Something different today…

A long time ago… In a place far far away (from Florida) an executive retreat was convened.

For those unfamiliar with the term “executive retreat,” let me explain: it’s a way for people who are already somewhat removed from the day to day interaction with their customers to add the element of physical distancing from their workplaces to get even further away from them.

Many of these gatherings are held in premium priced venues, where attendees dine on poultry normally found in joke shops and swill copious quantities of adult beverages as they try to avoid contact with anyone outside of the series of cubicles they normally inhabit.  In order for their employers to pay for these gatherings, a series of tasks are assigned to all attendees. Completion of said tasks allows for more meal opportunities and before they know it they are back in their cubicles again avoiding customers just as before.

For customers of such company, the assigned tasks at these gatherings usually have very little effect upon them. Ideas sketched out on napkins from left field are found to be impractical, business plans from underlings gunning for their jobs end up at the bottom of briefcases, and hopefully a few pillows cushion the fall backwards that was supposed to be cushioned by a coworker who suddenly had trust issues.

Occasionally the instigators of such events change up the schedule a bit and ask everyone involved in the “executive retreat” to come up with a creative idea. For customers of said company this almost always means trouble, as said creative ideas cause billions of dollars in profits to evaporate and Internet gadflies have a field day.

Many regular readers of this column first encountered the trouble these “executive retreats” can cause back when Disneyland in Anaheim announced the results of a “retreat” dedicated to increasing the revenues from its adjacent parking lot. A shopkeeper and a schoolteacher were inexplicably chosen to master plan a major expansion of the Disneyland property with their visions of inexpensively constructed shops and restaurants in an environment designed to look like the state of California (in the very same state).

Rides would be sprinkled into the mix sparingly, wherever possible replaced by films featuring company contract players. “Hip and Edgy” they demanded the park would be, so Mickey Mouse wasn’t going to be allowed on property, and the one live show would feature Finding Nemo fish-head hatted dancers grabbing their crotches.

After almost a decade of empty walkways and a couple of billion dollars later, the schoolteacher and shopkeeper have moved on, the parking lot ended up with a few more cars back in it, a few rides were finally built, and the once still entry turnstiles began to spin with paying customers.

So now I find myself seeing history repeat itself as Disney confirms their deal with Jim Cameron and his Avatar franchise in this interview from the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

To be sure things have changed quite a bit within the Disney Corporation. Eisner’s departure, and Iger’s efforts to this point, along with the direction provided by Lasseter have resulted in an improved second gate for Anaheim. The executive now overseeing the parks, Staggs, for the most part seems to be on the same plate.

With success many times comes contempt though, which can shut out all reason and any constructive criticism. Iger and Staggs from what I understand may be at this stage as the project remains a mystery to anyone outside of the close executive circle they now head in dealing with it.

Tree of Life? Or Glow-necklace ODV cart?

The real problem is not in the execution of their idea, as Disney can replicate the world of Avatar convincingly and would be devoting the proper budget to do so. It’s the simply the very concept itself. Avatar is a movie defined by its technology, where character development takes a backseat. Its protagonists move the plot along in their adventures and yet audiences aren’t moved enough to remember their names. The simplistic story/concept doesn’t offer much to build on for beyond what happens in the movie. (And apparently Cameron is now dealing with that very issue in getting the sequels together.)

The merchandise sales for Avatar were unremarkable, and once it petered out of the stores, it didn’t return. For a company that makes as much as it does from merchandising I find it surprising that this one factor apparently continues to be dismissed. Also let’s not forget the royalties that must be paid to Cameron, something Disney wouldn’t have to deal with the Pixar and Lucasfilm properties since they now own them outright.

The biggest problem may be that this appears to be the only major project on the immediate horizon for a resort that desperately needs to be freshened up with more new attractions and a major investment in infrastructure. Walt Disney World over the next decade will face some formidable competition from neighboring attractions. Queue enhancements, while nice, can’t compete with new rides. The Resort’s bus transportation system is in dire need of an upgrade or reconfiguration throughout the property. Current management must stop bending over to pick up pennies as dollars fly over their heads.

Islands in the sky? Or balloons for sale?

Longtime readers know I don’t hate James Cameron. He’s a terrific filmmaker. I don’t hate Walt Disney World. It truly needs a lot of attention physically and financially right now. I think Tom Staggs and Bob Iger for the most part are on track and making good decisions for the company. John Lasseter’s contributions are to be lauded even with his continued blind spot about Cars 2.

Avatar land is the problem. Believe me, walking away from that concept now will cost a lot less than building it, then trying to fix and then ultimately replace it; which is going to happen.

I noted online a lot of you feel the same way. Don’t let Animal Kingdom become Disney’s Florida Adventure; speak up!

See you at Disneyland!

  • Disneymike

    Totally agree with you on this one Al. Avatar just does not have the legs to stand the test of time.

    • troyer

      I’m not sure about this concept. Perhaps with sufficient diligence something worthwhile
      could come of it. It’s refreshing though to see Al Lutz back to being his old objective (and critical when merited) self regarding Disney. Thanks Al and keep it up! The beloved Disney genius legacy merits more than narrow and small-minded corporate bean counters molding its future! Lets keep them on notice they’re being watched a la movement of the past. AND that crass disregard of guest experience motivated by greed will not be tolerated.

    • jcruise86

      Avatar’s legs are still under construction, but they might be as weak as those on Matrix 2 & 3. No one knows. But Disney OWNS Star Wars and an “Animals from other Galaxies” (or outside of our solar system) attraction could allow Imagineers to create creatures that might appear in future Star Wars movies over the next century or two.

      A divinely inspired thread. . .
      . . .
      currently has 8 options where people can vote for an Avatar attraction, yet as I wrote this, the 9th option, “Not thrilled” about Avatar, has earned 80% of the vote.

      • jcruise86

        Just noticed that my post above was written at 12-12-12–yet another sign from God that it should be obeyed.

  • Trumpet

    Nice Update Al

    I still don’t get Avatar. Disney attractions need to have memorbale characters that make you want to be part of their world (no pun intended). It needs to compete the expansion at USO with the new transformers ride, the mini Springfield and the suspected Harry Potter 2.0 expansion, (which I have dubbed Project London)
    I agree with you that Avatar needs to have a large budget and an emphasis on attractions that
    blow the guests expectations. I think there should also be resturants that reflect the aea and the characters. In my opinion, the characters have no charisma, and as a guest, I don’t want to eat and drink in their home world. Maybe Avatar will grow on me, and only time will tell.

    Thanks Again Al for your opinions of Avatar Land


  • Malin

    This will possibly fire up the Walt Disney World fanboys who get upset every time Al decides to write anything negative towards the Orlando Parks. Personally I don’t have a problem with the Avatar concept and kind of want to see the finish product. But even I can’t ignore the huge negative vibe surrounding the project. Fans just are not showing an interest and its not just a core group of Disney Fans on the forums. It’s everywhere and Disney Management are failing to recognise this land is a mistake. Although should we be saying no to WDW Management. Or should it be Iger and Staggs and other execs that seem to be the ones pushing the project.

    Interesting topic Al, would like to see more of this stuff from you. It keeps the debate going until you can bring us a news update.

    • mkcoastie

      Malin, I think you’ll find that when us WDW fanboys feel like Al is actually on our side (like this arcticle) we tend to agree and feel motivated to do something. This is very refreshing, great article AL!

  • daliseurat

    Yeah, I don’t see this as going well either. It could be awesome, but, the very idea of it is kind of…who cares.

  • Virtual Toad

    Al, your analysis and insight are completely correct. Avatar is a disaster waiting to happen.

    But the problem here isn’t Avatar alone. It’s everything they’ve done at WDW over the last 15 years.

    So much of what made WDW unique or even worthwhile has been shuttered, closed, torn down, left to rot, or just plain bastardized.

    The MK has been whored up with poorly conceived additions to classic attractions and pointless “interactivity.” EPCOT is so stale that it now stands for “Every Pavilion Closed or Trashed.”

    Prices are through the roof, Pleasure Island is gone, and only hyperaddictive planners are able to negotiate the ever-increasing mob scene. Oh yes, plus we have NextGen on the horizon.

    The problem here, sadly, isn’t that Avatar is coming. It’s that Avatarland will be a perfect fit for the over-hyped, under-delivering, increasingly bland and vapid product that is today’s WDW.

    • Longaway

      VT is pretty spot on. Orlando needs someone to actually care about it.

    • wdwprince

      This is exactly right. What is destroying WDW is neglect, ruining classic attractions with nonsense, interactivity everywhere for it’s own sake, exorbitant pricing, having to plan out every minute of every day, a billion dollars spent on Next Gen, crappy entertainment like clowns.

      Although I understand the points made about Avatar, I think it can do well because of what Imagineering can offer it, more than what it can offer to the parks. Imagineering can flesh it out for guests and give it Disney magic. Plus the sequels can offer something exciting that we don’t yet know. My problem is not with Avatar, it’s with all of the other stuff mentioned that is truly ruining the parks experience for me.

      And yes I’m speaking with my money. I have cancelled two of my three trips this year and have not renewed my AP.

      • Kidgenie

        Wow. Well said wdwprince! That is exactly how I feel. Avatar is the least of my concerns, even if its e-ticket turns out to be exactly what I thought…. a 3-D Soaring technology to allow for us to explore Pandora’s Hallelujah Mountain Range. The other issues really are
        * Next Gen lines vs Next Gen Attractions
        * The completely collapse of WDW live Entertainment: Short Parade that fail to wow, a lack luster list of live roaming entertainment, the closer of one of the few remaining good shows, Festival of the Lion King. Mark my words, its not coming back soon and my never come back at all.
        * Wonderful but now truely over priced resorts
        * Not enough dinning options
        * And an overkill emphasis on pre-planning everything. Nex Gen will now force everyone to pre-plan everything from attraction experiences to dinning venues and if you choose not to, you will get a second hand experience.

  • mratigan

    I understand their idea to get Harry potter
    Get the Highest grossing film and make it a land
    But not everyone like the film,but most love Star Wars!!!
    Give DHS a DCA style redue and add a Star Wars mega land

    • indianajack

      I like Star Wars, I don’t love it, but a Star Wars makes so much more sense than an Avatar-land and would make Disney a load of money. How they cannot see this is beyond me? They own the IP now, put it to good use. I’d be excited for an Indiana Jones land in Animal Kingdom too with an archaeology and exotica theme. Disney, use the IP you just bought and forget Avatar.

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. Avatar Land fails to inspire. Disney already has a plan for that space in the Animal Kingdom that their customers have been foaming at the mouth to see since the park opened . . . Beastly Kingdom. They should listen to their customers and build the thing people are asking for, and not the thing that EVERYONE is warning them about.

    • pineapplewhipaddict

      If they actually build Beastly Kingdomme, I’d be booking my flight to Orlando ASAP. That dragon in Animal Kingdom’s logo is a lie…but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a crying shame that such amazing theme park concepts have been shelved for so long. That land would be tremendously fair competition for Potter.

      Avatarland makes me want to stay as far away as possible. This is a bad, bad idea. I will say that I don’t think Cameron would allow for a cheapened realization of his film into a physical environment, but then again, contracts could become tricky and pull away his creative rights in this endeavor. And even if Disney spared no expense, the land would still be based off of a film that was a hit at the box office for mere spectacle without substance. I don’t remember any of those characters’ names (in fact, I don’t think I remembered them an hour after leaving the movie theater) and so much of the plot felt forced upon the audience for an emotional response because, surprise surprise, no one cared about any of the characters. Was Pandora pretty? Obviously. Sadly, the was really the only draw for the masses to come see this film. You cannot build attractions, create merchandising etc. purely based on aesthetics.

  • bhb007

    Perhaps the best analysis of corporate retreats (of which I’ve been to many) I’ve ever read. The “Bay of Pigs” groupthink that these things foster is terrifying.

    I suspect, thinking about the long game, Universal will find itself with some really expensive and dated properties over the next decade or so (Transformers, Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, and even Harry Potter come to mind). Attractions like E.T. and The Mummy were once both topical and bleeding edge. Now? Not so much… in the not terribly distant future, their parks risk becoming graveyards to forgotten franchises.

    Disney can avoid this and should. Broadly themed areas that excite the imagination (and allow space for occasional inclusion of licensed properties) are always a safer bet than “throw the kitchen sink at what seems hot at the moment.”

    Great work, Al.

    • jcruise86

      Good post, except that I think HP will become dated the way Snow White, Peter Pan and Dumbo have become dated. If fact, the quality of the books might make HP even more popular in 25-50 years.

  • indianajack

    I agree with Al 100%. Disney needs to cut its losses and stop this Avatar project immediately. The best argument to make to Disney to get them to see the light is the financial one. Disney already has so much other IP they could use and develop, and then not have to pay Cameron the IP licensing fees. Avatar does not and will not move merchandise. The sequels will most likely not measure up financially to the original, which had the new digital 3D angle to entice audiences to buy tickets multiple times. Please Disney, come see the light, Avatar-land is not the panacea that WDW needs and will make Disney much money.

  • Anonymouse

    here’s the thing about Avatar. Even some of the biggest fans can’t name ten characters from it.

    Avatar isn’t like Star Wars or Marvel or anything in the Pixar catalog because the characters all look alike and have very little depth. This isn’t like when you take a picture with Buzz and now you want to find Woody because the Avatar characters just blend into each other. And that’s not scifi racism, that’s bland character development. So even if you’re absolutely dying to take a picture with one of the blue aliens, are you really dying to take a picture with a second one?

    Avatar may be the highest grossing movie ever but it’s also a film that people look back on as more of a tech demo than an amazing story. So the excitement for the sequels simply aren’t there (and the incredibly long delays don’t help).

    Disney has to be aware that interest has faded and with so many quality franchises under their belt then they need to figure out how to start fresh because Animal Kingdom needs help and Avatar is not a solid long term solution.

