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  1. #1

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    Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    This is going to be a long post so bear with me. I have occasion in my job to interact with the corporate executive world, and I have a decent understanding of how things work. I've been thinking a lot about originality at Disneyland, and I think I can guess why franchises are the hot item. Part of it is of course the amount of money Disney spent to aquire a franchise like Marvel or Star Wars, but I think there's more to it then that. **Please note, that when I refer to an attraction as being "original" what I mean is that it is not based on a specific movie or TV show**

    So one thing to understand right away is the Board of Directors do not work for Disney. They are representatives who are (supposedly) appointed by the shareholders to make sure that Disney is doing everything possible to make them as much money as possible. Since the shareholders are the owners of the company, the Board has the power to say yes or no to anything, and there is no way for Disney to ever override them. Now, some Disney employees may also be on the Board (for example, often times the CEO of a company is simultanously the Chairman of the Board), but many of them are not directly involved with Disney. In fact, it is fairly normal for somone to sit on the Boards of 6 or 7 completely different companies, which means that they don't know all that much about any one company that the are on the board for. So, this means that they rely on spreadsheets for their information. Now, spreadsheets are a great thing in what they do, which is to give you every bit of factual information that you could want to know about something, and allow you to rearrange it any way you want. So this helps them discover things like one of their vendors is overcharging them for something, or that a certain investment (such as Cars Land) brought in X amount of new customers who spent X amount of dollars on tickets, hotels, merchandise, and food. However, a spreadsheet can not tell you whether something is inherantly a good or bad product, and this leads to some rather foolish assumptions that are totally untrue, but yet are used to govern the company. Here is basically what I think happened that lead Disney on the path of building mostly franchised rides for the forseeable future:


    So back in 1996 when I first hired into Disneyland, things could not have been better. There were three new rides that had just opened over the last 7 years that were all home runs (Star Tours, Splash Mountain, and Indy). There was the promise of an awesome new night parade, a brand new Tomorrowland, and finally a 2nd park in Anaheim. Tragically, all three of those things turned out to be miserable failures, some of the biggest in Disneyland's history. Now, all of us on here know that Light Magic, the new Tomorrowland, and DCA were all just simply bad, but someone looking at a spreadsheet can't tell that. What they see is that Light Magic was an original idea for a night parade, the new Tomorrowland had one franchise (Honey, I Shrunk the Audience) and two new original attractions (Rocket Rods and Innoventions). DCA opened with all original attractions. All of these things represented a considerable financial investment, and all three turned out to be failures. Light Magic only lasted one summer, and they were unable to use the floats for other parades. Rocket Rods also only lasted a summer, and all told probably only operated for a combined month at best. Innoventions is still there but it has to have the lowest number of guests visiting it of any attraction in either park (probably by far). They had to spend $1 Billion dollars to fix DCA.

    Now, contrast that with some of the "fixes" that they have done. They added Buzz Lightyear to Tomorrowland, which is a popular ride. They redid Star Tours and had to build a whole new section in that building to house the line because it got so long. They added Tower of Terror, A Bugs Land, Toy Story Mania, and of course Cars Land to DCA. All of those things have been fairly successful. Only Buzz Lightyear and A Bugs Land would not be considered home runs, but A Bugs Land did at least stop the complaints that there weren't enough child-friendly rides at DCA.

    So never having set foot in the parks or never having gone on any of the rides, what does the spreadsheet tell you? That franchise-based rides succeed and original rides fail miserably. Also, don't build rides on the People Mover track because they will give you nightmares on how much money you have to spend on maintenance.

    So unfortunately the disasters of the late 90's still haunt us today. Rides that are considered original are not approved by the Board because the data clearly shows that the public doesn't like original rides. Rides based on existing franchises are usually very successful. So until Disney can prove to the Board of Directors that there is money to be made on original rides with today's park guest, I wouldn't be holding my breath that anything not based on a successful movie will be greenlight by the Board.
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  2. #2

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    They made those original attractions with a cheaper budget, that's why they were not liked by the public. If Disney let the Imagineers express their creativity to the maximum and funded the projects properly, then maybe those failures in the late 90's/ early 2000s could have been successful.




