The Experience Economy: Disneyworld

Soarin

'Soarin' at Disneyworld

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.

Kelly Lo

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3 responses to “The Experience Economy: Disneyworld

  1. It’s nice to hear of your experiences in realtion to the realms of the reading.
    The description of the rides is really neat but at the same time I can imagine that being strapped into one of these rides wouldn’t feel like a real experience. Would you say that the rides were sucessful other than meeting the defined realms? I guess what I’m asking is this, when you were flying over California, did you notice the people around you or was there a true escape from the Disney World environment around you? I’d like to hear more of the experience!

  2. That’s a very good question! I suppose that my first experience in Soarin’ completely took me away from Disneyland. I did not notice the people around me at all and that was part of the reason why the ride was so spectacular. The angles and perspectives that they filmed the entire sequence that played on the huge screen in front took everyone into the experience. Perhaps the only part that didn’t feel completely authentic was that our legs were hanging and not on the floor of an airplane.

    I think another interesting point is that in this type of simulation, the person participating has to be willing to let go of everything else and in those few minutes, free themselves to enjoy and participate fully. If the visitor were to spend those couple minutes trying to figure out how everything was created, the experience will vanish completely.

  3. I wonder if museums could incorporate these same types of experiences into their exhibitions, many science museums seems to, and how successful they would be. I think it also raise the question of differences in difference museums, from that of the science museum to the art museum. I think that each of the different museums are very pigeonhole in their form, but could there be overlay in the difference techniques used? I wonder if an art museum could use the stay type of experiences that a science museum uses and would even be effective.

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