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Making Disney Magic Part Three: The Tricks


It looks like its super tall but it’s only Disney magic at work. Its actually only 189 feet tall. Imagineers used forced perspective convince us its much grander than it actually is.

Disney World is a magical place. There is no other way to describe it. Walt’s team of imagineers have built a wonderful illusion. As much as we would like for the illusion to be real it is still an illusion. This article will focus on some of the tricks Disney uses to pull us into that illusion.

One of the best tricks Disney uses is the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. If the Magic Kingdom is a show the show begins as soon as you cross under the Walt Disney World Railroad and find yourself on Main Street USA.

There are several things about Main Street USA designed to draw you into the show. For example the buildings look much taller than they actually are. Disney is using a trick called forced perspective on you. It’s really quite simple yet brilliant and they use it all over the park. It works like this. The first story of the buildings are normal. The second story and third stories are not. The second story windows are smaller than the first story windows. The third story windows are smaller than the second story. Because of the way your eyes and your brain communicate you perceive those smaller windows to indicate that the windows are much farther from you than they actually are. Therefore you think the buildings are much taller than they really are.

Main Street USA is not the only place forced perspective is used. Cinderella Castle is another prime example of Disney using windows to make you think the castle is hugely tall when in actuality it is less than 200 foot tall. The windows at the top of the tower have been made very small to help created this illusion.

While we are on Cinderella Castle let me introduce a Disney term you might not be familiar with. That term is weenie. It is not used in any negative sense. It is simply a term to describe something that draws you in. Cinderella Castle is the ultimate weenie. Once you pass under that railroad Main Street USA has been laid out to give you a view of the amazing castle and draw you into the Disney illusion.

One other trick I want to tell you about before we move off Main Street. It’s an old trick. My real estate agent first explained it to me when I was trying to sell a house. She said to bake a pan of cookies before anyone came to view the house. The point was not,  however, for me to leave cookies for them. The point was for the house to smell like cookies which put people into a good mood. Disney has gone to the extreme with this idea. Even though Main Street Bakery is right there as you enter the park you are not smelling their fresh baked cookies. Disney is piping in a synthetically created cookie smell to improve your mood instantly! Of course if you stop and buy a cookie before you get started they will be very happy too.

Have you ridden Space Mountain? What is your opinion? How fast are you going? Would you believe it is only an amazing 28 mph. It seems like its faster because of the rapid twists and turns. And of course the darkness! If Space Mountain were outside it would probably be at best a kiddie coaster but because it’s dark it’s an E Ticket Ride.

Disney combines sight, sound, smell and touch to create illusions in several attractions. Most notably Soarin’. Soarin uses a movie screen, airflow, smell and a top rate sound system to convince the guests they are actually flying. Watch people pick up their feet as they fly over the pines to see if it doesn’t work. This same type of system is used in It’s A Bugs Life and Mickey’s Philharmagic. In both of these they add 3d for an added boost to the illusion. I have watched children actually grabbing for the items in the Philharmagic if you think it doesn’t work!

Have you ever noticed that once buildings reach a certain height that they have those annoying blinking red lights to warn planes? Those lights have to be placed on buildings two hundred feet or taller. You know how many buildings are taller than that in the theme parks? None. They are built right up to the limit but not over it because that blinking red light would ruin the illusion. Instead they use that forced perspective thing I mentioned earlier to make them feel much taller.

The last tricks to be covered, for now at least, are the trees at Disney World. Two come to mind quickly, the Tree of Life and the tree at Swiss Family Treehouse. These trees are obviously not real but the work that has gone into them making them look real! But what about some of the real trees on property? Did you know that Disney actually imported trees from all over the world? A prime example is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Of course these trees don’t necessarily fit very well in the Florida climate so Disney has to go to some extreme measures to keep them alive and healthy. At really cold seasons some even get their own personal heater!

These are of course, just a few tricks that Disney uses to make us believe. If you have more feel free to share them below in the comments and be sure to check out

Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms and Making Disney Magic Part Two: Plus Is A Verb if you haven’t already.

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About grumpydisney

Okay since I am a Disney addict and they don't have a twelve step program for Walt Disney World I will serve my addiction by blogging about the place I'd rather be!

Posted on December 7, 2011, in The Disney Magic and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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