While it came as no surprise that Disney attractions Pandora – World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! at Disney California Adventure were awarded for their immersion and theming, it was surprising to hear what creators had to say about the level of importance technology had in themed entertainment.
There was a theme in the awards recipients’ speeches that technology shouldn’t be the driving force of themed experiences in an era where everyone has advanced technology at their fingertips. Many claimed that play, discovery and personal interaction were just as important as special effects.
Joe Rhode, creative executive of Disney Imagineering, and his team received three awards for Pandora and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! Yet he stated, “it’s easy to become seduced by the power of technology,” and that experiences still need a personal touch, noting that all of Pandora’s plant life was hand-crafted and that the land tells a story of conservation. He went on to say that technology could distract the audience from the story that the artist is trying to tell.
Imagineers emphasized play and discovery in themed entertainment when referring to Pandora, since the area is more like a national park and the attractions are more like excursions. Rather than forcing a story to unfold in front of passive guests, the land encourages guests to actively explore and interact with cast members.
This approach is being taken for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where role-playing will play a major role and interactions with cast members will be key to the overall guest experience.
Phil Hettema of Hettema Group, also a former Disney employee, was honored with a lifetime achievement award and claimed that “when we tell our stories with quality and integrity they are powerful and can change lives.”
He continued on to say, “You used to go to a theme park to see cool technology, but I can get all of that right here… the reason people go to theme parks is to connect with each other.”
Source: Los Angeles Times