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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

More Playful Visions-- Nye and I

Nye (1981) distinguished eight different ways of looking at amusement parks [The "Amusing Ancestry" excursion, located in Frontierland says more about this], including seeing them as the “the closest approximation of the total play experience” (p. 73).  Nye gives examples of how the different elements in Caillois’s (1958/2001) categorization of games are present in amusement parks. [Caillois’s categories and their archetypal links to Grof’s cartography can be found in the "Interlude"]  In specifically applying Nye’s description of Caillois’s categories to the idea to Disneyland, we can see that the most well represented of Caillois’s categories at Disneyland are ilinx (vertigo) and mimicry or mimesis (imitation).  From the various different attractions that spin you around in Fantasyland—"King Arthur’s Carousel," "Alice’s Teacups," and "Dumbo’s Flying Elephants" to the various different roller coasters and other thrill rides spread throughout the lands: "Big Thunder Railroad;" the "Matterhorn Bobsleds;" "Space Mountain;" "Indiana Jones Adventure;" "Star Tours;" and "Splash Mountain;" opportunities abound for vertigo, the chaotic state of "voluptuous panic" that momentarily destroys the stability of perception and causes disorientation (Caillois, 1958/2001).

Mimicry, or imitation can be found in the Fantasyland rides where the ride takes you through the different stories of favorite animated classics.  The main character in the different rides, such as Snow White, in "Snow White’s Scary Adventure" initially was not present by Walt’s design.  It was intended for the riders to be able to put themselves in the main character’s place and experience the story from their point of view.  Later the characters were added in, because some people were confused by their lack of presence; but it was precisely this lack of presence that encouraged the identification.  These rides were designed to “allow children to ‘step into’ and become a part of their favorite animated films”  (Doss, 1997, p. 181). ∆RC[dl2]

Alea, or chance, is present in the way that Disneyland is experienced—in the freedom or randomness of the guest’s experience of the park itself, which Marin (1984) specifically refers to as “an aleatory moment and a choice to be made” (p. 247).  The hub facilitates guests being able to go wherever they want whenever they want with no set order that everyone would follow, and the “general layout of the parks allows for freedom of choice” (Finch, 1983, p. 415).   Disneyland was designed to help people to be able to choose what to see next and to enable them to easily get back to the hub, reorient themselves, and head off on another adventure. 

Agôn, or competition is present in the underlying structure of the park.  Agôn, according to Caillois (1958/2001) highlights especially the ruled and bounded nature of games, which are usually circumscribed in both time and space, and have rules that the players agree to follow.  The word competition means “to strive against another or others to attain a goal, such as an advantage or victory.”  The term comes from the late Latin competere, which means to “strive together,” and from Latin comto coincide, be suitable” and petere to seek, in other words to seek with (AHD, 2000c, p. 376).  As can be seen the original Latin had a different inflection, being more with than against.  Competition itself, as we normally conceive of it is, in the “strive against” sense, not very present in the park, although one can find competition in video and other games in the various arcades.  This “strive against” competition is everpresent in the outside world, and Disney sought to avoid this in his park, and consciously engineered competition out.  Competition results in feeling threatened, which is exactly opposite of the atmosphere of reassurance that the park seeks to embody.  ∆RC[dl3] [You can learn more about this in the "Art of the Show" excursion, located in Fantasyland in the complementarity principle section.]Disneyland, was designed to be unlike the amusement parks of Disney’s day:

He wanted to replace the risk taking, sense of danger, commercialism, salaciousness and morbidity associated with amusement parks’ standard “thrill rides,” barkers, concession stands, games of chance played for prizes, and sex and freak shows, with safety, wholesomeness, patriotic and educational values. (King, 1981a, pp. 119)

This being the case, Disneyland originally on purpose did not have many of the features that Nye elucidated in his description of amusement parks, and only later did Disney add roller coasters to the Disneyland, due to their immense popularity. 


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