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  1. #1

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    2/1: Disney’s Reinvention Problem, Part II

    Here's your chance to discuss this column.
    "Politics is the profession whereby the inevitable is made to seem a great human achievement" - Quentin Crisp

  2. #2

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    Very interesting article that poses one major question - with Pixar seemingly out of the picture, where would Disney go for outside source inspiration? I can't imagine an "Alamo" extension to Frontierland is on the cards...

    Does the relative failure of recent Disney movies mean that management are being forced to go with "original" ideas?
    Are we getting Expedition Everest rather than an "Emperor's New Groove" coaster because EE is a better ride, or because there's no demand for Kuzco and friends?

    I believe the parks have managed to maintain a good balance between internal and external inspiration - surely most of us go to Disney parks to have some connection to other Disney ideas - but external ideas like "Star Tours" are where we get into dangerous territory. (Especially in Tomorrow/Discovery Land - MGM and Paris Studios I could understand)
    But I also believe that Disney is missing a trick by virtually ignoring all post-Lion King, non-Pixar movies. Surely one of the purposes of Disney parks is to promote Disney product. I know none of these films are enduring "classics", but they are Disney product and need some long-term exposure.
    However you only need to look at the amount of Winne The Pooh merchandise to see how far Eisner took it the other way...

    Maybe all these answers and more will appear in Pt3, but just my (long-winded) two cents.


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    I would actually set up the lack of imagination the other way. Disney movies are so without ideas that we get a crummy Country Bears movie and a crummy Haunted Mansion movie. PotC: The Movie worked out well ... but it will be interesting to see how the franchise will rebound to the ride.

    In any case, it is not the lack of imagination that is troublesome to me but, rather, the implementation and how the ride fits into the theme of the park. Star Tours, to me, seemed out of place because it had little to do with either the original Tomorrowland (minor, purist quibble) and also had very little to do with the Star Wars universe (was there any Star Tours mentioned in the movie?) The exit theming is absolutely awful ... everytime I see those Energizer "alien" posters in the shabby exit corridor it totally blows the illusion.

    On the other hand, Indiana Jones Adventure is marvelous. It fits perfectly into the Adventureland theme as far as I'm concerned, you only have to be vaguely familiar with the movies to be immersed (since the queue tells you most everything else) and the ride makes sense in the universe being simulated.

    I think my point is that it is more difficult to do an existing property-based ride than to do a non-existing property-based ride. You can't simply shoehorn existing property-based rides into the park as easily as you can take a more general idea and integrate it.

  4. #4

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    My big problem with the lawsuit mentioned: if this "supernatural pirate story" was released, published, sold, and such, why does it not have a title?

    I looked all over the website -- even the lawsuit mentions it in very vague terminology, not once actually referring it to a name. How are we to actually knew this was at these exhibitions if we have no name to ask about? If it was that widely known, why did we not hear about this within a week like we did with The Village?

    So, why is it that the Disney films and attractions in the lawsuit are able to be named but something that you could supposedly go to a store and buy has absolutely no title?
    -Tim

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    This Pixarification of Disneyland really scares me. It seems that Disney is getting more dependent on Pixar's films and it's like they figure, "Hey, who needs original ideas when we have a well of successful Pixar films to choose from?" They want to put a Finding Nemo right right next to 2 Buzz Lightyear attractions (don't forget the Tomorrowland Terrace stage Buzz Lightyear show) and a Buzz-themed food court! Disneyland is slowly transforming from a world of fantasy and imagination into a Universal Studios where you can "Ride the Movies" and feel like you are in the real world riding a fictional ride.

    This Frontierland expansion is just mind-blowing to me. Disneyland has one Land that no one wants anything to do with anymore (other than Space Mountain), full of empty tracks and buildings and they dedicate all their money to expanding Frontierland which works fine the way it is. Not only that, but expand it to undermine the "Wild West" theme that has defined Frontierland since the park first opened.

    If anything, Disneyland needs to restore Tomorrowland with proper rides, not more Buzz Lightyear, before they begin any major project on any of their other Lands. Tomorrowland doesn't just need a new train station and Space Mountain with yet another Buzz Lightyear attraction with Finding Nemo next door, it needs to be shut down for a year and completely redone using a proper budget and restore that sense of optimism of the future that Tomorrowland once brought.

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    Mission:Space is movie based

    Mission Space is based on a movie, however, it is a very bad one. It was based on Brian DePalma's Mission to Mars released by Touchstone in 2000. The movie even starred Gary SiniseIMDB's Mission to Mars

    When the movie tanked, WDI did a lot to erase the connection, but if you're one of the few that have seen the movie, the connection is pretty obvious.

