With the approaching debut of Toy Story Land and the Star Wars expansion at Hollywood Studios (in likely a year or more), large changes have caused many classic experiences to slowly fade away. However, one experience, the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” playground had an interesting beginning that tends to get passed over in Disney history. While the playground has officially been removed from the park, at one point it was a quite popular attraction for guests of all ages.
In the early years of it’s development a great amount of research was taken into account in order to develop both a realistic and safe experience for guests of all ages. Throughout the design process, Imagineering made special efforts to create an atmosphere that was not only realistic in the same way as a movie set, but also safe enough to play on. In order to accomplish an authentic experience, Disney used impact dampening materials such as light rubbers and padding to envelope the entire area in a kid friendly, edge free design. They even went as far as to utilize a softer plastic material for slides to continue the safety aspect even beyond your typical playground set-up.
In regards to the theming, the area featured many larger that life blades of grass to represent an intricate level of theming. However, Imagineering faced a problem. In order to create believable, enormous blades of grass, a mass amount of concrete had to be utilized. However, in order to make these “blades of grass” safe for use in a guest area, special research had to be made in order to guarantee their stability. In order to do so, Disney made use of wind tunnel testing. Throughout the process, they payed particular attention to developing a “blade” which could withstand the high wind potential of central Florida. To do so, Disney used a wide tunnel at a California college to carefully design and test the strength of the structures.
You see, Disney had to change their line of thinking when they set the scene for this concept. Opposed to a typical movie set, this area had to be developed in a way that could remain authentic to the typical on stage representation that would be used in a real life film while developing a long term application. It was a unique void to fill and one that Disney payed particular attention to. While the set appeared quite simple, the technology and planning behind it was really hidden from the typical onlooker.
As usual, things aren’t always as they seem in the Disney parks. For many, this was an experience that allowed kids to burn off some extra energy while parents got a well needed brief rest from the hectic pace of a Disney vacation. Fortunately, considering what will be coming to the parks in the not so distant future, many will certainly agree that the trade off will eventually be worth it in the end. We’re looking forward to the changes coming to Hollywood Studios, but it’s great to take a closer look at many of the details Imagineering has taken into consideration over the years.
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A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!