Wednesday, April 22, 2009

News and Rumors Rundown

Despite a great deal of slowdown thanks to our economy, there are still plenty of projects going on in the Disney theme parks. I thought I'd do sort of a recap of everything happening, or at least planned to happen in the not so distant future.

Disneyland Resort

Disney's California Adventure

Right now, DCA has begun its billion dollar makeover. Many projects are underway, with many more to follow soon.

Current projects:
  • Disney's World of Color- to debut June 11th, 2010.
  • World of Color viewing area- to debut around the 1st of April.
  • The Little Mermaid Ariel's Adventure- opens 2011.
  • Cars Land- to open 2012
  • Red Car Trolley- to open 2012

Future projects:

  • Goofy's Sky Skool
  • Paradise Garden
  • Buena Vista St. all starting later this year.

  • Star Tours- The original attraction will close in October and will reopen in 2011 with new destinations.
  • New Tomorrowland- sometime after DCA is done in 2012.
  • New e tickets are also on the horizon.

Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom
  • New Fantasyland- Includes meet and greets with Cinderella, Aurora, and Belle, a new restaurant in the beast's castle, the Little Mermaid ride from DCA, and a duel Dumbo relocated to the former site of Mickey's Toontown Fair. A Pixie Hollow area will be added later. To be completed by 2013.
  • The new ticket technology will eventually be used for many more things such as ticketless fastpass distribution, keyless room entry, and more. Some crazy stuff is afoot.


  • New eateries in Italy and Mexico, and that's it! This park needs help.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Ratatouille attraction- rumored for Pixar Place.
  • Star Tours II- 2011

Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • Absolutely nothing. It baffles me that Disney's weakest Florida park has absolutely no plans for expansion. It's as if they thought Everest fixed the park. Actually, Everest is the thing that needs fixing. The yeti is broken, and it's an embarrassment.

Downtown Disney

  • Ride Makerz is moving into the first floor of the former Virgin Megastore. D-Street, a Vinylmation store, is also opening soon. Sadly, that's it. Pleasure Island remains a ghost town.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ten Saddest Disney Moments


Baby Mine (Dumbo)


I'm Lost (Lilo and Stitch)


"Death" of Esmeralda (Hunchback of Notre Dame)

When She Loved Me (Toy Story 2)

"Death" of the Beast (Beauty and the Beast)

Our Town (Cars)

Bambi's Mother's death (Bambi)

Death of Mufasa (The Lion King)

There's No Way Out (Brother Bear)

And the number 1 saddest Disney moment by far doesn't involve death at all...

Goodbye May Seem Forever (The Fox and the Hound)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Top 10 Greatest Disney Moments

I've decided to list my top 10 greatest Disney moments since not much new is happening in the parks that I can complain about. Without further adieu, here we go...

The Little Mermaid Ending

Belle Notte- Lady and the Tramp

"We'll Always Be Friends"- The Fox and the Hound

Beauty and Beast Ending

The Circle of Life- The Lion King

Out There- The Hunchback of Notre Dame

"Kitty!"- Monsters Inc.

Anton Ego tries Ratatouille- Ratatouille

It is time- The Lion King

Beauty and the Beast- Beauty and the Beast

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Problems

Today Al Lutz of Mice Age filled us all in on the latest out of Anaheim. Enthusiasm for the DCA redo is starting to lose steam. According to Lutz, the Walt Disney Story is being scrapped from the Carthay Circle Theater plans. Apparently the red line trolley is turning out to be more expensive and so the budget is going to this instead. Wrong move Disney.
First of all, I guess TDA made the decision to pull the plug because they weren't convinced that the Walt Disney Story would pull in anybody, especially since the park already has too many films. While I sort of agree with this, I think that it's a mistake to completely abandon the concept altogether. Why? Well, isn't the point of the whole new entrance to be a tribute to Walt's journey to California? How is this going to be apparent without the centerpiece attraction? The only thing that kept skeptical Disney fans from having faith in the new DCA plans was the tribute to Walt at the front of the park.
My solution would be to scrap the red line instead, or rather find a different system to run the ride. I guess the electric power lines are what's expensive, so why not only make it look like they are running on the lines? The Jolly Trolley in Toontown didn't use power lines. Just use the same system.
Better yet, they could remove the whole concept altogether. If there's one consistency over the years, it's that Disney has problems with their transportation attractions. Guests will either complain when they find out there's nothing to the ride, or they'll complain because of the line. The same thing happened at Disney's Animal Kingdom with the River Boats, at the Magic Kingdom with the Swan Boats, at Epcot with the Double Decker Buses, and at Disneyland with the Jolly Trolley. The low capacity will lead to long lines on moderate days, and the thing won't run at all on busy days. If Disney used the low capacity as a reason to remove the Skyway, why would they build this? Why not do what they did at Disney's Hollywood Studios and have the Red Line as a prop instead of any actual attraction?
Above everything else, what I don't get is why the imagineers have so many problems spending money on ride systems. All lackluster attractions can be blamed on their complicated ride systems. Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland cost 30 million, and I'm willing to bet most of that was spent on the ridiculous moving beehives since plywood doesn't cost that much. The subs cost 100+ million. Since not much else in the ride can be shown for that much money, most likely the underwater electric rails for the Subs were incredibly expensive. Now apparently they're spending crap loads of money on the Radiator Springs Racers just so the cars can change lanes. Why not forget about an effect most people won't even get and spend it on more props and scenery?
Disney Imagineers are at their best when they spend money wisely- spending it on simple yet effective systems and set pieces. They have more to show for Soarin' than they do for Mission Space, more to show for Buzz Lightyear than Finding Nemo. I'll dare even say they got more out of the 600 million they spent on DCA to begin with than what we'll end up with in 2012 for twice that amount. Too many times now the show has been compromised when the funding runs dry. It's not the company's fault in this case, it's knowing where to put the money.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Declining by Degrees

