The View from Here

I gave a talk about the narrative design of Disneyland at the Cusp conference a couple of years ago. I covered the idea of a cinematic experience and viewer participation. The visual landscape of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World is carefully planned to create an experience like a film. For example, the tunnels on either side of the Main Street train station act like the darkening of a theater, then the guest passes onto Main Street and the “film” begins. But, the viewpoint is not straight down Main Street toward the castle. It’s to the right or left, then as the guest moves into the park, the view is revealed. The castle acts as a draw, or in Disney terms, a “weenie” and the guest is pulled toward the center of the park.

Each vista is planned to serve as a setting, information delivery vehicle, navigation device, and entertainment. At the same time, the overall sense of security and familiarity is created. Think of the experience this way: there are long shots of a Panavision nature, medium shots of singular buildings, close-ups of pedestrian level windows and doors, and detail shots of individual elements such as a birdcage on a porch or old apothecary bottles in a window.

While others are taking photos of their friends or family members in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, I’m shooting the long shots and details. I’ve found shooting panoramas by standing in one spot and rotating 360 degrees, or moving down the street and taking a picture every twenty feet to work well. Of course it looks crazy, but so what?

As a side note, once again, bring your subject close and let the castle be a background. Unless you need to shoot their entire outfit with shoes, we don’t need to see their entire body. There is no need to be upset when people walk between you and the subject 50 feet away. If I see you do this I will purposely walk between you and the subject and stand there.

Walt Disney World Main Street east

Shout how-now to Mrs O'Leary's cow

Chicago is one of my favorite cities. Beside the great food, friendly people, and wonderful neighborhoods, several of my favorite people live there. Greg and Pat Samata, Dana Arnett, Jamie Koval, Bart Crosby, and Ric Valicenti are designers I deeply admire, and who are just plain fun to hang with. I assume it’s a Chicago thing that eliminates any snotty, diva-like behavior, and creates good down to earth attitudes.

Each year, Greg and Pat present the Cusp Conference. Cusp isn’t a design conference. It’s about big ideas. It’s been described as, “inspirational, funny, thought-provoking, eye-opening, informative, inspirational, fascinating, humbling, soothing, shocking, awesome, inspirational, unbelievable, wise, touching, smart, healthy, honest, confusing, inspirational, affirming, creative and just friggin' amazing.”

Last year, Greg invited me to talk about whatever I wanted. I’d been on the road speaking about AdamsMorioka and our ideas for so long I wanted to do something different. A couple of months before, TypeCon asked me to speak about the typography of Disneyland. I had a great time pulling this together and it was extremely well received at TypeCon. So I expanded on the idea and told Greg I wanted to talk about design at Disneyland through an optimistic lens. So far so good.

I’ve been speaking publicly for 20 years. I think I have a pretty good grasp of what an audience will respond to. Sometimes I get it wrong. When I spoke in Norfolk for AIGA Hampton Roads in Virginia, I started by talking about my family’s Virginian roots, and put up a list of family names in case anyone in the audience was a cousin. I didn’t realize the family names were the same as the street names in Norfolk. So it came off as, “Hi, I’m fancy. I’m from Beverly Hills. I go to the Academy Awards. My family is fancy. You’re not.” This was not my intention. I’m actually kind of a goof ball.

The Cusp Disneyland Design lecture wasn’t received as well as the TypeCon lecture. Now there could be several reasons why: it is a dumb lecture, I’m dumb, I came off as smug, or I looked fat. But, I had a wonderful time doing it. I had time to see Pat and Greg, and had a great lunch with Greg and Ricky Wurman. And I went to Chicago.