Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why Be Afraid of Originals?

After a sudden turn of events, I was able to see World of Color in person (from the blue section, which means a giant speaker pole is in the middle of the action at all times) so that I would be able to complain about it with all two of my readers with full impunity.

My opinion of the show did not really change much after a live viewing. I like World of Color, but it's telling that if I told you about my favorite parts I would only be able to point out the cool effects that stuck out, such as this sequence that suggested diving under the sea or another one in which the water collapses on itself and leaves a figment of color hanging in the air, which is beautifully choreographed. I can't really say that I was jonesing another dose of classic Disney film sequences on mist screens though. Fantasmic! has that covered and over-reliance on the technique can make you want to pull your hair out.

I found the extended mist screen film clips mostly distracting because at its core World of Color is essentially a character hunt. It's an opportunity to point and then demonstrate your ability to remember what you've seen at home on DVD. The basic premise goes like this.
1. Pick a bunch of random Disney movies.
2. Mash them all up.
3. ?
4. Profit.
World of Color takes this concept and runs for ze hills. People are already reciting along with the show, despite the fact that the thing has only been playing to the masses for two days. We expect this on the Haunted Mansion, but a brand new show? A group next to me was even reciting the whole exchange between Buzz and Woody about whether or not Buzz could fly, which is straight out of the first Toy Story movie. We all know this material and we've seen it a million times. I'm sure it took a little longer for some guests to realize that memorizing and reciting, "Is this haunted room actually stretching?" would delight fellow parkgoers, because Lord knows the Waltons from Nebraska spent good money to hear Ashley from Anaheim play the role formally belonging to Paul Frees.

There's nothing inherently wrong with character-driven or movie-based attractions and shows. People clearly go to Disney theme parks to see their favorite characters and movies come to life. Believe it or not, I like to do that as well. Indiana Jones and Star Tours are two film-based synergistic attractions that are among my favorites.

What we tend to forget is that people also go to Disney theme parks for the originals. Sure, Walt Disney may have named his castle to promote an upcoming film, thus inventing synergy and making hypocrites out of all Disneyland purists, but the major focus in those years was on original concepts and ideas. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World and others all took Disneyland to amazing heights. Imagineers carried on the tradition long after Disney's death, walking a fine line between original and character-driven attractions. At some point an emphasis was placed on more of the latter and less on the former.

Why is there a fear of originals among the powers that be at Disney, especially at the park that started it all? Are they afraid that original attractions won't attract enough visitors to make such an investment worthwhile? Are original attractions too risky? Do character-driven attractions represent fail-safe investments so that even if the underlying attraction is poor, people will still enjoy seeing their favorite characters?

Expedition Everest, a rare specimen, proves that originals remain in demand, even if the Yeti doesn't work. Though California Adventure was lambasted for its poor theme and lackluster atmosphere, its standout attraction was in fact an original, though flawed, attraction called Soarin' Over California. Perhaps the initial failure of DCA led to the mistaken belief that originals are not what guests want to wait in line two hours for.

Whatever is actually going on here, I hope that originals make a strong comeback. They came back in a big way at Tokyo DisneySea, which represents a good balance between characters and originals. Closer to home, Tomorrowland, with its numerous areas in dire need of attention, presents a perfect opportunity to make right those mistakes made over a decade ago. So, too, does the mythical Anaheim third gate, currently a small piece of land that could someday make a big impact.

Photo credit:  
Lion king in mickey-shaped bubbles - dreamagicjp


Patrick said...

I agree with you that this thing could have been better. I really enjoyed the show, and honestly, it's cheeseball, but the clips and such that they chose were for the most part my favorite parts of their respective movies. The whole Buzz meeting Woody thing, the Genie being all Robin Williams on speed-like... Even the choice of music from the last scene of Pocahontas is my favorite part of that movie's soundtrack.

But when you get down to it, it was a clips show on water. Not as bad as the Florida Fantasia Light show's bubble sequence, but not as good as the Fantasia Light Show in Disneyland.

The fact that it was a bunch of clips isn't necessarily bad, but they could have saved a lot of heartache and stress if they were to break the show down into 10 minute bites and staged it 15 times a night instead of a 30 minute show 3 times a night. That way more people could see the thing in the viewing area they built. I'm sure there would be a lot of pimply faced sweat hogs that would park their ample asses down at the rail and watch the show all night, but for the most part people would watch one or two "segments" and then leave. 15 minutes in between shows would be enough turnover to allow this.

Seriously though, without a story there are parts of the show that just drag and are there for no reason. Heimlich and the "Up" segment come to mind. The cheeseball "So Close" segment doesn't pack the emotional punch that I think the creators hoped due to lack of connection with the audience.

Anyways, this was a rather long diatribe for me to post on some anonymous blog. I just hope that your other reader appreciates it.

Ron Schneider said...

Boy, have you hit nerve with me!

Why do most Disney stage shows have to tell us the same story we've already seen and paid for? Jungle Book was brilliantly portrayed in the movie, why spend $100,000 to recreate it poorly at DAK?

The characters of Finding Nemo were wonderful and there are an infinite number of stories to be told in the world, why spend MILLIONS recreating the movie when such a recreation can only pale by comparison with the brilliance of Pixar character animation. At least reward our hours spent standing in line (in the Florida heat, no less) by telling us a story we don't already know and own on BluRay.

It's as if Disney Management can't believe we ever paid to see anything the first time!

Wouldn't it be amazing if Imagineering built a Fantasyland that involved us in the classic fantasy scenario (us, an average being, facing remarkable challenges and characters armed only with our own wits and talents) rather than pasteboard recreations designed to help us remember stories we already paid for and to encourage further spending so we'll remember the time we remembered them AGAIN?

The art of themed entertainment is being held back by this 'Give them what they know' and 'it's only for children' mentality. Only when we take the 'Kiddy Disney' blinders off and walk in the innovative shoes of the Original Imagineer will the form truly evolve; Let the revolution begin!