The death of the AA-based attraction....
By far my longest post ever... but stick with it if yu can.
A month ago, at MouseInfo there was an "Ask Marcie" thread. (For those that don't know Marcie is a Disneyland Marketing employee, first brought in to counter spin Al's anti-Pressler/Harris articles. She's still Spinerella of Disneyland Marketing, but not as agressivly so now that DisCo has realized that Al was rigth all along.)
Anyway, the thread is here:
In Post 222, Marice has this to say:
"It is funny that you mention about an attaction with AA figures. When AA figures were introduced to DL back in the 60's they were such a novelty that alone they attracted guests to the parks, because everyone wanted to see these new marvels in a theme park attraction. Since then they have lost a lot of their luster. No longer does an AA figure have any impact on bringing guests out to a park. It is all about immersing someone into an attraction or show by using all sorts of effects, ride systems, and techniques that may make it a personal experience to them. So those are the types of attractions that are being considered for the future - at least for the U.S. parks. Not in all future attractions will this be the case, but mainly the current "E" tickets that are under consideration seem to be following that direction for WDI at this time. If an AA figure will compliment a story or theming of an attraction, then they will be incorporated. Otherwise you will not see any attraction being built again that is the vehicle for a slew of AA figures to be displayed or used as the central focus of the marketing campaign to entice people to come to the parks. It is funny, but The Great Movie Ride was the last attraction to feature such a large cast of AA figures and it will probably remain that way for a long time to come.
It's Tough to be a Bug is a good example of how AA figures were used to compliment the story and give unique elements to the experience. Yet, Flik and Hopper are not the main focus of the show itself. Even though Hopper is one of the most advanced AA figures Disney has in its parks.
Trends and moods by the theme park audience changes from time to time and Disney is trying to make sure their parks stay relevant to the times or face the same demise that the forerunners to theme parks (or amusement parks) did back in the early-to-mid 20th Century."
Okay... I'll grant her that the AA shows have not done well. Mr. Lincoln, Country Bears, CoP, America Sings.... But I'll counter that film based attractions, such as Mission to Moon/Mars, EO, HISTA, Muppets and Star Tours haven't fared much better, but there seems to be no move to stop using film....
And I'll grant that some of the AA focused rides have not stood the test of time, like World of Motion, Horizons, Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, and the one she mentions, The Great Movie Ride. But, on the flip side are pirates and mansion. 35+ years old and still going strong.
So, has the audience really changed? Maybe.... Maybe in 1967 they could just mention the AAs and people would rush into the park to see them. My parents or grandparents wouldn't go near a coaster or something like Indy, but they'd go to see the Country Bears and Pirates. I love the thrill rides... and now I'm the grandfather.
But, the changing audience theory doesn't explain the continued popularity of mansion and pirates. What makes them different than World of Motion, Horizons, The Great Movie Ride, or Spaceship Earth? My hypothesis is, "The Story".
World of Morion and Horizons weren't doomed because they were filled with AAs, and people no longer want to see AAs. They were doomed because they were edutainment rather than pure entertainment. Rather than being fixed in an exotic and fascinating, historic or fictional world, they were non-fiction based.... A glimpse at a better future or an explaination of how things work, and that just doesn't have the repeatability that pure fantasy offers. This problem of longevity can be seen in many of these "reality/edutainment" type attractions including Inner Space, People Mover, House of the Future, Living with the Land, Living Seas, Wonders of Life, MGM's soundstage and backlot tours, and many others...
MGM overall, as Kevin pointed out in a recent article, is the failure to fully imerse guests in interesting illusion. There is always the reminder that you're in a theme park, not in the place depectied in the themes. The same problem that MGM has overall, was inherant in The Great Movie Ride. It showed you scenes from great movies, but there was always the reminder that you were just looking at scenes from great movies. You weren't IN a story. You were seeing sets.
A comment from Jay Rasulo was that Disney would proceed with a philosophy of park development where big budget E-Ticket ride addition years would be alternated with smaller budget cartoon based attraction openings. I don't think this philosophy is bad, unless every new big-budget E-Ticket becomes a thrill ride.
This is what I fear is meant by "It is all about immersing someone into an attraction or show by using all sorts of effects, ride systems, and techniques that may make it a personal experience to them." I think they are focused too much on effects, ride systems and techniques.... and not at all on story.
My conclusin is this.
I find it unfortunate that Disney is not exploring the creation of additional AA filled rides of the Pirates and Mansion variety. That is, long, slow rides passed richly detailed sets of exotic and fantastic themes with loads of realistic AAs that really bring the setting to life and put you IN the story. If the lesson they learned of Motion, Horizons, Spaceship Earth and The Great Movie Ride is that these rides do not work anymore, than I think they learned the wrong lesson.
Now, in many threads I've clashed with people that want Tomorrowland to stay a "realistic glimpse of the future" rather than the sci-fi/space fantasy land it has become. Why do I think Disney is wrong about AA based E-Tickets, but right about Tomorrowland? The simple answer is, the evidence.
Disney has built 2 AA based, fantasy themed, highly immersive, non-cartoon based attractions. Both remain very popular even after 35 years of operation. Disney has bult a dozen or more non-fiction/edutainment-y based attractions... None of them have been able to remain highly popular for more than 10 or 15 years.
Fantasy works if the goal is to create rides that will stand the test of time. Non-fiction does not.
I think the next ride for DCA should be a Pirates type attraction. A slow ride through richly detailed sets of fictional/fantastic scenes, united into a single immersive theme, full of AAs that bring the story to life. I think this would go a long way towards bringing balace to a park that already has thrills and shows and carni-rides and movies....
Unfortunatly, the next ride will be a Pooh type ride themed to Monsters, and the next ride after that will be a thrill ride based on the Test Track technology, themed to Pixar's "Cars".
What happend to balance and variety? Oh yeah, Disney thinks the audience has changed and no longer wants those things. I think Disney is wrong on this one, and Mansion and Pirates are my evidence.