Sunday, March 26, 2006

Walt's Idealism - The Big Concept


I received this email from Tim Halbur last week and I think it has some excellent thoughts in it - and I think it's very relevant to what we’ve been blogging about here. Here it is:


Hi-

Love the Re-Imagineering blog. I've got an idea for a post for you guys, if you're interested. I'm writing a project about Disneyland right now, and I've been thinking a lot about Disney's opening speech:


"To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past...and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America...with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."


We've been hearing it a lot lately, but I don't think people have been really hearing it all. It's not just about escapism, or the power of myth. He wanted it to be about joy AND inspiration. By starting with Lincoln and Main St. America and moving into Frontierland, he was illustrating the ideals of America, the best ideas of progress at the time (think about the unbuilt Edison Square, the cutting edge of the day).

And then into Tomorrowland, where the idea wasn't to show aliens and lightsabers and fantasy in the stars. Walt was showing the bright future that wasn't too far away with the Carousel of Progress, Progress City, and Monsanto's House of the Future. Tomorrowland was supposed to inspire the world to be better, use innovative public transportation, really get people interested in building "a great big beautiful tomorrow"!

So the BIG, BIG step back to Disney's ideas would be to start rebuilding that idealism. Reopen the Carousel of Progress with TODAY'S big ideas for the future. I'm in school for urban planning right now, and there are exciting ideas happening that could radically change the way we live. People need a warm, guiding hand like Walt's to usher them into that phase and make it exciting.

Yes, Walt relied a lot on the corporate world and technology to save the day. Imagineers don't have to do that all over again. We know now that technology won't save us, it has to be used in innovative ways. Back when the Imagineers were developing Tomorrowland they visited NASA and Bell Labs and talked to the thinkers of the time about what the future would look like. They should do that again, although this time include people like William McDonough, the green innovator of construction, or Andres Duany, the persuasive New Urbanist.

I'll stop now, but I'd be curious to hear what everyone would think of this. I know it would be a push, because today people want escapism, not ideas. But I was listening to the Progress City track on A Musical History of Disneyland and thinking, what if?

Best, Tim Halbur


About Tim:

Tim Halbur cried on the Pirates of the Caribbean when he was 2. He has spent the majority of his professional career writing and producing audio tours for museums and historic sites, including Johnson Space Center and Madame Tussaud's in Las Vegas. Currently he is finishing a masters degree in urban planning and has the distinct pleasure to be writing the audio tour for the Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland exhibit at the Oakland Museum of Art.

51 comments:

Theresa said...

amazing picture. even more amazing words

Merlin Jones said...

...Even the long, slow decay of Tomorrowland, its abandoned husks of attractions and dumbed down, dingy aesthetics and deserted ideals seemed to play into the dark futurism of trendy sci-fi - to be a self-defining message - - or perhaps was just an accurate reflection of the cynical leaders of the company at the time. This is the future of Ebenezer Scrooge if we don't alter those shadows. We need to rebild Walt's optimistic future ideals from scratch.

And if some choose to label optimism as escapist fantasy, embrace it - - perhaps there is practical value in that as well.

I trust Disney's new gatekeepers are more hopeful and imaginative about the world, the future and their place in it - - and as a result we get to enjoy the fruits of that hope and creativity and reinvestment in the future. They seem off to a good start.

Digital Jedi said...

It does seem like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Use the principles set by Walt when Tomorrowland was created and update the vision as the times change.

When I was young, the idea that the final setting in the Carousel of Progress would becoe outdated most certainly crossed my mind. As I got a little bit older, it crossed my mind that the animatronics in the attraction would become outdated by newer technology.

But maybe I was being idealistic. I just assumed all that time that Disney would simply update the attraction at some point in time, even if it seemeed they were dragging their heels getting around to it.

But, it still seems like commen sense to me. Didn't they build EPCOT with the same principles that they built Tommorowland? It was all about the visions and hopes of Tomorrow with an examination of how the past shapes the future. And, "garshq" if it wasn't fun experiencing it.

I'm not saying I don't like thrill rides like Mission:SPACE and Test Track. In fact, I look foward to riding them each year I go. But were they worth the cost of erradicating Horizons and World of Motion because these rides were supposedly "dated"? Where they and rides like Soaring, the Big Mickey wand, video games that I can play at home worth leaving behind the theme of a section called "Future World"? What exactly is so futuristic about riding around in a race car, going to the moon or dancing on interactive dance pads?

