What do Theme Parks Have to do with Screen Time?

When you stack the best of screen entertainment against the best of in-person entertainment, the in-person is going to win every time.

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I recently visited Universal Studios Hollywood for a Bachelor Party. It was the first time I’d been in over 20 years.

The theme park… had changed… to say the least.

Childhood favorites, like the E.T. ride, were gone. Terminator 2, Backdraft, and Back to the Future had been replaced a few times over by things like Minions, the Simpsons, and Transformers.

Jurassic Park, which had terrified me at age 11, had been given a new “Jurassic World” paint job but was essentially the same. Though I missed the falling SUV element.

It was a great day since lines were unbelievable short (we did Mummy, Jurassic, and Harry Potter Forbidden journey twice) plus every ride except two, and the Water World show, and the Studio Tour, and even the Kung Fu Freaking Panda movie before the park closed.


Reflecting on it, I further realized just how much screens have taken over our lives. Back in the early 2000s there were FAR FEWER screens at Universal Studios.

They’ve invaded our hands, every room of our homes (including the bathroom!), restaurants, elevators, Churches (don’t get me started on that one), libraries, and yes, theme parks too.

My experience at Universal reinforced my earlier experience at Galaxy’s Edge in January. There, I left the Disneyland Resort loving Rise of the Resistance and hating Smuggler’s Run.


Practical vs. virtual.

Resistance had actors, practical effects, and an immersive story-filled environment with characters I knew. Smugglers made me sick, demanding I play a video game, while watching a screen, while tossing me around. It was somewhat immersive and teamwork-based, but no.

The longest line at Universal was for Bowser’s Challenge in the new Nintendo World. It, too, was a video game. A complicated one, but a video game still.

But unlike Astro Blasters at Disneyland or classic Fairground games, it was an AR video game. It was fun, but it didn’t hold a candle to Astro Blaster or any game that works your muscles as well as your mind, nor did it thrill me like the Water World show (it’s better than the movie), Forbidden Journey (now that’s a ride), and Jurassic World.

You probably see my point here.

Jurassic doesn’t rely on screens. There isn’t a single screen in the Water World show. It’s actors and special effects. Not visual effects. No CGI. Just good ol’ fashion explosives, fake fighting, and real people entertaining you.

Harry Potter Forbidden Journey wisely blended animatronics and an immersive environment that you felt and smelled with brief video elements. That ride was like Resistance, minus the actors, and delivered!

On the flip side, Minions disappointed because it just made me watch a screen while tossing me around. At least Simpsons was funny, but it suffers from the same problem. In fact, the comedy made my stomach even more upset because it had that added onto a huge screen and motion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved Star Tours for a long time. Video and motion simulation can be fun. But I DON’T WANT IT TAKING OVER EVERYTHING!

I love me some practical effects, some REAL in my rides.

The Potential and Problem with Screen time.

I work in marketing. Screen time is why I’m paid. But screen time is not the point nor our bread and butter at Yellow Line Digital.

Relationships and evangelization is what we really care about.

Screen time should be on the decrease in every aspect of our lives, not the reverse. And when you stack the best of screen entertainment against the best of in-person entertainment, the in-person is going to win every time.

Again, I love a good movie, TV show, even TikTok. But sitting in an audience, in-person conversations, a singer a few feet from you, and yes, rides that immerse you without screens are unbeatable.

This is emphasized even more so when you compare the reality of the Sacraments to any virtual encounter with Christ and others.

Call me old-fashioned and leave a comment if you have thoughts.

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