Presentations: Context matters

A big part of trying to explain anything to anybody is being able to set context correctly. Your audience may not have the same perspective on life as you do, so you have to take the time to help them understand why your argument is worth listening to in the first place. Otherwise, when you go to make your point you run the risk of losing that audience completely.

I got a reminder of that from an unlikely source. My wife and I are both reading David Koenig’s new book entitled Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World. In it, there’s an examination of differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions, and a quote from long time Imagineer Tony Baxter makes a great point about setting context when discussing the respective beginnings of Pirates of the Caribbean at both resorts:

“The Pirate ride in Florida has never garnered the same mystique as the one in California. And I’m convinced that there’s a level of removal that goes on as you descend deeper and deeper into this dreamlike state where finally at the last, lowest level it all comes to life. The characters are all there, alive and so forth. In Florida you just put your packages away, you cast off, and – boom – you’re in the city. The, while you’re still in there, struggling with the pirates and the prison, you hear the girl on the intercom saying ‘Ladies and gentlemen, pleas stand and exit to your right.’ It’s rather jarring to be asked to leave when there are people dying in the cell next to you. So I don’t think it’s ever connected. And the romance of the Blue Bayou is gone and all those things that really help to set this one up. I think the lesson learned in Florida was you can’t race people into something, whether it’s a queue line or it’s a conditioning experience.”

I love that “you can’t race people into something”. To me, that says, you have to set their context so you can immerse them into what you want to sell them on.

For those not familiar, here’s video of the beginnings of both rides:

Florida (watch the first minute):


California (the first 3 minutes equates the first minute of the Florida version)


Ironically, the reason for the long setup for the California version is the same reason there’s a stretching room in the Haunted Mansion. Unlike that ride, the part of the experiences necessitated by the railroad tracks wasn’t duplicated in Florida. As Baxter points out, the Pirates ride in Florida is poorer for it.


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