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!

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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!

The Pyramid in Practice – Theming and Imagination Dental Solutions

IDS_Logo

In this post, I want to look at a company called Imagination Dental Solutions and a somewhat unusual example of Theming known as “Dental Theming”.

Imagination Dental Solutions is an award winning design and manufacturing studio with a decade of experience creating themed environments for dental offices. That’s right, dental offices. And this is where “Dental Theming” comes in.

According to the Imagination Dental Solutions website, “Dental theming is the transformation of regular dentist office into an amazing and entirely different environment through the use if murals, gaming, and 3D elements….Our theming creates positive patient experiences. Children are excited to visit a themed dental office, making it easier… to provide them with a foundation for good dental health.”

I think this is a great example of theming and “using appropriate details to strengthen your story and support your creative intent”. The environments IDS creates are extremely detailed and elaborately themed, creating a transformative experience for their clients’ guests. The image below shows just a small sampling of the themed environments Imagination Dental Solutions has created over the last decade. You can see more at their website.

IDS_10_Years
Copyright 2017 Imagination Dental Solutions. All rights reserved. Used without permission.

 

As a side note, Imagination Dental Solutions has a relationship of sorts with the theme park industry. Their parent company is  Studio Y Creations, “an innovator and leader in the theming and display industry… considered among the best companies in the world for designing and manufacturing three-dimensional displays.” One of Studio Y Creation’s clients is Canobie Lake Park, a small, family-friendly amusement park located in Salem, NH (a park near and dear to my heart and one I try to visit at least once a year). You can see some of Studio Y Creation’s work at Canobie Lake Park on their website.

 

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

The Pyramid in Practice – Theming and Life Is Good

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In this post, I want to take another look at Imagineering Pyramid principles in practice “beyond the berm” This time I want to look at Theming, and in particular, an example of “corporate theming”.

Let’s start with a refresher on Theming, described on page 44 in The Imagineering Pyramid:

Theming is all about using appropriate details to strengthen your story and support your creative intent. Theming means striving to make sure that your project delivers its message in a clear and consistent manner, one that supports and, if possible, enhances the intended experience.

So, what is “corporate theming”?

Later in the Theming chapter I write:

Other examples of theming include branding and the use of corporate logos and slogans, or what we might call “corporate theming”.

One of my favorite examples of corporate theming is the company Life is Good, Inc. Wikipedia describes this company as follows: “Life is Good, Inc. is a New England–based apparel and accessories wholesaler, retailer, and lifestyle brand founded in 1994 and best known for its optimistic T-shirts and hats, many of which feature a smiling stick figure named Jake and the registered trademark ‘Life is good’.” Up until a recent branding change in 2015, the apparel created and sold by Life is Good, Inc. was very distinctive and employed consistent use of design, lettering, and illustration style. Their theming helped reinforce the company’s mission of “Spreading the power of optimism” and their slogan “Do what you love. Love what you do.”

In this post I wanted to expand on this a bit with some pictures that illustrate the distinctive theming used on original Life is Good t-shirts.

Below are some pictures of a few of my Life is Good t-shirts (I have a couple of others as well, as do my wife and kids). You can see they all make use of a unique illustration and lettering style, including the original company logo on the inside collar.

Each shirt also features Jake’s face on the back, and a small tab bearing the company’s slogan “Do What You Like. Like What you Do®” (which I now realize I got wrong in the above quote – bad Lou, no biscuit!).

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Other items featuring the original Life is Good logo and theming include hats, mugs, and even tire covers.

Beyond these examples, you can find hundreds of examples of classic Life is Good illustrations online. Many of the early Life is Good t-shirts and other items featured their mascot Jake. You can find an assortment of Jake images on Google here.

The consistent use of their specific lettering and illustration style helps reinforce the Life is Good brand and identity, make the brand easily recognizable, and help communicate the company’s message of optimism. And that’s what theming is all about!

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!

The Pyramid in Practice – “Read”-ability and Fundraising

In this post I want to look at an example of using “Read”-ability in a (relatively) small project – specifically a local fundraising effort.