  7. #7

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    By the 3rd paragraph, the phrase "Immersion Toward Interesting Illusion" was starting to get really annoying. Anywho...

    I think this lawsuit is a bunch of balogne. I mean, the film came out almost two years ago and yet he's just making the lawsuit now? As John Stossel says, Give me a break! I mean this is even more rediculous than the Epcot & McDonalds lawsuit

    Finally, comparing Test Track to Autopia is like comparing Mission: Space to Body Wars. Sure, they both have to do with cars, but the comparisons end there. I mean can you compare a ride that goes 60mph and does different car tests with a race car ride that goes 7mph? Same goes to comparing EE with Matterhorn.

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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Athlonacon
    If anything, Disneyland needs to restore Tomorrowland with proper rides, not more Buzz Lightyear
    People who say this ignore that Disneyland's primary objective is to entertain their audience.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with going for outside inspiration for rides or attractions - as long as they are ones that will entertain the public. When people line up for rides like Star Tours or Indy, they don't think about which company made them or who is paying royalties to who - all they care about is whether the ride is good or not.

    The same holds true for the Pixar characters. It doesn't really matter if Buzz belongs in Tomorrowland or Woody belongs in Frontierland - all that matters to the general public is that Disney produces quality attractions. It helps when Disney builds attractions based on characters they know and love, no matter who created those characters.

    The fans complain about Woody and Buzz being added to the parks because they think it somehow devalues the experience or something - but their opinions don't really matter if the crowds are still showing up. Buzz Lightyear will be more popular and sell more merchandise than the Peoplemover ever did.

    The only real concern with using outside material is whether it's good for the long term health of the parks. A lot of folks, especially those on Wall Street are concerned, because if a deal with Pixar falls through, then where will Disney get their content from? They're not worried about the Pixarification of the parks - they're worried about the LACK of Pixarification.

    Synergy isn't really a bad thing. Walt practically invented it. Walt relied heavily on movie and TV tie-ins to promote his park. It wasn't until the park matured and had an audience all of it's own, that Walt ventured away from movie tie ins - but at the same time he didn't exactly move away from ideas and themes that weren't part of pop culture. Folks loved pirate movies and ghosts movies so much that they started making movies about ghosts of pirates!

    There's nothing written that says that Disney HAS to create creative content to survive. That are a lot of creative companies out there, and very few have theme parks. Perhaps in the future Disney's parks will end up as clearinghouses for whatever big idea hits the public's fancy. Maybe rides based on Sky Captain or Harry Potter could be in the future - and what's wrong with that?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Athlonacon
    This Pixarification of Disneyland really scares me. It seems that Disney is getting more dependent on Pixar's films and it's like they figure, "Hey, who needs original ideas when we have a well of successful Pixar films to choose from?" They want to put a Finding Nemo right right next to 2 Buzz Lightyear attractions (don't forget the Tomorrowland Terrace stage Buzz Lightyear show) and a Buzz-themed food court! Disneyland is slowly transforming from a world of fantasy and imagination into a Universal Studios where you can "Ride the Movies" and feel like you are in the real world riding a fictional ride.

    This Frontierland expansion is just mind-blowing to me. Disneyland has one Land that no one wants anything to do with anymore (other than Space Mountain), full of empty tracks and buildings and they dedicate all their money to expanding Frontierland which works fine the way it is. Not only that, but expand it to undermine the "Wild West" theme that has defined Frontierland since the park first opened.

    If anything, Disneyland needs to restore Tomorrowland with proper rides, not more Buzz Lightyear, before they begin any major project on any of their other Lands. Tomorrowland doesn't just need a new train station and Space Mountain with yet another Buzz Lightyear attraction with Finding Nemo next door, it needs to be shut down for a year and completely redone using a proper budget and restore that sense of optimism of the future that Tomorrowland once brought.

    Actualy Club Buzz is going to close before the Buzz Lightyear ride officialy opens

    and from what Marcie (a source on what's going on at Disneyland that posts on MIBoards) has said it would seem that the management has some sort of a five year Tomorrowland repair plan that they're working on

    the Frontierland wouldn't go in until after 2008 if I remeber right and the idea was to transition from Wild West into Fantasyland (meaning no sacrifice in the Frontier theme at all)



    I too am concerned with the Pixarification of Disney's parks

    I think my biggest concern is California Adventure

    as Kevin Mentioned in his article California Adventure actualy tried to break free of the character overload but it was poorly exicuted and now it's jumped to the opposite end of the spectrum with tons of character rides being thrown into it

    if you've read my LA expansion idea that you guys will know I believe in balancing out the characters with enviornments and theming that isn't limited too them
    http://www.micechat.com/showthread.p...ight=expansion


    this article was pretty good and covered alotta stuff I've been thinking about myself

  10. #10

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    "Genteel Racism"??

