On April 14, 2019, my 8th book “Penguinate! The
Disney Company” will be released on Amazon Kindle. (That’s just in time for my
birthday!) “Penguinate! The Disney Company” looks at aspects of the company
that Walt Disney would recognize. It includes thoughts on Disney Parks, Disney
creativity, and Disney movies, including “Frozen 2” plots Disney probably never
This wholly unauthorized look at the Disney Company is designed to help you think deeply and share your thoughts. The more you practice deep thinking, the more creative you’ll become. Preorder the Kindle version today at Amazon, or preorder the paperback here.
The Table of Contents:
Acknowledgements iv About This Book 1 The Disney Family 3 Walt Disney’s Road to Creativity 4 Diane Disney Miller, Grandma and Disneyland 6 The Disney Parks 8 Standing in Line Is Part of the Appeal 9 FASTPASS Is too Fast 10 FASTPASS, Reservations and Time 11 Why the Characters at the Parks Matter 12 Disney Parks Don’t Need New Rides to Increase Attendance 14 How Disney Can Save Itself and the World 16 The Disneyland Resort 19 The Birth of Disneyland 20 The Submarine Voyage (1959 to 1998) 22 Star Wars Land Vs. Tomorrowland 23 Put the ‘Tomorrow’ Back in Tomorrowland 26 Investing in Parks Is the Best Way to Deal with Crowds 28 Mickey Mouse Foods and Happiness 30 Disney California Adventure Is still No Disneyland 31 World of Color – Winter Dreams 2013 33 Eulogy for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 34 Walt Disney World 35 Reflections on the College Program 2012 36 Why Would Walt Want to Build a City? A panel with Paul Anderson at Salt Lake Comic Con 2013 38 Walt Disney World’s Internal Communication 40 Walt Disney World’s External Communication 41 Walt Disney World and Change 42 Why MyMagic+ is Genius 43 Crew Spaceship Earth with Aaron Wallace and the Rest of Humanity 45 Critique of Epcot Misses Context 47 The American Idol Experience Will Suck You in like the TV Show 49 Disneyland Paris 51 Disneyland Paris 2015 Is Like Disneyland 2000 52 La Taniere du Dragon: Magic at Disneyland Paris 54 Disney’s Synergy 55 Disney Does the Dumb: No Longer Going to Infinity and Beyond 56 Disney/Fox Merger Sounds Death Knell for Small-Time Writers and Creatives 58 Did Disney Cut the Cord? 60 ‘Agent Carter’ sets stage for Captain America vs. Batman and Superman 62 Let’s Get Dangerous: Disney Dominates Movies and Music 64 Why Fox’s Fantastic Four Flop Is Good News for Disney 65 Disney Jumps to Light Speed with Creative Properties 66 ESPN Fishes for Its ‘Little Mermaid’ 68 The Disney Princess Stories 72 The Saving of Snow White: Rethinking Criticisms of Disney Films 73 Dying Ugly: The Misguided Actions of the Evil Queen 75 Cinderella’s Choice: Rethinking Criticisms of Disney Films 76 ‘Frozen’ 78 ‘Frozen’ Warms the Heart 79 Hans: Clever Schemer, Opportunist, or Love Corrupted by Power 81 Scarcity Fuels ‘Frozen’s’ Fire 83 Possible ‘Frozen 2’ Plots 85 ‘You Can’t Top Pigs with Pigs’: ‘Frozen 2’ on Thin Ice 89 ‘Frozen’ vs. the Super Bowl 92 ‘Frozen Fever’ opens for ‘Cinderella’: What’s at Stake? 94 The Rise of Olaf and Baymax 96 Disneyland’s Frozen Paradise 2015 97 How Disney Changed the Princess Story for Success in the Modern Age 100 ‘Maleficent’: Visually Stunning, Epic Fantasy 111 ‘Frozen’ and ‘Maleficent’ Create Instant Cliché 113 Evil Isn’t Complicated; It’s Easy 115 Maleficent Changes Her Character 117 ‘Maleficent,’ Misogyny and Metaphor: Disney Hits a Cultural Nerve 118 An Alternate Ending for ‘Maleficent’? 119 Other Disney Films 121 ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Explores Ways to Fix It 122 Why Maui is the bad guy in ‘Moana’ 124 Disney Stuck in a Rut: Sequels Rule the Box Office 126 Keep Moving Forward with ‘Tomorrowland’ 128 ‘Tomorrowland’ Brings to Screen What Theme Park Lacks 129 Society Needs Its Dreamers 131 What Kid’s See in Disney Films May Not Be What Adults See 133 Disney Products 135 Disney Products: D23Expo 2017 Explores Past and Future 136 Appendix 1: Other Disney Books to Consider 139 Appendix 2: Disney Vocabulary 141 About the Author 143
The Walt Disney Company has been considered powerhouse in creative endeavors. With its innovations in animation, movies and theme parks, people associate the Disney brand with creativity. So, aside from my two books, “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” what are the best books about Disney and its creative process? Here are my Top 8:
“Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” – Don Hahn
gives readers practical advice for getting more creativity from life. He uses
his life experience and his work at Disney to provide some of the best insights
and most fun stories for creativity.
