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    Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Now, at the outset: In and of itself, movies being added as elements to the park in attraction format isn't a bad thing to my way of thinking. This topic is about what has changed in the manner of presentation, and whether or not such rides are viewed overall as classic/fun or just...sort of blah to being downright unrelated to where they are added.

    A bit of history: Disneyland opened with attractions based on then-current or some not even released yet movies (Sleeping Beauty's Castle for one). Therefore, not all were "classics" at that point: Alice in Wonderland was a film Walt recognized personally as being less than pleased with from his own point of view, final product-wise. Mickey and the gang weren't associated with the park as icons in the early days even: that duty was given to Tinkerbell and Dumbo mainly.

    In making the early Fantasyland rides, apart from Dumbo, it is also interesting to note they very consciously did not feature the main character of the film being told. Alice was not in Alice in Wonderland, Snow White was absent from her ride, and of course in Mr. Toad, guests acted out his role in driving their motorcars to nowhere in particular. This meant the secondary characters or villains mostly ruled the show, combined with a compelling or exotic atmosphere: the strange woods and environs of Wonderland, the dwarf's diamond mine and evil castle of the Witch, the backstreets and countryside of England, or flying over Neverland. Environment was a huge factor in choosing which properties to make into attractions. As was later said during the seventies by an insider, a Robin Hood dark ride was proposed then rejected since it was just woods after woods after woods, with introducing new characters along the way.

    The Fantasyland rides would eventually change to feature their main characters come 1983 and the very successful redo of that area of the park. However, at that point, it was adding characters in one or two spots for most (Mr. Toad still isn't appearing in AA form in Toad Hall), in rides already themed to their adventures. No problem there.

    After the park's initial opening, it was inevitable new attractions would be created, and these also managed the balance of interesting characters in well-themed and unique environments. The two rides currently considered Disneyland's "crown jewels", Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, are stellar examples of this. The marriage of character to environment is very strong and interwoven, even to the point of having areas in HM with zero visible characters (the stretching room, portrait hall, the corridor of doors) and only a disembodied voice addressing guests.

    With the advent of outside properties to Disneyland in the 80's and 90's, such as Star Tours and Indiana Jones, this of course brought new characters who would rightfully star in their attractions. However, environment was still key in making the attractions work: the focus was equal both on the ancient, foreboding temple and Dr. Jones himself. It was a complete package, both elements making up the tone of the films they were taken from. Over at Star Tours, the overall experience was of exploring a new area of the filmic universe: a tourism agency set up as if it was an ingrained part of that world. Familiar characters worked alongside new ones in service of making a believable entry point into the world of Star Wars, and it did not turn into a experience of trying to cram in endless movie characters where they didn't fit into the story being told.

    The same is true for Splash Mountain, featuring a new cast of critters alongside the stars of Song of the South. The watery ride had tons of environment and ambiance married to the music and tone of the film. The same with Roger Rabbit: the noir-ish aspects of the backstreets of Toontown coupled nicely with the cartoon style gags and characters used. All was still in balance.

    I think the main issue today is the tipping of the balance. Current movies used for inspiration certainly may be classic someday, or are now: Toy Story, for example. However, somewhere along the line, then creation of a compelling and realistic, fascinating environment seems to have fallen by the wayside.

    Consider, if you will, Swiss Family Robinson. Prior to the late 90's, it was a still display all about the tree, the scenes within, and the sense of adventure and romance of living in a remote tropical jungle and all it entailed. There was not a scene by scene breakdown of the film. It required imagination. It may not have been the most thrilling attraction or as popular in recent years, granted, but it had a theme and purpose outside of showing every aspect of a feature film. When Tarzan moved in, basically, the tree was just a template. It didn't matter much to the overall goal. The focus was on re-telling, via books along the way, and static figures, the exact story of portions of the movie. Characters were in, making it about ambiance was out.

    The same has happened, in varying degrees, all over the parks. The current crop of additions by and large has swung the focus solely on popular characters and less about transporting you to the world of a film, or conveying the emotion or story in an exciting manner: Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, Toy Story Midway Mania, The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, etc etc. These rides are all about character, by and large. Putting the character right there in the forefront and retelling their story in some format, as opposed to making the experience be about going on a journey into a richly themed environment.

    It has even progressed to the addition of characters into existing 'classic' attractions: Small World, Pirates, The Tiki Room in Florida. Regardless of level of skill and integration of these elements (very poorly done at Tiki Room) it remains true that adding such movie characters is changing the whole experience from being adventure and escape based, or about a theme, to essentially being a showcase for one certain character or a group of characters. The story of Cinderella or Aladdin is not the story of It's A Small World, regardless of attempts to match the style of the installed new figures.

