October 7, 2013

Two Questions About The Little Mermaid

Disney's The Little Mermaid finds its "Diamond" release this week on BluRay and DVD. While on one hand, I find it to be a crass exploitation of the product and a continuing milking of their customer base, you can't blame the suits for making the most of this classic and beloved 1989 animated film.

The bigger questions in my mind center on two thoughts regarding the attractions that celebrate the film- one in California Adventure and the other in Walt Disney World's beautiful but lacking New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom

Question One- "Dear Walt Disney Suits and Imagineers, what took you so long?" With an unexpected smash like this film that continues to have a strong fan base, why was it 25 years before there was an attraction built in the parks? Imagineer Tony Baxter had wisely planned one for Disneyland Paris two decades ago. Granted, it wasn't the version that finally got built, but the bones are there. What could it be? How could the company that excels at squeezing profits out of every opportunity overlook something like this? 

Question Two- "What the (bleep!) were you thinking by creating the attraction but giving it a lifeless, lackluster, third act?" Where the film ends with a spectacular climax, the same cannot be said for the attraction that was built. After the incredible and convincing Audio-Animatronic of Ursula the Sea Witch, the sense of drama and danger quickly morphed into a sappy and biteless ending, the gorgeous Kiss the Girl scene notwithstanding. Let's just say that Imagineering or budgeteering missed the mark big time. What should have been the reason to hop back in line by giving riders a show stopping storm and confrontation between good and evil, is instead a nice, safe storybook version for the skittish two year old. A wasted opportunity to take some teeth out of the Wizard next door in Florida and soon, California. Harry Potter and his Forbidden Journey ultimately have nothing to worry about.

Let's just hope that by the time this attraction makes Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, or Shanghai, the ending- and a few other details- are fixed to create the ultimate Ariel's journey.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Eric Scales said...

I've never been bothered by the ending, and am always perplexed when people are. I wonder if it's because so much was leaked ahead of time: the Virtual ride thru on the previous DVD and the concept art for Paris' version that showed the gigantic Ursula in the final battle. Would anyone have really given the lack of a final battle a second thought if those pieces hadn't already primed us to expect them? I wonder. I think you could look at any of the Fantasyland Dark Rides and find flaws in them by some standard. They all lack something of the film that they were based on, and almost none of them follow the exact storyline linearly. It could be that most of us grew up with those attractions and just have accepted them as they are. The worst part of having waited for so long for Mermaid to become an attraction is that it had to come into being in the Internet age, where it was being dissected from the moment the first concept images became available and everyone had an opinion. I don't mean to squash any discourse, but I do think that that's true, and that people don't experience these attractions as they did in earlier eras.

Mark Taft said...

I really really like the ride, but to me, it could have been incredible and not just fun. Plus, unlike the claasic dark rides in the Fantasyland courtyard, in both locations, it holds a prime spot and the attraction itself is in a majestic looking building. I just expected more. Will it ride it every visit? You bet! Especially since Ursula is my favorite Disney villain.