Monday, February 13, 2017

Week 6 - Screens (Core Response #2)

Since both McCarthy and Morse mention the theme park in passing, I wanted to discuss the subject a bit further within the context of their arguments (also because I went to Disneyland with these readings in my mind). Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given McCarthy’s observation that long theme park lines provide “the kind of captive audience for television advertising that is highly valued in the economy of the place-based media industry” (216), and Disney’s well-known status as media conglomerate, Disneyland does not utilize screens in most of its heavily designed queuing areas. Instead, the park seems to favor creating their nostalgic interpretation of Americana, of pre-television days past, separate from the reality of today. Here, Disney seems to demonstrate Morse’s concept of nonspace, especially “its dreamlike displacement or separation from its surroundings” (197), even at the expense of not capitalizing on advertising for their TV programs.

One notable exception to the lack of queue-screens is Star Tours, which opened at the park in 1987, a motion simulator ride based on the Star Wars films. Visitors to this attraction encounter several screens as part of the queue for the ride, which is located in the futuristic-themed (and thus, post-television) Tomorrowland. The screens only appear towards the end of the queue near the ride’s entrance, where visitors are passed through more quickly, thus avoiding the annoying repetition effect that McCarthy describes as occurring in medical waiting rooms. The screens thus serve both as an early reward for waiting through the rest of the line, while also signaling a mental shift into the realm of active entertainment.

Star Tours timetable in Aurebesh script
Most of the screens in the Star Tours queue draw amusement for their assumed knowledgeable visitor by juxtaposing the familiarity of the mundane travel waiting room screens with the absurdity of Star Wars characters and places. One large screen, for instance, mounted high on the wall and tilted forward, emulates a standard airport or train station timetable. For knowing consumers though, like McCarthy’s Planet Hollywood visitors, the screen displays times both in Latin and in-universe “Aurebesh” alphabets, and weather reports offer references to the films, such as ice planet Hoth’s “blizzard” status. Elsewhere, screens mimic airport security checkpoints, including a “thermal scan” that seems similar to Television City’s “attempt to distract attention from the length of the wait by making waiting people part of the scenography of the space” (McCarthy, 218), as well as another instructional video that seems to aim to increase efficiency in boarding the ride, though under the guise of a mundane industrial training video starring Wookiees.

Of course, the real final screen is the ride itself, which, unlike many of Disneyland’s other rides that physically move guests, relies almost entirely on viewer perception of the screen. Thus, to an even greater extent than a static television set, Star Tours depends on Morse’s concept that “any mobility experienced by the television viewer is virtual, a ‘range’ or displaced realm constituted by vectors, a transportation of the mind in two dimensions” (205). Star Tours depends vitally on the viewer’s willingness to transport their mind to mimic movement, but it—and all the other rides—also depend on their willingness to suspend disbelief in traveling between the dimensions of reality and the prescribed fictiveness of the theme park.


  1. Very interesting post, Emily. I'm intrigued by many of the connections you draw here. I'm also not totally convinced by Martin's claim that the line for theme park ride provides a large captive audience, particularly in this technological age where cellphones can help to summon up immediate distraction at our fingertips. It's unsurprising, then, that so many theme parks are developing apps to accompany trips to their parks.

  2. I really likes this post, Emily! Especially because you talked about two of my absolute favorite things- Disneyland and Star Wars! I wanted to continue with some of the thoughts you began in your post and maybe add a little bit more. As you mentioned in Disneyland the lines, in which people can at peak hours spend upwards of an hour standing in, could be thought of as a captive audience to which Disney could easily use to further promote themselves. (Although, if you think about it isn't Disneyland one giant advertisement for the magic of Disney?) However, Disney instead uses the lines to continue to foster the experience and feeling they are attempting to create for that particular line- creating an interesting type of nonspace. One of my favorite things about the lines in Disneyland (and yes the irony of that statement are not lost on me) is the ways in which Disney is able to integrate the lines into the ride experience long before ever stepping foot on a ride. For example, there are many small details you can find if you look closely in the lines and each line is specifically created to complement the ride and the land in which the ride occupies. That is why for Radiator Springs Racers you pass by the actual Radiator Spring and other buildings that fit in with the Route 66 atmosphere, but no screens. Therefore, it makes since for screens to be present in Star Tours while absent form other lines. This creates another level of nonspace, in which you are also not really in the here and now because of the atmosphere Disney has created throughout the line.
    I would also like to take a moment and mention one more piece of Disney magic hidden in many of the lines- Hidden Mickeys! In Star Tours the Hidden Mickeys are actually hidden in the images projected on the screens. According to the Official Hidden Mickey book (and personal experience), in the room after the timetable you mentioned, is another scree. this screen shows the silhouettes of a number of passengers rushing to catch their connection. If you know to watch for it, at one point you can see Mickey quickly cross the screen as well as a small child carry a Mickey stuffed toy. Therefore, the screens in Star Tours offer another level of information for those Disney "insiders" who know to look out for these Hidden Mickeys. (There are more Hidden Mickeys hidden in the line and on the ride, but I don't want to spoil all the fun!)