While completing this weeks reading on The Experience Economy, I couldn’t help referring to my Disneyworld experience from this past summer. Two rides in Disneyworld’s Epcot Theme Park particularly struck me as successfully achieving the different realms of (1. Educational, 2. Escapist, 3. Estheticism) experience talked about in the article.
The first ride, Soarin’ is a simulation where visitors are strapped into a contraption that physically lifts them fifteen-thirty feet in the air as if they were in a plane, literally soarin’ over California. In front is a three-story screen where images of California, shot from the perspective of a pilot are projected. In the six-minute ride, visitors experience a flight over Napa Valley, Temecula, Santa Monica, San Francisco, the Sierra Nevada Mountains and much more. As they fly, machines that are hidden overhead blow wind and scents that correspond to the destination shown on the screen, into the faces of the riders. It was an amazing experience and the most wonderful flight I’ve ever taken in my life.
From the first step into the waiting line of the ride, visitors step into an airplane hanger and are surrounded by authentic (or reproductions) of flight memorabilia from early flight history. Pictures of Amelia Earhart and other peers grace the walls. Under the pictures are captions of flight history, when the first flight was, how the Orville brothers invented the plane and other significant moments. When stuck in a line for over an hour to reach the ride, these pictures and captions inform and educate visitors about flight history. Strategically, this educational strategy should be fairly successful since everyone is bored in line and has nothing else to do.
The second ride, Mission: Space is a simulation ride where visitors are given the chance to become astronauts and travel to Mars. Visitors enter the line on a launch pad and after a series of turns and different compression chambers, are loaded into a claustrophobic container of a spaceship. Once the ride starts, the screens in front hinge upwards to a three-inch distance from the visitors eyes and projected images from the perspective of the astronaut driving the spaceship appear. This ride takes visitors on an adventure from the launch of the rocket, to using the moon’s gravitational force to gain momentum, to landing the actual spaceship on Mars. Motion is simulated and even the pressure in the container adjusts to what its really like when trying to escape the gravitational forces of the Earth’s atmosphere. Feels like a ton of bricks on your chest and you can’t breathe!
After a very nauseating experience, visitors exit into a Control Room that simulates those at NASA. Visitors have a choice to do a whole variety of activities that educate them about space and the process of sending people beyond the Earth. Activities include videogames, weight simulations and comparisons on different planets, assuming command of the Control Room, learning how to read the Control Room and the Display Boards and much more.
These two rides achieve all three realms of experience, educational, escapist, and esthetic. From the moment a visitor steps into the ride area, the esthetic surroundings and environment change completely to fit the theme of the ride. While waiting in line, visitors are surrounded by educational information and content that gives them a background and better understanding of what they’re about to do. The ride itself provides any visitor with an escapist, out of this world experience where they assume the role of someone else.