Most of the time, I don't like what Kevin Yee of Mice Age has to say. His Disney Cruise Line story simply made him look like an idiot and his criticism of Animal Kingdom has always seemed ignorant. Yet today he wrote a great article on the Declining by Degrees of Walt Disney World that I couldn't agree more with. Well done.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Top 15 Biggest Disney Mistakes

In my opinion, these are the fifteen biggest mistakes ever made by Disney in their theme parks and resorts. I was only going to do ten, but then I realized that I’d be leaving a few off the list that were simply too important to exclude. It should be noted that even though a majority of the mistakes were made under the Eisner/Pressler regime, that doesn’t mean they are worse than the Iger/Rasulo regime. It’s just that the Pressler era mistakes were more concrete and specific, while the current disasters are more ideological. Therefore, while something like Pixarification of the parks is a mistake, it is more of an idea where something like Disney’s California Adventure was a concrete failure and thus makes my list. Also, these mistakes were mainly classified by how unforgiving they are. While some things were mistakes, if there are any redeeming qualities or logical explanations for the mistake, they have been given lower status than something unforgiving and completely brainless. Now that that’s over with, let the fun begin…

15. Hong Kong Disneyland

HKDL is Paul Pressler’s Disneyland. It was greenlit in the middle of his tenure, and has the same problems as the other parks built around this time. Though Disney already knew that building parks half size and lower quality was a mistake after DCA and Walt Disney Studios bombed, they made no changes to Hong Kong Disneyland, and have still struggled to figure out how to fix it.

They used the Chinese marketplace to justify having less than a fourth the attractions of the original Disneyland since they would supposedly be so amazed at Disney that it wouldn’t matter, but, as if they hadn’t learned from Euro Disneyland, lack of rides and attractions is a universal problem. There is only one dark ride in Fantasyland, one ride in the entire left side of the park (Jungle Cruise), and three rides on the right side of the park. Everything else is a spinner, a walk through, or a show. And people are going to spend nights at a hotel to see this? I don’t see why doing everything in one morning is out of the question.

At least Euro Disneyland was beautiful and original. This park is basically a clone of the cheapest versions of Disney landmarks. 5/8s scale Main Street? Check. Miniscule castle? Check. “Oh, but it’s a tribute to the original Disneyland.” That was fine back in ’55, but in the 21st century, Disney should be capable of more. Even if the small scale was done for creative reasons, the least they could do was create new designs. Instead, the cloning was done as a cost saving measure and it cheapens the original since it is no longer one of a kind.

Worst of all, Disney made expansion greenlighting incredibly difficult. Though they successfully created the first Disney park to not be the number one theme park in a city, Disney won’t expand because that requires cooperation with communist China. They don’t want to spend money on the park because they see it as a failure. It’s like if you went to a restaurant with a friend and the friend paid the bill. You then got food poisoning and decided to blame the friend and demand he pay for your medical bill. Why would your friend do that if you were the one that made a mess in your toilet?

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean makeover at Walt Disney World (and partially Disneyland)

Disney made a movie about a theme park attraction and the impossible happened. It was actually good and people went to see it. Naturally, since people are too dumb to realize the movie was based off the attraction, they go to the park and find a ride dedicated to their favorite movie. But then after riding it, they are disappointed that there was no Jack Sparrow in sight. Naturally, Disney realizes that people now expect Sparrow, and they see an amazing money making opportunity. Walt Disney World is all for the idea, but Disneyland is hesitant. Eventually they agree and work well with the imagineers in order to get the changes made. The result is a hybrid of old and new with virtually nothing removed, but a few new effects and animatronics added. The lighting and sound are completely overhauled, and it looks great even if some changes are questionable.

Walt Disney World management is less accommodating. Though the makeover was originally designed for the Florida resort, where their Pirates had always been inferior, they are hesitant to actually close the ride for the changes. Eventually they agree to close it for a few weeks, then do the unthinkable and reopen it for Spring Break before closing it again for the completion. The result here is a mess. No new lighting or audio is installed. Instead, the old 70s speakers are turned down. The Davy Jones effect replaces the opening rendition of “Yo Ho Yo Ho” and waterfalls are turned off. The final Sparrow animatronic replaces a much more elaborate scene. Overall, the attraction is worse than before.

Though most of the mistake is centered on Walt Disney World’s version, both versions may in the long run be seen as a mistake. The very thought of messing with the greatest attraction ever built was once viewed as blasphemous, but not by today’s arrogant imagineers and management. In the 1980s when Disney was on the verge of bankruptcy, management refused to sell off property or ruin the integrity of the company, yet today’s multibillion dollar conglomerate will do anything for profit.