Admitedly, these are not things that everybody can do, so it certainly has its appeal, even to me. But the point is that these are things that science is already capable of doing, and has been for quite some time. It's not really a look into tommorrow. It's more like a look into last Thursday.

So why ignore the thematic elements of the park altogether when the theme is what defines everything? Why ignore principles that in of themselves are timeless? I'm not sure if it was this blog or somewhere else that I read that Wall Street has effectively told Disney that they cannot have success by focusing on parks and animation alone. Which kind of makes me wonder, what business is Disney in? Aren't they the place know for their cartoons and theme parks? Isn't that what they do?

Obviously, Disney is into other things that are neccessary to generate revenue and to keep the business lucrative for everyone involved. But it seems such a waste for the focus of their endevours to be on everything else but the theme parks, as it certainly appears that way of late. It probably sounds like an overly simplified statement coming from a nobody like myself, but if Walt Disney is your buisness, shouldn't Walt Disney be the best that it can be?

I'll put it this way. If you owned Disney World and all the licenses that go along with it, it's the park itself that is going to be the flagship of what you own. It's a solid, tangable representation of you and your business. If you begin to ignore what makes it great and go off on a tangent of things that don't quite fit into the overall them of your park, then this tangible representation of you is going to make you look bad. You can't erase it. You can't ohpe people will just forget about it. There it is carved in stone for all the world to see.

So it still appears obvious to a nobody like me that if "tommorow" is the element of the park that generates the most interest, that you should stick with the theme of tomorrow. After all, when did dreaming of a better, more exciting tomorrow become a "dated" concept?

Digital Jedi said...

It does seem like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Use the principles set by Walt when Tomorrowland was created and update the vision as the times change.

When I was young, the idea that the final setting in the Carousel of Progress would becoe outdated most certainly crossed my mind. As I got a little bit older, it crossed my mind that the animatronics in the attraction would become outdated by newer technology.

But maybe I was being idealistic. I just assumed all that time that Disney would simply update the attraction at some point in time, even if it seemeed they were dragging their heels getting around to it.

But, it still seems like commen sense to me. Didn't they build EPCOT with the same principles that they built Tommorowland? It was all about the visions and hopes of Tomorrow with an examination of how the past shapes the future. And, "garshq" if it wasn't fun experiencing it.

I'm not saying I don't like thrill rides like Mission:SPACE and Test Track. In fact, I look foward to riding them each year I go. But were they worth the cost of erradicating Horizons and World of Motion because these rides were supposedly "dated"? Where they and rides like Soaring, the Big Mickey wand, video games that I can play at home worth leaving behind the theme of a section called "Future World"? What exactly is so futuristic about riding around in a race car, going to the moon or dancing on interactive dance pads?

Admitedly, these are not things that everybody can do, so it certainly has its appeal, even to me. But the point is that these are things that science is already capable of doing, and has been for quite some time. It's not really a look into tommorrow. It's more like a look into last Thursday.

So why ignore the thematic elements of the park altogether when the theme is what defines everything? Why ignore principles that in of themselves are timeless? I'm not sure if it was this blog or somewhere else that I read that Wall Street has effectively told Disney that they cannot have success by focusing on parks and animation alone. Which kind of makes me wonder, what business is Disney in? Aren't they the place know for their cartoons and theme parks? Isn't that what they do?

Obviously, Disney is into other things that are neccessary to generate revenue and to keep the business lucrative for everyone involved. But it seems such a waste for the focus of their endevours to be on everything else but the theme parks, as it certainly appears that way of late. It probably sounds like an overly simplified statement coming from a nobody like myself, but if Walt Disney is your buisness, shouldn't Walt Disney be the best that it can be?

I'll put it this way. If you owned Disney World and all the licenses that go along with it, it's the park itself that is going to be the flagship of what you own. It's a solid, tangable representation of you and your business. If you begin to ignore what makes it great and go off on a tangent of things that don't quite fit into the overall them of your park, then this tangible representation of you is going to make you look bad. You can't erase it. You can't ohpe people will just forget about it. There it is carved in stone for all the world to see.

So it still appears obvious to a nobody like me that if "tommorow" is the element of the park that generates the most interest, that you should stick with the theme of tomorrow. After all, when did dreaming of a better, more exciting tomorrow become a "dated" concept?

Rocco said...

Merlin,

I think part of the reason that there was a perseption of the futurisitic ideals of the fifties and sixties as being corny, is because technology was in some ways advancing beyond what was being portrayed, yet the dreams of hopeful idealism were not being fulfilled.

