Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now earlier this day (subjectively speaking) my English tutor took me on a fabulous trip through my university. It only took a matter of moments to know that he was going to end it by asking us to write about a place that we know well, so I went ahead and started to write this in my head. Plus, since he never specified exactly how it should be written, I’m going to write it as a blog solely because I dislike formal writing. So with that ego-boasting out of the way, lets address the concept at hand.
Now the question in said hand deals with the concept of rhetorical spaces, fancy English degree talks for ‘how does the space operate as a concept’. Now since I worked at Disney World last year (and actually spent my first day on the job exploring this very concept in a nutshell), lets look at Main Street. The start of your magical journey. First thing you see is behind you: a large, empty lagoon filled with water and no civilisation in sight. That’s the first trick the park pulls. You’re so far from your car (having to reach the Magic Kingdom by either boat or monorail) that you’ve put all your real world troubles behind you. They can’t affect you any more. You’re in front of a land of fantasy. That’s what is behind you, but what is likewise important is what is in front of you. Just past the ticket station is a large train station. Well, I say large, it’s actually a clever trick using forced perspective. You see, the station gets smaller the higher up it goes. However, thanks to a fumble in the human mind, you perceive the ‘smaller’ as ‘further away’, thus making the train station seem bigger than it actually is. It’s a trick they pull in the park all the time, but more on that in a moment. Right now all you can see if you look into the distance is the large train station blocking your view. Believe it or not this was designed deliberately. It helps build the anticipation, since you can’t see the iconic castle. You know it’s there, you’re ready to see it, but not just yet. You get through the ticket station, through one of the two train tunnels (who, using posters of the rides, builds your anticipations for them), before you turn and finally step out onto Main Street U.S.A.
Now comes the real bit of Disney magic trickery that you will never even notice: Main Street is angled upwards as you go towards the castle. Oh it’s barely noticeable, you’d need to get out a level to truly appreciate it, but it’s there. It helps build the anticipation of walking towards that castle in the distance. Likewise, come the end of the day, it makes it that little bit easier to walk to the exit. You don’t even know that it’s there, just something you’re taking in subconsciously. But, speaking of anticipation, lets admire the way Main Street is constructed. I mentioned in the previous paragraph how the train station used forced perception. Well the buildings on Main Street use it two fold. Firstly is the standard â€œgets smaller on the way up, thus looks biggerâ€ concept mentioned earlier. However, the sneakier part is how the street starts off narrow and grows wider. Well, not the street itself. That street is the same. It’s the building’s perspectives. The buildings change their perspective ever so slightly, to make them seem further away than the building next to them. Once again, this builds the anticipation as you walk towards the castle and makes it easier to get home since the street seems shorter. But that’s just Disney tricking your eyes. The really clever (or scary, depending on your world view) part is when they start to trick your nose. For you see, they pump out scents, the smells of warm bread and candy, to wet your appetite. It’s, once again, incredibly subtle… but it’s there, haunting the background. Giving you thoughts that aren’t quite of your own creation. You feel like a snack without even realising why you want one. So that’s sights, smells and feeling (at least in terms of the feeling of your feet on the ground). What about sound? Well you have the music of the time playing, happy little tunes that make you feel cheerful and jaunty. It makes you feel upbeat without you realise that it’s doing that. While they haven’t figured out a way of making you taste stuff, you can bet they’re working on it.
So that’s what Main Street is in a coldly clinical sense. The bones of the place. The man hidden in black pulling the strings. What is the story of the place? Well lets pull up the Disney history they told me as I wandered round the park. Main Street is based on the America of Yesteryear. A fanciful America that never really existed, but an idolized version from Walt Disney’s childhood. It’s the gateway between the ‘real world’ and the ‘fantastical world’. It’s semi-fantastical, but nevertheless exists as somewhat of a grounding. It is the hub upon which the wheel of Magic Kingdom spins. It is designed to get you excited about visiting the most magical place on Earth, to build up the anticipation like a drum roll. It forces all entering and exiting traffic to go through one main gate, to better control them. In short, Main Street U.S.A. attempts to be a nostalgic nod to the past as well as a cynical marketing ploy to get out to become more excited and buy more stuff. And you know what? It works every single time.
So there you have it. My look at one specific area and what it uses to manipulate its audience into believing certain things through clever trickery. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.