Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What is Theme Park Fandom?: A Hypothesis

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the world's leading trade organization for the theme park industry, 934 million people attend/experience amusement attractions annually. While likely inflated, even a more conservative reading would likely place 1/10 of all living people in the world as visiting an amusement facility annually. Considering that the world's middle class is rated at 1.8 billion people, anywhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of that number experience the amusement industry. These numbers are generated from a constellation of various types of attractions. Not only traditional amusement parks and modern theme park facilities are counted, but family entertainment centers (FECs) based around direct revenue model attractions such as mini golf and go karts, arcades, open air museums, and aquatics facilities (water parks). 

As with any recreational activity, fandom has grown around it and allowed for individuals to identify with communities built around their preferred activity. While no specific estimates of their numbers exist, divisions of "casual" and "hardcore" fans play out in the space of theme parks just as they do other artistic mediums or with sports. A cavalcade of enthusiast and brand based communities began to spring up in the 1970s as the amusement industry took off during a great period of American expansion. Later, the advent of the Internet and social media ages have caused these communities to multiply in direction, philosophy, and scope. 

This piece intends to briefly examine the relationship of hardcore (diffused) American and Canadian "theme park fans" to the industry which they identify with as consumers. Most importantly, I intend to explore of the perceived and real dichotomies contained within. In doing so, it is hoped to create a clearer picture of the overall nature of theme park fandom, and to open discourse in other aspects of how and why people are motivated to expand to varying degrees of obsession when it comes to the amusement and themed attractions industry. The format of the piece is not traditionally linear. The purpose for this relates to the authorial intent of the individual producing it; by describing the theme park fandom world as it is seen by its largest group and then expanding it outside their traditionally held boundaries, it is hoped to show the true multivariate nature of hobbyists.

As no academic literature has been produced specific to brand and enthusiast communities to theme parks (only general attendance), and only industry studies of overall customer base have been generated, the piece has been titled as a hypothesis. A loose basic framework for testing the hypothesis will be suggested.


Without any doubt, The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) is the industry leader of the amusement and theme park industry (a) as we know it today. Since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Disney's monumental growth has brought them to a point where they now generated an estimated 138 million visits in 2015. Since the 1960s, Disney has been seen as the unquestioned king of the amusement world, with just about every park, family entertainment center, arcade, et al. looking to "The Mouse" for guidance. As they identify with the industry leaders, Disney fans see themselves as the ultimate theme park fans. Discussions of immersion and thematic integrity within the space of themed attractions are the stock and trade of every Disney fan group in existence. All theme park fans thus generally believe in the same basic ideology:

-Walt Disney's vision is that of primary or only value for the execution of Disneyland, Disney World, and the theme park industry as we know it today

-Disney was either the first or best at creating immersive attractions

-The Disney name is associated with extraordinary quality in all ventures

-Other theme park operators exist, but their work is to be compared to Disney, not the reverse. 

-The average Disney customer (guest, in industry parlance) and employee (cast member, again, industry parlance) are of a higher caliber than any other similar facility. Theme Park Fan also often sees themselves as being of a higher level than even these individuals, imparting an elite status

-"Disney Magic" is a real thing, which, though objective boundaries are rarely if ever provided, is defined in almost spiritualistic and ethereal terms

There are three primary ranges on the spectrum of theme park fans who ascribe to these basic ideological beliefs. On the fringes are the group's own version of the far left and far right that may best be described by (internet-based) pejorative descriptors; "Foamers" and "Dusters." Both are true believers in the inherent greatness of the Disney theme parks, though they see each other as diametrically opposed forces operating within the increasingly finite intellectual theme park fandom universe. As is often the case with such pejorative descriptions, few if any will self identify as "Foamer" or "Duster", preferring alternative language. Individuals on this spectrum may consider themselves a theme park fans in a holistic sense, but their actual consumption habits will generally establish strong Disney-centric habits. 

"Dusters" are named for the pixie dust deposited by Peter Pan's pixie character Tinker Bell, which inures magical properties to any object, living or non living. Dusters can be equivocated to a more left wing/progressive/liberal stance. They believe that Disney has not only been great in the past, but is currently great, and still on a path of general greatness. Changes which are made to the parks are more often than not embraced given the excellent general track record of the company, with more controversial ones at least approached with a "Wait and See" attitude. "Dusters" were most vocal in support of the Epcot dark ride Maelstrom being changed into a Frozen themed attraction and Avatar's expansion and the announcement of Star Wars expansions at Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios.

