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  1. #1

    • Singing Drinker
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    Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    A lot of our discussions here tend to revolve around theme, themed builds and decorating, rides and their places within, etc.

    I'm curious as to the opinion of the new trend to "micro theme". Areas developed with an intense but VERY specific theme - Carsland is a good example, Wizarding World (and USH's upcoming Springfield) would also qualify locally in the upcoming future, that sort of thing.

    Are they good for the future of theme parks?

    Arguably, part of the genius of Disneyland is the flexibility the "macro" themes give them. Fantasy. Tomorrow. Adventure. American Frontier. All very generalized themes with a fairly general take on the themes themselves - which could be argued gives the themes greater longevity and potentially even greater appeal, giving the area a "timeless" nature that doesn't rely on knowledge of a given brand or story.

    I wonder about the future of things like Carsland, Springfield and such. How long are these going to be fixtures of the cultural landscape? How do you expand an area that's been heavily locked down to a specific brand theme if the brand goes dormant?
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  2. #2

    • Seed and Mulch
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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    It depends entirely on the lasting power of the franchise. Harry Potter? Fine. Star Wars? Fine. Davy Crockett Land? No. African Queen Land? No. Bugs Life Land? Nope. Cars Land? Nope.

    There are very few franchises that can carry an entire land well into the future and they have all been uber-popular for decades. Marvel Comics? Yes. Avatar? Nope.

    Getting to your initial question - I'm of the opinion that it would be better long-term thinking to, when naming a land, always defer to the generalized concept, rather a specific franchise. For example, if Cars Land was "Drag Strip, California" (an analogue to Main Street USA), when the Cars franchise popularity begins to fade, you'd have a timeless concept (car culture, drive-ins, 1960s, American Grafitti-ish) to fall back on.


  3. #3

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Well, regardless of whether a film or franchise has lasting popularity, Disney can make an iconic and lasting staple of their parks out of it. Cars Land is a good example. It's untouchable. It's hugely popular and it will be around for a long time, probably long after the heyday of the movie's popularity.

  4. #4

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    I think it definitely limits the creativity, but as far as being absolutely terrible for the parks in general, I don't think so. It has little to do with the actual theme and everything to do with the execution. Lands done to the scale of Wizarding World & Carsland are still enjoyable to someone with no prior knowledge of Harry Potter or Cars. Most people consider Splash Mountain a classic, and that attraction is based on a film that Disney won't even acknowledge exists.

    Having said that, I'd still prefer that they went with "macro" themes.

  5. #5

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by thedustycoyote View Post
    Most people consider Splash Mountain a classic, and that attraction is based on a film that Disney won't even acknowledge exists.
    I think you've made the OP's point ... Splash Mountain is an attraction, not an entire land. Other faded-intellectual properties that are popular attractions include the Tower of Terror, the Matterhorn, Dumbo, etc. But they are attractions, not land.

    Look at CarToon Spin ... it's a popular attraction, but the land's franchise has faded (Roger Rabbit) and now the attraction is likely to be thrown out with the bath water. Meanwhile Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Adventureland - they keep trucking along for sixty years.


  6. #6

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by SunsetLament View Post
    It depends entirely on the lasting power of the franchise. Harry Potter? Fine. Star Wars? Fine. Davy Crockett Land? No. African Queen Land? No. Bugs Life Land? Nope. Cars Land? Nope.

    There are very few franchises that can carry an entire land well into the future and they have all been uber-popular for decades. Marvel Comics? Yes. Avatar? Nope.

    Getting to your initial question - I'm of the opinion that it would be better long-term thinking to, when naming a land, always defer to the generalized concept, rather a specific franchise. For example, if Cars Land was "Drag Strip, California" (an analogue to Main Street USA), when the Cars franchise popularity begins to fade, you'd have a timeless concept (car culture, drive-ins, 1960s, American Grafitti-ish) to fall back on.
    There are few brands that will last forever, but the great thing about Cars Land (among others) is that it's still general enough to appeal to those who haven't seen the movies, including far-future generations. It won't matter if kids don't know Mater or Lighting McQueen because they're just cars who talk. We get that the racecar wants to race and the tow truck is goofy without having to see the films.

