Monday, August 30, 2010

Theme Park Circulation – The Star Plan

When Walt Disney first set out to build Disneyland he had a number of complaints about the current state of amusement parks.  Walt was not about to repeat any of the old mistakes. 

In the first place his park would be a theme park, instead of just an amusement park.  The park would be divided into five lands, and each land would contain a specific theme. 

In most amusement parks of the era, the parks had grown haphazardly.  There were many entrances from many parking areas, and the park layouts became confusing places where one was easily lost and discouraged. 

Walt wanted to tell a story, and the best way to do that was to control what the visitors saw, and when they saw it.  He needed a brilliant circulation plan.  Disneyland began with a circulation plan that I call The Star Plan.  Visitors would enter from a single point on the star (in this case off of Main Street) and that would lead to a central hub.  From this point visitors could choose any of the other four lands.  In each case the visitor would enter and exit from the same point and return back to the hub for a reorientation. 

This plan helped Walt to tell his stories without any visual contradictions, while helping the visitor to easily become familiar with the simple layout.  No one should feel lost, disoriented, or overwhelmed. 

The plan worked beautifully, until the number of visitors began to grow.  Each walkway had to accommodate twice the capacity of the land, because visitors had to travel the same way twice.  Visitors didn’t feel like they were making progress while exploring the park.  Some changes were needed.

Nevertheless, this is not a circulation plan that should be overlooked.  With proper planning it offers some sound solutions to circulation and storytelling.  Another important feature of the plan is the ability to quickly and evenly distribute visitors throughout the park, to maximize utilization of all facilities.

The theme park basics discussed here are extremely general.  Always consult with experts, regarding your specific needs, before making any significant investment into land and/or design.  Feel free to contact me.  I’ll be happy to assist you in your efforts.

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