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The Carsland Conundrum

For Disney fans of a critical bent, it used to be easy knowing where to channel one’s rage. Disneyland falling apart from neglect and mismanagement? Blame Paul Pressler and his gang of idiots. Key elements of Animal Kingdom’s master plan left out on opening day? Blame Eisner, or the “pencil pushers”. California Adventure? Blame everyone VP level or above. Once Disney began its long slide into mediocrity, beginning noticeably around 1994 and cratering out about ten years ago, the villain was remarkably consistent and easy to identify – cheapness. Penny pinching. Cutting corners. Basically, the refusal by management to commit the resources necessary to creating new things in the tradition that made Disney great.

A lot has changed since then. Management is different at the top, and in many places at the bottom as well. Eisner’s replacement, Bob Iger, seems much more willing to spend on projects that he finds worthwhile and he mended a number of bridges to the creative community that had been burned. John Lasseter of Pixar was brought in as a creative consultant to Imagineering, which many – including myself – thought simply had to be a good idea. Most importantly, money is being invested in the parks; a billion dollars has been poured into an effort to make California Adventure habitable, a long-needed overhaul of Florida’s Fantasyland is underway, and other projects wait in the wings – projects like the Avatar-themed area of Animal Kingdom that surprised everyone when it was announced earlier this year.

So, all is well… right?

A certain element of fandom will not brook any criticism of the Disney organization, no matter how badly show standards fall. Even during the darkest days, when the company was trying to foist things like Walt Disney Studios in Paris off as a “theme park”, there were those who bristled at the fact that anyone would point out that the Disney parks output suddenly seemed to range from mediocre to embarrassing. Those who felt that Disney should do better than California Adventure, or that EPCOT deserved a Space pavilion more space-worthy than Mission: Space, repeated a litany of simple pleas to Disney management: Please start spending money like you used to. Please give us some lavishly-themed attractions like you used to. Please start budgeting attractions for more detail, theme and atmosphere. Stop being so damnably cheap and loosen those pursestrings!

And, so it would seem, that started to happen. As the aforementioned projects began to roll out, it was clear we were entering a new era. The new areas announced for California Adventure were indeed lavishly themed and decorated, and certainly not done on the cheap. The Fantasyland renovation was actually re-jiggered after its original announcement to make it more elaborate, and while we know next to nothing about “Avatar City”, we know that James Cameron does nothing small.

Big projects. Seemingly adequate spending. Lots of detail, lots of theme, lots of atmosphere.

So why are so many – including myself – still left feeling completely unenthused about these developments? How to frame the argument that, even though what you thought was wrong with the company’s offerings has been resolved, you still feel these projects are desperately unexciting and creatively bankrupt?

Honestly, I found it hard to talk about at first because one starts to simply feel like an ingrate. We wanted spending – and they’re spending. Carsland at California Adventure is going to be big, elaborate, and expensive. Construction photographs shows massive, lusciously detailed rockwork and meticulously crafted environments. The designers at Imagineering are definitely “bringing it.” But that doesn’t shake the fact that it is an entire massive section of the park devoted to Cars. That’s like giving someone a solid gold set of bagpipes. I mean, wow, it obviously signifies a great effort on your part, but what the hell am I supposed to do with it?

It’s a hard needle to thread, critically. Basically the argument one is trying to make is that Disney is doing the wrong thing (building Carsland) for the right reasons (wanting to spend money to make California Adventure less of a joke). It’s kind of the reverse of Eisner’s early years, where he was doing the right thing (investing in parks) for the wrong reason (to become the grandest mogul of all, have the grandest hat at the hat parade, and crush all who lay in his path). You find yourself saying “Yes, nice hustle there. I can tell you’ve worked really hard on this and it looks great. But it’s an affront to what the company should be doing and I really kind of hate it.”

Let’s look at these projects one by one. First, there’s the Fantasyland remodel in the Magic Kingdom, which I really have no beef with. It’s looked consistently better ever since it was first announced, and even if it didn’t have anything I would ever ride, it’s at least making that section of the park nice to look at for the first time in almost twenty years. That’s a net improvement in and of itself.

Of course the real problem with Fantasyland comes when you compare it to its Disneyland counterpart; having spent a lot of time in the Anaheim park recently it’s hard not to be jealous of the sheer number of offerings in its Fantasyland. In a fraction of the space we have in Florida, Disneyland manages to cram in a slate of attractions that the Magic Kingdom will not approach even after this ‘expansion’. Wonderful dark rides based on Pinocchio, Mr. Toad and Alice in Wonderland, the charming castle walkthrough, and the exquisite Storybookland canal boats are all noticeably absent in Florida. A shame, as the Magic Kingdom’s larger scope and potential for grand vistas would allow them to breathe.

What’s more, it’s hard to imagine that after the money and effort is spent sprucing up the area that management will take a second pass to add in some of the missing attractions, or even new attractions built along similar lines, like the long-planned Fantasia Gardens boat ride. There are so many other areas of the park – notably Tomorrowland – that are currently below spec, that it would be exceedingly unlikely to get a “phase two” to up the Fantasyland attraction roster. Remember – these new attractions are only replacing capacity that the park lost during the 1990s closures. If you think of Mermaid as a replacement for 20,000 Leagues, and the Snow White coaster as a replacement for the Snow White dark ride, we’re pretty much breaking even on that front.

But that’s not really condemning the Fantasyland remodel for what’s there, but rather for what’s lacking. A failure of ambition at the top, perhaps, but what will be built looks great; at least we’re not left with some monstrosity that will never be removed, and it does leave the door open for expansion in the future.

California Adventure is not so lucky; alongside the truly lovely aspects of its renewal, such as Buena Vista Street and the Paradise Gardens area, it’s getting Carsland – a steel and concrete monstrosity that, due to its scope, expense, and “pet project” status for grand poobah John Lasseter, will never be removed.

Ah, but you say – Carsland looks great. It’s so detailed and elaborate and expensive. And maybe, you even say, I love Cars. But here’s a really critical question: What in heaven’s name does Carsland have to do at all with California? The park is, if I recall, California Adventure. So…?

Yes, California has a car culture. Yes, people in California drive cars. And yes, a lot of them work at Pixar and obsess over their vintage autos which were paid for by the billions of dollars worth of merchandising revenue raked in by their Cars franchise (and, of course, the money they save not having to pay for cereal). But Cars did not take place in California. Radiator Springs, the town recreated in the unimaginatively named “Carsland”, was not located in California.

