Not much is known about Kevin Perjurer. Is he an international man of mystery? Is he secretly a superhero? Or is he hidden a member of the Disney family? No one really knows. However, what is known about Perjurer is that he is the creator of the YouTube channel, Defunctland. This channel is dedicated to theme park history by providing video essays on extinct rides and experiences, as well as having fantastic interviews with theme figures. Perjurer has recently expanded into the world of books and will be publishing a text on Disney titled Defunctland: Guide to the Magic Kingdom. Wanting to learn more about his background and his book, I was able to interview Perjurer for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you become a devote fan of theme parks? Was there a specific moment that crystallized your love for theme parks?
Kevin Perjurer: I grew up in the Midwest, so I was not surrounded by theme parks. I was lucky enough to go to Disney World twice growing up. The second time I got the history book Disney World: Then, Now, and Forever at a gift shop. I remember sitting down and flipping through it, seeing a lot of extinct attractions. I got this weird feeling in my stomach from the fact that there were rides and experiences that were no longer at the parks. This feeling is what drives my love for them.
Yanes: You are the creator of one of my favorite YouTube channels, Defunctland. What was the inspiration behind creating this channel?
Perjurer: First of all, thank you! I was introduced to Jake Williams’ Abandoned series a year or two ago. I found his videos on Disney particularly fascinating. Jake does a great job focusing on the business side of the stories he tells, but I was more interested in the creative side. Take Journey into Imagination for instance. Jake did a great job diving into the Kodak sponsorhip and contract disputes, but I was more interested in what the Imagineers were up to. I did some research on extinct rides, shows, etc., and was introduced to this world that very few people were talking about. At the time, my now-good friends Mark from Yesterworld Entertainment had only a few theme park videos and Jack from Park Ride History only had one, but I didn’t even find their channels until after I had uploaded my first video. I just thought it was such an interesting world that wasn’t being explored, and I am so happy that Mark, Jack, and I started when we did.
Yanes: Given the number of theme park rides you’ve researched, what do you think goes into making a great story for a ride?
Perjurer: It is really not easy to write a good theme park story. Some rides and parks do not have much material, and if they do, finding a linear narrative can be difficult. Brian Krosnick from Theme Park Tourist is a master at this, and I have learned a lot from his style of writing. When I do not have one of his articles to go off of, the process is much more difficult. I typically begin by finding the tone. If you look at Season Two of Defunctland when I really honed in on this, you can see a clear tone or genre for each episode. Tomb Raider is an adventure, Euro Disney is a tragedy, and Astroworld is a western. These styles help with everything, the script, the music, and the editing. It is also critical to find the dramatic plot points and focus on them. These are typically when the ride opened and closed, but the more unique and specific, the better. The Premiere Parks storyline in Astroworld was great because it added an opposing force. This is what makes the episodes different than a Wikipeida page.
Yanes: You do a ton of research for each episode of Defunctland. Is there a specific ride that shocked you when you researched its history? For instance, is there a ride which had a much darker history than you expected?
Perjurer: The most shocking story I’ve found in research as far as Disney goes would have to be Superstar Limo and the impact of Princess Diana’s death. As for non-Disney, Action Park had a lot of those moments, and Astroworld’s Alpine Sleigh Ride really caught me off guard. They had an employee dress as an abominable snowman in the ride!
Yanes: You recently launched a crowdfunded campaign on IndieGoGo to publish a book called Defunctland: Guide to the Magic Kingdom. Why did you want to create a book focusing on Disney’s Magic Kingdom?
Perjurer: Disney’s Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world. For a lot of people, it would make more sense to start with Disneyland, but that would have added an additional sixteen years of material. For the first book, I wanted to keep it simple and give a full retrospecitve of one park, and the obvious choice was Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The book is also set up as a vacation guide, and the story that I am telling would not work as well in Disneyland, since it is less of a vacation destination.
Yanes: As a fellow fan of Disney theme parks, what is your favorite theme park ride experience at Disney?
Perjurer: It’s not a ride, but the Country Bear Jamboree is absolutely perfect and I love it. As for rides, Splash Mountain is incredible for its scale and storytelling.
Yanes: While laying out the information you plan on putting in Defunctland: Guide to the Magic Kingdom, was there any bit of information that surprised you?
Perjurer: If I had to be vauge enough as to not spoil anything, there was one audio-animatronic that I don’t think some of the biggest Disney fans would remember, and where it existed was quite shocking to me. But no spoilers!
Yanes: Millions of people visit the Magic Kingdom every year, and they head for the popular rides and big landmarks. However, what small rides or spaces in the Magic Kingdom do you think more people should know about?
Perjurer: The best part about Disney is that it is the only theme park where the park itself is an attraction. Universal and other parks might be well themed, but there is nowhere near the amount of things to just look at and explore (with the only exception being the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). My biggest suggestion is to just stop for a bit. Look where you are and what’s around you. You are walking through one of the most elaborate art exhibits created by humans. The greatest artists and engineers in the world created this place, and once you get past the cynical business side and focus on how much creativity and imagination created this park, that’s when the magic begins.
Yanes: When people finish reading Defunctland: Guide to the Magic Kingdom, what do you hope that they take away from it?
Perjurer: There is a strong message throughout Defunctland: Guide to the Magic Kingdom. It’s something that I don’t want to talk about too specifically, but at its heart, the book is about grappling with change and loss. How do you deal with your favorite ride being gone? What is the right response? I want people to learn about the Magic Kingdom and laugh at the jokes, but there is also these lingering questions throughout.
Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects you are working on that people can look forward to?
Perjurer: Defunctland VR and a new spin-off show. I’m very excited about both!