  • eicarr

    As long as its going to WDW I think its fine. WDW need its own unique things to make me want to visit every 10-20 years. I’m not that big on the animal concept, so using sci-fi to tell the park’s preachy message about nature is a big step up, and gives me a reason to go besides the safari.

    If they want to put AVATAR themed area at DL where the autopia/sub is that’s another story. But if they squeeze A RIDE in DL tomorrowland, next to a new Star Wars themed section, that would be ok. Avatar aliens with Star Wars aliens would make the land more about alien worlds than a world badly predicting the near future with a cheesy Disney lens. Aside from buzz, star tours and space mountain, there is a LOT of free space to be demolished and filled.

  • SamBuddy

    Well, cameron is going to make more avatar movies, and fans are going to have dollars to spend.

  • Eric Davis

    I think that Avatar Land would do wonders to draw INTERNATIONAL visitors to Orlando. And for that reason alone, I support the project.

  • While I don’t completely agree with you on the subject of Avatar Land (Does the movie’s story really matter in a theme park setting? Great attractions can be made despite poor story, and bad attractions can be made despite great source story. Isn’t the visual world of the film much more important? That said, your points on merchandise, theme, and shelf life ring more true.), I like that you’ve dedicated a whole column to Walt Disney World.

    A lot of Walt Disney World fans think you have an axe to grind with WDW. As someone who visits both coasts and sees the differences between them, I don’t think that’s true at all.

    I just hope you will devote more attention to WDW and its problems going forward–articles like this, rather than passing mentions in unrelated articles. You’re one of the few people who have the clout to turn heads on Disney theme park issues.

    • Kidgenie


      I too and Bi-coastal… I will be at Disneyland again tomorrow:) And I second this! I have flamed Al before but here I have no flame. This is what I meant when I said WDW’s fan base needs your help and please aim your criticism at TDO not WDW guest.

      Your article was sarcastic beyond reason, but humorous to read because its so close to the truth and directed at the real issue, TDO. I thank you for it. Please more of this kind of attention.

      • mkcoastie

        “I have flamed Al before but here I have no flame. This is what I meant when I said WDW’s fan base needs your help and please aim your criticism at TDO not WDW guest.”

        100% agree! more like this Al!

  • aquaboi77

    Al, I couldn’t DISAGREE with you more. The movie, while a technical wonder, also had a lot of heart. Say what you want about the characters and plot, but the fact of the matter is that there are plenty of examples of special effects laden movies that do not do well. This movie would have been as popular if there wasn’t much more to it than mere special effects. You may not have cared for Avatar, but the world at large did, and the theme of the movie (living in harmony with nature) is perfect for Animal Kingdom. There are plenty of people who would flock to see this land come alive. And with more movies down the pike, there is plenty of promotional opportunities to make it profitable. I think your low opinion of the movie does bear out on the potency of this franchise.

    • aquaboi77

      I meant to say “wouldn’t have been as popular”

    • Anonymouse

      “This movie would have been as popular if there wasn’t much more to it than mere special effects. You may not have cared for Avatar, but the world at large did,”

      Yes, at the time the world at large cared about Avatar. But how about today?

      I do recognize all the quality attractions and theming that can be taken from Avatar but I do question how much people actually care anymore. There are so many movies and franchises that are exciting at the time but quickly get forgotten and I believe Avatar to be one of those. I remember seeing an article about how the movie did great but the merchandising didn’t which is an indication of how invested people will be long term.

      I guess time will tell and when the sequels come out years and years from now but IF it turns out to be a disappointment then it will be too late for Disney. And with so many quality franchises under their belt then thats not a gamble they should take.

      • aquaboi77

        Although there were lots of gadgets and machines in the movie, what was so great about Avatar were the lush landscapes, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to merchandising. Besides, it would be crass for a movie that is preaching conservation to peddle a bunch of plastic crap that is landfill bound. And as a big Disney fan, I have always been disgusted by the sheer amount of cheap, disposal merchandise foisted on park guests. I don’t go to the parks for merchandise, most people don’t. The main concern of the average park guest: rides. Avatar can easily deliver on that level.

    • Golden

      I’m perfectly happy for Avatar land to come to WDW, for one key reason. Whatever else Avatar may not have been, the one thing it was, was absolutely stunningly gorgeous.

      I’m disappointed if something like ‘poor merchandise sales’ is put forward as a good reason for Disney to not proceed. It will be like a breath of fresh air to me if merchandise sales are not everything.

      Al is a wonder at calling many things well in Disney-terms. On this one, though, I’m sorry Al but I think you are off base in judging it before we see it.

      I don’t care at all for Cars – but Cars land works for two reasons. One is that it looks fantastic (something Avatar land can do). And two is that it has a genuine E-Ticket which is worth multiple rides (something Avatar land also ought to be able to do). Whether or not Avatar land succeeds is not in the concept, it’s in the execution.

  • MSVRider

    While I am going to hold judgement until I see the new Avatar Land, I admit that I have wondered why they chose Avatar out of all the other animal themed properties that they have.

    Although, I disagree that Animal Kingdom needs more attractions. It’s actually one of my favorite parks because it DOES focus on the animals. I’d rather walk through Majarajah Jungle Trek than ride Expedition Everest (and I love Expedition Everest). It’s such a beautiful park that is, for the most part (don’t get me started on Dino Land), is unspoiled by buildings are rides. I realize that I probably don’t represent most of the tourists that visit the park every year, but I’d be sad if the focus on the park shifted from the animals to attractions.

  • Baloo

    from what i have heard of the Avatar project i think people will be surprised at the outcome. I just don’t agree with the analyze of this column. An Analyzes that is being done out of pure speculation not knowing exactly what is being planned.

    If the project continues great if it doesn’t and something else better comes along than fine as well but to criticize something that most know little about is ridiculous.

  • DonKarnage

    I say be super ballsy and open a fifth gate that incorporates areas for Avatar, Lucasfilms, and Marvel. Also secure some rights for some Anime titles and something Middle-earthy. IOA rip-off? Sure… but who cares. At least no single brand would have to stand on its own. Whatever doesn’t hold up over time can be crowded out bywhat does. Leave expansion at DHS to Pixar and the Mupets.

  • Baloo

    The price tag on this land alone should show that WDI is being allowed to make this land as detailed and incredible as possible.

  • QuiGonJ

    Al, I agree with you completely. The money that will be spent vs. the length of time since the movie came out.. I don’t see it being the Hogwart’s killer they were thinking of. But the corporate though is “Well, we have to try something…” and so it will probably continue.

  • chesirecat

    Avatar was forgettable in terms of characters, and the big draw was the CGI, which, admittedly, was done very well. The problem is that it is very hard to translate such a fantastical CGI world in a theme park land. Animal Kingdom already looks somewhat like Pandora, with trees and plants everywhere. They could put up the stone arches, add some nice night time lighting, but WDI runs the risk of not being able to make Avatarland stand-out from the rest of Animal Kingdom in a special way.

