Defining Our Medium, a.k.a. What the Hell is a “Theme Park” Anyway?

4 thoughts on “Defining Our Medium, a.k.a. What the Hell is a “Theme Park” Anyway?”

  1. Even Disney’s business model was hardly set in stone at opening – anyone who’s serious at this level knows about Holidayland and that Disneyland itself featured only a nominal $1 entry fee to be supplemented by individual ticket purchases once inside the park. That was the norm at the time for any amusement facility, of course, but the park has been POP so long even those who acknowledge this history were rarely alive to interact with it.

    “Theme park” generally means something quite specific in our lexicon – amusement parks with some thematic backdrop. Some do a great job (Disney, Universal, Silver Dollar City), some have had better years but retain enough to still certainly qualify (Knotts, both Busch Gardens, arguably Dollywood), and some still qualify to me but almost require effort to see those design aspects (the Great Americas, the KECO parks). There’s tweeners between genres, but in what art forms is that not often true? I think Columbus Zoo has about as many actual rides as does Animal Kingdom, for an example. I don’t think either has to exclusively be a “theme park” or a zoo – it can be both. Same with defining Greenfield Village vs. EPCOT and on and on and on.

    1. Right, there can definitely be overlap between things, but I think “theme park” is insufficient to discuss this as a medium. It does a good job defining a type of business we’re all familiar with, but as for the art of creating immersive physical environments, it comes up short.

      1. “Themed design” seems fine to me just defining the idea, but I don’t have the same hangups you do about calling this “art.” By and large themed design is rarely high art, but I don’t think changing the terminology does anything to the scales of economy involved to encourage its use as such.

    2. Greenfield Village is probably the best example ever of a rich guy buying up oddities, although I’m not sure he ever planned it for anybody but himself and guests. It certainly counts now in my view.

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