What Would Walt Do? Part Two

When we parted last time, we were in the midst of a discussion about change. What Would Walt Do?

Not only about change; but to whom should Imagineering be pandering?
–Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world. (Walt Disney)

We also talked about the Carousel of Progress, Pirates and Toad. The conclusion to Part One could be summed up with the statement: Is Disney pandering to nostalgia instead of imagination and creativity?

I think it is more that the Disney Internet community (us fans) wants the nostalgia.

Which is ok, but not if it compromises creativity. When we saw Charles Ridgway speak at the Barnes & Noble in Winston-Salem (Thanks Jeff!), one comment really struck me and sort of fueled this post. He stated that Main St. USA at Disneyland was reminiscent of what grandparents of the 1950’s remembered about their hometowns. They got it and they shared that emotion and that connection with their grandkids. Mr. Ridgway said the same thing about the Disney Studios. When it premiered in 1989, there were still a lot of people alive that remembered Hollywood from the 1930’s. The icons, the stores and the places. They got it. They want to share it.

What do we have, in this generation, to share–to reminisce?

Attractions that we grew up with. That we lived. That we dreamed of. That gave us that visceral experience.

Lou and Jeff, on the WDW Radio Show, did a great segment about Horizons. A lot of people contacted them about it, including your’s truly. We loved that ride. To us it encompassed the original vision for Epcot. Hope for today and hope for the future. I would have gladly taken my kids on Horizons. Now we have Mission: Space. I’m not sure when my kids will do that ride. It is a thrill ride. A physical thrill ride. Horizons worked on your brain. And your imagination. It was a great segment on the WDW Radio podcast, but it also made me sad. Sad for all of the people that won’t get to experience it.

Nostalgia? Yep! Mission: Space is a great attraction. But it doesn’t make me smile when I think about it.

Ok…back to change. For imagination and creativity. The bottom line. We all know that in the business world, Return On Investment (ROI) is very important. If something is affecting the bottom line, then you do something. Adding Jack Sparrow to Pirates makes a lot of sense. The movies were huge and the attraction was already a favorite. Adding parts from the films was a great small change. Apparently, the traffic to Horizons and the World of Motion wasn’t quite cutting it. The same with The Living Seas. So a change was needed. For all of these attractions, we are also talking about the end of the Eisner era. A lot of consternation. A lot of unsure steps. A lot of suits. Creativity brushed aside for the bottom line. But wait! Doesn’t Disney need to attract new guests? So, I do see the need for Mission: Space and Test Track. You have to re-invigorate. You have to update. You have to be able to get the 12-25 year-olds in the parks. So I can agree with adding a few thrill rides. But we will need something else in a few years.

Pandering to the bottom line? What kind of damage is this going to do in the future?

Imagineering not only creates the attractions; one would hope that they see themselves as stewards of the future of Disney.

This begs the question of the modern attractions. What will we think of them in 20 years? Will there be a Save Mission: Space movement? Will there be sit-ins? But also, what has been wrought upon the parks? Disney’s California Adventure is still struggling. It needs an identity. It needs stellar attractions. It needs a compelling reason for people to visit. Is there any attraction, besides Soarin’ Over California, that would be missed? What about the attractions created in the wane of Eisner and the rise of Iger (and Lasseter)? The ones that just simply don’t have it? Are we going to want to share these attractions with our family and friends? Will we rave about them? Probably not. Will we care about them in 20 years?

Four words: Journey Into Your Imagination.

When I rode Journey for the first time in 1994, I knew the ride needed to be updated. What made sense to change at the time? The color scheme. It was so 1983. So, they’ve redone it a few times since 1998. It just doesn’t have the magic.

As in the last post, I urge you to think about your last trip and your next trip to Walt Disney World. What did you wait to see? What attractions did you experience more than once? Where did you spend your time? What are you looking forward to doing? What ride will you not miss?


Before I finish up this post, I want to leave you with a look at Part Three: Disney and the Invasion of Pixar.

Is the Nemo the appropriate character for the Living Seas? Is it even an appropriate ride for the movie property that it represents? John Frost, from The Disney Blog, has given me another angle to look at: Why would Disney think about renaming the Disney Studios as the Disney Pixar Studios when the Pixar characters are flooding the other parks—and are not really in the Disney Studios.

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “What Would Walt Do? Part Two

  1. I think the problem at Disney is the same as all of corporate America. The pandering to the Stockholder. Decisions are made strictly with their happiness in mind.

    I was telling my wife the other day that I think that is the biggest thing when one asks “What would Walt Do?” I don’t think the first thing that would pop into his mind when he or his imagineers came up with an idea is to ask, “Will this make the stockholders happy?”

  2. Well they are also moving with change.The world around us is changing all the time.As much as the most of us would hate to see things come and go so much,they are doing what brings in the money.It’s about money now not doing family trips.We make it the family trip.What is left to the nostalgia of Disney must enjoy it.I will be sad if they were to close Soarin.i really like that ride.I also loved Mr.Toad which is now Pooh.
    I share all the memories I have with my kids and we create new ones and When they get older they can do the same.I love going to Disney. Every time I go there is always something new,slight change.

  3. My wife and I were talking about this. It is of my belief that there will be fewer of the “newer” rides that will produce online protests and onsite sit-ins if they are threatened to be removed.

    I don’t know if nostalgia is the goal anymore. I think what created the nostalgia behind such rides as Horizons, Mr. Toad’s Crazy Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, and others is that they have some sort of tie to the person’s childhood.

    These are all rides that could be enjoyed from a very, very young age. It’s those joys from childhood that bring the nostalgia.

    Alot of the newer rides that are popular really are geared toward a much more older crowd. Yes, kids can ride them, but they have such stringent height requirements that you typically cannot ride them until you are older. It is my belief that this wait puts the kids past the age where nostalgic memories are created at Disney

  4. Thanks for the comments. Great points!

    I agree that Disney is shooting for the wallet. With a lot of the changes that Iger and Lasseter might be able to effect–we might see the return of family style rides–or rides that everyone can enjoy.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

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