Monday, July 25, 2011

The Smells of Disney World

We aren’t talking stinky kinds of smells. No, I’m talking about those intentional, and sometimes unintentional, smells in the environment that can bring on vivid memories. Disney World is an interesting place in terms of smells. I’ve never been at a place, be it a theme park, resort, office building, mall, etc., that has so many unique and characteristic smells. And no matter where I’m at, if I smell *that* smell, I automatically think of Disney. I think the Imagineers were on to something! Google “Olfactory coding and perception” and you’ll see what I mean. Research seems to indicate that there is a chemical bonding process between smells and receptors in the brain. Voila! Memories are tied to scents! (Why does that sound like something that should be in Journey into Imagination? Oh, I've got that song in my head!)

So, let’s start with the intentional smells. These are the ones that are pumped in as part of an attraction or to enhance an experience. These may be the most easy to recognize. Some include:
  1. Oranges from Horizons (old school WDW smell). Similar orange smell can now be found in Soarin’ as you are gliding over the orange groves in northern California, as well as cedar and pine. 
  2. Acrid burning smell from the Burning of Rome scene in Spaceship Earth. 
  3. Apple Pie from Philharmagic. 
  4. Stink Bug scent from It’s Tough to be a Bug. Not an ideal smell. 
  5. The smell of baked goods from the Main Street Bakery. This is somewhat intentional in that the smell is pushed out. 
  6. Beach Club Lobby. Whatever that smell is, it’s wonderful!
Moving on the unintentional smells. What I mean by unintentional is that the smell is associated with a place or thing by it’s proximity to something, its environment, or a chemical product used in its design. You’ll see what I mean as I get into them. I find these the most fascinating smells of them all.
  1. The water smell. I’ve heard it defined as a chlorinated, musty smell. Well, whatever it is, you know what I’m talking about. Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, Polynesian Resort hotel lobby, the boat ride in Mexico, Maelstrom in Norway. Water rides mostly, as oppose to natural water (ie, Bay Lake, Seven Seas Lagoon, Crescent Lake, etc) or water in fountains like the ones in EPCOT. 
  2. The barnyard smell on the Monorail. Some people claim it smells like body odor, or an old band-aid (now that’s a vivid imagination!); however, it smells that way even on the first run of the day, and tends to smell less like a barnyard through the remainder of the day. My guess is that this smell is related to either a cleaning product, or product used in the mechanical components of the Monorail. Something like an oil, lubricant or rubber (hence the band-aid claim). 
  3. The wood-like smell from Fort Wilderness. Most people don’t spend much time at Fort Wilderness so I can best explain it as similar to the smells around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Tom Sawyer’s Island. It almost smells like creosote. I think it may be the varnish that covers the rough-hewed wood that used in fences, benches, and to frame most of the Ft Wilderness buildings. I smell it at the boat docks throughout the WDW resort that have unpainted wood railings; this is what leads me to believe it may be the varnish. The smell is not nearly as strong at Wilderness Lodge, though, which perplexes me. 
  4. Popcorn. I suppose you could say this is intentional. What other snack product produces such an intense aroma for such distances? For me, the smell is closely associated with area between Canada and United Kingdom in EPCOT. 
  5. Contemporary Resort Lobby. There’s some smell that seems tied to the Monorail, or the A/C system used specifically in that hotel. It has a unique smell from the rest of the resorts. 
  6. The pools…the chlorine smell is so common to most pools that it’s really hard to say it’s unique to Disney, but it is a smell that can be closely associated with a memory. 
There are many others and each individual is unique. Your memory scent may be tied to a food item, or a fragrance you purchased at the France pavilion. Mine is the “morning” scent of the resorts. Hard to describe…combination of fresh morning dew, humidity, and flowers.

So, the next time you are at WDW, take time to smell the roses as well as anything else your nose picks up on. Who knows…you may be subjected to subliminal olfactory messaging!!
"Imagination...Imagination...a dream, can be, a dream come true, with just that spark, from me and you…."

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