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  1. #1

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    The Fantasyland Problem

    There's been a lot of complaints about well, basically anything Disney has done since Indiana Jones opened. Toontown is not that well loved. Winnie the Pooh sees nothing but complaints. Monster's Inc. is somehow not up to par. BLAB and Midway Mania are still somehow not good enough. FNSV is seemingly despised if forums like this are any indication. The complaints are very vague, though. Some about matching land theme have merit, but these complaints ultimately say nothing about the ride experience itself in isolation. Most ride-specific complaints are very vague: "not up to par, not good stortytelling, etc." At some point somebody actually said, in reference to the "problem" with Winnie the Pooh: "You see it or you don't." implying that the problem is actually not even able to be put into words!

    So what the heck is going on? I think I know, and it all boils down to Fantasyland.

    1) People don't like the concept of Fantasyland leaving the borders of Fantasyland. They don't like Fantasyland style rides outside Fantasyland.

    2) People don't realize how simple/dated most of the Fantasyland dark rides are. Or they do but forgive them for nostalgic reasons.

    So let's at these two issues:

    Problem #1: Fantasyland outside Fantasyland

    Disney's Problem
    Disney has a land full of old characters that no longer resonate with children. Sure the rides work and the characters are timeless, but Disneyland was never meant to be a snapshot of 1955 forever. Disney has countless beloved animated characters that have come out since 1955 and the Disney company would be foolish to completely ignore them. People are always asking why X character and Y movie are not in the park.

    Disney's Answer
    Retrofitting the Fantasyland rides with new characters/themes would be a PR nightmare and eliminate a great deal of the nostalgia on which those rides rest. So Disney's only real option is to allow animated characters and attractions based on them to exist outside Fantasyland, allowing attractions incorporating post-1955 characters into the park. This decision seems to date to the 80's, arguably with Star Tours, Toontown and Roger Rabbit represent a full land of characters outside Fantasyland. The first retrofitted character additions start in the 90's with Alladin's Oasis, Tarzan's Treehouse. Not coincidentally, the 90's also represent the time at which Disney had any animated properties worth a damn since Walt was alive.

    Fan Reaction
    People have complained about every single Fantasyland-style attraction that has been built outside of Fantasyland's walls. People are complaining about too many movie based rides and characters taking over the park.

    What's going on here?
    Basically, Disney has a mountain of characters that they were trying to cram into a single land. Allowing this wall to be broken is a change in fundamental approach for Disney, but it's one that is hard to deny from a practical standpoint. Not allowing character based rides outside of Fantasyland is just too limiting and turns Disney into a museum dedicated to 1955.

    Is there hope?
    I think the allowing of Fantasyland attractions throughout the park is here to stay. If this fundamentally bothers you, then Disney theme parks are going to fundamentally bother you from now on.

    I think if Disney were to install an E-ticket that was not based on a movie property (in the vein of POTC or HM), people may be more accepting of the Fantasyland style rides outside of Fantasyland. Right now there's no arguing things are very imbalanced, even if Fantasyland style rides outside Fantasyland is ultimately accepted.

    Problem #2: New Dark Rides in a post-POTC World

    Disney's Problem
    People love Fantasyland and Fantasy-land style dark rides. Rides in this tradition have not been built since the 1950's, excepting some Fantasyland additions in the 1980's with the refurb. Fantasyland is out of room, so more Fantasyland refurbing is not an option (see problem #1 above).

    Disney's answer
    Disney begins building rides in this tradition again. Although updating the tech of them, they are built in the same tradition and fashion as the original dark rides of 1955. These rides are Roger Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, and Monster's Inc. (we're going to ignore Superstar Limo as a drunken mistake). Also arguably including BLAB and TSMM.

    Fan Reaction
    But these rides aren't good enough, for reasons unclear. Roger Rabbit seems to go over okay, but Winnie the Pooh is said to be "cheap", despite having much more flourish and tech than almost any other Fantasyland ride. It's said to lack story, yet a hatched and abridged version of Snow White that completely lacks an ending is beloved. Monster's inc is said to be static and yet Mr. Toad, a ride made entirely of painted wood panels, is beloved. FNSV, which attempts to break out of the original Dark Ride tech boundaries, gets lambasted for NOT being a dark ride and just being "video screens".