“The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity” –
The imagineers explore creativity principles and provide examples on how to add
more creativity to your everyday life! Use it in conjunction with “The
Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles” and get your
creative muscles in shape.
“The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative
Muscles” – The imagineers give you some exercise to improve your creative
output in this companion book to “The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your
“One Little Spark! Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to
Imagineering” – Marty Sklar leads us on an exploration of the rules that
imagineers follow to come up with and implement their ideas. Go inside the idea
process with the experts at the Walt Disney company.
“Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” – The section on Steve Jobs makes this book about Pixar and creativity worth the read. Ed Catmull does an outstanding job with this story of the Pixar Studios. Read my review at our archive website http://www.penguinate.weebly.com.
“Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” – Marty Sklar was a prominent imagineer who got his start writing for Disneyland before the park opened. “Dream It! Do It!” is Sklar’s autobiography as it relates to his work with the Walt Disney Company. Check out the review at our archive website http://www.penguinate.weebly.com.
“How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day
of Your Life” – Pat Williams takes an honest and positive look at Walt Disney’s
life. Williams pulls out creativity principles using Walt’s biography as the
basis for illustrating those principles.
“Walt Disney: An American Original” – Biographies are a great way to get inspired and to dig into what made someone creative. Bob Thomas’ seminal work on Walt Disney was released not long after Disney’s death. It is one of the most accurate portrayals of Walt’s life and how he accomplished what he did. Start here before looking at the more modern biography by Neal Gabler.
Tell us which book on Disney and creativity is your favorite!
In 2010, the Walt Disney Company released “Alice in Wonderland” starring Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowski, Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, and Stephen Fry. With an estimated budget of $200 million, Alice went on to make over $1 billion worldwide. It was a hit that many attributed to Depp’s lovable Mad Hatter and the newness of the 3D technology.
Six years later, Disney released “Alice through the Looking Glass” as a sequel focusing on Depp’s Hatter and his family. With an estimated $170 million budget and the addition of Sacha Baron Cohen, the film flopped, making less than $300 million worldwide. Whether this was due to the allegations leveled at Depp by Amanda Heard the week of the film’s opening, Depp’s inability to be a main character when playing an eccentric (see “Mortdecai” and possibly “The Lone Ranger,” which was more about Depp’s Tonto than Armie Hammer’s titular character), or the mundanity of 3D technology that was novel when the first film released, the six years between the two films, or the meandering story line of the film itself, “Through the Looking Glass” couldn’t hold a candle to the original.
Now, in a “hold my (non-alcoholic) beer” moment, Disney’s going to commit the same mistake with four films and a theme park at stake. “Avatar” was released the winter of 2009 and became the biggest grossing movie of all time with $2.8 billion worldwide. (As of this writing, “Avengers: Endgame” may or may not take the top spot.) Disney collaborated with Cameron and added an Avatar-themed land to its Animal Kingdom. It has purchased 20th Century Fox and now owns the rights to the Avatar intellectual properties.
In 2009, 3D was a true novelty, and “Avatar” capitalized on
the effect with its beautiful scenery and amazing alien landscape. The movie
faced scant competition from “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Blind Side”
its first weekend. The next weekend, it faced Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock
Holmes”, and after that it dominated the film competition until February’s “Dear
John.” The story itself is a retelling of the story of Native Americans if they
had actually decided to destroy the explorers that came to the New World. It’s
not exceptionally original with its quasi-back to nature message and its ignoring
of real history.
“Avatar 2” is scheduled to be released in 2021, 12 years
after the first film. While “Avatar” made a lot of money, it’s not a beloved
film. Its main appeal was in the new world’s Cameron was able to bring to life.
The story was trite and untrue. “Avatar 2” won’t be able to capitalize on a pent-up
desire for its characters or world (like Star Wars), and it won’t be able to
rely on a stable of characters people have to come to love (like Marvel).
Instead, it’s a risk with almost no reward. Even if “Avatar 2” scores a billion
dollars, it will be a comparative flop. If it does less than that, it could
sink the three sequels that are to come after it and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Whether or not these films are successful will depend on
what Disney expects from them. If the company is okay with decaying box office
totals in the hundreds of millions with the understanding that the films are
keeping its Animal Kingdom in the public eye, maybe box office won’t matter so
much. But an outright flop of the first sequel will create shockwaves that will
reverberate throughout the company without being limited to the movie division.
The official merger of Disney and Fox has sounded the death
knell for creativity. While scooping up Fox’s assets is the right business
decision for Disney, it is one that writers, movie makers, ad executives and
other creatives should fear.
With Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Fox, and its own studio, Disney will own an estimated 40% of the box office. The merger allows Disney to exercise economies of scale and negotiating power not seen this side of Wal-Mart.
Writers already face enormous competition to get their
stories read. Every indie writer out there who wants to see their stories on
the big screen has just had their chances reduced by one major player. Making a
living as a writer is difficult enough without having Fox’s ability to seek out
new storylines withdrawn from the market.
Looking at Disney’s upcoming movie slate, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King are remakes of animated films. Dumbo will have to lose the crows. Will Smith will have to do his own genie thing because it would be ridiculous to copy Robin Williams. Other than that, these three films look to be Xerox photo copies of their animated counterparts. We’ve already seen them and we’re going to see them again.
The sequels list is longer. With Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home (though not as far as you might think), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX on the slate, there is hardly any room for an original idea. While sequels can bring something new to franchise, they don’t require as much risk taking or creativity to make.
Which leaves Disney with Artemis Fowl and with DisneyNature’s Penguins as its only non-sequel, non-remake movies coming out in 2019. With 11 films left on the slate, Disney has one new story that will probably flop and a documentary to offer. Take a moment to ponder that.
Even if Disney remains true to form and let’s Fox operate
the way Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm have, Fox was depending on its Avatar
sequels and X-Men films to keep it in the black. Films Disney was already on
Creativity will have to come from film makers with smaller
budgets who, despite lacking marketing savvy and budgets for said marketing,
have a film hit big. Like writers, these smaller film makers will have to find
a way to cut through the noise of modern media and its giants to harness the
power of going viral, and they’re going to need you to help. It’s going to be
an uphill battle for creative people to get out there, but it always has been.
(Full disclosure: I own Disney Stock ad will go see all the Disney/Marvel/Pixar
branded movies they make.)
The second gate at the Disneyland Resort continues to
perform poorly and disappoint guests. With three-day, single park passes
costing around $100 per day, it makes sense for most guests to skip Disney California
Adventure (DCA) altogether – especially if they are on a budget.
While there are several problems with DCA, the most glaring is the problem of theming, and the problem is easily illustrated with one photo. Taking the photo from Grizzly Peak Airfield toward the Carthay Circle Theater, the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout towers in the background and creates a dissonant sight line that doesn’t make sense in the theme park context.
Walt Disney thought that controlling sightlines was
important enough that he built a berm and planted trees on top of it to keep
people from seeing what was outside the park. The Walt Disney Company has repeatedly
lobbied the Anaheim City Council to keep other hotels from rising above certain
heights, so that they can’t see in and they can’t be seen from the park. The
Jolly Holiday Café was built with two styles of roofs – one to fit the
aesthetic of Main Street, U.S.A. and one to fit the theming of Adventureland.
Disneyland and its progeny have all been about theming when
they work. The current regime seems to have forgotten its company history and
the innovations that it brought to amusement parks. Theming is Disney’s strongest
characteristic. They use it to keep stories cohesive, and they should be using
it to keep the stories of their parks understandable.
With Pixar all over DCA and not just on the pier and the
Little Mermaid’s huge fin- or footprint (depending on the part of the story you’d
like to reference) on the opposite side of the pier, Disney California Adventure
has a theme problem. Its name no longer matches its content, and it’s been caught
in a no man’s land of California references that don’t fit in the Cars landscape,
the impending arrival of Tony Stark’s Marvel land, which will likely
incorporate the now poorly placed Guardians of the Galaxy attraction at least
in name and zone, or many of its other attractions.
It’s time for the Disney Company to let it go and speed up
the retheming of the park, which will necessarily include getting rid of Buena
Vista Street and Hollywoodland, which is currently the default play place for Marvel
superheroes, Monsters, Inc, and Mickey’s Philharmagic – none of which actually
represent the heyday of Hollywood and together they present a dissonance that
does the park more harm than good.
Even with a 90-minute wait at Radiator Springs Racers and
not using any FASTPASSes, my wife and finished the park between the hours of 9
am and 6 pm. We didn’t ride the Incredicoaster (She doesn’t like loops) or
Goofy’s Sky School. We also skipped all of the rides, we could find almost
everywhere else – Ferris wheel, giant swings, the Zephyr…
Our 6 pm departure was facilitated by the lack of good,
moderately priced food choices in the park. Corn dogs, hot dogs, and hamburgers
get old. The Pacific Wharf Café and the nearby Mexican and Chinese restaurants
weren’t appealing, and the pasta at the end of the pier just hasn’t ever been
You can still find spectacular shows like “Frozen” and “the
World of Color.” When you’re not on a budget and you’ve made reservations, the
Carthay Circle and Wine Country Trattoria are still two of the best restaurants
in the parks. For those of us that are on a budget, Disney California Adventure
isn’t worth the price of admission. I keep hoping, but it looks like it’ll be
another two decades before the park finds its footing – if it ever does.
As a Penguinator, does it make sense to be critical of
Disney California Adventure (DCA)? No one at the Disney Company is likely to
read this post and think, “Oh, yeah, we did forget that,” or “Schnikey! We need
to fix that ASAP,” especially if I were to leave this post private and for
Penguinators only instead of giving you an advanced viewing opportunity. I
don’t have any Disney employees on my Patreon list that I’m aware of, and I’m
decently certain there aren’t any that visit my blog. Even if there were, the
company is notorious for not accepting unsolicited ideas from outside.
Besides, anything I say has already been said by someone else and probably thought of by the imagineers. Still, as a mental exercise to improve creativity, looking at DCA provides the opportunity to unleash the judge, find what’s wrong with the current park, and figure out how to make it better. Imagineers can talk about the idea of Blue Sky thinking where everything goes and there are no rules, but in the end, they are constrained by the park’s current footprint and the bean counter’s budget, which would include the opportunity cost of any major renovation that would significantly change the park. We have no similar constraints if we choose to offer up possible solutions to the DCA problem. We can truly engage in Blue Sky thinking without reference to financial consequences, thinking only about what’s wrong with DCA and what would make the park better.
Where’s the Theme, Park?
Disneyland changed the amusement park industry by, among
other things, theming itself and its lands. Walt Disney established early on
that spacemen and cars don’t go into Frontierland, and the cowboys stay out of
Tomorrowland. The sightlines were created so that people viewing a building on
Main Street, U.S.A. would see a different roof than they would see when viewing
the same building from Adventureland.
The berm with its train and trees was devised to keep the
rest of the world from interfering with the guests’ ability to suspend
disbelief. When coupled with the negotiated rules that Anaheim passed for
buildings outside the park, guest don’t see anything that Disney doesn’t want
them to see (beyond the occasional plane or helicopter flying overhead). Even
with Tomorrowland’s current shortcomings (there are plenty of them) and the
addition of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, Disneyland is all about theming – right
down to the dolls making the popcorn in the popcorn carts.
As ill-conceived as it may have been to put a theme park
about California in California when a majority of Disneyland visitors are from
California, DCA was themed appropriately when it opened. The Sunshine Plaza was
upbeat and California themed through and through. Hollywood Backlot Studios had
the glamour of the 1930s. Golden State celebrated the architecture of the Bay
Area, and Paradise Pier took its cue from the Beach and Boardwalk parks. Condor
Flats took on California’s aviation history, and Grizzly River Peak with the
neighboring Redwood Trail were a tribute to California’s north. The park may
not have been good when it opened, but it was themed.
Unfortunately, the theme wasn’t the right one, and the
Disney Company had to come up with ways to get people to spend their money to
go over to their second gate. Bug’s Land was added to appeal to youngsters. Not
really California themed, but it didn’t intrude on the rest of the park, and
there were bug’s in California. “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” was built in
the backlot; the perfect place for it. As a hotel from Hollywood’s glamor days
of the late 1930’s, the Tower of Terror fit in with the rest of the theme.
When “Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue” opened
in 2006, it signaled the beginning of the end for DCA’s theming. Placed in
Hollywood in the same area as the defunct Superstar Limo ride that lasted less
than a year; Mike and Sulley weren’t (and still aren’t) Hollywood themed. Still
the monsters occupy a prominent place in Hollywoodland as one of the two rides
in the area – the other one being the Tower of Terror.
In 2008, Paradise Pier saw the opening of the beloved Toy
Story Midway Mania. Set within the games of the pier, Midway Mania could be
forgiven its intrusion; even if its story, guests being shrunk down to the size
of toys so they could play the game, didn’t fit with the theme, the game
element of the attraction worked. With Mr. Potato Head playing the Midway Mania
Barker, the Toy Story characters didn’t do much to detract from the theme
though no self-respecting boardwalk would have such a sophisticated game during
the time that Paradise Pier was supposed to reflect. (And let’s face it, Midway
Mania is one of the best attractions in either park.)
Other rides on Paradise Pier were rethemed over the next
three years to include Disney characters. Mickey’s Fun Wheel received a new
paint job and a giant Mickey Head. The Orange Stinger became the Silly
Symphonies Swings and Mullholland Madness became Goofy’s Sky School. Within the
singular concept of the ride, the retheming of the last two was brilliant. The
Silly Symphony Swingers opens up to reveal a painting of Mickey Mouse
conducting the band from “the Band Concert,” which isn’t from the Silly
Symphony series (highlighting the theming problem again). Still, the use of the
whirlwind cartoon on the swings support pole is a great idea. Goofy’s Sky
School is just “plane” fun. The problem is that none of the changes align with
the area’s theming at the time, and these rides are exactly that – rides – not
attractions. These are off-the-shelf, experience-them-at-your-local-carnival
While hyped tremendously as a new attraction for the park, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure quickly became DCA’s version of Snow White’s Scary Adventure. At seemingly twice the size and half the fun, this show-stopping, audio-animatronic disappointingly doesn’t carry the story far enough or strongly enough. Still, it’s routinely 5-minute wait time makes it a nice place to take a break from the heat, and it features some interesting advances – the descent into the sea and the Ursula figure. It’s still in the wrong place. The Little Mermaid has nothing to do with California or Paradise Pier.
In 2012, DCA attempted to keep with the California theming
and connect to its mythical beginnings. Missing a golden opportunity to
capitalize on its largest changes, the park turned the Sunshine Plaza into
Buena Vista Street of 1923, the time when Walt Disney arrived in California
with a suitcase and a dream. The Carthay Circle Theater was opened and fit in with
the Tower of Terror in the background, but Cars Land with its decidedly Arizona
feel debuted at the same time. Arizona isn’t California. How is Cars Land a
part of the California Adventure? It’s not, thematically speaking.
