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Theme Parks

Theme Parks


Children use their imagination extensively when at play. Through the creation of role-play fantasies, children are able to escape their dependent and limited role as children and venture into a world of fantasy to become free-willed, independent persons owning a sense of societal status and importance. Drawing from examples they observe in books, television, and film, children can escape into fantasy roles to become pioneers, heroes, doctors, nurses, royalty, or any inspiring figure of the past, present, or future. As children advance toward adulthood, however, fantasy role-playing is replaced with more passive forms of escapism, such as reading books or watching movies and television.

Theme Parks and Amusement Parks

Theme parks are three-dimensional fantasy settings in which both child and adult are actively immersed into fantasy environments inspired by literature, films, and television. They have their roots in the amusement park, which has long been a center of active play where children and adults alike can divert themselves from their typical daily regimes and involve themselves in direct play, thrill, and challenge. Yet even in amusement parks, where adults and children alike can participate in active play, parents are more likely to participate passively as bystanders, observing their children at play.

The theme park differs from the amusement park in that its form and function embrace the childhood activities of role-playing that appeal to children as well as to the inner child of adults. Thus the concept of the theme park is born, in part, from the universal desire of children and the child within adults to escape into their imaginations and pretend to be a part of a nostalgic, exotic, or fantasy setting.

The term theme park originated with Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955. As the first and most widely recognized theme park, Disneyland has long reigned as the model of all modern theme parks. Its unique themed settings and attractions created a shift in the design of parks that followed, many of which placed as much emphasis on their themed environments as on park attractions.

The opening of Disneyland coincided with the transition of North America's demographics toward a predominately middle-class society and with a surge in the population known as the baby boom. With the increasing number of young families came a growing need for family-oriented leisure activities.

As a producer of films and television programs that families could enjoy together, Disneyland's founder, Walt Disney, was in close touch with what interested the American middle-class family. He was well aware that children and adults alike enjoyed escaping into his films and television programs. He was also conscious of the need for activities that would appeal equally to young and old, and thus began to conceive a new kind of amusement park that would appeal to patrons of all ages; that would engage the typically inactive parents and promote family participation.

Designing Disneyland

Drawing on his background in film and television production, Disney looked for ways to translate the entertainment that was experienced on a movie or television screen into a physical setting that could be experienced completely by patrons. To do this, he turned to the art directors and animators of his film studio for assistance in designing his park.

The Disney artists came up with the concept of organizing attractions within a series of memorable theatrical settings. All elements of these themed environments would work in harmony, including the architecture, landscaping, attractions, costumes, and even sounds. The intent was that patrons could literally step into the scenes and become a part of the show.

When it opened, Disneyland included five distinct themed settings: Main Street, USA; Adventureland; Frontierland; Fantasyland; and Tomorrowland. Children visiting the park for the first time were already familiar with these settings because they were commonly portrayed on television and in film. For adults, the settings functioned as vivid reminders of their own childhoods. Thus visitors to Disneyland found the park environments instantly familiar and comforting.

Disneyland's designers employed techniques similar to those used in the studio, including the film design ideal of the procession through scenes such as scenic transitions and design tricks with scale and perspective that were commonly used to create convincing environments within the tight confines of a studio sound stage. These immersed the visitor in the theme park experience.

To employ the ideals of scene changes in themed settings, for example, key landmarks were sited at the ends of long vistas to lure guests forward and through park environments. Furthermore, themed settings were organized to carefully transition and unfold as park guests traveled from one themed environment and into another.

For children visiting Disneyland, the smaller-than-life scale promoted a sense of importance, making them feel larger in relation to their surroundings and thus able to experience the scale of space as an adult would. Because of its scale, adults visiting the park experienced an instant sense of nostalgia, as if they were returning to a childhood setting and discovering environments that were smaller and more intimate than they remembered.

Disneyland's Successors

Disney's new theme park was immediately popular among the American public, and it quickly became well known around the world. In fact, Disneyland soon became a stop that many foreign dignitaries requested when visiting the United States.

Disneyland's popularity led to a surge in the opening of theme parks, which drew from Disney's theme ideals in their own designs. The first to prove a strong success since Disneyland's opening was Six Flags over Texas, which opened in 1961 and incorporated themed settings based on the history of Texas. Following this successful example, other theme parks began to open throughout the United States. The formula for the design of these parks typically consisted of six or seven themed areas, each having attractions, shows, and rides that blended with their surroundings.