    What's going on here?
    Primarily, Fantasyland CAN NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. Quaint, relatively cheap dark rides are no longer enough for guests. It is nostalgia that primarily keeps the old, dated, cheap Fantasyland rides "acceptable". Fantasyland was build pre-POTC and POTC, as the most elaborate and themed dark ride of all time, changed expectations for all dark rides forever. Haunted Mansion met this expectation. Indiana Jones somewhat meets this expectation. But anything built that could be categorized as a dark ride has NOT been a hit if it has not been built with the same elaborate quality as POTC.

    Is there Hope?
    The Little Mermaid might pull it off. If it's elaborate enough, people may accept it. But if it strives to be Fantasyland rather than POTC, then it will likely be met with mixed reactions at best, just like every other dark ride that came out post 1969 that doesn't have Indiana Jones in it.

    Disney's true attempt to solve this problem has been to move away from dark rides to other technologies. This is BLAB, TLMM, and FNSV. These incorporate interaction and video technology to immerse the rider instead of expensive sets and AAs. Is it working? It's tough to tell. These rides all seem to be popular and yet hated for one reason or another. It could be the usual resistance against change. But the reality that not every ride can be POTC may just forever be a bitter pill for the fans to swallow.

  2. #2

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    I think most of the problems with the new dark rides isn't that they're actually too "static" or "cheap-looking" or that they "lack storytelling". I think they're all perfectly good dark rides, really. I think the real problem people have, that they may or not realize is the real problem, is that we seem to be getting an abundance of them recently. There doesn't seem to be much else being built new, and what we'd really like to see is a balance of what's already in the park; non-movie themed rides, AA and music heavy long mega dark rides, FL dark rides, walk through attractions, vehicles, and shows. It's kind of like, FL already has enough perfectly good dark rides, why do we need more? People are also sick of rehashing the same old movies (of course, the kiddos aren't sick of this; you know how they latch onto a movie franchise and DIsney wants to take advantage of that) and have a hunger for something new and interesting in the attractions being built.
    Also, when a dark ride replaces something else, like Winnie the Pooh and Country Bears, there is definitely some bitterness left there. An elaborate AA show, of which we seem to have so few these days, that was not based on a movie, was razed to build another dark ride, something we seem to have enough of. It doesn't matter at all how good or bad this dark ride is, it's still going to be resented because of what it replaced. I'm positive that if Winnie the Pooh didn't replace anything, it would be a bit better liked.
    Whenever a new dark ride catches flack, people are not really seeing the dark ride, but the missed opportunity. All of that time and money and premium park land could've gone into something that we need more of, instead of another dark ride. The FL dark rides are exempt from this basically because they were already there. We had plenty of dark rides already, and they were the ones we already had, so we don't see in them a bit of wasted opportunity.

    Personally, all of the dark rides you listed above I think are great exemplars of dark rides, and more interesting to ride than their revered FL predecessors (I would never want the FL ones redone though; their simplicity has a distinct charm disappearing from other areas of the park). You'll see that the ones that get criticized most are the ones replacing something that people liked (Winnie the Pooh), or the ones that represnt an overabundance of something that people are getting sick of. Monster's Inc is in DCA (strike one!), is yet another dark ride (strike two!), and is based on a Pixar movie (strike three!). Some might feeling Oi, enough with the monsters already! Roger Rabbit, however, is replacing nothing beloved, adds interest to an area of the park lacking rides, and is the only attraction in both parks to feature that movie/franchise, so it scores a lot more points.
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  3. #3

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    That was an interesting read. I'm not exactly sure where to begin.

    Pooh- The primary complaint I hear from Pooh, even from average day Guests, is that it really doesn't make sense. It doesn't tell a story, or relate an experience. It goes from a random storm, to a drug trip (sorry best explanation I could come up with), to a birthday party. If they had utilized a specific cohesive story from beginning to end, told that story, and allowed the Guests riding to experience that story through their own eyes.. then it would have worked a lot better. The fact that Pooh is even compared to the dark rides of the 50's should be considered an insult. The fact that many find it lacking in the fundamentals of storytelling and ride experience... that shows how "off the mark" WDI hit.

    There is also a second underlying issue that I discussed a bit in another thread. Critter Country has two major themes; talking animals and a back hills country feel. Country Bears established this theme with it's country blue grass music and singing bears. Splash expanded on the bears, adding in all sorts of creatures (hence the change from Bear Country to Critter Country) but managed to maintain the country music roots and feel. Pooh has talking animals, but ignores the country theme established in Critter Country. People notice this, and often comment that it doesn't seem to fit but aren't sure why... as I said it is the subtle underlying theme of the land that stands in stark contrast to Pooh. You'll notice people don't complain about Roger Rabbit... the attraction tells a cohesive story that allows the Guest to experience the thrills of the movie and it supports the theme of ToonTown... the same can not be said of Pooh.