    The problem is with things like WWOHP because we won't get the relationship between characters. It might be obvious that Voldemort and Bellatrix are evil because they look different, but we won't necessarily know that Harry Potter is The Boy Who Lived and has two best friends. Sure, we can fall back on the whole wizardry/magic thing, but there is something lost as the franchise fades away, as you said.

  7. #7

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    It depends on how popular the franchise is and what kind of attractions are in the area. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, etc. are all franchises that deserve a land. Cars, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, etc. are all very good franchises, but are not worthy of a full land, but would definitely deserve a mini-land. Having said that, the quality also matters a great deal. Cars Land will remain popular for a very long time because of RSR. It is a great attraction. If Disney wanted, when Cars' popularity dies out, they can "retime" the land to a Californian desert and just alter the attractions. But, RSR can remain untouched and be DCA's one Cars ride.

  8. #8

    • Faerie Godmother
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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    With few exceptions, I believe it's a very bad idea to theme an entire land to a single IP. As soon as that IP's popularity wanes, you're left with a bunch of attractions and shops that people don't "get" anymore, and you have to spend a lot of refurb money to make it valuable again. With a more general theme, you can move IPs in and out in stages as long as they all fit the overarching theme--you can even designs IPs to fit--and on top of that you can use original ideas not connected to any previously existing material.

    Which is what Walt Disney did with the original map of Disneyland. He used his existing characters and concepts, yes, but he built in a lot of flexibility from the get-go by painting in broad strokes. Even Fantasyland, the most reliant on existing Disney material, referenced a lot of different titles and also included things like the Carrousel (eight years before the release of The Sword in the Stone, mind).

    Now, some single IPs can support a lot more than others. The Harry Potter franchise is huge--not just in terms of how much material there is (seven novels and three tie-in books), but in terms of the world it occupies. "Wizarding World" is a really big concept, and you could potentially build an entire theme park that just explores it without directly referencing the events of the Harry Potter stories themselves. You don't need to meet Hagrid, Dumbledore, and Snape in order to appreciate the magnificence of Hogwarts and its environs.
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  9. #9

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    I like some micro-theming, but I think there shouldn't be IP made into a whole land. "The Old West" - cool microtheme; Davy Crocket, not so much anymore. CarsLand could be tweaked to be more generally about a car's world, rather than specifically these individual car personalities. Harry Potterland will probably need to be tweaked when its star fades into more generally a wizard world.

    Condor Flats is about airplanes, military type base in the desert; cool. And it was a good place to put Soarin'. And Minnie's fly girls show. Paradise Pier is an idealized, seaside walk; cool. So some microtheming works, and some doesn't.
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  10. #10

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    I think it is more of a function of scale and execution. Cars Land is probably the principal example of an entire land being narrowly themed to a specific property, but that decision is as much related to the size of the primary attraction as it is to marketing. There is probably no viable means of building an attraction as large and encompassing as RSR without going ahead an re-creating all of Radiator Springs. The fact that the Cars merchandise continues to be a massive profit center for Disney certainly supports the decision to them an entire land to one franchise, but Cars Land works because it is exceptionally well executed. Personlly, it think "Route 66" or "Radiator Springs" would have been a better name for the land, but you cannot argue with the quality of guest experience.

    Micro-theming probably works better for limited-time or special events, and a general theme certainly provides greater flexibility to work different properties into the theming. That is one of the reasons older versions of Tomorrowland worked so well, and is also a reason to be concerned about a re-themed Tomorrowland overloaded with Star Wars attractions or a new land in DCA limited solely to Marvel.

    I also disagree with the general assumption that older source material leads to attractions becoming dated and irrelevant. The are numerous attractions that are very popular based on or inspired by source material that is no longer popular. Yes, the movies behind the Fantasyland dark rides, as well as Dumbo and the Mad Tea Party, are still popular despite their age. But most guests have never seen Third Man on the Mountain and we cannot even watch Song of the South, yet the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain are still two of the most popular and iconic attractions. In fact, older source material can work better than the newer options. Just compare the current Tarzan's Treehouse to the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse that it replaced.

