Disneyland was fun

29 12 2010

My family and I have just had a crazy fun time at the original Disneyland park in California. It seems that Cocoa developers like to compare and contrast observations from their recent visits to Disney theme parks with the Apple user experience. While I had no intention of doing so when I started my trip, I think my sense of detail kicked in and picked up a few things that help me understandwhy Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on Earth.

IMG_4132.JPGGetting the details right is an extremely difficult thing to do. If one thing is out of place, the rest of the experience just feels a little less perfect than it should. Disney and Apple do this very well, and I noticed this is in a couple of places. First, there was a Pixar Character Parade in the California Adventure side of the park. The parade was perfectly staged, and went off without a hitch. However, we made our way to the very end of the parade, where the floats and performers exit into the gated backlot. This is generally the place where the performers stop dancing, and for good reason, they’ve exited the stage, and can get a chance to relax. However, there were some floats that were visible beyond the gates, since they were so tall. Any other park, the performers would have ignored the kids at this point, but these people stayed in character until they were well out of sight. A small detail, but an important one.

The characters are great opportunities for the kids to meet their favorite fictional people. While it’s obvious to see the princess type characters smiling, the ones with masks don’t have to smile. Nevertheless, I kept getting the impression that the people in the Mickey, Pluto and other fulling masked characters were also smiling under the mask. I kept thinking about the old adage that people can hear you smiling on the phone. This is another one of those details that can make a good visit to Disneyland a great one.

I’ve been to theme parks where most people were kind of grumpy, or at least not as cheery as you would expect, but this visit was different. From the first moment we decided to go to the park, we entered the Happiness Distortion Field. The shuttle drivers all were super helpful, making jokes and having a good time driving everyone.

After entering the park, I noticed that even with the huge amount of people traffic, the ride operators were also helpful, pleasant, and smiled quite a bit. Ride operators are certainly one of the more classically neglected theme park or carnival employees. Most likely because the job is very repetitive, and the requires dealing with a lot of crying kids. At Disneyland, I noticed that the ride operators changed quite often. Not sure if they were on 15 or 30 minute shifts, but the cycle was quick enough for me to see these changes on at least half the rides I went on while I was waiting in line. With the large number of park visitors on the day I was there, I could understand the idea to keep employees fresh and rested so that everyone’s visit is great.

The Happiness Distortion Field didn’t stop with the park employees, it continued on to the visitors themselves. I noticed that most people were very courteous in Disneyland. I got the feeling that we were all there for the same reason, to have a good time. Whenever a hat would fall, I witnessed, a few times, people behind the offender picking it up and continuing on. This is not normal to me.

While we were waiting in line for the Astro Blaster Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland, I heard a couple parents start to panic because they lots their child. That section of the park was so packed that their son was swooped up along with the crowd. The frantic screaming went on for a good 30 seconds. Then, someone pointed down, to indicate he was found, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, the people around him moved away to reveal a crying little boy. I got the sense that everyone was just as relieved as that boy’s parents. I’m not sure if the Happiness Distortion Field helped with this or not, but  it couldn’t have hurt.

In all, our Disney experience was a fun one. This was my daughters’ first visit, and probably won’t be our last.