When we were building Epcot at Walt Disney World in the early 1980’s, United Technologies CEO Harry Grey insisted that John paint the exterior of The Living Seas pavilion “bright white.” “Mr. Grey,” John shot back, “there are thirty-three shades of white in my palette- do you have a favorite?”
-Marty Sklar reflecting on John Hench’s incredible understanding of color.
Every shade of white you see in the parks was carefully chosen for its mood and architectural presence. Not only does varying shading contribute to the emotional aesthetics, it subconsciously forces perspective. In Designing Disney by John Hench and Patty Van Pelt, John speaks to the manipulative use of shading to avoid scaling problems with the American Adventure in Epcot :
Most important, I selected three different shades of white to adjust the color of the lavish trim for exposure to natural light: the brightest white for the first floor trim, to correct for shadows, a slightly darker off-white shade for the second floor, and the darkest shade for the clock tower and bell towers, to equalize the effect of unfiltered sunlight. Manipulating the shades of white in this way gave the illusion of a consistent trim accent color.
Often, the palette that is selected for an attraction or shop changes due to mother nature. Wide variances in natural lighting are taken in to account before settling on a combination of colors that must work in that region’s native climate. The master shader points to the differences in natural light in a passage from Walt Disney’s Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real:
Depending on where you are in the world, the quality of the light and the intensity of the sun varies. This has a major impact on the choice and application of color. The light is different in Orlando than in Anaheim, and in Paris it differs from both. Light in Paris, however, is similar to Tokyo. It all boils down to this: if improperly applied at our theme parks, color could negatively impact our guest’s experience. And they may not even know why.
Did you know that Disney has created it’s own palette based lingo? Their color communication system allows them to identify the emotions and underlying feelings associated with colors and their various combinations. As we often say here:
Please be aware of the magic going on all around you at the parks. It’s happening even when you aren’t noticing.