsewhere and there will actually be a drop in attendance…soon leaving the exterior portion of the line close to empty, which will eventually fill and again grow to around 50-60%. 

I think there’s probably exceptions to this, particular for new rides, rides where the THRC just cannot come close to matching the demand, and I’m sure having posted wait times diminishes the effect somewhat, though I doubt completely. I think this effect would largely hold true regardless of actual wait time, or line length. And obviously this only applies when there is enough demand to generate a line and the THRC. 

This is based on a lifetime of observation of queues at theme parks….and in particularly the observation of some of the older rides at Disneyland…with entirely outdoor queues seeming to follow the same behavior as the exterior sections of newer rides. Also in seeing the difference in wait times between meet and greets that are just on the side of the street (with visible lines) vs meet and greets with dedicated indoor (hidden) lines.

Now the implication of this would be….interesting: that the best way to shorten the waits of attractions might be to actually shorten the physical length of lines. And to make sure that there is a long piece of queue visible near the entrance that will always appear quite full. And, somewhat counterintuitively, the more queue you build, the more people will enter it.

As counterintuitive as this is, it actually meshes really well with what we know about how cars fill streets and highways (building more lanes increases traffic instead of lowering it). And people are the ones driving the cars after all…

This also has implications for virtual queues and fastpass type systems. They will tend to fill up to capacity as fast as attendance and the technology allows, because essentially they are of infinite length/bandwith. They are psychologically empty lines with no visual cues to fullness. So in a park that has rides that are already overwhelmed with demand, the lines will just become longer. Though, if there are attractions that are underperforming – a virtual queue might be a way to bump attendance.

Now if only there were a way to actually test this. I’d LOVE to see the results. Is there a PHD anywhere I can apply for?

A New Entrance for SeaWorld

Hello again! Today a visit to 2nd tier of themed entertainment: Seaworld Orlando. 

I actually really like Seaworld Orlando. Views on animals in captivity and recent controversies aside, the park itself is a really pleasant and attractive place to be with some fantastic coasters (if perhaps less than fantastic other rides). While I often say I grew up at Walt Disney World, since it was 15 minutes away from my house and both my parents worked there and we were therefore there very often, it’s actually probably more accurate to say I grew up at Seaworld. My house was within walking distance of the front gates (not that I ever actually have walked there – should try that some time), my family loved the place because of all the shows and as a nice place to walk, and we probably were there a good deal more than Disney- at least until I became a tad older and wanted to ride more rides. Keep in mind there were nearly no rides at Seaworld during this period – only the sky tower and Wild Arctic. Later there was Journey to Atlantis (which I have ridden a record 13 times in a row without disembarking) and Kraken (which was my first “big kid” roller coaster). But there was an amazing playground! (which the good part of doesn’t exist anymore). So lots of fond memories, lots of experience with walking around and seeing the sights, lots of sadness around the lack of water-skiing shows these days. 

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Pen and Marker
Just one of the many goodies you’ll find.

Quick update. I’ve now added some of my work to the site. So you can now view my Mary Poppins ride concept, Jolly Holiday, here and just some general art here.

In the future, when there’s new content to add I’ll either be making individual progress posts and updating the pages themselves. Not entirely sure how I’m gonna manage the organization of that, but that’s not your problem. 🙂

Hi there and Hello


Disneyland aerial view drawing
Herb Ryman’s original concept of Disneyland

This is the beginning I guess of a more complete website for me and my never-ending interest in theme park and themed entertainment design and also will function as a online repository for my growing amount of work related to it. I’ve been slowly trying to acquire skills necessary to change careers to do design full time, and I intend on posting that progress here. I also have often wanted to just write my views on various topics in the themed entertainment world forever now, and it’ll be nice to finally have a place to put that that’s a little (or a lot) less toxic than many of the fan forums – and hopefully discussion that’s a bit more theoretical and deep in nature.

I’m basically planning on it being a more organized and expanded version of my tumblr blog Theme Park Concepts (go follow that if you haven’t already lol). And so yeah…we’ll see how much I keep this updated and what happens from here on out.