As the antipode, "Foamers" received their name to relate the visual idea of a rabid attacking animal to their contributions to discourse. Those who often fit the profile generally are conservative in their nature as it pertains to Disney, seeking adherence to historical standards or ideals. Relationships have or are built with attractions on the general basis of the individual's perceived perfect version of the parks, and change of almost any sort results in near immediate criticism. Much of the criticism relied upon argues from a position of history and authority and is emotionally wrought. The restoration of Orange Bird to Magic Kingdom's Tiki Room or Figment to Journey Into Imagination would be seen as victories for Foamers, whereas the continued death of the Adventurer's Club is a loss. 

The relationship of Dusters and Foamers to non-Disney Parks, such as Universal Studios Hollywood or Islands of Adventure, is relatable but clearly different. At the furthest ends of the spectrum, Disney fandom being theme park fandom is orthodoxical, and the praise of non-Disney parks will generally be seen as an affront or non-conformist signalling rather than actual appreciation. For the Duster, the very concept of spending a day at another park can often result in an exasperating internal/external dialogue. Foamers tend to be more likely to venture to new parks, but often their experiences when expressed to others (and thus likely as they are internalized) are how these parks relate to their primary Disney fandom. Both groups generally believe strongly in the idea of the "Disney bubble" and consider it extremely important to stay within those confines (official Disney resorts, Disney transportation between parks, Disney restaurants, et al). Both groups also tend to see themselves as uniquely qualified to understand and thus experience "behind the magic." The average person should not be able to access the utilidors, but as regulated by the meritocracy of personal spending or by desire to be employed by "The Mouse," how the magic is created can be accessed.

The largest overall group, though the least vocal within the community, will be playfully referred to as the "Big Park Moderates." The moderate theme park fan is seen as someone who is interested in all of the major theme parks (Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, a few other outliers) and those attractions in their home region(s). The moderate fan may have a season's pass to a Six Flags or Cedar Fair park, and is more willing to stay "off-property" when traveling to Disney in order to save money. The moderates, since they don't have many of the harder, more emotionally based stances of their fringe counterparts, aren't as likely to be the target of anyone's specific ire. 

Foamers general willingness to test the waters outside the Disney bubble whilst also holding onto orthodoxies about the Walt Disney Company and their parks has a self limiting effect. Only sort of high budget parks that more closely mimic Disney's approach of "immersive" family amusement attractions are generally seen as being desirable. For many Foamers, the Universal Studios parks post-Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been a game changer, providing them an alternative set of large scale themed attractions that has been designed with older adults in mind. "Universal Fan," as it is defined in this context of theme park fandom, still ultimately believes in all the same orthodoxies as the Dusters, Foamers, and moderates. Universal Fan still goes to the Disney resorts. Universal Fan would still make Disney their #1 again if they just built the things they've wanted all along. Unlike Foamers, Universal Fan is both so convinced that those things cannot and will not happen and is not so dissuaded by the action of the rides at the Universal parks (which are much more thrilling than Disney, on average) that they adopt the Universal Studios parks as becoming their favorite. Universal, in effect, has become more Disney than Disney, and won their identity. Dusters see Universal Fan as an even larger existential threat to their position in the hobby, and argument between the two factions are often among the wildest.


In 1995, Albert Muniz Jr. and Thomas C. O'Guinn first submitted their thesis on the concept of "brand community." This was followed in 2001 with a full article in the Journal of Consumer Research, fleshing out the concept and effectively creating an entirely new stream of research and defining one of the core ideas of modern marketing. Brand communities are exactly what the name suggests: human communities based around attachments to products or marquees. The model of theme park fandom described above is, for many, the entire universe. However, it actually comprises one half of the true dichotomy of the hobby. Disney, and to a much lesser extent, Universal, are responsible for the brand community based fandom that occupies half of the actual theme park fan universe. The other half of the dichotomy are the enthusiast communities who's attachment to the theme park world is fundamentally very different than the brand-centric. All of them effectively coalesced into their core groups within a period of two years as one of America's first great commercial waves of nostalgia washed over the nation.

