Disney's 10 rules of theme-park design

In this Disney podcast, Chief Imagineer Marty Sklar enumerates Mickey's 10 Commandments of Theme Park Design. MP3 Link (Thanks, Avi!)


  1. Marty Sklar is a hack, reciting the company line. Noone creative remains at Disney. They are all efficiency experts.

  2. Ok, I admit it, I live in a parallel universe where DW is considered only a shrine to fake and is pretty much irrelevant.

    However, “Down and out…” is a great read. Please explain to me and most likely others the Disney love….

  3. #1, yes, but I understand Mr. Sklar was with Disney when these company lines were invented, and even involved in coming up with them. They seem obvious and quaint now, but were’t in the 50s, and now drive most theme park and even other design.

    Disney’s revenue was below estimates in 2007 but up on theme parks, and according to annual reports has continued to go up over the last 5 years.

    The podcast is boring, the 10 points are here:

  4. The podcast is boring, the 10 points are here:

    Following links is boring; the 10 points are pasted below.

    Your Fast Guide to Mickey’s Ten Commandments

    1. Know your audience
    Don’t bore people, talk down to them or lose them by assuming that they know what you know.

    2. Wear your guest’s shoes
    Insist that designers, staff and your board members experience your facility as visitors as often as possible.

    3. Organize the flow of people and ideas
    Use good story telling techniques. Tell good stories not lectures.

    4. Create a ‘come to me’ (the castle, the Epcot dome)
    Lead visitors from one area to another by creating visual magnets and giving visitors rewards for making the journey

    5. Communicate with visual literacy
    Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication – colour, shape, form, texture.

    6. Avoid overload
    Resist the temptation to tell too much, to have too many objects. Don’t force people to swallow more than they can digest, try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more.

    7. Tell one story at a time
    If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories. People can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical.

    8. Avoid contradiction
    Clear institutional identity helps give you the competitive edge. The public needs to know who you are and what differentiates you from other institutions they may have seen.

    9. For every ounce of treatment , provide a ton of fun
    How do you woo people from all other temptations? Give people plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves by emphasizing ways that let people participate in the experience and by making your environment rich and appealing to all senses.

    10. Keep it up
    Never underestimate the importance of cleanliness and routine maintenance. People expect to get a good show every time. They will comment more on broken and dirty stuff.

    Source: A talk given by Marty Sklar, then head of Walt Disney Imagineering

  5. #4 was what Walt called a weenie. “You’ve got to have a weenie at the end of the street,” he said.

  6. #7, Theme park designers hate lines, too. To be blunt, a guest in line is not generating revenue. Other parks have mitigated this by putting kiosks along their lines, but Disney queues remain clear of this clutter.

    Instead, WDI worked on other innovations to speed things up. A couple of decades ago, the Matterhorn bobsleds were modified to travel in linked pairs, nearly doubling the per-hour throughput. On The Temple of the Forbidden Eye, a newer attraction, a full 12-passenger car is dispatched every 18 seconds, sending nearly 2,400 guests through every hour at peak efficiency. Fastpass offers an alternative where guests effectively make reservations for an alternate low-to-no wait line.

    Really, they do everything they can about lines except barring people from entering the park and enjoying the attractions. Some Japanese theme parks require a reservation in order to control capacity. The Universal parks in Orlando let you trade additional dollars for preferred lines, but you can only use the “VIP” entrance once per attraction.

    I love this park-geek stuff.

  7. The part about telling stories, not lectures, was completely ignored by whoever designed Epcot Center.

  8. I had no idea that Studio Ghibli has a museum. I wish that there were more photos. I also really wish that there were a theme park with a Sea of Decay ride!

  9. #5 (I understand Mr. Sklar was with Disney when these company lines were invented, and even involved in coming up with them.)

    I rather doubt Walt had a top 10 list for designing his park. It would be more like a list of 1000 anyway. This sounds like something Disney marketing came up with. Or maybe an Imagineer wrote it, so it would look like he was working. Sorry, the new Disney has me a little cynical.

  10. I’d probably find Disneyland interesting once it would have been abandoned for 10 years. Problem is too many suckers go there and roam around like lobotomised walruses.

    Oh, so nice and clean…very efficient, getting 10 fun things per minute, have a milkshake, ohhhh, look at the kids….damn honey, they don’t seem to have XXXL carriages here, lets move on…

    fuck that

    The only good theme park is a dead one…could spend weeks in those…

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