Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's The Sum Of All Thrills When Soarin' With Dumbo On SpaceShip Earth If You're Headed To Space Mountain?

The new Space Mountain refurbishment is a very important step for the future of attractions at World Disney World - especially when it comes to the Fantasyland expansion that's going to start up very soon.

First off, the idea behind the refurb of Space Mountain is interesting. Imagineering didn't do a drastic overhaul of the classic ride itself; they tweaked certain things that makes the experience more thrilling and fun.

In Space Mountain, new and improved projection graphics on the ceiling amp up the sense of realism and fun while the much darker interior doesn't allow the rider to see the sudden drops and curves that are coming - making the ride experience much more thrilling. This is a great thing because Space Mountain isn't a fierce coaster - there's a reason why the height requirement is only 44" (Chance is champing at the bit to ride it again - he rode it only once after finally getting tall enough, then it went down for refurb). But when you can't see where you're going, the thrill factor rises tremendously (similar to the sensation of the backward drop in the dark on Expedition Everest). Where the main concentration of changes occur though is in the queue - a new interactive queue.

An interactive queue isn't a new phenomenon, and it won't be the last time we see this idea put into practice, either. The trend of improving the queue from pure eye candy to interactive is the new black in The Mouse - and it's a game-changer for Disney attractions and theme park attractions in general.

We saw the first real example of this in Soarin' a couple of years ago. While the "games" you can play when waiting in the stand-by line at Soarin may not be the most in-depth games around, at least it occupies your attention while waiting. Soarin' desperately needed something like this, because the popularity of the attraction can make the lines intolerable. And there was nothing to this queue at all - just blank walls - so the games were most welcome.

Spaceship Earth didn't throw anything interactive into its pre-ride queue - it's a constantly-loading conveyor belt system that moves pretty quickly. But they did throw an interactive game into the end of the ride itself on the final descent. This was met with some negativity in the Disney fan community, but I personally think this was a positive change (as does my whole family - we have a ball with it). With this addition, Disney is making a long, monotonous part of exiting the ride interactive and fun. It's the same idea as the pre-ride queues, just placed on the back end instead of the front.

The new Sum Of All Thrills attraction in Epcot incorporates interactivity into the pre-ride queue/pre-show as well. You and/or your team design the thrill ride yourself in the Design Lab using a touch-screen monitor and actual design tools before actually sitting on the KUKA robot arm and going for your ride. Once again, interactivity is a key element outside of the ride itself.

And the biggest and potentially best example of Disney's new idea of interactive queues is the new Dumbo attraction that will be part of the Fantasyland expansion/renovation that will open up in 2012. Dumbo's huge pre-ride circus tent area will likely be Imagineering's culmination of creative ideas for interactivity. All of the above (and probably a few more minor examples will pop up over the next couple of years in the different parks) are testing grounds for what they have in store for this circus tent. It will set the bar high - very high - and will redefine what it means to "wait in line" for a ride. They will take your mind off the waiting and focus it on something fun; it will plus the whole experience immeasurably.

Space Mountain's refurb is the latest and greatest example of this new interactivity-driven mindset. In the future, waiting in lines at The Mouse won't ever be the same - the Dumbo attraction will likely change how we think about it forever. I can't wait to see what they have in store.

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