The Music and Sounds of Disney’s Theme Parks

| February 24, 2013 | 6 Replies

We’ve discussed it before but it’s worth noting again.  Disney is always playing with our senses, especially in its theme parks.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been affected by sight, sound, taste, smell, and even touch when walking through various lands of Disney’s theme parks.  But, the one sense that triggers our emotions the most is sound.  Disney Imagineers take great care and pride in making sure our emotions hit a high note when we hear the sounds and music in the theme parks.  Continue reading as we examine how the music and sounds in the parks translate into an emotional state of euphoria.

The One, Two Punch of Music and Sound

So, you’ve made it to the front of the Magic Kingdom.  The sound of the crowd exudes excitement with chatter and theme park banter.  All of a sudden you hear music and then a bellowing voice welcoming you to the Magic Kingdom.  Next you hear a train bell and whistle as it pulls into the station over the entrance to Main St. USA.  Music and singing fills the air as you are welcomed into the Magic Kingdom.  You pump your fist in the air as you enter the tunnels that bring you into Town Square and Main St. USA.

A few minutes later you hear the “klang, klang, klang of a trolley.”  You stop to watch as your adrenaline hits a fevered pitch.  The Main St. Dancers are welcoming you to the park with music and song.  You’ve just been hit with another adrenaline rush.

Further down Main St. USA you happen to bump into the Mayor of Main St.  His jovial, loud voice welcomes you to his part of the Magic Kingdom.  “WELCOME, WELCOME and ENJOY THE MAGIC KINGDOM,” he says.

Further down Main St USA another emotional rush is waiting for you.  It’s the Dapper Dans!  Dressed in their multicolored striped outfits they sing to you in grand barbershop quartet style.  After 10 minutes or so of serenading you’ve finally made it to the end of Main St. USA.  But, WOW!  You’re on an emotional high.  The whole day is ahead of you and you can’t believe you’re in the most magical place on earth.  Your mood has been set in a positive way for your entire day.

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Background Music

Let me go on record as saying I love the background music at Walt Disney World more than most attractions.  This is the music you hear playing above the crowd noise in each land of the various Disney parks that match the theme of land you are touring.  For instance, it’s the futuristic music you hear as you walk through Future World in EPCOT, or the space age music you hear in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.  What makes it so special is that it’s music you wouldn’t normally hear anywhere outside the theme parks.  It’s unique and special music that helps transport you away from your everyday life and into a place of fantasy and make believe.

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Background music is rather tricky.  If you don’t listen for it plan on it setting your mood in a subtle sort of way.  You can hear it, but you don’t really pay attention to it.  It’s there to enhance your experience.  That’s when background music can be most effective.

For me personally, I enjoy the music so much I do tend to stop to listen to it and take it in as part of my theme park experience.  Fully listening to the background music will have a different affect on your experience versus just hearing it in the background.  When you fully engage in the background music it tends to amplify your other senses like sight and smell and increase your emotional sensitivity.

Parades and Fireworks

Ah yes!  This is what I’ve been waiting for all day.  We all expect a parade or fireworks show each day at a Disney theme park.  But, why do we look forward to them so much?  Think about this.  What if we turned off the music to the Main St. Electrical Parade or the Wishes fireworks spectacular?  All of a sudden those shows don’t seem as spectacular, do they?  Actually they go from spectacular to almost irrelevant.

Ok adults and parents alike….Let’s be perfectly honest.  How many times have you been watching a parade or fireworks show and then all of a sudden you are overrun by the feeling of goose bumps all over your body.  C’mon, admit it!  We’re all kids at heart after all.  We never really forgot what it was like when we were 9 or 10 years old.  We just grew up, that’s all.  What was it that gave you those goose bumps?  Was it the chill in the air that is Orlando and Central Florida?  Not a chance!  It was probably the music.  It’s proof and validation that it’s the music and sound that really gets us into the true Disney spirit or what I like to call the Disney zone.  It’s a place where Disney fans and guests enter when they feel the rush of emotion from the sense of sound and music.  You are so fully immersed in your theme park environment you completely forget about the outside world.  Just remember, the next time you feel the rush or feel like you’ve been transported to another world it’s the music and sounds of the theme park that are most responsible for putting you in the Disney zone.

Conclusion 

Stimulating your emotions at Walt Disney World can sometimes be taken for granted.  Imagineers spend a great deal of time making sure attractions, shows, and parades have the appropriate music and sounds to really grab your emotions.  This is also true at the resorts.  Walking into your resort lobby you’ve probably noticed background music that sets the mood for the theme of your home resort.  The African-style music inside the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge does it for me every time.

Whether you’re a casual theme park guest or a huge theme park fan, the next time you’re in a Disney park stop and really listen to the sounds and music around you.  Chances are it will change your facial expression based on the mood the music or sound was intended to set.  I for one can’t wait for my next Disney adrenaline rush.  Not from a thrill ride or a bite from the famous carrot cake cookie, but from the sounds of Light Sabers at the Jedi Training Academy or music from Mickey’s Philharmagic.

Be sure to leave your iPod ear buds at home because you won’t want to miss the sounds and music that surround you during your next theme park visit.  Be prepared for a rush of emotion so powerful it will have you smiling, laughing, crying, or quite possibly skipping through the theme parks……Maybe without you even knowing it.

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Category: Disney World, Disneyland

  • mauimanakai

    You are absolutely correct. I listen for the different background music throughout the park and it takes me into the world of Disney completely. Love it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pixiedusted Claire Stein

    you put into words exactly how it makes me feel, listening to park music radio stations has become my staple at home to get me through trying days & it’s all to with how that park music makes me feel or puts me in the Disney moment. great job!

  • Scott

    Couldn’t agree more! The EPCOT Innoventions background loop is fantastic, and is my favorite music heard on property, maybe even anywhere! I’ve always said the music is as important as anything else at WDW. Nice post.

  • Tia

    Seeing as how I was listening to Epcot entrance music and now the area loop for the Polynesian I think I’ll have to agree with you! ;-) I can often be found singing along to various background musics (luckily this is met with less dismay from my 10yo DD at Disney than when we’re at the mall). It really enhances my connection with the parks, attractions and excitement all around.

  • Tia

    The people and other ambient sounds are definitely keys as well! We were watching a video of Illuminations the other day and I much prefer the one that has the actual crowd sounds and firework booms than the version that was edited to have just the music playback in it. The oohs and aahs are so important.

  • Adrion Porter

    Hi Aaron. Just stumbled on this awesome blog post! I am very excited that you really hit home the power of sound with emotional engagement. As an audio branding consultant, I am always thrilled when people totally get it. Disney is a brand that has continuously amplified the value of using music and sound across all of their communication. The theme parks are definitely no exception. I hope that more brands will continue to leverage sound more in their marketing/branding efforts. The most important way to engage with consumers is through “emotion”, and nothing evokes emotion quite like “sound”. Good stuff and keep writing!