Why does this matter? Well, because the park is called “California Adventure” for one reason. It’s also debatable whether, in a theme park allegedly dedicated to the real people and wonders of a real state, it’s wise to use the single largest space left for expansion for an entire land based on a single film franchise, about a load of cartoon cars that live in New Mexico or something. Did they run out of California stuff to talk about? I hope so, because with all the real estate Carsland eats up you’d better hope you have it covered already in Hollywood Backlot, the Grizzly forest, and the weirdly east-coast-seeming amusement pier. Also, there’s a Little Mermaid ride in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. So, you know, California.

Carsland indicates a general creative laziness that seems to be washing through the company’s efforts. We’re well aware of CEO Bob Iger’s obsession with the idea of “franchise”, and this seems to have become a crutch for the company’s imagination; instead of creating new realms filled with new experiences, we just get retreads from movies. This is doubly troubling since instead of putting guests into environments where they can create their own adventures, as in the original Disneyland, they’re instead relegated to re-living the stories of others – just re-enacting the things they just watched on Disney Blu-ray ™. This kind of mindset would never have brought us Jungle Cruise, or Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Haunted Mansion or Tiki Room or… you get the idea. Even if it’s a multi-million dollar experience, it’s still re-heated leftovers.

It’s also worth noting that Pixar has become past master and patient zero for the irritating and limiting “franchise as land” concept. The first land I can think of that was dedicated to a single property was California Adventure’s “a bug’s land”, and since then we’ve been saddled with Carsland and two separate Toy Story Playlands – one in Paris and one in Hong Kong. Both are awful. (As an aside, I can track the specific moment I completely lost faith in Pixar impresario John Lasseter. It was in the featurette, included on the Toy Story 3 DVD, wherein he breathlessly hypes the excitement and wonder soon to appear in the then-under-development Toy Story Playland. How wonderful it would be, he promised! No, dude. It’s really, really terrible.)

Building an entire land based on a single property limits you. It limits you creatively and logistically and sets you up for a situation, decades later, when your parks start to look awkwardly and embarrassingly stale. Did you ever go to one of those second-tier amusement parks when you were a kid, and they had the Flintstones, or the Smurfs, or Snoopy walking around many, many years after their prime? And it felt kind of sad? Cars may prove to be timeless, even though I kind of doubt it, but Disney is ensuring that a huge section of their California park will be locked to that specific movie for years to come. Better hope those direct-to-video sequels hit.

Which brings us to Avatar City. When, out of nowhere, Disney announced in September 2011 that it had partnered with filmmaker James Cameron to bring an Avatar-based land to Animal Kingdom in Florida, it came as a surprise to pretty much everyone. Including, as a matter of fact, Disney’s own Imagineers, who were taken as off-guard as anyone.

A deal hammered out at the highest echelons, assumedly in response to the wild success of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Disney’s alliance with Cameron is intended to snag a “major” intellectual property to compete with the boy wizard and get some warm bodies into Animal Kingdom. Disney estimates they’ve lost as much as an entire guest day to Universal thanks to the success of Potter, and apparently they think reeling in the highest-grossing film of all time will help stem the tide.

My response is this – who do you know that is an Avatar fan? Not people who enjoyed the film, or thought it was cool, or really liked it; who do you know who is a fan? For what it’s worth, how many of you remember a single character’s name from the film? I saw it two or three times with different groups of friends and I remember “Marine dude”, “Angry old Marine dude”, and “Sigourney Weaver.”

For what it’s worth, I actually enjoyed Avatar on the IMAX screen. Sure it had a wildly generic script, paper-thin characters, and a strange lack of humor, but as spectacle it was incredibly effective. Cameron does spectacle better than anyone else, although he seems to have retreated into his technology much like George Lucas and forgotten what made his early successes great. Films like Aliens and Terminator weren’t profound, but they were fun; Aliens was chock-full of stock, stereotyped characters, but they were fun and memorable. And you remember their names: Ripley, Hicks, Newt, Bishop, Vasquez, Apone, Hudson, and…. Paul Reiser. I’m pretty sure Paul Reiser played himself in that one.

But this isn’t a movie review and to tell you the truth I don’t think Avatar’s shortcomings as a film matter in this context. People were quick to bring up the film’s narrative and character flaws when the project was announced, but those aren’t elements that really matter in the realm of theme parks. One major problem that has plagued new-era Disney attractions is a dependence on character and narrative at the expense of letting the guests have their own experience. It’s what I was speaking about with Carsland; that film had a (derivative) narrative and (annoying) characters but they were distinct and memorable, and basing a land on that relegates you to merely living those adventures over and over again. Avatar’s great strength was in worldbuilding; I’m not sure I’d be interested in watching it on a standard definition television, but on the IMAX screen it was immersive and functioned in many ways as a themed environment. The film didn’t gross nearly three billion dollars because people were eating up the snappy dialogue, and there was no breakout Han Solo character – they were going because they wanted to spend time on Pandora. And that’s what an Avatar land could provide – a chance to experience the film’s elaborate environments and lavish production design without having to wonder why Crusty Military Guy’s mecha suit has an oversized gag prop knife.

So, the Avatar project would create an intriguing environment, with an assumedly top-dollar budget, in a park that desperately needs something. And with its themes of nature and fantastic creatures, it’s at least more theme-appropriate for its park than Carsland is. So why the ambivalence? I still have yet to satisfactorily summarize the reaction I had upon this news; it’s less a verbal reaction than a very specific and indescribable face. Perhaps the closest lingual equivalent would be, “Whuh?” It’s just bewildering to me. Why this? Even though I know the underlying executive logic, I keep asking – why this?

Somewhat to my surprise, my reaction seemed to be well above the median for positivity among online Disney fans. I was just baffled and unenthused, others are downright hostile. For some reason – I have no idea why – I seem to occasionally have a reputation for being critical of Disney’s decision making. But reading the online communities after the Avatar announcement, I felt positively Pollyannish.

First there were the people that just hated Avatar, or hate Cameron. There were those who thought it an inappropriate film to be represented in a Disney park. There were those who thought it an inappropriate film to be represented in Animal Kingdom. Almost everyone seemed to like the two better-known Animal Kingdom expansion ideas – Beastly Kingdom and Mysterious Island – and many seemed none too pleased about these concepts being usurped by a licensed property from another corporation entirely.

This is perhaps a key point of contention in many peoples’ opposition to this concept – why does Disney feel they have to reach outside the company to find a suitable concept for their parks? We know Iger’s habit of buying outside intellectual property, whether it be Pixar or Marvel, but while that’s not entirely a bad thing it also shows a fundamental lack of trust from management that their own company can produce something new and worthwhile. Which, if so, what does it say about management that they cannot run the company in a way that successfully produces new and popular product?

