So what's my problem with the MK? That's what a Disney fanboy on another site asked me in a private message a while ago. I just ignored it, but I think I'd like to explain a bit.
So let's go back in time to 1987 and compare the MK then and now, shall we? And please if you disagree, let's not point out obvious facts that are irrelevant to this discussion. Everyone knows WDW now has four parks, two water parks and 30,000 plus rooms and timeshares. But they aren't what this thread is about, it's why I feel the MK is a pale, stale shadow of its former self.
Let's start with show and how important it used to be.
Most people here probably don't see an issue with character-based entertainment in any/every land. But that's not what the MK was. In 1987 (and it's just a random year I picked because it's two decades ago) the only land with character-based entertainment/attractions was Fantasyland. The lands had meaning. Frontierland was about the wild west American frontier. Liberty Square went even further back to the Colonial/Revolutionary period. Tomorrowland was about the future. Adventureland was about visiting exotic lands where you could be attacked by hippos, climb a jungle treehouse, set sail with Pirates etc..., Main Street was about a nostalgic return to turn of the century small--town America.
None of the lands had attractions with animated characters tossed in.
Every land but one now has Disney characters in attractions or as the basis of them. That's despite the fact that a year after my date, Mickey's Birthdayland opened as a 'home' for the characters. It has since gone through two changes, but is still -- at it's heart -- the same.
How about show?
As in carrying the theme through in everything from shopping to dining to trash cans. Today, every shop sells the same merchandise. Most of it is cheap WalMart quality. Things that are overpriced at cast sales, let alone full price. The shops have stopped telling a story. You can no longer buy Western wear or that type of product in Frontierland. There are no future-thinking toys in Tomorrowland. Indeed, the entire left side of Main Street has become a giant World of Disney store without any real differentiation, but with different facades facing the Street. The sense of time and place have been destroyed. Instead of being on a turn of the century street with a magic shop, Penny Arcade, Cinema, Market House ... even Smoke Shop ... has the feel of a giant Disney outlet. Don;'t forget that Hannah Montana CD, Jack Sparrow figurine or Tink sweatshirt on the way out.
Entertainment has been WalMarted as well. The extremely popular Diamond Horseshoe Review ended because it was cheaper to hire college kids to dress as characters than have real, unionized entertainers putting on a western show. All entertainment is character-based. Disney execs and PR hacks will tell you it's because 'that's what our guests want.' To that I say, bull*&^%. That's the same as CNN and FOX doing non-stop Paris Hilton coverage and saying people want it. How do you know? Are you giving them a choice? Parades that were changed frequently now get announced as major additions for marketing celebrations and then stay 'due to popular demand' for years later. Do you really want a six-year-old daytime parade and a 15-year-old night-time one vs. something new and creative? Seasonal entertainment only exists now if you are willing to pay extra for it. Want Halloween? Pay an extra $50. Want Christmas? Not without giving the Mouse an extra $50. The Candlelight Procession went down Main Street and you didn't have to buy a dinner package to get a good view.
Individual lands had live entertainers, bands, comedians etc ...
In 1987, CMs were almost all folks who were handpicked to work at WDW. Many were full-time and there was a legit opportunity to start out working in the Emporium and wind up a VP. Now? Find a full-time CM who isn't in management. They're tougher to find than a piece of clean pavement. The Disney Look was important. CMs were clean-cut, spoke English well and went out of their way to exceed guest expectations. Management became known as 'suits' because that's how you'd recognize them. Even on a miserable, hot summer day, the suit and tie and professional look was always there. Today? A typical manager is wearing clothes you'd expect of a mall-worker with dangling lanyards, cell phones ... clothes may well be disheveled too.
Cleanliness and upkeep were vital. The analogy of the person dropping a box of popcorn and having it disappear before it reached the pavement wasn't far off. There certainly wasn't gum all over the pavement. The queues weren't ghetto. Now ... well, you look around and make your own decision.
Guest comfort was very crucial. So trees were provided for shade, not cut down to improve fireworks sightlines. FastPass didn't exist so Space Mountain hardly ever had a line of guests stretching out in the hot sun.
Attractions weren't removed and not replaced. There was a Skyway and Explorer Canoes and Keel Boats and a crystal clear submarine lagoon with Captain Nemo's fleet circling. Main Street USA featured an homage to the man we have to thank for everything that now entertains us ... it had a bunch of period vehicles that traveled to the Hub.
There were no dead zones, no shops with blacked out windows. No restaurants that sat empty.
There were no playgrounds. No attractions that talked down to guests. No character meals. For the most part, every attraction in the park could be enjoyed by most members of the family.
Everything wasn't perfect. But that was the standard. That was the goal. The MK was supposed to look brand new every day, and for the most part, it did.
The cast wasn't perfect, but they all seemed on the same page: to exceed guest expectations. Today? Again ... I'll leave that up to you to decide.
So when I say the MK feels stale to me, well, maybe this will explain why.
It feels a whole lot smaller and simpler place, a less vibrant one, to me than it did 20 years ago ... and I know I'm not speaking from rose-colored glasses, just experience.
OK, I'm not writing a novel here so I'll stop ... but I'm interested in feedback.