Visiting Your Favorite Film

by Brendan James

Troy Patterson studies what keeps us coming back to amusement parks, after “a record-setting year for the business”:

Projection is what the amusement park is all about—the projection of eager ideas of innocent fun, of nostalgia for things that haven’t even happened yet, of vomit on the X2 at Magic Mountain. The latest and last word in amusement-park projection concerns our disappearance into virtual reality by way of film—meaning, for one thing, the continued trend toward attractions such as Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Studios.

Enthusiasts are already anticipating what 2014 will bring, naturally enough, ardent anticipation being among the defining qualities of the amusement-park experience: In Florida, Hogwarts wannabes will thrill to the expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In Italy, Cinecitta World will open on the grounds of the venerable movie studio, a development that has some cineastes up in arms but is okay with me so long as they include an Anita Ekberg water slide.

There is a difference in kind between the straightforward pop-entertainment experiences pioneered by Disneyland and those exemplified by Transformers: The Ride (the purpose of which is “blurring the line between fiction and reality”). If we may take a brief ride of the Jean Baudrillard Reverse Bungee, we may theorize that while the old Disneyland model of escapism involves a flight from adult reality into its infantile simulacrum, the new line-blurring Transformers-style escapism represents the next generation of the ethos of Walt Disney Worldand EPCOT Center, with their designs on reshaping reality.