How to Design a Theme Park (To Take Tons of Your Money)

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Writing by Sam Denby and Tristan Purdy
Editing by Alexander Williard
Animation led by Josh Sherrington
Sound by Graham Haerther
Thumbnail by Simon Buckmaster


  1. I’m curious. How are you using all this “Strar Wars” and Disney IP, Disney doesn’t come after you?

  2. Galaxy Edge looks so incredibly impressive, but at the same time so incredibly boring

  3. you forgot to mention the $5000 for two night hotel that they have.

  4. You’re more helpful than you realize.

  5. Okay, I love the design, but I love that bar even more. It’s so good.

  6. Repent or you will likewise perish.

    Repent to Jesus Christ
    “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
    ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭7:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

  7. Making it experiential rather than fitting a mold isn’t new, per-se, but the depth with which they hid it here is.

    Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO used to do a very good job of integrating live acting, traditional track rides (both dark and not), and extending the themes well beyond the rides themselves to make a few key rides strongly stand out. Like with this, the “city” is a maze of interconnecting paths, some over “rickety” themed bridges through the woods, some through theme-consistent shopping areas, some through areas with live craftwork being done. The walkups to the rides themselves are also winding through faux-rock, woods, and other structures that make the walkup an experience itself, and fit with the expectation of the ride.

    They went through a period of reducing the live actor participation, reducing the actual craftwork being done, and selling more and more things you could get just as easily outside the park, and I stopped going for a while. They have brought back the emphasis on live actor participation but many of the shops are about half modern paperback books and other things that are distinctly not in theme. Live craftwork is better than the low point, but it’s become more like the Santa Claus experience with a sign saying they’ll be there to repeat the same routine at a given time for several of them.

    Theirs does rely heavily on humor, but it’s more the situational rather than verbal humor that is repeatable. The repeated jokes intentionally fall flat (eg. the train robber yelling “this is a stick-up” while holding up a literal stick) so it’s not relying on the joke, but on the humor of a live actor comically failing. Or the “rattle-headed copper moccasin” that has “grabbed a passenger off the train last week” for at least 40 years that isn’t about the joke but is theming the experience of the intentionally less-than-threatening warning of the “dangerous” part of the ride. Admittedly, that last one has taken on a life of its own and is a pre-internet meme for fans of the park. And they knowingly theme it so it’s not grating for the parents who have to sit through the ride 25 times that day for their kid who really likes it.

    I have to give them credit for some of their adaptations over time as well. One of the ones they cut back the acting on that really sold it was a dark ride called “the flooded mine” with VERY minimal animation and lighting gags that didn’t really hold up very well without the human element. But it had a lot of nostalgia, so they kept it…adding targets and plastic guns with LED counters on them. The LED counter and targets were relatively simple thematic additions (not sure how simple technology-wise given how long ago they did it) and it made it perennially fun just from that small participatory aspect. A very small number of them are “trick shots”, things like shooting a rope to make something drop, shooting out lights, or shooting dynamite to set off a lighting effect – all of which were pre-existing timed effects. But by making those few linked to rider actions, it makes the dozens of flat targets feel more immersive than monotonous.

    The participatory aspect is massive for a lot of these – whether laser tag disguised as plastic revolvers, or actors who call out specific people on the ride, or just telling everyone to shake their fist and yell “ugly” as they ride past unsuspecting people somewhere else in the park. And I think the trackless has a lot of potential for that. I could easily see them making a simplified “choose your adventure” aspect to it that gives a manageable number of routes to the vehicle so the average person has a “unique” experience, the repeat rider can have multiple experiences, and the more dedicated fans can have fun working out all the possibilities the way gamers do with multi-ending video games.

  8. I’m still on team Universal, Disney charges money to pretty much breath in the park, it’s ridiculous. Want to ride that ride? Pay up, on top of your ticket.

  9. This makes me wish Star Trek: The Experience was still a thing

  10. Matthew Morycinski

    People who love science fiction have, I think, vivid enough imaginations, that they get this kind of immersive experience from reading a book, or watching a movie. In fact, a well written SF book may be better than a movie, because it does not repeat the all-too-familiar scenography. Your mind is much better at creating something unique. Read more.

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