    At the risk of unintentionally hijacking this thread... I have to respond to what I'm certain was intended as a "throwaway" comment Kevin made about Song of the South.

    Kevin, you owe it to yourself to read this article that recently appeared at savedisney.com, entitled "In Defense of Disney's Uncle Remus..." It's the best rebuttal I've read of the "politically correct" contention that SOTS is somehow a "racist" or "racially insensitive" movie; a (mis)conception usually and thoughtlessly spread by people who A)have never seen the movie, or B)have only vague memories of having seen it during childhood (and I include myself among the second group, but not among those who spew the "PC" charge of "racism"). The article states it much better than I could, so I'll just say "read it!"

    Otherwise, this series "Disney's Reinvention Problem" has been very enjoyable reading. I take special interest in these articles because I work at (but not for) Disney World myself, and am looking forward eagerly to the next one.
    Last edited by DCMatthews; 02-01-2005 at 09:46 PM. Reason: add signature
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  11. #11

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    Merlin Jones over at SaveDisney and I see eye-to-eye on many issues. With this issue, though, I wasn't trying to take a stance whatsoever on Song of the South and its racism (or lack thereof). I meant to convey with one phrase the idea that the movie is PERCEIVED to be racist, though inadvertantly. I've seen the movie multiple times - I have it on tape for reasons we won't go into right now. And I steadfastly refuse to take a stand on whether I personally think it's racist or not.

    Why not? Well, I love debates. Even ones (maybe ESPECIALLY ones) that challenge my own opinions. But I just don't like debating those things you absolutely cannot change anyone's mind about on the Internet: religion, racism, politics. It's a recipe for annoying half the audience for no real gain, since no one will change his mind. And then it's only a matter of time before Hitler gets invoked, and the thread will officially be over.

    (Wikipedia's definition of Godwin's Law: "There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress")
    Kevin Yee
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    Walt Disney World Hidden History - tributes, homages, and ride remnants at WDW
    Your Day at the Magic Kingdom
    Mouse Trap
    Tokyo Disney Made Easy
    101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland
    Magic Quizdom (The Disneyland Trivia Book)

    “The press [should be] a watchdog. Not an attack dog. Not a lapdog. A watchdog. Now, a watchdog can't be right all the time. He doesn't bark only when he sees or smells something that's dangerous. A good watchdog barks at things that are suspicious.” – Dan Rather

  12. #12

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    "Simple ideas, executed extremely well"

    Disneyland over the last 50 years has had it's creative highs and lows and like any piece of popular culture reflected the times. I believe that story and execution play a large part in what makes a Disney attraction unique, not the core idea and it's uniqueness. Those ideas, even in Walt's day were derivitive.

    As long as we're using hindsight to understand the benchmarks being imposed on the parks, just look back at the first Fantasyland and what ideas Walt "imported". The Carousel, Tea Cups and the other dark rides are the most thinly veiled retreads of carnival technology you will ever find. Amusement parks like Coney Island had done more elaborate versions 50 years earlier and in the case of a comparision to "Pirates", based indoor boat rides on spectacle and historic events (disasters and wars). Walt's diorama's like the Grand Canyon and even the Haunted Mansion (Spook House) have been attempted in some form in amusement and fair culture at very low levels of execution.

    Star Tours, Captain EO and Indy came along at a time when there was nothing in theaters to adapt that was relevant, and the parks needed to recapture the imagination of it's audience. I would have rather seen Disney material there, but it reflected the times and a desperation to reinvent itself. The case has been made that Walt "adapted" stories all of the time, and Tom Sawyer was someone else's material as well. The Sleeping Beauty Castle was boldly ripped off from Neuschanstein (Herbie at least flipped it backwards), the Jungle Cruise Boats were admittedly inspired in part by a hit film of the fifties, "The African Queen".

    The historically "adapted" attractions like the Mark Twain and Main Street USA are derivitive of Greenfield Village at Henry Ford Museum. http://www.hfmgv.org/village/mainstreet.asp

    Walt loved this place and visited as early as the 1920s. This historic recreation likely gave him the idea to do Main Street, a train around the park, a Riverboat circling an island and more! Talk about creative decline! Walt was the worst and just packaged it all and branded it. Greenfield is the real Main Street with costumed characters. Truly immersive. I like this place better than Disneyland because it's real and an escape all at once.


