Diorama Americana

The appeal of LEGO is, at its root, the promise of boundless, unbridled creative potential. LEGO bricks present opportunities to build and rebuild worlds, limited only by the imagination of the creator. Conversely, the appeal of the themed environment is the order it imposes on chaos. The landscape is tightly scripted, with the flow of visitors moving through a planned route in a predictable way.21 The path through which a tourist winds his way through Miniland USA provides a spatially choreographed and physically experienced series of nationally themed vignettes with which to engage. In the tension between the boundless potential of the LEGO element and the controlled environment of the theme park, Miniland USA emerges as a negotiated space—built by designers, but created by touristic expectation—the nation-state rendered as Fan Developed Theme.


  • 1. See Mark Gottdiener, The Theming of America: Dreams, Media Fantasies, and Themed Environments (Boulder: Westview Press, 2001).
  • 2. Henry Wiencek, The World of LEGO Toys (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1987), 147.
  • 3. For an interesting discussion of how motion—specifically walking— effects the way one constitutes and perceives of one’s environment, see Edmund Husserl, “The World of the Living Present and the Constitution of the Surrounding World External to the Organism,” translated by Frederick A. Elliston and Lenore Langsdorf, in Husserl, Shorter Works, edited by Peter McCormick and Frederick A. Elliston (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 238-50.
  • 4. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).
  • 5. Here there is some interesting overlap between scholars of Tourism Studies, Semiotics and Themed Environments, see: Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Mark Gottdiener, The Theming of America: Dreams, Media Fantasies, and Themed Environments (Boulder: Westview Press, 2001); Scott Lukas, The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, Self (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007).
  • 6. See Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narrative of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, 1st edn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); John Mack, The Art of Small Things (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); and Bachelard (1969).
  • 7. Along with the amount of time taken to create the miniature and the process by which the model is built.
  • 8. Here, Miniland USA fits Guy Debord’s definition of a “spectacle” as “everything that was directly lived ... moved into a representation.” See Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983), Section 3.
  • 9. See: Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (1998); Lukas (2007); Mark Gottdiener (2001); and of course Jean Baudrillard who calls the idea that there is a “real thing” into question, wryly noting that “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real.” Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (New York: Semitext(e) and Jean Baudrillard, 1983), 25.
  • 10. For a contemporary example, see Frommer’s USA, Kathleen Warnock, ed., (Hoboken: Wiley Publishing, 2009). Interestingly, the “islands” that make up the archipelago of LEGOLAND’s Mini USA also follow along this metropolitan/regional representational strategy.
  • 11. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994).
  • 12. In what Scott Lukas refers to as a “meta moment,” see Scott Lukas, Theme Park (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), 170.
  • 13. This is almost certainly due to the complex copyright issues inherent in recreating trademarked properties. Disney’s litigiousness is legendary enough to inspire Michael Sorkin to represent its Anaheim park with a photo of a bright blue sky, devoid of any Disney imagery whatsoever, in his chapter on the subject. See Michael Sorkin, ed., “See You In Disneyland,” in Variations On A Theme Park: The New American City and the End Of Public Space (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 207.
  • 14. LEGOLAND Florida Fact Sheet 2012, 3, available at https://www .yumpu.com/en/document/view/18878567/legoland-florida-2012-fact- sheet (accessed March 2, 2017).
  • 15. A California section was added in 2012.
  • 16. Personal correspondence with Marcy Harrison via Tina Froberg Mortensen, Records Manager, LEGO Group Archives, November 11, 2011.
  • 17. “Grab a Pepsi at Legoland,” The Ledger, Winter Haven, December 14,
  • 2010, C4.
  • 18. Personal correspondence with Marcy Harrison.
  • 19. Personal correspondence with Marcy Harrison.
  • 20. “Pieces in Place for Florida’s New Legoland,” Daily Herald, October 9,
  • 2011.
  • 21. Miodrag Mitrasinovic, Total Landscape, Theme Parks, Public Space (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), 156.
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