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  1. #1

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    7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Plus: Lucky the Dino show changes, Ultimate Orlando Challenge now free - discuss it all here!
    "Politics is the profession whereby the inevitable is made to seem a great human achievement" - Quentin Crisp

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    Thumbs up Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Very interesting analysis. I'm sure I'm not alone in just about stroking out when I saw that McDonald's on Disney property...any Disney nerd worth his salt knows that eliminating that sort of thing from the experience was one of the primary motivating factors behind the massive land purchase at WDW.

    And I totally agree that the propping up a lackluster park like MGM or pouring massive resources into dumbing down Epcot has certainly been a drain on the Kingdom of Could Have Been. Deploying the shovelware concept to WDW also allows them to get away with halfassing parks. Seriously, would anyone drive more than 50 miles get to WDW if MGM was the only park there? Those of us who saw Animal Kingdom in its opening days have seen what a bare minimum park looks like. To me, it seems a little embarrassing and counterproductive, but if you're looking at it as icing on a cake, you're going think I'm just being crabby.

    I don't actually mind the smaller "support" attractions. I miss Discovery Island, and I think Typhoon Lagoon is pretty cool. But, I think the quality of even these attractions has gone downhill. Typhoon's slides aren't as new or beefy (I haven't seen the new coaster) as Blizzard Beach's, but the place certainly looks a lot nicer. There was also a serious attempt to make the place self-contained and to shield the outside world from view. Compare that to BB where you can see highways and parking lots. And leave it to Disney to bill a mall as a major attraction.

    In terms of "plussing" parks, I am actually somewhat reassured by the "new" Space Mountain in Disneyland. That's exactly the sort of thing I think Disney should be doing all the time (although perhaps without the huge wait and the deceptive advertising, but as long as the Disney board has no integrity, you can't have everything). I very much support the idea of hanging on to the nostalgiac fun without letting things succumb to obsolesence and decay.

    As for the MK becoming a museum...I submit that it is even less than that since, as you mentioned, numerous classic attractions have been removed all together. Certainly an unhappy pattern, especially considering all the space available.

    You know, when I first saw the setup at Universal Orlando after they opened Islands of Adventure, I sort of pooh-poohed it, being a WDW junkie. Everything seemed sort of piled on top of itself. But after visiting it quite extensively, I have to say that I think I actually prefer it to the current Disney config. I like walking, and really like the convenience and time savings of everything being in one place.

    It's great to be able to leave your hotel room and be on the Hulk in just 6 minutes (I timed it). You lose the incredible atmosphere of taking the monorail to Epcot, but since Disney has cheaped out, I have to say that walking to IOA beats the crap out of waiting for a bus and perhaps even requiring a transfer (and another wait) to get to where you want to go.

    What's the point of spacing everything out if it only detracts from the experience of getting where you want to go?

    The Universal setup even allows a crank like me to sort of enjoy the CityWalk concept. As long as I'm not making a special trip to a mall, it actually seems like a nice extra, but I'm not going to take 4 buses to get to a Rainforest Cafe. It's kinda cool to leave Marvel Island, go check out the latest Marvel movie, then come right back to the Island over the course of a few hours. No way would I fight the Disney transportation system to pop out of the MK to catch the latest Disney cartoon, then fight my way back to the park.

    As for giving up on the real EPCOT, I blame that all on Walt's smoking. I agree that it was probably unreasonable for us to expect EPCOT to be built after the mad genius was gone. I recently read a book about EPCOT's planning, and it said that when Walt met with the leaders of major corporations to discuss the project, it would take at least half an hour for everyone to settle down, since they were all awe- and starstruck by The Man Himself. Roy was cool and all, but I can't imagine he would garner such a reaction, and it was going to take same serious magic to get something like EPCOT off the ground.

    Anyway, Kevin, thanks for another thoughtful article. While I enjoy a good round of "look at these pictures of peeling paint" as much as the next guy, it's the Big Picture thinking that really intrigues me.

    Keep on engaging the grey matter. We appreciate it.
    Last edited by Manganese Nodule; 07-11-2005 at 11:28 AM.

  3. #3

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Wonderful article, Kevin. Never having been to WDW I found it very interesting.

    Being an artist and a creative person I've always subscribed to the theory that "less is more."