In 2016, the popular Soarin’ Over California was replace
with Soarin’ Around the World. California is not the world, and the world is
not California. In 2017, the Guardians of the Galaxy took over the Twilight
Zone Tower of Terror and, in one fell swoop destroyed the themes of Hollywoodland,
Grizzly Peak Airfield and Buena Vista Street. These are both popular and fun
attractions, but popular and fun aren’t a theme, and the original versions were
just as popular and fun.
In 2018, Paradise Pier became Pixar Pier. Pixar isn’t a
theme. It’s a collection of (if the Internet is to believed) vaguely related
films with different settings. Even if Pixar properties were relegated to Pixar
Pier, the them wouldn’t work. Mixing the superheroes of “The Incredibles,” the
shrinking you down to toy size of Midway Mania and Jessie’s Critter Carousel,
and the Inside/Out characters of the mind isn’t a theme; it’s a cacophony. Add
to it that Mickey’s Fun Wheel and Flik’s Flyers just received paint jobs, with
no significant changes otherwise, to go along with the Pixar theme and it looks
like Disney has just decided to throw in the towel. They probably could’ve left
Flik’s Flyers alone since it was a Pixar film and the theming would’ve worked
with Midway Mania, but “A Bug’s Life” has other problems when it comes to theme
Leftovers from Paradise Pier, the Golden Zephyr and Jumpin’
Jellyfish make no sense in terms of theming. They aren’t related to Pixar or
Disney characters and only represent the former California Beachside aesthetic.
With all of the incohesive changes, Disney California Adventure doesn’t really
celebrate Disney or California. Instead, it focuses on providing Pixar a place
to put its movie franchises. Things won’t be much better when Marvel joins the
scene with its own land. Marvel Land will be able to adopt Guardians of the
Galaxy, but this will leave the Red Car Trolley out in the cold and gut the
main attractions of Hollywoodland – the Marvel Meet and Greets.
This mishmash of rides and attractions keeps DCA from
achieving greatness through theming. Instead it’s a great example of what
Disneyland never wanted to be – an amusement park (except DCA is clean and the
cast members are friendly).
Why Bug’s Land Had to Change
While the new Marvel Land may not fix DCA’s theming, it does
address another relatively small problem: the relevancy of A Bug’s Land. Based
on the 1998 Pixar film “a bug’s life,” the land opened in 2002. The land itself
was made to be attractive to the younger set, except the 4D film experience “It’s
Tough to Be a Bug,’ which was terrifying for some adults. It’s environmental
and educational feel was a welcome respite from some of the larger areas of the
park, but there was no way these bugs could survive.
The film itself was not one of Pixar’s best. It earned $363
million at the box office, but without a sequel, TV shows, or a cuddly, iconic
character, the film has no relevance to today’s children. How many people even
remember the film without confusing it for “Antz”? Disney’s classic animation
fare has been able to remain relevant through marketing (specifically, the creation
of the Princess line, which keeps all of the princesses in the public light as long
as new princesses are added every couple of years or so) rereleases and remakes.
These movies hold up even through the changing times, and the theming of the
lands act as a crutch.
Attractions at Disneyland also remain relevant through the
sheer size and scope. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash
Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are iconic, beloved attractions
that create their own atmosphere and fans. Flik’s Flyers? Tuck and Roll’s Drive
‘Em Buggies (which were not bumper cars)? Francis Ladybug Boogie… Does anyone
even remember this ride? These were all rides with no real creation to them and
without a Dumbo to keep them aloft. Only Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train seemed to
make an effort to provide something akin to a new place to visit.
With nothing new on the bug front, DCA needed to come up with something new. Marvel provided the answer. As long as they stay away from the now deceased Iron Man, the land will remain relevant for the next few decades.
World of Color’s and Incredicoaster’s Footprints
The World of Color, which debuted in 2013, is arguably the
best show in DCA. The fountains are spectacular, the water screens are amazing,
the pyrotechnics are amazing, and the show is flexible enough to be changed
almost on the fly to advertise new movies subtly and include new animated
sequences. One Christmas show featured the magic of snowflakes a foot in
diameter that floated up into the sky. Even the dining options and the viewing
areas that go with them are incredible.
