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  1. #1

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    Marginalizing the Magic ...

    I've called it WalMarting. Kevin Yee calls it Declining By Degrees. The consultants who whisper in JR's ears call it branding, standardizing (i.e.homogenizing) the product.

    I've got a new phrase for it: Marginalizing the Magic.

    It came to me in Las Vegas when I pulled into a Disney outlet and saw my first batch of Disney Parks 'Where Dreams Come True' tees and sweatshirts on sale ... it was later drilled home when I checked into the Mirage for the NATPE Convention only to see the place has lost its soul in the two years since I've last been there. The whole theme has been thrown out the window, much like Treasure Island (I won't call it by the ridiculous TI moniker it now sports, guess they didn't see pirates being kewl again?) and the MGM-Grand. They all have one theme: generic, uber-hip, expense-account priced, no personality mega-resort/casinos. So sure they now have disparate elements that don't fit, like a hip clubby restaurant with ultra-modern decor in the middle of a tropical rainforest.

    That's exactly in a nutshell what Disney is attempting to do. Forget local audiences and tastes. Forget about theming and a sense of place. It's GENERIC DISNEY MAGIC that sells. That's why Main Street looks like an outlet mall gone bad. That's why there's a Pirates merchandise cart set up in the Innoventions West breezeway. It's all about getting away from the details and focusing on a more general and, naturally, easier-to-hit mark. Parks and their offerings are interchangeable. One size fits all. Makes for a better bottom line, right? Or does it?

    Obviously, I don't think so.

    But if the consultants think so, they must be right, right?

    You don't earn seven or eight figure checks for ruining peoples' businesses do you? For replacing Coke with New Coke? For building parks on the cheap? For telling companies who run hotels and resorts, 'Of course you don't have to vacuum that $400 a night room. Who looks down? And if they find a six-month old piece of cereal, who cares?'

    What I find amazing is that some of the "top" consultants who previously damaged companies like McDonald's and Disney now are doing likewise for MGM-Mirage. It shouldn't surprise me, I guess.

    But do you really want the USA to be a country where everything comes down to the lowest common denominator? Where it's all about cutting quality in the name of efficiency? Where everyone is either filthy rich, dirt poor, or a paycheck away from losing their house or car? Because that's what the consultants agenda is ... and corporate America is hooked on like it's crack.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    That's why there's a Pirates merchandise cart set up in the Innoventions West breezeway.
    I saw that yesterday and was like... WTF is that doing here?! Did not compute at all.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    I was a little surprised when I saw a princess, and also a pirate window each on the outside of the Muppet shop today, and for a moment thought to myself hmmm ramming the princess & pirate stuff down people's throats here too. I honestly usually don't notice these type of things since I'm usually in my own world/zone when at the parks, but for some reason it caught my attention today.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    BIG WARNING FOR THIS POST

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    it was later drilled home when I checked into the Mirage for the NATPE Convention only to see the place has lost its soul in the two years since I've last been there.
    Mirage is more popular than ever. They succeeded in reducing the average age of guests by about 15 years and are making money hand over fist, which isn't bad for a property that was becoming so old that many were able to envision it's implosion in their mind's eye. They were able to change the tone of the property without having to do much redecorating to the casino, because if you look at the ceilings and the walls not much has changed. Only the poker room, restaurants, and high-limit areas were redecorated, and the restaurants (Japanois in particular) are known to be excellent. I haven't heard anything about Fin, but it's room is gorgeous.

    You do have to realize to a certain extent, 74, that theme hotels in Vegas are pretty much dead. A few will stick around (NYNY will unfortunately probably be with us for the next 15 years because it would be too creepy to see it fall down in a heap this far removed from 9/11) but they've more or less been replaced by what I've coined "vibe." Which is, that they're trying to project a certain level of energy without any kind of identifiable theme. There is no theme. You are in a casino in Las Vegas, and they are making no bones about it, but it has a certain architectural edge that appeals to a certain type of player. At Wynn, it's older rich folks who demand exclusivity and prestige. At Mirage, against all odds it's now youthful fun.

    Wait until LVSands opens the Palazzo next door to the Venetian. I can't guarantee they aren't going to cheap out on it like they did the Venetian, but I'm willing to give them a chance, and what I hear from those who are privy to knowledge I'm not is that it will be very good and an indicator of where our resorts are going to be heading. Echelon will be another example and I've heard some positive noise coming from that project recently, too, although not much noise because few people seem to be able to see Boyd pulling it off, but some people in the know say that Boyd is simply not being given enough credit.

    MGM's CityCenter going up next to Monte Carlo (which itself will probably be torn down for a CityCenter expansion) is more of an exception to the rule, the aspirations there are incredibly high and it probably won't be matched for a good 12 years or so and even then will probably be bested by, you guessed it, MGM.

    The whole theme has been thrown out the window, much like Treasure Island (I won't call it by the ridiculous TI moniker it now sports, guess they didn't see pirates being kewl again?)
    That was just badly done because they tore out more than they put back in. However, it did pay for itself and then generate profits. Whether sticking with the old pirate theme through Disney's pirate-mania would have paid off greater profits, though, nobody can ever say.

    the MGM-Grand
    MGM's vibe has long been glamor, showbiz, and success. They are disposing of some of the 1920s Hollywood evokative stuff in favor of something I like to call "The 5,000-room Nightclub," though, but aside from some carpet changes and the new Centrifuge bar/poker/sports allinone it's still mostly the same.

    They all have one theme: generic, uber-hip, expense-account priced, no personality mega-resort/casinos. So sure they now have disparate elements that don't fit, like a hip clubby restaurant with ultra-modern decor in the middle of a tropical rainforest.
    Are you talking about Kokomo's or Japanois? Because Kokomo's has always been there and the space that was formerly Japanois was a lounge with live lounge acts performing nightly.

    That's why Main Street looks like an outlet mall gone bad. That's why there's a Pirates merchandise cart set up in the Innoventions West breezeway. It's all about getting away from the details and focusing on a more general and, naturally, easier-to-hit mark. Parks and their offerings are interchangeable. One size fits all. Makes for a better bottom line, right? Or does it?
    That's kind of funny that you bring this up because in the past few years when Disney magic has gone down the toilet many of the critics have complained about how well executed the shopping experiences is compared to the attractions, DCA being the chief example. People were wondering why the rides were lame and the shops so detailed.

    What I find amazing is that some of the "top" consultants who previously damaged companies like McDonald's and Disney now are doing likewise for MGM-Mirage. It shouldn't surprise me, I guess.
    If you don't like it then go visit Wynn and put up with his ego splashed all over your room. Or go to any Harrah's property and see for yourself what "cheap" really looks like. They recently tried to axe live Baccarat dealers at Caesars Palace and replace them with computer-generated dealers on TV screens until the high-rollers balked and they relented. But they didn't ditch that stupid system that allowed them to cut a few jobs, they instead sent it to Paris where the players aren't as important or as sophisticated.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    The "family friendly" Vegas is gone... they're bringing the city back to its former glory days (or trying to at least).

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    That's been the case for a number of years. However 74 is talking about themed resorts in general which have not always been family friendly. Caesars is 40 years old and that's older than "family Vegas" for sure.

    The point is that themes, in Vegas, are dead. People who want to "lose themselves" in a setting of false fronts and vividly evocative imitations of other places will not like where Las Vegas is going next. That includes someone who complains about how the trash can at Haunted Mansion was not themed.

    This is not a case of MGM taking away all thematic elements and turning their hotels into hipster palaces. CityCenter has no theme, Palazzo has no theme, Echelon has no theme, the new Tropicana will likely not have a theme, etc. That was just a period of time which will soon feel dated, much like how the old-school downtown resorts feel dated by today's standards.

    Vegas architecture will soon be moving on to pulling in real architects who build real iconic buildings in established cities. CityCenter has a ton of these, from Foster & Partners to Cesar Pelli (Petronas Towers, anyone?) to Daniel Libeskind. The 1800-some foot Las Vegas Tower that was proposed recently (but not likely to be built due to the owner undoubtedly failing to secure the funds) was designed by SOM Chicago, which brought you such great buildings as the Sears Tower and the still-underway Trump International in Chicago and Burj Dubai (world's tallest building) in the UAE.

    Las Vegas' "Disney period" has passed.

    But if 74 relents the stuff done to Mirage, he better relive all his memories of Luxor fast because it's next. The fake Egyptian theming inside is coming down as we speak. Rumors include that the phony Sphinx outside might be torn down and Robin Leach has suggested that the entire resort might be renamed "The Pyramid."

  7. #7

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    The point is that themes, in Vegas, are dead. People who want to "lose themselves" in a setting of false fronts and vividly evocative imitations of other places will not like where Las Vegas is going next. That includes someone who complains about how the trash can at Haunted Mansion was not themed.
    I haven't been back to Vegas in years, and boy do I miss it. I'm against unthemed Mansion trashcans, but I'm in favor of Vegas losing its themed environments (or at least not automatically against it).

    The difference has to do with brand. Disney has evolved its brand over decades to condition us to expect themed environments. Vegas has evolved its brand over the decades to condition us to expect, well, the classic Vegas experience. Which to me is NOT themed. So I don't lament this change particularly. The family Vegas thing was fun, especially when it was new, but it wasn't what Vegas conditioned us to expect. Expectations and brand are everything.
    Kevin Yee
    MiceAge Columnist

    I am the author of several Disney books:
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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

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974 View Post
    I checked into the Mirage for the NATPE Convention only to see the place has lost its soul in the two years since I've last been there. The whole theme has been thrown out the window, much like Treasure Island (I won't call it by the ridiculous TI moniker it now sports, guess they didn't see pirates being kewl again?) and the MGM-Grand. They all have one theme: generic, uber-hip, expense-account priced, no personality mega-resort/casinos. So sure they now have disparate elements that don't fit, like a hip clubby restaurant with ultra-modern decor in the middle of a tropical rainforest.
    First off, I have to disagree with you that the Mirage ever had "soul." It's a Vegas casino mega-resort who's only mission is to get you to gamble. They make much more profit on the casino floor than they do in the hotel, shops and restaurants combined.

    We can say that Walt Disney had a vision for family-friendly resorts where people could escape and enjoy, with the dual aim of earning piles of money. But when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage he had no such lofty ideals of providing entertainment -- he provided entertainment and "theme" in order to rake in more money, and nothing more. Casinos have no souls. They will always play to whatever they think they need to play to in order to make money.

    This may sound like I'm anti-casino. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There's nothing wrong with a legal corporation earning as much money as it can any way it legally can. But in my opinion, to imply that Mirage ever had "soul" is just plain ridiculous.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Vegas is the most themed city in the world, hands down. Theming is central to the concept of Vegas, and for a while, even Disney was planning to go to Vegas. Don't under-estimate the importance of theming to Vegas.

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    Cool Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    Luxor fast because it's next. The fake Egyptian theming inside is coming down as we speak. Rumors include that the phony Sphinx outside might be torn down
    This just sucks. It was bad enough when they took out the River ride and the lobby was neutered, but now it sounds almost like I have no reason to visit it whatsoever. Ridiculous. Why do these casinos spend money on removing stuff and not putting in anything else? Isn't it cheaper just to leave what original decor is there? I'm lost.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by CleveRocks View Post
    Steve Wynn opened the Mirage he had no such lofty ideals of providing entertainment -- he provided entertainment and "theme" in order to rake in more money, and nothing more.
    As much as I can't stand the guy, Wynn enjoys designing hotels more than operating them and he'd tell you that himself. What he won't tell you is his failure as a businessman is his inability to stick to budgets and his insistence to be involved in every facet of the resort, to the point that he has to run his own design firm because real design firms lose their patience with his strolling in, drastically changing everything, and then walking away. It's dang hard to build something for somebody when they want to build it themselves.

    His ego kind of reminds me of Donald Trump, except Trump hires people to make him look good whereas Wynn already thinks he's Mr. Wonderful. The marketing materials of Wynn LV like to brag about how the Wynns themselves picked out everything from the mattress to the brand of overpriced bottled water allegedly from Fiji that they serve in the deli. Give me a break!

    As a result, investors consider Wynn Resorts (his current company after his last one became an easy takeover target) to be overvalued and between the circus that's surrounded him as of late (including his silly lawsuit over the painting he himself destroyed and a pending federal trial to find out if he illegally threatened to fire workers if they unionized) has caused shareholders to lose their confidence in his ability. He could be facing a revolt ala Eisner pretty soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpectroMan View Post
    This just sucks. It was bad enough when they took out the River ride and the lobby was neutered, but now it sounds almost like I have no reason to visit it whatsoever. Ridiculous. Why do these casinos spend money on removing stuff and not putting in anything else? Isn't it cheaper just to leave what original decor is there? I'm lost.
    If you haven't been to Luxor lately, you'll see why. The place is dead even on busy holiday weekends. Heavy duty refurbishments is needed to keep up and it's on it's way. Excalibur has been getting some new, less dramatic changes too, such as getting rid of the jester acts on stage and replacing the stage with a bar and opening a new Hooters-style eatery downstairs, while NYNY is going to reduce the size of it's arcade by half for convention space.

    As Kevin said, it's all about expectations of the experience, and the experience one expects of Las Vegas is something more akin to Bellagio or the new Red Rock rather than goofy over-the-top themes.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Considering I haven't been to Vegas since 1989... I never got so see any of that.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Didn't miss much, aimster. When they tried they were very amaeurish about it. There was a brief period where cartoony-like buildings seemed to be popping out of the desert each month, but most of them were little more than gussied-up Circus-Circus'es. I'm sure you've seen that one before, right?

    Example, here's a picture I took a few months ago from one of the older surviving sections of Excalibur, the big brother to Circus and one of the original themed resorts (theme of course being a cheesy WDW castle knockoff) of the day. This sign was on the FRONT of this stockroom door and in plain sight of all:



    Can you imagine if you saw that at WDW? Exactly, you wouldn't see such a thing at WDW and they did a poor job, which is understandable because the places' main goals are to be casinos, not amusement parks.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Didn't miss much, aimster. When they tried they were very amaeurish about it. There was a brief period where cartoony-like buildings seemed to be popping out of the desert each month, but most of them were little more than gussied-up Circus-Circus'es. I'm sure you've seen that one before, right?
    Ironically, we stayed at Circus-Circus back in 1989 (mainly because I was only 15 at the time & my folks wanted something for me to do while they gambled). They were just starting to build Excalibur back then too. I remember they had a model of what it was going to look like when it was finished in the casino area.

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    Re: Marginalizing the Magic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    BIG WARNING FOR THIS POST

    Mirage is more popular than ever. They succeeded in reducing the average age of guests by about 15 years and are making money hand over fist, which isn't bad for a property that was becoming so old that many were able to envision it's implosion in their mind's eye. They were able to change the tone of the property without having to do much redecorating to the casino, because if you look at the ceilings and the walls not much has changed. Only the poker room, restaurants, and high-limit areas were redecorated, and the restaurants (Japanois in particular) are known to be excellent. I haven't heard anything about Fin, but it's room is gorgeous.
    They want the place to be the Palms. That's the goal of every mega-resort it would seem. To be the place that all those 20-something that live in the San Fernando Valley and think they have star quality can come and hang out in a nightclub that pays Justin, Paris, Brittney etc ... to appear at every once in a while to garner a headline.

    I wonder as someone in his 30s how the Mirage, which always skewed to an older demo, is doing with them. While all these resorts attempt to be uber-hip to attract 23-year-olds, I'm wondering how the 46-year-olds with a helluva lot more $$$ to spend feel.

    The Mirage has lost its identity in a quest to be hip, which it still fails at. To see how empty Stack, one of the new hip dining spots was night in and night out, tells me it isn't nearly going as well as it once did.

    Didn't eat at either Fin or Japonais. Wanted to have dinner at the latter, but never made it. Was gonna try Fin for lunch (since it's the only fine dining locale to serve the meal) but was with business associates who said the menu was the most limited Chinese food menu they had ever seen. We wound up at the Coffee Shop at TI. FYI, I sued to love both Moongate and Mikado and found them much more peaceful and subdued and they weren't directly open to the casino and all that smoke like Fin and Stack and Japonais are.

    And when you say not much was changed with the casino, what difference does it make? I am talking the feel of the entire property. Of course, Siggy and Roy's Secret Garden will be gone within 18 months and so will the signature volcano.

    quote=MickeyMania;1319922]
    You do have to realize to a certain extent, 74, that theme hotels in Vegas are pretty much dead. A few will stick around (NYNY will unfortunately probably be with us for the next 15 years because it would be too creepy to see it fall down in a heap this far removed from 9/11) but they've more or less been replaced by what I've coined "vibe." Which is, that they're trying to project a certain level of energy without any kind of identifiable theme. There is no theme. You are in a casino in Las Vegas, and they are making no bones about it, but it has a certain architectural edge that appeals to a certain type of player. At Wynn, it's older rich folks who demand exclusivity and prestige. At Mirage, against all odds it's now youthful fun.[/quote]


    Yes. I agree with what you're saying. I just think it's a very bad mistake and it's going to hurt many of the resorts. Much like Disney attracts(ed) many folks who want a detailed, themed experience and are not pleased when the MK becomes a watered down 'Disney's GENERIC MAGICAL KINGDOM FULL OF DREAMS, WISHES AND DISNEY/PIXAR CHARACTERS park' ... many people, like myself, will cut down the time and money spent at these Vegas properties if they all want a hip 20-something, club vibe with no theming to speak of but modern, bland clubby.

