13 March 2014 // Thoughts

Defining Your Story, Conclusion: You Are The Storyteller

Through his IAAPA Leadership Conference presentation, “Defining Your Story”, our CEO Keith James has explained

  1.  Why stories are used to create compelling experiences.
  2. How different storytelling styles can be applied to your attraction.
  3. How to create stories from facts, or create “facts” through story.

In this concluding segment, Keith offers advice on to employ more abstract storylines, examples of how several storytelling types can be interwoven, and guidance on how to create a unique story for your facility.

Sometimes the most interesting attractions are those that are based upon the most abstract storylines.

Cirque du Soleil is a perfect example, in that the show is amazing, but you’d be hard pressed to explain what it was about. This is because it’s usually based upon an abstract statement. For example, from the show program: “Mystère is a voyage to the very heart of life–where past, present, and future merge, and all our emotions converge.”

The equally evocative Blue Man Group shows are based upon a storyline of “life, technology and the failure to communicate” (at least, I think).

The beautiful Ashes and Snow exhibit is based upon the man’s relationship with nature, and a fictional account of a man who, over the course of a yearlong journey, composes 365 letters to his wife.

But as is many cases, the storyline is only the foundation upon which an engaging experience is based and organized. The guest may never understand it, or notice it, but it’s nonetheless a critical part of the experience itself.

Other experiences are based upon a broader view of fact, by looking at entire genres and subjects,
Whether it’s a general topic such as animation,

Which is the theme for Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Or rock and roll

Or football, again entire experiences can be built about exploring the stories of a genre.

More and more, entire theme parks, museums and attractions are being developed to tell the story of a brand, whether it’s Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi

Which features the world’s fastest rollercoaster

Or Volkswagen in Germany.

Or Coke in Atlanta

Heineken in Amsterdam

Jim Beam in Kentucky

Crayola in Pennsylvania

Or LEGO in Denmark and around the world

Guests around the world are willing to pay a lot of money to become immersed within the story of a brand.

As stated at the beginning of my talk today, while this was a quick look at a variety of story types, most story-based attractions are actually based upon a mix of many of these examples, and I’ll provide one more example to illustrate this.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is based upon a number of story approaches. First, it’s partly a zoo, meaning that it tells fact-based stories.

It also re-creates famous regions and places around the world, so it tells a Place-based story.

Within those regions, a variety of cultures are described.

These areas also feature rides,

Which are typically based upon pure Fantasy.

So, in one park, you have at least four story-types being used.

So, as you look to develop or enhance your attraction’s story, how do you find the right one? Well, the answer to that question is really the end result of a lot of thought and development. So that’s not something that I can answer for you in a simple slide.

However, I can list the questions that you should ask yourself as you begin this journey.

  • Will the story have appeal to the greater public and, specifically, your target audience?
  • Does the story provide numerous theming and experiential opportunities, such as rides, shows and attractions?
  • Is it unique to your location, or can it be easily replicated?
  • Is it based upon an authentic story that can be tied to your facility?
  • Is it marketable?
  • And finally, is it a story or theme than you can use for the long-term?

When you answer these questions, then you will answer the most important question of all – what’s your story?

And speaking of story-based experiences, next week on the blog, we’re offering you a sneak peek at one of the year’s biggest industry events!