This past week, Alice and I took another trip to Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA. We did it in passing, since we were actually in California to see Penn & Teller perform in Palm Springs. I could talk about that performance, but the main take-away was that the majority of the audience were not what I could call “Penn & Teller fans”. They were old, moneyed conservatives. This was not a crowd of fans.
I digress. I decided that this month, upon my return from California, I would attempt to blog every day. It may not always be about theme parks or entertainment, but I’ll blog. But this is a digression, too. On to the Disney thing.
There was a time when the Disney parks were meccas of amazingness. State of the art technology and innovations brought various fictitious worlds to life and created magical, immersive entertaining experiences. Imagineers were the poster children for creativity, the superheroes of the theme park world. I envisioned them constantly at the parks, inventing new forms of entertainment and improving what has come before.
Not so much, now.
While I can acknowledge that Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) has been pursuing some innovations, they largely fall into three categories: interactivity, robotics, and projection. That is to say, objects and environments that respond to stimuli, objects that simulate living characters, and means of creating objects and environments without actually building those objects and environments. I’ll talk more about these in later posts.
Beyond that, not much is going on. Most attractions remain the same from decade to decade at the parks. During each visit, I notice what has stayed the same, what has deteriorated (more stuff falls into this category each year), and what has been tweaked or improved.
And I had a thought that I wanted to write down: the people who are in the Disney Parks running them are not the creative ones. Whether or not they are creative, that is not their job. Their job is to keep Disneyland operating, and preserve the environment and attractions. Sometimes something new comes in, and their job is to fit it in nicely with the other well-preserved exhibit– I mean, attractions. Disneyland is The Happiest Museum On Earth, and the park operators are not there to imagine, they are there to be curators of the Museum.
I wish that there were some way to keep a park fresh, with the promise that things are changing, that new stuff is coming. The blowback, I’d think, is the people coming to see something familiar from a previous visit that may have been years previous, and not finding it, or finding it replaced with something else. Well, I’d hope that in a case like that, the parks would replace it with something better. But imagine how interested we would all be in returning to the parks if we knew that some attraction would then pack its bags and move to Paris, or Hong Kong. The attraction would be better maintained, because the attraction designers would know that it would have to be new again, in a few years, in a new location.
Somehow, I’m nearly 40, and not yet clinging to the old and familiar. Huh.