This lack of confidence can be seen throughout the modern Disney organization, from an animation studio that can’t commit to a production schedule to theme parks that have to buy other companies’ ideas to draw visitors. The entire reason so many fans have rebelled against the franchise mania – Cars here, Toy Story there – is it illustrates an underlying insecurity at Disney that they won’t be able to get people in the gate without a movie property they can slap up there to assure people. This condemns Imagineering to a spiraling circle of mediocrity, and ensures that they are not allowed to produce something that wows or surprises us like Pirates, or Mansion, or Western River Expedition.

Perhaps this is why the EPCOT Center of 1982 is so beloved? Because it took risks, and was unafraid to be its own thing? Disney attempted to create new stories, and in doing so invented Dreamfinder and Figment – two of the most beloved theme park characters ever. Sure a lot of the tools and technologies used in EPCOT were tried-and-true, but there was a concerted effort to bring people something new.

For what it’s worth, that was also the case for a great deal of Animal Kingdom. The park’s flaws are well-documented and manifold, and the elements derived from theme parks and zoos are clear, but it did try to mix things up, and present people an experience unique in Disney’s oeuvre. And maybe that’s why Avatar seems to clash so greatly. The major themed areas of Animal Kingdom are their own unique thing, not dependent on any franchise or brand, and it feels the possibilities there are endless. If you add in an Avatar area, complete with trademark and copyright markers everywhere, it clashes with the whole. It feels out of place. And it makes that specific part of the park uniquely limited in its range of possibilities.

Of course, what actually will wind up happening is as much your guess as it is mine. No one inside the company even knew about this until September, so it isn’t as if a slew of ideas have been percolating around for ages. Many seem to doubt that there’s actually been any art or specific proposals yet; it seems as if we’re pretty much at the “Hey, let’s do something Avatar” phase. It’s hard to imagine what form this expansion could even take – Animal Kingdom already has a giant tree; does Disney plan on building a huge military contractors’ base in the middle of their peaceful “nahtazu”? Will you go from a scenic African safari to firing a chaingun at blue dragons in a splintering forest?

Again – if it happens, it’ll probably be fancy. It’ll probably be expensive. And it’ll probably look great. But like so many of the things that corporate management and the feckless Imagineering bureaucracy have cooked up in recent years, is it the right thing to do?

These aren’t mistakes that can be swept away as easily as an off-the-shelf spinner ride. And no matter how much lipstick you slather on a pig – even if it’s a billion-dollar pig – it’s still a pig. Which would still make more sense in California Adventure than Carsland.

Am I an ingrate? Maybe. But maybe Disney will learn that the Beatles were right after all – money can’t buy you love.

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59 comments to The Carsland Conundrum

  • I’ve had many of the same sentiments. While not entirely opposed to these projects, they seem misguided.

    The notable addition of a job opening in the “planning” department of WDI (long term mind you, like “build X attraction here in Z years for Y demographic) along with Iger’s comments that the parks are under invested-in-and-leveraged are telling.

    Lets face it, the top people at WDI have been making creative mistakes. Time and again Staggs has said “it’s not a money problem” – and he used to be the chief money man for the company. Disney has been lacking the proper creative capital.. (not in numbers, but in ability) for a while. Thankfully it looks like the powers that be are coming to terms with that undeniable fact. Better, they’re doing something about it.

    Problem is, with the bloat of WDI’s structure it takes a minimum of 5 years for the fruits of any current labor to be seen. Some ivory pedestals that the fandom has awarded in recent times were ill considered.

  • Thanks for a great post! You have articulated some issues that have been a bit foggy for me. And it is an interesting discussion starter.
    I agree that Iger is rejuvenating the parks and resorts, and it is long overdue. The parks had fallen behind. I very much appreciate the idead that capital funds are being poured in and change is undrway.
    As you point out, fixing themselves to a fad is problematic – they run the risk of being out of date instead of timeless, ending up like Universal Hollywood – where almost everything is based on a film or TV show a minimum of 15 years old. So the park has little charm or emotional connection. It misses the point or the strategy of how the “lands” work in a park.
    For me you named Iger’s flaw – addicted to franchise – which clarified the unsettling gnawing in the back of my mind. Disney seems to be following a simplistic strategy – exploit the markets of Princesses for young girls and use Cars for young boys. They leave teenagers to Universal. And you rightly point out the lack of creativity in that approach. I add that this subconsciously reinforces old fashioned and unhelpful gender stereotypes. the Cinderella Syndrome has been insidious for young women who end up not taking control of their own lives.
    The other strategy that sits uncomfortably with me is “One Disney”. Obviously, it is more efficient and, like McDonalds, strengthens the brand as it brings safety for people who like to know what they are going to get, and of course it is cheaper to deliver. However, I am one of the few in the world that would prefer the Parks have their differences. And I would travel to experience those differences.
    I hope that Disney maintain the customer service for which they are rightly famous. The moment I step out of a Disney property I realise the difference – most multi-nationals provide customer service as a loyalty reward (think airline frequent flyer status – too bad if you are not “platnium”) but at Disney they don’t care if you are loyal – you can go once or a million times and you are still treated the same and usually that is with very high quality service. Let’s hope they continue to put money into the leadership and customer service training that leads to that ethos.
    Wow – you certainly woke up my synapses today!

  • theluckyorange

    *lol* Flintstones, Smurfs, Snoopy…I see what you did there.

  • You’re right on the money when you talk about guests creating their own experiences. The penny dropped when Tom Sawyer Island was brought into the Pirates franchise; Disneyland has far too much pre-packaged fantasy these days but this is true of the world outside the berm as well. Take a look at the beloved Lego – once a big bucket of bricks that fueled imagination, today you are provided with just the right bricks in a box to build one certain model, with instructions. Children (and the young at heart) don’t seem to have any prodding to use their imagination any longer, instead they’re urged to purchase one, fully complete (or with additional purchase expansion packs).

  • Tim

    For some time I have been feeling considerably unease about the Disney Parks lately and I think you have finally put into words exactly what has been gnawing at me, so thank you. It’s difficult to articulate these kind of thoughts without being pigeonholed as a blind hater or delirious fan of all things Disney. I truly hope someone of note in Imagineering, Disney, or wherever else reads this to hopefully see what many of us have been feeling lately.

  • Kevin

    YEs!

    Imagineering has taken a backseat to marketing and accounting, no longer is the story, emotion, and imaginational stirring the key focus to the Disney experience.

    Many things have been wrong with the parks for awhile now. Ride effects have been broken and remain unfixed. What happened to differentiating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ show? I don’t want to be one of the people to ask “What would Walt do?” and keep the man raised on a pedestal, Disneyland was never meant to be a museum as the saying goes. But the parks are sadly not the same place I used to visit, just as the entertainment output of the company isn’t of the same type as it used to be.

