Disney Theme Parks Reimagining the Wait in Line

(ABC News)


Amid all the instant gratification of today's world, people still have to endure waiting in lines.

According to Dr. Richard Larson, a renowned expert in the physics and psychology of lines at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, people hate waiting because it's a momentary and involuntary imprisonment.

"Once you get it into your head, you see them everywhere," Larson told ABC News' "20/20." "And you experience them everywhere."

Larson said no one does a better job of managing long lines than the Disney theme parks run by ABC News' parent company, The Walt Disney Co.

"We want you to have so much to look at or do or entertain your kids," Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, told "20/20." 'Cause kids aren't the best line waiters, right? They're a little impatient … If your kid's having fun, you're a lot more patient."

Disney's theme park line management is an extension of their entertainment philosophy. At Disney World's Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, children and their parents can play in an interactive room that resembles a circus tent.

While they're playing, they're also waiting for a buzzer to go off that signals it's their turn to go onto the outdoor line for the ride.

(Kimberly Launier)

"These kids in this tent, playing, they don't have the perception that they're waiting in line, but that's what they're doing," said Mangum.

"And their parents are having a ball because they're escaping the heat for a while, their kids are having a good time, and they're enjoying that."

Other techniques Disney's theme parks use to manage lines include interactive technology along the way, with games and touch screens, and providing comfort in the form of fans and shade to help visitors cool off. And there's FastPass too, where you can skip the line by reserving in advance, even on mobile phones.

"People come here to have fun, first and foremost, and we want them to have a great experience," Mangum said. "And if you've got the perception of spending less time waiting, 'cause you're having so much fun, we feel like we've done our job."

Watch ABC News' "20/20? on Friday, April 25 at 10 p.m. ET