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Complicated fun: Are theme parks going geeky?

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"Storytelling has to be relevant to the culture," he said.

Imagineers at Disney create a backstory when they first develop a themed area, complete with a hierarchical narrative. No detail is too small to explore or discuss: lighting, architecture, sound, landscaping, costumes — all in hopes of creating an emotional connection with the guest. Often, that backstory stays backstage, and guests never see or hear about the creative process.

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When Disney theme parks first opened in California in 1955, Western themed-stories were popular, and so was the resulting Frontierland attraction.

These days, Skees said, people are well-traveled and knowledgeable about worldwide trends — American kids are into Japanese anime, for instance — and the parks reflect this.

"We’re dealing with a more sophisticated audience who are more globally aware of storytelling and genres," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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