Everyone – especially any of you bunkered down in Burbank or Glendale – should read the latest at Passport to Dreams Old and New about how alterations to Walt Disney World have stripped it off some of its unique feeling. More often than not, these alterations are caused by sloppiness, and a general lack of understanding by California-based folks who don’t heed the small but important nuances that separate Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.
We’ve all suffered from the “One Disney”, “DisneyParks” campaign that has not resulted in a rising tide of greater quality throughout the worldwide resorts but instead a wave of homogenization that has attempted to fit square pegs in round holes. As Foxx points out, this is because too often decisions that greatly affect Walt Disney World are made by parties in California to whom Disneyland is the living end of themed entertainment and Walt Disney World is an afterthought.
It’s fine that this is where their interests lie; I certainly don’t begrudge Messrs. Lasseter and Baxter their Disneyland love, because it’s what they grew up with. I don’t expect them to share my EPCOT fixation. But if people are going to be calling the shots on decisions that impact the unique culture of Walt Disney World in particular, it needs to be people who are well-versed stakeholders in that culture. That was easy back in the day, when WED was small and the same group of Imagineers who made Disneyland moved on, as a group, to create the Magic Kingdom. Everyone was on the same page because they had shared that experience – they had that knowledge “in their head” because they had made those design decisions. Nowadays, though, if you haven’t studied the history and know the unique differences between, say, the two Haunted Mansions, you can’t make effective decisions on their presentation.
This is a problem that has come to the fore in recent years, as time passes and we have developed two distinct subsets of fans – those who grew up on Disneyland and those who grew up on Walt Disney World. A lot of the company is operated by west-coasters, and it’s easy to tell. We’ve spoken at length about how even fan-centered divisions like D23 have an obvious west-coast bias, and it has colored both the selection of and content for their historical events.
I think it’s time that the Florida branch of Imagineering come into its own, with the power to initiate its own major projects and to call the shots on these critical details. We need people who first and foremost understand Walt Disney World calling the shots, and less of these missives from California mandating everything from design decisions to spiels. Obviously the power within Disney will continue to come from California, and the center of Imagineering will remain in Glendale. But there needs to be a team in Orlando with both the manpower and agency to be able to veto these incongruous “drops” from Disneyland and to retain the unique voice of Walt Disney World.