Disney Gridlock

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Features

Tagged: , ,


Published on October 08, 2013 at 2:00 am with 42 Comments

The gridlock in Congress (still no budget, as of this writing) seems like a strange topic to bring up on a Disney fan site, but I think there are parallels to the online world of mouse-fandom. In both Congress and in the Disney fan community, we seem to have reached a point of speaking completely different languages. I think ultimately the problem is that we as a nation seem to have forgotten how to disagree with each other civilly… and I see echoes of that national problem right here in our own little pond of Disney fan sites.

I started internally musing on this topic last week when I saw a comment on my Meet Minnie report that expressed some disdain for Disney once again rolling out a new character interaction. I realized several things right away:

  1. Part of me wanted to politely reply that Disney has good reason to offer such character interactions – there are audience segments that really love this stuff.
  2. But I also recognized that the commentator had an absolutely valid point: Disney has offered so few E-Ticket rides lately, while the competition up the road has been seemingly unstoppable. Disney looks like it’s standing still.
  3. A visitor to MiceChat might see the exasperation of such comments and think we’re a bunch of whiners and complainers.

And that’s when I realized: we already have that reputation among some Disney fans, and even some podcasters and webmasters. Naturally, I don’t think of myself as overly negative. I try to be honest–if something is good, I say so (the Meet Minnie addition), even if it comes one week after noticing some bad (the declining conditions at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party).

Not at this year's party

Not at this year’s party

I don’t think it’s contradictory to be full of praise one week and lamenting the next, since these are two completely different elements of the Disney park experience. In fact, the opposite is true. I think having ANY knee-jerk reaction is a bad thing.

GREAT tributes on this addition at Meet Minnie

GREAT tributes on this addition at Meet Minnie

Unfortunately, and ironically, having a knee-jerk reaction about other Disney fans and websites seems to be a growing fad. I see it in my Twitter feed. I see it in my Facebook feed. I see it in comments on websites and discussion boards. I’m not going to get into specifics, but there is a fair amount of it. And it seems to be flying in all directions–by no means is this just about me.

On one hand, you have those who staunchly defend Disney, and see no wrong no matter what Disney does. On the other hand, you have those who think Disney has slipped irretrievably and can now do no right.

Sure, it’s a classic “he said / she said” situation. But it also points out that some folks want to view reality as a simple canvas painted with just ONE broad brush. Everything is black and white. “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy” said the soon-to-be Darth Vader in the more recent Star Wars movies (now a Disney property!), which everyone back then understood as George Lucas’s political critique on George W. Bush’s presidency and his take on terrorists that hide in other countries. But this kind of thinking seems to permeate today’s Disney fan culture, too.

It occurs to me that the partisan fights in Washington are at least partly due to the fact that no one seems to know how to get along together anymore. Time was, senators and representatives would disagree with each other loudly in the chambers of Congress, but then have drinks together that same evening like civil beings. They don’t do that anymore. Battle lines are drawn. It’s complete gridlock, with positions just becoming more entrenched all the time.

A touch of that has crept into the Disney fan universe. And it’s a shame. There is all sorts of room for us to disagree with each other, and I think it’s healthy to have the debate. Let’s disagree with each other. Loudly, even! The debate is how we actually get to the heart of the matter–often the truth lies between entrenched positions. But let’s leave the name-calling out of it.

And let’s all go get a drink together afterward. This *is* about our shared fascination with Disney, after all. One hates to quote Rodney King since it’s done so much, but the plaintive question has a certain appeal to it. Why CAN’T we all just get along?

Oh, and let’s try to steer clear of divisive politics in the comments. I think it’s possible to restrict the metaphor to “Congress in general” rather than identify EITHER political party.

Chase VISA Lounge in American Adventure Corporate Sponsor Area

Last year during Food and Wine, Chase VISA opened a tiny lounge with free sodas in one corner of the Festival Center. It was packed! So this year, they moved to the 3rd floor of the American Adventure – an area normally off limits to mere mortals, it’s the “corporate lounge” that most pavilions in Epcot have for when they have a sponsor.

Once again there was free soda – this year, it was TWO Freestyle Coca-Cola machines – and this time plenty of space to stretch out and flop onto sofas. The place was still crowded, though, and has a line to get in. Maybe this is because they allowed you to bring several (was it up to ten?) guests for each Chase VISA card you have.

I loved the view from up there out the front windows. And it was just fun being in some place I’d never visited before. Enjoy the photo tour!

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About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida. He is a founding member of MiceAge and has written numerous books about Disney parks (see http://bit.ly/kevinyee).

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  • Micah

    Maybe as the American Dream seems to be slipping away, in so many different ways, Disney represents a remaining bastion of traditional Americana that people want to find refuge in; and so I think this might add a sense of heightened tension about every decision and every detail at Disney parks, etc., because there is a dread and a worry that this too will be wrecked, will decay, will lose its innocent splendor, its reputation for being special, for being an experience par excellence, with attention to every minute detail being given, in order to create magic.

    It kind of hurt in a way, the day the last Space Shuttle was grounded, and I realized that our American astronauts would have to hitch rides with the Russians for the first time since before JFK. It kind of hurts in a way, when our nation which is supposed to be a beacon of Liberty, a city shining on a hill, an example to the rest of the world, betrays those principles which made it good and made it great. As minor as something like a Disney park might be in the grand scheme of things, I think its success is still important to the American psyche; and it just kind of hurts to contemplate yet another cherished institution losing its sparkle.

