Dark Ride: Disneyland

Captain Lafitte’s twisted plans for a “New and Better” Disneyland threaten to strangle the magic from the happiest place on earth.

Use the enchanted spyglass in your phone to assemble a team of forgotten heroes and thwart the pirate’s plot.

It’s up to you to stop the murderous crew before Disneyland crumbles beneath Lafitte’s tyrannical rule.

See the park with new eyes

Dark Ride is an augmented reality app that explores how modern-day Disneyland reflects and deviates from its classic themes.

Interact with the park through a series of mini-games that examine how historical and cultural messages shape the magic of Walt’s Disneyland.


Dark Ride: Disneyland began as an idea within Walt Disney’s masterpiece of a theme park.

After attending a conference for critical media education, Benjamin Thevenin, PhD, found himself bouncing through the park with his wife and two boys. He paused, scratched his head, and thought: “I’m supposed to be a smart guy… what can I make of Disneyland?” And rather than write a book about it, he figured it would be way more fun to make a game about it. Which it was.

When Benjamin first pitched the idea to Jeff Parkin and Jared Cardon (the story and game gurus), it seemed like an impossible task. A virtual reality game? In a theme park? Despite the impossibilities, the idea was contagious, and they all hoped it could work. It wasn’t until Ontario Britton (the app wizard) jumped on the project that Benjamin’s wild ideas started to take true form. With the help of Brent Barson (a design master), Chris Bowles (our resident Disney know-it-all), and a handful of programming, film, and design students, the app was finally ready to be turned over to the final team: 20 BYU students with a lot of guts and a lot to learn.

As first time game makers, we spent months researching the park and developing gameplay. As part of a course at BYU, teams of students, led by professors and professionals, conceived of the story, designed and animated characters, created mini-games, and developed the app itself. During the process, we learned a lot about the collaborative process, gained some experience designing educational games and saw the stories Disney tells with new eyes.

After countless hours of trial, error, and trial again, we’ve completed the game we’re excited to share with you now. It’s the first augmented reality that takes place in a theme park, and it all started with an idea that sprouted from one professor’s mouse ears.

Read more about the project’s objectives and development, view art and gameplay, in articles published by the Journal of Media Literacy and the Journal of Media Literacy Education .


Benjamin Thevenin

Game Developers:
Jeff Parkin
Jared Cardon

Advising AR/VR Engineer:
Ontario Britton

Design Advisor:
Brent Barson

Character & Poster Designer:
Dimitrios Pantazis

Engineering Student-Leads:
Jessica Greenland
Jesse Thomson
Redge Ballard

Trevor Anderson
Trevor Barrus
Mark Hall
Keith Heiner

Writing Student-Leads:
Chris Bowles
Ian Hawkes
Malori Bigler

Wes Bowen
Jonathan Cuesta
David Scott Heath
Alexis Kaegi
Nick Ritter

Design Student-Lead:
Connor King

Redge Ballard
Wes Bowen
David Scott Heath
Eduardo Pino Villa
Adam Rallison

Jonathan Cuesta
Alexis Kaegi
Kyle Poulin

Special Thanks To:
Kelly Bready
Elizabeth Funk
Wade Hollingshaus
Darl Larsen
Thomas Lefler
Peter Midgely

BYU’s Department of Theatre & Media Arts
BYU’s College of Fine Arts & Communications
The Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration