As children, we all knew that the simple act of turning out the lights would make the familiar strange and sometimes frightening. Shadows held monsters, while eldritch forests grew from the furniture.
As adults we sometimes need a little help to activate our imaginations. Creative lighting has the capacity to shape our experiences, and it can even alter the landscape we find ourselves in.
No other land in Disney World exemplifies this point better than the EPCOT World Showcase. In daylight the pavilions are wonderful examples of Disney’s careful Imagineering, full of details and an obvious homage to the source country’s culture and architecture. But the bright colors and sharp features reveal the showcase for what it is: an interactive soundstage far removed from the countries represented. Rock faces and brickwork are poured and sculpted facades and one land runs into another.
But at night!
The bright spots and street lights reveal wind scored sandstone in Morocco. Walking through the bazaar with the walls stretching high above you, it is easy to forget that French-themed bistros are 200 yards away. Our eyes can’t see the hundred details that scream “FAKE!” into our subconscious, and we let ourselves be swept into the illusion of being in, if you’ll forgive me, a whole new world.
When we’ve finished our shawarma and rubbed the vacant oil lamp, we wander into a sub-urban Japanese night market. Paper lanterns and Shinto arches mix with electric lights and ultra-cute marketing, and soon we forget the desert winds that blew over high walls in favor of night flowers in the tea garden.
The illusion is fragile and can be shattered from many angles. But the chance to step into our little-used imaginations is worth being jarred from a romantic vista by a bunch of drunken dude bros.
Which World Showcase is your favorite to tour at night? Let us know!