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In Which I Apologize To WDI And… Jay Rasulo?!

Although I’ve been too immersed in busyosity lately to post anything of significance, as I go about my peregrinations I’m constantly cycling through the mental list of stories that I intend to or need to write. These days, a lot of those stories have to do with overdue and obscure tales from the D23 Expo or Disneyland. As I was thinking this weekend about the list of projects that have been announced for the various Disney parks, it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve publicly confessed my extreme wrongness about a recent story to which I reacted quite strongly.

When the Hong Kong Disneyland expansion plans were announced, I recoiled in horror at the sight of “Toy Story Land”, one of the new areas to be added to the undersized park. I blamed this on everyone from WDI to Rasulo to Lasseter to Iger, and in the wave of disappointment from the underwhelming plans I don’t think I skipped anyone’s house in my bout of pox-placing.

But in an unexpected twist that no one could have possibly foreseen, it looks like I was totally wrong on this one. Sure, Disney’s recent franchise-mania lies at the root of the problem; after all, the expansion was originally designed as the yet-unannounced “Toy Story Playland” for France’s Walt Disney Studios park. In the case of Hong Kong, though, it looks like the blame for this unsightly expansion lies right at the feet of the Hong Kong Government.

In only the latest instance of Disney coming to regret its unfortunate decision to enter the theme park business with the local Chinese government, Hong Kong officials apparently nixed several quality expansion plans presented to them by Disney Imagineers. As majority stakeholders in the park, the local government holds a great deal of sway in design decisions and have proven far more difficult to work with than Disney’s partners in Tokyo or Paris.

Hong Kong’s role in forcing WDI to resort to Toy Story Land became clear during my time at D23, and so I haven’t yet had a chance to recant my slurs. Imagineers I spoke to at D23 talked about this as diplomatically as possible, saying that they had come up with a number of initial ideas for the three expansion areas and whittled them down from there. At the suggestion of their local partners, it was said, they changed the plans to what we see today. As I say, it was all very diplomatically phrased but the implication was clear: the reason that Hong Kong is not getting it’s swanky new Pirates area or Glacier Bay is at the insistence of the local government.

So mea culpa, all my pals in Burbank and Glendale. I’ve still got my gripes but I can’t put this one at your feet. To the Hong Kong government I say this: What in the world are you thinking? Let Disney be Disney. The Oriental Land Company understands this and that’s why Tokyo Disneyland is the paragon of modern Disney design. Don’t tell them what to do. Just give them the money and back away, and don’t pull out the veto pen unless you’re going to refuse something completely lame like… Toy Story Land.

So there you go. Wrongness confirmed. Join us next time on Jumping to Conclusions Like a Jackass Theater, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

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