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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Rides that are considered original are not approved by the Board because the data clearly shows that the public doesn't like original rides.
    While I do think Disney is mostly focused on doing franchise rides and I'm not against such an approach myself, I do think Disney is doing enough unique original rides.

    The failure of some Disney fans to notice when a successful original ride is implemented leads me to suspect that they mainly don't want the franchise attractions. Disney will do what is in its financial interest whether it is franchise or original ride.

    My feeling is an original ride is also capable of being a franchise in itself. If you hate it, then why not decry what Pirates of the Carribean has become. (In fact, many have complained about it.) So you really don't have a choice. Originality in rides is already compromised.

    Don't complain about success. Selling out won't stop. (To me, that merely means reaching more people.)
    Last edited by StevenW; 10-16-2013 at 01:48 PM.

  4. #4

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    I have to agree that the "original" rides that they places in DCA were off the shelf amusement park rides. There was no thought of creativity there. Even the "original" rides in Disneyland were based on a movie or story. Jungle Cruise-Disney True life Adventures, Matterhorn-Third Man on the Mountain, Mission to the Moon/Mars-Space Station X-1, and all of Fantasyland. Haunted, Pirates and Autopia I do not believe were based on a movie or TV show.

  5. #5

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Quote Originally Posted by Big D View Post
    So unfortunately the disasters of the late 90's still haunt us today. Rides that are considered original are not approved by the Board because the data clearly shows that the public doesn't like original rides. Rides based on existing franchises are usually very successful. So until Disney can prove to the Board of Directors that there is money to be made on original rides with today's park guest, I wouldn't be holding my breath that anything not based on a successful movie will be greenlight by the Board.
    They must have overlooked the data behind Expedition Everest the most recent successful Disney park attraction not based on any movie or franchise.

    It's not the data that I think concerns them so much at the moment as it is trying to compete with Universal.

  6. #6

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Quote Originally Posted by toonaspie View Post
    They must have overlooked the data behind Expedition Everest the most recent successful Disney park attraction not based on any movie or franchise.

    It's not the data that I think concerns them so much at the moment as it is trying to compete with Universal.
    What about Mystic Manor? That ride is enough for me to go to the park now!

  7. #7

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Big D, that's a very well thought out post .. and thanks .. but it's only part of the picture.

    You left out, those original rides failed to deliver because the quality was severely lacking.

    Lets talk about TL:98. GM was the sponsor on board to open Rocket Rods. A much more elaborate "mini EPCOT"sh pavilion was slated. Imagineers gave a full presentation to the public on it in 1995. (I was there.) GM eventually pulled out. WDI needed the funds to complete it. But with GM saying "Good bye" ... the beancounters under Paul Pressler said "no" to pick up what they lost with GM. And you had a ride, destined for failure. Innoventions? With a bigger budget ... the execution would have been better ... and we wouldn't be hating it as much as we do. Instead of the extensive new fabrication WDW's TL received in it's 1994 makeover, DL's just received new paint, over the 1967 and 1977 buildings. Astro Orbitor? A perfect clone of DLP's. Pull the molds out of storage, no new R&D - money saved. Rocket Jets mechanism? Throw some satellite dishes on it, make it spin once every 15 minutes for 1 minute, and call it a day! On a TL makeover ... destined to be ridiculed ... and it was.

    Light Magic was not fully thought out. Disney's first attempt at a "Street Show" (not a procession with multiple floats to see) .... you had 4 of the same exact floats. With two stops - Small World Mall, and mid-way Main Street. (Another mistake, limiting the amount of people who could see the show.) Disney was out to capitalize on the then hip and trendy Irish Step Dance craze ... from Riverdance to Lord of the Dance ... with a show of their own. The music they selected was not memorable at all. The only time the audiences started to clap, was to the sounds of the familiar "Baroque Hoedown" from Main Street Electrical Parade. In this day and age - finding composers who will create a memorable melody are far and few in between. A "Rogers and Hammerstien/ Irving Berlin/Gershwin/ Lerner and Loewe" era ..... we are not. Lack of multiple floats to see, lack of memorable music, lack of better talent to pull a better show together - Originality was not the problem. Quality was.

