Music, Maestro, please!

Journey into Themed Design

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Music, Maestro, please!


Evolution of music in theme parks

Discrete but pervasive, music is a major element of every good theme park. Outside or in the queue lines, in a restaurant or inside a ride, the music has to be carefuly chosen to reinforce the theme. Let’s have a small overview of the different kinds we can find:


Orchestra :


Probably the oldest kind of music brodcast. Advantage : it’s a show and a good way to enhance the ambiance. Drawback : no orchestra can play for 12 hours without stopping, and be heard in the whole area.




Area loop

Most usual way of using music in theme parks, the area loop follows you all around the lands and the queue lines. Even if it has no real reason to be there (Why would you hear music in the middle of the far west?), a carefuly chosen track list will put you in the good mood and enhance the atmosphera of the place.

We will usually prefer a music unconsciously linked to the place to the real music you should hear. For example, the US Frontierland Area Loop is composed of traditional american musi

… while the french Frontierland is using western movie musics, more meaningful for european guests. Sometimes, sound effects are added to the loop (carts, horses, spaceships…).

Off-Board Audio

The aim of this technology is to follow the vehicles inside the ride to give rythm and a cinematographic dimension. Speakers are hidden in the scenery. Two differents techniques are used:

  • Different musics triggered by a sensor, like in traditional dark rides. The major drawback is that the scenes and delays between vehicules have to be carefully thought to avoid audio intrusions. This system is still used, and you can find it in Ratatouille or Mystic Manor for example, where scenes are isolated by huge doors and acoustic panels.
    • A loop with variations, like in Phantom Manor or It’s a Small World, which will use the same theme with different instruments in every scene. This technique allows smooth transition between the scene, but prevents us to change the rythm.

On-board Audio


Major evolution from the beginning of the 90’s, firstly non synchronised as in Casey Jr. – Le petit train du Cirque at Disneyland Paris. This technology allows us to accompany each vehicle independantly in the ride. Each passenger is surrounded by speakers integrated in the car, enabling us to modify the rythm and theme without creating audio intrusions for the other guests.

This technology was enhanced thanks to the synchronisation, in  Space Mountain – De la Terre à la Lune at Disneyland Paris or Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland. This time, the music can stick to each event of the ride : vehicles can speed up or slow down from on ride to another, or even be stopped for some seconds, causing the music to be unsynchronised or prematurely end. To avoid this, the music is divided in several sections, started at the right moment thanks to sensor on the ride vehicule. For the music to run smoothly, each track has an « extensible » ending, which can be faded into the next one.

This system has been enhanced one last time in Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit at Universal Studios Florida, which allows the passengers to chose their soundtrack before the ride!