    At this point, it seems the well-known characterless attraction may be a thing of the past for Disneyland. Even the themed roller coaster that exists outside a movie property base (Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Matterhorn -which in no way reflected the film story of Third Man on The Mountain) may be a thing of the past. Disney World received Expedition Everest and Mission: Space without movie tie-in's, but Disneyland seems set on a path of characters being the entire reason for adding new rides.

    This can be done well, in some instances, but I daresay it shouldn't be the reason a attraction gets the green light. Adding a property based on a character moving merchandise, basically, is not what produces excellent experiences for the paying guest. Such rides can be fun, yes: I enjoy riding Midway Mania for one. But it doesn't hold a candle in my mind even to the "plain" characterless roller coaster that is Space Mountain, let alone something like Pirates or HM.

    Just my two cents on the subject...movie properties aren't inherently bad, but the focus has shifted, I feel, too far off the mark of meeting the balance between making a movie based ride and creating a thrilling, independent theme park adventure. Universal Studios has shown they can merge amazingly popular characters with great theme and a exciting ride, seemingly, with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter...why can't Disney do the same anymore? They need to raise standard of simply making fun rides based on the cash-cow characters: to return to making engrossing attractions that guests can bring their imagination to, instead of retelling a movie beat by beat in ride-through format. They have done it before with successful properties, let's hope they do it again.
    Last edited by RegionsBeyond; 11-11-2010 at 06:02 PM.
    when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Agreed. good post.


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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Wow. I 100% agree.This is how i put it:
    Disney should make rides that are so good, you could make a movie off them.
    Not bad rides that are based off of a movie that's already good.
    ^ They turn into bad rides because since there is a movie already, and you know what to expect. So they assume you already know the theme and back story before you go on the ride. That makes it easier to themselves because they think they don't have to introduce original theme and story. ughh..... shortcuts. :P


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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    ORDDU: It's the quality of an attraction that matters most to your cauldron girls. Regardless of whether or not there are movie tie ins, quality must never suffer.

    ORWEN: Of course we prefer that the attractions are based on good Disney movies because we like to experience good attractions that let us live out our fantasies in that way.

    ORDDU: And since the park is called Disneyland, what better place to have attractions based on Disney movies? But the quality for some attractions has been suffering for far too long. The greedy bean counter types are too afraid to spend money. They just want to raise admission prices every year.

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Great post RGB,

    I think Disney use to be good at helping you see that the world is an exciting place full of adventure, and Disney was just throwing in a few what ifs...

    What if talking birds could put on a show for you, what if you could have been their for the sacking of a Spanish port, what if you could have been their during one of Dr. Jones expeditions.

    The great Disney experiences for me are the ones that put you "in" the experience, and not just "show" it to you.

    Movie characters themselves are not inherently bad, but if I am not put "into" the experience, I may as well just stay home and watch the movie.

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    Thumbs up Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by Down with the Tide View Post
    Great post RGB,

    I think Disney use to be good at helping you see that the world is an exciting place full of adventure, and Disney was just throwing in a few what ifs...

    What if talking birds could put on a show for you, what if you could have been their for the sacking of a Spanish port, what if you could have been their during one of Dr. Jones expeditions.

    The great Disney experiences for me are the ones that put you "in" the experience, and not just "show" it to you.

    Movie characters themselves are not inherently bad, but if I am not put "into" the experience, I may as well just stay home and watch the movie.
    Well said. yess you want to go on the adventure, not look at the adventure while in a moving vehicle and a good set.


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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Assorted Disney quotes I feel fit nicely.

    Disneyland is a work of love. We didn't go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.

    I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.

    It's no secret that we were sticking just about every nickel we had on the chance that people would really be interested in something totally new and unique in the field of entertainment.

    We did it Disneyland, in the knowledge that most of the people I talked to thought it would be a financial disaster - closed and forgotten within the first year.

    You reach a point where you don't work for money.

    All of those quotes should be painted on the wall in front of Bob Iger and th rest of those idiots' desks.
    They go in for money, plain and simple, and don't truly love Disneyland. I'd happily work for Disney Imagineering for a wage just high enough for me to eat, have clothes, and have a small house. But they see Disney as a money machine, plain and simple. The only part they love is the money it makes.
    Any time they have a success, they milk it until it is no longer a success. If they moved on, the successes could go on being successful.
    They would never risk a huge amount of money. I'm surprised they let WoC through. They only do what they think can be done, and they fall behind because of it.

