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GeoTech: 4 psychological tricks behind Disney’s theme park success

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People love Disney in a way that makes romantic love look weak. There is no more fanatical and intense fandom than the Disney fandom and there’s a good reason for that. Disney’s success largely hinges on psychological theory and there’s no better example of this than the physical embodiment of the world Walt Disney created in the form of his theme parks and resorts. Here are the four major psychologies behind Disney’s theme park success.

1.Lead in/tease

Do you have a virtual or physical photo album from a trip to a Disney theme park? You probably have a photo of this sign:

Walt Disney World

*Screams uncontrollably*

There are actually a number of signs placed in front of this sign asking visitors to please not park their car on the highway to take a picture of the sign. Why? Because we all go batcrap crazy when we see it and feel an immediate need to begin documenting the vacation right then and there, because it has begun! This seems stupid when you say it out loud like I am right now, but that’s exactly what happens, and it’s exactly how the good mind control engineers Imagineers at the Disney Company want you to feel.

The lead in, or “tease” element of Disney’s resorts gives you a constant feeling of ascension, an upward movement that begins when you board the bus at your resort in the morning and continues through the pearly gates, up Main Street U.S.A, and all the way around the park as you make continuous transitions from one world to the next. And by golly it gets us high as a kite. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

2.Color Psychology

As you might have guessed, the colors that make up the visual art of Disney’s theme parks are carefully chosen, but not for the reasons you think. Visualize the colors you’re inundated with everyday at every inch of the resort: cool blues, greens, grays and silvers, neutrals and whites– these color combinations are psychologically proven to create feelings of calm, patience and happiness.

Can you picture that sickly pepto pink you find on the sides of certain structures?

01b-Tower-of-Terror

Yeah, that’s the one. That color has been scientifically proven to stop even serial killers in their tracks. It’s the most calming, relaxing color in the visual spectrum, capable of turning football teams into a litter of kittens and UFC fighters into Bob Marley.

Ever noticed how you never see any more red than Mickey Mouse’s pants or Gaston’s tight shirt? That’s because red incites impulsive and aggressive behavior– especially if you’re looking at Gaston’s rippling torso…

Look at that happy woman. #notashamed

Look at that happy woman. #notashamed

If you do see bright primary colors together, they’re straight out of Disney’s early works, such as Snow White, when technicolor was new, everyone was desperately hungry for rainbow everything, and psychology was witchcraft.

3. Music

Similarly to how Disney’s colors affect our moods and behaviors, the area music you hear looping against the background of delighted screams and whirring rides isn’t the same music you hear in your favorite Disney films; this music is based off of those film scores but was composed specifically for the theme park environment.

*Screams uncontrollably*

Like the score of a video game, the area music not only sets the tone of the world you’re in but also has a calming and addictive effect on the listener. When you play a fantasy game on your Xbox, the music needs to be enjoyable but invisible so that it never becomes grating, thus you never want to turn off the game.

Disney theme parks operate with that same methodology. The music is pleasant, calming, and simultaneously upbeat.

Personally, when I work, I prefer to listen to Disney area music to help me stay focused because it’s invisible enough that it’s not distracting, but it’s also the most motivating music ever. It’s 100x better than any film score you can find.

Listen to this loop and tell me you couldn’t write a 100-page thesis to it:

4. Nostalgia

Good business women and men know that consumers will purchase literally anything to tap into the rose-colored feeling of their childhood memories. My dad watches the same westerns he used to watch when he wore a cowboy hat and rode a rocking horse back in the 50s and my mom can’t go a summer without a creamsicle or else WE ALL PAY THE PRICE, MARK MY WORDS.

As a mere initiate in the world of adulthood, I’ve spent 90% of my time this past year flailing around, desperately trying to reclaim my child identity. 

MinnieWaving

It’s only weird if you think about it too hard.

Walt himself actually built the first Disneyland based on his own nostalgia of his picturesque childhood living on a farm in Missouri, going out to the ball game, and riding trains. He took all the elements of his past that made him happiest and threw them together into a medley of wish-fulfilling fantasy.

Disney doesn’t sell just media, it sells happiness– and it knows it. My generation was the first to grow up with 100% Disney Princesses 100% of the time and look what’s happening now that we princesses are grown up and have our own money. I’ll give it to you in the form of a riddle: What’s new yet full of everything old?

new-fantasyland

It’s a new section of the Magic Kingdom that’s actually a condensed version of 90s Disney. And ticket sales are booming. Not one of us has escaped its crushing clutch on our hearts and, if I may speak for all of us, we don’t want to.

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