To understand the core difference between brand community and enthusiast community in the theme park space, it is important to look at the origins of each distinct fan group and see how they individually developed. Disney fandom as we know it today emerged from a distinctly nostalgic movement; Disneyana. While informally used as a term for the merchandise of the Walt Disney Company prior to 1974, the term became solidly grounded with the publication of Cecil Munsey's price guide "Disneyana: Walt Disney Collectables." The book provided a then unheard of cataloging of the articles the company had put on sale through the years, and as interest in these items and their collectability grew, a community began to build around it. The initial pull for this with organizations like The Mouse Club and The National Fantasy Fan Club (today known as the Disneyana Fan Club) was indeed not the parks themselves, but the attraction to the tag "Disney" for the consumable goods it produced and sold. Today, while the Disneyana Fan Club exists as the largest unofficial organized group (b), the largest overall fan group is D23, operated by the Walt Disney Corporation itself. Brand community is deeply set in the DNA; past research suggests that by companies directly interacting with the brand community and its membership, this elevates the perceived relationship of the consumer-brand identification and makes them feel even more emotionally invested (Stokburger-Sauer, 2010). Whether or not D23 has had this intended effect is likely something we can only deduce through carefully retained internal data, but it seems unlikely to have had the counter effect of making their biggest fans feel less connected. 

1974 did not simply produce a collectables guide with relationship to the theme park industry. The June 9, 1974 issue of the New York Times featured an article written by an artist of Midwestern origin that was exceedingly important in the early formation of theme park fandom. Robert Cartmell's "The Quest for the Ultimate Roller Coaster" was a classic example of the right article being written at precisely the right time in precisely the right publication. Cartmell spoke of a then unknown group of "coaster nuts" who were beginning to break out of their college blues and hit the open road in search of thrills. The piece ignited numerous people to begin to try and cobble together their own community, culminating in the formation of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) following a 1977 public relations marathon-ride session on Kings Dominion's Rebel Yell roller coaster.  

By the time ACE came into existence though, they would not be alone in the space of enthusiast communities dedicated primarily to rides. The National Carousel Roundtable had managed to form itself in 1973, and like the formation of the roller coaster enthusiast community, had credit to give the New York Times for early growth. "How Grownups Can Still Enjoy A Carousel" detailed the nascent group's founding in the NYT's October 23, 1973 edition. The pull of childhood memories had led many to collect carousel pieces that were discarded from the collapsing traditional amusement parks and restore them. The National Carousel Roundtable - later, the National Carousel Association (NCA) - would be joined by the American Carousel Society, and likewise, the American Coaster Enthusiasts found themselves competing against regionally geared clubs such as the Greater Ohio Coaster Club (GOCC) and Western New York Coaster Club (WNYCC). Both carousel and coaster fans could find common ground in the goals of the National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA). Together, these groups worked and succeeded at restoring numerous amusement attractions across the United States and Canada. While few of Robert Cartmell's top ten coasters in 1974 remain, we can still enjoy the Giant Coaster from Paragon Park in part due to the efforts of the preservation movement in the 1980s for its relocation to Largo, Maryland at what is now Six Flags America.

The allure of nostalgia fed not only the Disney brand community, but the ride enthusiast communities and their expansion and influence. (c) Both carousels and roller coasters have been parts of the Disney and Disney-esque theme parks from nearly the origin, and this shouldn't be terribly surprising. At the heart of those post-war theme parks are amusement parks. Disneyland in its infancy very much resembled a permanent world's fair: sports fields, circus themed Fantasyland, frontier village, central midway of shops and services, islands of "immersion" like Adventureland and the Matterhorn, and oodles and oodles of corporate sponsorship at almost every turn. What is Pirates of the Caribbean but a refinement of the Old Mill attraction made popular at the turn of the 20th century? Unlike the brand community, the enthusiast community is drawn to the larger subject and more readily sees these outside influences or recognizes the use of pre-existing ride platforms. 

As theme parks are fundamentally also amusement parks, they are the ancestors of the modern carnival and fair. All operated with the intent of entertainment via escapism, and the escapism was generally built on a foundation of acknowledged deception. Disney's influence on the amusement and theme park world was to effectively re-brand/re-title "carny" terminology, which psychologically changed the perspective of employee to customer. "Marks" became "guests," workers became "cast members," and so on. While these terms were changed across the amusement park world, this did not fundamentally change the relationship of park to patron. 

