Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pixels and Ink on Vacation

Two personal notes: First, I've been quiet here since I've been workign my way through the Modern Poetry course from UPenn, Coursera. Expect a further review as we approach the penultimate week of poetry readings.

Second, as many of you know I live in New York. Fortunately, we are very lucky to be in a party of the city largely untouched by the recent storm; we still have power, still have internet, and are OK. Now, on with a quick post about our recent vacation:


Last month was the big vacation - to the happiest place on earth. That's right, we gathered up the family for a journey to the strange and magical place known as Disneyworld. What did I think?

As a writer, I see it as a messy and confused but glorious weave of all the stories from the Disney empire, from Mickey Mouse to their telling of Cinderella to more modern stories like _Finding Nemo_ or _The Princess and the Frog._ It's like being in the middle of a big crossover story without a plot but with at least a cameo by every favorite character you could imagine.

As an AV professional, it's the biggest multi-media show in the world, with 3-D movies, live shows, and a distributed audio system which is *everywhere* and used to great effect in providing a soundtrack to the experience. Do you know how movies use music for thematic effect to build a mood? Disney does that in real life over the entire park. It's subtle, but once you know to listen for it it's always there. It's a great example of how technology needn't be too dramatic or cutting edge to be very effective.



One great thing is how smoothly everything runs; shows start on time, the monorail runs regularly and efficiently, the parade starts when you expect it to. We had one attraction we missed because it was closed, and one ride break down while we were on board - the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Seen up-close from outside the confines of the car, the ride doesn't seem as impressive or slick; everything was painted plywood with simple motors supplying some motion. Here's a brief glimpse of Team Suskin being lead out through the darkness:



video



What is amazing about rides like this, _Peter Pan's Flight_ and even the much-maligned and much-beloved _It's a Small World_ is how different - and how immersive - the experience can be with relatively little in the way of technology. What technology there was is deployed carefully - audio is crisp, video is sharp, and acoustics are good enough that you don't hear anything distracting or outside the experience. When they add more effects - such as the surround-sound, smell, and other effects in the _Mickey's Philharmagic_ 3D movie - they're always well-done and fit seemlessly into the experience.

The best moments didn't involve technology at all. I'll leave you with two nifty moments: a princess-makeover for Chloe at the "Bibbity-bobbity-boutique" at Cinderella's Castle:




And a first haircut for Nathaniel at the Barber Shop in the Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA.