the best time to be a fan...

Posted by jwsadmin on August 16, 2015

On the current Disney D23 announcements, something finally clicked after 2 days of thinking about it and reading others' feedback (cynical or supportive).

The Harry Potter success is one of the reasons why they are so insistent that the 'world' created in these new lands be so internally complete. They know from experience that light-weight theming around a few thrill rides isn't going to be enough compared to the total immersion effect. So here we are: Pandora, Star Wars, Toy Story, Cars Land, all designed to be immersions into worlds as strongly as HP.
 
In fact, the success (and yes it is a success, in spite of the technological failure of Luigi's 1.0) of Cars Land and the re-theming of Paradise Pier shows that they can pull it off and makes me think these new projects will be more daring than anything before.
 
They always had that 'think about the story' aspect, particularly when it came to WDW. But sometimes the stories they came up with were, well, lacking. I once read an article about how most of the late 1990s - early 2000s 'stories' were all "Where's Waldo". Even the animated add-ons to Epcot's Mexico and Nemo were "where's Donald?" and "where's Nemo?", or even the Pirates redo: "where's Jack Sparrow?".
 
With Cars Land I see them finally going back to Walt's aspect of not bludgeoning the audience with 'story': drop the hints, and ensure consistency of atmosphere, and let the audience discover, or invent, the story. but that can only be done by consistency of atmosphere.
 
The imagineers that knew this invented Tokyo Disney Sea. They designed some incredible works for Manassas and Long Beach that never came about. The reasons were never necessarily related to their designs, but the expense of their work redirected more blame to them than they deserved.
 
So the ones most keyed to that attitude, to drop hints and just make it consistently beautiful, and they will come, left. Universal got them, and Disney regretted it. The problem is, *Eisner* didn't.
 
Eisner never understood the type of creative mindset of a Rolly Crump, in spite of how much he respected the output: Crump's Adventureland Bazaar still stands, 45 years later. Untouched. And there's no "story" about it (something that Sklar and Baxter, the 'story' pushers, likely continually cringe at). Just consistently solid theming that allows the audience to develop the story in their head, rather than be hammered with it at every step (hello Dinoland Animal Kingdom). Eisner always tried to assert that he knew better, that his experience in movies and "story" (as much due to Jeffrery Katzenberg) could translate to parks. But trying to be both Roy and Walt at the same time made him never as good as either.
 
Iger is finally making up for Eisner's ultimate arrogance. And in my opinion, it is because he is NOT being arrogant. It works now because he is not claiming to be Walt, nor trying to take on Walt's role. He has left that to Lasseter, and has taken Roy's role instead, the one to financially make it happen, and watch the numbers to make sure it works, and nudge them when it doesn't. Not bludgeon them, just nudge them. A minor failure can be recovered from (even major failures like Lone Ranger and John Carter). Is Iger circling the wagons around a few key properties and not stretching out too far? Of course he is: but so is everybody else, and as we know from the success of MCU and the hype of Star Wars, along with the smash among kids that is Frozen (go into any 3 year old's daycare room and just mention 'elsa' and see just what it really means), it's working. Best not to argue with it.
 
That is why this is, perhaps, the best time to be a Disney fan since 1971.
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