Friday, December 15, 2017

Conflict in Theme Parks

“Over the years Disney repeated to his animators: “Make it read!” Meaning, make the action distinct and recognizable. No contradictions, no ambiguities.” - Bob Thomas, Walt Disney: An American Original
You, the audience, make your way through the Temple of the Crystal Skull. You know Dr. Jones has been here - he's set up his base camp, disarmed booby traps, and his name is on the attraction marquee. But now he's vanished inside the temple, and his faithful assistant Paco, who can't operate a tripod, decides to send you directly into certain death!

....Hold on, back up here. Let's take this from the top.

We're all taught in Western storytelling that nothing can happen without conflict. There just can't be a story of renewal or growth without somebody running into some kind of obstacle, or antagonist. Many people think the antagonists are more interesting than the heroes who fight them. Even a cursory glance at a single scene from most major Hollywood movies and you'll see it's mainly a checklist of characters developing or resolving conflicts. Sometimes, when the conflict building isn't adequately disguised inside the narrative spine - as in the recent Hobbit movies - audiences rebel.

In contrast, theme parks seem to operate in an entirely different register, despite otherwise seeming to be a direct outgrowth of traditional Western art forms like theater and filmmaking. And while we conflate the effects of multiple art forms - think of those who consider an especially visually appealing area to be "painterly" - the fact is, theme parks construct their meanings quite differently than other narrative modes like cinema.

Although they've been the dominant narrative mode for most of the last 110 years, films have limitations. Film scholar Tom Gunning notes that "Whereas literature is never directly iconic, film, as a series of photographic representational signs, is. [...] In film, the excess of [surface detail] over meaning appears automatically with the photographic image." Films can depict dreams, but they can't really convey thoughts; they are full of surface details, but audiences must know which details in-frame are relevant. We begin to realize the unique difficulties of storytelling in the themed space when we realize that  filmic limitations apply to spaces such as Disneyland, but the difficulties are multiplied!

Unlike in a film, a themed space can be experienced in any order, and at any speed desired. Unlike a film, images may be examined from multiple perspectives, and linged over or rushed past as the viewer desires. And unlike film, the gaze cannot entirely be fully directed, although a truly exceptional themed space can "drag" the eye through it in controllable ways. Themed space shares the visual limitations of films, but without the benefits of editing!

This means that if you want to tell a story in a theme park with an identifiable bad guy, there can be no cut "back at the ranch" while the villains hatch their scheme, no leisurely unfolding of information through a first act. Themed spaces tell stories that hardly ever break down in acts; it's all action, as if you had to tell an entire film's narrative in the context of one huge action scene. Given these limitations, it's amazing that any theme park stories work at all!

So what's the solution? Theme parks tell stories that boil down to morsel size "storylets" with lots, and lots, of conflict.

On one end of the spectrum, we can look at an attraction like Alien Encounter, which had so many various conflicts going on at once it was confusing. There was the conflict of the X-S Tech Corporation wanting to demonstrate its very poorly tested teleporter technology, the conflict of Chairman Clench wanting to teleport into the theater but being unable to, the conflict of an alien bug wanting to eat the audience, and an extra layer of conflict of the XS Tech technicians trying to figure out how to get the bug out of the theater. If Western narrative wisdom about conflict were applied here, this would seem like a winner, and perhaps it would have been - in a feature length film! In the practice of an 8 minute theater show, with an excess of telling instead of showing, it all came across as a lot of shouting.

Another attraction where there's simply too much going on to be digestible at the fast pace required of a park attraction is Dinosaur - in this one two characters even get into an argument in the safety film! We think we're entering an ordinary museum, but surprise! We're going to be sent into the past in a time machine they built in their weird basement secret lab. Once on the ride we're required to keep track of multiple story threads simultaneously: we're supposed to be looking for and capturing a highly specific dinosaur, while also being pursued by another highly specific dinosaur, while also somehow getting out alive before a meteor hits - three jobs nobody associates with bounding around in the dark with dinosaurs. While Dinosaur checks the boxes of being a thrill ride, most guests forget one or two of these plot points while actually going through the darn thing, and the payoffs never register as well as they should.