In the Winter of 2017, our local high school music department will be taking a trip to Walt Disney World, during which the marching band will march in a parade in Magic Kingdom, and the school’s a cappella groups will be performing at other venues.

To help support this trip, our local music booster organization plans to run a number of fundraising events. Our goal is to provide as many opportunities as possible for the kids to earn money towards the cost of the trip. As President of the booster organization, I proposed that we wrap all of these events into a larger campaign that we could advertise around town to let folks in town know about the trip and the various fundraiser events we’ll be running. My idea was to create a logo and slogan for the campaign that would help us communicate our goals of bringing our high school music students to Walt Disney World. I wanted something that would “read” quickly and reinforce two specific ideas: Music and Disney.

The slogan I came up with was “Help us Bring Our Music to the Mouse”. I then thought to reinforce the Disney side of it by using a Disney font, and I came up with a few ideas, most of which were similar to this:

Music-to-the-Mouse_Logo-Draft

Not bad (IMO), but not great either. It was a start, but we clearly needed something better.

Fortunately, one of our music parents is a very talented graphic artist, and took my early initial sketches and ideas and came up with a bunch of ideas that put mine to shame. Following some discussion and suggestions from the fundraising team she iterated her designs (plussing her designs with each iteration), and eventually created the logo we selected for our campaign:

Music to the Mouse Logo
Designed by Tania Helhoski of BirdDesign. Tania also designed the pyramid diagrams in The Imagineering Pyramid.

 

I think this logo is a great example of “Read”-ability. The musical mouse head quickly conveys both Music and Disney (the two ideas we wanted to communicate), and the text helps to clarify the message. We plan to use this on various items for our campaign, including raffle tickets, posters, flyers, etc.

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

The Pyramid in Practice – Front of House

In this post, I want to take another look at Imagineering Pyramid principles in practice, but in a slightly different way than in my previous “Pyramid in Practice” posts. Most of those posts look at fairly large-scale projects, including theme park attractions, Broadway musicals, or large-scale performing ensembles such as drum corps, but the principles outlined in The Imagineering Pyramid can also be applied to smaller projects as well. For example, let’s look at the “front of house” for a high school theater production.

Legally_Blonde

This past Spring, our high school theater department put on “Legally Blonde: The Musical” as their Spring Musical . My wife and I were part of a group of parents who were helping out with the “front of house” for the show (we’re the folks who sell tickets and concessions, hand out programs and help people to their seats, etc.).

For our “front of house” we took over half of the school’s cafeteria, and set up a make-shift theater lobby with the following:

  • Tables for ticket sales, including walk-up sales and Will Call
  • A concessions table where patrons can buy refreshments
  • A table where customers can purchase flowers and gifts that can be sent backstage to members of the cast
  • A Senior Gallery featuring photos of the seniors in the casts and essays written by their teachers
  • A table with a variety of baskets to be raffled off
  • A table where we sold 50/50 raffle tickets
  • Tables where we sold t-shirts and other items

In addition, the entire area was decorated with streamers and balloons. Not exactly a small project, but certainly nothing the scale of a theme park attraction or Broadway show.

Over the course of the three performance days, I had the chance to step back and look at our “front of house” through the lens of the Imagineering Pyramid, and found examples of several different principles at work. For example,

It All Begins with a Story: The show’s story was a major influence in many aspects of our theater lobby, particularly around its theming. Speaking of…

Theming: Our “front of house” was strongly themed based on the show.

  • Pink is a major color in this show (it’s the main character’s signature color). All of the decorations, including streamers, table clothes and balloons were pink.
  • The contents of the raffle baskets were each based on one of the main characters from the show.
  • There are two dogs in the show, and several of the items on sale were doggie-themed (including pink dog-shaped refrigerator magnets – double theming!)

Wienies: The layout of our theater lobby used visual elements to attract and draw attention across the room such as balloons on the raffle table at the far end of the lobby, and large signs directing patrons to the Senior Gallery.

