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6 mins

Here’s How Disney is Controlling Your Mind

What does it take to be the Happiest Place on Earth?
by Conor O'Rourke | May 14 2015
You can use a lot of words to describe it—fantastic, magical, paradisiacal—but one thing it isn’t is accidental.


Though the atmosphere might feel fanciful, at The Magic Kingdom, every sight, sound, and smell has been painstakingly calibrated and adjusted to create an atmosphere. Be Our Guest, by Theodore Kinni, goes in-depth to explain just what kinds of sugar and spice go into everything nice at Disney.


Have you ever wondered why you can smell popcorn first thing in the morning at Disneyland? Much like a real estate agent spraying fresh baked cookie smell all over a house he’s about to show, the popcorn smell is used to create a cozy and festive atmosphere.

Smell is an important element in a customer’s experience; indeed much research has shown that smell is the sense most closely linked with memory in our minds, something Disneyland’s designers were well aware of.


At Walt Disney World, public road signs and directional signs are colored purple and red. But why this odd combination? In an experiment, participants were shown flags of different colors; the flags that were most frequently remembered were those colored purple and red.

This awareness of the power of visuals even informs the architecture of the park. When building the park, Disneyland’s designers enthusiastically employed the use of forced perspective when designing Cinderella’s Castle as well as the famous Main Street, USA.


A customer’s experience doesn’t stop with smelling and seeing, however. A guest should also never be presented or surrounded by sounds that are unwelcome or annoying. Ambient sound should fit in seamlessly with the world that your company has created.

Music is especially important, because of the role it plays in building emotional atmosphere. At Hong Kong Disneyland, the company uses sound to help inspire employees as they start their day.

The “CostuMagic” system allows an employee to check out a costume, and in doing so, plays the well-known “magical jingle” from Tinkerbell when the process is successful and complete. This playful sound signals the transition for an employee that they’re now in character and ready to greet guests!


The dozens of kiosks and restaurants in Disneyland echo the park’s many themes. You won’t find starched tablecloths and fancy meals in Frontierland, for example.

To maintain the image you want to present to customers, you must consciously mold and adapt everything your company does to be in line with that image. Thus Disney’s decision to tailor its restaurant menus to the different areas of its resorts. You can chow down on roasted turkey legs in Frontierland, or take a leisurely stroll while nibbling salt water taffy at Disney’s BoardWalk. The tastes offered match the setting as well as the preferences of customers.


We gather loads of information from how an object feels. Whether we touch an object with our hands, our feet, or even our faces, our perception of our environment is intensified. In this way, it makes sense to ensure that guests are surrounded by enjoyable and interesting things to touch.

One of the clever ways Disneyland achieves this is through the use of water. The company plays on people’s general love of water, especially children, who love the surprise and excitement of being splashed with water. To this end, Disney theme parks hid fountains in unexpected places to surprise children when they’re suddenly squirted with a stream of water!

Appealing to every sense

By carefully tailoring their park’s experience to address more than just sight and sound, Disneyland’s designers built a comprehensive and more emotional experience. In Be Our Guest, Theodore Kinni reveals the secret ingredients that go into Disneyland’s magic potion. Thought about some ways to tailor your product experience to your customers yet?

Be Our Guest by Theodore Kinni reveals the breathtaking depth and thoroughness of Walt Disney’s vision for his flagship theme park. You can also read the summary of the book’s key insights on Blinkist in just 13 minutes—free!

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