At the outset, if you will, please watch this video clip as an illustrative example which got me thinking about this topic.
For the sake of context, this episode of the Disneyland TV show aired in 1965 and centered on Disneyland's 'tencennial' anniversary. Walt took the young woman (Julie Reihm) and introduced her to various designers and Imagineers, and most notably showed her previews of Pirates and Haunted Mansion. This segment, with the Plaza Inn, nearly equals the length of time spent talking with Marc Davis about the HM. It is clear Walt was excited about the Plaza Inn visibly, and wanted to share such, even giving it was something as 'mundane' as a new tray-slide restaurant competing for air time with a large, million-dollar expansion to the park and two new E-ticket attractions. He gave a brief tease of each, in the end, talking about overall decor and ambiance, style.
Now, today, the Disney Parks arm widely publicizes new additions, including stores, restaurants, even single architectural elements and especially 'insider' references and homages. They do this via blog format and online videos, which will spread quickly amongst the fans who know where to look and share such in preview centers in the parks. The level of ‘enthusiasm’ would seem to be there on a surface level, still, for such projects and I have no doubt designers put a lot of effort and genuine thought and desire to please guests into the featured projects.
The difference is…in 1965, when that video clip aired…that was a nationwide TV show. There was no widespread niche demand market for backstage Disneyland info that the company fed or had contact with each other. Unless you went to the park and got a souvenir book with some ‘coming attractions’ material, that would be all you saw: what the one-hour weekly program chose to share, which looking back is a tiny sliver of the work and design that went into Disneyland’s operation.
Today, the material coming out (about the food service of the parks, attractions and areas being built, homages to the past, backstage operations, etc) all has the feeling of a hard sell to me: lacks real personal connection of any sort, but the content is generated for the internet and hardcore guests just in kind of a ‘keep churning it out’ method which feels like an obligation or desire to prove how detailed and appreciative of the past they are, rather than actual enthusiasm as Walt shows just talking about how neat this new eating place will be.
I am grateful for the in depth coverage and there genuinely is some neat material and talented folks on display talking about their work: but the massive, slickly produced feel of going into minute detail or things the average guest won't even consider does, in the end, come off as a push to 'sell' just how much the management loves these references to the past and wants each and every fan to find all the hidden references. I have posted before about the Hidden Mickey mentality winning out over larger ambiance or experience in some cases, and this in some ways is a development of that mindset (find your favorite Disney characters in Small World!).
But moreso, it is also a shift in priority from letting the future developments win you over by themselves, via being filled with ambiance or detail, and the guests discovering them in person and 'uncovering' all the secrets to marketing the whole project with basic 100 percent clarity from the word go. When Fantasmic! and Indiana Jones Adventure debuted, there was concept art, sure, and teases of the attractions: comparatively, basically the whole structure of Little Mermaid and World of Color were explicitly laid out in advance, right down to a listing of show scenes and extensive video coverage of infrastructure being built/finalized AA figures being installed. Carsland and Radiator Springs Racers does seem to be an exception to this, with lots of ambiance carrying the area and the ride itself basically not being 'spoiled' in advance, which I am very grateful for.
I personally take this as being far beyond mere 'excitement' and desire to show something the designers love and want folks to see: it’s all very calculated and goes for a vibe of “We’ll tell you everything about every project and cram it with inside references!” rather than leaving anything to be discovered or letting ambiance carry the finished product as in the old days.
The same goes for the Buena Vista Street expansion. I have no doubt the finished product will be high quality and evocative, fun to explore. But the practice of talking about every single store name and significance, beating the customer over the head with details and how they relate to the company's past, backstory...to me, that all feels very forced and trying too hard to show the company is enthusiastic, while coming off as a slightly clueless push to win over the niche audience by sheer volume of advance material available. I do not for a minute think this desire to share is bad, or don't wish to see any hints of what is to come: I am grateful for seeing some glimpses of the process behind the scenes. Merely, sometimes, less truly is more…but modern park management and the upper levels don't seem to understand the concept of 'less' or not treating everything like a hard sell to more dedicated fans, designed to demonstrate exactly how much the upcoming additions revere the past, while concurrently promoting it like a t-shirt or limited-edition collectible they want to sell you.
Just my own thoughts on the whole thing, at any rate...folks more than welcome to have differing opinions.