on making memories

Posted by jwsadmin on January 12, 2015

Foxxfurr over at Passport to Dreams, laments some of the more recent changes to the parks, east and west. tl;dr: New Orleans Square's facade and forced perspective were shattered in order to bring windows to the Club 33 exclusive's interiors, the loss of the fountains of the Polynesian (why cutbacks for a resort that is priced almost twice what some of the most famous hotels in NYC cost per night?), and EPCOTs continual loss of purpose, for which Maelstrom->Frozen is but the latest symptom. The before-and-after photos of NOS are particularly galling, and this was one change I hadn't heard about until now.

I certainly agree on New Orleans Square, the goal seems to be to improve the experience of the few people rich enough (or with enough connections) to be able to go into Club 33 or the other exclusives, and their experience now outweighs the experiences of the thousands of others that pass through those lanes expecting continuity and the illusion. 

Indeed, it is worse, because now those thousands outside will be able to see the lucky and/or rich people inside. The illusion is completely shattered. 

I also agree EPCOT has lost its way in many ways, though I'm not quite ready to write off The Seas with Nemo so much (but then again, I've a 3 year old kid). I do consider perhaps that one of the problems with the technological previews, and it is the reason Worlds Fairs are not what they used to be, is that extreme corporate secrecy factor. Communicore struggles to get exciting "future" exhibits because the companies inventing them don't want them leaked until they really are ready for market. If it is out there as an experiment, someone else with less overhead could see the idea, replicate it, and beat you to the actual marketplace. This is made even worse by the fact that most inventions really are just software, running on general purpose hardware platforms. Any software programmer can see something running and come up with a reasonable facsimile within a few hours, if the program doesn't require specialist knowledge such as medical records. Thus, everything is a secret.

That secrecy, however, leads to the one point I disagree (politely, not rudely, I hope) : Disney Hollywood Studios. While the parks is, more so than EPCOT, finding its own sense of purpose, it is doing so because like EPCOT, its original purpose was lost and discarded, out of that same sense of corporate secrecy. The point of the park was to be a studio first, both live action and animation. Both of those factors were thrown away, out of the desire of the creative departments (and the marketing departments), even before the internet could pan a film months before it was released. When people can see bits of a production at any moment in its creation, the marketing department has lost control of the promotions. That simply will not do.

If you go back and look at the opening ceremonies of Disney-MGM from 1989, you'll actually find that even more than EPCOT, almost every original attraction from 1989 is *gone*. Absolutely gone. The studio tour. The actual animation facility. The sound attraction (that went through at least 3 iterations before finally giving up). Catastrophe Canyon is on the chopping block. A half dozen more "how Hollywood does it" are forgotten. The corners of "old hollywood" that connect some areas, like from Muppets around to Honey I Shrunk, were sorely neglected and empty when I was there in 2007, more neglected than DCA. 

Granted, unlike EPCOT, what has generally gone up in their place has been better, but that's usually because it is a live show, for which DHS has more than any other Park in the Disney system it seems. The trouble with shows is that they are more transient, unless heavy in the special effects, which means that with the exception of Indiana Jones (and even that is rumored to be on the chopping block) there's little to see that one can get an emotional connection to, as it might not, and probably will not, be around next time you visit the park. Great entertainment for the moment, but not the same emotional permanence that a really good dark ride gives us.

So I agree that DHS is finding a good place, but I worry that place is as one that you have to go back because it will always be different. It always has been different. Not always better, but unlike EPCOT and the hype of our 80s childhood memories, we'll still accept what DHS has as being good enough, because it can always be contemporary or look to the past and we'll accept it. When the studios closed down, so did any pretense to the park having to imagine the future. Isolated solely to a combination of contemporary action and classic nostalgia, we accept it as always being transitory and never permanent.

It makes for a fun day, but not necessarily for the kinds of permanent memories that the Magic Kingdoms (east and west) achieve.

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