Brenda  Brown

Elsewhere is always paradise.  To escape from our everyday surroundings is to experience the feeling of entering        'another world.'  The desire to encounter the duality of existence, ever present in the history of humanity, sends us in search of a world different from our own, rich with possibilities . . .
            Isabelle Auricoste, "Leisure Parks in Europe: Entertainment and Escapism"1
. . . The new landscape, seen at a rapid, sometimes even a terrifying pace, is composed of rushing air, shifting lights, clouds, waves, a constantly moving, changing horizon, a constantly changing surface beneath the ski, the wheel, the rudder, the wing.  The view is no longer static. . . .
                                          J.B. Jackson, "The Abstract World of the Hot Rodder"2

The fundamental requirement of elsewhere is that it be an other.  Elsewhere may be heaven but it may also be hell, or hell disguised as heaven or heaven disguised as hell.  Elsewhere can take many forms, especially if one includes the elsewheres of the human psychophysiology and imagination -- triggered by, manifested as, or independent from, physically tangible spaces and their representations.  As with theme parks and many of their antecedents, the power of landscapes of theme park rides is the power of their elsewheres.3 

Landscapes of theme park rides are dynamic landscapes, landscapes of motion.  In these landscapes out-of-the-ordinary movement is integral and essential, even when, in sometimes complex and highly sophisticated choreographies, it works in concert with sound, story, and a fabricated or pre-existing visual landscape.  Landscapes of theme park rides are designed landscapes, spatially and temporally circumscribed, highly controlled and very popular.  They thus can serve as models - or foils - for other landscapes of movement, especially those designed ones in which movement works with sound, story or visual landscape.4  Their analysis shows ways that dynamic landscapes can be composed for varied effects and purposes.

The elsewheres with which this paper is primarily concerned are born of ride landscapes' occupation of real space and time.  These elsewheres are augmented, reinforced and characterized by what these dynamic landscapes present, and how they physiologically and psychologically affect riders' perceptions.  

Yet contemporary theme park landscapes work within larger contexts - historical, spatial, and cultural -- and for all their otherness, so do their elsewheres.  Landscapes of rides have long been popular, and this suggests they fulfill some basic human propensities -- pleasure in spectacles, alternative perspectives, novel kinesthetic experiences perhaps leading to altered states of consciousness, sensational thrills, and immersion in three-dimensional plotted stories among them.5   They are worth our attention just for this.  Like their predecessors, landscapes of theme park rides charm and captivate; they are spatio-temporal elsewheres, human constructed and human inhabited. Yet while they maintain the same compositional categories, in many contemporary rides the character of the elements and composition have changed, making for different messages as well as different media and modes.

The Elsewhere of the theme park and the elsewheres of its rides are symbiotic.  As in earlier amusement parks, world's fairs, pleasure gardens and carnivals, the theme park's macrocosmic Elsewhere is created in part by the many microcosmic elsewheres one may experience within park boundaries - and in many cases elsewhere is found in the landscape of a ride.  Conversely, the elsewhere of a ride is often strengthened by its location within such an other worldly precinct.  This symbiotic relationship is as old as rides and the most ancient theme park antecedents.  However, since around the turn of the century, the heyday of world expositions and amusement parks and the advent of rides with extensive fabricated landscapes and plots, the manipulation of this relationship has become increasingly conscious and deliberate.  In today's most prominent theme parks it is highly tuned.  Park identity and theme support and are supported by ride landscapes' media, modes and messages.

In a yet broader context, rides have historically involved playful and entertaining applications of technologies originally developed for work; they have expressed an other side of technological cultures - and they continue to do so today.  Some theme park rides differ little from predecessors.  They continue to charm and captivate; they are seemingly perennially popular, tried and true exemplars of the genre.  However, their presence within a theme park is also emblematic. They represent earlier, pre-industrial, industrial and mechanical eras (in particular their kindlier and gentler aspects) as well as ride landscapes of visitors' memories.  Other ride landscapes, while composed of the same basic elements and devices as their predecessors, use more highly developed technologies to create new expressions and experiences of transcendental elsewheres.  Still others, again employing similar compositional elements and devices, are emblematic of, and endemic to, a post-industrial world, a world of electronic production and mass-communication.  While these latter landscapes are certainly elsewheres, they also ground ubiquitous multi-media everywheres to very specific spaces and times.  In all their range and variance, the elsewheres of contemporary theme park ride landscapes reflect traditions and show ways that our culture's relationship to technology - and some of our elsewheres - are uniquely ours.

Here ride landscapes at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (both part of the Walt Disney World Resort), and Universal Studios Florida (hereafter referred to as Universal Studios), all in the Orlando area, serve as illustrative, contemporary exemplars. These rides and the parks where they reside are not in all ways typical, and, as will be seen, they differ from one another.  Yet these theme parks and their diverse rides are among the most famous, the most popular, the most polished, the most compositionally complex, and the most technologically sophisticated in existence.  These theme parks are typical in that rides are essential to them, and in that what their rides adopt, adapt, develop and reject from predecessors helps make them what they are.6 
* Beginning of chapter by Brenda J. Brown in Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variations, edited by Terence Young and Robert Riley, 2002.  (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection) 234-268.
  1 I. Auricoste, "Leisure Parks in Europe: Entertainment and Escapism," The Architecture of Western Gardens, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992, 483.

    2  J.B. Jackson, "The Abstract World of the Hot Rodder," Landscape 7 (2), 25.

    3  Theme parks have been described as "giant limen thresholds," and sites of "playful pilgrimage" (A. Moore, Walt Disney World: Bounded Ritual Space and Playful Pilgrimage Center," Anthropological Quarterly, 53 (1980), 4, 207) and as "territorial complexes given over to the introverted system of the game . . . a game with its essential parts  . . . uncertainty and the risk of failure [removed]" (I. Auricoste, "Leisure Parks in Europe," 494.)

    4 Examples include Villa d'Este, Villa Lante, Stourhead and Christian Sacro Monte gardens.

     5 Russell Nye suggests that in contemporary life amusement parks may provide the closest approximation to a total play experience.  In an amusement park are found all four categories of play experience identified by French social psychologist Cailois: vertigo (activities which distort sensory stability), mimicry (spectacles, ceremonies and movies), competition, and chance.  The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Universal Studios Florida privilege the first two.  R. Nye, "Eight Ways of Looking at an Amusement Park," Journal of Popular Culture, 15 (1981) I, 73.
    6 Epcot and the Magic Kingdom were two of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort when this essay was written (Disney-MGM Studios is the third and disney’s Animal kingdom is the fourth).  Universal Studios Florida is a totally separate entity -- related to, but quite different in concept -- from Universal Studios Hollywood.  Rides at Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios Florida are not really typical of rides of other contemporary theme parks.  Although other theme parks range widely, most of their rides do not have the elaborate constructed landscapes of The Walt Disney Company and Universal Studios.  Many of the other parks highlight thrill rides, and more closely resemble earlier amusement parks.  It is also relevant to note here that the term theme park seems to have come into being with Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California.  It designated Disneyland -- with its references to a world, or worlds, previously created in other media -- as different from previous amusement parks.
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