As part of D23 Expo 2013, Disney Parks and Resorts offered guests the opportunity to participate in a playtest called the Adventure Trading Company. The interactive game was part scavenger hunt, part storytelling experience, part souvenir-collecting experience and a great deal of addictive fun.
Adventure Trading Company began at “Journey Into Imagineering,” the pavilion hosted by Disney Parks and Resorts. As a whole, the pavilion allowed D23 guests see the work of various Imagineering specialties, see projects and project elements up close, and talk with Imagineers. The Adventure Trading Company fit well with this focus.
The Adventure Trading Company (ATC) exhibit was themed to Adventureland, most specifically to Disneyland’s version, and referred to as Base Camp. Imagineers served as Adventure guides, storytellers and hosts for guests who were agreed to undertake one or more Expo-ditions in order to find their “Juju.”
Adventure Trading Company six “Juju” missions and the Gourd of Destiny
Initially, a guest who embarked on an Expo-dition selected their Juju mission from the Gourd of Destiny. There were six available: courage, discovery, helping others, humor, knowledge and tracking. From there, the guest would purchase (for $5) a telegram that explained the mission and eventually find or earn their Juju.
Those missions – which were often explained in the form of clues – took guests to various locations at the Anaheim Convention Center where they were asked by guides to participate in mini-adventures related to the Juju themes. In some cases, D23 needed return to the ATC Base Camp to pick up their Juju – small objects to keep as souvenirs – afater a mission was complete. In other instances, the Juju was used as a signal to guides that a guest was on an ATC mission.
Central to the experience of finding one’s Juju was interacting with Adventurer guides to complete each mission, and many of the missions developed around storytelling as part of a successful mission.
After completing the task, Adventurers would have their telegram stamped. Guests could then take on additional missions, requesting them by name. (As the playtest evolved, guests could also start the ATC playtest by requesting a specific mission. This was a good alternative for guests who wish to participate in a specific mission or who wanted to earn a specific souvenir.)
After the first experience many guests, this one included, purchased multiple missions at the same time. This allowed attendees to participate in the playtest in between other D23 Expo activities and much in the same way guests incorporate various interactive games in Disney Parks (e.g. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom) into their touring plans.
Adventure Trading Company: Storytelling and Shake Speare
Guests who returned to the ATC Base Camp inside Journey Into Imagineering and told a story of their mission to guides – and to other guests – would receive the free Shakes Speare souvenir. This element was an ATC highlight for both participating guests and D23 attendees just visiting the exhibit.
When participating guests told the stories of their missions, they became the central protagonist of an adventure – and earned a nickname and name tag for their efforts in addition to the Shakes Speare Juju. (This adventurer was christened Desperately Seeking Debra.) Guests could encouraged to use available props and other storytelling aids. And Adventure guides helped guests make the most their adventures, showing off their own improvisational skill and humor.
D23 attendees visiting the pavilion were invited to watch the storytellers as appreciate audience members; they, too, got to be part of the game even if they didn’t participate in the ATC playtest.
As a small incentive, Adventure guides at the various mission stations throughout the Convention Center would give out additional Shake Speare Juju. (During one mission, an additional Shake Speare juju was earned spontaneously for telling other guests about a different mission – an organic interaction between guests that was recognized and rewarded.)
Adventure Trading Company: Additional “Juju”
In addition to the six primary missions and the Shake Speare Juju, ATC offered two other special missions and one exclusive Juju souvenir, bringing the possibility of collectibles to ten.
Guests who participated in the search for Tiki Birds did so by bird-watching – locating and photographing decals of the birds on the upper levels of the Anaheim Convention Center. The Tiki Bird portion of Adventure Trading Company serves as a good example of how Disney uses a playtest – game play changed over the course of three days.
Early in D23 Expo, guests were asked to collaboratively find all 20 birds, photograph them with their smart phones, and post their discoveries to a special Twitter account. After all the different birds were identified, the Tiki Bird Juju was available for anyone to purchase from ATC Base Camp. But on the last day of the D23 Expo, guests were simply asked find five of the birds on their own, photograph them, and return to ATC Base Camp with the evidence.
D23 guests with a thirst for adventure could also undertake a special mission that ended at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, the bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Adventurers who shared their story in writing at the ATC Base Camp could receive the mission, asking guest to explore the Anaheim Convention Center in search of the secret ingredients to “JuJuJuice,” a special concoction available at Trader Sam’s during D23 Expo.
Once Adventurers had discovered the ingredients, they could then visit Trader Sam’s and receive their final, free juju. They could also purchase the JuJuJuice in a cup or in a souvenir sipper.
A final, rare Juju souvenir could be purchased for $5 at the ATC Base Camp, the much-coveted Crocodile Tooth. Doing so didn’t require undertaking a mission, but it did provide a sense of closure to the game for completists. One could easily imagine, if Adventure Trading Company were brought to Disney Parks and Resorts, that specialty Juju would be regularly released to encourage repeat play.
Adventure Trading Company: Will the game come to Disney Parks?
Adventure Trading Company playtest was a surprise, personal highlight of D23 Expo, a way to enjoy the show floor.
The missions were fun, if not particularly difficult, but was especially enjoyable was the opportunity to interact with Adventure guides and other guests in light-hearted humorous ways. It was similar to being able to talk to your favorite Jungle Cruise skipper or Adventurers Club member, with the opportunity to build off each others’ stories being made up on the fly.
So will the game be move playtest to reality? No word from Disney on that yet. But this Adventurer remains hopeful, and the Disney Imagineers were justifiably proud of their work and seemed equally so. And as the weekend progressed, more and more D23 attendees could be found around the various mission points – talking to guides and other guests about the shared experience. The response, from an outsider’s perspective then, bodes well for the game’s potential at the Disney parks or resorts.
In the meantime, another element that continues the ATC experience is to download the Story by Disney app released in May. The Story app was subtly promoted throughout the ATC weekend as a way to share stories and photographs of the Disney experience.
That the Disney Imagineers encouraged ATC participants to use the Story app after D23 Expo to tell their stories isn’t a confirmation that the interactive game will come to the Disney Parks or Resorts. But it does provide a strong sense that Disney is gauging interest in such interactive experiences and carefully considering role storytelling has in engaging guests before, during and after a Disney vacation.
As the National Disney Travel Examiner I attended the D23 Expo on a media pass to provide first-hand coverage. Look for more recap coverage to come, including photos and video, now that the event has concluded.