    BLAB takes a lot of flack because the movie is a modern day toy. We walk into the queue with no "shrinking mechanism" or anything yet we are the size of toys. We then shoot at random targets and email an equally random picture of ourselves to family and friends. It's a lot of fun... but does nothing to support the "Tomorrow" theme of Tomorrowland. The same could be said of Nemo. You sit in a sub and watch Finding Nemo 2 straight to water screen projection edition. The feeling of exploration, learning, and self discovery is quashed by the "where's Nemo" effect.

    TSMM in my opinion looks beautiful but falls apart in the same manner as BLAB does. In this case you don't even need to enter the building to be the same size as a Mr Potato Head. It's a lot of fun, but it's basically a glorified video game. It doesn't tell a story, it's a modern shooting game with about the same appeal as the Shooting Arcade in Frontierland. The only "support" it gives to Paradise Pier is Victorian architecture... so it looks nice.

    Monsters is interesting because it was an overlay on SuperStar Limo. Considering what they had to work with I believe the end product is nothing short of amazing. People argue if it retells the movie or allows you to be a part of the movie (fine line there). The biggest complaint is that it may or may not fit Hollywood Pictures Backlot. All over the back of the facade are stamps indicating that it is a movie prop. But there is no themeing stating that it is a movie in production. People are left wondering if they are movie stars in a movie or if they actually visited Monstropolis.
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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Very interesting read. Thanks for posting this.

    I think it's true that working with Fantasyland-like themes outside of Fantasyland has been an unwise decision on Disney's park, and also that people do expect more in terms of quality. But I also believe there are very real issues with most of the new-ish attractions you're talking about. I was gonna go into a long post about it, but I don't really feel like it at the moment. Thanks for posting this, though!


  5. #5

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    It is very easy. What is dated must go. The rides that can b updated in Fantasyland should be so. But the ones that don´t do anything for anyone else than the the hardcore fans should be scrapped. The Fantasyland rides are not uptodate with rides like Pooh in Tokyo and Monsters in Tokyo. They should be. The paper/wood cut outs are too cheap and too... old looking to be considered as anything else than a memory of time that is long gone. Remake or remove. ...and fantasy should stay in Fantasyland. If a ride does not fit in Fantasyland it should not be pushed into some other place. It will just make the park look sloppy and that was never what Walt would have wanted.
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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by TimmyTimmyTimmy View Post
    It is very easy. What is dated must go. The rides that can b updated in Fantasyland should be so. But the ones that don´t do anything for anyone else than the the hardcore fans should be scrapped. The Fantasyland rides are not uptodate with rides like Pooh in Tokyo and Monsters in Tokyo. They should be. The paper/wood cut outs are too cheap and too... old looking to be considered as anything else than a memory of time that is long gone. Remake or remove.
    Perhaps a bit harshly spoken for someone who has yet to experience Disneyland's dark rides.


  7. #7

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Interesting read and comments. I agree that it's hard to have fantasy-based rides outside of a land specifically named Fantasyland. And most of them have been letdowns. Though Splash Mountain works exceedingly well.

    Pirates and Indy, even the Haunted Mansion, while somewhat fantasy, have a certain real-life aspect: pirates were real, archaeological adventures are real, ghosts are real... um, well you get the idea. Similarly, I believe Radiator Springs Racers will work very well - based on a fantasy cartoon, but rooted in the real life of automobiles. TLM will be the real test of whether a pure fantasy attraction will work outside of Fantasyland (note: Pooh, Monster's don't quite work; BLAB, TSMM are a different breed of attraction).

    POTC was a revolution in attraction development. What we are getting now is mere evolution. That's the major difference for me. Indy is simply an evolved POTC - amazing ride system, but not the breakthrough that Pirates was. But it still came off as an amazing attraction. TLM will mostly likely be a simple evolution as well, with Pirates and Peter Pan as parents. I still think it will become a top ride however.

    Star Tours, BLAB and TSMM are the first of a new generation of attraction. ST was somewhat revolutionary in its ride-system, BLAB and TSMM are somewhat revolutionary in their interactivity. The problem with the latter two rides is that interactivity abounds in the real world - computers, video games. But none of the three has the resounding impact that Pirates had, that you just witnessed something truly amazing (I'm referring to when the attractions were introduced, not what people see now necessarily). And they all lack that fully immersive theming that POTC so perfectly captures. TSMM is a bunch of video screens - I wanted Toy Story theming. BLAB is lots of cardboard cutouts - I wanted the 3D theming of Pirates.