If we want to look at a more successful example, we could look at the Indiana Jones Adventure, where we are asked to keep track of a missing person narrative about Indiana Jones, a not very fully thought out danger situation involving an angry Indian god, and finally our own desire to survive the ride. I think where Indiana Jones Adventure succeeds whereas Dinosaur fails, is because the first two conflict threads or storylets pretty much resolve immediately; they're only really there to keep us engaged while we're waiting in line, and manage to sneak in a safety film sideways without seeming abstruse. Pretty much right away Mara decides to kill us and Indiana Jones is recovered; with those resolved, the only remaining pressing concern is to survive the temple.

Indiana Jones Adventure and especially Dinosaur spend an inordinate amount of time checking the boxes of classical story structure, to really no discernible good end - ask anybody coming off either ride to identify what the main conflict in the ride is, and they won't. Or, more accurately, they'll fall back on descriptions of things that happened to them - we dodged the Carnotaurus, we avoided the rolling boulder, with no consideration whatever for the elaborate conflicts and storylets laid out inside the narrative for them. With such complicated considerations, the harried theme park designer starts to long for the simple life.

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I consider these three attractions to be just about the most convoluted experiential narratives ever devised in the industry, and really only one of them works to any degree it was intended to, so let's back away from the double (or triple, or quadruple) conflict narratives and look at some middle-ground examples.

Let's consider Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as an example. Yes, there have been various layers of narrative complication added to the attraction over the years, mostly in the form of queue area entertainments, but when you get right down to it, the basic conflict of Big Thunder Mountain - the one you actually experience between getting on and off the ride - is that you decided to ride a runaway mine train, and now you are on a runaway mine train. Various things, little "storylets", happen to you while you're on the train, and each is more exciting than the last, until you arrive safely back at the station.

Or, to take another famous example, there are many opinions and rumors as to what the "story" of the Haunted Mansion is, but in reality the story is simplicity in and of itself - you, played by you, decide to enter a haunted house and you live to tell the tale. That's it. The ride implies universes of characters, connections, and backstories, but in the end it's really just the story of you spending a night in a haunted house. Does it really need to be anything more?

Perhaps the pioneering narrative conflict told in themed spaces is what we may call "Dodge The Witch", in which you avoid various dangers and make it out okay. Under the guise of "man vs. nature", The Jungle Cruise is basically a Dodge the Witch ride. Grizzly River Rapids is an very good Dodge the Witch - it may not have a grizzly bear, but it does have plenty of dangers and surprises. Even Disneyland's Matterhorn is an exceptionally carefully modulated Dodge the Witch, in which there's nearly nothing doing the storytelling except some steel track and an abominable snowman.

Yet aren't Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinosaur also Dodge the Witch rides, to some degree? Is there perhaps something to the fact that most riders blithely ignore all of the carefully modulated narrative information and conflict setup in these attractions and gleefully report that they did indeed Dodge the Witch?

Laff in the Dark, Early 1930s
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Here, then, is one crucial distinction in the way theme parks tell stories and the way everyone else tells stories. A novel, or a film, or a play, must engage in a lengthy setup in which character are introduced, a situation is outlined, a conflict identified, and then pass through an inciting incident which sets the rest of the narrative in motion. Theme parks don't need to do this.

Why? The reason is because the only characters that really matter in theme parks are the spectators. That's the reason people visit, after all - we sail over London, we encounter some dinosaurs along the Disneyland Railroad, we ride the Hogwarts Express. This is what themed spaces can do that nobody else can, and it's the blend of passive and active participation that makes the places resonant. There doesn't need to be an inciting incident because it already happened when we entered the park.

There is conflict (or at least drama) baked into everything that we do at a theme park, because by their very nature theme parks are places of the exotic and strange. The unspoken contract that exists between the themed space and the public is that we will agree to be mildly inconvenienced while entering an attraction in exchange for being excited inside it - this is why it's disappointing, sometimes enough to make news headlines, when the ride breaks down and the excitement is ended prematurely. Themed spaces are orderly areas of pictorial effects which break down in irrational and chaotic images, briefly glimpsed, once we hop into that Mr. Toad car.

This is why the attractions that really matter, that really last, tie up the conflict with the theme of the attraction in a way that's seamless: we decide to enter the jungle, board our jungle steamship, and are guided through the various dangers. That situation doesn't need anything more than to be present to be understandable, it uses very clear, very understandable visual cues to work. Everybody knows that giant snakes and cannibals are bad news, and - uh oh - now it's happening to us!