    DCA 1.0 - Where do I start? How about the cheap off-the-shelf carny rides. How about the lack of rides, period? Where were the type of rides Disney is synonymous with? Something like Haunted Mansion, PotC, ATIS ... they weren't there. No where to be found. One slated quality attraction was axed - "Circle of Hands" (The westcoast answer to "The American Adventure" with AAs in a revolving theater, like CoP. Instead .. we got the lame movie with "Califia" - a couple simple projection tricks with Whoopie Goldberg.) One original attraction you did leave out .. that is a huge success .. and done with some quality is SOARIN. Do those Board of Directors not recognize the success of that original attraction? I could go on and on over "DCA 1.0" ... but the short story is - It was the level of execution, and lack of quality that people disliked. Not original attractions.

    So ..... I would think ... before Board of Directors rattle off a rant against those original ideas .... they have to be presented with the facts. They need to be in on the "whole picture." These guys are suppose to be bright, intelligent, doing their jobs right? Well, they are not, if they are not paying attention to all the factors that led to the demise of all these individual situations.

    And if they are possibly still harping that franchise attractions are better than original attractions .... How about another "spread sheet" for them to chew on. The list of original attractions that remain in DL to this day, and the number of turnstile clicks they continue to get .. day in .. and day out. (You know which rides they are.)

    And if they ignore that - Then it's clear. They have an agenda of their own. They are not paying attention to the WHOLE PICTURE.

    * Level of Execution
    * Quality
    * Proper Budgets
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    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.

  8. #8

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Quote Originally Posted by frollofan View Post
    They made those original attractions with a cheaper budget, that's why they were not liked by the public. If Disney let the Imagineers express their creativity to the maximum and funded the projects properly, then maybe those failures in the late 90's/ early 2000s could have been successful.
    That's actually very doubtful. DCA as it opened, before Tower of Terror was getting about 5 million guests per year. DCA after Carsland is getting about 7 million guests per year (and it should be pointed out most of the original attractions are still there as-is).

    If Disney had spent more money on DCA, they most likely would have still ended up with only 5 million guests per year and such a huge crushing debt that they would have never been able to add to the park.

    Quote Originally Posted by toonaspie View Post
    It's not the data that I think concerns them so much at the moment as it is trying to compete with Universal.
    Disneyland will never have to compete against Universal. Disneyland should be more concerned with home entertainment than another theme park.

    And that's the core issue here. It isn't original attractions versus franchise attractions in the sense of which is better. It's more about which attractions will convince people to actually come down to the park in the first place. Building a space simulator ride is all well and good, but it's a tough sell to people who would rather sit at home on their couch and watch more movies. Telling people you are building a Star Wars ride instantly tells them everything they need to know.

  9. #9

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Disney was founded upon unoriginal rides. Heck, even the 90s hits you mentioned were based off of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Song of the South. What I do think is a problem is Disney spending money on other people's franchises when they have a solid 40 movie repertoire of which to take great films from.

  10. #10

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    One thing your opinion piece does not mention is that over the last decade, the Disney company made more money from Pirates of the Caribbean (a franchise built off of an original in-park idea) than anything else.


  11. #11

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomorrowland_1967 View Post
    Big D, that's a very well thought out post .. and thanks .. but it's only part of the picture.