The investment in the equipment that Disney made and the
popularity of the show make changing the venue area around the show basically
impossible. Imagineers are constrained by the World of Color’s space needs.
Just as constraining is the space required for a lesser
attraction, the now-called Incredicoaster. Wait times for this attraction hover
around 25 minutes, but it is still large enough and technically advanced to
warrant protection by the bean counters. It’s change over from California
Screamin’ is also an advance in storytelling, especially when it comes to
By Any Other Name
When it first opened, the park was called Disney’s California Adventure. Ironically, it didn’t include Buena Vista street, but was more the company’s interpretation of what California was. Wine country, the Bay Area, the Redwoods, these were all represented. Yes, critics wondered why people would want to see the Disney version of the Golden Gate Bridge when it was just a seven-hour drive up north or a 2-hour flight. Still, that’s what Michael Eisner and his team came up with.
It changed its name to Disney California Adventure in 2010. Linguistically,
this could mean that this park is an adventure in California Disney-style. Something
along the lines of “have yourself a Disney California Adventure.” It doesn’t
have to have the California theming in order to work, except it’s already
associated with its first incarnation, and the California parts haven’t been
drummed out of it. Choosing another name might work better as far as managing expectations,
but it doesn’t change the fact that the park has no cohesive theming.
People come to Disneyland and its related theme parks for the cleanliness, the wonderful cast members and the theming. In its effort to cash in on its acquired IP, the Disney Company has forgotten about the theming at least as far as Disney California Adventure is concerned. Maybe they’ll get it fixed sometime in the future, but for now DCA will suffer from its continued lack of relevance and inability to inspire people to come for more than a day.
It’s our turn for Blue Sky thinking! What could Disney do to
make California Adventure better?
The Pirates of the Caribbean auction scene, as presented in
2018, shows Scarlett going head-to-head with the Auctioneer in a sales pitch of
sorts. The Auctioneer is trying to sell off Tiny’s egg-laying hens while
Scarlett is trying to sell her rum. The pirates who are bidding want nothing to
do with the egg-layers, but the Auctioneer refuses to give way and allow
Scarlett to auction off the rum. This scene replaces the infamous “Take a Wench
for a Bride” scene where the Auctioneer was attempting to auction off the
overweight Tiny while Scarlett showed off her gams and the men in the audience
shouted, “We wants the red-head,” as well as other more derogatory comments
directed at Tiny.
This isn’t the first change that Pirates of the Caribbean
has gone through. In 1997, the pirates stopped chasing women and started
chasing food. Captain Jack Sparrow and his friends were added to the attraction
in 2006 and beyond.
Those who deride the change in the auction scene as pandering to the political correctness miss the point of Disneyland entirely. Walt Disney, a man who had his fingers on the pulse of American culture for three decades, said that as long as there was imagination left in the world, Disneyland would never be completed. The same holds true for its attractions.
Walt Disney’s first goal was to entertain and make people
happy. Pirates of the Caribbean was never about historical accuracy, or even,
edutainment. Instead, it was about helping people be happier and allowing them
to explore an extremely sanitized version of an historic population – pirates.
Those who wish to teach their children about the realities
of pirating and a pirate’s life can use the Pirates of the Caribbean as a
starting point. They can address the inaccuracy of pirates as depicted in
movies and other forms of entertainment and how media affects the way people
view those that came before. Pirates and their lives weren’t clean, friendly or
fighting for justice. As the song says, they pillaged and plundered and rifled
and looted; they kidnapped and ravaged and never gave a hoot about it. So, for those who choose to go that route
with their children, “properly warned ye be, says I, arrrr.”
Before shouting for the red-head, check out the new version and see if it fits the story line better. There is no slippery slope here. It’s just a chance to keep the ride fresh and accommodate the changes in American society and culture. Keep your ruddy hands inboard and embrace the magic of the new version. (And if you’re still concerned about the sanitized version of the pirates ride, do some research to see what Walt said about scalps in front of the Indian Village in Frontierland.)