This is also why a ride like Space Mountain can work across time and cultures in a way that the Delta Dreamflights of the world could not. Just as with Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain really offers amazingly little information about what we are doing or why - we're going into space, and space is weird. The drama is right there in the attraction name, and as far as theming goes, all that's really required is that the vehicles look like rockets and we're off. Again, riders bring more drama to the experience than the designers need to supply, because themed spaces work differently.

This also points towards one feature of themed spaces which the rules say would seem impossible in other media: the low, or no, conflict experience. There's the Enchanted Tiki Room, which 50 years on still enraptures audiences by doing nothing more than slowly coming to life. Consider also the Skyway, which requires severe interpretive methods to find any conflict in it. Or It's A Small World, where the entire darn point of it is that it's conflict free. Through the 70s, Disney repeatedly attempted to make a Small World movie, and repeatedly failed because to introduce conflict into that experience defeats the whole reason it exists in the first place.

During the construction of Disneyland, Walt Disney repeatedly instructed his designers just to "build something people will like". In theme park analysis circles we like to say that areas need a mix of A, C, and E tickets to be successful - a shorthand to refer to the "levels" of the attractions that are needed to flesh out any themed space. But it may be just as well to refer to these ticketing levels in terms of levels on conflict - this is why Tomorrowland doesn't feel complete without a Peoplemover, because the Peoplemover fulfills the role of the Mark Twain steamboat in Frontierland - a relaxed scenic experience with no plot or conflict to speak of.  The low conflict attractions round out the day with a variety of low-stakes experiences that are "safer spaces" than the Jungle Cruises or Space Mountains. Every child implicitly understands this unspoken dynamic.

--

This mass of data seems to suggest, more than anything, that there is in fact a diversity of ways to build a successful theme park attraction's story - there may be plenty of bad examples that hog the spotlight, but for every three unsuccessful, obvious examples, there's at least one where the thing works just fine.

What can be said is that conflict in theme parks can be implied in such a way to require almost no special treatment, or indeed even be a component of creating a compelling experience. The aesthetics of theme parks, and the unspoken contract between themed spaces and spectators, is such that there can be narrative inherent in simple visual designs and enveloping environments that can supplant the need for a formalized conflict. In this sense, themed spaces have a power to suggest narratives in a way nearer to the way that fine art like painting or sculpture can: through the deployment of such features as colors or shapes.

Although themed spaces are absolutely the nearest to cinema in terms of logic and effect, the theme park has a secret power that cinema does not: it can be iconic without needing to be abstract. Every so often, somebody comes along and tries to make a film that is played out entirely from one character's point of view, replacing the "I" tense in traditional novelistic storytelling with the filmed camera. This never ever works; it's easier for audiences to invest in screen characters depicted on the screen rather than as the screen.

Theme parks are films that happen to you, and they happen with no signposting or role playing. Think of the Disneyland Railroad: imagine if you made a film out of those events. You'd have an avant-garde film; mass audiences would say that it makes no sense, that it's outside their comfort zone. But millions ride the Disneyland Railroad every year and take its bizarre mix of nostalgia, sightseeing, and time travel totally at face value. That's the secret power of themed spaces, the power to compel without the need for a formalized narrative or even narrative logic.

Ready for more deep dives into the hows and whys of theme parks? Check out our Park Theory Hub Page, host to dozens of long essays just like this one!

14 comments:

FoxxFur said...

This one took unusually long to write; for your amusement, here's just a sample of paragraphs I deleted trying to keep it on topic:


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A lot of the Eisner-era attractions were attempting to broaden the types of narrative available to designers, but they did sacrifice some of that sleek simplicity of a Dodge the Witch in favor of snippy narration and sarcastic characters. Each attraction began with a condensed stab at a first act narrative structure, complete with new characters and inciting incidents to track. This approach was brought over more or less intact from Universal's playbook, where there has always been less of a tradition of purely visual storytelling.
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[x]
There's also a side category of attractions that present characters in conflict while we simply observe. To me, the clearest example of this is Phantom Manor, which presents a visual conflict between good and evil which leaves little for the spectator to do than wonder what the hell's going on. Phantom Manor suffers in comparison to the Haunted Mansion, because throughout Haunted Mansion the dramatic conflict is always "what is going to happen to me". At the very end, the attentions of the Phantom turn to us, but it's too little, too late, and many guests don't even realize they're supposed to be in danger before the moment ends.

