What do we do when the Whole World is Themed?
Attraction business success starts with emotional content, customer service and a human connection.
Did you know that theme and story are not the most important characteristics of a successful attraction? It may sound like sacrilege on its face, but legendary (now retired) theme park designer Jack Rouse dispels this idea in a fantastic presentation at the 1997 IAAPA trade show. In this era of lowered customer service standards, Jack Rouse’s words ring more true today than ever before.
Walt Disney first hired animators and storytellers to create the original Disneyland in 1955. Walt Disney revolutionized our industry by forgoing traditional architects and engineers as the lead designers. By hiring storytellers, he made theme and story as the most important new paradigm in attraction design. It’s not surprising then, that most of us go back to theme and story as a catch-all formula to a successful new attraction.
In the last two decades, a third element of successful design became part of the paradigm for successful design: IP (Intellectual property). The licensing of IP now adds familiarity to those visiting a park experience. In many ways, the largest parks now only create attractions with IP. In themed entertainment circles, successful design now often boils down to theme, story and IP. But does it make it better? That is what today’s conventional wisdom says.
But Jack Rouse makes the stunning argument that a great attraction doesn’t come from these elements. Rather, it comes from emotional content, customer service and a human connection. If your business successfully does those right, a great experience follows. Fail to do these right and even the best theme, story and IP in the world won’t help. When all else fails, emotional content, customer service and a human connection win the day.
We have made this speech available to you in order to keep this wisdom from being lost in time. We hope these words speak to you as much as they did to us back in 1997.
A special thanks to Keith James, Jack Rouse and Clara Rice of JRA for permission to republish this work.