Recently we had a thread about top mistakes at WDW. Certainly, the resort today has declined in many ways since I first visited it in the 1980s. In 1994, 20000 Leagues was dismantled, and this began a decade (or more) of great rides being torn down or replaced with inferior versions of themselves, as well as many other changes that have caused grievance to fans like myself. But in all fairness, there have been many good things that have also happened since then...and I felt a thread recognising these, would be appropriate.
Things to be happy about since 1994:
1. Animal Kingdom. The concept for this park isn't exactly new...but the Disney difference, compared to its predecessors like Busch gardens, is quite palpable. Most of this park is truly beautiful, and unlike the other three parks, feels fresh and vibrant. A Disney experience unique to Orlando...and one that promises to get only better.
2. Tower of Terror. OK...the concept for this originates in an era before 1994...but let's include it. I haven't been on any other Tower of Terror...and I must say that the architectural details of the one in Tokyo look fabulous. But the vista down Sunset Boulevard, and the queue through the garden, give this TOT a special presence and ambience, which as far as I can tell, hasn't been duplicated anywhere else. Not to mention, this ride took the age old, tired concept of drop rides and turned it into a truly memorable visual and sensory experience.
3. Kilimanjaro Safaris. A ride bigger than the Magic Kingdom...it boggles the mind. And the finest environmental theming at any theme park anywhere.
4. Expedition Everest. A glorious exception to the rule that every new theme park ride must be tied to the latest Pixar or Disney release. I heard the complaints about this ride...about the unthemed backside, or that it wasn't covered in real rock like Mt Prometheus, etc etc. But seeing it for the first time, all I could think was...what an amazing, beautiful structure. It was a beautiful cool April day...and the cloud effect at the top of the mountain was working just fine (I have heard that it doesn't always). Those of you who have seen the real Everest will know that clouds really do blow of the summit just like that...how cool! And all this...for a roller coaster! - This is why I love Disney. This is why I ride a roller coaster at Disney parks, and not six flags.
5. Mickey's Philharmagic. IMO, the best 3-D movie Disney has ever made. I don't get tired of it no matter how many times I see it...it is both humorous and uplifting. During scenes such as the one from Aladdin I even get the sensation of motion even though I'm just sitting on a stationary theater chair...neat!
6. Tomorrowland 1995. In the early 1990s, the Tomorrowlands of both MK and DL were both to be remade in the likeness of the new Discoveryland at Euro Disney. Then Euro Disney started to hemorrhage money...and budgets got slashed. But the imagineers still managed to give Tomorrowland a unified look...and although personally I would have preferred to keep the older look, as they have done in Tokyo...I must admit that the new look, isn't half bad. This colorful "Buck Rogers" type look has also IMO provided an appropriate foil for the newer toon based attractions that are now populating the land. If you have to work with a shoe-string budget...as Imagineers unfortunately occasionally do these days...then results like this are something to be grateful for.
7. Pioneering technology. Some truly neat technologies have debuted at Orlando in the last 14 years, like the interactive guns of Buzz Lightyear or the Test Track ride system. Yes, Buzz at Disneyland or JTTCOTE at TDS are improvements on these...but that's how it should be! Later iterations of rides should always be better than the originals. But the originals themselves, were / are still quite good works of imagineering...that still draw great crowds more than a decade on.
8. Good imports. The West Coast has sent some fine rides and shows our way these past 14 years...like Fantasmic and Soarin, in particular. Yes yes we've all heard the complaints..."There's no Peter Pan!"...or "Why are we Soarin over California...in Florida?" Personally, all I would say is that I have nothing but positive memories from my experience with these attractions in Orlando. Fantasmic works so well as a climax to a day at DHS...and Soarin manages to thrill without ever a harmful G force, something I for one greatly appreciate.
9. Seas with Nemo. Pixarification is a fact of life these days...and there are many thematically inappropriate intrusions by Pixar. But The Seas with Nemo is, IMO, Pixarification done right...contextually appropriate, it makes this pavilion fresh and relevant to a new generation without changing the basic edutainment ethos of the original. And the two attractions here are both very well done. Crush is the best interactive show so far..and makes a lot more sense at The Seas than at DCA or HK. The Nemo ride has an excellent queue, and the underwater projection technology works the way it should.
10. Ride refurbishments...may only happen once in a blue moon, but occasionally, such as that with the Haunted Mansion...they end up exceeding expectations. Even those who dislike the ending of SSE should admit that the first 3/4 of the ride looks better than it ever has. Which gives me great hope for the future and future refurbishments like Space Mountain.
Well, that should do it for now. I could go on, but I think I've spent enough of my evening on this There's a lot of things that have gone downhill at O-town over the years, but we should not forget to count our blessings. WDW flawed as it is, remains for me a special place, and I have enjoyed every visit. These are some things I am happy about...please feel free to add yours.