Recently, Bob Iger and Co. unveiled plans for an extensive overhaul of Disney’s California Adventure. Nestled among the plans including blockbuster attractions in Carsland and a complete redo of the opening plaza was a long-shelved attraction based on The Little Mermaid. Disney followers will know that this was originally planned for EuroDisney, and can even virtually ride through the planned attraction on the Special Edition Little Mermaid DVD.
This excites me, not only because it is clear that the new regime at WDI is dusting off plans for fifteen year old rides, but because the scene shown in all press releases is the “Kiss The Girl” scene. In addition, there’s a wonderful “Under the Sea” scene on the version of the ride shown on the DVD. One way or another, you know that with a Little Mermaid attraction you are going to get good songs. These Alan Menken and Howard Ashman ditties have stood the test of time, even surviving 80’s musical production values.
Expect DCA visitors to be spotted later in the day in queue for Grizzly Soak’n Wet Wild Ride or lounging in the new Beergarten to still be humming along or outright singing these songs hours later. It is an art that until recently I thought lost to Disney theme parks. In the age of Test Tracks, Mission Spaces, and even the wonderful Tower of Terror, you do not get many songs for your buck anymore.
True, the Mermaid attraction is in a way cheating, because these songs are already well known and were paid for years ago. It’s a step in the right direction. All the heavy hitting attractions of Walt’s later years have wonderful songs written just for them: “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” for Pirates, “Grim Grinning Ghosts” for Haunted Mansion, and the most polarizing and infectious, “It’s A Small World,” on which the entire attraction hinges.
Even less blockbuster attractions recieved their due in musical attention. “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and later “Now Is The Time” for Carousel of Progress, all the wonderful music involved in the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Country Bear Jamboree. “Miracles in Molecules” for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, and “Meet Me Down On Main Street.” I challenge a man to walk out of Carousel of Progress or It’s a Small World not at least humming, even if it makes them feel foolish.
There’s merit in this. After all, part of the “Disney Difference” in corporatespeak is to “Preserve the Magical Guest Experience.” Listening to these songs on record at home had a very transportative property that would put me back at WDW, just as much as a strange sulfurlike smell would make me think that Rome was burning.
Speaking of which, this song argument is one that I would throw to the wolves to argue the greatness of EPCOT in its early years pre-Epcot 95 identity crisis. Every attraction had great music to back it up, and I weep for the younger generation growing up without these songs. “Fun to Be Free,” “Listen To The Land,” “Tomorrow’s Child,” “New Horizons,” both Energy songs (not to mention the infectious song from El Rio de Tiempo) – these are all lost to us now, except from downloadable devices. At least “One Little Spark,” one of the Sherman Brothers classics survives in revised and weakened form. Consider it a lesson learned, WDI.
I believe they have considered it of late, actually. Two examples in recent EPCOT work leads me to believe all is not lost. Though at the expense of the previously mentioned song, the new El Rio De Tiempo, The Gran Fiesta Tour, showcases an even older theme from The Three Cabalieros.
Even more exciting news is over at The Seas with Nemo and Friends, as well as Finding Nemo The Musical. There Avenue Q composer Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez were commissioned to write all new numbers AFTER the movie came out, including the wonderful “(In The) Big Blue World.” Immediately, the humming and post ride singing returns to EPCOT – and, for a moment, all appears to be on track.
Until next time, this is Beacon Joe signing off.