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  1. #1

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    Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    I know from reading these forums that there are very few people who like Tarzan's Treehouse, especially compared to the old Swiss Family Treehouse. But in part 2 of the latest podcast from Seasons Pass podcasts (The Season Pass: The Essential Theme Park Podcast), Tony Baxter sheds some light on the decision to replace the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse with Tarzan's Treehouse.

    During the Paul Pressler era, Swiss Family Treehouse was almost removed in favor of a gift shop. Instead, Tony Baxter and the Imagineers lobbied to save the walk-through attraction by re-theming it for the upcoming Tarzan movie. They were given a relatively minor budget for the transformation, which was completed in time for the movie's opening date.

    Some time later, the financial department told Baxter that the amount of visitorship generated by the new Tarzan attraction would have allowed twice the budget for the re-do, had they known how successful it would be. For one thing, Baxter says he would have liked to have added moving figures from the film instead of the static figures they had the budget for.

    I think the lesson for me is that, if Pressler and park management had had their way, the attraction would have been removed and replaced with a retail store. While I would have preferred that the park had kept the old Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, I think the Tarzan Treehouse is a far better alternative than if another gift shop had been built in that location.

    While there have been attractions that were still popular but closed largely for financial reasons (I'm thinking about the old submarine ride and the Skyway), I think park management has a legitimate point when they say that people complain a lot when one of their beloved attractions are closed, but the reason they were closed was because not enough people were visiting those attractions to keep them open (this was in other articles I've read about closed attractions at Disneyland).

    I'm the first one to be nostalgic about closed attractions like Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland and Adventure through Inner Space, but I think Tony Baxter's explanations for how these were replaced by Big Thunder Mountain and Star Tours makes a lot of sense.

    The first part of the interview is at: http://micechat.com/35371-season-pas...r-interview-1/ and the second part, where he talks about the Swiss Family Treehouse is at: http://micechat.com/36673-season-pas...-baxter-part2/

  2. #2

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    What this proves is that Paul Pressler was a talentless mall hack who had no business running the most creative theme park on the planet. Pressler was no showman, and Disneyland needs a showman.

    The better men who took over for Pressler in later years were also not showmen, but they at least had the smarts to know that and to defer major creative decisions to the showmen on the team.

    Pressler was too stupid to do that, and figured he knew better than the decades of Disneylanders and Imagineers who had come before him. Shopping trumped entertainment in his mind, and Disneyland was just a spread sheet to be data mined into oblivion.

    Luckily, Paul Pressler and his corporate spawn Cynthia Harriss didn't last long enough to leave permanent marks on Disneyland. After Cynthia was fired in '03 it only took a couple of years for Disneyland to recover cosmetically and culturally. And their careers took a nasty downturn from which they still haven't recovered, once their phony skills were quite clearly exposed at The Gap from '03 to '06.

    But it should serve as a lesson to all current and future Disneyland leaders; Disneyland is a show, and it is most successful financially when a showman is allowed to make the big decisions impacting the entertaining facilities in the park.

  3. #3

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    I am just finishing up part 2 of the Tony Baxter interview and it has been so wonderful to hear so many fantastic stories. I loved Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, I was very sad when it was replaced with Tarzan but I understood why it was removed, it's simply not relevant, most people under the age of 25 haven't seen the movie and this isn't an attraction like Mr. Toad or Splash Mountain, if you don't have something to relate it to, there is little reason to go on a walkthrough. I thank Tony Baxter for "saving the treehouse", and reguardless of what you think about management at the time, I have to say that I think it was the right decision.

    It is the same with Adventure though inner space. I never rode Adventure Through Inner Space (listened to the soundtrack only), but if I had to choose between that and Star Tours, there is no question; and I think there is no question which is more popular. Space is cool, but as was brought up in the Tony Baxter interview, Star Wars invokes a kind of emotion in young and old. The characters, the music, the settings just resonate on a deeper level than a generalized space themed ride.

    Disney park fans get attached to things, I am guilty of that too. I believe it was "The Wakefield Report" podcast where he said "Disney fans mourn the loss of a trashcan" but I do think it's also important to be able to see things like the Tarzan Treehouse as a necessary and good change overall. In September, I will very likely make my first trip through the treehouse since it turned Tarzan.