Another attraction which presents characters in conflict which seems to do little to effect the audience is Country Bear Jamboree, as the bears try and try to put on a show. Or consider Mickey's Philharmagic, where the various elaborate tortures inflicted on Donald Duck elicit little concern. That's a feature, not a flaw, but it points towards the distinct features of this side-category of attraction. In a play or a film, the audience is expected to, and often does, project themselves into the experience, and is able to become emotionally involved in events they themselves are distant to. In the theme park, in contrast, we are always ourselves.
[x]

So let's close with a look at an attraction that I think is maybe the most interesting of Disney's recent efforts: The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. One reason I think this one is unique is because it checks all of the boxes for being a compelling attraction without ever actually needing to have a conflict, or even much of a story. The story is that you're on a roller coaster while the seven dwarfs are going home; that's it. Even people who have never sat through Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs know that scene, where the dwarfs leave work. In that sense, the Mine Train is presenting a familiar situation as something you can experience in a new way. Despite its brief length, and only having two show scenes to speak of, Mine Train succeeds in putting you there in a way that the nearby Little Mermaid ride never quite manages.

In other words, the Mine Train uses an iconic scene as a "storylet" to build its experience around, and since the scene is one where a group of characters go from one location to another, it uses a distinctive feature of a theme park attraction - the closed loop - to its advantage. It does not matter that the characters in the attraction don't have anybody to fight, and they don't nearly fall down a waterfall or anything like that on their way home: the spectators are taken on a wild ride through the storylet. Narrative information and audience experience can meaningfully diverge and still deliver a compelling synthesis.

As the avenues for creative expression are shut down by the corporate employers of theme park designers, we will doubtless see future innovations in finding new ways to tell stories inside experiences spectators are already familiar with.

Joe Shelby said...

Well, one problem with both Dinosaur and Indy (though Indy as you say dispenses it early) is the whole "something's missing" plot. During the late Eisner era, a lot of attractions ended up with that, with probably the worst example in my opinion being EPCOT's Mexico, the Three Caballeros overlay. Instead of promoting Mexican culture and tourism the way the two birds did in the beautiful original film, they distract from it. On top of all these pretty scenes, you lose focus on them because there's Donald on one side and the two birds going "where's Donald" over and over on the other, chamber for chamber. You have no idea what you're viewing, and the Donald plot causes you to not care: exactly the opposite of what Walt intended with the movie.

Where's blank shows up in others, like the missing elephant script (now trimmed due to negative complaints) in Kilimanjaro, BOTH Nemo overlays (California and EPCOT...but granted at least there it was the premise of the original film). Even the subtle "where's the treasure" got replaced by a much more blunt "where's Jack Sparrow". Everest does have a bit of "where's the yeti". I seem to recall for a time they tried a "we're looking for ..." in Jungle Cruise, but the fans and the skippers all went back and said too much of the comedy is lost that way...but that could just be a rumor or bad memory recall of something I read (there was a long stretch where I wasn't in a Disney park, due to location and finances).

It just seemed to dominate a bit when the insistence on "story" kept getting shoved where it may not have been necessary. It was their way out of having to have 'conflict' pretty often, and in some ways distracted from what was actually there.

mike_ch said...

"Even Disneyland's Matterhorn is an exceptionally carefully modulated Dodge the Witch, in which there's nearly nothing doing the storytelling except some steel track and an abominable snowman."

I say this all the time: it didn't used to be. It used to be that there's a man-made mountain there with a coaster, because Walt Disney wanted there to be one. What gets lost in all this stuff of today is that no less than Walt himself was okay greenlighting a ride that existed just to defy people's expectations. Matterhorn launched at the same time as Submarine Voyage, which has a lengthy spiel and did do some Dodge the Witch, but took it's time adding more and more delusions and fantasy creatures before the crew decides the madness has gone too far and heads back up to known waters.

Unfortunately, whether it's because of lawsuits or simply running out of new ideas in the amusement space, one of the few things we've lost in recent decades is a ride that exists "because it's there".

tamajinn said...

