Everything in Disneyland has a purpose. Lands develop to create certain emotions and connections as you walk through them, and attractions are perhaps the most important piece in “setting the stage” for each land.

Not every attraction’s placement helps tell its story. But some of Disneyland’s most immersive spaces have a deliberate location – a context – that help begin your emotional experience before you ever set foot inside the attraction.


The first type of attraction placement is the boldest, and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is the perfect example. The castle stands open, away from any obstructions or imposing buildings. It immediately captures your attention without distraction, and you immediately feel its grandeur with one glance.

This effect is also in play with It’s A Small World. The gold-adorned building anchors an open plaza, away from any structure that might make it seem smaller than it is. Inside this attraction, you travel the entire world, and only a magnificent building could house that much adventure.

It's A Small World


Not all attractions are meant to be welcoming. Case in point – the Haunted Mansion. You don’t see the mansion until you reach the Rivers of America, no matter where you start in the park. And what you see is a shadowy, gated place…looming across the waterfront. In fact, you can only see bits and pieces of the mansion until you approach its gates. This strategic location is intriguing, and creates the illusion of a forgotten, haunted space.


The Tower of Terror used this trick too. Walking down Hollywood Land’s main drag, you couldn’t see anything. But upon turning the corner, suddenly a mysterious building towered above you. It appeared out of nowhere, as if it dropped in directly from the Twilight Zone.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


Sometimes, an attraction’s placement deliberately gives absolutely nothing away. Indiana Jones Adventure is all about throwing you into a mysterious journey, without knowing what you’ll find. You can’t see the attraction from Adventureland, or even from much of the outdoor queue. All you know is that you’re headed deep into a strange jungle.

Indiana Jones Adventure

This trick also comes into play with Pirates of the Caribbean. Sure, the name of the attraction indicates there will be pirate drama, but by looking at the façade, you wouldn’t know it. The exterior looks like a stately home inside New Orleans Square. In the lobby, you see a parrot and a map, but still, nothing ominous. In fact, the attraction itself actually starts with a peaceful boat ride through a Louisiana bayou. It’s not until you descend into the depths that you confront with the pirate world.

Each Disneyland attraction has its own way of quickly immersing you in a new world. And for many, this immersion begins with its placement. Next time you visit your favorite attraction, take a moment to look at its surroundings. How does its location, appearance, or queue begin its story? You might just discover something you’ve never noticed before.

2 comments on “Setting the Stage: The Art of Attraction Placement”

  1. Very interesting article. I don’t think this applies to every attraction, though. Some are placed in certain locations purely for convenience.

    • That’s absolutely true. It would be impossible to deliberately set up scenery around individual attractions given Disneyland’s small space to work with. But for many attractions, placement is definitely intentional!

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