This past March, my neighbor Caryn and I ventured to Disney World for a week. We screamed like an 8-year-old on many, many roller coasters, met princesses, saw animals up close on safari, visited countries, ate our way around the world, and walked, walked, walked. I celebrated my birthday and indulged my princess side wearing pink mouse ears topped off with a crown and a personalized button. More people than in my entire life wished me a Happy Birthday by name. Where else can you do that regardless of your age and not feel ridiculous?
Despite Disney merchandise everywhere , the one thing the Mouse House does like no other is tell a good story. Nearly every ride has a narrative, whether it be one of many fairy tales like Peter Pan, the new Toy Story Land, or the great backstory featuring the Twilight Zone at the Tower of Terror. Combined with beloved characters both old and new, Disney understands how to engage audiences. Isn’t that what good authors set out to accomplish?
The tales begin well before you reach the ride, immersing you into a different world. You can experience thrills, scares, amazement, education, and just plain fun. This is done, of course, to help endure often long wait times. But it works. The first time we rode the Tower of Terror was after park hours, and with no waiting I was disappointed there wasn’t time to absorb the backstory. I had gone on the ride 20 years ago with my then-husband and I remembered the story leading up to those terrifying elevator drops because it was that good. The second time we went there was a wait and I was actually glad so I could soak it all in. Just as I remembered it and just as frightening.
At Story Time with Belle, audience members were selected to play certain characters to tell the story. The boy with the best “roar” was chosen as the Beast, two dads were guards, others played Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Chip, Cogsworth, all acted by young children. Their excitement was contagious. When Belle and the Beast danced, the little boy was awestruck.
Our favorite was the Avatar, Flight of Passage ride. A key story point in the movie, it’s a breathtaking experience and you really believe you’re sitting on the back of Mountain Banshee.
After a week of rides, crowds, and too much food, we were both exhausted. Even though it seems as basic to writing as composing a correct sentence, as an author I came away that knowing how to tell a wonderful story is what keeps audiences returning for more.