Disneyland has never been your average theme park. In fact, Disney takes pride in its unique position at the top of the leaderboard. If you’ve ever been to the park, you know that Disneyland has a winning combination of obsessive attention to detail, comprehensive storytelling, and state-of-the art attractions that are always fresh. But despite all of these tactics, one of the most important tools Disneyland uses to stand out from the crowd is language. Simply put, the language Disneyland uses in the park completely transforms a visitor’s experience.
So what exactly does that mean?
At Disneyland, visitors are guests. And guests are not attendees to an amazing performance; they are part of the show. The park is your stage, which is why off-limits areas are back stage. Salespeople, custodians, and ride attendants are all cast members, and their uniforms are costumes. Every cast member is there to help you make the most of your time on stage, because you are the star. On the dark rides, you are exploring Neverland or the haunted woods; you’re not trailing the characters as they live out their adventures. On roller coasters, you have to find Indiana Jones, or escape the perilous yeti in the ice caves. You’re the hero, and the cast members and characters are your supporting actors. The late Imagineer John Hench perfectly summed up the Disneyland experience:
“What we’re selling throughout the park is reassurance. We offer adventures in which you survive a kind of personal challenge – a charging hippo, a runaway mine train, a wicked witch, an out of control bobsled. But in every case, we let you win. We let your survival instincts triumph over adversity. A trip to Disneyland is an exercise in reassurance about oneself and one’s ability to maybe even handle the real challenges in life.”
When you visit Disneyland, you become the hero of not only fairytales, but of your own story. And this whole idea of guests living out heroic roles really starts with the language used to shape park experiences. Language is powerful, and in this case, definitely reflects Disneyland’s guest-centered focus, making an ordinary trip to a theme park an extraordinary adventure.