  • RO93461

    I just saw a new copy of the old 70’s Abrams Edition, “The Art of Walt Disney”. There was a sticker on it saying “Updated Edition.. now includes PIXAR”. Maybe next year “The Art of Walt Disney” will be updated to include the Muppets and his greatest creation, the X Men.

  • RO93461

    To respond to your rant, as an Imagineer, I was always happiest being challenged to invent new places, not laying out Omnimover “book reports” of movies or toys. That’s fine, it’s great, but for me it’s not the brass ring. You got satisfaction about being part of a group that creates new worlds or lands that surprise the guest, or growing stories well beyond the movie using the characters. I think the public desperately wants the “wow” and expects Disney to challenge their imagination and take them to new places, not just the ones they’ve seen.

    (I do think Carsland will be a hit if the ride is good.)

    • “Book report” attractions are neither fine, nor great, and most certainly not acceptable.

      Until any and all warm bodies in WDI are somehow given the fear of God’s wrath in relation to their creation of the mediocre (Walt’s specialty mind you – just Google “Walt’s boney finger”) nothing is going to change.

      The acceptance of the mediocre (at best) is a plague that needs to be annihilated from WDI’s mindset. Stop praising each other, stop giving pats on the back, and aggressively shame them down into the deepest darkest pit that lets them believe their only form of redemption is not to fail you. That’s what WDI needs right now.

  • Walter

    It’s sad and simple.

    Walt had tons of ideas but little money, so he simply whored himself out for some cash and we got Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and It’s a Small World.

    Now Disney has tons of cash, but little ideas, so they whore themselves out for ideas, and we get Carland, Avatar world, and two dumbos.

    Is it any wonder that the Imagination pavilion is still utterly lacking in pure imagination?

  • Didier Ghez

    Michael,

    Apologies to contact you like this, but have you received any of my emails over the last few weeks? Hear from you soon.

    Didier

  • philphoggs

    There is so much to agree with, and yet I ask myself where do you go with it all now. I often wish the Florida MK / EPCOT could have protected it assets and expanded past them instead of cannibalization upon itself, almost as a city should protect and build upon its history.
    Good post scoping way beyond this minor comment.

  • Joe

    Thank you for a well written article. While I don’t agree with every point you made I do agree with your overall thoughts that the parks are becoming too derivative. I had this same feeling when they started making the changes to Pirates of the Carribean. Once the memory of the films have worn away, the additions to this ride start to stick out like a sore thumb. DCA suffers from this problem in droves as it does not have the legacy of Disneyland behind it. I was completely underwhelmed by the Little Mermaid ride and I continue to wonder what the future of this park will look like.

    Keep up the great work on the blog!

  • Smaha

    These decisions can’t be arbitrary; there must be a widely held opinion within WDI that the products they are developing are, in fact, what will resonate most with consumers and generate the greatest return on investment. Perhaps the story isn’t *just* a decline in imagination within ranks, but a white flag approach to declining consumer taste as well. Sad, because we all want Disney to set trends instead of chasing them.

    But let’s be honest. Even the most inspiring attractions have a shelf life, and the market bump seems to grow smaller and smaller with each passing fancy. Naturally, Potterworld’s per caps are starting to sag already. Reality is that any conversation like this needs to partner with an honest conversation about the life cycle for new designs, attraction saturation (especially at the gargantuan WDW Resort), and what draws money out of pockets. This doesn’t excuse poor taste, but theming a land around the Cars or Avatar franchise does allow for infusions of relevance by throwing out a new film, cartoon, comic, whatever now and then.

    So if Beastly Kingdom were to be built as opposed to Avatar, is there a marketing guru out there that can help us understand the return projection differential between the two concepts? Because we know it’s bad taste already.

  • @ChasonDailey

    This article is perfection. I return so many of these sentiments, though my vitriol for the Avatar idea is much stronger. I think DAK has great potential and that what exists is a great foundation for building. We don’t need Pandora. We need Australia, North America, and South America. We need to drop the ridiculous carnival theme and turn Dinoland into the golden age of archaeology. We need some classic Disney shows or dark rides to compliment the zoo portions of the park. Finally, I think Everest set a precedent as far as the treatment of mythical beasts goes: instead of a Beastly Kingdom, present mythical beasts associated with Asia in Asia, those with Africa in Africa, those in the Americas etc. etc. etc.

    Anyway, my main point wasn’t to engage in armchair imagineering, but to open up the discussion to other Disney projects that are subject to the forces that Michael has so deftly described. The first that came to mind was the Arts and Animation Resort, which continues the Walt Disney World Value Resort tradition of garishness, with the added dose of toonification. It is cut from the same cloth as Toy Story Land. To a lesser extent, what of the expansion of DVC units? Or the new hotel/condos being built on property (here is that laziness factor again!)? The princess rooms in Port Orleans? Or how about the Hyperion Wharf concept for WDW’s Downtown Disney? Actually, to be honest, there’s been so little about that project that I’m not really sure if I have an opinion or not…

  • Chaddy

    Interesting thoughts here. I actually found myself agreeing with Michael’s article more than I thought I would, or maybe even more than I’d like to admit. I personally WANT Carsland to be a commercial success. I’m much less a DCA-Hater than probably most here(thhough I decidedly have my criticisms of it both minor and major), and if Carsland is a runaway success, then it spells out likely heavy investment in that park for years to come. But despite the likely increase in crowds, that doesn’t mean that Carsland would be a CREATIVE SUCCESS, now does it? An achievement sure, its huge and kinda purty, but it could have been something awesome. And this is where I find myself in (grudging) agree with Michael. ;)

    I don’t however believe that WDI is most to blame here. I think the finger must be pointed more at park management than anywhere else. I’ve spoken of this before, but its pertinent here so I’ll reiterate. I think there is a fundamental lack of trust on the part of management in the intelligence and level of taste-sophistication of the average park-goer. We’re talking lowest common denominator stuff here. Look at Disney’s films of the past 15 years, or heck any studio’s films for that matter. “Dumbed down” describes about 65-70 percent of it, maybe even more. Should we expect anything different from the parks division? Management knows the public grows more aliterate year after year. So where to draw from as source material for building themed environs? How about our sucessful film franchises? We know people will like these because look at the box office returns of Finding Nemo, or POTC On Stranger Tides. We can’t lose!

  • Chaddy

    Before readers here think I’m a jackass, I want to point out I don’t personally think the American public is growing dumber. But it is easy to imagine a film studio and/or themepark executive thinking so, especially when one judges by the tone of the stuff they put out there year after year.

