Monday, August 13, 2018

Some Pet Peeves

As much as I love Disneyland, there are some things about it that just...bug me. They aren't travesties. They aren't even necessarily negatives, objectively speaking. They just bug me. This post is going to be somewhat rantya Disneyland Dilettantrum, if you willbut given the nature of most of the pet peeves, consider it a plea for additional creativity.

Monday, August 6, 2018

After-Action Report: So How Is It? (PotC Changes)

So it's happened. Pirates of the Caribbean, the Anaheim original, the bestest theme park ride ever made, has been altered. Forever.
I mean, it's not the first time or anything, but this renovation seems to have gotten people hotter under the collar than earlier ones. The 1997 revamp—the one that changed the post-auction scene so that the pirates were after food rather than...um...romance—garnered a lot of eye-rolling,* but I don't remember much in the way of sackcloth and ashes. Even the addition of all the movie franchise stuff in 2007 didn't have theme park fans tearing their hair out to quite the same extent. Was the original auction scene just that beloved? Did the fact that feminism (boogie boogie!) was involved get people's hackles up?
Regardless, what's done is done. And now that I've seen it, I can share some informed thoughts on the matter.
First, it must be noted that the redesign of the auction scene was not the only big change made to the ride. There were others...but they didn't involve feminism (boogie boogie!) and so attracted much less controversy. (Also one of them was uncontroversial to begin with because it's inarguably a net positive.)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Things You Can Do At Disneyland According to the Ads

Just a short, silly one this time. A full plate and hot, muggy weather have left me without much mental energy for producing one of my usual sterling* quality posts. This is an idea I've been rolling around in my head for a good while now, since it occurred to me that your basic Disneyland Resort ad spot is pretty twee and generic and doesn't really tell you much about what makes the place so great. This one from last year is pretty typical:


So what is there to do in the Disneyland Resort, according to this commercial? Here's my breakdown:
  • Spin around for no reason in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
  • Stare vacantly at the Castle.
  • Compare ears with Minnie Mouse.
  • Try on hats after you have already bought them.
  • Put the moves on your woman.
  • Slosh around in a Teacup.
  • Cross lightsabers with a remarkably polite Darth Vader.
  • Flail your arms while running toward the Astro Orbitor.
  • Grin like a loon while riding Dumbo.
  • Overreact to Newton's First Law of Motion.
  • Lose your freaking mind because you saw a performer play the role of Elsa.
  • Try to copy Captain America's pose even though he has a shield and you don't.
  • Peer at an underwater camera with a friend.
  • Hold hands with someone while lying in separate poolside lounges.
  • Take phone photos of your friends, who are drinking.
  • As a recent graduate, risk whiplash on the Silly Symphony Swings.
  • Gawk at World of Color.

Similarly toned commercials in other years have offered different activities, such as:
  • Be in the vicinity of a huge cluster of balloons.
  • Run up to a squatting Princess wearing the same dress as you.
  • Point excitedly at something off-camera while being carried on an adult's shoulders.
  • Stick your arms up on a ride. Any ride. As long as it's outdoors.
  • Hug Mickey Mouse**

It's a pity I can't seem to find these commercials on YouTube, because I can see these bullet points very clearly in my head. I'm pretty sure they've been re-shot with different actors over the years, while keeping that core of saccharine vagueness that defines the non-topical Disney Theme Parks commercial. (The topical ones—for specific holidays or new attractions or whatever—follow their own formats.)
I understand that there are good solid marketing reasons for making the commercials so generic, to say nothing of the good solid technical reasons for things like not using any clips of indoor attractions. But going into them would make this post long and dignified, and, well, re-read the first sentence. I've gotta say, though...it's no wonder that people who have never been there can't picture it with any accuracy. They're being teased with only the most nebulous of images.
What are some of your favorite Things to Do At Disneyland According to the Ads?


* Ha.
** Okay, this one's actually pretty cool.

Monday, July 23, 2018

After Action Report: Window Shopping

It’s certainly possible to experience Disneyland without walking down Main Street, USA, but a) it’s non-intuitive, b) it’s not recommended, and c) I hope you like trains. I doubt if one guest in a million even thinks to try it. I think we can safely say that within an acceptable margin of error, everyone who visits the Happiest Place on Earth gets to take a gander at one of its most unique features: the Main Street Emporium window displays.
In principle, the Emporium windows are as straightforward a case of synergy as you can get—scenes from Disney films converted into animated dioramas for cross-promotional purposes. In practice, it’s a rather odd choice—that’s a lot of effort to go to for what amounts to a film trailer. And why the Emporium rather than, I don’t know, a dedicated exhibit space? And why did they keep on doing it? And why do we, the guests, find these miniaturized movie moments so goshdarn compelling?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Armchair Imagineering: Four Concepts For Area Themes That Disney Should Absolutely Try

