I have a variety of the music that they play at Disneyland on my computer. One of my favorites is the Fantasyland Darkride Suite, which accompanies the “darkrides” (the rides that tell the story of Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride). Cheesy, I know, but when one of those songs pops up on my iTunes, I am automatically transported back to Disneyland. Many of the rides feature music that swoops and swells along with the motions of the ride. It’s seamlessly integrated. Music is just one way that Disneyland appeals to our senses.
Several rides also integrate the sense of smell: the scent of gingerbread wafts through the Christmas dinner scene in the Haunted Mansion Holiday, oranges and pine (to name a couple) in Soarin’ Over California, and watermelon on Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train.
You can always tell where you are in the park by looking down at the themed pavement below your feet (e.g. horseshoe prints in Frontierland) and the figure spinning the popcorn on carts around the park (e.g. a yeti near the Matterhorn and the Rocketeer in Tomorrowland). Even further, you can touch the cleverly designed queues that set the stage for rides like Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin. You literally feel like you’re in a different time and place.
Each of the above features make the experience vivid. In fact, one of my best friends commented about mildewed pitcher, “This smells like the Pirates of the Carribean.” I knew exactly what she meant. Okay, maybe that scent isn’t Disney’s intent.
There are literally thousands of details around the park that help appeal to the different senses to fully immerse guests in the experience. Those details draw people to completely engage what is happening and allow us to recall what we experienced even after we leave the park.
It might seem a bit lavish to go to such lengths, but the more ways a message is communicated, the more likely it is to be remembered. Well-chosen words are powerful, but combined with other elements (such as taste, touch, and smell), they are unforgettable.
Two ways we already do this well are the ordinances of baptism and communion. Both are powerful experiences that appeal to the participants’ senses.
The ongoing question for the Church is, “What else?” How else can we communicate the Biblical message so that people fully enter into it, understand it, and are transformed by that experience?
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