    Are we destined to see nothing more than evolutionary changes or is there something revolutionary along the lines of Pirates coming in the future?

    Sorry, I deviated a bit from the initial concept of this thread.

  8. #8

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    everything about fantasyland seems to be in excellent style and the rides are quite good and very enjoyable.

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Mojave View Post

    Are we destined to see nothing more than evolutionary changes or is there something revolutionary along the lines of Pirates coming in the future?
    I'd be happy with a mere replication of the techniques in Indy and Pirates. It seems they can't even duplicate what they've already done! Well, we'll see with Little Mermaid. It's a very successful design, much more successful than the FL-style dark rides we keep seeing, IMHO. The amount of themeing, the abundance of things to look at, plot as environment and small events rather than as a singular structured curve; we haven't seen any of that since HM really.

    In terms of ride evolution/revolution, I will 100% stand by Indy as a revolution. In terms of environment and themeing, it is a build on Pirates, but you see it in such a different way due to the speed of the ride and such. It the terms of the way it moves you (And this ride is more about the movement of your own body more than any other ride in the park), it's unique unto itself. The technical ride system is of course a revolution. But the combining of a dark ride with a thrill ride is also revolutionary. I'd like to see future thrill rides reach the level of theming of a great dark ride.
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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    I, too, would venture to call Indy revolution. It isn't kidding when it calls itself an "adventure."


  11. #11

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by TimmyTimmyTimmy View Post
    It is very easy. What is dated must go. The rides that can b updated in Fantasyland should be so. But the ones that don´t do anything for anyone else than the the hardcore fans should be scrapped.
    Ironically the lines for Fantasyland are usually pretty long (Peter Pan taking the prize with Dumbo a close second). I agree with updating, tastefully, and also agree with loosing what doesn't work. In that regard Pooh should go... It doesn't tell a story, doesn't fit the theme of the land, and overall IMHO doesn't work.

    As to Indy being evolution or revolution... the experience, themeing, and ride system has so many innovations that I would venture to say it was a revolution in ride design and an evolution in dark rides/thrill rides in general. To me it brought showmanship to an entirely new level.
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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Nice post.

    My complaint with the recent 1955-style dark rides is that we're not in 1955 anymore. Dark ride technology became increasingly sophisticated with its thematic immersion, special effects, and AA technology, up to Pirates and Haunted Mansion in 1967. Then we had Indiana Jones a few decades later, as if one last burst of energy from WDI... and after that, not much else has measured up. We've seen revamps of old rides (Nemo), off-the-shelf, under-themed rides (DCA 2001), and a few dark rides which compare to the work of Disney 40-50 years ago. Using this simpler style was fine with Pinocchio, which should blend in with its older Fantasyland neighbors. But it's like Disney abandoned the idea of improving on what they did before, instead satisfying themselves using mainly what was available decades ago. This may work fiscally, but it's no way to impress guests wanting fresh experiences, or to keep up with competition. I want to see Disney try to top Pirates or the Haunted Mansion, merging state-of-the-art AAs and modern technology... not to settle for less.

    Fortunately, it sounds like the Little Mermaid and RSR will be just what the doctor ordered.

  13. #13

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Techskip nails it in his response. The FL dark rides still get long lines even though they're dated tech-wise. They're something about them that still attracts kids who obviously are not there due to nostalgia, and that comes down to their telling a good story; they don't need to be particularly complex, like Toad, but they need to be persuasive. That's where Pooh (incoherent, scatter-shot story), and Nemo (mind-numbingly quotidien) fail. Monsters is a good ride, but it just doesn't fit its themed area. On the other hand, TSM fits the theme of the area, but won't age well as a glorified video game with no story. Even though BLAB is garish in decor and unimpressive in set design, it still gets good lines because it has a clear, tight story.
    In the end, people want a good, coherent story, and that's why they come to a Disney park and not Cedar Point.

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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Some arguments that circulate on these boards seem to suggest that we have to make a choice: New or old! Disney or Pixar! Well-themed or fun! What the fans want or what the “regular people” want!

    Well, I want it all!

    The problem is not that Fantasyland is full. Most of the Pixar franchises wouldn’t fit into the quaint Bavarian village/castle courtyard anyway. But that doesn’t mean that Pixar rides should be scattered willy-nilly all over the place, sometimes to the detriment of both the land they’re being placed into and the franchise they’re supposed to represent.