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    InnerSpace is an interesting choice on this.

    I have memories - pretty solid ones - of the ride leading up in the years before Star Tours. In pretty much every memory the line's VERY solid down at least halfway through the interior queue, far past the wait for Star Tours on many days.

    I don't think Innerspace was an "unused capacity" so much as "low hanging fruit for the impending shift from original to nearly 100% movie related rides only"
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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    There's also rides which make no sense financially (Jungle Cruise), but if it were to go, the park would be so much less because of it, and people would stop coming.

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    Quote Originally Posted by whoever View Post
    There's also rides which make no sense financially (Jungle Cruise), but if it were to go, the park would be so much less because of it, and people would stop coming.
    This

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    With Inner Space, I think that George Lucas wanted (and probably demanded) Inner Space's prime location for Star Tours, rather than having it replace Mission to Mars, which as another flight simulator would have been a more appropriate attraction to replace, but in a much more hidden location.

    As for Pressler, here's an article about his time at The Gap.

    "At Disney, he never had to deal with the creative, qualitative side of design,"

    Paul Pressler's Fall From The Gap - Businessweek

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    Quote Originally Posted by SpacemanSpiff View Post
    I think the lesson for me is that, if Pressler and park management had had their way, the attraction would have been removed and replaced with a retail store.
    This sounds really like typical Tony blame shifting. Think about it: If Pressler was the one who got to decide if the treehouse stayed or went, then he really did have his way because he decided it would stay.

    What Tony doesn't say is how much more expensive the Treehouse rennovation cost compared to tearing it out. Heck I'd bet Tony's salary charged to the treehouse project would have paid for the demolition of said tree.

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    ^what an optimistic view, Tony says he tried to save the Tree House from becoming another shop and I don't think he'd lie

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    Was the Treehouse REALLY as dead as Tony said? Also, MKs Treehouse has never had a full blown rehab but small rolling rehabs. Could they had not done this w/ DLs Treehouse? As to Pressler and Cynthia, their spawn is now in TDO.

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    This is exactly why when you go into an attraction you like with a turnstyle - spin it many times. The count goes up - the attraction has a greater chance of staying.







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  12. #12

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    Quote Originally Posted by SpacemanSpiff View Post


    Some time later, the financial department told Baxter that the amount of visitorship generated by the new Tarzan attraction would have allowed twice the budget for the re-do, had they known how successful it would be.
    Interesting. They would have an accounting practice that justify or unjustify an attraction's budget - AFTER the fact it was built.

    Just goes to show - Where some practices didn't exist before, while the park got along just fine without them. And now these practices/departments exist .. Fancy spreadsheets, all this "market analysis" stuff .. in a company so "corporate" ... it's unreal!

    While I would have preferred that the park had kept the old Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, I think the Tarzan Treehouse is a far better alternative than if another gift shop had been built in that location.
    Except Paul Pressler is long gone, and the threat of it being turned into a shop is long past - So, what's stopping it today from being changed again? You know ... we could say Tarzan is just as irrelevant today - that was 14 years ago. A decade and a half! Today .. it's all about Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars. Not that I want to see these franchise remake the tree house a third time over.

    Am I nostalgic for Swiss Family Robinson treehouse? Sure. Could the story be remade today ... to become relevant today's audiences? Why not. (Though I'm not counting on it.) Hollywood loves a remake/reboot (Superman, Spiderman, Star Wars, Star Trek, 20K Under the Sea, etc!) ... as they also love sequels and prequels. But when I use to walk around that treehouse when it was the Robinson's home ... the experience of it felt more real .. because it was a human family living in it. Not a cartoon that I don't relate to, the slightest bit! And that's a part of the "Disneyland" magic. Tangible "human" experiences that we relate to on various levels. Where cartoons only touch on the superficial levels. I did Swiss Family Robinson treehouse multiple times. I've done as Tarzan's ... once! No interest to do it again. The organ music .. forever gone now, was another element I really liked. As music plays a very important role in Disney theme park experiences.



