February 28, 2012

The Disney Magic is Wearing Thin

Let me say up front that I appreciate all of the ongoing expansion plans at Disney California Adventure and even the new and somewhat impressive Fantasyland Forest at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. In my mind and heart, however, something is just not right, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Until now.

It used to be that Disney Imagineering was ahead of the game, and they were also ahead of the tourists. What I mean by that is, Disney used to be best in the business but now is playing catchup to Universal and its Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure. That's the easy one. Many folks who are theme park enthusiasts understand this point and I would venture agree as well.

The other is much more difficult. In days of old, Disney anticipated their guests' needs and surprised and delighted them year after year with new attractions as well as news shows and parades. Now, parades and shows are supposed to keep fans happy for years. Even at Walt's original kingdom, Disneyland, things seem, well, stale. Sure, the park looks pretty good. But it feels old, even tired.

Refurbishing attractions is necessary for show quality, but it is no replacement for new and exciting attractions. The still great oldies of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Jungle Cruise, and the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Submarine Voyage, and Star Tours, should be given new elements and refreshing. It's just not enough. The magic is wearing thin.

Don't let the argument of lack of space fool you. Tomorrowland is a mess. A big, disjointed one. And Frontierland has more than enough acreage for something big and new. Even Fantasyland has room. There's no excuse aside from not wanting to do it.

Don't let the $1 billion investment into California Adventure make you think this is why Disneyland has been left alone either. Cars Land and its Radiator Springs Racers and Buena Vista Street will be fantastic additions to the once bare bones park. However, Disneyland has been left alone for the most part since Indiana Jones Adventure in the mid-nineties. Again, no excuse.

Lest I forget Florida, let me say it's just as bad over there, if not worse. The gorgeous Animal Kingdom remains a couple of hours of diversion. Avatar will not be its savior. Something substantial must happen in the meantime. And fix that Yeti!

Disney's Hollywood Studios is as much a jumbled mess as Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Again, no excuses for a movie based park from a company that has the rich history and future Disney has. Poor Epcot may be the worst of the bunch with its outdated exteriors of Future World attractions, pavilions that are a shadow of their former glory, tired films of World Showcase, and lack of anything new in that section of the park for decades.

Hear this: Lack of corporate sponsorships is the result of a park that is losing its focus, momentum, and excitement. The Walt Disney Company can build great attractions that will draw crowds without someone else's money. They just need to do it. And they have the money. They keep building timeshares and cruise ships, don't they? And they keep building foreign parks. There's just no excuse, but while they wait, the magic is growing thinner and thinner while competitors up their game.


Anonymous said...

It's worse than that. Look what has been built in the last few (er, 20+) years, and it is all very underwhelming. Then compare that to the state of the art in Tokyo Disney. That is where Disney should be, with just a slow steady progress, no great leaps forward. But it has been all downhill really since Walt Disney died. Mineral King (and all its concepts) died with him; EPCOT became a lame park instead of an incredible city. Tomorrowland of 1967 was already put in place, along with Pirates of Caribbean, and its been running on ever thinner fumes since. When you understand what might have been, in say Western River Expidition, versus Big Thunder, or the Indian Jones ride we got versus the ones designed, it all becomes quite depressing to realize that DisCo. has been cheaping out for a long time. A real high point was EuroDisneyland. For once they spared no expense to do it right...but got greedy on the hotels and lost it. The Space Mountian they installed is incredible, but not compared to what might have been built there, or even what that ride was when it was new, and now a shadow of its former self. Nothing has been well done since 1992. except in Japan, where another company invests properly. And by that I mean, spotless parks with new shows and merch every season!! Not obviously reused stuff either, but fresh ideas and experiences continually. I'm already unimpressed with Carsland. It looks big and with some nice rocks, but nothing like "impressive" as is Tokyo's volcano is or the Matterhorn for that matter. Wait till folks find out that the ride itself goes inside yet another version of 'Carsland' which is not the one they just walked through to get there. (simply STUPID, like a California theme in California). World of Color could be good, but is an uncomfortable movie re-view instead. I could go on with many more examples. (like, one of the first decisions by Eisner was to allow WDW to trash it's carefully crafted scale and approved the Swan and Dolphin hotels in the wrong place, ruining Epcot Center forever; followed by much more sloppy planning across WDW). Keeping informed about these projects does not dilute the final product, but dull results sure do.

Mark Taft said...

Thank you- I think it is worse than I stated, but I was trying to be objective and also have a positive outlook for the future. Maybe Tron's light cycles will go into Tomorrowland and begin a revolution!