The problem I have with the changes is the agelessness and appeal of the attraction disappearing. The Pirates movies have already aged horribly and now their classic status is in question. After ten years, the attraction may just seem dated and irrelevant. Also, the storytelling of the attraction has been compensated. There never was a concrete story before. We were just the witnesses of a Pirate invasion of a Caribbean port. This simplicity allowed us to look around and take in the sights. Like the Haunted Mansion, the appeal of Pirates is in the immersion. Now we are spoon fed a tired version of the “insert character name here” is missing storyline. It makes the attraction less epic, especially when the movies crossed long distances and locales while our adventure plays out like a pre school television show. Eventually our hero gets the treasure, but how hard was it? There was no danger; all he had to do was walk to the other side of town.

13. Light Magic

I’m not going to rant about this because I think a lot of the hate is uncalled for. Yet I can’t ignore a parade/show disappearing less than six months after its debut (something that would eventually become common under Pressler’s reign). This nightmare just has to make the list. I was actually looking forward to seeing this thanks to Disney’s great campaign surrounding its debut (first the Electrical Parade’s glowing away, then the anticipation of the replacement). When my family got to Disneyland in November of 1997, we were greeted by some character cavalcade. When we asked why Light Magic wasn’t in the times guide, we were told it was on hiatus until 2000 (another typical Pressler move- saying something with the hope people will simply forget after a little time has passed). Years later I learned that the show was ill fated from the start after a disastrous rehearsal in front of annual passholders.

It’s always a mistake when a company spends money on something that doesn’t last, but this one doesn’t deserve all the hate it gets. People think that Pressler got rid of the Electrical Parade for no reason. They simply forget that Light Magic was supposed to be a replacement. It wasn’t like the Submarine Voyage sinking and not coming back. The biggest mistake was not replacing Light Magic after it vanished.

Also, the Electrical Parade was getting old and tired and needed to be replaced. Though people cared when its demise was announced, leading to the biggest summer in Disneyland history, the few years leading up to that people showed little interest in the parade. Money cutbacks can’t be blamed either. Light Magic was simply a creative failure. People thought the pixies were weird and were upset that the characters weren’t featured. Plus they didn’t get the whole streetacular thing. Eventually, Disney would use the Light Magic concept in their Block Party Bash “parade” over at DCA. This time it was a success.

12. Space Mountain Mission II

I already touched on this subject when explaining the whole refreshing concept. Basically, Disney let Mission One get in such bad shape that it simply had to be fixed. They figured they could use its refurbishment as a promotion. The result is the greatest Disney coaster ever created getting the shaft in favor of a more generic experience that doesn’t fit in with the theme of the land. While Mission II still features the Columbiad cannon launch and Victorian exterior, the actual ride abandons the Jules Verne theming to be more like the American Space Mountains. Lasers shoot around, Michael Gianchino’s overused orchestral phrases blare, and supernovas explode. Mission one took us to the moon with an amazing classical score and whimsical and appropriate props, all adding up to an amazingly fresh take on the Space Mountain concept. Why Disney decided to destroy this superior experience in favor of an out of place rehash of the old Space Mountains for one promotional season is beyond me. Now we’re stuck with a roller coaster that is no more popular than before and far less amazing. How long will it be called Mission II anyway? It won’t make any sense after people forget mission one ever existed. Here’s an idea Disney- reinstall Mission One and use it as a promotion again.

11. Horizons Extinction/ Mission: Space

I could have easily put this higher up considering Horizons was my favorite attraction, but I can somewhat understand why Disney did what they did unlike certain things they do that make no sense whatsoever. There’s no denying Horizons was getting outdated and the people just weren’t coming. I could see how it would be tempting to replace it with something that could bring in people. This doesn’t mean closing it wasn’t a mistake. Disney didn’t make the right decision by closing it, especially not for something that was the exact opposite of Horizons. Instead, they should have updated it. Horizons was the synthesis of Future World. It showed how each of the concepts presented throughout Future World could be used together to create the world we might live in someday. Without it the entire park came undone, a process that is now complete with Spaceship Earth’s destruction.

Mission: Space was Pressler’s final most expensive mistake. Though he should be praised for finally spending upwards of 100 million on an attraction, the attraction itself needed more money to come out somewhat successfully. Somehow this expensive attraction reeks of budget cuts. The queue is as bare bones as it gets. Instead of going on a real mission, we are just training and therefore no attempt is made at making the video look realistic or making the attraction an adventure. I guess if we want to go into space, the 30 year old Space Mountain will have to do. Everything is sterile, unexciting, and lacking of heart and soul. If we walked into a futuristic building and boarded “real” shuttles for Mars, the attraction may have been salvaged.

One giant hurdle would still stand in the way. The worst part of Mission: Space is how only a few can experience it without getting incredibly ill. Two people have already died on the ride. This isn’t exactly what Disney was hoping for when they spent all that money. Nowadays the queue for Mission: Space is considerably less than Soarin’ and Test Track, where the family can ride together without fear of getting sick.

Horizons taught us that the future belonged to all of us. We’d live in space colonies and visit underwater cities. Mission: Space teaches us that in the future, only a few people will go to space, and we’ll still travel in rockets. Whereas Grandma and grandson could live together up in Bravo Centauri, in the world of the ISTC only the few who can withstand the physical ailments of training simulators will ever go beyond the clouds. Which one sounds better?