    [QUOTE=Manganese Nodule]Very interesting analysis. I'm sure I'm not alone in just about stroking out when I saw that McDonald's on Disney property...any Disney nerd worth his salt knows that eliminating that sort of thing from the experience was one of the primary motivating factors behind the massive land purchase at WDW.

    I also enjoyed your thoughtful and well written post, MN. One slight correction to what you opened your post with though. That shot of "The Vegas Style MacDonalds" doesn't sit on Disney property. It is on Anaheim's Harbor Boulevard directly across the street from DL's main gate.
    Last edited by desertdweller; 07-11-2005 at 10:15 AM. Reason: Mistake

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    It is exceptionally rare that I disagree with Walt Disney, in fact this might be the only time, but I've always felt the run-down motels and neon lights in Anaheim actually *helped* Disneyland's escapism, not hurt it. It's a matter of contrast, here you're in the middle of the suburban slums and all of the sudden you're wisked away to a fantasy world where everything is so brand new and clean. You appreciate things more when there is contrast: earning money feels better after you've been broke, joy feels better after you've been miserable, and inside Disneyland feels better when you've just walked past a cheap and seedy Motel 6.

    On the other hand, I would've loved to have seen what Walt would've done with more land in Anaheim. If he only had enough land and money to expand in that city, things would be so much different. Perhaps it is better that we will never know that scenario, we all know Disneyland is what it is because of its intimacy and it's its small size that makes it special. Also, keeping in mind that Anaheim was empty in 1954, it would've been possible for Walt to have owned tons of land like he did in Florida. Can you guys imagine Anaheim today with Disney owning 30,000 acres of it!? It would've changed the entire face of the city forever. Disney already technically "owns" Anaheim, but it just would've been more official if they had the land too.

    Even though it didn't work out the way Walt wanted, I feel that what we have today is better than anything we could've hoped for. A very special park in Anaheim and a huge mega-resort in Florida. Two VERY different resorts that complement each other because of their similarities as well as their differences.

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by desertdweller
    I also enjoyed your thoughtful and well written post, MN.
    Thanks!

    One slight correction to what you opened your post with though. That shot of "The Vegas Style MacDonalds" doesn't sit on Disney property. It is on Anaheim's Harbor Boulevard directly across the street from DL's main gate.
    I was referring to the McDonald's out there by the All-Stars...I think it has a giant shake and maybe some Fry Guys or something, but I haven't been to WDW in a long time and all those images seem to be merging with Aqua Teen Hunger Force in my mind right now...

    Anyway, I guess I didn't notice that it wasn't the same McDonald's.

  6. #6

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    I very strongly disagree with this article.

    1. Disneyworld various attractions are still surrounded by miles of wilderness. The first reaction to any first time visitor to Disney World is always focused on this fact. And it is very rare to be at any particular place and be taken away from the spirit of the place with outside distractions. While you do pass different resorts while driving from park to park, you pass much more wilderness. Disney World is more like some kind of enchanted desert island where different magical experiences pop up. Not at all like crowded entertainment complexes.

    2. Vegas stile McDonalds? have you BEEN to Vegas and Disneyworld? There are much more intrusive McDonalds in DeMois or Salt Lake City than in Disneyworld. The fact that McDonalds is in Disneyworld is a very convient thing. I suppose there are some who would wish disney to break every corprate tie and get rid of everything that is not striclty disney, but I don't think those people understand the way things are.

    3. Epcot, MGM studios, DAK and the rest, while bemoaned by many, still manage to capture the feeling and spirit of Walt. What makes you upset? that such e-tickets are not built in the Magic Kingdom or that such e-tickets are built in the first place? The Magic Kingdom still draws the most visitors of any Orlando theme park! Why not add extra oomph to the other parks? Do you not remember watching old reruns of Disney's real life adventures? or all of those behind the scenes specials that make the extras of most Disney DVDs? The spirit of such things live in all disney parks. While not all of them are as pretty and sparkelly as the Magic Kingdom, they all deserve to be the most they can be.
    St. Elizabeth, Patron Saint of Themed parks. Protect us from break downs, long lines, and used gum. Amen.

