Amazing theme park queue areas
August 3, 2020 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Beautiful and intricate queue areas from theme parks around the world.
posted by Foci for Analysis (20 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Hello, I love all of this. My cousin used to work for a company that did interior sculpture work like this, I think mostly for casinos (less elaborate, but more regular work I'm sure), but also for at least one local theme park, and I've always been in awe of all that goes into it.

I know that when I'm in line for a ride at a park that I try to appreciate everything that goes into the experience, but I know I only notice a fraction of what's going on. I can remember the first time I went on Space Mountain at Disneyland, probably in 1982, and the line experience blew me away. I was totally roped in by the time I sat down in the car.
posted by rhizome at 10:01 AM on August 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's interesting how many of these I recognize, despite not stepping foot in a theme park in the better part of sixteen years.
posted by SansPoint at 10:10 AM on August 3, 2020

...wistful sigh...

They've come a long way from the cattle mazes in the sun. I got to know WDW pretty well over the last year, pre-COVID. They way the newer queues prepare you for the rides is amazing. Flight of Passage is a walk to another world, with multiple new environments and feels (which at 2 hours ++, it needs to be). The line for Smuggler's Run surpasses the actual ride (a low bar, honestly) and in another park would probably be queue-worthy unto itself.

The real game-changer is Rise of the Resistance, where the queue and the attraction become one. It's incredible. Take the concept of the stretching room from Haunted Mansion, where guests aren't on the ride but the experience has started, and apply tenfold, add some (mild) participatory elements and some (again mild) acting by cast members. It's a great experience.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:19 AM on August 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

When Universal Studios first opened it's "Islands of Adventure" theme park in Orlando it was sponsored by Dodge or something. So my dad, through his job at a Chrysler dealer, was able to get us this crazy good deal to stay at a Disney hotel and included admission to all the parks (both Disney and Universal).

We were there during the 2nd week of November and there were so few people there it almost felt half abandoned. I would come to find out that most parks around there try to perform major maintenance during the first two weeks of November as that is when they have the lowest attendance.

My previous experience with theme parks is that the lines are long and boring but it's the reality of theme parks so it must be endured.

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a lot of work had been done to make waiting in line entertaining with interesting things to look at and be delighted by while waiting for their turn on the ride. But there were so few people at the parks that we spent more time walking through the queue areas than we did actually waiting in line and didn't have or take the time to appreciate all the scenery as we blew through in our excitement to get on the next ride. It was really a wonderful problem to have.
posted by VTX at 10:21 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Reading the tombstones outside the Haunted Mansion was probably in my top three favourite things about going to Disneyland when I was a little kid. Tombstones, the cars you could drive yourself and eating a lot of Dole Whip.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:25 AM on August 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's too bad that a lot of the parks expect you to use a Fastpass-type ticket these days and then shortcut the queues entirely to get to the ride.

Maybe that's why Rise of the Resistance has made it part of the show.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:32 AM on August 3, 2020

I *think* I was part of the first run of people who got to queue for the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland when it first opened. We all got special little decoder cards so we could read the glyphs all over the walls and floors of the route to the onboarding area. I must have been 7. It was phenomenal. Everyone was delighted to be able to do something while in line and be able to impact the environment around them before even getting into a Jeep. The Haunted Mansion line has the same appeal IMO. But I feel like both line experiences were designed with real crowds in mind, whereas Peter Pan's Flight, for example, came at the start of the park when Disney didn't know how many people might be waiting in line at a given time.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 10:49 AM on August 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are these captioned and I just can't figure out how to see that on Twitter? Or is it just the photos? Fun to look at either way, but I'd like to know what some of them are!
posted by jacquilynne at 10:49 AM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

My previous experience with theme parks is that the lines are long and boring but it's the reality of theme parks so it must be endured.

Since I'm close enough to hear the Disneyland fireworks at 9:30PM from inside my house every day of the week, at least in ye olde pre-COVID days, I know I'm in special position, but that's definitely not how to live your life.