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by Spirit King View Post
    They would never risk a huge amount of money. I'm surprised they let WoC through. They only do what they think can be done, and they fall behind because of it.
    Well, really, yes they spent a lot of money on World of Color. But what is it really? Re-packaged bits from successful movies they made already. Absolutely current character based and retelling stories and not innovative in terms of featured content (but impressive technology wise)
    Last edited by RegionsBeyond; 11-11-2010 at 06:07 PM.
    when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by RegionsBeyond View Post
    Well, really, yes they spent a lot of money on World of Color. But what is it really? Re-packaged bits from successful movies they made already. Absolutely current character based and retelling stories and not innovative in terms of featured content (but innovative for technology wise)
    I know I'm gonna take a lot of fire for this, but whatever.

    And then they go and add an advertisement for TRON legacy at the end. I totally see what you're saying there. I watched one of those D23 presentation thingies on YouTube, and the original World of Color had a story.

    I really wish they would have had a Hellfire scene. I love that song.

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Finally someone that agrees with me, I don't know why Disney i going on this path of "in your face" characters. I really hope that TLM: AUA will be in the vain of Fantasyland style storytelling. ;_; poor Disneyland rides.

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by MrHatboxGhost View Post
    Finally someone that agrees with me, I don't know why Disney i going on this path of "in your face" characters. I really hope that TLM: AUA will be in the vain of Fantasyland style storytelling. ;_; poor Disneyland rides.
    I do, I imagine....it's easy, they've made money off the characters before and know they are popular, and figure it's good enough for the public. Thoughts of creativity in coming up with new things or re-imagining the property to make it fresh get sidetracked...it worked before, after all, so do it over again.

    A pertinent quote, when it was suggested to Walt 3 Little Pigs was very successful as a cartoon and they should make sequels right away. His response at the time: "You can't top pigs with pigs."
    when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by RegionsBeyond View Post
    A pertinent quote, when it was suggested to Walt 3 Little Pigs was very successful as a cartoon and they should make sequels right away. His response at the time: "You can't top pigs with pigs."
    That man was a genius. In response to the usual "If Walt was alive he'd" they put in the end of those Disney Travel Channel show thingies (i.e "if Disney was alive he'd ask 'what took you so long?'") I say "If Walt was alive, he'd kill himself after seeing the state his Park was in.

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Excellent OP, RB! Couldn't agree more.

    Apologies for a minor nitpick on the highlighted portion of this quote:
    yes they spent a lot of money on World of Color. But what is it really? Re-packaged bits from successful movies they made already. Absolutely current character based and retelling stories and not innovative in terms of featured content (but innovative for technology wise)
    WoC's use of technology can be called a lot of positive things -- thrilling, exciting, mindboggling, spectacular -- but IMO it diminishes the meaning of "innovative" to call it that.

    The novel use of un-related technology in the service of artistry, storytelling and showmanship that resulted in Tiki Room, Lincoln and POTC was true innovation -- in the dictionary sense of "unprecedented."

    WoC's use of existing water show/lighting/stage/projection technology in an expanded Bellagio scenario, while of greatly expanded scope, does not fit that definition.
    "With the acquisition of Marvel and now of Lucasfilm,
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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Wiggins View Post
    Excellent OP, RB! Couldn't agree more.

    Apologies for a minor nitpick on the highlighted portion of this quote:
    yes they spent a lot of money on World of Color. But what is it really? Re-packaged bits from successful movies they made already. Absolutely current character based and retelling stories and not innovative in terms of featured content (but innovative for technology wise)
    WoC's use of technology can be called a lot of positive things -- thrilling, exciting, mindboggling, spectacular -- but IMO it diminishes the meaning of "innovative" to call it that.

    The novel use of un-related technology in the service of artistry, storytelling and showmanship that resulted in Tiki Room, Lincoln and POTC was true innovation -- in the dictionary sense of "unprecedented."

    WoC's use of existing water show/lighting/stage/projection technology in an expanded Bellagio scenario, while of greatly expanded scope, does not fit that definition.
    Fair enough, the point meant was that the WoC tech infrastructure was indeed fancy and impressive, merely wrong word choice in that case heh The fountains and lighting and projections on the pier structures are excellent, by all accounts, which was merely the statement trying to make there. "Innovative" was the first adjective that came to mind rather than typing, fancy
    when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....

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    Re: Movie Properties In Disneyland: An Analysis of Changing Execution

    Quote Originally Posted by RegionsBeyond View Post
    ....it's easy, they've made money off the characters before and know they are popular, and figure it's good enough for the public. Thoughts of creativity in coming up with new things or re-imagining the property to make it fresh get sidetracked...it worked before, after all, so do it over again.

    A pertinent quote, when it was suggested to Walt 3 Little Pigs was very successful as a cartoon and they should make sequels right away. His response at the time: "You can't top pigs with pigs."
    Bingo. The difference between the philosophy of the Imagineer and the Marketeer.
    "With the acquisition of Marvel and now of Lucasfilm,
    Disney may have finally found the grail. You don't need
    imagination or art. All you need is a brand."

    - Neil Gabler


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