10. Value Resorts

This one seems obscure and is probably the most theoretical of all the mistakes. Though the Value Resorts at Walt Disney World have allowed families who otherwise couldn’t afford to stay on property do such, the cost to Disney and Disney fans may not have been worth it.

Since the All Star Resorts opened in 1994, the demographic of those visiting Walt Disney World has changed. The new lower class of guests is partially responsible for elevated levels of vandalism, disregard for rules, and overall rudeness around the parks. Perhaps even worse, these guests are most likely the ones that Disney is catering to now with their lame brained ideas instead of the tried and true Disney fans that had been coming to the World long before it was more affordable. I don’t mean to generalize, but having stayed at a Value Resort for over half my vacations, I can say that most of what I have said is apparent compared to the guests staying at Moderate or Deluxe Resorts. These guests want experiences in the parks as loud and obnoxious as the buildings they are sleeping in.

A more concrete example of the Value Resorts’ negative impact on Walt Disney World became apparent after the recession of the early 00’s. Disney had trouble filling its own rooms- not the value resorts mind you, but rather the expensive ones. The Value Resorts stole potential customers from the higher priced resorts. This even led to the temporary closures of Port Orleans French Quarter and Caribbean Beach Resort. After Pop Century opened in late 2003, even more cheap rooms were available. Disney realized that they had built too many cheap rooms and postponed the opening of Pop Century- Legendary Years. The started buildings are still there to this day, weeds growing around the sidewalks. It’s hard to ignore since the entrance road runs right past it. Pop Century was even built around a lake with a bridge that would eventually lead to the second phase. With that phase nothing but an abandoned construction site, the potential view from the Classic Years has been nothing but an eyesore and no solution is in sight.

9. New Tomorrowland 1998

The New Tomorrowland of 1998 was one of Pressler’s biggest disasters. A prelude to Disney’s California Adventure, the land turned out to be a mishmash of poor attractions from Florida, underfunded thrill rides, and ugly theming. It wasn’t necessarily the idea of the land that was bad, a combination of Disneyland Paris’s Discoveryland and a tribute to Tomorrowlands of the past, but rather that theme plastered over the existing 60’s futuristic architecture of Tomorrowland leading to a terrible clash of copper spires, brown planters, and puke green walls. A metallic and Victorian themed Space Mountain looks good painted gold and green. A concrete 1970’s Space Mountain in gold and green is a disaster, especially when it’s one of Disneyland’s greatest icons.

Though it was nice to pay tribute to the history of Tomorrowland in this refurbishment, it’s sad when most of the history featured is part of history because management shuttered the attractions to begin with. In the queue for Rocket Rods, guests see old People Mover cars, rocket jets that once swooped over the skyline of the land, skyway buckets that once traveled through the mighty Matterhorn, and Circle Vision movies that no longer show in their entirety because the ride you’re in line for took its place. Also, the whole history/ retro approach was obviously a budgetary decision where it’d be cheaper filling space with old stuff from a warehouse and leaving the circlevision theater untouched than actually building something relevant.

Speaking of Rocket Rods, it is almost unfathomable to think that the centerpiece of the new land, an e-ticket for the park, would be gone in just three years. The ride never had proper funding after GM pulled out of sponsorship, and management wouldn’t even fund a proper fix for it. As they had done with Light Magic, management lied and said the ride was simply being refurbished. They assumed people wouldn’t notice if it never came back.

Just a few months after the press had already covered the new Tomorrowland, Pressler thought it’d be a great idea to close the Submarine Voyage. Again, a new ride was promised somewhere in the future without any real plans. Eventually the subs would return, though the replacement would be horrible in its own right. The land would be repainted white and blue, Buzz would take over the Rocket Rods queue, and Space Mountain would be restored to white and rebuilt completely. Still, the Astro Orbitor clogs the entrance to the land, the rocket rod tracks lay rotting, and the observatron continues its pointless existence.

8. Disney’s California Adventure

Wow, where to begin with this one. I’ll say that Disney’s California Adventure was not only a creative disaster, but a financial one as well. It is an example of poor execution, poor concept, and poor understanding of demographic.

There are plenty of good things in DCA, particularly Soarin’ Over California and California Screamin’. What’s ironic is that even though almost everything in the park was built on the cheap, California Screamin’ is an intamin coaster, much more expensive than the typical Disney choice- Vekoma. Still, the park is riddled with problems. It’s the first Disney park without any attempts to block the outside world. The microfactories of Pacific Wharf are the saddest excuse for attractions ever created. The Route 66 area of Paradise Pier is simply nasty.

How did the park turn out to be a failure? First, as mentioned, it was built with an incredibly small budget. Second, the theme of the park was unappealing. Third, there wasn’t enough to do, and nothing that was a must see. Disney expected the park to attract out of state visitors and theoretically turn Disneyland into WDW West. The problem was that nothing in the park warranted a trip out west. The locals didn’t care about the park because they could visit the much superior Disneyland next door for the same price, and as mentioned above, the theme wasn’t appealing.