We wake up earlish, eat breakfast, get into the parking line ~40 mins or so before doors open (so 7:20AM), get into the part a few mins after it opens, ride a bunch of rides, and then go home when the next round Fast Passes have times later than a reasonable lunch. We're only there 5ish hours, but we ride most the stuff we want in both Disneyland and California Adventure. If I wanted to really hit every single ride, we could probably do it in consecutive weekends without waiting more than 30 mins in line for anything.

But, like I said, this is only really doable since we can go for in 4-5 hours increments all year, rather than a family that's doing their one big SoCal trip for that decade or whatever.
posted by sideshow at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2020

They've come a long way from the cattle mazes in the sun. I got to know WDW pretty well over the last year, pre-COVID. They way the newer queues prepare you for the rides is amazing.

It's good to see the pendulum has swung back the other way.
Last time I was at Disney (some years ago), it seemed like the newer attractions were definitely less detailed than the old.
Like the old lines were basically 3d spaces, whereas the new had effort put into one dimension, but the other dimensions (ceilings, say) were just flat painted.
There was one thing to see then you were done, as opposed to a variety of little details.
posted by madajb at 11:07 AM on August 3, 2020

We wake up earlish, eat breakfast, get into the parking line ~40 mins or so before doors open (so 7:20AM), get into the part a few mins after it opens, ride a bunch of rides, and then go home when the next round Fast Passes have times later than a reasonable lunch.

We live in the opposite coast, so if we visit Disney (about once a decade), we go for a while, a week last time, and that is how we operate.
Get in early, do some stuff, unrushed, then head back to the resort or out to another activity.
Basically take a big break, then head back in the evening to hit some more attractions.

I never know how people enjoy the mid-afternoon death march from one thing to another, but I guess if you've only got a weekend, you gotta commit.
posted by madajb at 11:13 AM on August 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Seconding jacquilynne's plea for captioning. They look amazing, but I don't know what I'm looking at in most cases.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on August 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

...the Disneyland fireworks at 9:30PM...

Much more recently my wife won a trip to Disney that ended mid-week so I joined her for a little Thursday-Sunday trip. First day there and we're not ready to head out anywhere until 8-ish. There isn't a lot we feel like we need to see at the Magic Kingdom proper so we decide to go there that night. We get there as people are getting ready for the big fireworks show which we have no desire to see. Why literally every other person in the park needs to see this, I just don't know.

Sensing an opportunity we waste no time. An employee nearby is diligently working to sweep up some trash and, knowing Disney's reputation for excellent customer service from every employee, we ask if he can point us to the haunted mansion.

Expecting a friendly and enthusiastic gesturing in the general direction, our new friend has higher standards. "Yes! Of course, follow me!"

Awesome, we have a "Fern" (a reference to "The Amazing Race").

Long story short, we hit up the haunted mansion and every other part of the park we actually cared to experience, include TWO rides around, "It's a small world", all while the fireworks were dazzling everyone else and even after the show was over while the crowd was mostly milling around and filtering their way out of the section of the park.
posted by VTX at 11:31 AM on August 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

LOVED this. And I love the trend of parks trying more and more to reinvent and reimagine the queue. It's hard to top the ones in the Harry Potter land, creator problems aside, because they are some of the most imaginative and immersive ones I've ever been in. Like, to ride the Hogwarts Express you get to see the people ahead of you pass through the wall "magically" to get on the platform through a very old-fashioned mirror trick. And I don't much care for the Hogwarts ride itself (spiders, blech), but I walked through the queue multiple times to soak it all in.

On the Disney end, a bunch of theirs definitely suffer from being envisioned in an older time (and for a milder California climate), but there are some really cool indoor/underground ones across the various parks that do a great job of feeling like part of the attraction, like the Pirates queue in Florida (or Shanghai), Star Tours' intergalactic airport concept, Expedition Everest, Indiana Jones, Flight of Passage (I don't know the first thing about Avatar, but it's a neat waiting area, which is good because the waits are (were?) apocalyptic if you weren't there right before closing), Journey to the Center of the Earth in Tokyo, and Mystic Manor in Hong Kong. And some of the older rides have gotten refreshed queues - the Florida version of Peter Pan doesn't really merit waiting a long time for, but if you ever get the chance to walk through the standby queue without a lengthy wait, the walk through the Darlings' nursery is charming and the interactive fairy dust effect is cute. I don't like standing in one spot forever, but some of those queue spaces really reward moving slowly through and taking in all the details. I know Disney has also experimented with games/interactive elements to keep little kids entertained (the Dumbo indoor air-conditioned circus playground with buzzer pagers is brilliant), but I don't know how much of that will survive after the pandemic given how much touching is involved.

