The question is pretty straightforward: How much value do you place on theme?
Over the years here, we’ve have long discussion regarding the erosion of theme at Disneyland: The inclusion of incongruous cartoon characters in lands and attractions; the elimination of themed shops and restaurants; the dumbing down of attractions; the hemorrhaging of pirates from the depths of time and New Orleans Square, out into the bright daylight of reality.
Many out there harbor no reservations whatsoever about these developments. Indeed, they believe that whatever Disneyland does is fine, nay, absolutely wonderful! Their arguments are supported by a single Walt Disney quote; something about Disneyland never being finished…
Others, such as myself, believe theme should be the overriding consideration when developing new experiences, but with a realistic appreciation that occasionally compromises must be made, if they cannot be avoided.
But is the elimination of theme a bad idea or a good one? What would be lost if theme were discarded? Or perhaps gained if theme didn’t have to be rigidly followed? The roller coasters and the rides would still be the same. Is environmental theming even necessary?
So much of Disneyland is themed to eras that--we are often lectured by the “Disneyland will never be finished” crowd--are “irrelevant” to today’s audience. Nineteenth century thoroughfares? Even today’s grandparents don’t recall the period. Why would today’s audience have any such nostalgia for the trappings of the Victorian era?
Frontierland? The American frontier officially closed in 1890. Westerns in the cinema had their swan song in the 1950s/1960s. How can the epic battles to win the frontier possibly resonate with today’s audience, where the biggest challenge facing most of us is choosing between going to the beach or the mall on Saturday, not defending the fort to the death against rampaging Indians or a determined Santa Ana?
Even the fairy tales depicted in Fantasyland aren’t as “relevant” to today’s child, who is far more familiar with Dora the Explorer or Spongebob than Pinocchio or the Mad Hatter.
So, is theme worth preserving? Or are some of us fighting a losing battle against foes who believe “relevance” should trump all?