The scents of Disney parks: Nostalgia and Smellitzers

Being the catalyst for the theme park industry we know today, it is no surprise that Disney has experimented with some innovative uses of scent over the years!

At AromaPrime, it is always our goal to inspire attractions when it comes to using scents to spark emotions and engage guests. If you're seeking new ideas for your attraction, you might find this article handy, as we explore five of Disney's most exciting scent applications.

Dark rides

Disney's first significant use of scent in dark rides was for the opening of EPCOT in 1982. For this, Imagineer Bob McCarthy developed the Smellitzer scent cannon, which could shoot scent across the ride track whenever a vehicle triggered it. Ventilation quickly removed the scent afterwards.

Prior to this, Imagineers had trouble using scents in dark rides, due to the challenge of controlling them. In the early years of Pirates of the Caribbean, attempts to add a smoky smell to the burning town were met with concerns that guests would think the building was on fire once the scent escaped to the wrong area.

EPCOT's method for aiming and 'shooting' scents, before taking them out of the space straight after, may inspire those concerned about controlling scents in their dark rides. A particularly easy approach enabled by modern technology is to simply experiment with your scent machines' timing settings; diffuse the scents frequently enough to keep them noticeable, but not so much that they spread too far. At the same time, some rides benefit from scents travelling through the whole building, because it saves them from needing diffusers in every room!

Some of Disney's most notable scented dark rides include Journey into Imagination with Figment, where a coffee-like odour is used as a palatable interpretation of a skunk stink, Spaceship Earth, where the scent of burning keeps a poignant historical moment in guests' memories, and Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World, where distinctive scents illustrate the details of individual scenes.

Shops and restaurants

Disney parks' Main Street USA areas are known for being perfumed with the scents of sweet treats. When the park first opened, these nostalgic confectionery aromas, combined with the smells of horses, tobacco, baking and wooden buildings, transported elderly guests back to their childhoods in the early 20th Century.

Today, comforting sweet fragrances help guests feel welcome. Our scent receptors are connected to the part of the brain that processes memories and emotions, so when we smell something delicious, we are often taken back to positive memories. Like Disney parks, you might want to create a positive first impression for your own attraction guests by using pleasant scents near the entrance.

Of course, the appetising scents of food and drink can also encourage buying behaviour. Shops and restaurants benefit from enticing the nose!

At AromaPrime, we have a range of comforting sweet scents, as well as warm Christmas fragrances.


Whether we realise it or not, our holiday memories are strongly linked to scents. The smells of the ocean, sun lotion and ice cream often transport us back to these moments.

This is why hotel lobbies work hard to create signature scents that guests can associate with their stays. Hugely successful case studies include Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Even the hotel soaps are specially manufactured to keep the same scents, because fans love them so much!

A hotel lobby often needs a powerful scent machine that can fill the whole space. At AromaPrime, we would normally recommend the Vortex Utopia for this purpose, but we also have smaller machines for cosier-sized lobbies.

Parades and shows

The very same scent machine used to scent a big hotel lobby might also be used to scent an outdoor parade, due to the vast coverage the technology can achieve. In a parade, scents can add character to passing floats, ensuring guests are continually engaged.

Disneyland Paris' first use of scent for live entertainment was in 2007. Each float in Disney's Once Upon a Dream Parade had its own scent, including a fiery villain float and a floral princess float. During Christmastime, Disney parks use festive fragrances for their parades.

When it comes to stage shows, Disney's team is experienced in scent application. In a theatre, there is a risk of scents mixing and being smelt long after the show is over. Similar to the approach you can take in dark rides, Disney stage shows often diffuse scents for a very short moment, providing enough for a sniff without overdoing it. 4D cinemas follow this method too, usually just providing a quick burst of scent with technology that is powerful enough to push it far.

Flight simulators

Many associate Disney's Soarin' Around the World flight simulator with its memorable smells. These are pushed out from a hood that hangs over the seating where guests are positioned.

This celebrated technology was developed further for Avatar Flight of Passage, where the diffusers can carefully blend scents to provide a layered effect.

Not everyone can afford to develop ground-breaking tech, but there are often ways to adapt existing scent machines to suit specific experiences. Don't hesitate to send us an email if this is something you would like advice on doing!

Disney parks are experts when it comes to using the sense of smell for creating magical memories. If you are hoping to scent your own attraction and find yourself short on inspiration, the aromatic approaches of Disney and their creatives at Walt Disney Imagineering may help set you on the right path!