    They can contort plants to look a little like the stuff on Pandora, but it won’t come close to the glowing plants that move. They could go artificial, but this runs the risk of looking worn in a year. Avatar was basically the macho military vs. the blue people, that was the big draw, the action sequences. Will there be a “military” presence in this land? Doesn’t look good next to the tranquil look of AK.

    Of course, all of this may be academic. It is an open secret that WDI is having problems meeting Cameron’s expectations, and much of the ‘magic’ of Pandora will be projected onto Soarin’ sized screens. (I doubt that we’re looking at $400 for the first phase of Avatarland, more like $200 for Soarin over Pandora, and a gift shop and restaurant. Then if, (a big if), if this does get built, then they might add on more later should Avatar 2 be a hit.

    Interestingly, Star Wars 7 and Avatar 2 are both looking at an opening date in 2015 . . . With Star Wars, Disney doesn’t need Avatar anymore, and a Star Wars land would bring in pure profit for the company, versus Avatarland which wouldn’t be pure profit.

    I can’t say what Iger is thinking, but if he bought Star Wars years ago, I doubt the deal with Cameron would have materialized, and it may well be cancelled.

  • chesirecat

    Oh, and Avatar featured a smoking Sigourney Weaver . . . In the 21st Century, family groups sort of look down on smoking in films, especially a film which will be enshrined in a Disney park . . . a family theme park. Should Avatarland get built, I foresee a lot of upset parent groups. When it comes down to it, Avatar isn’t a Disney property, yet Star Wars obviously is.

    • Jungle Trekkie

      Are you seriously suggesting that parent groups are going to object to Avatar-land because a character was smoking, or are you being ironic?

      In the Star Wars movies people get hands, arms, and heads cut off with light sabers. Anakin gets graphically turned into a piece of burned toast. I would think that parent groups would be more upset about those things, but I have never heard of any protests about “Star Tours” or the other Star Wars related things at the parks.

  • Internitty

    James Cameron makes some really great films, always visually spectacular ALWAYS way over budget and late. I like The Terminator, The Abyss, even Titanic. I thought Aliens took the suspense that was the original Alien film and threw it out the window wrapped in a message that American audiences can’t deal with suspensful horror they only like action / special effect flicks (and don’t get me started on Ridley Scott selling out to that ethos with Prometheus). I saw Avatar twice at the cinema and bought the DVD when it was released however so far I have only gotten around to watching the first disc.

    I am a teacher of film studies and a pop culture junkie, unfortunately I cannot see enough redeeming factors in Avatar to warrant a land within Disney theme parks, I cannot see mercahdise that people would want to buy, if they didn’t buy it frst time around why would they now? Avatar a one off film with some possible sequels in the future cannot compete with Harry Potter with 7 books and 8 films and 9 video games, a massive following that continues to grow and will for many years to come, basically the Star Wars of this generation. Avatar at best will have one successful sequel, proof of that comes from observing other Cameron sequels, the average Terminator 3, the abysmal Terminator Salvation, even though it’s not his really the sequels to Aliens picked up on Cameron’s look and feel, Alien 3, actually I liked Alien Resurrection but coming from Jean-Pierre Jeunet the director of Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children and Amelie how can you go wrong? I liken Avatar to The Matrix an enjoyable first film which doesn’t stand up to multiple viewings and by the third film was well and truly done. Star Wars is the logical sci fi universe to exploit, they have already created a very successful ride and WDW enjoys success with Star Wars days, the universe is diverse and continues to grow, it has already stood the test of time and survived 3 bad prequels which did not affect it’s popularity.

    If Disney want to look outside their own stable I would think Studio Ghibli would be the logical feeding ground, the sumptuous worlds of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service are ideal theme park fodder and since Disney produces many of the English dubs for these films, hold US and share international distribution rights I think they would be a perfect fit and would be a land that could be added to and will stand the test of time.

    Avatar was a fun movie, amazing 3D but someone really needs to take a better look at it’s potential before wasting a fortune on an ill conceived venture…

  • FigmentJedi

    If you had to put an outside franchise into Animal Kingdom, I’d have picked Pokemon. Proven lasting appeal and with the Legendaries, you could apply those characters to the Beastly Kingdom model.

    Or you know, just do something original. Hell, why not have James Cameron consult on a version of Living Seas without Nemo? He loves the sort of sea exploration stuff the pavilion used to focus on.

  • Algernon

    In March the Oclulus Rift virtual reality headset will hit the market. People will be able to “walk” into video games with total 3D immersion (the images will not even have a border). Virtual worlds will be created, including past (and much better) versions of Disneyland people can “go” to, instead of the current one. Will theme parks even exist after that, when everybody can have a better experience in their own living room? One day Sleeping Beauty’s Castle will be at the Smithsonian, for those few people who actually go to the real one, and not the virtual one. A new age will soon be upon us. We may be arguing about nothing.

  • scarymouse

    Completely agree with Al, Disney should run from Avatar. I doubt if very many people would flock to see this land, its just not going to happen.Put the money back into a rehab of what makes Dworld tick.And some new attractions like the 7 dwarfs ride..more of these in existing lands would be more cost effective,than taking a chance on a outdated movie that no one wants to see , Cameron must want to make a sequel, what a better way to get another Avatar movie made get Disney behind it, obviously Universal turned him down.

  • Lisakd

    NO Avatar Land!!! Please!! It does NOT fit in with Animal Kingdom…or anywhere in WDW in my opinion.

  • PinokeFan

    I completely agree with Al.

    Yes, they may be able to make a visually impressive land (see Cars Land). Whether they will then be able to fill it with great rides & attractions is another question (see Cars Land).

    But the real head-scratcher, as Al mentions, is the MERCHANDISING. Even before they were bought, Pixar & Lucasfilm provided ample opportunities for merchandising. But Avatar? Sticking Mickey in a Jedi robe or Indy hat is one thing. I just don’t see a Na’vi Mickey happening.

  • jerhow

    Completely wholeheartedly and passionately DISAGREE with Al on this.

    At its core, AVATAR is a film that stresses the importance of appreciating and taking care of the natural resources of our planet, which is a perfect thematic fit with ANIMAL KINGDOM and is a strong and noble message that compliments the Disney brand.

    To suggest that Disney needs to focus its creative expansion decisions around merchandising is just misguided logic. I actually find it incredibly refreshing that Disney’s priority here is not on how they can sell stuffed animals and T-shirts, but rather, on finding a property with limitless creative potential.

    Disney in Orlando is over-saturated with attractions that skew to the very, very young, with very little to appease the teen-adult theme park goers. The world of Avatar offers a unique opportunity to build tranquil child-friendly soft rides AND deliver incredible state-of-the-art thrills to capture all demographics all rolled into one. This is a unique opportunity for Disney, and a chance to give Animal Kingdom, which never stays open when the sun goes down, a needed energy boost.

    While Star Wars will have a surge with the new upcoming Episodes VII-IX, the brand right now is tired, especially with how played out it already is in the parks, i.e. Star Wars Weekends at the Hollywood Studios. Thus, replacing Avatar with some form of Star Wars expansion, as some in these boards suggest, will create far less buzz and excitement.