The very corporations that were sponsoring those attractions were, in the real world, working against the type of progress that much of society wanted, dealing with pollution, etc.

I think that through pressure, and the fact that there has proven to be a financial gain, there is new hope that true progress can be made. The popularity of the hybrid car, for instance, bodes well for exciting developments in transportation.

Some of us grew up in the Atomic Age, some of us grew up in the era of the Moon Landing, and each of these developments inspired visionaries to put forth ideas of hope and societal progress, which helped to balance out the post apocalyptic fears that were present as well.

We now have a generation that has seen the dawn of the Information Age, and vehicles landing on Mars. Now that people are getting a taste of true innovation, again, that affects their lives, I think that they are ready once more to see an inspirational vision of where this new thechnology made lead.

I know I'm ready to be inspired again.

pariartspaul said...

"This is the future of Ebenezer Scrooge if we don't alter those shadows."

That's exactly how I felt when they opened the new Tomorrowland! Brilliant comments merlin jones.

BratStarMan said...

Superb analysis merlin. The optimism of the things you describe came out of our weariness of the cold war. Maybe the time has arrived for a "new optimism" - in many ways the 00's parallel the 50's. It would be fun to see a COP that actually points to the future, rather than an outdated view of things we already have in our homes (the final scene).

tina glengary said...

hello tim,

thanks for your insight. i worked alongside donna braden and scott mallwitz to develop the exhibit 'behind the magic: 50 years of disneyland.'

it was a life changing event to dig through the art archives and relate the guest experience at a disney park to american culture at large. walt disney had a vision for disneyland that was bold, boundless and unmistakably optimistic. people can fault him for that if they'd like, but it was his vision. period.

i live in the east bay now and would love to meet you to talk about the audio tour. best of luck and have fun!

Epcot82 said...

Wow. Fascinating letter from Tim, excellent follow-up. There's not much I can even hope to add.

As a reader to my own blog about Disney's theme parks recentyl wrote to me, the (hopefully) "new" Disney would do well to consider re-locating the "Carousel of Progress" to Epcot's now-shuttered Wonders of Life pavilion. What's astonishing to me is that if you compare the photo from the World's Fair to the Wonders of Life, they even look the same!

You guys are all right on and I can only hope that Lasseter, Docter and the Pixar folks who are tasked with injecting new life into the parks will see your fantastic observations.

To Merlin's comments, it's downright fascinating to compare the Disney-style vision of the future with "today's" Hollywood visions. The Disney vision really captured the public's imagination in the 1950s and 1960s (and even through the '70s and early '80s!) with its belief that our world would be better for the minds, ideas and beliefs of those who were helping create new tomorrows. Once Ridley Scott came along with Blade Runner -- ironically the same year that EPCOT Center opened -- the notion took over that the only hope for future technology was to layer it on top of the degeneration our society was experiencing. It's a sad vision, a bleak one, not helped by today's political situations.

It's about time that idealism made a comeback, Disney-style. There's nothing wrong with it; if anything, it just makes us that much more excited to get to tomorrow.

merlin jones said...

There is no doubt that Walt was an idealist and his concept of futurism was resting on the shoulders of the great corporations and entities that could be harnessed and depended on for "making modern miracles from molecules for Man."

It went with the mood of mid 20th century that it would be in the interests of corporate America, NASA and the great educational and scientific think tanks to develop a beneficial future for all. The New York World's Fair, Tomorrowland and the initial idea for EPCOT were all dependant and showcasing of this concept.

But when financial and political realities of the bottom-line intervened with this utopian concept in the eyes of the trendsetters, Walt's hopeful and optimistic corporate futurism increasingly was labelled a failure, even fascist!

As a gloomy Orwellian anti-system anti-future took hold of science-fiction, Hollywood, comics and the popular imagination - - and the sins of the corporate system played out in the newspapers - - the Ford/Monsanto future looked increasingly naiive. And yet, in this utopian idealism lie Walt's strength for planting positive seeds for future generations - to inspire and to stimulate and to dream for better.

The dark, pessimist futures of Alien and Blade Runner and The Matrix are brilliant allegory, but antithetical to Disneyland's very core beliefs.

So it seemed a schism developed over time in the camp of creators developing the future vision of Disney parks.

