Sunday, April 11, 2010

Theme Park Book Review

I just finished reading Theme Park by Scott A. Lukas, a very smart book about the amusement industry and the origins of the theme park. “When you are inside a theme park, while you are watching one of its shows or spinning aboard one of its rides, you are thinking about the theme park, not about your humdrum life, relationship problems or issues with the boss at work. The whole idea of going to the theme park is that you can escape the problems of your everyday life and instead play in a virtual reality in which those problems are washed away and replaced with a world of immersion, joy, ecstasy and excitement.”

Theme Park contains a handful of very interesting stories about failed amusement parks that I had never even heard of before. If you think Wild West World or Freestyle Music Park was a failure or terrible idea you should definitely pick up this book to read about places such as Freedomland, Ocean Dome, Nara Dreamland, and Hitler’s Cross. “Much like the moral attractions of Dreamland, the failure of Freedomland and the success of Holiday World may in part be contributed to the explicitness of the theming. When theming is too specific, a park may suffer from patrons who are unable or unwilling to grasp the referents involved, and when it is less explicit-when it evokes as opposed to invokes – it may be able to reach more people. In this last sense the theming of parks takes on the concept of mood.”

I also enjoyed reading about the evolution of the show in theme parks. There has always been an emphasis on spectacle at theme parks but back in the day they took it to a whole other level that would never happen in this day an age. Several of these shows included: An elephant was put on a Shoot-the Chutes ride and then was executed and filmed in public; a reenactment with six hundred veterans of the Boer War; Ingorots imported from the Phillipeans; there was even an exhibit with live human babies.

Read the rest of the review here.

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