    But like I said above, WDI most likely isn’t to blame here. They get their marching orders from management and no place else. Why am I so ready to dissolve WDI from accountability? Well look at some of the other projects under development now that Michael did not mention: Mystic Manor, Shanghai DL’s Storybook Castle, Buena Vista Street. These I think most of us would find to be more in line of what we expect from Disney parks. WDI is capable of creating these kinds of things still. What they need is a management who is ready to let them be daring artists as well as entertainers.

    • No – actually that’s a complete misunderstanding of WDI’s structure.

      Operations – commonly referred to as “management” in the fandom – has no say on what “creative” produces. Rather, they’re stuck with it.

      Rather, the management of WDI itself and the corporate entities make these decisions. Notably though, Corporate can only approve what WDI puts before it. Corporate has been vocal lately that “creative capital” is lacking at WDI.

      It is, in fact, very much WDI’s fault.

  • davewasbaloo

    This article resonates with me greatly. I grew up going to Disneyland between 1974 and 1986 when I moved to the UK. I have been to Disneyland Paris 56 times and have a timeshare there. I honeymooned in WDW and have been many times including taking my daughter for her first haircut in the MK. And We return to Disneyland when we can for big celebrations. Or, at least we used to.

    I was a Disney park fan because it challenged me to think, want to learn, and visit an idealistic sense of place. Fantasyland held little appeal in my childhood, and less so as an adult. My own children feel similar. Difficulty is, they do not have an inspirational Tomorrowland or ecclectic New Orleans Square and Main Street that I enjoyed as a child.

    Now we are more likely to go to Europa Park, De Efteling, Puy du Fou and other places to replace what is diminishing in the Disney empire. What used to be all of our vacation time with Disney now accounts for very little. And if we did not have young children (who prefer Legoland sadly) and a timeshare, Disney would register on our radar once every 5 – 10 years (whereas one year we used to go to Disneyland Paris every 6 weeks or so).

    It is not a case of being burnt out. It is a case of being sick of sweets. I used to enjoy a very diverse Disney experience (which Anaheim still offers to a degree). But WDW is tired and not maintained well, with subpar service. Paris, well, it has been toon central for nearly a decade now.

    I long for a WDC that inspires. Strives for creating new, never before seen environments. A cliff notes attraction is of little or no interest. The ethos of DCA is far less interesting now than it was in 2001. Sure, they have spent a shed load of money, and made the place look prettier, but the substance is light. Cars Race Rally would work without a pixar slant. Toy Story Midway Mania does not encourage me to travel, I have a 3D TV with a Wii and Playstation 3 Move. the tooning of the parks is a cancer, or even more, a dementia, killing what once made the parks great. I love the nostalgia, and if Disneyland were on my door step, I would likely not be so bitter. But where is the incentive for me. And it sounds like the experience will worsen with the proposed Xpass and other “next Gen enhancements”.

    Disney parks should not be museums, but they also should not abandon their vision, their legacy and their ethos.

    “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway”. Walt Disney.

    “To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America; with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” Dedication of Disneyland, no mention of toons.

  • Matt

    Couldn’t agree more with this post, and glad someone is finally talking about it – thought I was the only one!

    Avatar is one thing – its been hacked to death already (and should’ve been Beastly Kingdom, in my opinon) – but CarsLand? I never understood why this is being built, like you said, especially into its own land. I love that the company is spending money to update the parks, but why would you dedicate a whole land to one movie – and to a form of transportation that is infuriating as hell, especially to Californians (LA especially)?? Don’t you sometimes want to go to theme parks to escape – to see and experience something novel and new? Why would I want to go see cars (the things I live with everyday) in the middle of a desert?? If Disney would invest into the rail transportation that already exists at their parks – bringing back the TTA, expanding the Monorail throughout all parks as a real transport system (replacing some of the horrid bus system), THAT would be escapism, fun, attractive, and useful. But that’s just me. AvatarLand, CarsLand, even Star Wars and the Muppets, just don’t feel right. And now Marvel. Why, why, why.

    As far as creatively imbalanced that the company might be, that’s what happens when companies go public, when there is a bloated management structure, when the top-talent creatives aren’t trusted, and when the company isn’t willing to take (even controlled) risk. If nothing else, Disney should look to Apple about the benefits of taking risks…or Walt Disney.

    • WDI’s “top level talent” is pushing many of the initiatives – nextgen, screen technology, interactivity – aggressively as they feel it is the “next step” in the creative design world. They openly reject the old standards – animatronics, details environments, idealism – as passe and old fashioned for a modern audience.

      Again, place the blame where it deserves to be placed.

      • butter

        Interactivity- Wow that ghost said my name! I feel more important than I actually am not!

        Boy I feel special!

      • Matt

        That’s interesting – had no idea it was the creatives that we ultimately see everywhere in the park. And I mean that sincerely. Sure, we’ve all read and seen the importance of the Imagineering end of the spectrum, but at the end of the day, I really thought it was Operations that was demanding or nixing what ultimately went in the parks as we see them today.

        As far as next-gen technology in the parks, I’m personally not for it (or at least opposed to it past a certain point). The end of Spaceship Earth is a prime example of how this tech-central vision in wrongly interpreted and executed. Just because there are animatronics on a slow-moving dark ride, doesn’t mean that its a rolling book report – its just a more enticing/moving way to tell a story, in my opinion. To me, hearing “next-gen” technology in rides makes me think Universal, or Kuka, or any of the other “screen” technologies that are as lifeless as the next. I live in front of my computer and phone and iPad and local movie theater all the time, so why would I want to go to on a vacation to escapism, but basically end up doing the same thing? If this latest push from the creatives is supposedly the answer, why wasn’t DisneyQuest a massive hit? Or Second Life for that matter?

        Again, as far as I’m concerned, people want to escape when they go on vacation, and assume the best when they get to Disney. They want to relax and slow down. You can read everywhere that history in the parks is just as important as anything tactile – otherwise, people go to any of the other theme parks around the world. People go to Disney for well-told stories, elaborately detailed environments, and for change from their daily lives – to live in a fantastical, sometimes perfect world that is not their own. In a few areas, to me, that means story told elaborately and with great detail, mostly long and slow (as is throughout the parks, visionary/novel transportation methods (TTA/Monorail instead of buses/exhaust), and well-thought out themed environments (everything from complete lands to details like consistent signage and appropriate vendor stands). I could go on, but you get my drift – and I think most people here are singing similar tunes.

