experiential stories

The Stories of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Observable Story

Everyone and everything wants to stop our wild ride, but we’re too fast, too furious.

The ride entrusts us with a motorcar. Nothing–not citizens, infrastructure, the law, or even an oncoming train can stop us. Only after the hordes of Hell threaten us and the ride returns us safely to Toad Hall do we stop.

Experiential Story

We want a carefree lifestyle, but our actions have repercussions.

We take a wild ride. It leads us through a downward spiral of property damage and public endangerment that results in our death. Once we’re threatened by an eternity of literal hellfire, we take it down a notch.

Last post for a while @pureimagineering cause I know I’m cluttering everyone’s feeds lol.

I Reread your first reply. :

Very often–especially in attractions–these stories are told simultaneously. Experiential stories must be prioritized over observable ones, because we care more about ourselves than we do about others.

Furthermore, theme parks all-but-eliminate the fourth wall, so less is more. An experiential story that assigns us role and a mission isn’t as gripping as one that throws us into the deep end of the pool. An observable story that’s recited to us in full isn’t as fascinating as one that we learn through voyeurism and deduction. A good theme park story may be structured with subtlety, but it is as definitive as the architecture.

It sounds like what you dislike about “story” in theme parks are violations of the previous two paragraphs.

Yes basically that. Modern designers violate those ideas a lot. My only real disagreement is that I don’t think experiential story can be separated from the design of the environment. I think they’re usually the same thing and create each other. One can’t come first. For example (to oversimplify) a different track layout on splash even with the same scenes would create a different experience/ experiential story.

This is why I believe a site plan is one of the best ways to initially plan an attraction or land and not say a storyboard or script.
The Stories of the Original Great Movie Ride

Observable Story

The tour guide wants to share their favorite movies with us, but a supporting character literally steals the show.

The guide drives us through some of their favorite movies. A ruffian hijacks the tour. It resolves when the guide murders the ruffian, demands that we applaud them, and finishes the tour.

Experiential Story

We want to enjoy some movies, but it turns out movies are easier to watch than ride.

We pass through some charming movies. Unfortunately, we lose our guide and get threatened by some violent movies. Then we use cameos and nostalgia to repress the fact that we’ve just witnessed an unrepentent murder.

The Stories of the Universe of Energy Colon Ellen’s Energy Adventure

Observable Story

Ellen wants to win an imaginary game show, but she’s ignorant of the arbitrary subject that they’re quizzing her about.

Ellen dreams that she wants to win Jeopardy. Armed with the omnipotence of lucidity, she cheats at Dream Jeopardy by teaching herself about an arbitrary subject. She wins Dream Jeopardy, which makes her Dream Rival very Dream Jealous.

Experiential Story

We want to learn about energy consumption, but we need an expert to explain it.

We watch a convoluted sitcom. Then we travel back to a prehistoric era and pass by a bunch of dinosaurs. Then we’re lectured about an arbitrary subject by a Dream Science Educator so that a dreaming comedian can win Dream Jeopardy and make her Dream Rival very Dream Jealous.

The Stories of Living with the Land

Experiential Story

We want to learn about sustainable farming, but we need to see it in action.

We pass through natural ecosystems (ornate sets with a few characters). We pass by a farm and through its barn (atmospheric sets with fewer characters). We pass through a greenhouse (no, really, a real greenhouse with real plants and oh my god they’re so fun and numerous and colorful).

Observable Story

The ride wants to persuade us that sustainable farming is cool, but we need to see some examples.

The ride admires how sustainable natural ecosystems are. It acknowledges that the artificial ecosystems we create in the name of agriculture aren’t always sustainable, but it stresses that they can be. It shows us several methods for farming more efficiently (although not necessarily more sustainably).

The Stories of Expedition Everest Dash Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Observable Story

The Yeti wants to protect the mountain from outsiders, but the mountain is a tourist destination.

The Yeti destroys the rails that lead up to the peak. It re-routes the rails, sending us back down the mountain. It chases us out of the mountain and (presumably) relaxes once we’re gone.

Experiential Story

We want to climb Everest, but the Yeti wants to toss us off the Himalayas.

We ignore warnings to avoid the Forbidden Mountain, which pisses off the Yeti. We plummet down the mountain. We duck beneath the Yeti and return to the safety of civilization and the anonymity of not having reached Everest’s peak.

The Stories of It’s Tough to Be a Bug Exclamation Mark

Observable Story

Flik wants to negotiate peace between humans and insects, but we think bugs are gross.

Flik tries to impress us with an insect talent show. Hopper–the Malcom X to Flik’s MLK–interrupts the show to attack us. A convenient chameleon scares Hopper away, so Flik finishes the show with a vaudevillian song that accuses us of wanting to commit genocide.

Experiential Story

We want to be entertained, but I mean, come on, we’re watching bugs.

We’re subjected to jump scares from “friendly” bugs. Then we’re subjected to physical violence from malevolent bugs. Then we’re relieved when a lizard scares a bug away, repulsed when we feel bugs crawling beneath us, and (theoretically) charmed by the bugs who are guilting us in the finale.

Human-Insect Relations: HEALED

And @pureimagineering I get what you’re saying in that in some essence the moment you start saying “this happens, then this happens, then this happens” then technically you have a story. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. Because in themed entertainment that is often just a progression of environments “first we’re gonna have a bayou, then a waterfall, then caverns, then a big battle at a fort” - and yes that’s a story in some sense but any explicit narrative linking them together comes later"

So yeah mainly I’m arguing against explicit story and it’s necessity and place in the design process. Experiential story comes fairly early on but is somewhat synonymous with environmental design and spatial progression. The guest can’t really have an experience without having a space they move through that creates the experience.