Disney made a severe miscalculation that what worked at Walt Disney World would work here as well. They cloned several attractions from WDW, loaded the park with upscale restaurants that served alcohol, and they didn’t worry about matching Disneyland next door. Afterall, Disney-MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom didn’t have nearly as many attractions as Magic Kingdom but they were successes. Then again these parks weren’t next door and their guests weren’t made up of 60% locals. The demographic of Disneyland didn’t change with the addition of DCA, and they wouldn’t go for the half park for full price concept.

From a creative standpoint, DCA is a failure, but this is more because of budget restraints than lack of creativity. Paradise Pier shows potential for having a great atmosphere, but it is marred by hideous stucco, off the shelf spinners, and perhaps the worst queues ever designed. At the time that DCA was under construction, Tokyo Disney Sea was being built in Japan. There Disney had unlimited budget and proved their talent. Hopefully with the new 1.2 billion dollar makeover, DCA can be fine tuned to look and feel like a real park.

The biggest mistake of DCA was Superstar Limo. I almost thought of giving it its own spot on the list. The ride was so poor that Disney realized that shuttering it would get less complaints than keeping it open. The slow pace of the cars, the weird looking D list celebrities (all with Disney ties) and a really strange tougue-in-cheek (and flat) look at Hollywood all added up to a laugh out loud “what the hell was that?” experience. Still, SSL made more sense in the context of the park than what came after it. Every addition since the park opened has dilluted the already poor theme of the park. The restaurants have mostly been shuttered, Bugs have invaded the farm, and Monsters set up shop in the former SSL. DCA became the dumping ground of Pixar characters. Though this trend is unlikely to be reversed, at least money is being spent on fixing the quality issue. Though DCA may one day be more fun to visit, it will likely never be the tribute to California it started as- for better or worse.

7. Walt Disney Studios Park

Who knew that after Disney created a theme park as big of a disaster as DCA, another one would open up just 13 months later? This time the polarity was even larger between the adjacent parks. While DCA was a poor complement to Disneyland, Disneyland Paris (the most beautiful Disneyland park) would get a sister park that would make DCA look like a work of art. Never has there been so little atmosphere and energy in a theme park, and that includes non Disney parks.

Here’s a tip. If you ever find yourself standing in front of WDS contemplating whether or not to go in, do yourself a favor and forget it. You are seeing the best part of the park before you even go in. Once you pass through Studio 1, an area so cheap it was modeled after a restaurant at DCA that closed in six months, it only gets worse. At least there’s a Tower of Terror and the Toon Studio now. When I visited, there was nothing but warehouses a few hundred yards on either side past Studio 1.

The real reason why Walt Disney Studios is a mistake is because of the financial jeopardy it put the resort in. Disneyland Paris finally started making money, but thanks to something in the lame brained contract Eisner made with the French Government, a second park had to be built before the 10th Anniversary. The original park was built so complex and expensive, and unable to make much money in return, that the decision was made to build this park on the cheap. Wrong choice. Again, when a park sits just feet away from a superior experience in a mainly local resort, the two parks have to be similar in value. This is something Universal Orlando understands.

Basically, there is no theme to this park. Sure they say it’s supposed to look like a studio lot, but that’s like wrecking your car and saying you were trying your hand at metal art. If you can look beyond the hideous facades of attractions like Rock’n’ Roller Coaster and Armageddon, there are a few decent attractions. First, Moteurs Action! is a decent stunt show that was later inferiorly cloned to the U.S. Then there’s Cinemagique, a screen-based version of the Great Movie Ride that is more effective at capturing the magic of the movies than the Florida attraction. The backlot tour might even be a little better here as well, though it’s still pretty poor. I haven’t been on Crush’s Coaster, but it may be the only Nemo ride that doesn’t make me shake my head since it’s not just a rehash of the movie like the other two. Walt Disney Studios shows potential, but compared to the park next door it’s a mistake, and the only Disney park to not break the top 20 worldwide parks in attendance.

6. The Year of a Million Dreams

I eventually may write an entire entry on why the Year of a Million Dreams is the worst marketing campaign in the history of the world, but for now this rant will do. We’re to the point in our countdown where there are no longer any redeeming qualities to the mistakes.

I can’t stand the Year of a Million Dreams. Not only that, I can’t stand the whole Disney Parks- Where Dreams Come True nonsense. I really don’t know which one’s worse. All I know is now one is more prevalent than the other, and I don’t think that really makes sense either.

Since the Year or a Million Dreams is a sweepstakes that no one has any control over winning, what is the point of advertising for it? What is the point of even having it at all? It values the individual over the paying masses (Dream Suite vs. Disney Gallery), but yet we all must have it crammed down our throats. Advertising it on TV is unethical. Does Disney expect people to plan a trip to their parks with the slim chance that they will win a prize? I doubt it, so what’s the point? Technically, Disney could market that Orlando is the lightning capital of the world since the chances of getting struck by lightning are greater than winning some of the prizes.

Then there’s the fact that once we get to the parks, we’re hit with the promotion’s advertisements even harder. Why must there be banners strung on every lamppost in the parks? Why must the monorails be given city bus-like wraps promoting the hell out of it? We’re already here Disney. Imagine walking into McDonald’s and being greeted by signs saying, “Come to McDonald’s and you’ll be full!” And I’ll say it again. What’s the point in advertising for something we have no control over? I could actually forgive Disney for having a dreams giveaway if it was done secretly. Even if its existence was promoted to the media, which may be the real reason for the YOMD’s existence, I could live with it. It’s the full-blown, never ending onslaught of banners and billboards that puzzles me.

