Monday, February 16, 2009

Off Track?

Has Disney really gone that far off track?

It seems like whenever I read an article on someone's blog criticizing a Disney park there are about two responses: First, some responders who criticize the article itself while saying how good (fill in your park here) is today. And second, a bunch of people who are far more negative than the original criticism.

The first bunch are categorized as "fanboys" or something of that nature by the second group, and the second group are categorized as living in the past.

I'm probably somewhere in between. I enjoy the parks a lot. I think that Kevin Yee over at MiceAge takes a lot of flak for being negative when really he's quite positive much of the time. It's clear that he'd like things to be better: he'd like the parks to be maintained better, he would like to see good areas kept open, he'd like to see less cheap additions like snack carts and such. But he clearly loves the parks - all of them. I agree with Kevin for the most part.

Could they be better? Of course. Tomorrowland seems to be losing its identity little by little. Every time I go there it seems less fresh, and less about "tomorrow". Adventureland just looks in need of some TLC, as does Fantasyland. And Epcot would benefit from not having a pavilion completely closed, and from better designed pavilions that right now really don't have much beyond a queue for the E-ticket attraction housed there and a bit of a post-show for the attraction, a post-show that is too easily ignored and bypassed. Animal Kingdom could use some Imagineering in the Dinoland area, and could benefit from having that area down by the river reopened. I've never seen it open, but it looks nice from the vantage point of the top of the closed walkway down.

Those are just the things I notice. I'm sure there is plenty that I don't notice, that doesn't register. But does it make me not enjoy the parks, or maybe not enjoy them as much? Not that I can tell.

I think there is a problem with our generations today. We live in a far different world than we did when Walt dreamed up Disneyland, and the Magic Kingdom. We live in a different world by far than we did when Epcot was born. We're a lot more immune to the "wow" factor. Think of film. Think of the achievements in cinematography, in movies like Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump. We watched Mary Poppins last night (because we're going to go see the musical in May) and while I love the charm of the scenes combining animation and live action, it looks - well, quaint! And dated. Those scenes in a film today wouldn't wow anyone, though I bet they did when the movie was released.

A friend and I were talking about music. He was lamenting that, in his opinion, no one was doing anything new in music. The songs of today don't take music in a different direction from where it was going all along. There's no new "branch" analogous to jazz, or classical, or rock, or hip-hop. I've tried to look for an example of something that would fit his definition of "new" but haven't been able to.

Maybe it's like this with theme parks too. I mean, the future no longer seems like it's looking outward - and the advances that appear to be coming down the pike, perhaps, do not look like they would make for excitement at Epcot. I read a lot of know...stuff like "I loved this ride or that ride and why can't they do something like that?" It has to be relevant, it has to be forward looking, and it has to have a "wow" factor.

What would "wow" you, as a theme park goer? I'm open to ideas.


Future Guy said...

First of all, is it just my imagination, or did your blog get a bit of a facelift? It looks good.

What wows me is a ride that delivers a one-of-a-kind experience. Soarin' is a good example. As much as I loved the old animatronic dark rides at EPCOT, I can understand why some folks were bored by them; they offered the same kind of experience. Today's audiences are more jaded and therefore more demanding.

Many of Disney's problems, I think, stem from the fact that it's a gigantic corporation, and gigantic corporations tend to do stupid things (see U.S. auto industry; entire business plan of) Even if someone like Walt was running the company, they'd get crushed under the all the politics and the competing interests and the tendency to make ten bad decisions for every good one that defines corporate America. Still, Disney does do a pretty good job pleasing its customers, overall, and they deserve credit for that.

Lastly, if you want to hear some really new and different music, I suggest Bear McCreary's Battlestar Galactica scores. They mix Western, Asian, and even rock influences into some of the most innovative stuff I've heard in years.

Scott said...

I changed the colors a little, and a few fonts and link colors. Thanks for noticing. Someday I'll do more...maybe.

Soarin' wows me and my family, too. But a lot of complaining seems to go on about how it really doesn't "fit". Education and "wow" = edutainment. A hard thing to achieve, it seems to me.

And I agree about the corporation - it's so big and big seems to equate with lowest common denominator and safety. Walt never took the safe road, but I think today he'd have a hard time going against the grain in the boardroom...but he'd be really really rich!

Thanks for the suggestion on music. I'll give it a listen...