So they tried the new. But the evil aliens frightened us - - and perhaps even betrayed us - - it didn't fit the Walt spirit. And escapist fantasy sci-fi ala Star Wars became the fallback position, an avoidance of a real discussion of futurism.

Until Honda's Asimo robot exhibit, we didn't see much in terms of the old Tomorrowland ideal for years. And higher minds have oft scoffed at the return of idealism, calling it out of date and out of step.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

People need hope, need inspiration, need something more than this moment to push forward society and technology and corporate thinking itself.

Ironically, Apple is one of the companies most in touch with the future Walt anticipated, where technology enhanced both the practical and creative lives of normal people with taste, quality and "thinking differently." I would hope Steve Jobs and Apple become the touchstone example for, not only the new Disney corporate scheme, but the iEPCOT and iTomorrowlands of the future.

People want to be inspired.

Tourist Industry Insider said...

Hey Merlin, great post. Just wanted to share: Digital Jedi you're hilarious! Maybe I'm weired, but I was struck with a vision as a result of your comments: "Disney's Fabulous World of Last Thursday sponsored by Your Leftover Taco-Bell from...Last Thursday!" Which opens the door for such thrilling rides and attractions as "The Carousel of Middle-Management," "Journey into Procrastination," and later in the evening "Who Wants to Get a Hangover: Play It!" And of course there's always the nightime spectacular "The Main Street Rolling Blackout (sponsored by Halliburton)"

Epcot82 said...

This seems like an excellent time to recall the words of network news anchor Eric Sevareid on the night of Walt Disney's death:

"It would take more time than anybody has around the daily news shops to think of the right thing to say about Disney.

"He was an original. Not just an American original, but an original. Period. He was a happy accident, one of the happiest this century has experienced. And judging by the way it’s behaving, in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him. He probably did more to heal - or at least soothe - troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can’t be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney’s mind and imagination for at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.

"It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some lowbrow in every highbrow. But what Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in every child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child, this weary world is brand-new, gift wrapped. Disney tried to keep it that way for adults.

"By the conventional wisdom, mighty mice, flying elephants, Snow White and Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Doc - all these were fantasy, escapism from reality. It’s a question of whether they are any less real, any more fantastic than intercontinental missiles, poisoned air, defoliated forests, and scrap iron on the moon. This is the age of fantasy, however you look at it, but Disney’s fantasy wasn’t lethal.

"People are saying we will never see his like again."

Nick Zegarac said...

Disneyland is a cultural artifact from another time in American history when positivism in the human spirit reigned indomitable and supreme. It was created by a man whose blind optimism and creativity far outweighed pragmatic 'common sense' firmly grounded in the 'real' world.

For these qualities alone - Disney today is quaintly referred to as a 'visionary' rather than a daydreamer with a genuine run of mixed luck and good fortune - which is much closer to the truth.

Arguably, no one stands in greater admiration of 'Uncle Walt' than I. However, through the rubric of postmodern reflection his Tomorrowland was very much an attraction of its day - carrying on with the early concepts of 2oth century man and merely dressing them up in unfamiliar 'futurist' facades.

In refurbishing these facades the imagineers have regressed to the daydreams of another great visionary - Jules Verne; and rightly so, since, like Disney, Verne's view of tomorrow was steeped in a regression from that true tomorrow by those same limited trappings that were true in his own time.

Today, Disneyland remains very much a repository for our collective dreams - only now the kingdom is run by bean counters whose greatest wish upon a star is a very supercalafragalisticexpialadocious bottom line.

Patrick Johnson said...

Tim,

I agree that Tomorrowland should promote the big ideas of the future. I would love to see a Tomorrowland that demonstrates an environmentally friendly, "green" world of the future. Disney could recruit the great minds of today and forward-thinking companies to develop and showcase new technology designed to combat global warming and other threats to the environment.

Perhaps with the proper exposure at Disneyland young people will be inspired to make responsible choices in their lives that will have a positive impact on future generations.

Klark Kent 007 said...

I recognize your point: I was watching the "Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland" DVD and was enamored by "Eyes in Outer Space". It provided an optimistic view on what we now refer to as global warming, as well as the weather.

Most notable was the section about hurricanes: "Let us project our present knowledge with a little imagination, and speculate on how satellites may be used in future operations form a world wide weather center."

If only people today could be as optimistic.

Scott M. Curran said...

I like this post and would also offer that Walt was a social change agent of the highest order and that a focus like Walt had on changing the world, not just running a business, is necessary for Disney to return to its glory.

