Our day in Disneyland was nearly over. We stood and watched Fantasmic, a nighttime pyrotechnics show performed on the rivers of America, followed by the nightly fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle. It was the perfect way to end a really fantastic day, and in fact, after seeing the two shows and feeling the final bang of the last firework, it’s hard to remember anything that didn’t go right. The ending was perfect. The day was perfect.
Being home I’ve trained my brain back to local entertainment. The Atlanta attractions get alot of things right, but they can miss the mark when it comes to “Act 3.” Generally when people leave for the day they simply leave. Atlanta’s venues, like most non-Disney/non-Universal attractions across the country, don’t end the day with a bang.
A strange quirk of the themed entertainment business is that the way people end their day completely changes their perception of everything they experienced during their day. People who go home after seeing a big show, a performance or spectacle, tend to rate every element from their day as being better than those who simply went home. Guests rate the attractions better, the lines better, the food better, they even rate the cleanliness of the bathrooms better. Everything raises up to a new level when there is a definitive ending rather than just a, “Welp, time to go.” A grand finale means people will smile as they go out he gate. Smiling faces come back…and they bring friends.
Knowing this, it’s hard to understand why local attractions don’t give more attention to what people take with them when they leave. They try Act 1 (welcome to our place!) have a whole bunch of Act 2 (check out our stuff!), but then forget to finish off Act 3 (yeah, we’re closed). If you were to ask museums and parks what kind of lasting impression their attraction leaves on the guests, they will say, “Well, we hope that…” or, “The goal is…” Nope. That response means you are speaking with someone who doesn’t believe their venue delivers. They may not be sure why the experience sorta fizzles out, but they know it does. Disney knows what their guests bring home with them.
Ending with a bang can be costly (the money that goes into Dsney’s fireworks, water displays and elaborate stageshows could bring most of Africa out of poverty) but quite honestly, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to contract the biggest (and most expensive) names in the business to create something special. All that is required is the creative use of the assets that you have on hand, the most important asset being the talent and passion of your staff. People, particularly people from other disciplines, can come up with some amazing solutions to problems when given the chance. A creative person can bring excitement to an academic problem and an academic can bring a realistic solution to a creative problem. This kind of coming together can cause a real bang and bring a solid attraction up to the level of greatness.
Yes, in the film Amadeus Mozart used the idea of “ending with a bang” as a way to insult Salieri (The exchange went something like—Salieri (refering to Mozart’s latest composition): You didn’t even give them a good bang to let them know when it was finished! Mozart (sarcastically): Yes, well maybe I can take lessons from you on how to do that.), but we are talking about entertainment here, not art. Lights timed to music, displays used in unusual ways, a captivating performer retelling the story of the attraction through new and surprising methods can all bring the day to a spectacular close and make people say, “Did you hear what they are doing over at xxx? I have GOT to get over there!”