At first Disney understood that the Year of a Million Dreams wasn’t marketable. That’s why they coupled it with the Where Dreams Come True campaign. Again, this alone didn’t irritate me. There’s no denying Walt Disney World is the place where dreams come true. That theme has been reflected not only at the Magic Kingdom, but even at Epcot in Horizons and Imagination. What irritates me about the Where Dreams Come True campaign is that it wasn’t marketed as Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but rather the Disney Parks. The whole campaign raped Disney of its identity and slapped it with a brand name similar to Six Flags that basically says, “It’s all the same thing.” This included a morphed icon of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castle fused together, stock footage used interchangeably between resorts, and weak merchandise slapped around both resorts’ stores. What did Disney wish to accomplish by this? Did they really expect kids to go to school and tell their friends that they went on a Disney Parks vacation?

Now the Where Dreams Come True campaign has virtually stopped to give way for a full blown Year of a Million Dreams promo. This makes even less sense because, again, “WHAT’S THE POINT IN ADVERTISING IT?” Why Disney extended this fiasco another year when it was apparent from the start that no one understood it is beyond me. The solution was not to extend it and advertise more. The solution was to end the damn thing as soon as you could. Rasulo should have been fired for this. Unfortunately for us, theme park attendance has been increasing and Disney management actually believes the YOMD is responsible even though all evidence points to the contrary.

5. It’s a Small World Bastardization

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of It’s a Small World, but I do know that the decision to add Disney characters to the ride in California (and I guarantee WDW as well) is one of the worst things Disney has ever done. Though I lost all faith in Disney after the SSE fiasco, it seems this is the tipping point for the much more vocal Disneyland based fans. They realize that nothing is off limits now.

Why is adding characters a terrible idea? Because it turns Disney’s salute to the children of the world into what will essentially be an Easter Egg hunt for Disney characters. Disney promises the characters won’t be intrusive, but that isn’t the point. In fact it may be worse. The new characters look like the regular dolls but with the characters’ clothes on. Basically, it’s saying Disney’s commercialism is a part of the children of the world (they’ve apparently been to the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique). Commercialism has no role in It’s a Small World. Neither does an added America section proposed to take over the Rainforest. Removing a rainforest seems like a terrible idea alone, but replacing it with a nationalistic salute to our own country goes against the global unity behind the attraction.

Disney uses Walt Disney’s own quotes to justify their evil ways. They say he always thought of ways to plus the attractions, and always intended for the park to change. Shame on you Disney. There is a difference between plussing and what you are doing. If Walt thought like you, he would have added an animatronic of Elvis to the Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland because he was so popular. He never did because Elvis has nothing to do with Frontierland.

Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean, where changes were at least understandable, there is no reason to change Small World. Its attendance isn’t declining. The only reason they are doing this is to either sell merchandise, or because they truly hate everything good and descent Disney has built and feel it needs to be fixed.

4. The wand

Legend has it that at night, a 1,200 ft. tall Mickey Mouse roams through Walt Disney World. One night he accidentally stepped into a sink hole in Epcot (the rumors of its existence are true!) As he sunk into the ground, Mickey threw his Sorcerer’s Hat in the air, pulled out his wand (?), and sent up a smoke signal to let everyone know where he was in case they came looking for him. Hence, the Sorcerer Mickey wand took over the skyline of Epcot.

The Mickey wand was erected to celebrate the millennium at Epcot. The original version was neat. It told us something special was going on and added whimsy to the celebration. However, after the millennium celebration was over, the wand stayed. The appropriately sized 2000 was removed and Epcot was spelled out in its place. The size was too small, the font was strange, and the purpose was questioned.

Years went by and the wand became faded. The lighting at night started burning out. Needless to say any good feelings toward the wand were now gone. The wand detracted from the purpose of the majesty of Spaceship Earth. It was the equivalent of having a statue of Michael Moore picking his nose built to the right of the Lincoln Memorial. Mickey’s hand took away from the futuristic and meticulously planned architecture of Future World and reminded us that Epcot was simply a theme park in the middle of the mouse’s resort. It would be different had the wand served a purpose, but it was unclear what that would be other than to remind someone with memory loss where they were.

In 2007 the wand came down and fans rejoiced. However, I think I’d gladly welcome the wand back anytime if it meant getting Spaceship Earth’s interior back. What Imagineering did inside damaged the park far more than the wand ever did.

3. Sorcerer’s Hat

The giant Mickey threw the hat up in the air and two years later it landed in front of the Chinese Theater at Disney-MGM Studios. Somehow the same hand that held up the wand made it over here as well. Disney erected the hat for the 100 years of Magic Celebration, a poor and confusing campaign dedicated to Walt Disney’s birth. Why that birthday would be celebrated at the park that had the least to do with Walt with a symbol that came from one of Walt’s greatest failures is beyond me, but that’s what Paul Pressler wanted. The entire thing reeked of hidden corporate motivation.