Walt wasn't a politician, but he could politic with the best of them. He wasn't a traditional CEO, but he did business with the best of them. He wasn't (officially) a city planner or a mayor, but his lands were (and are) the best to visit and the ones we most want our own to be like.

Walt pushed the creative limits, set his sights beyond the horizons upon which most people's gazes were fixed and relentlessly pursued his horizons without hesitation and without consideration of the potential for failure.

He was masterful at networking and drew upon his convening power to bring politicians, business people, artists and the public alike into his world - not just so that they too could be entertained, but so that he could connect with them, brainstorm with them and, in many cases, work with them so that he could make his and their (and ultimately our) worlds a better place.

Walt didn't just think about completing a project or making a dollar, he thought about changing the world. And he did. He thought so far outside of the box that what was achieved inside the box was so spectacular...and the box was ever changing.

This is all a long way of saying that I agree that what is missing is Walt's idealism - so long as we include in the definition of idealism the desire to change the world.

Our world in general and the Disney culture in particular, needs to rediscover the mentality of the insatiable dreamer. The focus needs to be on much more than the bottom line, shareholder return or even better story lines. If it is, then the rest will take care of itself.

But how do we find or cultivate that ambition? It’s hard to include "insatiable dreamer" in a job posting, but my hope is that John Lasseter & Co. will be just what we've been waiting for.

True, nobody will ever be exactly like Walt. But the more those who run the company understand that it requires that unconventional, pseudo-sappy, but oh so magical dreamer’s mentality to produce real “Disney Magic,” the more likely they will be to achieve it...and the business will take care of itself.

Walt wanted to change the world. Disney needs to rediscover the same desire to change the world...not just to conquer it.

Theresa Z said...

Without "ideas" there would be no escapism. The idea is always the seed of possibility Walt knew this; all the money men behind any Disney project should be required to read a Disney biography.

Anonymous said...

The earth is a wonder of self-sustainable energy. It can provide food and clothing. It can cleanse itself. It can be a beautiful and wonderfully diverse home.

The reality we see of a diminishing supply of energy causing economic and political havoc is the result of the way human society is structured and focused. When that much infrastructure is involved in anything (i.e., oil) migration to a better way that requires a different infrastructure will be resisted.

A clean water supply is another global issue. People upstream are depriving people downstream as demands for water from rivers and aquafers keeps increasing. Sink holes result from lowering aquafers. Wetland habitats shrink from depleting rivers.

I'd love to see how technology could answer these kinds of questions in sustainable ways.

There is at least one U.S. city that has a much visited public park that is part of its sewage treatment. They run the waste water through a green system using plants and contained wetlands before the clean water is released again into the environment. I saved the newspaper clipping on that one. Didn't Disney used to tout they were using that kind of technology on the Florida property? Water hyacinths and waste water irrigating golf courses?

Methane gas is a byproduct of composting garbage. Ever notice man-made mountains in your area with vents of burning flames? That's so the whole thing doesn't blow up all at once. I'd love to see how methane could be harnassed as heating fuel (especially after my gas bills this winter) or electricity. Wow, let's get rid of garbage and sewage in a responsible manner (which costs us money) and have it generate much needed energy (which also costs us money).

Can it be done? Yes. Is it being done? Not so much. And I'd love to see how it could be done in an attractive environment that I wouldn't mind living or working near. Wow, could we take a big negative and turn it into a positive? Eliminate a waste problem, that's got value. Fill an ongoing energy need, that's got value. Create a positive environment in the process. Guess what? More value.

What's with the go-cart autopia cars in Tomorrowland? Rumors of updating at least Hong Kong to electric cars is great, but not nearly enough. Even if they remain interal combustion engines, at least make them environmentally friendly. Perhaps an ethanol fuel. And you can even drive by a corn field that's growing the fuel for your cars as part of the landscaping.

Electricity produced by eliminating waste runs peoplemover transportation. What a story, what media interest, what a way for old technology that is bearing the blame for environmental/ecomonic/political problems to show themselves foreward-thinking and responsible. Hey, wait, that sounds like a potential corporate sponsor. But, then, maybe that's just me.

I know. Sewage is not a crowd pleaser. Even green engergy may be a bit of a yawn to the masses. I don't think the human race as a whole will change, but I believe some want to. I'd love to see how it could be done.

Anonymous said...

There are some future things that they could incorporate into the parks today.

