This is the second post this week from the happiest place on earth—or the happiest place on earth to physically and mentally exhaust your children and push them to the edge of existence, test your marriage, and find new words for describing your relationship with in-laws.
Note from Paul: Hi everyone, Paul here. Shea is actually still in Disney, shirking his duties as a husband and a father to write this post. He emailed some photos and asked me to include them in this post for him. Unfortunately, due to a shaky Internet connection, those photos never made it to me. Knowing that Shea would want at least one Disney photo here, I have included one from my own collection of the two of us with Cinderella (or possibly Snow White). Now, back to Shea!
Update from Paul: Shea got photos to me by stealing wifi at a Crystals restaurant. I’m leaving this one here, anyway.
As Paul noted in his post on Monday, reality is a hard concept to wrap your mind around at Disney World (and when I say Disney World, that is to say that includes Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios as well as the all-important Spring Training baseball). Based on what our wives have told us about spring break at Disney World, it is the perfect place for Paul and me since our lives are based around fantasy and ice cream. (For the record, our wives ate the ice cream too.)
Going into this trip to Orlando and having visited Disney World about 18 months ago, Paul and I decided to each take on different perspectives while blogging while on vacation. Each perspective needed to be unique and either were definitely going to annoy our wives. After an intense conversation over bowls of chocolate-covered chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles, I decided to take on the authenticity of Disney World, despite the sudden urgency to exercise.
Is Disney World an interpretive experience? That is a really tough question. If interpretation is defined as a process where emotional and intellectual connections are built, then you may have to look at your Disney experience more intently. Let’s face it, no one does things better than Disney—customer service, facility planning, organizing, visitor experience, technology, as well as making elephants fly. I was reminded of their attention to customer service when I found myself in a “Cast Members Only” area of the Caribbean Beach Resort where we were staying.
While my wife was marveling at the inattentive nature of my driving, we came across this sign on the opposite of the “Cast Members Only” sign.
Note from Paul: I’m betting one of the photos Shea meant to put here was of the sign he’s talking about. Check back soon. Shea can’t be on vacation forever! Back to Shea.
Obviously the sign was timely for my wife as well as for those working at the resort. Interpretive sites worldwide can learn from how Disney teaches customer service.
The use of design at Disney World has led to success. Everything is designed perfectly and purposefully. Exhibit-type elements are nothing short of perfect. I found myself photographing elements such as an oversized viewfinder disk and then searching for my children. As Paul and several security guards can attest, my youngest son takes the “Disney Magic” literally and can disappear before you can get to the “I” of M-I-C-K-E-Y.
While searching for authenticity (and my son) in Disney World, it became obvious to me that Disney primarily uses interpretation (in the strictest interpretations of the definitions of interpretation) as a tool to add authenticity to the overall experience. This was most evident at Animal Kingdom, where the theme park experience crosses with a zoo that crosses with a cast of characters from successful movies that cross with a budget of which any interpretive center would be pleased to have six percent. If there is any awkwardness within Disney World, besides a moment between me, my son and Cinderella, the mixture at Animal Kingdom requires help from interpretation. I actually had to interpret the actions of me and my son to Cinderella’s security guards.
Interpretive efforts are key to an overall successful presentation at the Animal Kingdom to ensure that the animals that are cared for there are not just presented as another character or movie prop. Otherwise, flying past a yak at 65 miles per hour on the Expedition Everest roller coaster leaves you with a feeling that the value of the animal’s life is second to the feeling of nausea you are experiencing. You can find personal elements such as guides at various kiosks and tents presenting impromptu programs and demonstrations with themes matching the area and animals found in that part of the park. Non-personal elements are presented with Disney flair and have brief, effective, and purposeful messages. That is if anyone is really taking the time to read them.
Okay, I’ve got to get back to getting in trouble for going into “Cast Member Only” areas to read signs and avoiding conversations about blogging on vacation with my wife.