Disneyland once had that balance. It was a balance that gave us Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean. Alice in Wonderland and Haunted Mansion. It was a balance that not only worked, but made Disneyland world-famous.
Then came Eisner, with his mandate that "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides," and the balance was dumped in favor of brands, brands and more brands.
Disneyland proved for three decades that brand synergy is not required for attractions to do well -- indeed, its most famous and iconic rides were not branded. All that it is proving today is that branded rides are a quick, easy way for the Staggs Brigade to increase the Company's short term profits -- and their own bonuses.
As to DCA 1.0, it's a myth that it failed because of no characters. It failed because of no creativity of design, no innovation of concept, no quality of execution, and no budget.
That is fantastic! I would have loved that ride.
Also, a lot, most likely most, guests have dreams about experiencing amazing worlds they've seen in the movies. Look at Lord of the Rings, fans online are salivating over the possibility of turning Middle Earth into a theme park land. You might think that Frontierland is generic, but in the 1950's westerns were still very popular, and it was that "world" that people dreamed of exploring. Same thing with pirate films, all the rage decades ago, so Pirates of the Caribbean had a palette of movies to draw upon.
They could do a new theme park with 100% branded attractions, such as Star Wars/Marvel/Villains properties, and if done correctly it would be a hit, IMHO. I think that "brands" is kinda a mislabeling, these "branded" attractions are really attractions that have a backstory, some obvious and well known, others not so much.
A lot of Disneyland/DLR is "Historyland", such as NOS, Adventureland, MS, Frontierland, nothing wrong with this, I'm a history buff and that stuff is cool, but given CGI worlds, the public's taste has moved on a bit from westerns and pirate films, with some notable exceptions. Carsland is part of DLR's "Historyland" being nostalgia for Route 66, but with a twist. Instead of a Haunted Mansion, we have these living Cars characters.
Look at Potterland. Assume nobody had read the books but the land was somehow built, guests would enjoy it, but they wouldn't "get" the wand shop and all the cool little references or who this english actor on a broomstick was. Add the relevance and the land/attractions become something greater.
What if Peter Pan was just a generic "Flying Pirate boat Over London" ride with the same scenes. If people had no experience with the Disney film, or even the story of Peter Pan, the ride just wouldn't work as well as it does.
You'd think that the Haunted Mansion is basically unbranded joy, but it draws upon an entire genre of films/stories and staging to produce what was created. If you are Nightmare Before Christmas fan, you'll probably love the overlay HMH even more, unless you have an attachment/love of the original HM that is hard to put aside. If you don't like NBC, the overlay might not be your cup of tea.
Apart from selling merchandise, brands with elaborate backstories do make the rides more enjoyable/releveant for a large number of guests who come to expect such attractions in Disney parks.
Outside of Route 66 nostalgia, Carsland is a big hit as it is a place movie fans have probably dreamed of visiting, with characters most of them love. BVS is generic street, with kinda meaningless/cynical references to early Disney cartoons, and it doesn't pack the emotional punch of Carsland, IMHO, and doesn't feel like it is a special place like Carsland.
Also, Michael Eisner championed Disney's America . . . a theme park not based on any brands, but on the history of the country.
As for viewing Disneyland through a prism from a movie studio chief's point of view.
That just demonstrates "not getting it", both on the MiceChatter for suggesting it, and to Eisner for leading a diverse portfolio of businesses.
Walt was a studio chief. He came by way of said prism. And he and a select group of his studio staff became Imagineers, designing castles, mountains, vehicles and rides. Creating something different than a movie.
I can kinda see Mermaid getting a lot of riders despite a very consistent 5 minute wait. Just like pirates it is an easy ride to hop on to cool down especially on those hot summer days. Glad to see Fantasyland is getting updates to their rides. Hopefully they don't go too crazy over it but those rides NEED it. What I'm really looking forward to though is a remastered Soarin'.
Likewise the thrills of the Indiana Jones ride come less from the character and more from the excitement of exploring a forbidden temple and having all the traps and ancient evils released or whatever. I mean I know that's all Indiana Jones franchise staples but if you got rid of the character the ride would still succeed in it's own right.
Franchises dont' always hinder attractions and certainly can help but ultimately a ride needs to succeed on its own merits. Franchises just make selling the ride to people who arn't sure what the ride will be (especially since you can't even really see the ride in action from the outside of most Disney rides).
I feel like the frustration with so many brand pushed rides these days draws from the fact that the selection seems to be made from whatever's popular NOW rather than what would actually make for a good ride. We've also had a few less than stiller rides (Nemo) that are way to focused on just retelling the movie and not focused enough on drawing the riders into the world of that movie or whatever.
Radiator Springs Racers doesn't rehash the story of Cars and all of the characters talk to ME. The adventure and excitement is personal. Nemo just rehashes the movie with me being a detached bystander.
Mermaid has other issues but that's neither here nor there.
I really liked the first batch of improvements made to Mermaid and if more can be upgraded you won't here me complaining. A tweak to diminish the light in the final scene would be greatly appreciated.
If the ride had been constructed with a better dramatic confrontation I would've been happier with it but as the ride is now the music is still fun enough that I'll go on it at least twice (once durring the day and then jump through again after World of Color).
Not only is it ridiculously espensive to operate, the capacity is horrible. I think they get something close to 900 people per hour. So that operating cost has to be split between fewer people.
The point is though, that the ride experience would literally be the same if it was indoors in a standard ride vehicle. Even an omnimover would be cheaper.
The proof is in the change in attitude people have shown for the park despite it mostly being the same place as it opened. Paradise Pier is still there, Grizzly and Hollywood are all still there. But put Mickeys face on the ferris wheel and suddenly there's enough difference to refer to t as DCA 2.0.
Think about the topic of the Little Mermaid ride. Despite the fact that most folks in this topic don't seem to Luke or understand the thing, it still gets 25,000 riders per day. How can that be considered anything but a success? Cars land has been such a huge success that Alaska Airlines used the characters for their Disneyland Adventure jet. Essentially equating the entire Disneyland experience into just the characters from Cars.
Characters are King at Disneyland. Nothing prices that more than the hour long waits to see characters from a movie that hasn't even come out yet.
Glad to hear they are working on Mermaid....at least unlike Pooh and Monsters Inc...they didn't just set them up and when lines got lower then they wanted just left the rides alone...
Also....I hope the rumors of the Dark rides getting upgrades are true....man do I want to see what they can do....Snow White's new upgrades really were amazing to me anyway...so I hope every dark ride comes to amaze me again