The Indy Speedway currently uses noisy stinky gasoline powered vehicles.
It would seem pretty easy to at least convert these to a hybrid type vehicle, if not make them completely run on hydrogen.

Add a pavilion showing the ways that they are harvesting alge in tubes in the sun to turn into hydrogen power.

Have an area where they are developing the latest technology to make solar/wind power better and more affordable so all of us could have it.

I'm suprised that Disney doesn't have some type of telescope and planetarium built into the Mission Space pavilion. Just as people pay for time to swim with the dolphins, people would pay for time with a scientist at a telescope.

How about more on the future of travel with concept cars you can get into and examine? Ones that would have the technology for 20 years down the road, and not just the ones that are coming out next year that have sensors on the back to warn you that you are about to run over a bike.
-Chris

Ted said...

There are so many things here that it is hard to pick one so I will go with at least three.

First, OLD Tomorrowland wasn't THAT good. Does anyone remember the house of aluminum or the wonderful world of paint or let's face it the Monsanto house of future was MOSTLY a giant commercial for a plastics company. These "attractions" sound a lot like the LAME inoventions.

Second, give Disney a break! They are trying to find something timeless. Tomorrowland has to be changed every 5 -10 years or it becomes lame. They have to constantly change it to be relevant and that is VERY, VERY expensive to remake an ENTIRE land every few years. Name me another land that has changed SO MANY times?!?

Third, I agree with the thread that Disney had become much more cynical. Not just in the parks but ESPECIALLY in the movie divisions. Fortunately, Disney looks like they are rediscovering what makes Disney, Disney. Good examples of this are Narina, National Treasure, etc. It also is interesting that these are the movies that make money for Disney. Let's face it, Oscar winning movies are USUALLY losers at the box office and are USUALLY VERY cyncial. Disney was run by a member of the Hollywood elite and they are rarely the most positive of people. Before Eisner, Disney was always seen as an outsider to Hollywood. They used to run againist the grain. Feature Animation, theme parks, nature films, family entertainment, TV, all these were consider "stupid" ideas at the time, but Disney lead the way.

mnmears said...

Tim Halbur and Tina Glengary ...

Please contact me as I'm working on a story about the Oakland Museum exhibit and a sidebar updating plans for the Walt Disney Family Museum at The Presidio.

I spent 2 hours touring the family's warehouse last week with Diane Disney Miller and her husband Ron and have been in contact with officials at the Oakland Library.

Contact me via my blog or e-mail to leoholzer@go.com. Thanks!

Now, as to this thread, I agree that people are looking for a bit of hope and optimism -- even if it's a bit cornball -- when they visit Tomorrowland.

I think a big chunk of Disney enthusiasts wonder how our lives today would have been made better had Walt lived another decade and influenced society with HIS plans for EPCOT.

We visit the parks and wonder why people can't behave as well outside the Magical Kingdoms. We wonder why are cities can't be as clean and well-run. We wonder why more energy-efficient technologies haven't made broader inroads in our everyday lives.

Yes, Disneyland wasn't simply about escapism ... it was about optimism and hope for that great, big beautiful tomorrow -- something that too many people no longer cling on to. For the first time in our history, we fear our children or the next generations won't enjoy a continued improving quality of life. In California, we fear many won't even be able to afford to buy their own homes.

Disneyland is still a wonderful place -- and its future looks bright -- but that optimism about our own futures in this war-weary world is lagging.

BratStarMan said...

Reading the comments I'm struck by one thing.... the degree of pessimism about the potential for optimism. I remain ever optimistic, and do believe that the future will be brighter. I hope that we will not be driven to speak of optimism in the past tense. Anyone else care to join me in a burst of unabashed optimism?

pariartspaul said...

I’m totally with you bratstarman. I see Tim’s writing as totally optimistic. It simply points us to some of Walt Disney’s great concepts of Disneyland was that seem to have been forgotten for so long - and there they are written on the bronze entrance plaques for everyone to see. Like that line in Mary Poppins goes something like… the hardest thing to see is the nose on your face…

If anyone’s looking for direction there it is; fond memories of the past, the promise of the future, ideals, dreams, joy and inspiration. You can’t go wrong with that stuff and I’m all for it.
Walt Disney was one of the greatest optimists of the 20th century.

