Here's the thing about Pirates of the Caribbean. Everywhere you look, no matter where you look, there are interesting and well-planned details. Every prop is made to look right, every corner is filled with gold or bones or spider webs, and every individual pirate robot has a distinct personality. There are no blank spaces when you float between scenes: there is always something happening, something to draw your attention forward. Tell me this doesn't speak directly to writing.
It just goes to show how geniusly thorough a person Walt Disney was. All of his own stuff--Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, even the Tiki Room--has way more personality in its outdated robotics then any of the new high-tech stuff like the Finding Nemo ride or Ariel's Grotto. Cute, but meh. I'll take original Walt any day. And its because you can tell he cares. He fills everything with his own unique quirk, and no detail is below his careful attention, and it more than pays off.
So for writing? Don't skimp. You don't need to overload either, but make sure everything that needs taken care of gets taken care of. Don't settle for mere spectacle, when the underlying details aren't holding up. I think in some ways Disney does a good job at this, but this is where I think they weakened with the loss of Walt. I also think this is one reason why Harry Potter was so successful; Rowling gave us as close to a complete world as you can get, down to the last detail. So basically, the lesson here is put yourself in every nook and cranny and don't settle for cheap tricks.
Thoughts? Are there books that you think do a good or bad job of this? How do we make sure we're not skimping?