September 22, 2011

Opening a Pandora's Box


Tuesday's announcement of the Avatar project between Disney and James Cameron rightfully set the internet message boards ablaze, opening a Pandora's Box of sorts.

Why would the Walt Disney Company set the Imagineers hard at work on projects promoting someone else's property? Has Imagineering and the company at large lost their creative touch? Why place it in Animal Kingdom? Does it really fit the earth-centric focus of the park? What attractions are planned? Where will they go? Is this the end of Beastly Kingdom? Is this Disney's answer to Universal's Forbidden Journey with Harry Potter? What does Joe Rohde think about his baby being invaded by blue faced aliens? All great questions. Now for some speculation without a drop of official information.

Six years to fruition is an awfully long time to wait, but you can rest easy that the official Disney blog will soon be leaking information, concept art, etc. However, just a cursory glance at some stills from the movie give us fans more visuals than any official concept art ever could. Regardless of the over the top story line and the very preachy one world, New Age, self-realization, ego centric attitude, Avatar is a gorgeous looking film!What viewer was not held captivated by the images on the screen? I sure was- and if Disney can pull this off, more power to them. And all the better for theme park goers who can look past the "educational" aspects. (Entertainment aside, this is what Animal Kingdom is truly about.)

Regardless of what we think should be or not be done with Avatar, this move by the company is exactly what Disney Imagineers should have been doing years ago. Beginning with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones properties from the beginning, the Walt Disney Company should have been ahead of the edge a full decade or more before Harry appeared at Islands of Adventure, creating incredible and immersive worlds based on these properties. Fully realized lands within lands. All in theme. To be fair, this holistic approach was once on the Disney slate but almost as quickly aborted. Remember the planned Myst makeover for Treasure Island / Discovery Island? Remember Tony Baxter's prediction of the 45 minute attraction of the future? Here, in Avatarland, all will join together. However we see it, the truth is Harry did set the pace and is the new standard.

The creative genuises at Imagineering have accomplished this task before, but not at the theme parks. It was at the water parks and to great impact. Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are quite beloved and successful both commercially and artistically, pleasing tourists and suits alike. This encompassing style is what they are trying to do on a smaller scale with the Fantasyland Forest at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. (In fact, I happen to believe that when that project is completed, Florida's once concrete home to the princess community will be the new fan favorite of all the Fantasyland styles.)

What do I think they should create for Avatarland? Well, that's a topic for a different post- coming soon.

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