January 3, 2011

Ideals, Dreams, and Hard Facts for 2011

Wow- a New Year and a new chance for changing what we don't like but can and living with what we cannot. The Walt Disney Company has its own set of must dos for 2011. Some we'll be happy with, some will displease us. Regardless, let's take a look at what is coming down the road...

The big Disney park news for 2011 is bound to be the much waited for arrival of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure at the constantly changing California Adventure. Although I am very excited about what is coming afterward, namely Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, what Disney creates for this attraction will give us geeks the best idea of the mindset of the company with regards to the future of the parks. The company revealed its hand with the creation of the park and then followed it with a cut-rate version of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to save it. It's relative failure at bringing in the crowds led to the one billion dollar investment we are seeing now.

Sure, the Imagineers can create the most awesome of grand old school "E" Ticket adventures, but will the Budgeteers actually approve it? What is finally marketed by the Company is not always what the company delivers. DCA 1.0 is a perfectly horrible example of this truth! Bargain Basement Imagineering at its most glaring example. If California Adventure is to finally remove itself from Disneyland's shadow, it needs more than just the remake of Paradise Pier to make it happen.

Maybe with Ariel, the park executives know guests really meant it- and listened- when they were told there needed to be some great attractions on the scale of the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion. While the success of Carsland's Radiator Springs Racers' is a given, The Little Mermaid could be the surprise hit of the remake of the park. It's got memorable music a la It's A Small World and the atmospheric punch of the aforementioned attractions without any height restrictions. Too bad Paradise Pier by definition will never have the style and charm of New Orleans Square.

On the other side of the esplanade, we have Star Tours 2.0 coming in May. It's harder to be objective about this project as I am not a Star Wars fan nor am I a fan of 3D in general. The movies have a timeless appeal, but my hunch is the new addition of 3D will cheapen the overall experience. Queue length will increase at first, but the novelty will wear off. Personally, I'll be very surprised if I ride it more than once or twice.

What else can I predict for the Disneyland Resort? Hmmm. The sadly lackluster revamping of the Disneyland Hotel will continue, additional closures happening at Downtown Disney, small scale projects for Tony Baxter before he retires, and another year where Tomorrowland lays in neglect of vision. Gotta live with some things we don't like.

Cannot say things in Walt Disney World look much better. Well, they will look better at the Magic Kingdom as painting and repair continues. Fantasyland Forest will continue to grow, and the new (improved?) Haunted Mansion queue will spark discussion board debates. 

I'd be happily shocked should something worthwhile be announced for Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios or the Animal Kingdom, but we'll have to settle for the hard facts of some great merchandise to honor the complex's 40th anniversary. And the usual special parade and fireworks show, accompanied by a sparkly new promotion. I've got an idea! How about for their 40th anniversary, Walt Disney World sends some of their greatest attractions to parks around the world? Not feeling the love? Me neither.

Overseas, the characterization of the parks continue. Toy Story Playlands are the new Toontowns after all, ("But everyone has one!"), dark ride and creativity aside. Other than in Tokyo, real "E" Tickets are reserved for when a park hits a slumping attendance, resulting in visitor spending dipping below acceptable levels. Speaking of Tokyo, Disney Sea will continue to show Americans how it can be done, while the Walt Disney Studios Paris reminds us how it shouldn't be.

Disney television and music is almost becoming an oxymoron, but maybe the future in media is to be found in gaming. Epic Mickey is pretty fun.

Disney/Pixar films. Well, I'll definitely see Pirates 4, and certainly The Lone Ranger should at least begin filming. Here's hoping this new Johnny Depp film will relaunch an interest the American West. Could result in developing Frontierland into greatness once again. The truth is Disney has few bankable stars, and if anyone can relaunch a genre, it's Johnny. Will Pixar's The Bear and the Bow keep the string of hits unbroken? We'll see, but a Christmas / Thanksgiving time slot won't hurt.

Should 2011 be a banner year for Disney entertainment, I'll be plesantly surprised. However, things change all the time, and 2012 is not all that far away. The D23 convention should bring some fun news as we will have Shanghai Disneyland plans to drool over, a look at the revised plans for Florida's Fantasyland, and the steel and concrete completed additions to California Adventure. I think we'll be all too busy to complain about what Disney didn't do in 2012- but that is another tale for another year.

As I continue with the Insights blog for the new year, I want to thank you all for reading and becoming friends. Always appreciate the kind comments and emails. For those of you that are bloggers as well as readers, thank you for all your hard work. I learn so much from each of you, and I enjoy your perspectives, stories, and photos. May God bless you richly. To the Company we all love- Good Luck! May you find the New Year to be one where creating by Walt's ideals brings you great success. Happy New Year Everyone!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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