The success of the Six Flags park also prompted Six Flags to open a park near Atlanta, Georgia, and another one near Saint Louis, Missouri. Following the lead of the three Six Flags parks, chains of theme parks began to appear across the United States. These were largely developed, owned, and operated by global hospitality and beverage companies such as the international hotelier Marriott and the international beverage company Anheuser-Busch.

In the decades following the opening of the Marriott and Anheuser-Busch parks, several of the world's largest entertainment companies began also to design, build, and operate their own theme parks. Today global film companies such as Universal Studios, Fox, Paramount, Warner Brothers, and of course Disney own and operate the majority of chain theme parks in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The parks produced by these film studios have much in common with the original Disneyland park in that they also employ well-recognized themed designs, often based on popular films. Their patrons, like Disneyland's, are already familiar with the television programs and films upon which the settings and attractions are based and thus feel an immediate sense of familiarity.

Walt Disney World Resort

Today the most notable collection of theme parks within one geographic locale can be found at the Walt Disney World resort in central Florida. As the original Disneyland park revolutionized the future of amusement parks, the Walt Disney World Resort has revolutionized leisure-time destinations.

When the success and profitability of Disneyland far surpassed even his expectations, Walt Disney began to conceive an attraction that would be more than just another theme park. He wanted to create an extensive leisure resort complex that would ultimately contain several other theme parks and a prototype residential community, all within the confines of 27,433 acres of land. Disney referred to this plan as EPCOT, which stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

Today the Walt Disney World resort is a forty-three-square-mile leisure complex that is home to four theme parks as well as numerous resort hotels; leisure, retail, and entertainment complexes; and a planned residential community. The first park developed for Walt Disney World was the Magic Kingdom, which is similar to Disneyland. This was followed by Epcot, which took its name from Disney's original plan, then by the Disney-MGM Studios theme park, and finally by Disney's Animal Kingdom park. In all, the Walt Disney World resort is one of the world's most popular and most highly attended leisure destinations.

Today, themed environments are commonplace, and themeing is found not only in the realm of amusement and theme parks, but also in retail stores, restaurants, hotels, cruises, high-profile architecture, and in many other types of built environments. Since their conception in the mid-1950s, theme parks have become an international brand of entertainment that continuously leads the amusement park industry in attendance and provides opportunities for play and escapism for children and adults around the world.

See also: Parades; Vacations; Zoos.

bibliography

Finch, C. 1973. The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms. New York: Abrams.

King, Margaret J. 1981. "Disneyland and Walt Disney World: Traditional Values in Futuristic Form." Journal of Popular Culture 15, no. 1 (summer): 116140.

Kyriazi, G. 1976. The Great American Amusement Parks: A Pictorial History. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel.

Roddewig, R. J., et al. January 1986. "Appraising Theme Parks." Appraisal Journal 51, no. 1: 85108.

Thomas, Bob. 1980. Walt Disney: An American Original. New York: Pocket Books.

Stephen J. Rebori

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"Theme Parks." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Amusement Parks

AMUSEMENT PARKS

AMUSEMENT PARKS. Rooted in the European traditions of trade fairs (Bartholomew Fair, 1133–1855) and pleasure gardens (Vauxhall, 1661–1859), the modern American amusement park developed in the late nineteenth century. Young men and women were flocking to cities from rural America and eastern and southern Europe. Liberated from the discipline of community and family, they took control over their leisure. Moreover, workers enjoyed more free time and more discretionary income as labor unions won concessions on hours and wages. At the same time, engineers and entrepreneurs were learning to build better carousels, Ferris wheels, and roller coasters. The recreational needs of a new society intersected with the maturation of amusement technology, and parks took off.

Although not a park, the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893)—which celebrated Columbus's journey to America specifically and Western progress in general—perfected the amusement formula that, more or less, still applies. First, it projected a coherent and controlled fantasy. The Court of Honor, a group of imposing neoclassical structures surrounding a giant basin and a hundred-foot gilt statue, transported visitors to a glistening, if illusory, ancient Greece, walled off from the hustle and bustle of the real city outside. Second, it marketed the exotic. The exposition's midway featured anthropologically inspired reproductions of foreign villages, freak shows, belly dancers, South Pacific islanders, and African


Dahomey men in short grass skirts. Third, it was thrilling. The towering Ferris wheel was the most popular attraction on the midway.

