A GIF is an image that can support animation. Nothing too complicated, mind you, just a few actions. Roughly as much as we’d see, passing by an animatronic in a dark ride.
Here, for example, is a GIF of the clock from it’s a small world.
Just wait 'til the hour strikes.
Any minute, now.
...aaaaaany minute, now.
That’s all that clock does, all day, every day, rain or shine. There are classier ways to argue for theme parks as a valid artistic medium, but goddamn if that 8-bit image doesn’t capture what makes that clock as fun as it is in real life.
Some animatronics take their GIF-like movement a step further--by telling stories. There are fewer of these characters, but they enrich their surroundings immeasurably.
A ride populated with living characters who tell small-but-complete stories feels less like a narrative and more like a world. Everyone’s dealing with their own problems, but they’re all related to problems you’d find in the jungle. Or with ghosts, or pirates, et cetera.
Let's discuss the GIF story and some of the components that help it work.