Commentary: Can An Amusement Park Ride Be Art?

There’s a very thin line between art and entertainment. Sometimes these distinctions are clear. A viewer can look at a painting and see art. Meanwhile, watching a movie could be perceived purely as entertainment. Other times the line between the two is blurred and it’s difficult to tell when a story is attempting to communicate something or when the story is simply there for your enjoyment. It’s often the medium that is responsible for this blurring. And nowhere is it harder to decipher than in the world of amusement park rides.

The stereotypical amusement park ride is just that. It’s simply a ride. It might have a clever name and be adored with certain motifs or themes. But in an effort to create a more immersive experience, these rides are becoming wrapped in story. There’s a plot line to the ride’s existence and characters whom the rider interacts with in order to flesh it out. It’s undoubtedly an experience; there’s no question about that as the whole point of a ride is to be thrilling. But at the same time, there’s still something to be said about a world crafted to justify the ride’s existence and even give it meaning.

Walt Disney World and its Imagineers have become masters of this concept. They utilize everything from the decor to actors to flesh out a story and bring the rider into its world. And it’s not just for already existing properties from their movies either. On rides like Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest, a story is built up about a yeti and that theme is extended from the waiting area all the way through the ride and into the gift shop at the end. It might not be a traditional story that audiences are used to, but it’s still a storytelling experience that should be applauded.

There’s a very thin line between art and entertainment. Sometimes these distinctions are clear. A viewer can look at aCOMICONRead More

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