This past weekend, we had a chance to sample the Muppets Most Wanted promotion in WDW (specifically, the interactive game added to Epcot). The diversion was pleasant enough, but it got me thinking about Studio money vs. Parks money, and on the whole, whether they were doing all they could to maximize value. I think they could do better.
The first principle to explain is that the two divisions of the company are funded separately. Duh, you say, but did you recognize that this means movie promotions in the parks are funded solely by the Studio and have essentially nothing to do with the Parks division? The most visible example of this was the monorail wraps for Tron Legacy and Iron Man sequels; the parks didn’t pay for that; the Studios did. And thus, when the requisite advertising period ended (maybe, a few weeks into the theatrical run), so too did the presence in the parks. The obvious conclusion is that the park presence was there to advertise the movie while it was still in theaters.
This is where we got the Anna and Elsa meet and greet in Norway–from the Studios. And the drying up of Studios money is why that meet and greet is moving to Fantasyland soon–which is better anyway, since the queue will be more manageable and partly indoors. This is yet another validation of Disney’s wisdom in moving the princesses together into one central, air-conditioned venue. (Well, at least SOME of the princesses).
The Muppet promotion is cut from the same cloth. There’s also a Muppet promotion in MuppetVision – Constantine appears in the pre-show video – but this scavenger hunt in Epcot feels more substantial. The actual experience is a bit like many park hunts: you show up in one spot, get told how to collect stickers, and then end in one other spot. Actually, they did EXACTLY this same thing for Cars 2 some months ago.
I’m not going to begrudge them the chance to do some cross-promotion. Strictly speaking, that’s a good idea. But the NATURE of the cross-promotion has to be worthwhile. And I’m not sure the Muppets Most Wanted promotion is worth the money they are paying.
First off, they didn’t publicize it. As a local annual passholder, I received no word this was going on. Are they maybe targeting out of town folks rather than locals? I suppose so, but for a movie, why?
Half the cast members at the turnstiles didn’t know about the promotion this Sunday when I got into the park and asked about it. That tells me there is some level of miscommunication going on at the parks.
I asked a nearby Security Cast Member when the Muppets hunt was on. He knew about the event, but couldn’t locate it on his Cast Member issued Tell-A-Cast (pronounced “telecast”) that ostensibly shows everything happening in the parks that day. Then he directed me to the area between the two Gateway shops.
At the non-Duffy Gateway shop, I asked and was directed to a booth near Mexico. This turned out to be right. This is where you start the game.
You’re issued a passport and told to collect stickers. You can go either way around World Showcase. I chose to go via United Kingdom, where the first clue awaited me. I had only a LITTLE difficulty finding where to go (which seemed appropriate to me).
Once there, I was told to pick up a phone installed here for the game and listen in. I heard maybe 20% of the dialogue, and that’s being generous. If not for the booklet, I would have had no clue where to go next (France). Once there, I guess I was supposed to look for a carrot-shaped diamond, but NONE of that was comprehensible from that phone call.
You interact with “regular” Cast Members that have other duties, and I liked that element. I suspect they like it too; it turns merchandise folks in essentially Attractions Cast Members.
But the game: incomprehensible. The very next station was in America, where we “won” the game, and Constantin was caught. I understood literally none of it. If they are keeping this game around, they need to fix the hot mess that is the narrative now. It might be interesting for very small children, but even that I doubt.
And that’s the main point I want to discuss now: will the game stick around? Should it?
The Studios pays for this, like they pay for other promotions. Normally, the promotions come and they go, and that’s that. But this game has a few elements and props that really do deserve to live beyond a week or two. I could imagine a permanent presence maybe, if they fix the narrative.
Of course, the game as it is costs money: people to give out the booklets, and those that greet you when you finish. But that got me thinking. Why did it have to be THIS promotion. What if they had built something that uses no human labor? What if they had built a themed alcove – even a shrine – to the new Muppet movie? Could that have been something they leave in the parks?
The truth is, any change in the parks is welcome. Much digital ink has been spilled (some of it mine) about the staleness of the parks, so having new experiences is welcome. But if those experience disappear in a week or three, what was the point? So few people even knew this was here in Epcot to begin with. It was not advertised, and thus was not in high demand.
That begs the question of why they don’t just design DIFFERENT things with the Studio money. If the Studios wants to advertise something in the parks, that seems natural enough, but one would hope the two divisions talk to each other enough to get feedback on all sides.
Either that feedback was lacking, or the two divisions aren’t really talking. Because a neat quest that disappears a few weeks later is a lame use of money. They could do much better. Take the few thousand dollars they have from the Studios budget and instead build something mean to last in the parks. Only in that way will the parks ever escape the feeling of staleness. What we have instead is stalemate: a sense that things will hang in the balance we find them now. And that’s not encouraging.
Ultimate Orlando Clicks #9
A new game in World Showcase offers a tie-in to the new Muppet movie Muppets Most Wanted, using stickers and a passbook to let kids of all ages hunt around the pavilions to catch Constantine. Plus, MagicBands are now for sale inside the parks.
Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cnvMnArITE
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