Wonderful article, and a lot to think about. I'm realizing that almost all of my favorite attractions at WDW are conflict-free. And if you think about it, nearly all of original EPCOT was that way too. Instead of "uh oh, there's a problem," most early EPCOT rides just wanted to say, "Hey, look at this!" Horizons and Journey Into Imagination were standouts in this category. I do enjoy rides like Expedition Everest and Tower of Terror which incorporate a little fright and thrill, but I enjoy rides like the Peoplemover and Listen to the Land just as much, if not more. In those rides, I feel like the prevailing thought is, "Isn't this nice!" You're sitting on the Peoplemover, gliding along, seeing the castle, the buildings, the people going the opposite way, and you feel so happy, like things couldn't get any better. Rides like that give a sense of peace and wonder, and I hope they always have a place at Disney parks.

V. Anton Spraul said...

Another wonderful article. Although you are probably right that the first-person perspective never works in a movie, I have to say that I've always been fascinated by the Robert Montgomery adaptation of Chandler's "Lady in the Lake." While it may have been better to have filmed the story conventionally, I'm grateful to Montgomery for his experiment and think the film is a memorable and compelling experience.

Pete said...

Yay! A new post!

FoxxFur said...

Yes, I'm especially fond of the delightfully weird Bogart pix Dark Passage, which is shot in first person perspective for a good 40 minutes... still, in the end it and Lady of a Lake is more of a gimmick than anything else.

David Ainsworth said...

Another factor at work here: the difference between narrative and traveling. A narrative gets you from point A to point B via conflict and action, with the intent of maneuvering you through to a resolution. But it'd be very strange to get on a tour bus to see the sights of Paris and find yourself caught up in a narrative. The emphasis shouldn't be on story and conflict but on exploration and discovery. Disney has gotten that right and gotten it very wrong.

Watching a Harry Potter movie locks you into a particular perspective and leaves you spectating events; that restriction, as much as the ruthless editing out of non-plot-relevant elements in some of the movies, accounts for the difference between feeling like you're exploring a new world with events happening around you and like you're watching a dramatic conflict work its way toward resolution. The "ooh, aah" visual moments of discovery (see Hogwarts for the first time; take the tour of Scamander's truck of fantastic creatures) leave a big impression, but because you can't choose to explore or linger, they can't replace the movement through the narrative without risking that it slows to a halt.

Conversely, wandering the Wizarding World and discovering little treats and immersive elements is active and magical in the way that sitting in a chair and watching a movie isn't.

At times, Disney got that very right, whether through the whole-ride experiences of something like Haunted Mansion or Pirates (where you enter a world slowly to build anticipation) or the careful theming of things like light fixtures or the absolute magic that was EPCOT when it first opened and Future World more than lived up to its name. At other times, Disney struggles, as with most of the Tomorrowland settings, which don't create a world as vividly as Frontierland or even Main Street USA, or actively works against the spirit of exploration, as with so many of the changes to what was Disney-MGM Studios. If I'm walking down Hollywood in the 1940s, I'd rather see the Chinese Theater at the end of the street than a huge Mickey hat. The Theater tells me I'm in another place, the place where movie magic happens; the hat tells me I'm in Disney World and its the place where marketing and brand synergy happen. I'm not a guest being shown into a magical world, I'm a consumer having money siphoned out of my virtual wallet.

Keep the gift shops at the end of the tour, when I want to take a souvenir of my journey into another world home with me to remember the experience. And do more the shake off the feeling that you're experiencing the ruthless efficiency of a corporatized world in favor of the feeling of discovery. Galaxy's Edge might do the trick, but the key is both in design and implementation and in refusing to compromise hospitality and experience in the name of maximizing profit.

FoxxFur said...

GREAT comments everyone, thanks for keeping the level of discourse around here so high!!

Cory Gross said...

I'm glad you added your deleted paragraphs at the end, because I think it does touch on the critical problem of spectatorship vs. experientialism. As you say in the main body of your post, the attractions that work best are those that place the guest at the centre of the experience (experientialism). The conflict is your own conflict, the narrative logic is what gets you, as David said, travelling from point A to B, and the back story serves to set up the situation you now find yourself in. I think Indiana Jones Adventure works in this respect, because you're not watching Indiana Jones' story... That's just the set up to explain why you, as a tourist, are entering the temple and that there is potential danger afoot. Likewise, the Tower of Terror's story is just setting up that you, as the star of an unaired episode of The Twilight Zone, are going to be following those people who disappeared so long ago.