In typical Pressler fashion, the Sorcerer’s Hat is actually a giant merchandise logo. The hat was one of four magical pins sold during the celebration. What better place to buy the pins than right underneath the Hat itself? Yep, the icon of Disney-MGM Studios is a pin shop. This and the snow globe parade at Magic Kingdom were fitting as Pressler’s last hurrah before leaving in 2002.

The biggest reason why the hat is a mistake is because it was built right in front of the Mann’s Chinese Theater, thereby destroying the entire atmosphere of the park. Though the Studios is my least favorite WDW park, there’s no denying that Hollywood Blvd. was convincing and very well built. By building the Sorcerer’s Hat in front of the Chinese Theater so Disney could have a more marketable icon, they completely eliminated the feeling of being in the Hollywood that never was. Since Disney likes to say their parks are designed like movies, this must be the equivalent of a fat guy standing in our way as we try to watch the film. Like the wand at Epcot, the hat takes away from us being in a specific time and place and instead reminds us that we’re in Walt Disney World, and Disney= Mickey. The hat is still standing and therefore gets a higher spot on the list than the wand. As far as exterior Imagineering goes, it is the biggest mistake they have ever made.

2. Spaceship Earth

All the hatred for the new Spaceship Earth, and it still only makes number 2 on my list. The current Disney Imagineers were unfortunately in charge of updating the iconic attraction of Epcot for this decade. The result is a severe dumbing down of the attraction. Also, like the recent Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, it’s an attraction that doesn’t know what it wants to be, or what story it wants to tell. While the first half of the attraction was slightly altered with a poor narration and inferior score, the second half of the ride is a complete fiasco. Imagineering is apparently so obsessed with technology that they can’t figure out that it means nothing unless it complements the story being told.

All Spaceship Earth fans know that the attraction was meant to change. Though the 3rd version was excellent, I knew that it needed to be updated. Even a change in tone would be acceptable. Afterall, the 2nd version was considerably lighter. There was speculation on a few websites that Tomorrow’s Child would return. Bruce Broughton would score the attraction. Patrick Stewart would narrate. Things were looking good.

Then the thing opened. We got Judi Dench sounding like a teacher making unfunny jokes and inappropriate references. The score was vastly inferior to the previous one. Instead of an updated ending, the lights were completely turned off. No new song. No new effects. Instead we have to watch video screens. The screens are not only a poor excuse for an ending, they are off from the tone and story of the rest of the ride. Even with the dumbed down narration, the ride still showed us human progress across time. Instead of having that progress lead to a purposeful future, we are treated to a cartoon with our face plastered on it in a future that not only isn’t possible, it isn’t meant to be. It is purposely supposed to make us laugh. Nothing can be further removed from the purpose of Spaceship Earth.

If the new Spaceship Earth was an essay, it would get a failing grade. Imagine being told to write about Julius Caesar, but instead writing about Little Caesar’s pizza. That’s how far off the imagineers were on this one. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them for failing. I simply think they are incompetent.

And the number 1 mistake is………


An attraction as obnoxious as the name of the pavilion, Journey into Your Imagination was the biggest disaster in Disney history. I realized this for myself when I first rode it in 2000. At that point I was of the opinion that Disney could do no wrong. I wasn’t even visiting the Disney fan sites to have my opinion swayed. Yet when I stepped off YOUR Imagination I knew that for the first time I hated what Disney had done. Lame, cheap, insulting, confusing… the list of complaints could go on and on.

Unlike Horizons or World of Motion, Journey into Imagination didn’t really need to be updated. Still, the contract with Kodak required it to be so Disney had no choice. It was their choice however to completely remove Dreamfinder and Figment, shorten the ride, add a bigger shop, close the upstairs Image Works, and theme the entire pavilion to the Imagination Institute, a theme already applied to the 3-D movie next door. Unlike Spaceship Earth where most of the original remains, though incredibly compromised, nothing from Journey into Imagination remained.

Like Spaceship Earth’s new descent, this attraction mainly took place in darkness. The few props seen on the ride were confusing or ineffective. Only in the upside down house was there any hint of a decent show scene, but even that was amazingly mundane. In the original attraction we visited the worlds of art, music, literature, stage, science, and film. Here we traveled through dark halls of a laboratory looking at virtually nothing. Never has there been such a polar opposite approach to the same concept.

The most puzzling part of the attraction was the virtual removal of Figment. He was the mascot of all of Epcot, and the biggest merchandise seller. What was the point of the extended shop at the exit if Figment wasn’t even around any more? Thankfully, Figment was so beloved that his absence was enough to get guests of all levels to complain to Disney and Kodak. The attraction would be closed and given a modest budget to “fix” when Eisner himself rode it and hated it. Maybe he should have never okayed the ride to begin with? Or maybe he should have given the imagineers a bigger budget. Unlike today’s imagineers who blow through 120 million and still have a clunker of a ride, the imagineers of the late 90’s were still capable of producing hits.

Figment returned for the 3rd version of the ride, but his personality is so wrong that the purple dragon is essentially an imposter. Rumors have been circulating that a fourth version may be in the works. Here’s your chance Imagineers. You’ve got a cartoon character to work with so you should feel comfortable. If you can create an attraction that restores even half the dignity of the Imagination pavilion, I just may forgive you for the mess you’ve made with these fifteen mistakes. Not likely, but maybe.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Five Worst Walt Disney World Attractions

And now for what I think are the five weakest attractions at Walt Disney World. Though Imagination, Nemo, and Spaceship Earth are all pretty poor, none match up to these attractions. Surpisingly, none come from Epcot or Animal Kingdom.

