[Warning: Extremely long-winded post ahead]
Hopefully the triple-spaces between paragraphs will make it a little easier on the eyes.
I am always thinking about how unique Disneyland is not just because of how a guestexperiences it, but how Imagineers produce it. No one does anything like Disneyland to the extent of WDI. It's a very special art because unlike a single flat piece of artwork, it's three dimensional. Unlike a movie, the audience must walk around the artwork. Unlike a sculpture, it must convincingly transport you. Do you know any other art that specializes in that?
I believe what makes Disneyland special is the way they have produced their attractions over the years. There are things that you can do in movies that you can't do in rides (especially the case 50 years ago), and there are certain things you can do in rides that you can't do in a film. Thus, they've created a whole new art out of it. It's not just a set. It's Disneyland.
Now, I love rides like Indiana Jones Adventure, Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, and from the looks of it, Journey to the Center of the Earth. But I have one little problem with all of them. They all shove the story down your throat. This works for these rides, but it seems WDI is losing sight of the more subtle but powerful stories of the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain which implied the story.
Think of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Probably my huge problem with that is not because it is movie based, but they take the whole beginning telling us why we are there and where we are going, and they're not over by the time we turn on the sonar hydrophones. Now we have to establish another story in which Marlin and Dory are looking for Nemo again, doing everything they did last time. Predictable, I think, and not worth the time. In this case, especially in which guests are going to be stuck in a submarine for seven minutes, you're going to want to have the sub excursion to be the main focus. Not a story happening outside our plans to see the volcano that we shouldn't even care about. We want things to happen to us, not Nemo. Too much story for too little time.
Hereís why I think story-light attractions are so successful: People sometimes complain about book-based movies because they enjoyed seeing their own visions while reading the story. Films
canít really afford to be light on story; theyíll lose the audienceís attention. But Disneyland classics like the Haunted Mansion gave you a feast for the senses, and suggested a progression through different emotional highlights in the attraction. The guest makes the story. See now? A reader reading a book creates the vision in their mind, and the guest riding an attraction creates the story themselves. Opposites, but the same in the way they are appreciated.
You can see from the history of classic story-light rides that they didnít take less time due to the lack of an obvious storyline. The Haunted Mansion took several years to develop before
beginning construction, and even after that it was seven more years of majorly altering the attraction before it was completed. Space Mountain took a total of twelve years from concept to Magic Kingdom, and it has one of the simplest stories in the parks. And yet it is still so powerful.
What if WDI went back to its Haunted Mansion/Pirates of the Caribbean/Space Mountain roots and created a ride where the guest formed the story? Well, I donít think theyíre heading in that direction with such rides as The Little Mermaid, Radiator Springs Racers, and storyline-driven Mystic Manor.
That brings up an interesting topic. How do I feel about these? I think The Little Mermaid will be unique in that it is based on something other than the actual story. The same could be said about Fantasyland Dark Rides of opening day Disneyland. For Mr. Toad, it was a dream sequence. For Little Mermaid, itís music. Still, it seems that characters like Scuttle will still be creeping up on us and feeding us little bits of story here and there. Seems a little extraneous, but Iíll reserve judgment until I see it for myself. Iím afraid that Radiator Springs Racers will fall victim to FNSV syndrome, but at least we will be characters in the story this time as participating in a race. Mystic Manor has not intrigued me since the presentation at D23. Rehash of existing stories available at WDI with very little subtlety.
Having said that, however, I wonít hate an attraction for having a story. It will not affect my enjoyment of a ride purely for what it is. I look forward to these rides, especially Little Mermaid and Radiator Springs Racers, which I believe will turn out positively beautiful.
Still, maybe someday WDI will realize its roots and do something similar to the classic subtle yet powerful rides it created back in the 60s and 70s. After all, those attractions showcase the art so obscure anywhere but Disneyland. Itís the special kind of magic that (and Iím serious) only Disney can do.