    I'm the first one to be nostalgic about closed attractions like Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland and Adventure through Inner Space, but I think Tony Baxter's explanations for how these were replaced by Big Thunder Mountain and Star Tours makes a lot of sense.
    Sure. When you put it all into that perspective ... I can say ... when I first went on Star Tours in Jan 1987 .... I didn't lament the loss of ATIS. Disney at that time, were still showing they had what it took to prove - they could deliver new experiences that will make you forget what was there before. Disney's Star Tours motion simulator .. was a first, and took me by storm.

    HOWEVER .. in a grander perspective:
    Since Star Tours opened in 1987 ... I did begin to lament the loss of ATIS, as the years went by. Because in that block of 3 decades .. the best they have done for TL ... are pale examples of attraction concepts, and level of immersiveness .... that do make me miss a ride like ATIS .. that was built using enormous sets, and visual effects on a large scale.

    The best they have done ... are exhibit spaces to walk around (Innoventions) .... a cartoon romp with Buzz ... shooting up cartoony targets. (Not on the sophisticated level of ATIS). Restoration of the subs - with another cartoon romp. And more "screen presentations" - HISTA. I've heard Tom Fitzgerald just LOVES rides using flat screens. Rather than larger than life sets - as ATIS DID have.

    So, in a grander scheme of things, we still lament the loss of some attractions (for instance ATIS) because .. after 26 years since Star Tours ... Tomorrowland is still devoid of an attraction on the artistic and mammoth level of ATIS.
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  13. #13

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    Quote Originally Posted by MikkiandtheMouse View Post

    It is the same with Adventure though inner space. I never rode Adventure Through Inner Space (listened to the soundtrack only), but if I had to choose between that and Star Tours, there is no question; and I think there is no question which is more popular. Space is cool, but as was brought up in the Tony Baxter interview, Star Wars invokes a kind of emotion in young and old. The characters, the music, the settings just resonate on a deeper level than a generalized space themed ride.
    Having ridden ATIS some 15 years ... in multiple visits, myself, along with my "Star Tours" adventures ..1.0 and 2.0 .... I tend to place ride-throughs with larger than life sets .. and larger than life special effects .. a more immersive ride experience ... to those using motion picture screens.

    If Radiator Springs Racers were a motion simulator ... rather than a ride-through with enormous sets and special effects ... would it have been better?

    In hindsight ..... many of these old attractions get removed, because they get new ideas. And there's no room to put them somewhere ... So, something has to go. I could think of weaker attractions than ATIS. Circle-Vision, America Sings, Mission To Mars ... but ATIS' location was too perfect - to fit the 4 simulators. Circle-Vision - Not physically possible. Mission To Mars .. not physically possible. Even imagineers couldn't figure out how to fit Alien Encounter in. It's that tight! America Sings? Imagineering at the time had no intention of letting go the revolving carousel theater - they had other intentions in the back of their minds - yet to fully hash out. I don't buy that theory - that Star Tours made it in that spot because it was more prominent, than any others. I'm placing my bets on - ATIS was 18 years old. They thought it had it's "run" .. and that was it! And they could fit those 4 simulators in .. just perfectly ... where it was just physically impossible to fit them anywhere else in the land. Shy of a major rebuild of the land.
    MY SIGNATURE:
    Dear Peoplemover Fans, If you want to see a new attraction that at least mimics the 1967 Peoplemover in a future Tomorrowland remodel, you need to write to the powers-that-be, and let them know. If you don't - Then the next time Tomorrowland is remodeled, you will see a land barren of any "Peoplemover" type attraction.

  14. #14

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    The important thing is to ride your favorite rides when you can and not assume they'll always be there. I remember how the theme park community was aghast at Knott's for suddenly announcing the immediate closure of the Haunted Shack because they wanted a "last ride" since many had simply walked past it for years (or decades) thinking it would always be there. Even though its thrills had waned considerably I still went through it every few months (I was visiting Knott's weekly to ride GhostRider at the time) and felt sad, but not regretful.

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    Re: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tony Baxter, and closing old attractions

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLiver View Post
    This sounds really like typical Tony blame shifting. Think about it: If Pressler was the one who got to decide if the treehouse stayed or went, then he really did have his way because he decided it would stay.

    What Tony doesn't say is how much more expensive the Treehouse rennovation cost compared to tearing it out. Heck I'd bet Tony's salary charged to the treehouse project would have paid for the demolition of said tree.
    This sounds like typical MrLiver Tony attack.

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