To attempt to present a flow chart of the actual nature of theme park fandom in the North America gets extraordinarily complex in a short period of time. Many, though certainly not all attraction based fans, are driven primarily by nostalgic ideals. Like the Disney foamers, they are conservative in their outlook: maintaining attractions as they have always operated is of primary importance. Wood coaster-centric, carousel, automated music, and traditional dark ride fans all basically have a similar outlook. It isn't that theme parks or themed attractions are bad: the very existence of groups such as the Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts (DAFE) make this attempt at a division poorly conceived or informed. Rather, the expansion of theme parks following the success of Disneyland and Six Flags over Texas, multiple crises of liability insurance coverage costs beginning in 1984, and expense for replacement attractions have killed so many of the traditional (and often urban) parks that once served most markets.

These people, the ride enthusiasts, generally love the big themers. As evidence, ACE held their national convention, CoasterCon, at Walt Disney World back in 2006. Numerous events have also been held at the likes of Islands of Adventure and the Busch parks. Many of these ride enthusiasts regret that regional theme parks have seen their more charming thematic bits whittled away for quick fixes of production model roller coasters and flat rides. Those in the brand fandom brackets may be conservative for those highly specific things they admire, but generally couldn't care less about anything else in the industry, much less shed tears for anything demolished, scrapped, or altered beyond recognition outside their brand community.

Steel coaster enthusiasts, however, are a separate breed within the ride community. Unlike the other sub-groupings, and even the sub-groupings I intentionally left out (d), they aren't driven by nostalgia in the same way everyone else is. In this sense, they are often much closer on some philosophical grounds to the Disney "dusters"; change can sometimes be great and is not to be feared as a default position. They, like all other enthusiast community members, are likely to enjoy themselves a trip to Disney or Universal.

However, unlike the dusters, Big Park Moderates, foamers, and Universal fans, steel coaster enthusiasts are still coaster enthusiasts, and will still be driven primarily by the desire to ride roller coasters. Going to China for theme parks isn't something they started doing because of Shanghai Disneyland: they may have already gone years ago to ride Starry Sky Ripper at World Joyland, whilst many a Disney fan was complaining about Magic Kingdom's construction schedule for the millionth time. And given Universal's sheer number of big steel rides at any of their parks, they and steel coaster fans are most likely to see cross over. It isn't guaranteed, but has reasonable odds. Interestingly, their liberal "realist" outlook to the theme park industry also makes them more likely to accept the thematic decline of regional parks in exchange for new coasters, even while openly promoting the ability of European and Asian parks to retain that while building new rides.

Attempting to determine which community is larger is nearly impossible. Only USENET stats for rec.roller-coaster have been archived, showing a peak in 1999 of roughly 10,000 messages a month, while rec.arts.disney.parks has no such data available, and no carousel USENET group existed. WDWInfo.com is rated higher by Alexa than either of the two largest coaster enthusiast geared sites (themeparkreview.com and screamscape.com). However, the ride enthusiast communities are so broad and so specialized that it may simply be that their fragmentation prevents them from being properly compared to the more unified brand community centered around Disney.

Topics of note among these theme park fans is similarly divided. Individuals on the spectrum of ride enthusiasts will, as expected, primarily analyze the rides on which they have a fixation. Pacing, forces imparted, speed at which the ride operates, restraint systems, operational throughput, physical appearance of the vehicles/horses/etc: these things will be looked at under a deep microscope. This does not preclude the ability of ride enthusiasts to be aware of or understand narratives or themes produced in theme parks, however it is not their core focus. Paralleling this, since ride enthusiasts are more interested in rides as a whole, they often go to far, far more amusement and theme parks than brand enthusiasts. Several roller coaster enthusiasts have exceeded riding 2,000 different roller coasters, a task that essentially requires enormous amounts of international travel. Brand community fans need go no further than 4-5 countries and 7-8 large markets to be seen as having put in maximum effort.

