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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Disney's Empire was Built on Stories

When you go to Disneyland, you expect the glitz, the rides, the stores, restaurants, and shows.  It’s all so in your face that you usually don’t notice the one thing Disney is famous for. Stories. It seems that every ride, every experience, every store is built around a story of some kind. Most items come from fairy tales or Disney movies but many come from other venues.

For instance, the Disney store in Downtown Disney is filled with pieces of stories, all the characters, drawings, clothes, and objects used by all our favorite characters. ToonTown is the actual physical home of all the cartoon characters with their stories located and acted out.

Even the thrill rides are stories. Star Tours, the Railroad, steamship line, pirate ship, and all the scary rides are built around stories shown in graphic detail.

Why so many stories? Walt Disney was a genius not just at cartooning. After all, anyone could draw cartoons. His genius was placing a credible and believable story into those cartoons and creating characters who were totally memorable even though they did not exist anywhere at all. These stories drew on the folk memory of people from all over the world. Think of Snow White, Peter Pan, Star Wars, pirate stories, Tom Sawyer’s Island, jungle adventures, all the things that scared us and delighted us as children. At Disneyland, you can experience them again in real life and relive those fearful moments you remember from childhood stories.

The Disney experience is meant to separate us from real life while at the same time drawing on our real life fantasies. It is a powerful combination. No wonder millions of people flock through the doors to have the experiences you can only get here.

Yes, there are other theme parks, none of them as successful. The others all use the thrill of the dangerous ride, being scared, feeling the fear, to draw you in. However none of them give you the story. A roller coaster is a thrill ride. You get on, get scared for a while and get off.

It’s interesting that when Disney created the California Adventure park right next to Disneyland, it was a near failure. Many of the features were exhibits or rides, not stories. The roller coasters were carnival rides, not stories. Disneyland is filled with little scary corners, places where you shouldn’t go, back doors and pathways. California Adventure is not.

This is a marketing lesson even Disney’s successors missed. Walt Disney knew that he was selling stories and experiences in his cartoons, movies and theme parks. His successors in many ways missed that point. When we enter the park, we are buying childhood memories, we are living the dangers of our myths and legends vicariously. We are having adventures.

This process works no matter whether you are selling widgets or theme parks. Give people an emotional element that draws them in and you can sell anything. Cheap thrills wear off very quickly.

 

 

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