A recent trip to Disneyworld (You’ve heard of it? There’s a mouse?) accomplished two things: it showed me the future and it made me feel old. The future is surely new rides that feature new technologies to simulate, stimulate, and jostle. I once bemoaned the fact that many new rides at neighboring Universal Studios were all intense motion simulators featuring 3-D graphics on screens. I wondered why Universal didn’t just combine The Simpsons Ride, Spider-man, Jimmy Fallon: Escape from Celebrity, and The Transformers Ride into one single ride experience; you board your vehicle and are then shown each ride movie in turn, accompanied by the appropriate, synchronous jostling of each rider. Fifteen to twenty-five minutes later, and you would have ridden half the rides in the park! My preference has always been old-school “physical effects” rides, like Disney’s It’s a Small World, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and Universal’s Jurassic Park, ET, and late, lamented Jaws ride.
TANGENT: I remember reading a very funny essay a few years ago, and try as I might, I cannot find it anywhere on the Google machine, or I would provide a link. The author used the most basic use of irony (the feigning of ignorance in an argument) and wrote a tongue-in-cheek review of Universal Studios where he faulted the rides because somehow, “something would always go wrong.” He said that Universal should be worried because their rides always go haywire and the tourists are called on to help make things right. On the Jaws ride, the boat is driven into the wheelhouse with the shark in it, in Jurassic Park, the boat enters the containment building with the raptors in it, on The Simpsons Ride, Sideshow Bob seizes control of your ride vehicle in an attempt to kill Bart, and on Transformers; The Ride, the bad robots burst in and it is up to the tourists to protect the “AllSpark” or whatever the hell that MacGuffin was called. You get the idea. The essay was hilarious and effectively pointed out a certain sameness in all of these rides.
Again, I enjoyed both rides immensely. I spent a long time on the flight home, thinking about all we have lost and all that we have gained. I couldn’t stop thinking about something Bill Maher said a few years ago about entertainment in general. It certainly applies here to my theme park experience. He said, “Everybody wants to BE the show; Nobody wants to SEE the show.”