  • Kyle

    I don’t quite agree with the “Epcot of 1982 was beloved” argument. It seems like they made a lot of sacrifices there, too… pavilions unbuilt (Space, countries, ect), and EPCOT Center itself was a mere shadow of what EPCOT the City could have been. We’d be having this same argument thirty years ago if it would have been possible…

    The other side of this argument is, if Iger is so willing to invest in proven movie/merchandise hits like Cars, Avatar, Star Wars, etc, then that means he’s using outside influences that won’t be swayed by budget cuts as easy. JK Rowling did the same thing with Potter at Islands of Adventure, having a lot more say in the final product. That can only be a good thing, and if it has to start with movie franchises, maybe someday it will be the way Disney does things with future WDI projects, instead of the constant cutbacks of the past.

  • Brian

    FINALLY, someone has exposed the giant dysfunctional elephant in Disney’s living room in a well-written article. Thank you.

  • M

    Thank you. I’ve been wondering if anyone else noticed that the emperor’s new clothes are often poor knockoffs. DCA’s Little Mermaid ride is a prefect example of all that’s gone so wrong: A nonsensical concept (“underwater” in a pavillion building? Take a look at Tokyo’s take on that idea) and absurdly bad execution. An oddly dressed up box is not interesting architecture. Immediately inside, more lighting rigs are visable inside than actual effects. (that never happens on classic Disney attractions; like the pathways in the new parks, full of ugly light poles….Tokyo hides them until they pop up when needed) One spinning starfish stuck everywhere is not amazing animation. Illusion of being under-the-sea? Actually an obvious bright staircase with exit signs and safety railings and long stretches of nothing to see. (again, see Tokyo’s for a good example) Storyline? From the first bird until the last stiff wave, a confounding FAILURE. Monsters Inc. ride is barely better. All are sliding down the slope Disneyland’s Winnie the Pooh ride dug, when drastically lowering the bar for Disney dark rides. (as opposed to Tokyo’s stunning version, which RAISED THE BAR, considerably instead).
    On the other hand, StarTours2 is everything it should be! It just took 20 years longer than anyone can believe….along with the rest of Tomorrowland. Is it really so hard to come up with something futuristically cool? No, its not, I could in a few minutes. Much of what is needed is sitting there….being cheaped out on for decades, yet sold at staggering ticket prices every day. Having nothing inside the new central icon of Carthay Circle doesn’t help. (yes, a private club and/or expensive dining count as “NOTHING” to the vast majority of guests. It is an ATTRACT-ion, but offers nothing to do but spend more money; gee thanks, at least it should be pretty, to walk past….. perhaps they could include a tiny theater space to show Snow White endlessly, like the old Fantasyland theater cartoon loops, we’ll see if it actually features something, or not).

    • And just to point the blaring fact out to the peanut gallery..

      The poor show elements are design choices – something corporate and operations would have little say or knowledge of prior to the final installation.

      Neither corporate nor operations will go over where the lighting rigs are to be installed. That’s entirely up to WDI’s discretion and yet people ascribe such mistakes to the other two areas.

      Long story short: WDI often makes big dumb mistakes.

  • Kristen

    YES YES YES. thanks for so eloquently putting my thoughts on paper…err cyber-space.

  • I agree with what Michael is saying here, but I believe the problem goes deeper. While it is true that Disney is currently embracing franchise, it can also be said that in some ways, they always have, at least at Walt Disney World. Franchise names like Snow White, Peter Pan, 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea, etc. were worked in from day 1, or added shortly thereafter. It could be seen in Disneyland later, MGM, even EPCOT to a lesser degree. BUT…and this is the key…these franchise themed attractions were put into areas of the parks that actually went along with the franchise. Snow White, Fantasyland. Star Tours, MGM (a movie themed park), etc. etc. Now, they are just randomly plopping down attractions as if they are just throwing darts at a map! The truth is, they are trying to give each park a shot in the arm to boost the gate by putting something into each park that they believe people will recognize. MGM (DHS) got Toy Story Midway Mania, and a Pixar area of the park. Yet, there are Pixar attractions in EVERY park. Buzz Lightyear and Laugh Floor in MK, Nemo in EPCOT, Tough to Be a Bug and the Nemo show in DAK. And now Carsland, in DCA. We get it. Pixar is popular. But the way these attractions are being just haphazardly thrown into random parks is very concerning, because it shows two very important things. 1) The desire to adhere to logical theming has gone by the wayside, making the Disney parks more like other parks that have no real theme. and 2) That Disney is more concerned with their competitors than most of us probably realize.

    In the end, I think they are making, and have made, numerous mistakes…not necessarily with the attractions themselves, but with the lack coherent planning, which is one of the things that Disney has always done best.

  • butter

    M and DAVEWASBALLOO, You both get it!!

    I recently took my 3 year old son to WDW Magic Kingdom for the first time and realized that he experienced the same experience that I did….37 YEARS AGO!!!!!!!

    Nothing was different EXCEPT the price. All of the attractions that he wanted to go on were there in 1971! It is insulting.

    Some people will say that the shows are great….We do not care about the shows. It is all smoke and mirrors to disguise all of the facts you both speak of.

    Sadly…I think we have to let go of the idea of the “Disney” that we knew and love will come back. It is too far down the road to turn back, unless someone in charge knows their history.

    They probably do not.

  • Sean O

    Avatar is absolute proof that Disney has lost the thread. I have never been as astonished at a bad decision like I was with that one. I can forgive Tomorrowland or Future World no longer making any sense, or Beastly never being built, or even MGM only barely being a theme park. But Avatar? Unforgivable idiocy that will ruin my favorite park.

    It has no place next to the beautiful theming of Harambe and Anandapur.

  • I agree Sean O.

    While I have some faith that the Avatar area might be interesting, and even possibly well done…I just do not feel that it belongs in Animal Kingdom. There is already a movie-based theme park, MGM Studios (yes, I still call it that). If anything, it belogs…and is more needed…there.

  • DisneyDuchess

    First, this article is intelligent fandom at it’s finest. Thanks, Michael.

    The best designed attractions and environments tell their own story without the distraction (or crutch) of a pre-existing narrative.

    This is the reason that I have a problem with the Jolly Holiday Bakery. I’m sure it’ll be beautiful, but it unsettles me to the core when every square inch of Disneyland gets swallowed up by a forced narrative. I miss using my imagination in ways that aren’t possible when a story is already “assigned” to the designed space. Disneyland is the place that inspired me to use my imagination in a creative way, it wasn’t just a place to relive stories that were beloved to me, but to imagine my own.

    For this reason, it made me especially sad for future generations when they put the movie characters into Pirates. I saw that coming when the movie was announced. If they even hint at touching Haunted Mansion after the Del Toro movie comes out, I’m going to start my own “occupy” movement there.

