I’ve been reading about Disney’s use of forced perspective in their parks and whilst it’s fun as a curio it really reminds me of how I feel about Disney these days.
Going on rides at their theme parks is one thing – much like a play the experience is something we agree to. In a play we enter the auditorium and agree to temporarily pretend the scenes happening on stage are real. Nothing new there. On a theme park ride if the lighting, sound, etc. are manipulated to make the charade more convincing then that’s fine with me.
Conversely in the park itself I feel more like I’m being lied to. My senses cannot be trusted there because the whole thing is an exercise in tricking me to part with my money. There’s a big difference between information disparity and actively misleading. The use of food smells to encourage appetite would be one example that annoys me. Given the way scent is wired into the brain it seems rather underhanded to manufacture something as a lure without any actual meat to what it promises.
The thing that puzzles me though is its appeal. People seem so excited to visit Disney World in Florida that it apparently the most popular entertainment resort on the planet. I can’t actually find a source on that but the fact that it’s mentioned on the Wikipedia page leads me to suggest that its colossal popularity is at least reasonably credible whether it’s completely accurate or not.
On the one hand the internal vocabulary of the Disney resorts treats them as if they are theatre performances but on that scale I find it so incredibly tacky. It’s not even the source material – if it was “Shakespeare World” and I could “meet” Caliban it’d still be pathetic. I have no problem with “living” museums on the other hand as they are recreating what once was so we can visualise it and staff generally are allowed to break character to some extent. Fiction on the other hand is much more difficult to maintain on a large scale because reality is not so easily dismissed.
I’m trying to put my finger on why I find the places so contemptible and it’s a little difficult. I think the sheer scale of the enterprise and the amount of resources being spent on something that adds so little to our lives depresses me. I’m not saying that having fun is a waste of resources more that the sheer slavish dedication to trying to create an impossible illusion and trying to call the cringe-inducing result “magical” is a bit much for me.