This has created an interesting situation as far as discussion of parks is concerned. For brand community theme park members, brand is the attraction, not the rides. As such, they have drastically self limited options available to them. Due of those limits, brand community fans often turn to park and ride design minutiae as a topic by necessity. Discussions of theming in ride enthusiast circles are often very general in comparison to the cottage industry of Disney bloggers, and almost exclusively in the context of coasters or dark rides. Ride enthusiasts, by their vagabond nature, also happen to experience far more themed environments globally than do their brand community counterparts. This creates the strange situation in which those who are perhaps most qualified to discuss the topic of thematic design vis-a-vis practical park going experience more than often do not, and those who actively deny themselves those qualifications lead the discourse. Further, in cases when both the interests of brand community and ride enthusiast community are both unserved, there is often complete ignorance. Little or no serious English language discussion of France's megathemers Puy Du Fou or Futuroscope exist as neither has roller coasters, carousels, or Disney branding.



This hypothesis suggests that self-identified "theme park fans" are a wide ranging group which generally fall into one of two larger categories: brand community and enthusiast community. Overwhelmingly, the majority of brand community-based theme park fans belong to the Disney Brand Community, whereas enthusiast community-based theme park fans are more widely distributed across a wide array of interests, often interconnected. Through self-induced isolation, the Disney Brand Community Theme Park fan has created for itself false dichotomies of fandom, divorced from reality of overall larger picture as they relate to the theme park industry and related fandom.

Using evolutionary taxonomy, "Theme/Amusement Park Fan" would be at the level of order, individual communities at the level of "family", strata such as "foamer" or "wood coaster enthusiast" at the level of genus, and individual species being largely left out (B&M fans, out-and-back fans, Universal fans). In effect, an individual who's highest preference might be "twister/cyclone style" wood coasters is as far removed from a Disney duster as the domestic horse is to the sumatran rhino, but both would still fall within the same larger taxonomic classification at lower level.


There are few attempts historically to do serious analysis of the larger theme park fandom. Most discourse is limited to Reddit, internet forum, and USENET threads. A more structured attempt was made by "Foxxy Hooves" on her Disney blog, Passport to Dreams Old and New. This suggested dividing the fandom into 4 groups based on their relationship to the material at hand. These groups were taken from a post written by another blogger, "FILM CRIT HULK" (generally believed to be Mike Symonds of Rocketjump Film School), and can be paraphrased/generalized as such:

Group 1: the largest group, entirely passive consumers, somewhat dimwitted and naive, seeking base level pleasure, whom are affected greatly by what they experience in any art, incapable or unwilling to attempt art deemed to be "challenging." Carnival/wrestling parlance effectively deems these individuals "marks." A "mark" is a pejorative term used to describe the customer base being "worked" (lied to, ostensibly) by the carnie/wrestler, and stems from the practice of physically marking individuals with markers, pencils, or stickers who either expend or are expected to expend money on the rigged games and freak shows within to make them visually stand out more in the crowd to fellow carnies. "Callers" or "Barkers" would then be better able to target them.

Group 2: passive consumers who have a slightly greater understanding of the structure of the thing being viewed/consumed. Wrestling parlance calls these "smart marks", while carnies would deem them "fans". In effect, these are people who to some degree are "in" on the deceit/"work," but may not be fully aware as to where the separation between "work" and "shoot" (actual things) begin. "Smart marks" are still primarily "marks," and can be exploited summarily.

Group 3: active consumers, occasionally academics or serious reviewers, who understand the art being presented almost entirely/entirely but still enjoy the art. Many successful artists are in the third group. Those in the wrestling industry would consider this a "smart" position. Carnies would use the term "with it."

Group 4: active consumers, also occasionally academics or serious reviewers, more often individuals who have been involved in the creation of the art itself (especially at the physical, perhaps not creative, level) who understand the art being presented entirely but no longer have the same appreciation for the art as they only see the structure of how the art was created, and not the underlying message of the art itself.  These are also "smart"/"with it" positions.

While the argument was made in both the FCH origin piece and the Hooves piece that all 4 groups deserve equal respect, this comes with a large amount of deceit. Group 1, the perceived largest one, is spoken about in largely derisive terminology. Equal perhaps in the value of their human life and their theorized capability to spend money, to present the idea that this sort of non-analysis or thought is "equally valuable" is, at best anti-intellectualism.