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Great article...but on that same note one has to wonder, can the parks get too big? Your point about Cedar Fair was a good one, bigger is not always better, but put that into perspective to the Magic Kingdom and it makes sense why they have not had any new E-Tickets since Splash Mountain. The Magic Kingdom already takes two days to fully appreciate, but can be done in a day. Imagine however if they added another e-ticket to keep you in line forever, you'd end up sacrificing one of the small rides, which it has plenty of.

    Sure things like the Keelboats and skyway were nice (and are missed) but at the same time having a few less things means the visitor who has one day in 10 years to visit the park can see most everything. EPCOT needed a ride like Soarin, you can wait for Soarin, TT and Space and still see everything. The Magic Kingdom doesn't need a new E-Ticket (not that I'm saying I'll be upset if it gets one ), and it's additions like Buzz and Philharmagic are much loved.

    Overall very though inspiring article!

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by Athlonacon
    It is exceptionally rare that I disagree with Walt Disney, in fact this might be the only time, but I've always felt the run-down motels and neon lights in Anaheim actually *helped* Disneyland's escapism, not hurt it. It's a matter of contrast, here you're in the middle of the suburban slums and all of the sudden you're wisked away to a fantasy world where everything is so brand new and clean. You appreciate things more when there is contrast: earning money feels better after you've been broke, joy feels better after you've been miserable, and inside Disneyland feels better when you've just walked past a cheap and seedy Motel 6.

    On the other hand, I would've loved to have seen what Walt would've done with more land in Anaheim. If he only had enough land and money to expand in that city, things would be so much different. Perhaps it is better that we will never know that scenario, we all know Disneyland is what it is because of its intimacy and it's its small size that makes it special. Also, keeping in mind that Anaheim was empty in 1954, it would've been possible for Walt to have owned tons of land like he did in Florida. Can you guys imagine Anaheim today with Disney owning 30,000 acres of it!? It would've changed the entire face of the city forever. Disney already technically "owns" Anaheim, but it just would've been more official if they had the land too.
    Great post, Athlonacon! I first visited relatives and DL in '59 and Anaheim was a gorgeous, progressive city on the move at that time.

    In the early '60s it was among the top ten cities most desirable to live in. Before Florida, Disney did try to work out a way to expand its boundaries but it required the cooperation of the City of Anaheim to do so. I've resurrected a post of mine back in early March about the proposed exapansion.

    The Original Downtown Disney?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The State of the Resort presentation being presented today in Anaheim is certainly interesting and offers a glimpse of just how much Orange County has prospered and profits from DLR's presence. This got me thinking about a project that is now decades old but one that I still think about and ponder at times.

    The Original Downtown Disney?

    Anaheim, California today is a thriving, greatly changed city compared to 50 years ago when Disneyland lowered its drawbridge and changed the cityís destiny. I wonder how different it would be if an opportunity they had placed before them in the mid Ď60s had been accepted.

    I was working in downtown Anaheim at that time, which was a thriving area of retail stores. A department store, a couple old hotels, shoe repair shop, Danish bakery, two movie theaters and many of the buildings dating to the turn of the century. In brief, it was a very nice area that had lost some of its luster due to the beginning of urban sprawl and a shopping mall 2 miles away.

    My memory of this is a little fuzzy since I donít recall it getting a lot of press. Walt Disney, as most of us know, wasnít very thrilled with what had happened just outside his front gate. Not able to purchase enough land originally, the developers and entrepreneurs moved in and a hodge-podge of motels, shops and restaurants appeared around Disneyland.

    Disney presented a proposal and plan to assist the city in renewing and redeveloping Anaheimís downtown area while expanding the touristís experience. A model of Lincoln Avenue was unveiled that featured downtown Anaheim with all the buildings sporting new facades. It was an International City concept as I recall with themed restaurants, shops and entertainment. The monorail was going to be extended to make a loop connecting the park and downtown. There was a lot of excitement and talk about the project but the general feeling was that Disney was trying to get too much control of the city. I donít know what really went on between the city council and Disney but it just faded away. I asked a city employee a few years ago and he said he remembers seeing the model sitting in a basement at city hall.

    Of course, Disney moved on to Florida and Epcot and Anaheim in the Ď70s moved forward with a redevelopment plan of their own which basically destroyed all of downtown with a wrecking ball. Itís fascinating to think about what could have been and wonder if Anaheim didnít make a huge blunder in not accepting that offer.