Coney Island, a beach resort in Brooklyn, New York, was home to the most famous amusement parks of the early twentieth century. Sea Lion Park (1895) was the first enclosed amusement park in the United States, but Steeplechase Park (1897) was the first truly popular one. Steeplechase Park catered to single men and women, offering such daring attractions as the "Barrel of Love," a revolving wheel that tended to make men and women collide; "blowholes" that lifted women's skirts; and "the Steeplechase," a horse-racing ride that accommodated two riders per animal. Luna Park (1903) relied on extravagance, not sexuality. The park created a permanent carnival atmosphere with pinwheels, hundreds of thousands of lights, and elaborate spires and turrets. Inspired by the Columbian Exposition, Luna Park had an Eskimo village and a Japanese garden. Its "Trip to the Moon" was a fantasy outer space populated with beautiful women, giants, and midgets, and its disaster shows recreated the Johnstown flood and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Although Coney Island had some of the most creative amusement parks, by the turn of the century there were versions of Steeplechase or Luna Park in almost every city. Trolley companies built most of them to en-courage more riders at night and on weekends, when business tended to be slow. A beach, a picnic area, and a few rides at the end of the trolley line attracted tens of thousands of passengers on a Sunday. Cleveland's Euclid Beach, Pittsburgh's Kennywood Park, and San Francisco's Chutes all started as trolley parks. By 1920, there were about two thousand amusement parks in the United States.

The "scream machine," a faster, scarier roller coaster, arrived in 1924, with the famous Bobs at Chicago's Riverview Park. Coney Island's Cyclone was built in 1927. But amusement parks were already beginning to decline. Cars gave people the option of spending leisure time wherever they wanted, not only where the trolley would take them. The Great Depression hurt parks badly, and when families started moving to the suburbs after World War II, city parks lost their clientele. By 1948, fewer than four hundred parks remained open, and almost none of the old urban parks would survive into the 1970s. Notable exceptions are Kennywood and Sandusky's Cedar Point.

Although suburbanization partly accounted for the failure of city parks, it also gave rise to a new kind of amusement park: the theme park. Walt Disney provided the model with Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, outside of Los Angeles, in 1955. Built with corporate sponsorship money from firms including Pepsi, Monsanto, and ABC, Disneyland took the control and fantasy formula to new heights. The park was spotless. It was surrounded by a high wall with only one entrance. Its huge, friendly staff received training at "Disneyland University." Such measures, it was thought, enhanced the experience of Disneyland's five thematic areas: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Main Street U.S.A., and Tomorrowland. The suburban theme park was an instant success. During its first ten years, 50 million people visited Disneyland.

Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida, in 1971 with the Disneyland-inspired Magic Kingdom, two resorts, and a resort community. Since then, the Disney empire has grown, with Tokyo Disneyland (1983) and Disneyland Paris (1992), and with the Disney World additions of EPCOT Center (1982), Disney-MGM Studios (1989), and Disney's Animal Kingdom Park (1998). EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was conceived as an experiment in fusing education and entertainment and bears a striking resemblance to the Columbian Exposition. It praises American business and technology and envisions continued progress and features stylized representations of foreign villages. Disney World and Disneyland are the two most visited theme parks in America.

In the wake of Disneyland's success, several corporate-owned theme parks gradually came into being, including Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Carowinds, Cypress Gardens, and Kings Dominion. Unlike Disney, however, these parks tend to focus on thrill rides in addition to the creation of fantasy. But even though each park is different and each one bigger and more elaborate, the general idea of what makes an amusement park remained basically unchanged throughout the twentieth century.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adams, Judith A. The American Amusement Park Industry: A History of Technology and Thrills. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Fjellman, Stephen M. Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992.

Kasson, John F. Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1978.

Peiss, Kathy Lee. Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986.

JeremyDerfner

See alsoDisney Corporation .

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amusement park

amusement park, a commercially operated park offering various forms of entertainment, such as arcade games, carousels, roller coasters, and performers, as well as food, drink, and souvenirs. Amusement parks differ from circuses, carnivals, and world's fairs (see exposition) in that parks are permanently located entertainment complexes, open either all year or seasonally every year. Some amusement parks, known as theme parks, are designed to evoke distant or imaginary locales and/or eras, such as the Wild West, an African safari, or medieval Europe. Theme parks usually charge a substantial admission fee, whereas traditional amusement parks, such as those at Coney Island, do not charge entrance to the midway; theme-park admission, however, typically includes the cost of the rides, which are paid for individually in a traditional amusement park.