    And I disagree that Mirage is now all about youthful fun ... it's all about contrasting/conflicting images ... a cacophony of sights and sounds that don't blend well, but clash ... it won't work long-term any more than Disney dumbing down its offerings will.

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    Wait until LVSands opens the Palazzo next door to the Venetian. I can't guarantee they aren't going to cheap out on it like they did the Venetian, but I'm willing to give them a chance, and what I hear from those who are privy to knowledge I'm not is that it will be very good and an indicator of where our resorts are going to be heading. Echelon will be another example and I've heard some positive noise coming from that project recently, too, although not much noise because few people seem to be able to see Boyd pulling it off, but some people in the know say that Boyd is simply not being given enough credit.
    You feel Venetian cheaped out? That place says everything but cheap to me.

    It's where I usually stay in Vegas, but since this was a business trip I wound up at the Mirage, which I used to love ... although the rooms say 1989 redone in 2000 and badly needing an update now!

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    MGM's CityCenter going up next to Monte Carlo (which itself will probably be torn down for a CityCenter expansion) is more of an exception to the rule, the aspirations there are incredibly high and it probably won't be matched for a good 12 years or so and even then will probably be bested by, you guessed it, MGM.
    CityCenter appears to me to be much more residential in nature than anything else. ANd, yeah, it does leave me cold.


    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    That was just badly done because they tore out more than they put back in. However, it did pay for itself and then generate profits. Whether sticking with the old pirate theme through Disney's pirate-mania would have paid off greater profits, though, nobody can ever say.
    It was a horrible idea. Even with Tangerine, which is very overrated IMHO, the place still doesn't draw in the young uber-hipsters it wants to. And all the folks who loved staying at a pirate-themed mega-casino resort now have a bland, ordinary place. Of course, again, one of the top consultants to work on this project also worked on DCA ... does that surprise you?



    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    MGM's vibe has long been glamor, showbiz, and success. They are disposing of some of the 1920s Hollywood evokative stuff in favor of something I like to call "The 5,000-room Nightclub," though, but aside from some carpet changes and the new Centrifuge bar/poker/sports allinone it's still mostly the same.
    5,000 room nightclub? I like that. That's what I think all of these resorts are becoming.


    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    Are you talking about Kokomo's or Japanois? Because Kokomo's has always been there and the space that was formerly Japanois was a lounge with live lounge acts performing nightly.
    Kokomo's used to be hidden away. I loved it. They've completely changed the feeling ... not to mention renovated the menu price-points too!



    [quote=MickeyMania;1319922]
    That's kind of funny that you bring this up because in the past few years when Disney magic has gone down the toilet many of the critics have complained about how well executed the shopping experiences is compared to the attractions, DCA being the chief example. People were wondering why the rides were lame and the shops so detailed. [/quotes]

    DCA's shopping experiences have been dumbed down to generic Disney because the park has flopped. But, yeah, originally that was true. Do you know Disney still has stockpiles of attraction specific merchandise in its warehouses? Want some replica King Triton's sea creatures? How about some Soap Opera Bistro shirts? Would you like some trains from Engineer Toys?

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeyMania View Post
    If you don't like it then go visit Wynn and put up with his ego splashed all over your room. Or go to any Harrah's property and see for yourself what "cheap" really looks like. They recently tried to axe live Baccarat dealers at Caesars Palace and replace them with computer-generated dealers on TV screens until the high-rollers balked and they relented. But they didn't ditch that stupid system that allowed them to cut a few jobs, they instead sent it to Paris where the players aren't as important or as sophisticated.
    Maybe I'll wind up at Wynn's next time, I dunno. Or maybe stay at the Loew's (formally Hyatt) Lake Las Vegas that I used to stay at a lot. But Wynn's didn't overly excite me when I walked thru it after it opened. Maybe I'll just stick with Venetian and/or ParisLV. They seem to still have the feel and theming I want when I go to Vegas.

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