There are two other significant fundamental flaws to this breakdown of the fandom:

Flaw 1: The argument shows no specific differentiation between emotional/subjective and "objective" knowledge. Much time has been spent on the topic of "knowledge" since the days of the Sophists. One may posit that they are equivalently worthy of consideration. There are, after all, many biases with what are sometimes seen as truths. Others may see a clear distinction, and that equivocation can be infantilizing. An individual may claim Group 4 because they first associate a visit to a major theme park with events in their life which specifically occurred there; falling in love, a fight, a fall, some moment of great spiritual peace that was found, etc. Alternately, a person who works at a nondescript, "un-themed" amusement park in ride maintenance will likely understand much more about the structure/operation of rides, slides, or shows across the spectrum of facilities. Both have experiences that may limit their capability to react to the thematic elements of operation and instead focus on the structural/operational: backstage break areas, "boneyards," employee housing, human resources, grounds and landscaping, etc. Realistically and objectively, these people do not have an equivalent understanding of the industry as a whole, even if they individually react in similar ways.

Flaw 2: Theme parks are derivatives of fairgrounds/carnivals, and "theme park magic" is not unlike other art forms within the carnival umbrella (circuses, stage magic, professional wrestling). Like those other art forms, one must willingly accept the ruse or "work" in order to be affected at all, much less in a profound fashion (e). James Hilger, a Disney photoblogger, touches on this via a Medium.com piece titled "The Castle, The Promise, and The Pact," which posits that Disneyland's castle is the fulfillment of a promise alluded to in the Disneyland plaque mission statements located above the tunnels through which guests enter the park. By providing an intentional stylistic clash of European castle at the end of a street modeled after small-town America; mystery and magic is promised within assuming an individual accepts this as possible. Not referenced is the idea of brand community. Research on the subject of brand community has shown repeatedly that products increase in value to the individual as the relationship between the individual and brand and the opportunity to connect with other people with brand relationship form and expand (Fournier 1998); Chang & Chieng 2006). Someone who sees themselves as interested or in a perceived relationship with the Disney brand will be more likely to accept this. Those who are not interested or emotionally involved in this way are not.

Hilger writes in this, "The cynical don’t accept the promise....and thus never make the pact: they walk through the gates to find nothing more than long lines and cloying capitalism." Cynicism, in this case, may be seen as an extension of non-conformity to brand identification/community. The same attachment to brand community can alternately affect the ability of those whom are part of it to emotionally connect with similar/different thematic attractions which lie external to the brand community. (Hickman and Ward 2007) This is no different from those who identify as Ford or Mopar supporters inherently dislike General Motors built vehicles, and all three fan groups likely react negatively to a Toyota or Honda built vehicle, regardless of the level of craftsmanship or detail. (f)

Virtually none of the specific subgroups identified in this piece, nor those left out due to space concerns, are inherently isolating solely to their specific interest group. Most people in the "theme park fan" space will center on one of the boxes, but will see a spread across multiple ones. However, there are inherent differences which prevent anyone from being able to extend far across the brand/enthusiast divide. Those furthest "conservative" in Disney fandom are almost certain to not have almost any carry over with ride enthusiast groups. Alternately, no ride enthusiast group, sans perhaps a small collective of preservationists specific to wood coaster enthusiasts, are likely to entirely eschew any identity of Disney's quality within the theme park space.

This is a hypothesized model which could be utilized in part/full for a larger polling of those who see themselves in the theme/amusement fan space. Polling would likely need to be targeted to participants based on physical participation in various enthusiast functions (e.g. "cons" or other events) rather than allowed for open internet self reporting. Large, individual internet based communities would be able to sway the results with influence, and the use of an internet poll would likely alienate older respondents. A combination of questions related to individual's relationship to brands, active participation in enthusiast events or use of message boards, personal levels of exertion/physical & visual stimulus, and ride preferences would be able to establish not only a X/Y matrix of brand community vs. ride enthusiast, but also more specifically pinpoint sub-categorization. Repeated polling could be used to see shifts in these groups over time and the effect of branding beyond destination themers. The existing framework of previous question sets, such as the Sport Spectator Identification Scale, could be used, but would require heavy modification. (Wann & Branscombe, 1993)



a) Serious historians have debated who constructed the first theme park for years. Themed attractions appear throughout the industry's history, arguably all the way back to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London's Crystal Palace. In post-World War 2 America, Disneyland was predated by Knott's Ghost Town and numerous storybook parks such as Santa Claus Land (today known as Holiday World). Still other museum style attractions such as Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI also can make similar claims. Disneyland's use of multiple areas with general themes assigned to each area is, however, the basis for most large scale theme parks which followed internationally.

