Well, it had to eventually happen. With Christmas becoming the most important season for Disneyland in terms of attendance and sales, it was time to add another holiday attraction makeover to the list in order to have something new to market this year. Add to that project the latest in NexGen technology, and you have enough going on to fuel discussion boards for years.
So open up a can of that eggnog and slice yourself off a piece of that fruitcake and bear witness to what happens when some political capital is spent. - Al
A series of meetings have been taking place in TDA about the upcoming holiday season. While the stale Christmas parade could use a major makeover, what research proves sells more tickets and merchandise best is another attraction holiday makeover. With the two Lucas attractions off-limits (no star tours holiday special I guess) and the coasters not quite providing an ideal environment for the new RFID/NexGen initiative that pretty much leaves only one attraction.
As it stands now Pirates of the Caribbean will be scheduled to close after the July 4 weekend to begin its transformation into Christmas in the Caribbean. The reason for the early closure is simple, besides Steve Davison just draping garland and lights all over the sets, Imagineering has been busy perfecting a new interactive technology that literally makes the traditional shop at the exit obsolete. But more on that later...
As you can probably imagine, any changes to a classic ride are always controversial. While the Christmas efforts tend to be less so due to their temporary nature, in this case the suits in TDA are doing everything they can to defuse the expected criticism, even bringing in former Imagineering head Marty Sklar out of retirement to help their cause. They're going to claim that Walt Disney himself dreamed up Christmas in the Caribbean while he was still alive and Marty will present proof of such, a cocktail napkin sketch recently unearthed from the Walt Disney Company archives. (Of course a limited quantity archive edition framed napkin reproduction will be available via the Disney Store’s online D23 shop for $400.)
Davison used the sketch to inspire his holiday makeover of the ride, commenting to the many people involved how easy this project was compared to his previous efforts. For example it doesn't take much to turn the pirate bedroom scene into Santa checking his list for who is naughty or nice, getting the donkey to sing Christmas carols along with the three wise men, or toss in a few wrapped presents into the treasure room. Throw up some leftover Osborne lights and voilà you have an instant Christmas themed attraction.
Did we mention the treasure room? That's where the most controversial changes in the ride will be made, spearheaded by Kim Irvine, head of the new Character Redeployment Attraction Program for all the Parks. Inspired by her success in placing unrelated Disney characters into the small world attraction a few years ago, she has decided to do the same in the Pirates treasure room. What visitors will see for the first time this year is the second part of what she had planned originally for the attraction which will make its debut in the Christmas Pirates makeover.
First developed for small world holiday as Stop & Shop (to be installed later this year there), Christmas in the Caribbean will debut a variation on it called Spot & Shop. As visitors board their boats they will be handed a toy spyglass with a special red button. As their boats make their way through the attraction riders will be invited to spot merchandise items strategically placed throughout with their spyglass and push the red button when they see something they want to purchase.
With each button push the item will be instantly charged to their credit card, packaged up and then handed to the rider as he exits the attraction. The “point & shop” technology was exhaustively tested on both the Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear attractions and they will also offer shopping opportunities later next year.
For small world Stop & Shop will pull the boat over to the side of the track each time a rider calls out a character name, whereupon a cast member will pop out from behind the scenery, hand over the item and bill their credit card for it immediately. As the suits in TDA see it, visitors will be happier that they don't have to wait in long lines at the shops, and corporate will be pleased to finally make attractions personnel into revenue producers.
There's still a few glitches being worked out, Steve Davison is insisting that in order to get the full effect of the makeover, boats should only have the center three rows loaded for optimal viewing which of course means reduced capacity. Discussions are also ongoing about replacing the redhead in the auction scene with Miley Cyrus, (Tony Baxter is particularly keen on this), and John Lasseter repeatedly keeps asking for Cars characters to be introduced into the attraction. (He turned down a compromise from Imagineering to name all the boats after all the characters in the film.)
There have been discussions to have the Johnny Depp figures discuss the wonders of 3-D television and Blu-Ray discs, but those negotiations are ongoing with his management. Meanwhile the PR machine is already in full gear to deal with the expected online backlash, Heather Buick Rivera from the Disney parks blog is planning to deny everything as she gets in place a viral DoM campaign, DoM being short for Defenders of Magic.
Christmas in the Caribbean opens November 5, 2010. Special thanks to Admiral Jota for permission to use the Santa skull logo.