If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Thinking about the story of a land

How we think about the story of our lands. Copyright The Walt Disney Company.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

Hi I'm Josh Goren and I work in creative development here at Walt Disney Imagineering. That means I help teams of Imagineers through the process of creating new ideas and technologies for our parks. I'll be your host for this first lesson which is about how we design themed lands for Disneyland and our other theme parks around the world. Along the way I'll be joined by Imagineers that specialize in various aspects of the process. Each land is an area within a theme park that allows you, the guest, to be transported to a new and exotic place. In this lesson, we've created a series of exercises that will guide you through the design process for a land of your own. Allowing you to answer the question, "If you could go anywhere where would you go?". We'll also give you a behind-the-scenes look at a number of different lands with a focus on these three: Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park based on the Cars movies from Pixar, Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney's Animal Kingdom located in Florida and based on the movie Avatar, and Treasure Cove in Shanghai Disneyland located in Shanghai, China and based on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Each of these lands tells a particular story and is based on an underlying theme. The focus of this video is the role of story. Every time we start a new project we always ask ourselves, "What is the story?" Treasure Cove is a hypothetical island we created, set in the Caribbean, and our story is it started as an obscure Spanish settlement which was later taken over by the British and then turned into a happy pirate haven when Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew arrived and the time is set around 1730. In Cars Land each person is an honorary car and they're in Cars Land on race day. And Mater's having a junkyard Jamboree as kind of a festival to celebrate race day and the big event is happening at Radiator Springs racers. In the story of Pandora you are walking into a national park on an exotic alien planet. And this is a story about the value of nature, it's about respect for an environment, it's about respect for indigenous people and their values and this is the world that you enter, where we are invited to come and visit the Navi who are the indigenous people and to learn from them how to be better stewards of our own planet. So this is the idea of the land. Theme park storytelling is different than what you might be familiar with from movies, TV or theater. Those differences are important, so let's hear more. The first is that our story is multi-sensory. Everything is happening to you what you smell, what you see, what you hear, how you feel, the temperature, the time of day, how you personally choose to move through space. So we're telling our story using every possible sense that a human being would present. You have to think about complete immersion all the way around a human being, so we have a whole group of people that work to design music and sound that feels natural and believable to the place that you're in. The smells of the place are important, and some of that comes from the food being cooked, and what you touch is very important. In a theme park, you touch the sets, you touch the ground, and so all those things have to feel authentic and true. And if it's not supposed to be plastic it shouldn't feel like plastic. Secondarily, our story is not necessarily told in a line. If you're watching a film or a TV show there is a very, there is a director who's giving you a point of view. They're saying, "Look here, now you're gonna look here, and now you're gonna look here," right when you cut scenes. In environmental storytelling, the guest that walks into the park is the director. They're looking and their point of view is the directors point of view, right. So when you walk into one of our lands let's take Cars Land for example, when you walk into Cars Land and you see the Radiator Springs sign some people might look at that first or they might just completely bypass that and walk straight into Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. And the way that a guest would walk into a land and decide where they want to take their story first, that is environmental storytelling. They get to choose. And this is one of the reasons why the story has to come at you through all these different senses. Because I don't really know how it's gonna start or how it's going to end. You are moving freely through this space experiencing the story all at once, at every moment. The third difference is that an environmental storytelling, the guest has a role in the story. In an experiential story the guest, each person experiencing the story, is really the center of that story. We want all of our guests to feel like they belong in the story, that they are characters that they can play, if they choose to do so, in our lands. So when you invite someone into a land they're not just observers they're there to play a part and so when you design the land you have to make sure to include the guests in that story and give them an opportunity to engage in it. So in summary, Imagineers are environmental storytellers and this kind of storytelling has three main differences from other forms of storytelling: its storytelling with all the senses, the story unfolds in an unpredictable way as the guest travels through the land, and finally the guest often has a role in the story. In the following exercise, we ask you to think about a story that you love and to use that story to inspire a land of your very own design.