5. Disney's Hollywood Studios Backlot Tour

The parking lot trams are more exciting. They go faster, there's anticipation for the destination, and the spieling isn't so cheesy (At least not most of the time). A long time ago the backlot tour made sense and was almost like the Safari of the Studios. Time passed by, and the Studios stopped producing things. This ruined the credibility of the park and thus the tour. We pass a bunch of props from movies, but most of them are rusted and from movies that are either box office failures or completely old. Catastrophe Canyon is fine, but since movies don't rely on physical effects much anymore, the whole point seems obsolete. It's time to finally end the tour.

4. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor

This is the epitome of what's wrong with today's imagineers. The attraction is thematically out of place. The story behind the show is used not to complement the experience, but rather to explain why such a ridiculous concept is in existence to begin with. Remember the ending of Monsters Inc. where Mike discovered that laughter was more powerful than screams? Well now guests from Tomorrowland are being sent into Monstropolis so they can harvest our laughter at a comedy club. That's not a story. That's not even theming. That's just coming up with a reason to have the attraction make a little sense. Toy Story Mania has the same problem.
The show relies on technology, but that technology is less impressive than the AAs at Carousel of Progress since we can obviously see it's a screen. Immersion is completely non existent.
The show insults the audience, particularly one man who is deemed "That guy." Where is the fun in humiliating someone? Also, only those people who participate in the show, mainly little kids, will get anything out of it while everyone else just sits back and watches. At least with attractions like Millionaire Play It! the audience could play along. I fear the new American Idol show will be a failure like this is. For an example of how the character interaction can be used well, there's Turtle Talk with Crush. There is no ridiculous back story or explanation. We are just having a personal conversation with one of Pixar's beloved characters. Disney, there is a time and a place for your "technology." A nook of the Living Seas is a good place, not an entire building in Tomorrowland. A kiosk would be a perfect place to install an elf yourself activity, not an omnimover.

3. Sounds Dangerous

I only did this once and I honestly can't remember much other than it smelled bad and almost the entire attraction took place in darkness. The only reason we went in to begin with was because it was New Year's Eve and everything else had a line. You know something is wrong with an attraction when it takes me six plus years to visit. Others apparently share the same thoughts. Again, another attraction that thinks it's advanced (binaural sound), but falls flat in every category. The next attraction shares many similarities.

2. Stitch's Great Escape

Alien Encounter was never one of my favorites. It wasn't really scary to me, though some will think otherwise. I will admit in retrospect that the storyline of the attraction was ingenious and the use of the old Mission to Mars building for something completely different was creative. Today, Stitch makes his escape here. Like Laugh Floor, this attraction's "storyline" is used more to explain how the hell the attraction makes any sense in comparison to the movie it's based off of. A pet peeve of mine is how Disney portrays Stitch at their parks. Stitch in the film Lilo and Stitch was actually a lovable character after he became good. Disney decides to portray Stitch in his naughty mode, particularly here. This, along with the "Welcome to Stitch Kingdom" on the monorail actually made me start hating the blue alien unfairly.
Back to the attraction, we are apparently prison guards, a far cry from a convention center demonstration as in Alien Encounter. The Stitch AA is impressive, but we only see it for a minute before the lights go out. Except the lights don't go out because kids would get scared. Stitch burps in our face, bounces on our head, and spits on us. How this is supposed to be entertaining is beyond me. Even worse, Disney tried to "fix" the attraction since it was still too scary for kids by adding in fake audience members saying great lines like, "Look Mom. It's Stitch!" to "This is fun!" While the original ending had Stitch stealing an Astro Orbiter rocket, which tied it into Tomorrowland, Stitch now climbs Cinderella Castle and harasses Cinderella, thus destroying all illusion that the lands of the Magic Kingdom are self contained worlds. I believe this attraction was the beginning of the current cartoonization/ decline of the parks currently going on. All the problems that exist now can be traced back to this, or maybe even further......

1. The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management

Some believe that this attraction is a perfect metaphor for Michael Eisner and Paul Pressler's takeover of Disney. The tiki birds are supposed to be vintage Disney and Iago and Zazu are the new owners that see the birds as lame and pathetic. Their goal is to make money, and introduce such atrocities as hip hop into the show. Personally, I kind of disagree with this. While Eisner cared about money, he also saw potential in Disney. It's the current Disney regime that sees Disney as lame and adds characters to everything to maximize profits. They are the ones that use the Disney brand name as a means to make money while bastardizing the attractions in the meantime.
Only Disney fans who already knew what the Tiki Room was will get the point of the show, but they'll be offended. Everyone else won't even know what the hell is going on. The AAs of Iago, Zazu, and the Tiki Goddess are cartoonish and on a different scale than the tiki birds. The show is ridiculously short, which leaves the audience thinking "is that it?", even if the show is pathetic. This attraction has no entertainment value whatsoever. It isn't funny, it isn't relaxing, it isn't fun. It is the worst attraction in the resort, and the root of the Magic Kingdom's mediocrity.