Plussing: Each night, the person in charge (my friend Sandra) was looking for ways to tweak things a little bit to make them better. We moved several of the tables and re-arranged things to help the flow of people walking through the lobby and to help promote sales of certain items.

To be clear, I’m NOT suggesting that Sandra or any of the other parent helpers read The Imagineering Pyramid and were consciously applying ideas from it. Rather, I’m just pointing out that Imagineering Pyramid principles are often right in front of us, even if we don’t notice them right away. And the more sensitive we are to how these principles work and can be applied in different ways, the more likely we are to leverage them in our own creative projects.

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

 

The Pyramid in Practice – Attention to Detail and Plussing in Drum Corps

This post looks at another example of Imagineering Pyramid principles in practice “beyond the berm”. This time I want to look at Attention to Detail and Plussing in Drum Corps.

Let’s start with a refresher on Attention to Detail and Plussing.

Attention to Detail is described on page 37 in The Imagineering Pyramid:

The principle underlying this tool is straightforward enough. This is all about paying attention to every detail.

Plussing is described on page 104 in The Imagineering Pyramid:

Plussing is consistently asking, “How do I make this better?” and constantly
evaluating and revising your work based on feedback.

Attention to Detail and Plussing are a natural combination (0r “Pyramid Pairing”); details are a great place to look for opportunities for constant and consistent improvement.

Drum corps provides an excellent example of these two principles at work. What’s drum corps, you ask? Put simply, it’s like an amped up version of high school marching band, or as a friend of mine describes it, “professional marching band for college kids”.

Drum corps include brass players, percussionists, and color guard members who march in intricate patterns and precise forms choreographed to complex and challenging music. It’s an activity that calls for extreme precision, and the top corps focus on detail to a level that’s difficult to believe if you’re not familiar with the activity (you can learn more about drum corps on the Drum Corps International website here).

[To be fair, drum corps also make use of other principles as well, but my focus for today is Attention to Detail and Plussing]

DCI_Logo

My family and I recently had the opportunity to watch rehearsals of a pair world-class drum corps, specifically the Bluecoats and the Crossmen, and both corps practiced Attention to Detail and Plussing during both rehearsals.

Bluecoats_Logo

Crossmen_Logo

Some examples include:

Each major section (brass, marching percussion, front ensemble percussion, and color guard) rehearse separately before the entire ensemble comes together to rehearse. This allows each section to focus on the details of their own performance before joining the other sections on the field.

Every instrumental and color guard section has at least 1 staff member (and usually 2 or more) who works solely with that section. This allows those staff members to focus their attention on only a small section within the corps and help that section consistently and constantly improve what they do.

As the corps is warming up, staff members make minor/tiny adjustments in the posture and stance of individual members (in some cases, adjusting a member’s posture by as little as an inch) to make sure each member is able to perform at their absolute best.

During rehearsal, the corps practices small and “simple” things over and over and over until they get them right. No detail is too small or unimportant.

The corps rehearse short portions of the show (known as sets) multiple times to make sure everyone is performing in sync. During the rehearsals we watched, we watched one corps repeatedly rehearse sets as short as 8 counts (and one even as short as 1 count) until they got it right.

Every member of the ensemble has to be in a specific spot on the field by a specific time in the music. As the corps rehearse the sets of their show, they stop between sets so that members make any adjustments necessary to make sure they are in the correct spot, and also make any changes needed to their stride and pace to ensure they can arrive at that spot consistently.

All corps focus on plussing their show throughout the entire summer season. Corps perform and compete at dozens of shows through the summer, and it’s extremely rare that a corps’ show will remain unchanged. At each show each corps receive comments and feedback from judges, which the staff use to make small (and sometimes not so small) changes to various parts of the show, all with a focus on constant improvement. This continuous focus on plussing makes being a drum corps fan exciting and interesting, because you never know how your favorite corps’ shows will change during the season. One thing, however, is sure to be true: each time you see your favorite corps, they’ll be better than they were the last time.

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