Spectatorship is just passively sitting in cart watching other peoples' adventures... This, I fear, is going to become more and more common in the future. As audiences (rather than guests) we're being trained to expect passive entertainment spoon-fed to us, with a continued blurring of the line between film and theme park. Some genres that Disney wants to throw into the parks are themselves inimical to the artform of a theme park. Adding Jack Sparrow to Pirates of the Caribbean is a poignant example, but the worst one I've seen recently is Guardians of the Galaxy. I finally worked up the courage to watch a video of it the other day, and was struck by how awful it was (beyond replacing one of my favourite, and one of the best, rides ever made). Your attention is constantly being drawn to movie screens as you, a passive spectator, watch what these superheroes do... After all, there can only be one Starlord, or Captain America, or Spider-Man, and you're not him. It doesn't capture the experience of the film; it captures the experience of watching a film.

Harry Potter was the same though. The rides themselves were watching Harry and the gang do stuff. The queues and shoppes were actually more engaging, because at least you're entering and exploring that world. Only it lacks any of those slow experiences that pace out your day. They're just thrill rides and a transportation system, with no Jungle Cruise or Tiki Room or Peoplemover or Haunted Mansion to slow things down and provide variety. At least they figured out the merchandise angle, that people like Harry Potter because they want to be in that world.

Now the passive spectatorship experience can work when that's what the attraction's premise is... Like Country Bear Jamboree, Enchanted Tiki Room, or Mickey's PhilharMagic where the point is that it is a show. Nor do movie characters themselves reduce you to a spectator. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White's Scary Adventure, and the queue of Little Mermaid in WDW work because they place you in that world. But the Little Mermaid ride falters because you're just watching her story, abridged. The queue actually makes the ride better (between the two versions) because it fills out an experiential aspect. Disney seems to be figuring out that the main appeal of Star Wars is being in that world, and as appalled as I am by Avatar being in Animal Kingdom, they seemed to be get that down too. It's Marvel and Pixar, two genres antithetical to theme parks, that I'm worried about. I guess we'll see if the new Aliens ride is Aliens stalking you or watching Aliens stalk Ripley.

Larry Deutchman said...

I'm glad you added the deleted paragraphs at the end. Universal is indeed where that nonsense started. The first time I ride the ET ride I said to my wife that if you need to explain the mission of the ride before you get on, you've already failed. Disney's best attractions require no setup. The pre-show should be a warm-up act, not the first chapter of a story. It wasn't until recently I even paid attention to the Indiana Jones setup. I just enjoyed the atmospheric space of the que and the time setting if the pre-film without even noticing that it was establishing a storyline for me. Then I climbed aboard and evaded the witch. Another one like that is the Aerosmith ride. It would work fine with just a few signs in the que rather than that silly pre-ride film. The only setup that has ever felt both essential to and effective as part of the experience is Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Steven Krajnyak said...

The 90s-era "something's gone wrong" trope always seemed forced. The suspense isn't there because we, as an audience know it will occur. We're there for the experience, not the reveal.

simoneyes said...

Surprised to see the whole article go by with no mention of Splash Mountain, probably the most successful narrative attraction in Disneyland in terms of showing the roots and resolution of a conflict IMO. Maybe it's lost on the admittedly vast majority of parkgoers who aren't familiar with Uncle Remus stories, but as a child who'd read them it was clear to me riding the ride what was going on. The drops aren't strictly necessary to tell the story, of course, but they work really nicely with the narrative tension, dovetailing the tensest part of the story with physical tension for the riders, turning them into something more than passive participants as in a dark ride. It's a better ride than most people give it credit for, and a better ride than a log flume has any right to be.

The ride also makes the weird and interesting narrative choice of telling the story from the point of view of the "bad guys" inasmuch as it's setting you up to think that being thrown into the briar patch is an undesirable & scary outcome for B'rer Rabbit, when the whole point of the story is that B'rer Rabbit and the reader know that he's very comfortable being thrown into the briar patch, and B'rer Fox and B'rer Bear don't.

This is way more thought than I've ever given to Splash Mountain and now I feel bad about that. Thanks!

FoxxFur said...

Simon;

GREAT comment! As I always say, my goal here is to open this discussion, not provide the answer. ;)