    You left out, those original rides failed to deliver because the quality was severely lacking.
    Thanks for the compliment. The post was long enough and I didn't want to get into what was wrong with those things. I think most people on MiceAge probably already have a good idea why they sucked. The point I was trying to make was that quality does not show up on a spreadsheet. Cost does, but Disney did spend a lot of money on Light Magic and the New Tomorrowland. With the new Tomorrowland they did cut some costs here or there, but the problem was that they were very foolish in where they cut costs (such as not banking the turns on Rocket Rods, which ultimately cost them far more in vehicle maintenance), not in the overall amount of money that they spent. Innoventions was very impressive visually, and I can imagine that they probably spent a lot of the money there (although it also had a lot of corporate sponsors). I imagine the cost of digging out the Rocket Rods queue between Circle Vision and the old People Mover loading platform must have been fairly high as well. But that's also not something you can put on a spreadsheet. What you see is that in the past Disney spent $25M on Light Magic and $100M on a New Tomorrowland, and whatever they spent on DCA (I never did her the cost), and they all failed. Yet the money they spent on Buzz, Tower of Terror, A Bug's Land, Toy Story Mania, and now Cars Land, all succeeded, most of them beyond Disney's original projections. That's the problem, and that's why there won't be any new original rides for the forseeable future.
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  12. #12

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    You have to admit, it's pretty short-sided if said "professionals" making decisions .. are not looking at the whole picture.

    And DCA itself was 650 million.
    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.

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    While I think certain aspects of your argument may have had some minor impact, you're mostly wrong. The modern franchise marketing theory was developed by Iger immediately after he was promoted to CEO. Of course it was started by Eisner, but really Iger was the one who made it what it is despite so many Disney fans liking to blame Eisner for everything.

    One of the first things that Iger did when he was promoted was to launch a major study to help management better understand what intellectual properties provided the most value to the company. This was primarily done to better focus company resources on IP's which would provide the highest return. But the study actually produced a surprising result that they didn't expect. The IP's which consistently produced the most money for the company were the ones which has a presence in the theme parks.

    Everything Iger has done has been dictated by the conclusions they found in this study. Everything from the acquisitions, to the divisions they've sold, to the what goes into the parks has been based on focusing every aspect of the company on IP's which can be cross marketed throughout the Disney empire. In other words, the parks are considered an distribution channel for entertainment, not an entertainment venue in and of itself. The parks are no different then a cable channel in the eyes of management. From their perspective they are there to advertise IP's and in turn sell more merchandise, period.

    This is not in any way conjecture or my opinion. This is widely available public information that anyone can find by simply reading business articles about Disney and Iger's strategies, primarily ones from the period of time soon after Mr. Iger became CEO.
    The Mickey audience is not made up of people; it has no racial, national, political, religious or social differences or affiliations; the Mickey audience is made up of parts of people, of that deathless, precious, ageless, absolutely primitive remnant of something in every world-wracked human being which makes us play with children’s toys and laugh without self-consciousness at silly things, and sing in bathtubs, and dream and believe that our babies are uniquely beautiful. You know…the Mickey in us.
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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Quote Originally Posted by frollofan View Post
    They made those original attractions with a cheaper budget, that's why they were not liked by the public. If Disney let the Imagineers express their creativity to the maximum and funded the projects properly, then maybe those failures in the late 90's/ early 2000s could have been successful.
    In management's eyes they can't justify spending more on original attractions because they don't have the downstream return on investment that IP's do, i.e. merchandise.
    The Mickey audience is not made up of people; it has no racial, national, political, religious or social differences or affiliations; the Mickey audience is made up of parts of people, of that deathless, precious, ageless, absolutely primitive remnant of something in every world-wracked human being which makes us play with children’s toys and laugh without self-consciousness at silly things, and sing in bathtubs, and dream and believe that our babies are uniquely beautiful. You know…the Mickey in us.
    -Walt Disney

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    Re: Why originanlity is going to be severly limited at DL (for the time being)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomorrowland_1967 View Post
    And if they are possibly still harping that franchise attractions are better than original attractions .... How about another "spread sheet" for them to chew on. The list of original attractions that remain in DL to this day, and the number of turnstile clicks they continue to get .. day in .. and day out. (You know which rides they are.)
    I think dividing by the capacity of the attraction would help a lot.
    Presslerish exec's will note the lack of gift shop exits on those attractions.


    I imagine the cost of digging out the Rocket Rods queue between Circle Vision and the old People Mover loading platform must have been fairly high as well.
    I think that was already there.
    "Here You Leave the World of California Today and Enter the World of, um, er, California Today."

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