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.
Okay, since I constantly seem to get sidetracked by this issue any time I try to write anything about theme parks, I might as well talk about it now.
First some quick definitions. David Younger in his fantastic book aptly titled “Theme Park Design” (add link) outlines a few different design styles that have been applied to theme parks in their relatively short history. Here they are along with their (paraphrased) definitions.
Traditional: the classic form of design that originated with Disneyland that seeks to immerse you in environments. Characteristics include almagations of different kinds of spatial entertainment (not just rides), a trend towards experiential vs explicit story, loose theming. Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion.
Alrighty, a big topic to start off with lol. Just as a warning, this post doesn’t exactly have a thesis – there’s a lot of ground to cover, more it’s a bunch of half developed observations. Take it as fair warning that my biggest flaw as a writer is keeping myself focused.
Has anyone else noticed just how prevalent the terms “immersive” or “immersion” have become in the themed entertainment world? It seems I can’t even read a press release for a new merry-go-round without coming across a sentence like,
“this ground-breaking new attraction featuring a brand new type of rotating mechanism immerses the rider into the world of wooden horses and carousels of old like never before.”
Hyperbole and the focus on ride system aside (topics for another day) there’s that damn word again: a concept encompassing perhaps the absolute pinnacle of themed design being reduced to a buzzword completely devoid of any of it’s original meaning. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is immersive. Radiator Springs is immersive. The Rivers of America is immersive (I can hear some shouts about that last one coming my way already – I’ll get to it). The Simpsons land at Universal Orlando is not immersive. Nor is the despicable me attraction. Nor is a lot of the theme park world. But that’s not a bad thing, especially when the focus on immersion in the modern era seems ever so more emphasized not on the concept of immersion itself, but on a particular subtype of it. Continue reading “The Trend Towards (new) Immersion”