Monday, October 15, 2007

Do you know what your Theme Park Footprint is?

My theme park what?  I can hear the question all the way on this side of my monitor.

It's a term I coined during the course of my two Disney Trips I have taken thus far in 2007 (Disneyland in June 2007 and Walt Disney World in September 2007). 

I'm not using the term "footprint" literally.  We aren't talking about whether or not you have pressed your feet in fresh concrete outside the Chinese Theatre at Disney's Hollywood (nee MGM) Studios.

The first time I heard the term "footprint" used in this way was from my dad.  I would be telling him about some cool new piece of hardware (stereo or computer) equipment and he'd ask me how large the footprint was.  What he was referring to was how much space it took on my desk or stereo cabinet.

The next reference was in regards to mankind's impact on the environment.  I think the term was Ecological Footprint.  [ed. Not related to this post, but The Walt Disney Corporation is trying very hard to minimize their Ecological Footprint with Green Initiatives taken in the parks and resorts].

So, I guess you've figured out what this post is about?

What is your theme park footprint?  Are you aware of just how much space you are taking when you and your "family" (family is used loosely here to describe your traveling party) navigate the theme parks and shops?

As my wife and I were making our way around the parks, we often observed people and groups who moved around the parks totally oblivious to where they were in relation to the size of real estate their party was taking up.

It is often easy to get so taken up in what we, as guests, are doing in the parks, that we completely become oblivious to where we are positioned and who is around us.  Throw in a newly resized personal space and you have a whole lot of bumping around.

Stop!  Resized Personal Space, what the heck are you talking about?

Disney Geeks goofing in Wheelchair Well, simple.  There are a number of factors that can contribute to what I refer to as a resized personal space and none of them involve lifestyle changes that warrant an application to be on The Biggest Loser

Here are a few examples:

  • You could be a normally able bodied person, but this trip to Disney you are in a walking cast.  So you opt for the rental of a mobility device.  Yet, you aren't used to being on this device so you have just increased your personal space by the size of your new ride. 
  • You break out your extra large stroller for hauling your kids and supplies (strollers, I hear are great for hauling stuff so you don't have to wear it on your back) and now you have increased your personal space by a stroller length. 
  • You can even alter your personal space by the introduction of a backpack [ed. AHEM!  That would be you Mr. Grumpwurst!]. 
  • Even further you can increase your personal space by creating a much larger entity in the form of the infamous roaming pack group which is consistent of a party larger than 1 person.

I don't know how many times I have nearly wreaked havoc in a store because I turned around and forgot that I was wearing my backpack or tripod and bumped into merchandise or a fellow guest.  I am always very apologetic when I whack someone with whatever happens to be hanging off my back.  Sometimes it makes things better, other times it just irks the person more.

The Grump Loaded Down Another example of my own footprint negatively impacting others is when I would pull out my tripod to take pictures. 

This happened twice in September.  The first time was when I was trying to take pictures of Wishes! from the deck outside Narcoosee's and I accidentally set myself up in front of the window.  This tripod placement was blocking the view of the people sitting at the table on the other side of that window.  If you remember from my trip report, they very loudly rapped on the window and mouthed angry words to get me to move.  I obliged but remember thinking to myself that I made an innocent mistake and a polite hand wave to tell me to step to the side would've sufficed.  But, ultimately, I was not paying attention to where I was and who I was impacting by taking up so much space.

The second time was at the Rose & Crown when I setup to take pictures of Illuminations.  Once again, there were people who were quite accommodating of my enlarged footprint, but there was that table of tourists behind me that were not so happy despite my trying my best to not get in their way.  It's easy to fall into the trap of, "Well they can just move", which I did at the time, but as I now realize, I stepped on other guests with my large footprint and expected them to just accept it and be happy with it.

I guess what I'm saying is that only the very lucky get to come into the parks without some kind of extra "baggage", so to speak.  This "baggage" throws us off of our game but we still have things to do, attractions to ride, and places to be.  Tens of Thousands of us are all in the parks with the same plan.

This problem isn't isolated to the individual.  It is also easy to become unaware of our surroundings when we are a part of a group.  Sometimes, I think it's even easier to have this condition befall us when we are with others.  The fact that there are others who are sharing your goals and interests and traveling with you makes for an added distraction to the park and attractions themselves.  You want to talk with them and laugh and enjoy yourselves. 

An extreme example would be the people participating in the walking tours that took place at the recent celebrations at EPCOT Center for it's 25th Birthday.  It's hard to move that many people around without getting in the way of some people.

I actually felt that the group scenario was the worst when it came to this footprint problem. 

DSC_7531 An example, was when my wife and I were trying to make the quick dash to the Monorail station at EPCOT following IllumiNations.  We constantly had to adjust our roll because we'd run into roving packs of people who were just unaware of the other people around them that really, really, really wanted to pass them.  Their forward momentum was extremely slow and they were taking up a good portion of the path.  You had to put on the breaks and try to get their attention so you could pass. 