    One hears a lot about Long Beach and how they missed the boat on Disney Seas and the failed ski resort in northern California that was axed due to environmental issues. The Disney America project in Virginia was pretty much shelved because of being in the middle of Civil War battlegrounds that many thought was a sacrilege.

    This project seems to have faded away, just like the orange groves and strawberry fields that once blanketed the county.
    Last edited by desertdweller; 07-11-2005 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Condense

  9. #9

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by Manganese Nodule
    Very interesting analysis. I'm sure I'm not alone in just about stroking out when I saw that McDonald's on Disney property...any Disney nerd worth his salt knows that eliminating that sort of thing from the experience was one of the primary motivating factors behind the massive land purchase at WDW.
    Well, I think the primary factor was so that others couldn't suck on the teat of Disney without paying for the privilege.
    Secondary was the supposed blight. I don't think Walt would have minded the business abutting the park if he had some control over the content.
    I think Walt bought as much as was financially possible at the time. Once word leaked out, the remaining parcels jumped in value. According to Jim Hill (but countered by a Chatter here), some of the Timon/Pumbaa parking lot is still owned by others.
    And this is why when Walt and Roy Sr were buying up parcels in FL, they did it through multiple companies whose true ownership was kept secret for as long as possible.
    "Here You Leave the World of California Today and Enter the World of, um, er, California Today."

  10. #10

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Great article, Kevin. You make some tremendous points, as have the posters thus far.

    While I agree that Magic Kingdom has seemed rather static these past several years, compared to the other three WDW parks, there's a few mitigating factors (most of which have been brought up by others):

    First, the other three parks were sorely in need of upgrades, particularly MGM and AK. Up until the current wave of new EPCOT attractions beginning with Test Track, it really seemed like walking through "1982 Land." I miss Horizons and World of Motion, too, but the park seemed so sterile; it slowly is gaining it's own flavor. The Studios and (of course) AK were so short of attractions, one can't deny improvement was surely needed - was anyone not tired of seeing the "Empty Nest" house from the tram?

    Second, there was actually an attempt to upgrade MK back in the 90s, albeit half-hearted. The Pressler regime actually did try to update Tomorrowland, based on the Paris model. (I didn't say it was a good idea).

    Finally, the combination of the turn of the century economic downturn coupled with the adverse impact of 9/11 put a big crimp into Disney's plans. There were some great ideas, for example, the whole of Disney Seas, but without the funds Oriental Land Company commanded and with so much tied up in Cali Adventure, ABC and Fox Family, the stateside company let the Florida property stagnate.

    Hopefully, with Iger and Ouimet in place, ABC back in first, and the Eisner's Strategic Planning division dismantled, all four Florida parks will continue getting some much needed TLC.

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by thejoshualee
    Epcot, MGM studios, DAK and the rest, while bemoaned by many, still manage to capture the feeling and spirit of Walt.
    I have to disagree pretty strongly about MGM. It's awfully lame, and even the E-ticket attractions don't fit the theme. I think the problem (as people who've been to Universal Studios Florida know) is that a movie studio is a really boring theme for a park. The point of a theme park (as I see it) is to make you feel like you're in a completely different reality. It's a giant, immersive, 3-dimensional story.

    But if your conceit is that it's only a studio, you're trying to immerse someone in an environment which you are already acknowledging is phony. You're not saying "Welcome to Neverland", you're saying "Welcome to this place that isn't really Neverland but looks a little bit like it", or, worse, "Let me show you how I can build a thing that can trick you into thinking this is Neverland, as long as you're not allowed to get too close to it and can only see bits of it at a time".

    Yawn.

    For the most part, MGM looks better than USF, but the studio "look" is large, uninteresting rectangular warehouses. Who decided that was a good idea for a theme park? USF is even more boring with its realistic-looking city blocks. "Wow, I really feel like I'm on an asphault street! Amazing!"

    Also it's blatantly obvious that MGM was created because there was already another movie theme park in Orlando and Disney wanted a piece of their action.* The idea of Disney playing catch-up is depressing.

    Obviously, USH is another story, since it's an actual studio with some chance of seeing stars or some trace of real films being made. That's its own kind of magic. But a phony studio designed to give you a phony experience is just too weak.