    Let’s not forget that Avatar is still the highest grossing film of all-time. It is also one of the most spectacular visual experiences ever put onto film. Translating this into a tangible land that we can walk through and experience, to me, is incredibly exciting.

    Lastly, Al’s quote at the end of his article, “Don’t let Animal Kingdom become Disney’s Florida Adventure, speak up!” is COMPLETELY illogical and absurd as follows:

    – First, he praises the suits for evolving Disney California Adventure into what it is today: “Iger’s efforts to this point, along with the direction provided by Lasseter have resulted in an improved second gate for Anaheim.” And now he says he doesn’t have faith in the same execs who made the right decisions before?

    – “A shopkeeper and a schoolteacher…with their visions of inexpensively constructed shops and restaurants…” So first Al slams Disney for their 2001 California Adventure focus on shops and merchandising, and then he goes on to say, “For a company that makes as much as it does from merchandising I find it surprising that this one factor apparently continues to be dismissed.” So now Al is slamming Disney for NOT putting their focus on shops and merchandising? Hilarious.

    • aquaboi77

      I agree with you whole heartedly . I am so excited to see what the Imagineers can do with this land. I hated the Cars movies and was irritated that they were making a land for it, but after hearing the reviews and seeing the photos, I can’t wait to see it. So, if Disney can make me feel that way about Pixar’s worst films, I can’t wait to see what they do with James Cameron’s masterpiece. Yes Al: masterpiece. Your opinion is in the minority on this one.

      Just on the sheer numbers alone this will be a boon for Disney. Add the worldwide gross of the two Cars movies and they don’t even equal a quarter of the gross brought in by the one Avatar movie. And with 2 or more sequels planned, I don’t see how it can miss. And jerhow is also right about the teen/adult demographic that is looking for something more thrilling. Disney needs to up the ante in this department.

      I think it’s safe to say that everyone reading and posting on this site has a special love for Disney and it’s parks, but there is a huge part of the general population (me included) that isn’t obsessed with plush dolls and meet n greets with Disney characters. We want some adventure with our theme parks. Even though I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, I would much rather visit Pandora that Diagon Alley any day. And with the amount of money Disney sank into Star Wars, I don’t think we need to fret about Avatar taking over that franchise either. There’s no doubt in my mind more Star Wars attractions are coming. Add that to the Marvel stuff, and Disney has the chance of really monopolizing the theme park market for thrill seekers for decades to come.

  • disneytom

    How does this sound? I say we call this new area of DAK “John Carter of Avatar” land! I fear this new land is going to be about as successful as that film project was. I pity the kids at “Yellow Shoes” trying to figure out how to sell this hopeless opus.

    Nothing makes me want to yawn more than the prospect of an Avatar Land at WDW. The only bright spot is that this debacle is going to be located within my least favorite Disney park, DAK,. Thankfully I won’t have to trip over this nonsense when I go to visit the Magic Kingdom (about the only WDW park that I can still stomach anymore because the other three have been so dumbed down so much lately).

    While I saw the Avatar movie and I thought it was visually stunning, I truly can’t recall the name of one character in it. Yes, I know that there were tall blue people in it. I think they were called the “Naboo” because the trailer kept stressing that point; but I honestly can’t recall a principle character in the film.

    Why Disney/Iger would want to invest in this franchise is beyond me. This is the “John Cater” of theme park decisions. It’s simply not going to have any long-term play. Sooner than later this land will go the way of the Wonders of Life pavilion (and what Mission Space is about to become). In the case of Wonders of Life the pavilion was just a bit too far off the beaten path with attractions that were bland from a repeatability perspective – it got to the point that you thought to yourself – “well Star Tours is more fun so if I have to do a simulator ride this trip I’ll just invest my time over at MGM and do it there”.

    Even with a few new sequels in the works, there is no guarantee that Cameron will match the success of the first film. Then, gee, perhaps we have another uncompleted Narnia on our hands. To be honest, I don’t even remember how the first film ended and who lived and who died. Cameron insisted on Titanic 3D and the public yawned – what does Avatar 2 hold in store????

    I think one of the other issues is that Joe Rhode is involved with this project. I’m sure he’s gotten nice and chummy with Cameron and his posse and he’s brokering Iger’s expectations on all of this too.

    But let’s face it, Rhode’s baby…DAK just can’t churn out repeat visitors or first time preferential visits. It’s a park located in the middle of BFE so it’s difficult to get to. It doesn’t set itself apart too much from the San Diego Zoo, Sea World or Busch Gardens and really is as tired as Epcot and DHS currently is. They say they are “not a zoo” and that animals are only a focus – what is this park besides Schizophrenic?? When’s the last time they actually added any new animal exhibits to the mix? I guess Sea World has the fish and penguin market tapped so they probably can’t go there at DAK. When they add new rides they don’t seem to work – the lack of a fierce Yeti makes Everest a bore – he’s the star of the show isn’t he and he’s nothing short of bladder shy.

    Avatar is coming at the expense of Beastly and it’s really such a shame. One of the reasons Potter is so popular is that they have mythical animals in the canon. With all of the themes from Greek literature (the Hydra) to mythos such as Unicorns, Pans, etc. – Disney really could carve out a memorable and repeat experience at DAK if they tried. Instead pony tail guy gets to run with Avatar!!!!

    Disney is going to need a lot of cutting edge technology to bring “John Cater of Avatar” land to life so I wish them luck. I wish they’d reconsider but since they’ve committed in the press (again) it seems like this shotgun wedding is going forward.

  • stitch1085

    Avatar does not have the “street cred’ (if you will) that Star Wars and Harry Potter both have. I mean let’s face it Harry Potter wasn’t even completed until 5 or 6 movies had been released, long after the books had been HUGELY popular. And Star Wars, I mean nothing touches that franchise. Why Avatar? That movie bored me to tears! I get it, let’s all live in harmony with mother Earth, blah blah blah, BORING! When I go to Animal Kingdom I want to see ANIMALS not ALIENS! I would love to see an Australia area added to the park with more Kangaroos and Koalas and all those critters that I loved seeing in The Rescuers Down Under! They need to bulldoze camp Minnie-Mickey and Hester and Chester and Lester’s or whoever’s Dino-Rama and create a more memorable Dinosaur land. When the LA County Fair did a Dino exhibit I was blown away that such a modest effort could turn out such an amazing exhibit! Disney needs to stop trying to get by on the cheap. Everyone knows YOU GOTTA SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY!!!!! That’s Business 101!

  • Nczerks23

    The biggest problem with the upkeep of the parks is the strength of certain Unions. Lightbulb Changers make over $50,000 working for WDW with “cadillac” healthcare and a better 401k than most of the frontline management teams. It’s not sustainable.

    • aquaboi77

      Boo hiss.

      • aquaboi77

        I support Unions.

      • BrianFuchs

        Support them all you want. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s not sustainable. Remember the Twinkie?

