As the online debates about “Disney Adults” continue to linger, former Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde shares his thoughts on the matter, specifically highlighting some ‘ritual behavior’ on a ride he helped design.
With their parents no longer determining their visits, the so-called “Disney Adults” are recognized as the most frequent visitors to Disneyland and Disney World Theme Parks. Their perceived level of regularity and brand loyalty, in person and on social media, arguably allows them to develop a unique level of comfort and a sense of “insider status” that brings about enduring trends. And those trends have recently been argued by some to be “ritualistic behavior.” These rituals are exercised with pride, but one “Disney Adult” debate surrounds the questionable effect these rituals have on the other Guests around them.
Does “Disney Adult” “ritualistic behavior” have a negative effect on new Guests and the attraction’s overall experience?
Mr. Rohde highlighted one “ritual” found at the peak of Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World Resort on his Instagram late Thursday night.
More ritual behavior. The hair scrunchies! The hair tie thing at the top of Everest is Weird but also ritualistic. It violates the illusion of the scene, but it oddly parallels what people do at the top of a real Himalayan pass…which is to leave a rock. Obviously someone started it, but what is significant is the huge numbers of people who follow along. What’s going on with that? It messes with the illusion of the fantasy place completely… However, it creates a very real interactive ceremony at the actual top of the highest point of the ride. I cannot condone this behavior partly because some poor person has to clean it up…but it does interest me.
There are other “rituals” that are arguably more obviously antagonizable such as reciting the Ghost Host’s pre-ride monologue on The Haunted Mansion. There are also some that are more easily praised, like perfecting picture stagings on Space Mountain or Splash Mountain.
But, as Mr. Rodhe described, there is a dichotomy created where “interactive ceremony” works against “illusion.”
Modern Imagineering has been working to create experiences where the niche interactions of the #IYKYK crowd only benefit the immersion. But, the situation with the mountaintop scrunchies and other such “rituals” appears to be one of etiquette.
Are these “rituals” appropriate? Do these “advanced” actions of a veteran rider ruin the experience’s “purity” for a first-timer, or do they actually add to the ride’s specialness and give those first-timers a reason to come back for that “insider” experience? Are they also inconsiderate of Cast Members? Let the debate continue.
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