We all know this is a weenie:
But did you know that this is too?
In the More-Useless-Information-I-Learned-From-the-Internet Department, I found out a new definition for this inherently funny word yesterday.
Appearing as both “weenie” and “wienie” on various web sites devoted to Disneyana, the term describes an architectural construction which draws the eye and tempts the visitor to venture further into the diabolical design that is the Disney theme park.
John Hench, author of Designing Disney, and a member of Walt’s original team, spells it wienie. The concept apparently came from Disney’s experience of training dogs with “wienies”—that’s hot dogs, frankfurters or wieners (from wienerwurst, or Vienna sausage), to you. Hench describes the human, theme-park purpose of the wienie in a profile from the NYT archives:
The wienie is really a beckoning finger…It’s kind of a reward. If you have a corridor, at the end there has to be something to justify you going that distance.
The photograph above shows Sleeping Beauty Castle, a wienie that draws the hapless Disneyland visitor down Main Street and toward Fantasyland. And speaking of Fantasyland, one of my favorite things about Disney’s term is its resemblance to the German wie nie, which translates roughly to “as never before.”
Whether or not Walt chose this unorthodox spelling on purpose, the vision it conjures when taken literally in German is perfectly apt: Spaceship Earth, the enormous silver ball that sucks visitors into Disney’s Epcot Center and which Slate’s Seth Stevenson describes as “perhaps the wieniest of all wienies,” is powerful precisely because it is like nothing visitors have ever seen before. The 77-foot Sleeping Beauty Castle, scaled to be a welcoming beacon rather than a forbidding fortress, is something that belongs in the Neverlands that Disney built–a big fat wie nie.