Thursday, July 26, 2007

Disney Magic Falling on Deaf Ears

After much effort, I have managed to break free from the Imperius Curse put on me by some dark wizards who forced me to read the latest entry in the series of books about a certain boy wizard.

After being immersed in so much magical discussion, I thought I would focus my next entry on Magic....Disney Magic that is.

I know I saw it when I went to Disney World in 2006, but it was really noticeable when I went to Disneyland in June 2007.  It could have been because Disneyland was more densely packed than Walt Disney World was.

What is it that I'm talking about?  It is the proliferation of people wearing portable music devices while walking the parks.  I know that all those ear buds can not be binaural microphones :)

I actually heard Lou Mongello read a letter from one of his listeners on his The WDW Radio Show about how he, a father, refused to let his children don headphones once they step on the sacred ground known as a Disney Theme Park.  It was this that sparked my memory about my impressions when I saw this on my last trip to Disneyland.

Imagineers burn through a lot of dollars to design and implement the awesome rides and lands that we get to enjoy.  There is one portion of it that I really think is taken for granted......the soundtrack!

I never really gave a soundtrack or audio track that much concern until I took a class in college revolving around audio editing.  We were shown two versions of a the same film.  One version was the theatrical release.  The second version was one in which the only audio that was intact was the dialogue.  Everything else that was added "post production" was removed.  No musical scores were left and anything else added by the foley artist was removed.  Wow!  What a difference it made.  A lot of the life and mood of the film was gone.  It was almost dead in my mind.

It is like this at Disney.  Millions of dollars are invested in every sound and music track that you hear on rides and while walking around the parks.  There are very few details that aren't specifically chosen and designed.  Granted, the occasional unplanned bird may add to the soundtrack, but I bet you'd be surprised about how many bird calls, cricket sounds and other stuff are actually recorded tracks. 

But it's not just that.  At Disneyland, there is the sound of a telegraph machine you can hear near the New Orleans Square station of the railroad.  That telegraph is sending the text from Walt Disney's dedication speech for Disneyland.

There are entire podcasts devoted to this.  If you are fans of Window to the Magic Podcast and The Mouse Lounge Podcast you know the love these guys have for the parks.  If you haven't listened to either of these podcasts and are one who appreciates the ambient sounds of the parks, then I suggest you checking them out.  Window to the Magic devotes almost 100% of it's time to the sounds of the park.  The Mouse Lounge does devote time to the sounds of the parks but expands out to many of the music and other audio that is part of Disney parks, rides and movies. 

If it wasn't for the effort the Imagineers put into the sounds in addition to the sights of the parks, the game "Where in the Park" that they play on Window to the Magic would be kind of boring and difficult. 

There are people who deliberately deafen themselves to their surroundings.  They do this by wearing a MP3 player.  This seemingly ubiquitous device, most popularly seen in the form of the Apple iPod, has become an electronic appendage to many people of almost any age. 

Please people, put away the MP3 players.  Even if you are listening to one of the many fabulous Disney podcasts, you don't need to be listening to them while in the parks.  If you are listening to music, you are insulting the chef.  In fine dining establishments, it's often considered a major insult to the chef to ask for salt and/or pepper for your food.  By doing so, you are saying that you don't think the chef knows what he/she is doing.

By providing your own soundtrack, you are saying that the Imagineers don't know what they are doing.

It has been my experience that just the smallest fragment of a sound can dredge up all kinds of memories.  Pictures do it too, but it doesn't seem to have the same success as a sound or music.  You need much less of it to get the brain to start dumping.

The soundtracks of the Disney Theme Parks are going to be the thing that unlocks the memories of your childhood.  These memories are going to be what you are going to be thinking fondly of when you are much older.  By providing your own soundtrack, you might be preventing these fond memories from being unearthed when you are older and need them the most.

Friends don't let Friends wear ear buds at Disney

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Unknown said...

In case people didn't know, but I mirror my blog entries on Wordpress. It's just because I've noticed both seem to get picked up by Google in different efficiencies.....

Well, Lou Mongello commented over there and I thought I should bring his comments over here since this version of my blog gets more traffic:


Great post, and thank you for the mention. I am a HUGE fan of what the Imagineers do not only with what you can see in the parks, but what you can (yet sometimes don’t) hear. Many people may overlook the importance of the music in the parks, especially beyond the attraction and show music. The background music is often beautiful, but more importantly, helps transition between lands, and tell the story fo wherever you are in the parks.

Let yourself be immersed in the elegant simplicity of the music of Main Street, USA, then allow yourself to be transported to the exotic worlds of Adventureland… use your ears as well as your eyes to immerse yourself in the amazing experiences Disney creates for you.

This is something I’m going to cover in much more depth on the show very soon, as I think it really is a true wonder of Walt Disney World (hint hint) ;)

Great job again on the post! I’m with you 100%"

Tim said...

Ray, I agree with you completely. There is nothing more aggravating than seeing this. I am a HUGE fan of disney theme park audio and listen to it all the time to get a Disney fix. Great post.