      • Nczerks23

        I support Unions too when they are actually fighting for workers rights to a safe working environment etc… but when they fight for unsustainable wages and make it impossible to get rid of dead weight employees, I can’t support that. Ask any front line manager out there if the union is not their #1 headache, I guarantee it is.

    • jerhow

      This is the best post on this thread ever.

  • cellarhound

    As I have said… If Avatar in the parks is ANYTHING other than a fully immersive, state of the art, virtual reality experience; I would be disappointed. WDI is very good at what it does… Fully immersive, state of the art, computer based VR experiances is not one of them. (Look at DisneyQuest – case in point)

  • kirbilicious

    When I first heard about Avatarland, I was underwhelmed. I thought it was in overrated movie and would rather have the rumored Australia project built. However, the more I think about it, I think the project could be really great. Avatar does have striking visuals and if Disney is able to recreate those environments, it could be something quite magical. I’m not sure if the lack of strong characters is an issue. Aren’t some of Disney’s greatest attractions built upon just experiencing the environment without having a story shoved down your throat? Rides like Pirates (before Jack Sparrow) and Haunted Mansion thrive despite not being story or charcter driven. Let’s also not forget that mediocre movies can give rise to great attractions. Universal’s Kongrontation was a classic depsite it being based off the entirely mediocre 1976 version of King Kong.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    Walt had a philosophy that worked and I am amazed at current Disney management fails to continue. Walt said that he built rides that appealed to the child within us all. Walt had a gift to connect to his child within his heart to see the world as a child would. He knew that if he build attractions that children would enjoy along with adults, he would have a unique approach to an amusement park. That has worked. Children like pirates, so do adults. Children like ghosts, so do adults. But Avatar is not connecting wtih children. They like the visuals, but as Al pointed out, the characters do not connect with them. I would also say that they don’t connect with the child within us all. Do I want to fly one of those creatures through the skies as in the movie, absolutely. But will Disney be able to pull that off convincingly, or even try? I believe not. It will only be a lame land that subtracts from the Disney mystique and not adds to it. Al is right. Cut your losses with this before you have to spend an extra two billion to fix it.

  • Dapper Dan

    “Avatar land is the problem. Believe me, walking away from that concept now will cost a lot less than building it, then trying to fix and then ultimately replace it; which is going to happen.”

    This is essentially what I’ve been saying since the idea was announced. It seems that either nobody at Disney is thinking long term or they are gambling everything on Avatar somehow becoming a franchise with sustained longevity.

  • whamo

    As an OG (original guest) at Disneyland and Carsland, on their opening days, and AP Premium Disney Geek who likes to wear his Grumpy hat, baseball shirt, and Disney lanyard with pins, I say nay, nay, nay, as one of my favorite comedians likes to say, to Avatar in Disney World.

  • waymire01

    The validity of Avatarland set aside for a moment.. highly agree that Disney needs to put their focus on fixing the existing issues before they invest in more new attractions. Give us back a functional Yeti.. then worry about a new ride in AK. Make the rides sparkle and shine.. then open that new restaurant. Our last trip we spent more time thinking “wow, this is really getting shabby”, “the quality has gone downhill”, “they definitely need more buses on this route”, and sometimes just “ick”.. than wishing we had a new ride/attraction to see. Considering the costs involved in a Disney vacation, that is NOT the way to get those all important repeat customers. I have no problem with the interactive queues, just polish the ride at the same time and don’t change it to the point of being unrecognizable (RIP poor Test Track).. Dumbo is a great example of how to do it right.

    To be honest, I’ve never seen Avatar. No, I’m not a hermit.. lol. I just felt the story was really generic, I had seen it multiple times in other “clothes”, and it held little interest for me. It was shoved so far down our throats when it came out that I had already seen all the good parts and knew the entire story anyway. The main selling point was the 3D, and at the time that was great.. but now who hasn’t seen a dozen or more 3D movies? Even back then, as a DW attendee I had been exposed to a lot more 3D than the average person. Not only is it just not terribly interesting to me.. it’s not Disney. If I wanted to spend my trip doing “not Disney” things.. I would go to Universal. I would go so far to say I would rather have an area devoted to Princess and the Frog than Avatar… Some beautiful buildings, fireflies/crickets/chirping frogs, good creole cuisine, a nice dark ride, maybe a fun swampy area with interactive characters and music… and I don’t even like P.a.t.F all that much.

    Concerning the age appropriate argument.. I have two kids, ages 18 and 9, and neither of them has any interest in Avatar. Animal Kingdom in particular has a large lean towards older kids and adults already.. the three major rides are each too much for the average young child, and the age appropriate rides are on the midway.. while they are a fun diversion they are not that great, certainly not Disney caliber. We also have two shows (pretty good, but kids want to get out there and DO something), dino statues to climb on (which seriously need some love by the painting department), a train (the least picturesque train ride in the entire “world”), and of course the animals. Disney is, and always has been, a family park.. we need attractions that the family can enjoy as a group. What about Fantasia.. lots of good fantastic animals there… If they insist on going outside of the Disney stable for attractions, I think the studio Ghibli or Pokemon are both excellent suggestions. Here’s a thought.. how about actually doing something with Camp Mickey.. my kids ask me every time where the fun camp stuff is.

    • ttintagel

      “Make the rides sparkle and shine.. then open that new restaurant… I have no problem with the interactive queues, just polish the ride at the same time and don’t change it to the point of being unrecognizable (RIP poor Test Track).”

      Oh, man, this could not be more true. I just got back from WDW, and when I saw the latest projection added to PotC, I thought it was OK, but I couldn’t help fantasizing about what it would be like if they went through and replaced each AA figure with the latest model. I think it would be as jaw-dropping to see how the scenes would spring to life as it was for the guests who first saw the original. And even without the crab game, the scope and artistry of the new Little Mermaid queue made me feel like the Pirates queue did when I was a kid.

      Hopping on a steam train to get from one end of a park to another, or onto the Monorail to go between parks is as exciting as getting on a ride, and the kids seemed to enjoy it, too. How cool would it be to replace some of those buses with fun, alternate types of transport?

  • animatronic

    Totally. Avatar is simply not the type of movie to build a themepark land around. The characters and story are not beloved… Well done Al. It’ll be a big take back for Iger to say, “Oops!”

  • BrianFuchs

    I have never been less excited about a Disney announcement than when I heard about Avatarland. I remember checking the date to make sure it wasn’t a MiceAge April Fools article.

    Like many, I ignored it, thinking it would “go away” – especially after the deal announced with Lucas. Now that Disney has reaffirmed this strange decision, I’m puzzled again.

    I spent my $20 to see Avatar, and found it to be a much preachier version of Pocahontas, but with blue people. I cannot remember the name of a single character from it, and have no desire to see any sequel when it comes out. The story was paper thin and no amount of special effects could save it. But most of all, I think Cameron is startlingly full of himself, and I foresee any Avatar ride or show to carry a heavy dose of his political leanings.

    Potterland works so brilliantly because it is based on a fully-fleshed, incredibly rich story. The books were a theme park on paper. I mean, if your job was to come up with half a dozen shops and restaurants based on Avatar, could you come up with even ONE? Could you even come up with names for those shops that people would identify with the movie?