Walt Disney World, opened near Orlando, Fla., in 1971, is the most popular theme park in the world; it draws over 40 million visitors annually. It is modeled as a utopian city of leisure, pitched by personalities from Disney animation and operated by 26,000 employees. The original Magic Kingdom theme park is divided into thematic domains (e.g., Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland), which flow into one another; other areas added later include Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The original Disneyland opened in 1955 in Anaheim, Calif.; Disney's California Adventure opened adjacent to it in 2001. Other Disney parks have opened near Tokyo (1983) and Paris (1992). Other examples of theme parks include the Universal Studios Tours in Universal City, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., in which visitors are treated to a tour of the movie studio grounds, see various demonstrations of stunts and special effects, and can go on rides inspired by popular films. In Tennessee, Dollywood, a theme park founded by the country musician Dolly Parton, offers rides, country music, and a hearty dose of Americana. Six Flags, Cedar Fair, Busch Gardens, and other amusement park chains have facilities in several areas.

Beginning in the 1990s a trend at some theme parks was to create rides based on popular action films, such as Batman,Jurassic Park, and Back to the Future. Some resort hotels in Las Vegas also began adding theme-park rides in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, thrill rides, especially roller coasters built of old-fashioned wood or high-tech tubular steel, were becoming faster and more complex, with water elements, loops, steep upside-down drops, and other scream-inducing features.

See G. Kyriazi, The Great American Amusement Parks (1976), S. Paschen, Shooting in the Chutes (1989), J. Adams and E. Perkins, The American Amusement Park Industry (1991), M. Sorkin, ed., Variations on a Theme Park (1992), K. A. Marling, ed., Designing Disney's Theme Parks (1997), D. Bennett, Roller Coaster (1998), R. Reynolds, Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers (1999), and W. Register, The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements (2001). For guides to amusement parks, see The National Directory of Theme & Amusement Parks (1997), T. H. Throgmorton, Roller Coasters: United States and Canada (2000), and T. O'Brien, The Amusement Park Guide (4th ed., 2001).

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Amusement Parks

AMUSEMENT PARKS

Amusement parks developed in the United States during the last decade of the 1800s. In 1893 Chicago hosted the World's Columbian Exposition, the equivalent of a world's fair. One of the highlights of the event was a "pleasure wheel," built by American mechanical engineer George W. Gale Ferris (185996). Measuring 250 feet (76 meters) in diameter, the ride could carry sixty people at a time. The excitement and success of the Chicago fair inspired businessmen to build permanent outdoor carnivals elsewhere.

The first sizeable park was built at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, which had been a recreation area since the mid-1800s. In 1897 it opened under the name of Steeplechase Park. In addition to a roller coaster, it included New York's first Ferris wheel. When New York City extended its subway in the 1920s to reach Coney Island, the resort became accessible to the masses, with whom it was very popular. It offered an escape from the monotony of daily life and showed that American industry could produce machines that were just plain fun.

Coney Island became the model for amusement parks around the country. In 1906 the Dream City amusement park opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a byproduct of an increase in American leisure time (between 1890 and 1920 the average work week in manufacturing dropped from 60 hours to 47.4 hours), recreation areas were part of the mass culture that was beginning to emerge in the United States at the turn of the century.

The model for amusement parks was reinvented in July, 1955, by American entrepreneur and entertainment mogul Walt Disney (190166), who opened Disneyland, a multi-acre theme park in Anaheim, California. The park included rides based on Disney movies, featured roving movie characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and held daily parades on Main Street. Music, stage shows, and shops were all included in the price of admissionall entertainment was geared toward amusement for the whole family. In the decades that followed, carnival-like amusement parks gave way to theme parks inspired by Disneyland.

See also: Baseball, Bicycles, Walt Disney

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"Amusement Parks." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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theme park

theme park • n. an amusement park with a unifying setting or idea.

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Theme Parks

THEME PARKS

THEME PARKS. SeeAmusement Parks .

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theme park

theme park: see amusement park.

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