b) DisBoards, also known as "The Dis," is a larger overall community, but as it consists only of web-based forums and has no specific barriers to membership, was not considered for this.

c) That Disneyana and enthusiasm for roller coasters and carousels were derived almost simultaneously as mid 1970s nostalgia movements may seem surprising at first glance. However, the 1970s "Nostalgia Wave" was the most wide spread such movement seen up to that time. The late Dr. Fred Davis, then chair of the University of California, San Diego Department of Sociology, wrote on the subject in 1977. He described this mass consumption of nostalgia as a reaction to the massive social upheaval of the 1960s, and was sure to remind readers that  Davis stated, "Nostalgia became, in short, the means for holding onto and reaffirming identities which had been badly bruisesd by the turmoil of the times." Peers of this time frame spoke of nostalgia geared primarily at the 1930s; while squarely in the depression, these were significant times for the operation of traditional amusement parks and Walt Disney's own early major successes. This connection is clearly loose, but merits note. (Nisbet, 1972)

d) There are a myriad of groups not included in this hypothesis only for the sake of brevity. While noted on the chart, automated music fans and "railfans" (railroad enthusiasts) with high/specific interest in rideable narrow gauge trains are substantial groups which fall in the preservationist umbrella. Also within that umbrella would likely fall pinball/classic arcade game fans or mini golf enthusiasts. Numerous regional amusement and theme parks have substantial communities of fandom related directly to them. This list includes, but is not limited to, Cedar Point (Point Buzz), Kings Island (KI Central), Canobie Lake (CanobieFan), Six Flags Over Texas (http://guidetosfot.com/), and many, many more. The vast actual nature of theme park fandom is what prevents this from resembling horseshoe theory, as the brand community-only model would suggest.

e) One of the overarching issues in discussing themed amusements is the very definition of the term. Carousels and many flat/spinning rides are themed. These themes may be general or abstract, but being non-narrative is not a disqualifying trait. Space Mountain certainly has more physical pieces to make up its theme than, for instance, a multi-trailer Mack Himalaya with a airbrushed mountain backdrop, but the actual nature of the theme and the amount of "story" told is, in reality, equally complex. Roller coasters were originally very crudely themed. "Montaña Rusa" and other romance language derivatives are common translations for "Roller coaster" for a reason - they were often intended to imitate 17th/18th century Russian ice sled "mountains". The first generally recognized roller coaster, the Thompson Switchback Railway, was also a take off of a real (and thrilling) tourist railroad, the Mauch Chunk Switchback.

Even as these ride styles have evolved in our consciousness to become somewhat abstract ideas independent to their original theme, there is still very much a illusory effect placed upon nearly all of them. Rides have become larger, faster, and included more inverting elements to become more thrilling, and that thrill comes from the illusion of danger. Coaster enthusiasts can be particularly susceptible to damage to this illusion from sheer repetition. Refrains about "forceless coasters", even enormous and objectively g-force intensive rides, are common place in the coaster community. A premium is thus placed on rides capable of imparting extreme forces on the body without being so uncomfortable that they are impossible to ride enjoyably. Rides at this far end such as Hersheypark's Skyrush or Holiday World's Voyage tend to be extremely divisive.

f)The idea of "emotional currency" imparted by one's attachment to the brand community to Disney is not often explored within its own framework. Historically, the Disney Brand Community theme park fans have been highly resistant towards most academic reviews of the theme and amusement park industry's customer base to date (Adams, 1991; Trischler, 2012). This suggests orthodoxy to Disney Brand community ideals may inhibit self-examination. This does not prevent the Disney Brand Community from innovative thinking, as should be expected based on past research (Fuller, 2008).


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Le clou du spectacle des 'Vikings' au Grand Parc du Puy du Fou, By Padpo (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

D23 Logo, By The Walt Disney Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leisure park Tripsdrill near Cleebronn in southern Germany, By Immanuel Giel 08:30, 29 October 2007 (UTC) (own photography) (Own work (own photography)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Amusement Isle (Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village), By English: Abasaa 日本語: あばさー (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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