And oh yeah, but we do tend to get a little cynical don’t we? Walt Disney was such a great influence for a lot of us and here we’ve seen this monster corporation develop from what he left over the years. We all know all they care about these days is ‘branding’. Did you hear any of the speeches from the stock meeting from a few weeks back? It’s all about expanding the brand – and opening a new ride to coincide with what ever film they come out with every two years. None of it has to do with anything that’s on those plaques… it’s all so ridiculous it really is amusing to see what they’ll do next. Yeah, I'm an optimist but I'm not an idiot.

Anyway, I gotta run now… I’m off to catch Eisner’s new talk show… (Just kidding)!

crystalcat67 said...

Singing "Fortuosity"...Yes, I like to stay positive as well. Like when I'm reading the 2005 Annual Report. How about that huge, beautiful report in color with Pirates on the cover? There's nothing like pretty pictures to put an optimistic spin on things. Ah yes, the branding. Seriously though - Cheers to all!

crystalcat67 said...

Singing "Fortuosity"...Yes, I like to stay positive as well. Like when I'm reading the 2005 Annual Report. How about that huge, beautiful report in color with Pirates on the cover? There's nothing like pretty pictures to put an optimistic spin on things. Ah yes, the branding. Seriously though - Cheers to all!

Digital Jedi said...

Eisner has a talk show? Is it anything like those intros he used to do for The Wonderful World of Disney? [Shudder]

If I may offer an optimistic viewpoint. I believe that Disney is much more then a corperation or a Theme Park. I beleive it is an idea. Ideas change over time to be sure, but ideas also are immune to detriment and falseness. I believe that Disney has evolved into an entity that will never fully change from the idea it was intended to be.

Sure, the "poweres that be" may impose changes onto the "brand" and continue to make decisions that alter the appearance and extremities of the entity. But the entity itself never fully accepts the changes and it becomes obvious to all that the changes shouldn't be there. In time the changes are rejected or severed off as if a septic limb.

In short, my optimistic view is that, no matter what they do, there will always be people who belive too strongly in those original ideas. That even if a few bad things are done to the parks we love, that in time, things will return to their former glory.

"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea, Mr. Creedy... and ideas are bulletproof."
-V from V for Vendetta

mnmears said...

yes, Mr. Eisner has a new CNBC talk show -- after a half-dozen other celebrities have failed to find an audience to please the brass at CNBC.

My friend is a TV critic and says the best of the upcoming bunch of six or so he's previewed is the smoozefest Mr. Eisner shares with Martha Stewart -- saying that when he looks at her it's like looking in a mirror and complimenting her on her omnipresent BRANDING.

It's an interview sure to make most of the Save Disney fans so happy to see that Mr. Eisner has left Disney to someone like Bob Iger who, at the very least, seems to honor and respect Walt's legacy, the artists and the visionaries of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Thank god Bob Iger has established himself as his own man -- quietly accomplishing things that Mr. Eisner and his ego never could have done.

Yes, I'm here clapping my hands, saying I believe, wanting desperately for Tinker Bell to spread that magical pixie dust all over the Disney empire.

... as long as there is hope and imagination left in the world ...

I think we're all hopeful and we know that if the dreamers of today and tomorrow have as much imagination as we do and Disney corporate looks again to be half as innovative as Walt Disney, then there is still a promise of a great big beautiful tomorrow.

But corporate can't get there by cutting budgets, by lowering our expectations. The company must return to the days when quality was job one, putting on a good show and exceeding the public's expectations. Dreams are not inexpensive propositions and the public has always thought of Disney as being in the business of dreams, not simply an entertainment or multimedia company.

OperationsGal said...

Count me among the folks here who wish Disneyland in general, and Tomorrowland in particular, would return to it's roots of presenting a uniquely American brand of happy optimism. Tomorrowland was always my favorite place to be as a girl, and all of those wonderful 1967 attractions with their bouncy, flirty theme songs and can-do spirit simply enchanted me as a child and young adult.

But now let me play my standard role of bland, uninspired "Ops" assesment...

While these are all wonderful concepts to hope we get back, I would also remind us all that a change in tactic like this would clearly alienate a big chunk of todays audience. Much of this circa 1962 optimism and forward thinking would go over peoples heads in todays market.

Have you seen the types of people that go to Disneyland now? Have you ever had a discussion with them? Especially the types of guests that visit during the 4 months of 2Fer1 locals tickets? I observe and interact with them in the Park on a daily basis, and I can tell you that the average amateur gang banger from Stanton who has brought his common law bride and three children to Disneyland for the day is not going to be impressed with attractions based on New Futurism, urban planning, or advanced scientific theory. Even a big chunk of our higher-spending domestic tourist market plodding around the Park in their tasteless "Big Johnson" t-shirts and rented ECV's aren't going to be interested in these types of attractions. And you can forget about bouncy, flirty theme songs; these people won't sit still long enough to get the first chorus out.