  11. #11

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Those are environments, not the retelling of just that individual story, which is why I think they work so much better. Swiss Family Robinson treehouse was cool, even if you didn't know the story behind it. Shipwreck, treehouse, cool! Now that it's Tarzan, it's less of an atmosphere, it's limited to Tarzan. Can't be much else.
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  12. #12

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by SunsetLament View Post
    I think you've made the OP's point ... Splash Mountain is an attraction, not an entire land. Other faded-intellectual properties that are popular attractions include the Tower of Terror, the Matterhorn, Dumbo, etc. But they are attractions, not land.

    Look at CarToon Spin ... it's a popular attraction, but the land's franchise has faded (Roger Rabbit) and now the attraction is likely to be thrown out with the bath water. Meanwhile Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Adventureland - they keep trucking along for sixty years.
    Hmm, I was actually arguing against OPs point, though I generally agree with him. I was pointing out that something (attraction/land - different scales, same idea) can exist without relying on the popularity of its franchise.

    Its hard to compare Toontown to those other lands, like Fantasyland. Fantasyland is filled with attractions - its got the icon of the whole park (the castle), a huge E-ticket, four dark rides, a walkthrough, two theaters, three(?) meet and greets, a boat ride, a train ride, a few spinners and plenty of shops, restaurants, and hidden corners. Toontown has got one dark ride, one kids coaster, a couple meet and greets, a few (mostly shuttered) play areas and a few shops and food stands. Not to mention its complete lack of upkeep. So I'm not sure you can say that that land is failing simply because Roger Rabbit isn't a popular franchise, there's too many other factors there.

  13. #13

    • Seed and Mulch
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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by thedustycoyote View Post
    Hmm, I was actually arguing against OPs point, though I generally agree with him. I was pointing out that something (attraction/land - different scales, same idea) can exist without relying on the popularity of its franchise.

    Its hard to compare Toontown to those other lands, like Fantasyland. Fantasyland is filled with attractions - its got the icon of the whole park (the castle), a huge E-ticket, four dark rides, a walkthrough, two theaters, three(?) meet and greets, a boat ride, a train ride, a few spinners and plenty of shops, restaurants, and hidden corners. Toontown has got one dark ride, one kids coaster, a couple meet and greets, a few (mostly shuttered) play areas and a few shops and food stands. Not to mention its complete lack of upkeep. So I'm not sure you can say that that land is failing simply because Roger Rabbit isn't a popular franchise, there's too many other factors there.
    If they hadn't limited their options by micro-focusing the land on a single franchise, they'd be able to add attractions (like every other generalized-land) from other franchises and keep it cutting-edge. They won't because Toontown (true or not) is viewed as "Well, that's just a Roger Rabbit land and Roger Rabbit is lame; kids don't like it," and it's easier to replace it with something else.


  14. #14

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Do people think of Toontown as being "Roger Rabbit Land"? That's where the Imagineers got the name, but the characters from the classic shorts claim more of the real estate and garner more recognition. It is Mickey's Toontown after all. I think it's a viable theme that just needs more love from Management.
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  15. #15

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    Re: Are "Micro Themes" bad for parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by Karalora View Post
    Do people think of Toontown as being "Roger Rabbit Land"? That's where the Imagineers got the name, but the characters from the classic shorts claim more of the real estate and garner more recognition. It is Mickey's Toontown after all. I think it's a viable theme that just needs more love from Management.
    The name/theme precludes any another franchises from being there (in attraction, store or restaurant form) except for Roger Rabbitt and the classic shorts characters (as you pointed out). I've been reading Disney message boards since as long as they've existed; I can't ever remember someone suggesting an attraction to be added to Toontown. Can you? Yet, everyday there's two or three "I've got an idea, Tomorrowland needs an X ride" or "How great would it be if Adventureland got a Y attraction" posts. There's a reason.


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