Themerica™ began as my MFA design thesis project. I started the research in earnest in the summer of 2007, and maintained a travel/photography blog through 2008 which is archived here. Upon taking a professorship at the University of Idaho in 2016, I have recommitted to this work as my creative scholarship focus. Others in various fields have studied theming in a cultural context, such as noted sociologist Mark Gottdiener and anthropologist Scott Lukas. However, my particular interest is in the taxonomy and various expressions of what I call the language of thematic design.
Rather than using terms like "The Architecture of Entertainment" to describe what Disney, Universal, and others develop within the built environment, I suggest that thematic design is something distinct from architecture altogether. It's a process in which story drives structure, and art direction in the cinematic mode supersedes the architect. Architecture—in a programmatic sense—becomes only a structural means to an end.
Furthermore, environments such as Disneyland—and spatial story experiences like the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction—serve as the missing link between the introduction of film and today's virtual participatory worlds of online gaming. Thematic design is, in effect, how we got from The Great Train Robbery to Grand Theft Auto.
As I continue my research, this blog will serve as a home for travel photography, analysis, and other writings. More information about my original MFA work is archived on my main website.