January 5, 2011

Why My Next Disneyland Vacation Can Wait

A couple of weeks back, I took some time to write about why I will wait awhile for my next trip to Walt Disney World. It certainly created a bit of interest, as it quickly became one of my most read posts ever! It may have also stirred up the idea that I am one who has an immense disrespect for what the Walt Disney Company has created in Florida. But that would be far from the truth.

Regardless, here is the follow up to that post- the reasons my next visit to Disneyland can wait. (Quite ironic actually, as I am typing away while wearing a gift from my wife- a Fifty Year Disneyland Resort logoed sweatshirt!) So, in much the same manner as the earlier post, here is what I will miss and here is why I am choosing to wait...

Let's be honest here- as a former Californian now living in Colorado, going to the Disneyland Resort is now a much more rare occurrence. So, I have to have a plan to maximize my day. It usually involves going to Downtown Disney the night before and buying my passport.Whether it is walking on to the property from the Downtown Disney parking lot and eventually seeing the entrances to both parks or parking in the multistory lot for the day and arriving at the security check via tram, few things beat the rush I get peering into both parks while I wait for the gates to open.

Even better is walking through the Disneyland Railroad tunnels into Main Street U.S.A. Upon my first sight of this land, there is a quaintness and familiarity to the place I do not experience when I am in Florida or Paris. It comes from years of visits with family and friends encompassing various stages of life together. These images can flash through my mind at times, making me misty eyed if I'm not careful.

In contrast, walking through the gates at California Adventure only reminds me "the suits" did not take fans' sense of loyalty into consideration as they sacrificed innovation and creativity, instead planning a park designed for profits first and quality far from second. (Bring on Buena Vista Street!)To any recent visitors, it is pretty clear that portions of the entire resort are under the knife- or should be. And this is ultimately why my next vacation will wait. 

The once majestic Disneyland Hotel is now a construction kingdom. Debates will and should continue as to whether or not the suits once again took shortcuts on the place, but the truth remains, the workers and walls are plentiful. The towers, the main pool, the grounds, and soon the lobby areas, will continue to be transformed. All great, but it makes for a poor experience now. Nor are there any new hotels coming soon.

Downtown Disney continues to change as vendors come and go. Such is retail life in our current economy. So we can kiss goodbye any expansion plans for now. Expansion is sorely needed- the place can be an absolute zoo- but we will not see it for at least another 3-5 years at best guess.

What hasn't been said about the reImagineering of California Adventure? It should be pretty spectacular upon the completion of Phase One come mid-2012. Sure, the California themed elements seem to be giving way to Disney film characters and Pixar-centric attractions, but what great additions they will be!

I'm an unabashed fan of The Little Mermaid (how can a Dad not love a film that ends with a father being willing to sacrifice himself for his child?), so this animatronic filled ride through Triton's undersea kingdom will be a must see for me. From an entirely different perspective, I am thrilled for Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers, From first sight of it on film, I could tell the whole town was made to be built as a land in a Disney park- and my bet is we will not be disappointed with the end result. However, for the time being, World of Color- though quite terrific- will not bring me back. Neither will a "new" Paradise Pier and its carnival rides.

Sure, I'll miss Soarin' Over California , a new generation Disney favorite. I'll even miss an evening ride on Grizzly Mountain's rapids, but I'm satisfied to wait until it feels like the whole new place it is truly becoming. (How sad is it that a decade old Disney park, one that does have its fun moments, can be reduced to a couple of must do attractions?)In spite of the early observations that Disney has always revamped its parks, the truth is nothing of this scale and scope has ever been done before. It will seem like a whole new park upon completion.

What's not under the knife in a big way? Disneyland itself- but it should be. Star Tours 2 will not bring me into the gates or into the well worn and very unimaginative Tomorrowland. Had my Captain Eo and Space Mountain fix last time. In fact, as much as I will greatly miss sailing on the moonlit bayou to descend into the realm of pirates, flying off to Neverland or outer space, joining 999 happy haunts or happy children 'round the world, Disneyland will have to wait until I'm dazzled by something new. Nostalgia only goes so far. Same for marketing.

I love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and the always incredible Indiana Jones Adventure, even many of the smaller attractions like the Disney Gallery and Tarzan's Treehouse, but I can wait. I'm hoping for that big Tomorrowland revamp, but it seems as if the reviews of Tron Legacy may alter what happens next. Hope I'm wrong. Still, I have to admit, not much has changed in Walt's park recently- at least nothing to write home about. A new parade or firworks show won't bring me in, either. Think bigger, better, cutting edge, attractions. That will do it!

I guess, conversely, a trip to Walt Disney World could be the answer. But not now, maybe in a few years. A new Fantasyland, a few years apart from my beloved Epcot, and maybe even something new at the neglected Animal Kingdom, will bring me back.

Again, there are many places in the USA vying for my travel dollars. Even my desire to see Harry Potter will have to wait until I can combine it with Disney and some beach time. I'm thinking perhaps San Francisco (as we used to live in the Bay Area), a return visit to Charleston, or even a fall leaves tour of New England. Regardless what I choose, a Disney trip is on the back burner until they win us back. They can do it- if they want to!

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)


Randy said...

What about Turtle Talk with Crush at DCA? Since the first time I saw it, that has been on my must-do list.

Mark Taft said...

I do like it a lot. For some reason more at Epcot, however. Maybe looking into the water?

SamLand said...

It is not a good thing when somebody who is as loyal to the brand as yourself is wondering...why? As a Disneyland local, I appreciate the small improvements such as the new things along the Rivers of America, the amazing new Mr. Lincoln (simply haunting), and the great job that the current management is doing to maintain such an old facility and keep it in tip-top shape (something that does not apply to WDW).

I would agree that Tomorrowland is a mess. There is no there there anymore. When I was younger, the World of Motion version of Tomorrowland is where I spent most of my time. Now I just run through it, sigh, and grab my Space Mountain Fastpass.

I think they missed a great opportunity with the Disneyland Hotel. They had a chance to really push the Mid-Century Modern vibe, which is coming back in a big way, but they fell short.

I fear that once you see the Harry Potter area of IOA you will only get more depressed and realize that Disney lacks in the elimination of visual contradictions that was its trademark. The integration of the goods within the stores only makes the rest of the area more powerful.

But hey, we have great weather on the left coast!

Mark Taft said...

I'm still reluctantly hopeful, Sam. (But my mind is on other things, like my younger daughter's wedding this year etc. 2nd daughter to get married in one year!) I am hoping Disney will dazzle me with the DCA makeover completion in 2012. The DL Resort has so much untapped potential!