Queue design, or how to reduce vomit comets.

June 12, 2022

It’s conceivable that a family traveling from home to Walt Disney World will have several things on their minds during their vacation visit.  For example, they are in a strange new place, the weather is hot and likely humid, they may be dehydrated, and they are excited.  These are but a few of the considerations for ride, show and attraction designers when they sit down at the table facing a blank sheet and begin design work.

This concept image does not inform the guest experience.

Now nobody gets everything correct but there are a few rules to follow to deliver a successful design, because it’s miserable for everyone when the design fails.  The guest isn’t happy because the ride has made them sick, the operator isn’t happy because the sick guest complains, and the cast member isn’t happy because they are spending time cleaning up sick during their shift.  There is an inherent conflict because the park operator which in this example in Cosmic Rewind at Epcot wants to market a ride compelling enough to push guests to travel to Disney World, but the ride operator wants to inform guests as to the nature of the ride which if the guests were informed might not travel to Disney World.  Trying to serve the two masters results in a bad experience for both.

This is the guest experience that isn’t revealed in the queue.

It is proven that people will self-select to opt out of an experience when informed about the experience.  In designing Rock n Roller Coaster that opened at the Disney MGM Studios the queue forces waiting guests to view at least two launches of the coaster train.  The correct assumption was that guests who would ride after viewing the launches would be able to accept the three inversions.  In the example of Space Mountain when it opened at Disneyland Paris guests would queue through a path in the mountain where would see coaster trains speeding in the dark and catch a glimpse of a trains going through an inversion.

Guests waiting to board see two launches. Image BlogMickey.com

In the case of Crush’s Coaster, the project could not afford such a view of the dark coaster area, so my design incorporated an outside track portion to allow guests to at least see that the attraction was a ride and that the ride was a coaster.  Inside the building the queue traveled up and over the track to allow guests to see the vehicle they would soon enter.  But that wasn’t enough to serve to inform guests and so shortly after opening a new graphic was added of a dimensional vehicle with guests spinning.  And that’s still not enough because guests don’t read the warnings required by the legal group.

Image of Aladdin at Disney Studios Paris.

And sometimes the queue is hidden on a ride where there isn’t an issue of guest barfing but for design aesthetics.  When faced with designing the Aladdin ride for the Disney Studios Paris it was going to be placed at the end of an open courtyard in an empty and barren park.  I selected to not place a queue of waiting guests in front of the ride but instead place them behind a circular mural.  The mural served to block views of Frontierland which was a good thing, however it meant that guests would only discover their true wait time after they were behind the mural.  Guests also don’t read or believe the time wait sign graphics.

Image of view from queue of Crush’s Coaster station.

As I wrote earlier there is no perfect solution however if designers think like the guest there are likely going to be fewer guests reaching for the barf bag at the end of the ride.

One thought on “Queue design, or how to reduce vomit comets.”

  1. Not an obvious design intent, and I can appreciate your attention to it. There seems to be a lot of opportunities to preview the spinning GOTG coaster motion in that lengthy, intricate and expensive queue. One of the cheapest (and cutest) interventions ever were signs on Magic Mountain flume ride queues stating: “Thrills by the minute, you can bet, but we can’t help it if you get wet”.


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