The Pyramid in Practice: Hidden Mickeys

As I explain in The Imagineering Pyramid, the interesting thing about Hidden Mickeys to me is that once you find one, you never see it the same way again. They are a fun and captivating way in which the Imagineers engage their audience.

During our recent trip to Walt Disney World, we found a handful of Hidden Mickeys, some of which we’d seen before, some of which were new to us. We don’t go out of our way to look for them, but if / when any of us spot one we make sure to share what we found.

So, which Hidden Mickeys did we see?

At Magic Kingdom we caught the plates on the banquet table in the ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion.

At Animal Kingdom, I didn’t get a chance to see my all-time favorite Hidden Mickey in the Expedition Everest standby queue (we used a Fast Pass and single rider), but we found this one in the Kali River Rapids queue:

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At Epcot, we saw Hidden Mickeys on a handful of of attractions, including:

  • On Living with the Land, we spotted the shrimp tube and the garden hose (among others),
  • On Soarin’ Around the World, we spotted the hot air balloons,
  • At The Seas with Nemo and Friends we found the aquarium rocks. 
  • In Spaceship Earth we saw another one of my favorites, the paint circles.
  • In the Frozen Ever After standby queue, we spotted this one:

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What are some of your favorite Hidden Mickeys? Let me know in the comments!

[Links courtesy of Steven M. Barrett’s HiddenMickeyGuy.com website.]

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The Pyramid in Practice: Theming and Resorts

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In the Theming chapter of The Imagineering Pyramid, I wrote about the use of theming at the resorts at Walt Disney World, specifically the use of a filmstrip motif at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort.

I think the use of this filmstrip motif is a great example of theming at work outside of the theme parks. When the book was published I wasn’t able to include pictures of the ways in which the filmstrip motif is used at the resort. Fortunately, my family and I stayed at this resort during our recent trip to Walt Disney World, and I was able to get a couple of pictures to show how the Imagineers used this motif in the design of the resort. Let’s take a look.

First, the filmstrip can be seen on the backs of the chairs in the food court:

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Chairs at the food court at Disney’s All-Star Movie Resort.

The filmstrip motif is also used on the hand railings on the upper floors of the resort buildings. These are further themed with items appropriate to the specific buildings (Fantasia, Toy Story, Herbie the Love Bug, etc. We were staying on one of the Love Bug buildings.).

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Our “Love Bug” building  at the resort.

One other use of this motif is in the design of tiles in the bathroom showers. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a good picture of those during our visit.

As I wrote in The Imagineering Pyramid,

“The filmstrip motif serves as a constant and subtle means of reinforcing the movie theme around which the resort is built.”

 

Thoughts? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Imagineering Process Update

I know it’s been a long time since my last post. My apologies.

I wanted to post a brief update on the status of The Imagineering Process.

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I submitted the final draft to my publisher, Theme Park Press. Right now we’re looking at a release in late March to mid-April. As we get closer I’ll have a better estimate.

I’ve also sent the final manuscript to some friends, colleagues, and nice folks who have agreed to write testimonial “blurbs” (or jacket quotes) for the book. So far I’ve received testimonials from:

  • Lee Cockerell, Former Executive Vice President, Walt Disney World® Resort and Best Selling author of Creating Magic…10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, The Customer Rules, Time Management Magic, and Career Magic.
  • David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend, Under New Management, and The Myths of Creativity
  • Sam Gennawey, author of Walt Disney and the Promise of Progress City, The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream, and Universal versus Disney: The Unofficial Guide to American Theme Parks’ Greatest Rivalry
  • Brian Collins, Former Imagineer & WDI Show Writer
  • Jeffrey A. Barnes, Dean of Student Success at California Baptist University and best-selling author of The Wisdom of Walt series
  • Louis L. Lemoine, Retired Walt Disney Imagineer and Disney Legacy Award recipient

I’m expecting blurbs from a few other folks as well, and will post an update when I have more to share.

So far the response to the book has been better than I could have hoped for.

As we get closer to the release I’ll share the testimonials here (as well as on Facebook and Twitter), and I’ll also be posting some snippets from the book that provide a high-level look at the seven stages that comprise the Imagineering Process.

 

More soon.

Thanks!

The Pyramid in Practice: Pre-Shows and Post-Shows in Pandora – The World of Avatar

This post looks at Pre-Shows and Post-Shows in practice in the Avatar Flight of Passage attraction at Pandora -The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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The Pre-Shows and Post-Shows chapter of The Imagineering Pyramid, opens with the following:

“When you experience a Disney theme park attraction, it’s uncommon that you do so without some form of introduction before the attraction or a reminder after it. In fact, nearly all Disney park attractions lead guests into and out of the attraction in some way or another. This practice is…what Imagineers refer to as Pre-Shows and Post-Shows.”