    The attractions that were based on a pre-existing narrative were also better done in the past, allowing for the experience of the world of the story rather than the experience of the narrative (i.e. Casey Junior, Mad Tea Party). These attractions work because the imagineering that created them concentrated on the attraction EXPERIENCE instead of letting the pre-existing narrative drive the attraction. For instance, I don’t ride storybook because I want to revisit the stories, I like the experience of the ride. I love Splash Mountain and I’ve never seen Song of the South.

    I’d like the idea of Cars land if it didn’t have all the Pixar Cars theming (and if it weren’t in a California themed park). Cool desert environment (except that particular landscape doesn’t actually exist in California), exhilarating ride. The franchise theme is like a scar on what could be a beautiful bit of scenery and I actually find it distracting. I’m calling it “Lassetterland”. After all, the CM’s costumes will be reportedly be Hawaiian shirts. He lives in California…???…..nope, still doesn’t belong there.

    It feels like there is a lack of imagination, or an outright fear that an attraction won’t be popular with the general public unless they are familiar with the narrative/franchise.

    ImagineeringDisney.com held a contest earlier this year to create an attraction NOT based on an existing narrative, and it was hard but brilliant for that reason. It was an exercise in old-school imagineering, when their “blue sky” meetings were exactly that. It’s more difficult and requires more imagination (and more risk) creating attractions WITHOUT a preexisting narrative.

    To “M” – yes, I’ve noticed. It’s refreshing to hear someone besides myself call out how uninteresting and inappropriate the Mermaid building is in DCA. Could (should) have been a weenie. At least WDW is getting that.

    The Marvel franchise making it’s way into the parks, any of them, is exponentially worse than Cars land in DCA for the same reason. The world of Marvel is REAL world – our time. That’s the appeal – ordinary people doing extraordinary things, especially in todays world where so many of us feel financially impotent. That world is a gritty, urban landscape & happens to be an absolute thematic juxtaposition to a Disney park. It’s exactly what we want to escape. It does not fit anywhere, at all, not even in Tomorrowland. Marvel = today, not tomorrow. Also, Tomorrowland is about what technology could be, not what it would be like if humans had superpowers (and yes, I know Tony Stark could be the exception to that rule but his storyline takes place tomorrow, not today). Again, if I hear a rumor, operation occupy Disneyland will be underway.

  • mira

    I agree that Disney is too franchise-driven, but sometimes the attractions can transcend the franchise. Splash Mountain familiarizes park guests with The Song of the South, a movie otherwise forgotten. As the Haunted Mansion film recedes from the public consciousness, the ride continues to be popular. Both rides are imaginatively conceived and wonderfully low tech. But in the case of Cars land in DCA, it’s just too big and out of scale for the size of the park. It also looks ugly and obtrusive on the outside driving past it on South Harbor Blvd. Great article, great comments!

  • DisneyDuchess said “if I hear a rumor, operation occupy Disneyland will be underway.”

    Unless you are all AP holders, I am 100% certain that Disney would welcome this, as you would all be required to purchase admission :)

  • DisneyDuchess

    Hahaha! Very good point! :)

  • Anonymous

    This article is too wrong and overly-negative, as are the majority of the comments here.

    All these views are nothing more than subjective at best!

  • 3syllableTerd

    Hee hee and don’t believe the squeezable softness of the toilet tree either.

  • RO93461

    Of course, if you had the number one biggest selling toy franchise on Earth (which indicates audience appeal and long term demand for the characters), would you avoid building an environment based on it? No. That would be insane. The villain always confesses his crime to the hero before he tries to execute him, he cannot help it. Neither can Disney when your hand is that stacked. Carsland, while not being unexpected, is a logical content conclusion to a company like Disney. It’s the double stuff Oreo.

    My belief is that if you really want to build “the wow”, you have to look beyond most public corporations to do it. It’s about the vision and point of view of the CEO. Jobs drove Apple to have a POV. I know this to be true. The problem is that Disney is no longer about anything but feeding itself and what is missing is the sincerity that was at the heart of all endeavor. There is no vision beyond exploitation. Disney was one part parental and one part hope in addition to two parts business. It was perceived as a “people driven” company that was going to build what Walt thought was cool and to a degree what was good for you, not necessarily what would just be the biggest money maker. It had a personal point of view and we bought into that. EPCOT was first a dream, not a business. You can sense that.

    The discussion here and the pain is in the realization that there is no there there.

  • Chaddy

    ^^^
    Well said RO. In the end, all our gripes above, as multi-facted as they may be, come down to one “problem,” that when you think about it, isn’t really a problem as much as it is a fact of nature: The Walt Disney Co. of today is a business above all else with the primary mission of making profit by entertaining the public en masse. In my comment above I alledged that part of the problem is that those in charge of the company think the public at large is not as well-read and literate as generations past, and feel that to be succesful they must apeal to the lowest common denominator. That may seem harsh, but lets honestly face it, do you really think the current crop of head honchos, for all the good that they’ve done, would ever approve the creation of attractions like spaceship earth, or even the classic Submarine Voyage? No, it has to be Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage. Why? Because they (management and/ or WDI) honestly believes that THIS is what the public wants. Who knows. They may be right.

  • Chaddy

    Addendum to above ^^^

    I guess another way to put it is that the company’s leaders are afraid to spend the big bucks on attraction concepts that they are not sure the public will “get.” Better to spend money on things we know people already like, like Toy Story Mania, and The Little Mermaid Adventure. Or Carsland and Avatar. The Personal Vision that RO talked about above isn’t there like it was in the past. Atleast not at the top. Not right now anyway. Heres hoping the company soon finds a leader that has creative ambition and inspiration as much as he/she has business sense and courage.

  • For what it is worth, I agree with Chaddy…that Disney is first and foremost a business, and that they pretty much HAVE to cash in on their franchises. I have no issue with that. I am sure that Carsland, in and of itself, will be very well done, and will attract many guests. My issue is not the what, but the WHERE. Carsland in Hollywood Studios…absolutely! Carsland in World Showcase? Hell no! Same with DCA. The theme of DCA is supposed to be California. I suppose there was mention of California in Cars, that was where the final race was to be held…but Radiator Springs was NOT in California. So why does it belong in a California themed park? It doesn’t. Just like Cinderella Castle would not belong in Future World, and Spaceship Earth would not belong in Frontier Land.

  • [...] Round Up: December 27 | Mouse on the Mind on It’s. Still. There.HockeyPlayerX on The Carsland ConundrumChaddy on The Carsland ConundrumChaddy on The Carsland ConundrumMatt on The Carsland Conundrum [...]

