Matricide and Fear in the Magic Kingdom
Brands are supposed to make you feel good; but nothing makes you feel quite so good as a rebound from feeling bad or sad or scared. This is Disney’s secret recipe in its movies, and my favourite rides so far used just those techniques.
Patricidal and matricidal themes pervade Disney movies, with Lion King, Nemo and Bambi all featuring the killing of a parent. Many other Disney features don’t show parents being killed, but main characters just start off as orphans. I remember reading something a few years ago that in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Disney studio execs used to wire up theatre seats at test screenings with electrical wetness detectors. The more kids that wet their pants at critical moments, the more certain they were of the movie’s success.
Late on Friday, my son didn’t want to go on the Expedition Everest ride, because there was a ‘scary Yeti’. I went alone. Here is someone’s YouTube video of the ride. Note the mangled track at around 1:10
I had that Disney “I’m screwed” feeling when I saw the mangled tracks. This was compounded by discomfort riding backwards through the darkness. An emotional rollercoaster ride on a rollercoaster ride. I felt excited, then scared, then dizzy (almost sick), then glad to be down. Brand genius.
Even something as gentle as the African Safari included injections of fear: a rickety bridge that “might just collapse”, and a speeding up spell when we were trying to catch a poacher. My son was visibly concerned at both moments, visibly relieved once they were over, and totally satisfied with the ride at the end.
Can technology brands find ways to create synthetic fear or anger at certain points in the experience, only to turn it around positively later? Some people would say they already do, although it’s not pretend anger. With that denouement I leave you for the day.