I've been getting more wildly speculative with my Armchair Imagineering posts lately. This is largely because I've had this blog for three-and-a-half years, with a pretty consistent weekly posting schedule, and I'm just plain running low on what you might call “standard” material. I've gotten all the Strong Opinions about rides past and present out of my system and I have to reach deeper into my imagination for topics.
The topic of this week's post is something I've touched on before but never devoted an entire post to: ideas for area themes that haven't been tried before, at least not by Disney. I don't have a proposal for a park to fit all these into, but for what they are, I hope you find them as intriguing as I do.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Off-Brand: Evermore

This week's post is a bit different. I'm not going to talk (much) about Disneyland. Or California Adventure. Or even Disney at all. I'm going...off-brand.
You see, there's something in the works up in Utah that could utterly transform theme parks as we know them. They're calling it Evermore (no relation, presumably, to the video game Secret of Evermore), and based on available information, it's not only unlike any theme park currently operating, at least in the U.S....it's unlike any theme park I ever expected to actually exist.
Evermore does not derive its appeal from the presence of popular mainstream media IP. Evermore makes its guests active participants in whatever stories it presents. Evermore is all about exploration and engagement, not passive absorption. Evermore has no rides...just beautiful scenery to walk through, and characters—not from movies or cartoons—to interact with. Seriously, just...watch the promotional video on the website, and skim through the pages. It's fairly mind-blowing that anyone decided to go ahead and do this.
It's like Legends of Frontierland...but an entire park...and all the time...and in a different genre. A genre much more dear to my heart, as it happens. Roleplaying as a citizen of an Old West town was immense fun, but the prospect of roleplaying as a citizen of a fantasy village is orders of magnitude more appealing on principle.
Also, its thematic emphasis will change with the seasons.
And there will be themed gardens.
And did I mention the Legends of Frontierland-like opportunities for character roleplaying?
This feels like something made especially for me. Or would, if it weren't two states away. But if it finds success, the concept will surely spread. Either we'll see more Evermore parks in more places, or other theme park entrepreneurs will take up the challenge, and that will change the entire landscape of the theme park industry.
This, in short, could be a real game-changer for the way theme parks are designed and operated. Obviously this type of experience won't suit everyone, but for those of us who enjoy it...it could very well surpass the more traditional type of parks that focus on rides and celebrity encounters.*
But how, you might be wondering, could such a place really compete with the big boys, especially in places where Disney, Universal, and Six Flags already hold territory? I can think of at least a couple of reasons:
  • It's different. Never underestimate the power of novelty. Curiosity alone will be enough to get plenty of people through the gates at least once, and some of them are bound to find the new thing to their liking.
  • Escapism is all the rage these days.** The push for “interactivity” in theme parks these days is in response to demand for more immersive adventures. (See also the increasing popularity of escape rooms.) The existing major players are actually at a disadvantage here—they have to square the circle of adding interactivity to what they already have, without violating their primary mission statement of making guests happy to accept whatever they want to flog them. Evermore and its hypothetical eventual imitators can simply provide that sort of environment from the get-go.
  • This sort of concept inherently rewards and incentivizes repeat business. While other parks worry about being good enough to get people to come back, Evermore can confidently inform them that coming back is what makes it good.
  • It might actually be less expensive. I don't have the facts and figures in front of me, but I'm willing to bet a huge chunk of a typical theme park's operating costs is tied up in the rides—R&D, construction, staffing, and maintenance. Simply by forgoing rides in favor of attractions with fewer moving parts, Evermore probably stands to save huge amounts of money...and can then pass those savings along to its guests.
So I think Evermore, and the Evermore model in general, has a fighting chance. And that can only be a good thing for theme parks in general. Not only will it diversify the landscape overall, but it will put a new source of pressure on existing theme parks to diversify their own offerings, maybe slowing down or even reversing the ever-increasing trend toward more elaborate thrill rides and more fashionable characters—Spacier Mountains and Mickier Mice, if you will.***
Disney? If you're listening, if your spybots are scanning this blog, pay close attention. If someone else beats you to this idea in Southern California, and if bullet #4 doesn't come to pass and it is expensive enough that I have to choose between you and it, then—and I cannot believe I am typing this—I might very well go with the LARP park. And I very much doubt that I am the only one. You, Disney, are the very best at what you do, but what you do is not necessarily the very best, if you follow.
With Evermore, someone might just have come up with something better.


* Because that, let's face it, is what a character meet-and-greet is.
** And who can blame us?
*** I'm sorry. Who am I kidding, no I'm not.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Armchair Imagineering: A California Adventure Worthy of the Name

Lastweek's post brought a momentary idle thought about an alternate version of California Adventure 1.0. It wasn't the sort of thing I could let slide, so this week, you get to see me develop it a bit further. I say “a bit” because, well, this is my first time designing a theme park almost completely from scratch. I'm keeping very little from the California Adventure we actually got; the area themes, attractions, and even layout are almost completely different. The upshot is that virtually none of the work has already been done for me and I've had to bash this out in time for the weekly deadline I have set myself.* So it's more of an outline than a fully detailed concept.
But enough excuses. Let's talk theme park!