These type of scenarios is what caused my wife and I to start referring to the act of "shooting the gap".  I think one my childhood friend's mom used to tell us to do this whenever we went to the North Carolina State Fair.  Shooting the gap is the process of waiting for an ever so small gap developing in the throng that you could slide you and you only through.  I think she used to joke that it would make her son a better running back in football.

Your skill at "shooting the gap" may be your only solution to the problem of hitting a space in the park where a huge theme park footprint is being consumed.  The downside is that your own travelling party can be easily separated because this maneuver is very much an "every man/woman/child for themselves".

If each person can be observant to where they are and what is around them, then things might move a bit more unobstructed.  I don't know, maybe I am a bit more sensitive to this from the three ski seasons I lived in a ski resort town.  As a snow boarder I learned that I had to be as aware of the 360 degrees around me as possible.  Not just so that I didn't run into someone, but so that someone didn't run into me.  I try to apply these techniques when I'm in the parks.  It drives my wife nuts.  The big hard looks over my shoulder before I make a quick change in direction and the quick frequent glances over each shoulder as I'm gliding through the parks to make sure I'm not about to merge into someone or step into the path of a faster park guest.

Disney Geek George and I were talking about this the other day and he had this to say:

We are always aware of where we are going and try to minimize the effect we have on other people traveling through the park. Even with the kids in tow, we spend so much time watching out for other people that we miss the surroundings. BK (before kids) we would thread the crowds like a professional and seasoned tailor: in and out, duck and reach our destination.

Remember folks, I know we are all on vacation and the last thing we all think about is the other people on vacation with us (unless we are stuck in line with them), but a good way to help your fellow guest have a Grumptastic time at the parks, without having to do anything blatantly magical, is to just be aware of your surroundings.  You wouldn't drive a car with blinders on we should try not to navigate the parks with them on. 

Disney Geek Collin and the Family @ Disney's Electrical Parade My sister-in-law has to go to Disneyland with a child, Collin (aka The Biggest Disney Geek Ever), in a wheelchair. 

She tries to be very cognizant of who is around her so she doesn't bash someone's shins in with the chair.  But, she tells me her biggest irritation is that people often don't see her coming or needing to get through the crowd and she has to just wait for a break in the traffic.  I can see how this frustration in some people could drive them to just do what they need to do and that creates possible animosity.  If the people around noticed the wheelchair and the person with the wheelchair noticed the people around them, it would take nothing more than a simple gesture (and not a mean one) to allow all parties to navigate the ground safely.

If we all just try a little harder to be more theme park footprint aware, maybe, just maybe, we can find a new thing that people like to complain about in the the normalization (big database programming term there) of the menus....haha

This ends the Grumpy's Hollow Public Service Announcement.  We now return you to your normally scheduled programming.


Jeffrey Pepper said...

Awesome post, Ray!

As I was reading, I couldn't help but be constantly reminded of Fantasyland, which my wife and I long ago nicknamed "Stroller Central." The double-wides are especially a nightmare there when crowds are intense, and many of these folks have no conception just how much room they take up. I'm always taken aback when they attempt to navigate through the very confined spaces of Tinkerbell's Toy Shop or Sir Mickeys.

For the first 3-4 years of each my son's lives, we used backpack carriers rather than strollers to minimize or family "footprint."

Unknown said...

Jeff--did you pretend you were Luke and Cody was Yoda?

I would have done that! ;)

Ray, love the post, but you never asked me why I was pushing Andy in my mom's wheelchair.

Unknown said...


That is because I knew why you were pushing Andy around in your mother's wheelchair.

Presley family said...

Thanks Ray,
Yeah, I hate running people over with Collin's wheel chair... BUT you know I will if I have to! wink!
We love and miss y'all!

Kurt Nelson said...

This does not apply just to theme parks, but to any place with large groups of moving people. My pet peeve: Stopping in a doorway to talk to someone. Whenever I am at Universal Orlando (I have an AP), there is a large clump of people around the entrance to The Mummy who the instructions no bags is too hard for.

Unknown said...


Yeah, I have noticed that this behavior isn't isolated to Disney Theme Parks. But, since I mainly write about my experiences with Disney, it seemed an appropriate focus.

But, yes, this kind of behavior exists everywhere. Including on our roads

Anonymous said...

Great post Ray.
I have had this same discussion with others, over on Intercot, before. I find that in the last few years, everyone's footprint is getting larger.

I'm really amazed at the number of people that use the motorized scooters now. I'm not sure if it is due to a decrease in people's health or if it is due to an increase in laziness. What I do know, is that the inexperienced scooter users do not know to be curteous to pedestrians.

One way that I try to keep my footprint small, is to have purchases sent to the hotel or park entrance. I tend to buy large items, and I don't want to whack people in the legs!!

AKA Disneynorth