    For a while, it looked like they had learned their lesson. When the Animal Kingdom opened, there wasn't much to do, but it looked great. Instead of the incredibly weak water tower icon, it has that beautiful awesome tree...but then they built DCA, so I guess the lesson didn't take. Maybe they can only react to their most recent failure.

    What makes you upset? that such e-tickets are not built in the Magic Kingdom or that such e-tickets are built in the first place?
    If Disney had the resources to maintain the same level of quality across all parks, the idea for the article would never have crawled across Kevin's brain.

    While not all of them are as pretty and sparkelly as the Magic Kingdom, they all deserve to be the most they can be.
    That's what Kevin's saying! They all deserve an appropriate amount of attention and resources, but it seems like Disney is spreading itself too thin. The solution is obviously to work harder or smarter, not to start closing things down (although if they bulldozed MGM and tried again, I wouldn't shed a tear).

    * - I might be a little dim, but it took me some time before I realized that the Animal Kingdom was trying cash in on the Busch Gardens scene, just because the concept was so exciting (especially since originally there was more emphasis on fantastic creatures and the dinosaur theme seemed better in principle than execution).

    Quote Originally Posted by sediment
    I don't think Walt would have minded the business abutting the park if he had some control over the content.
    Possibly, but McDonald's is like the poster child for what he would not have wanted there. It's a mundane place, famous for bad food and banality. It's the international symbol for blandness (if not corporate greed). What could be less magical?
    Last edited by Manganese Nodule; 07-11-2005 at 06:44 PM.

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    I've never noticed it, but there is kind of a stagnation in the older parks at Disney World. Personally, I kind of like that the Magic Kingdom is a museum of Disneyland. It's almost like Disneyland was kept in perfect preservation from the 1970's. Even Carousel of Progress is there untouched, although that name is such a misnomer now, it's more like Carousel of Stagnation.

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Expedition Everest looks like it's really coming along. What an awesome ride it promises to be. Rocking Robots looks cool. Hope Disnland's Innoventions gets one in the future. Look forward to seeing Lucky one of these days as well.

    Great article and photos, Kevin!

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    Quote Originally Posted by Athlonacon
    Even Carousel of Progress is there untouched, although that name is such a misnomer now, it's more like Carousel of Stagnation.
    How does a story about history go out of date?

    It does suck that the final jump to the present is now too far away from the last scene, but adding another wedge to a pizza is no easy task.

    It would actually be pretty cool to see the original "present" show now, because that's far enough in the past to be of interest to today's audience as history.

    I never understood that argument about Horizons, either. One third of it was in the past, a third of it was in the present, and the final third was only superficially outdated (hairstyles, fashion, film instead of video, etc.)

    It would have been pretty easy to fix up, although the problem with that is that it's a big cash outlay just to be able to say "Horizons...it's not so moldy any more!"

    I guess when they fixed up Space Mountain in DL in a similar way, they advertised it as a big change anyway. Maybe the trick all along was just to lie!

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    Re: 7/11: The Curse of Expansion

    This topic has always concerned me, because my profession involves, among other things, urban planning. But reading most posts on various Disney-related sites lead me to believe (incorrectly) that people mostly cared about what attractions were opening, what the fireworks were like, and how good or bad the latest parade was. But look at the quantity of insightful, well-written posts inspired by Kevin's latest column! I didn't realize that others cared about issues like this. I'm so glad.

    I lived through, and dare I say sort of contributed, to the excessive expansion of WDW in the late eighties through the nineties. I will tell you that the creation of the Disney Development Company in the mid-eighties and its aggressive approach to development had a profound and lasting effect on the Disney urban landscape. The carefully crafted urban planning and visitor experience Kevin describes so well quickly unraveled. Some of the icons memorializing that unparalleled period of sprawl are the Swan and Dolphin Hotels looming over World Showcase, the Disney-created billboards along World Drive and Epcot center drive, and Downtown Disney. I do not think you will find better examples of bad ideas, bad design, and bad planning all coming together to really degrade the Florida property than those three things.

    I often hope that, at the end of a long day, some of the suits at Disney and WDI surf the net and read what people, completely outside the insular culture of Disney, Inc., have to say about what they do. There's a lot of good stuff here. I hope someone's listening.

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