Pre-Shows

Pre-shows prepare the audience for what they are about to experience and often help convey the attraction’s creative intent.

The Pre-Show to Avatar Flight of Passage includes an extensive queue and “training” video that explains what Guests will experience when they link to their avatars and climb on board their banshees.

The following video provides a good look at this Pre-Show experience:

Post-Shows

Post-shows reinforce key ideas and themes, and most often include themed areas or interactive activities or games. One specific form of post-show is what’s referred to in the themed entertainment world as “exit through retail” in which guests are led through a themed merchandise shop as they exit an attraction.

The Avatar Flight of Passage Post-Show uses this “exit through retail” approach, taking Guests into a shop called Windtraders as they exit the attraction.

But beyond  simply selling t-shirts, buttons, and other souvenirs, Windtraders also offers two specific experiences that help reinforce key ideas and themes from Avatar Flight of Passage.

The first is the opportunity to “adopt a banshee”. Banshees are the flying creatures that Guests (and their linked avatars) fly on when they experience the attraction, and this experience allows Guests to take one home with them. Watch the following video to see how this works:

The other experience is the opportunity to turn yourself into a Navi action figure. There is an area with kiosks with machines that scan the Guest’s face and allow the Guest to select other options about their action figure, and the figure is made for you while you wait. Check out the following video to see how this works:

These experiences take the “exit through retail” type of post-show to a whole new level, and provide new and interesting ways for Guests to take part of the magic home with them.

Thoughts?  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Podcast Interview – Live From Barsaive

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Years ago I worked as a line developer for a role playing game called Earthdawn published by FASA Corporation. I referenced Earthdawn and some of the products I worked on for the game in The Imagineering Pyramid.

Recently some fans of the game started a podcast about Earthdawn called Live From Barsaive, where they talk about the game and the game’s setting (an area known as Barsaive, hence the name). I’ve been listening since the beginning, and have enjoyed the show quite a bit. It’s extremely gratifying (and humbling) to know that something I worked on so long ago (I worked on the game from 1992 through 1998) could be so well regarded.

The hosts of the show, Chad and Rachel, asked if I would be a guest on their show, and we recently recorded our episode. I had a great time. We talked for more than an hour, talking about Earthdawn,  The Imagineering Pyramid (they’re fans of Disney parks and have both read the book), and Disney parks in general.

The episode should be available soon. I’ll post again when it’s live.

Thanks!

The Pyramid in Practice: Attention to Detail and Kali River Rapids

Imagineer Joe Rohde‘s Instagram feed is like an Imagineering Master Class, providing a steady stream of unique and fun insights into the areas of theme park design and placemaking.

One of his most recent posts is an excellent example of how the Imagineers use Attention to Detail to help tell their stories, and how the meaning of some details can change over time. This post deals with the placement of a boombox and stack of cassette tapes in the dispatching office at Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom.

As Rohde writes, the original Creative Intent of this detail (yes, even individual details within show scenes have their own Creative Intent) was to illustrate that the people working in the dispatching office were living in roughly the same time period as Guests. However, because that particular show scene has not been updated since it was first installed in the mid 1990s, to modern Guests the boombox and cassette tapes now suggest the dispatching office is from a time gone by.

It will be interesting to see if this ever gets updated as Rohde suggests, and if so, how.

Take a look:

This is a shot of the dispatching office in Kali River Rapids. Certain details begin to shift their meaning because the research trips that led to this design took place in the mid-1990s, which is getting to be a quarter century ago. For example, there is a boombox on the shelf and a little stack of cassette tapes next to it. While the boombox was not brand-new when we installed it, it was meant to indicate that these people were living contemporary lives, and have access to electronic equipment, and were not living in some kind of fanciful ye olde long time ago. However, now, a boombox and cassettes are themselves strange antiques from some jolly olde long time ago. I promise you, that even people in a small village in Nepal probably have better audio gear than this. I mean…they have smart-phones after all!! At some point, it is certain that these props will probably need to be upgraded… Replaced with props that while still not being new, are contemporary enough to show that we are talking about people who live with us, in our time. That is an important message, because, even though our first research trips took place a quarter century ago, every one of the conservation crises represented in every one of our stories has gotten worse since we started…so we still need to make our stories pointed in the right direction. If rainforests, and elephants, and gorillas, and rhinos, and indigenous cultures, all become a thing of the past, then Disney's Animal Kingdom will become a fantasy park… Not the adventure into reality that it is. #disneysanimalkingdom #animalkingdom #kaliriverrapids #dak #conservation #wildlifeconservation #design

A post shared by Joe Rohde (@joerohde) on

You can find this post on Joe Rohde’s instagram feed here.

If you’re interested in Imagineering and themed entertainment, I strongly recommend following Joe on both Twitter and Instagram.

 

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!