February 13, 2015

Bi-Polar Disney

Disney happenings have taken an oddly confusing path this last week or so. I mean, who would have guessed that the beautiful Animal Kingdom would have gotten new Tree of Life roots when they were busy demolishing parts of the garden and making room for more guests in the central viewing area. 

If you take a look at the hub at the Magic Kingdom, the new plaza area will look nice, I'm sure- but in the meantime its a tangle of construction walls. There's some new trees being planted along with less than hidden speakers on poles. Then there's a few new fountains being placed and increased pathways while other fountains are inoperable or other water features -large and small- are dismantled. Totally a mixed bag. Much like the Sunglass Hut installation in Adventureland and the new dining location being built in the once wonderful and filled with potential Adventureland Verandah.

Further signs of Disney's bi-polar attitude are found at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Cooler, wiser heads finally prevail with the long overdue removal of the Sorcerer's Hat, while points of sanity are instantly lost by closing the Studio Tram Tour without an announcement or replacement. Are they planning to eventually shutter the park when guests realize much of it is already close and begin to stay away or plan their day at Universal instead? If I were even planning a trip to Walt Disney World now, this park would be off my list as it currently stands. 

And what about Epcot? The very fact nothing seems to be going on aside from Frozen and a new theater for Soarin' speaks volumes. 

Unfortunately, things feel just as much in disarray at Disneyland and California Adventure over on the West Coast. Disneyland's 60th is underwhelming at this point in time, and it relies on a nostalgia fueled approach. Construction scrims around the castle point that out clearly. Enhancements to dark rides in Fantasyland are nice, but certainly the suits and Imagineers could come up with something better. Perhaps an "E" Ticket in a park needing additional capacity and a large dose of something fresh.

At California Adventure, Condor Flats becomes Grizzly Peak Airfield, a nice move that neither adds nor subtracts. Luigi's removal equals a Luigi's addition. Sure, Marvel's on its way to some unused space back behind Tower of Terror, but even that move leaves me somewhat cold. Should be placed in a third park along with Star Wars Land. The incredible Cars Land is beautifully in theme (and fully friendly to men and boys. Could that be why its such a hit?), but the female focused Frozen offerings, while nice, take place in an area that's clearly ignored,  and with all the "charm" of DCA 1.0.

Not surprisingly, the only region of the world which feels singularly focused is in Asia. Shanghai Disneyland is shaping up to be quite the park, one full of unique adventures. Hong Kong Disneyland has its own new adventures planned, and the fan boy's dream of Tokyo Disney Resort certainly won't be left in the dust as those executives plan an expansion to rival anything else that's been built there since the addition of their second gate.

Are we Disney park fans a bit surprised by this manic range of action? We shouldn't be, but then we too are often victims of the same mentality, at the whim of Disney marketing, bloggers, and the like. A dig into recent history will reveal once again that Disney is first and foremost a business- one that currently fleeces its devoutly loyal guests for the benefit of the shareholders. 

Such is this "Disney life". It's time to fight for more and to focus on something different.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Joel said...

While I agree with the odd planning for WDW right now, what could Disneyland have done differently? They appear to have many plans for the future, so big that they wanted to do it right and could not complete by the 60th. They have three new, what I believe are quality, shows as well as upgrades to stale classics and other minor updates and placemaking projects in DCA. (The castle hasn't been painted for 10 years so a few weeks with a scrim is warranted)

Therefore, I am not sure what else you could have expected. They are no longer in a spot where they can just simply add one E-ticket as everything now with a full park requires complete reimagineering of an existing land or building an entirely new land.

Mark Taft said...

Hi Joel,
I think I would have expected some long term planning well in advance of the 60th, and I would have expected to see an E Ticket attraction. Now, granted, the suits spent much time and energy on DCA 2.0 (and its mostly terrific!) Yet there are plenty of places the suits and Imagineers could have at least built something new. There's big sized pockets of land to be found, some out in the open (Motor Boat Cruise area for example). I guess I'm tired of parades and shows to celebrate the most major of events. The 50th gets no pass from me either. Appreciate your thoughts!