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Disneyland Article
Do All Theme Park Rides Have To Be Battles With An Evil Empire

Jungle Cruise
Orange County Register
Robert Niles
January 31, 2016
February 07, 2016
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The key to a great theme park attraction is the same as with any other form of entertainment -great attractions tell great stories. But what makes a story great?

Obviously, some tales endure for generations and passing that test of time is as good a sign as any that a story has reached greatness. But Disneyland fans with long memories might have noticed how storytelling in the parks has changed over the years, illustrating how what one generation considered great stories doesn't appeal to today's visitors in the same way.

I thought about this after riding Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland's Seasons of the Force for the umpteenth time. Like many fans, I love what Disney did in overlaying a Star Wars theme on its beloved Space Mountain roller coaster.

Hyperspace Mountain takes a thrilling ride through space and raises the stakes. Now, you're not just exploring outer space - you're along for the ride as the Resistance tries to save it from the clutches of the evil First Order.

Racing through space with the "Star Wars" theme pumping through speakers behind your ears, while TIE fighters and X-wings blast lasers around you provides one of the more exciting adventures in the park.

There's a well-established principle in writing that great stories offer a conflict and a resolution. In theme parks, we see this idea in play with the common motif that "something goes terribly wrong." Some fool looks Mara in the eye. Lightning strikes the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The hippos are wiggling their ears.

We start with these conflicts and our inevitable escape provides the resolution.

Well, there is no simpler conflict and resolution than a fight. And Hyperspace Mountain delivers a great one. It's a classic good-versus-evil battle, amplified with great music, flashing lights and explosions. It's a lot more exciting than just racing through space, as we do on the "regular" Space Mountain.

Which, when I think about it, disappoints me. Mankind's greatest accomplishment might have been launching human beings beyond our atmosphere and into space. Spaceflight demands resolutions to countless number of conflicts -laws of physics and economics that conspire to keep us rooted to the Earth.

But crunching numbers and testing components in the lab do not command nearly as much attention as a loud, flashy dogfight. If you're a storyteller looking to get as many people through theme park turnstiles, why invest the time to tell complicated tales when you can just throw a few good guys into battle with a bunch of bad guys, instead?

That's why theaters are filled with superhero movies and part of the reason why Disneyland's Tomorrowland now features a space fantasy. And one set in the past, too. Don't forget that Star Wars takes place "a long time ago."

Disneyland fans with long memories will recall when Disney grounded its Tomorrowland attractions in a more realistic view of the future. You could visit the House of the Future or the Hall of Chemistry, take a Rocket to the Moon, or even shrink to the size of a molecule in Adventure Through Inner Space. Exploration and discovery provided the resolutions to our conflicts - not fighting.

Obviously, much has changed in the world outside Disneyland since the 1950s and '60s. People face different challenges today, and want and need different things, as a result. Stories that inspired people a generation or two ago might not resonate the same way today.

But if we moved from the Adventure Through Inner Space to Hyperspace Mountain, maybe we can move back, too. As much as I love flying through an epic science fiction battle, I also wish that Disneyland might again someday take us on an equally amazing journey through science fact.
Attractions Referenced

Adventure Thru Inner Space

Hall Of Chemistry

House Of The Future

Hyperspace Mountain

Indiana Jones Adventure, Temple Of The Forbidden Eye

Jungle Cruise

Rocket To The Moon

Space Mountain

Lands Referenced


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