    Maybe a Disney Avatarland would work in some parallel universe. The only thing that needs to be done first is to create an Avatar movie that has an interesting plot, memorable characters and places, and is family friendly.

    • GrumpyFan

      I’ve never been more mixed about a Disney announcement. Like many, I too thought it was a joke at first, but then realized it was legitimate. I have since warmed to the idea of it, but still have many reservations about it going into AK or any Disney park. I’m sure WDI can work with this and come up with something enjoyable, but I have to wonder if it’s time and money well-spent, or if they would be better in the long run just building their own land using a different theme, not necessarily with a movie tie-in.

      I see many issues with Avatar, some of which already mentioned, including merchandising and the lack of a real story that people could identify with. For the most part, the movie itself was just a really well done 3D movie with some action in it, which explains why nobody remembers the characters. Maybe it’s a minor issue, but I struggle with exactly how we’re supposed to visit Pandora when the last we saw, human-kind wasn’t welcome there.

  • sandiegomousefan

    I think ultimately the success or failure of Avatarland rests solely on Cameron. Can he really “world build” in an interesting and compelling way?

    This is hard. The best “completely from scratch” worldbuilders (Tolkien, Herbert) were BOTH geniuses at it AND used several thousands of words to realize their visions. Others (Rowling) use existing cultural loadstones to help ground her work (in Rowling’s case the English Public School) or close enough worlds to our own that exposition isn’t required (Cars being grounded firmly in the American Southwest and Route 66). Still others borrow heavily on existing frameworks and add in a few twists (Lucas – whose star wars universe is stock space opera of galaxy spanning empire – what is different is “The Force”)

    Conversely, Cameron has released ONE movie and some related tie in media. There are not hundreds of books on Avatar land, no world building, no nothing .Given a billion dollars can the imagineers so something fun to look at? Sure. But will it drive turnstyle visits to WDW and get tourists to spend more money with the Mouse? I doubt it.

    Avatarland ultimately feels like “panic” about Potterland. And maybe they HAD to so that. But, interestingly, go wonder a book store. You will see SOME potter stuff but not NEARLY as much as you did 6-7 years ago. Meanwhile the Disneymarchine keeps cranking out love of princesses.

  • jcruise86

    Al, thank you for taking the time to write so well
    and for caring so much about places I care about!

  • Tinkerbell

    I agree. Is it really that much to ask of Disney and its Imagineers to design something entirely original? Something that is uniquely Disney? Isn’t that what they used to do best?


    I think this whole Avatar project is dumb. Yes is was a popular film at the time, and yes another film is going to get released, but it just doesn’t have the popularity or timelessness to have a large portion of a theme park built around it.

    Avatar has no place in popular culture. If you go into Target you will see Star Wars, Cars, and whatever else toys there regardless of how many years its been since there was a film to push them. Avatar just doesn’t have the same effect without a current film and constant advertising to bash it into peoples brains. The film wasn’t a flop, it made tons of money, but it tried to force its way into popular culture and while it lasted for a short while, it quickly faded.

  • DisneybyMark

    Aloha Al!

    I agree with you so very much on this issue. I thought it appropriate to share an editorial from me last year on this subject…

    “So yesterday they announced that Animal Kingdom will have a new “Avatar Land.” Years ago when Disney announced the deal on Indiana Jones we at WDI wondered if a non-Disney property would work in the park or not. It turned out to be a great idea for an attraction, and in Adventureland. Now we are ready to open a “Cars Land” at DCA. I’m sure it will be fun but I question if a movie can support a “Land” for very long. You see to me a Land is an Idea, not a character or a movie. For example look at Fantasyland. It has 15 movie attractions all centering on one idea, Fantasy. All the lands follow the same format and they work wonderfully. So let’s review: Ideas are: Fantasy, The World of Tomorrow, a World Showcase, the American Frontier, etc. The theme of the lands give the attractions a home with other complementary stories. I admit that Harry Potter works as a “Land” because it is very, very deep in its story lines. It also has a staying power that Avatar will never achieve, but Universal Studios is all movie based (so the Disney rules don’t apply.) I hope the current Disney leadership doesn’t try to change our parks into “Movie” lands. I think it will cheapen the experience for young and old.”

    I think Avatar would make a great ride next to Star Tours at DHS or maybe in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, but no-way should it ever be a land!

    • Mr Wiggins

      > I hope the current Disney leadership doesn’t try to change our parks into “Movie” lands. I think it will cheapen the experience for young and old. <

      Too late…

      "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
      – Michael Eisner

  • tasman

    Al, whatever the legitimate criticisms of WDW, I think choosing Avatar-land as the target of that criticism is misdirected.

    Would I rather have Beastlie Kingdomme on that spot? Yes. Would I rather see fewer film-based lands and attractions? Yes. Is there a long way to go to reverse the mistakes of the last 17 years? Yes. Are the Avatar characters the most natural fit for Disney? No. Is Avatar itself a truly great film? No. Is there going to be a merchandizing bonaza for the Mouse? Likely not.

    But say what you will the overall trajectory for WDW has been to “incline by degrees” more than “decline by degrees” for the last five years or so. Starting with meaningful (and mostly classy) updates of rides like Haunted Mansion and Spaceship Earth, to New Fantasyland and Test Track most recently, there have substantive improvements which do in general add value to the parks and which uphold historic standards of quality. Camp Mickey-Minnie is largely a waste of real estate, and FOTLK could easily be relocated in Africa. Whatever the virtues of the film itself and whatever the merchandise potential, the theme of the story (living in harmony with nature) fits well with the park, the new land is likely to be beautifully detailed and the main ride itself likely to draw large crowds. Perhaps this land won’t have the longevity of the classics but is likely to have a reasonable return on investment over the next couple of decades. This may not be any Potter killer but it definitely add value to AK and go a long way towards making it a full day park.

  • airick75

    For the sake of “signing the petition,” I agree, I’m not even remotely interested in Avatar land. I’ve visited WDW in the last year and frequent Disneyland. I saw the movie Avatar only after its inexplicable massive box office haul. And it was ok, but, to borrow an expression, in one eye and out the other. PLEASE DON”T BUILD AVATAR LAND!!!! PUT ALL THAT MONEY TOWARD A STAR WARS LAND – PREFERABLY LANDS FROM THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY! A living, breathing Jabba the Hutt would be exciting, right?

  • Mr Wiggins

    > For those unfamiliar with the term “executive retreat,” let me explain: it’s a way for people who are already somewhat removed from the day to day interaction with their customers to add the element of physical distancing from their workplaces to get even further away from them. <

    Quote of the year.

    As applied to Disney Corp, quote of the decade.