  • While I don’t generally like to get in to criticizing a project before it has even broken ground, this venture (Avatar and DAK) still doesn’t make sense to me. In general, I thought Avatar, the movie, was a magnificent spectacle on the big screen and one of the few movies that actually lives up to the hype of being in 3D, and helps to make watching it more than once somewhat enjoyable. However, as good as the movie is visually, the characters are all rather flat and don’t really stand out.

    It’s way too early to say, but right now I just don’t see where this will be a great thing for DAK or Disney, hopefully I’m wrong. But, I do find it sad that they couldn’t come up with something on their own. I would be very surprised if there were not a dozen or more other ideas that had floated around WDI over the last 13 years that were at least as good as Avatar. It seems to me that Imagineering is at their best when they are creating all new stories and ideas rather than re-creating and re-telling others, just look at some of their hits, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mtn, Space Mtn, Test Track, Soarin, Expedition Everest and the list goes on. And, from what I have read, the original ideas for the fully imagined park had some great ideas too. Why they didn’t use any of these is somewhat baffling to me.

    However, I realize too that today’s theme park visitors are in some sense lazy and want a story they’re already familiar with, plus the fact that there are some movie properties that guests really enjoy and want to experience in real life. They want to be taken away to that place they saw on screen and feel the same experience they did when they first saw it. Animated movies seem to fit well within this model, in general. Outside of animated movies, epic adventures that take the participant to another reality like Star Wars and Harry Potter have proven to be two that fit this model, for now at least. But, I’m not sure Avatar is one of those (yet), or if it ever will be and how well it will lend to being built in a theme park setting. But, if anybody can transition this far off, fictional world into a theme park creation, I’m confident it’s Disney’s Imagineers and James Cameron, I just don’t know that it’s the best story upon which they could have worked with.

    Another thing I recognize here, seems to be a pattern that Bob Iger has followed. He seems to like forming these kinds of (mega) partnerships where there is another entity that has the “steam” or the current popularity with the public. In some way its like an investor who diversifies their portfolio, but it also tends to give the appearance of not believing in his own in-house talent to be able produce the same kind of product. That’s not to say I think it’s a necessarily bad decision, but it does make me question his ultimate motives. Is he just trying to fortify and expand the Disney universe and make it more versatile, or does he just not have any faith in his own teams’ ability to do what they’ve done for many many years?

  • Brian

    Michael, I wish I could formulate the right words… All I can say is, bravo. Too true. You’ve really put into words everything that I’ve been disjointedly thinking for quite a while, and you’re right.

  • [...] looks fun. And that just underscores what we’ve recently discussed – it’s a lengthy, detailed, elaborate, technically challenging and fun-looking [...]

  • Brian

    All I can say is, Michael you are brilliant. I’ve never read anyone write something so in-tune to my thoughts on this subject than you did here. THANK YOU for finally acknowledging the giant pink elephant in WDI/Disney’s living room.

  • [...] said, it’s an odd time to be a critic, with the company willing to spend once more but making dubious choices in the theming of these multi-million dollar expansions. Even more baffling is Walt Disney World, [...]

  • emilymolly

    cool i am happy about cars land

  • [...] feel custom designed and represent some level of investment. But as we’ve discussed with Carsland, just because a project is well-funded doesn’t mean that it’s well thought out. [...]

  • Zip-a-dee-doo-dah

    Somebody call the WHAAAmbulance.

    You people just don’t get it.

    Carsland was financed by the fact that it is a proven brand that is easily sold to the public. Without the attached brand, which despite being the weakest entry into the Pixar canon is still a vivid and creative work, we wouldn’t be getting a (decidedly spectacular looking) new addition to California Adventure.

    Disney Parks are, and have always been, made to make money. Making you feel like a kid again has always been a secondary goal behind cash money. So you can either take these exciting new expansions and enjoy them for what they are or you can whine about when life was so much better in the past.

    Your call.

  • DisneyDuchess

    I have to make a correction to my prior post. I had forgotten that Vasquez Rocks exists in California. This made me feel exponentially better about Cars Land being in a California themed park. While l generally have no desire to be in a desert or a car (or Radiator Springs), I am amazed at the sheer scale of this land and am looking forward to experiencing it. Whether or not I frequent the land has yet to be seen and depends totally upon the experience being fun and immersive independent of its narrative overlay, which as I have mentioned I couldn’t care less about.

    I still stand by my conviction that the greatest areas of Disneyland are the areas that do not have a narrative attached and allow you to create your own. That is also a very large part what makes Disneyland unique. My FAVORITE attractions, which is not to say I don’t enjoy others, are the rides that put me in an environment as myself to swashbuckle, explore a Haunted Mansion, ride a runaway train, zip through space, etc. That being said, Indiana Jones is one of my favorite attractions of all time, because it’s so incredibly immersive and while the world of the attraction came directly from a movie, the ride would still be amazing even if you had never seen it. The love of the attraction experience, not the movie franchise, is what keeps guests coming back for more.

    Has anyone else noticed that the fans in their late 30’s (me) or early 40’s tend to be more resistant to change as well as resistant to narrative overlay everywhere, whereas younger fans tend to embrace the narrative overlay, or at least are more tolerant of it? I think there are a few reasons behind this. Fans my age grew up with a very different Disneyland, and also grew up in an age where media was less accessible. In other words, we were looking around at the world more and looking at a screen watching a narrative that was made for us less, simply because it wasn’t in the palm of our hand the way it is now. (Btw I think that younger fans are just as intelligent & just as capable of using their imaginations – I am just suggesting a possible theory behind an apparent difference in temperament when it comes to creative decisions made by the Disney company).

    I think it is wonderful when fans with differing opinions have a respectful dialog. The above comment is not that. “You people” ? Seriously? I also find it hard to believe that while Walt was sitting on that park bench in Griffith Park “cash money” was foremost on his mind.

    “We believed in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun – together.”—Walt Disney

  • philphoggs

    Agreed DisneyDuchess. Money as only a means to an end can be a tough road. But that necessarily doesn’t mean it has never been the underlying motive. As only a matter of opinion, the investments, risk and rewards which have dotted the timelime seem to lean that way. I guess it’s all been said before but overpriced food, trinkets and accommodations is not what keeps me coming back anyway.

  • Rick

    I may have overlooked it already being mentioned, but I think Disney is pinning its hopes on Avatarland & Carsland because they are well-known projects internationally, and may draw in more foreign guests due to their simple narratives. I guess Avatarland could easily be rethemed as something animal-ish when it passes its shelf life. Carsland, not so sure… maybe reborn as a 21st Century Thunder Mesa?

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