Basically, getting people to willingly stand in line for long periods of time and not hate you after is an art and I enjoy watching it be done well. Theme parks aren't everyone's cup of tea but I so enjoy soaking in the skill it takes to elevate a space from switchbacks constructed out of iron bars.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 1:32 PM on August 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

I went to Disneyland in Anaheim in probably 1979. Our parents just dropped us off at the gate and said they'd be back at 5. I was 11, my brother 8. It was a Wednesday. The park was ... deserted. We never waited more than a minute for any ride. My bro was the rollercoaster maniac, he forced me to go on Space Mountain and I almost shit myself. By the 5th time or so I was cool with it though. Still liked the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine better.
posted by chavenet at 1:38 PM on August 3, 2020

Nthing I wish that these were captioned.

Seconding that the best time to be at Magic Kingdom is just before the fireworks start - Big Thunder Mountain 3 times in a row, you say? Why yes I will.
posted by Mchelly at 2:08 PM on August 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

So you know how he says this is what happens when you spend a good amount of quarantine watching theme park YouTube. ?

Yeah, hi, that's me. Except it's not just quarantine, it's been for like a year, and I apparently can't get enough of 4K low-light perfect filming of attractions, or histories of attractions, or the collection of Disney themed channels, even ones that annoy me but I can't. stop. watching.

I used to go to Disneyland every year. Okay, most of it was back when it was $20 with a California ID, but we didn't have a lot of money, and that was an amazing thing to do, even for Long Beach kids who grew up around some of the best theme parks around.

I'm obsessed with the Haunted Mansion. I only get to go to Disneyland when I'm visiting my family, and previous times, it's been the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay (which is nice, but dammit, it's not even Halloween, come on), or back in January, when it was closed. I miss walking past the manicured garden. I miss the gates. I miss the slow music, the beautiful wallpaper, the ghost host beckoning me in.

Last September, we went to Disneyland Paris. I rode Phantom Manor repeatedly. There's a tiny gazebo with a music box delicately playing. The queue was so empty you could overlook it in your rush to get to the door. But I'd stop, and listen, and love it so much.

I love theme parks. I love queue theming. I love every little intricate detail that someone put in - someone looked at this space, this place for people to just stand and wait and said "you know what? let's give them something to look at." I love you, theming person. You are the best thing.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:24 PM on August 3, 2020 [14 favorites]

At Disneyland Paris, I went into the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction not knowing what it was going to be (but realizing from outside it was NOT going to be anything like the submarine on a track I rode at Disneyworld.)

It's great for someone who likes elaborate queue set-dressing because it is basically the queue area minus a ride at the end. You can take your time walking around and looking at all the details without being pushed forward.
posted by thecjm at 7:17 AM on August 4, 2020

Hi, I'm a Disney brat and may have mentioned before that my mother is a recently retired Imagineer for Disneyland Paris. There are parts of DLP that will likely keep her work in place until the day it closes. The Frontierland apothecary cart has so many references to my family hidden in plain sight on it I always make a point of visiting it.

DLP had multilingual challenges so lots of the themes and references couldn't just be ported directly over from the US parks. Whilst the wealth of reference material available to her was stunning, with access to the Disney archive vaults, anything added to the park had to work across a minimum of two languages so she was partnered with a native French-speaking Imagineer and together they would adjust the themeing.

I think I can recite the bilingual Star Tours in my sleep...
posted by Molesome at 1:49 AM on August 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

Hex at Alton Towers is a good example of this for me. You start off with the queue taking you through some decorative sculpture, then an audio/video presentation of the lore behind the ride, and then the ride itself.
posted by MattWPBS at 5:05 AM on August 6, 2020

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