    So, although there are always the spoiled folks who are ready to complain about anything and everything, I think that a lot of people just have an extra layer of concern and worry in their lives, which seems to be the current atmosphere in the world in general; and sometimes that comes out in the wrong way, when our worries take our attention away from loving our neighbors in how we speak and act.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Regarding the defender-negator aspect of the online fan, there’s a recent marketing study on brand loyalty, and they found that Extremely Loyal brands (or those that created an emotional resonance and connection with the consumer, versus those brands frequently bought,) not only demonstrated high positive emotions and attitudes in consumers towards their brand of choice, they also had high levels of negative emotions towards the main competition of their preferred brand…and that even if their competition offered a better product or service, they wouldn’t buy that product or service, and would go out of their way to trash it while defending their preferred brand’s offerings. Moreover, they would view any critique of their preferred brand as a lie, or delivered with less than truthful substance.

    …and so, in many ways, in both politics and theme parking, the passion that the advocates for each side feels trumps any empirical data to the contrary.

    Using Apple as an example, those passionate advocates wait outside for hours to buy the latest ‘innovation’ of the pod, phone and pad…and will feel that it’s worth it to do so, while also trashing your mp3 player, Nokia and Kindle Fire.

    It’s an emotionally built response (and notably, it’s something that Disney encourages across all their product platforms…specifically for this “can do no wrong” aspect in their most ardent fans and consumers,) that can’t be readily explained or dismantled.

    To use politics as an example, try explaining to a Tea Party advocate that the language they use is strikingly similar to the language of the seceding South in the Civil War and you will have a massive verbal fight on your hands…despite the fact that the language IS strikingly similar (federal government telling us how to live, trumping states’ rights, etc.)

    It is to Disney’s tremendous marketing credit that they’ve been able to create this base of consumers so intense in their advocation of the Disney brand, and it’s clearly served them well through the last couple of decades where they, at least at WDW, stepped back off the investment and traded in some brand equity for profit.

    And it’s to Universal’s tremendous ride development department that they’ve been able to create an amazing theme park (IOA,) upgrade that theme park with Potter, and transform the park next door with some pretty dazzling, amazing ride experiences. CaptainAction is 100% correct in his ongoing assessment that Universal has put much more time, energy and effort into their theme park experiences than Disney has over the past decade or so. They deserve the attention and attendance that they’re getting…

    …but, like in politics and in theme parking, all that doesn’t matter. Trash Disney and all you’ll do is make their passionate advocate fan base defend their choice more…and purposely NOT go and check out the new stuff at Universal. Psychologically, the act of pointing out a negative creates a defensive posture in the passionate brand advocate. Neither does assuming a place of superiority, which again, closes off psychological roads that might lead to Universal, that might lead to a swifter adoption of the offerings over there.

    Also, like politics, you see this use of distortion of facts, anecdotal evidence as evidence, and differing standards. Here are some examples:
    WDW is losing visitors each year (totally not true to the extreme: WDW is gaining or maintaining visitation, with the three ‘lesser’ parks garnering 2-3 million more visitors per year than the Universal parks, and MK going to the ‘more than double’ place)
    Everyone I know hates Universal (some 7-8 million people per year clearly don’t know you.)
    Half of New Fantasyland is just a repurposing (as is 2/3 of the rides at Harry Potter, or The Simpsons ride, for that matter.)

    So, collectively, it’s not REALLY a conversation or a debate when you aren’t debating the right things. Which is to say, instead of debating on whether or not Disney is shedding visitors (they’re not,) debate why, with less development, they are retaining or expanding visitors. Instead of trashing the opposition, offer a positive wrapped around the critique and maybe you’ll have a conversation instead of a typed screaming match.

  • solarnole

    I honestly want to see Disney compete again and make state of the art rides. Cars land is just a slower Test Track with talking cars. Rock N Roller coaster and Tower of Terror were the last rides that they really thought out of the box on and used completely new technology to make one of a kind attractions that still hold up today.

    Personally I go to theme parks for the attractions. Dining and shopping can be done at any mall or downtown area. Plus local shops and restaurants are more unique.

    • CaptainAction

      I agree with you Solarnole. I’m afraid Current WDW leadership has made it pretty clear the last 10 years that this is good enough and they can count on the money coming in without giving the guests much more than meet and greets, themed restrooms, and stores.
      I think the only thing these execs are going to “hear” is guests spending their money other places like Universal.
      The best friend these current WDW execs have are the “WDW can do no wrong” folks. Then we all see status quo at WDW the rest of our lives.
      If Universal can put a scare into the execs by beating AK, or Epcot, or DS in 2015 then we can shake their little world and get the attention the guests deserve.
      It’s all a shame really.
      That’s why I appreciate Universal doing immersive theming which is actually better than anything at WDW. That’s why I’m spending my money where new technology never seen before at Gringot’s, Forbidden Journey, and yes, even Spiderman and Transformers are better than anything WDW has done.
      The only thing close to WWOHP and Diagon Alley theming at Disney is Carsland at Disneyland. WDW has othing to compare.
      Pretty good for the second place company, I think.

  • BornOnTheMatterhrn

    Kevin — would you like some cheese with your whine?

    • CaptainAction

      There is a defense which is hard to refute. Very thoughtful, thank you.

      I know you have the tough side of the debate but can’t you at least say, “I like all the new rockwork” or something?