    My point is that theme park creative has not necessarily been in decline, but rather has always been extremely simplistic, aspirational, and in the case of Disney, been superior by it's level of execution. Big Thunder is nothing more than a runaway mine train (1963 in Six Flags) meets Knott's Calico Mine Ride, but it's executed to an extreme level, making it unique, immersive and thematic. I remember hearing that the Disney difference is "we outspend the others". There is (was) truth in that. The other line was " simple ideas, done extremely well". These cliche's have been around for years.

    And some of those cliches are timeless aspirations like "I want to fly in a Rocket". Mission Space is a 21st Century execution of a relevant desire that was the same back in 1955. It's not a lack of creativity, it was actually what the audience said they wanted to experience about Space and still do.

    Superstar Limo was an attempt to create something new and it failed mainly in it's execution. Had it been done in 3D like Spiderman and the celebs looked and talked to you, maybe it would have been a wow? We'll never know.

    If you want to see true creative bankruptsy, look how the Studio is now adapting the rides back into movies! and the rides are being retrofitted to reflect the films!
    "As usual he's taken over the coolest spot in the house"- Father re: Orville 1963

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  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cousin Orville
    The historically "adapted" attractions like the Mark Twain and Main Street USA are derivitive of Greenfield Village at Henry Ford Museum.
    This is VERY interesting. And I don't think you are off the mark at all. Disney rarely breaks new ground in their shows and attractions. Rather, they attempt to do better or more impressive versions. I've always felt that way about WDW. Their Magic Kingdom It isn't as magical as Disneyland, but it overwhelms you with its sheer size and scope. Disney/MGM Studios was built to keep people away from Universal, as Animal Kingdom was built to battle Bush Gardens. EPCOT was started as a novel idea, but became a knockoff worlds exposition. Yet all of these parks create a fantastic whole when taken together.

    That doesn't mean that Disney is in creative decline. Just that they need to continue looking for interesting source material if they aren't going to create something new.
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    I do think the whole theme park business is in need of a breakthrough. Stagnation exists at Disney and that affects the industry as a whole. Disneyland was that breakthrough 50 years ago in what it did and how it made an old amusement park relevant to that audience by immersing the audience in an escape with stories and characters they love. The whole Davy Crockett thing was so big then.

    The hard part about articles like this is that they seek some kind of rules, some kind of dictate Walt may have left to say what they should be. the confines of theming in that you are either in or out of period sets up the construct that there are such rules, but the deeper you dig, even in Walt's day, the more contracdictory it becomes. At WDI we used to look for this kind of mandate and there were always exceptions to the "must be from a movie, characters don't belong here," etc. kinds of rules. I'm a conservative in this area and a traditionalist. but know that the park was a great Hobby for a pretty amazing guy. now it's a business that has to deliver on that spontaniety and sincerity.
    "As usual he's taken over the coolest spot in the house"- Father re: Orville 1963

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  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cousin Orville
    The historically "adapted" attractions like the Mark Twain and Main Street USA are derivitive of Greenfield Village at Henry Ford Museum. http://www.hfmgv.org/village/mainstreet.asp

    My point is that theme park creative has not necessarily been in decline, but rather has always been extremely simplistic, aspirational, and in the case of Disney, been superior by it's level of execution. Big Thunder is nothing more than a runaway mine train (1963 in Six Flags) meets Knott's Calico Mine Ride, but it's executed to an extreme level, making it unique, immersive and thematic. I remember hearing that the Disney difference is "we outspend the others". There is (was) truth in that. The other line was " simple ideas, done extremely well". These cliche's have been around for years.

    If you want to see true creative bankruptsy, look how the Studio is now adapting the rides back into movies! and the rides are being retrofitted to reflect the films!
    The Greenfield Village source for the riverboat (and more) is a well-established fact I wasn't trying to contravene. The point was more that such executions, regardless of their creative origin, are more timeless in nature than ones which depend upon an outside mythos.

    Half of me wants to agree with you that Disney just outspends the competition. I think that's true some of the time. But the other half of me isn't sure. There was no Omnimover prior to Disney, no AAs. Disney really did used to innovate.

    And you'll get no argument from me about the Studio's creative bankruptcy. That's been true for ages now!
    Kevin Yee
    MiceAge Columnist

    I am the author of several Disney books:
    Jason's Disneyland Almanac - a daily history of Disneyland
    Walt Disney World Hidden History - tributes, homages, and ride remnants at WDW
    Your Day at the Magic Kingdom
    Mouse Trap
    Tokyo Disney Made Easy
    101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland
    Magic Quizdom (The Disneyland Trivia Book)

    “The press [should be] a watchdog. Not an attack dog. Not a lapdog. A watchdog. Now, a watchdog can't be right all the time. He doesn't bark only when he sees or smells something that's dangerous. A good watchdog barks at things that are suspicious.” – Dan Rather

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