    I have seen many highly detailed and well-thought-out arguments on these boards about why Pooh, BLAB and other rides don’t work, in and of themselves. It’s not just “’cause they’re new!” and nor do I think any rides should be torn out solely “’cause they’re old!” or “because the characters no longer resonate.” The rides should be judged on their own merits.

    The Fantasyland dark rides aren’t my favorites, but yeah, I do make certain allowances for the technology because they’re old, just like I would make allowances for effects in an older movie. I wouldn’t mind some upgrades, where necessary. I don’t think there was much complaining when Alice got some minor upgrades a while back.

    Part of the problem with the newer dark rides is emphasis on the characters themselves, which has nothing to do with what the guests want (the typical excuse), and everything to do with selling them plushies. Disney doesn’t sell plush scenery.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but Pooh is every scene of his ride, except the bounce along with Tigger scene, and Tigger is in every scene except the Pooh eating honey scene. The entire ride screams, “Look, it’s Pooh! Look, it’s Pooh! Look, it’s Pooh, Pooh, Pooh!” (Except when it’s screaming, “Look, it’s Tigger!”)

    Compare that to Peter Pan: you soar over London, you soar over Neverland, and then you see Peter fighting Hook, and Peter triumphantly steering the ship. Most of the ride is about the sensation of flying like Peter Pan. Only towards the end do we actually catch a couple glimpses of Peter. The main draw is the sensation of flying, which is the same draw (albeit presented in a very different manner) over at Soarin’ in DCA.

    I’m trying to think now, and I can’t even remember whether or not I saw Alice on Alice-in-Wonderland. It’s all about the experience of being in Wonderland. I think she’s in the Unbirthday scene?

    Even on Roger Rabbit, where there are multiple Rogers throughout the ride, there are still (relatively) long stretches that don’t have him in it, where it’s just us and the environment of the ride.

    Speaking of which, when I was a kid, I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit when it came out in theaters. There’s a scene where they reference Harvey, the “invisible” rabbit from the movie of the same name. I asked my mother who Harvey was, and guess what? She told me! Then I knew, and I got the joke. Later I wound up seeing the movie Harvey.

    With the internet, kids today have more information at their fingertips than ever before. If they ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and they don’t know who Mr. Toad is, they can look him up on Wikipedia or something (with their parents permission, of course )

    And maybe they don’t know who Mr. Toad is (using him as an example because it’s one of the less visible Disney movies these days), but they can still appreciate the ride on its own, as an “out of control” car ride. Especially since virtually nothing that happens in the ride actually happens in the movie. (It jumps from Toad sneaking off to buy the car to Toad’s trial, and no, he doesn’t go to Hell – you’re thinking of Charlie’s nightmare from All Dogs Go to Heaven .)

    I also disagree with the idea that every character has to be firmly planted in the child’s mind before they walk through the gates. Do they want to see their favorites? Of course! But they can be introduced to a few unfamiliar ones, too. They seem to like new characters when they’re introduced in the new animated movies that come out every year.

    I see walk around characters of Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear in Critter Country. Kids probably know who they are from ultra-popular Splash Mountain. It’s certainly not from hidden-in-the-Disney-vault Song of the South.

    “Not every ride can be PotC.” What does that really mean? To me, when I say I want another PotC, I mean I want an original, non-movie based ride with an emphasis on atmosphere and detailed theming, that captures the essence of whatever its theme is, created with the most premium technology available. What’s so outdated about that?
    "Happy Working Song" parody for DCA remodel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-TYESfNTP8&feature=plcp

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    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/user/animagus.../1/q1j7FU8QXu0
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/user/animagus.../0/sasNTMDRBLU

    Retro Rant Review of "Home on the Range" (comedy review of Disney movie):
    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7mC-...feature=relmfu
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoUie...feature=relmfu
    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3Vea...feature=relmfu


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    Re: The Fantasyland Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    Ironically the lines for Fantasyland are usually pretty long (Peter Pan taking the prize with Dumbo a close second). I agree with updating, tastefully, and also agree with loosing what doesn't work. In that regard Pooh should go... It doesn't tell a story, doesn't fit the theme of the land, and overall IMHO doesn't work.
    Pooh fits the theme fine. It works better there then in Fantasyland, in my honest opinion. Pooh not having a story? Jeeze have you ever ridden Snow White's Scary Adventures. You see the dwarfs running away from the old hag and then it ends and says they all lived happily ever after. What!?

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