  • Zeathos51

    I’m not sure if anyone will read this all the way down, but I was interested at first by what Avatar would look like as an attraction but like the movie, you fall into the world when you watch it and then forget it for awhile. One thing I do know is that Star Trek the Tour and Star Trek the Experience were fantastic short lived attractions. The Tour never got past the first stop in Long Beach. The Tour and the Ride was the best attractions I’ve ever experienced and fans need to seek out these Star Trek attractions. I’d rather go on a ride or view props that have been painstakingly crafted by an artist rather than stand in line for three hours to meet Johnathan Franks. Perhaps Disney or Universal would make a great beacon for Star Trek attractions. Although, I don’t give credit to a wierd Star Trek attraction on youtube where guests could star in an episode. This apparently was an attraction at Universal. But I digress, a Star Trek attraction has a proven quality over Avatar and would make a better fit.

    Here’s a link to a youtube clip of the old Universal Studios Star Trek show.

  • Atomobile

    The thing that is missing from Avatar is not whether you remember the character’s names, but would you like to travel WITH them FURTHER than you have so far?

    Toy Story, yep, we like these characters and want to see more of them.

    Luke, Leia, Han, Yoda, ObiWan and their ragtag band of rebels? Heck yes! We even like the villains and want to see more of what they are doing.

    Mater and Lightning? Great buddies.. where are they going next?

    Cinderella and the Faires? Peter Pan, Wendy, The Lost Boys and especially Tinkerbell? Ariel and Flounder? Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie? Pumbaa and Timon? Nemo, Marlin and Dory? Yes to all, we’d like to see what else they are up to and feel like part of their family. Heck, I’d even like to hang with Scat Cat, O’Malley and the gang if I could again…

    The success of all Disney attractions and lands are about whether the CHILD in each of us identifies with the characters in that land and wants to either spend more time in their company, or BE them. Is the popularity of Beauty and the Beast about looking beyond the surface of people, like it preaches, or do we just like being in the company of a beautiful girl who loves a not-so-beastly Beast and his cadre of amusing furnishings? Do we want to go into that creepy temple on our own, or would we rather accompany one of the greatest adventurers of all times? Heck, would we even go down the jungle rivers of the world if we didn’t have a guide with a gun who manages to elude tigers and hostile natives each day and is personal friends with Trader Sam? Is it even conceivable that we’d wander around a creeky old Mansion were it not for our cackling Ghost Host? And would the plundering of the Spanish Main hold such interest if there weren’t at least a bit of the Jim Hawkins in each of us? “Ay, properly warned ye be says I…” is actually an invitation when you travel with Long John Silver, or now, Cap’n Jack Sparrow!

    Whether Cameron is successful with Avatar the Sequel will be based on whether we still want to travel with Jake Sully and his new family. Honestly myself, as I watched the movie I felt like it would make a good HISHE video where a capital ship simply smoked a hole in the planet from orbit and the miners dropped in and took whatever they wanted like the 49ers of old California. When your mental image ends up being “Sure I feel sorry for these guys, but really, who cares.” then you’re not going to hang with them for another round. The way the Na’vi were portrayed, I felt like they were just an annoying race of complainers who wouldn’t allow any quarter to the aliens on their planet… and that was ALL. Just cardboard characters. Unlike Dances with Wolves, a FAR superior film to Avatar and essentially about the exact same thing, I came to feel DEEPLY for the Sioux and saw the U.S. Calvary as misguided and borderline evil, for the first time in my life. THAT is a game-changer that lasts and makes me want to ride further with our protagonists. WIth Avatar, it felt like all of the characters were so distasteful and pig-headed and one-dimensional that I didn’t care about ANY of them. Was the WORLD interesting to LOOK at? Yes, but not moreso than any Frank Frazetta background.

    Studio Ghibli, Tolkein, Rowling, A.A. Milne, give us not just beautiful or fascinating locations, but characters that touch us in a deep place so that we EMPATHIZE with them and WANT to carry on with them. THAT is what Cameron is missing in Avatar. So, once I’ve BEEN to his world, I’ve seen it. No further reason to go, because it holds no more purpose for me. Detached thrills are what carnivals are about. Disney meant to leave that world behind from the inception. I agree with Al that heading that way now would end up as a mistake.

  • lighttragic

    Acquiring the lord of the rings franchise for theme park rights would of been an interesting option ,While I wish they would of chosen this route, I am willing to give them a chance to see what happens with Avatar

  • WDWFan75

    I have many arguments against an Avatar land, and Al covered many of them in this article. There’s one, however, that I don’t hear many people making, and it makes me a little bit sad. Disney Theme Parks are slowly losing their unique stories and getting filled more franchises everywhere you look. I understand the reasoning behind this: franchises provide proven money-making machines on which to base an attraction or land. I even love many of the things that come out of it. But I’m afraid Disney has lost the chance at creating new stories unique to the Theme Parks. Expedition Everest was the last attraction I can think of that wasn’t tied to a pre-existing franchise of some sort.

    When people think of Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, they think of classic attractions like the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Carribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain. None of those were tied to movies or other forms of entertainment when they were built (although two of them were subsequently tied to films, one more successfully than the other) – they were simply Theme Park attractions with great stories. Something like the Pirates films, for instance, would hardly be possible with today’s attractions. You can’t create a new movie franchise out of something that’s already a multi-film franchise to start with, after all.

    As much as I’d love to see that Kingdom Hearts ride/show/land/whatever that lives in my head, I’d like even more for Disney to remember that there are good ideas that could draw visitors to their Theme Parks beyond what already exists in other divisions of the company. Once upon a time, Imagineers used to create new stories alongside the pre-existing stories they worked with. I’m sure they still do, but the money doesn’t get put behind those stories, and therein lies the problem.

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  • Epcyclopedia

    The biggest example of focusing on pennies while ignoring dollars is the stagnation of Epcot.

    Epcot has more available capacity than any of the other Disney parks – worldwide – but has the lowest relative utilization. Epcot on New Years Eve will have more guests in it than Disneyland and DCA combined. That’s where it’s full capacity is set at.

    During a normal operational day are there more people in Epcot than Disneyland and DCA? Not by a long shot. Epcot is vastly underutilized.

    Every penny spent getting a few more thousand people into DHS and DAK before Epcot is a wasted penny.

  • dankallen

    Couldn’t agree more. Avatar might well be a one-hit wonder — two yet-to-be-made movies poses a huge risk, should they bomb.

    I see the same issues with Inoventions at Disneyland becoming an Iron man attraction. I think Wall-E would be better.

    Wall-E is character and story-driven film, not mechanical-suit driven. It had a great messages about environmentalism, friendship, and hope. And there’s no reason a ride based on Wall-E couldn’t be fast, fun, and futuristic.

    The message Iron Man conveys is that wealth buys you the right to be an ass and do as you please. And, aside from the Iron Man suit’s technology, it’s basically not futuristic at all.

  • darkamor

    I don’t think the Walt Disney Co is the right place for James Cameron to take his AVATAR LAND … I think he would be better off working with Universal (they seem to have a need to bring in anything that offers a new experience that will compete) & there’s already a previous working relationship with regards to T-2 3D …. I think Avatar may be better off as just an Attraction and / or Ride vs an entire section of a theme park .. I do agree that WDW has various theme parks that need more oomph added to them sooner (and not later)

    C J