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If you have ever been to a Disney theme park you have had a first hand experience with Forced Perspective. This is a tool that Disney and others use that creates an optical illusion that makes an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than the reality. Forced Perspective manipulates visual perception through the use of scaled objects and the correlation between them and the vantage point of the spectator or camera.
Disney uses Forced Perspective at all of their theme parks. Some of the most notable examples include, Cinderella’s Castle, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Pandora World of Avatar and Main Street USA.
In the castle examples, Disney uses smaller bricks towards the top of the castle. The windows get smaller as well towards the top of the castle to make the castle look farther away and taller than it really is.
On Main Street and in other areas, Disney imagineers design buildings on a 1- 5/8 – 1/2 scale. The first floor of the building are built to scale, the second floor of the facade is only 5/8 the size of the ground floor and the third floor (if there is a third floor) is built at a 1/2 scale of the ground floor. When looking up the buildings look to be at a normal if not larger than normal scale but in reality, the facade’s get smaller with each floor.
Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland is only 77 feet tall. But, when you walk down Main Street it looks much taller and grander when in fact as the building increases in floors, the floors decrease in size and the windows and bricks get smaller as well.
Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is 183 feet tall when measured starting at water level. Florida requires that all buildings over 200 feet tall must be equipped with red lights to warn nearby planes and other aviation. Walt Disney believed that this would detract from the magic and the feel of the park and castle so imagineers utilized forced perspective to make the castle appear far taller and more majestic than its actual 189 feet.
Other ways Disney uses this technique are places like Beast’s Castle in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. The castle is actually quite small but it sits on top of a very large plot of land that is the Be Our Guest restaurant.
The restaurant itself houses three separate dining rooms and seats up to 550 guests. Imagineers don’t want guests thinking they are walking into a large square concrete building, they want guests to feel as though they are transported to Beast’s Castle in the Beauty and the Beast film.
Disney wants guests to feel as though they are walking up the walkway to the castle itself perched high atop the castle grounds. So Disney set the much smaller castle facade atop the large, plain building that houses the actual restaurant but hid that with forced perspective, paint and details so that all guests see is the magic.
Forced Perspective has been used in a number of other areas throughout history including art, architecture and film.
One famous example includes everyone’s favorite giant Hagrid from the Harry Potter franchise. Robbie Coltrane, who played the lovable grounds keeper was not short but he was by no means a giant. At 6’1″, they had to figure out how to make Coltrane a believable giant and for that they used forced perspective.
Manipulation for affect or forced perspective can be found in many aspects of life and can be found all over Disney.
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