Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Theme Parks: Design for fun!

What else is designed for fun other than theme parks? Everything in a theme park is devoted to entertain “children of all ages.” Rollercoaster, water rides, arcade games, shows, face paint, you name it; it’s all there for your entertainment. But what makes a theme park fun? Waiting in line? Spending far too much money? NO! Of course not, it is the trill, the excitement, the escape from “real life” that makes theme parks so much fun. I’d like to take a quick look at some popular theme parks and explore why they are fun to me and why I think the engineers behind the scenes designed them the way they did.

Disney World:

About: Four theme parks, two water parks, and twenty-three themed hotels rolled into one getaway vacation that will ultimately destroy your bank account, but hey you had fun right? Disney World is the most visited and largest recreational resort in the world. Disney World is a great vacation spot as it has fun and excitement for all ages. There are rides and games for the littlest of children, but there are also more intense rides for those who seek a thrill. But it’s not only the rides that draw crowds to Disney World, it’s those cute characters who sign autographs, let you take their picture, or perform in shows. It’s the magic behind the rides that draws the crowds. Walt Disney was a brilliant man and he took pride in making a theme park that was a place where both adults and children could have fun. Though Disney World was the second theme park created by Walt Disney (Disneyland being the first), it was his dream park since it had a very desirable location and could be build on a grand scale. Disney's vision has continued to grow over time as Disney World itself has grown. Disney World holds a special place in the hearts of children of all ages.

Design: Disney World is designed for you to have to come many times. With each park having its own twist and each hotel having it's own theme, it is no wonder that people travel to Disney World many times before they get bored (if ever). It also has one of the largest kid themed parks. Most children cannot ride on roller coasters since they are too short, but when you introduce rides and shows geared toward younger crowds, children want to participate and parents want to allow their children to experience the "magic" that is Disney World. It is also in a location that allows the park to stay open year round. This allows for more business. By splitting up the parks into themes and designing rides and attractions into those themes, Disney World is able to bring in a huge crowd and keep them entertained every day!

Universal Studios:

About: Universal Studios Theme Parks are based around the movies that the company has produced. The original theme park, Universal Studios Hollywood, started by running tours of the soundstages and backlots where filming was underway. Today the parks have thrilling rides and shows, and even a working movie studio. I would argue that Universal Studios Theme Park is not for very young children. That being said, it can still be a ton of fun with children who are old enough to appreciate it. I feel that the shows and rides are directed at an older audience than say Disney's Magic Kingdom, but they are still very fun. Universal uses special effects and movie catch phrases to capture its audience and draw them in and it does a great job of doing this.

Design: Universal does a good job of breaking the park down into zones as you can see below.
But not only does Universal divide up its park to allow for maximum fun, it also creates rides based on commonly known movies. This alone draws crowds. Also Universal has special effect shows and gives tours of real movie studios. These are things that you cannot find elsewhere and therefore people are drawn to the park.


About: SixFlags is the largest chain of theme parks in the world. There are over 21 locations in North America alone. SixFlags uses the image of Bugs Bunny and pals to help draw crowds. SixFlags is different from the other two previous parks because it is very ride based and prides itself on having some of the biggest and best roller coasters in the world. In 2005, SixFlags Great Adventure in NJ opened the Kingda Ka, which holds the current record for tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world (and also probably the record for longest wait to get on).

Design: SixFlags has a great thing going with the shear number of parks they own. Sure they don't get the kind of traffic that Disney gets at any one location, but combined they get a good number of people there each year. The beauty of SixFlags though is definitely its rides. SixFlags definitely tries to outdo itself and other parks each year. Kingda Ka was just one example of how SixFlags can outdo every other coaster. This year SixFlags has announced seven new coasters across the country and I am sure that they will be big hits.

Theme parks are dedicated to having fun. They incorporate "magic," thrills, excitement, and shows to keep you entertained and to hope you return. I love theme parks and there is nothing better than spending an entire day riding roller coasters!

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