Like it or not, Disney purposely dumbed down their attractions in the last 15 years, and there is now a very large portion of our guest demographic who wants and expects the new style of lowest common denominator attractions. A new attraction in 2006 isn't going to be popular unless it's got significant G forces or fart jokes. And there's plenty of paying customers who would like a helping of both in each new ride.

I'll be cheering for the Imagineers with all of you if WDI can somehow get Disneyland attractions to take the high road again and return to Walt's original ideals for the place. But I caution us to believe that the marketing and accounting departments will ever let WDI get past the blue sky phase with some of these Back To The Future types of intelligent exhibits and attractions, or at least anything on a bigger scale than the old NASA exhibit or the ASIMO show.

Charles G said...

I've blogged about the Disney vision of the future. I too was a kid who saw Tomorrowland (NASA too) and left with a sense of wonder about the future.

What is missing from today's science fiction is a sense the future is going to be better place. Blade Runner, Minority Report and AI are recent films that suggest that the future will be dominated by decay, mayhem, oppression, and even the extinction of humanity.

If you read the recent news about global warming, war, and econonmic collapse, you can imagine that the future is going to be a pretty grim place.

Would you want to live in the world of The Matrix? I know it is somewhat plausable, but the thought that this is where we are headed is enough to make you want to curl up in your basement with MREs and a lifetime supply of whiskey.

I know that these films are not endorsing this type of future, they are trying to get people to think about it and maybe prevent it. I cannot help but think that too much gloom and doom is a self fulfilling prophecy. We will simply give up and accept the fact that nothing good is going to ever happen, and we are destines all slaves to the machines we have created. If that is the case, then The Terminator has come true.

I do not expect to live in a perfect Epcot future, but I would like to think that we would have more to look forward to than rising oceans and people stealing my credit card numbers.

Disney and the Man in Space series helped excite a generation of kids to grow up with and interest in space travel and a techno-positive future. Burt Rutan, the creator of Spaceship One has said that Man in Space was one his inspirations, leading to a career in aerospace.

Maybe Disney should call people like Mr. Rutan and help fix up Tomorrowland and Epcot with a vision of private space flight and other such attractions? I know that private space travel will be a big business in the future.

Green architecture is being promoted in universities. Magazines like Dwell explore how advances in design and construction will help save energy and make living easier.

There are so many great things happening with technology...and often they do not recieve the press and attention they deserve.

What better place to promote it than Disney World? And what a great place to give a generation of kids a hopeful vision of the years to come.

I would go into what I wrote in my first blog post on this subject, but that would take up too much room.

You can read what I wrote here...
Charles G's Blog Space: A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.

pariartspaul said...

Oh my god I've created a monster with this blog topic!! But Ops girl, you are a riot, and probably exactly right. I always forget how the audience has changed over the years. On the one hand you have the lowest common denomiator type, who've been conditioned to only respond to fart jokes - and then on the other hand you have this wierd new strange type of super anal-Disney fan that take notes on how many stalls are in each bathroom in the park or note how often the tp rolls are changed! (And what the hell is that all about?!) I just don't get it. But isn't it true that people respond to how they are treated? Or is it the other way around? It doesn't have to be a big, steaming, rolling downward spiral does it?
What if Disney started treating the guests like intelligent people again? Hmmm?
Whew.

mnmears said...

And, to add, Ops girl, if Disney and society has lost that average amateur gangbanger, oh well.

Shouldn't Disney and the Imagineers do it for today's children and tomorrow's leaders?

I think those most impacted by Disneyland are the ones who first visited as impressionable children. We took the trip to the Moon or Mars. We saw the model of Progress City. We took our own Adventures Thru Inner Space. We were inspired by the words of Royal Dano in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. We felt good about being citizens of the country after the smaltzy America the Beautiful CircleVision show. Yes, Disneyland was a place of fantasy and escapism ... and we ate that up and enjoyed it, too.
But I know that for myself and many of my peers -- especially as we matured past 8 to 10 -- Tomorrowland was our favorite area of the park.

Tim Halbur said...

I completely understand OpsGirl's concerns- the world wants to be entertained, not enlightened. But the old Disney was great at doing both- Look at Adventures in Inner Space. People learned about molecules while having a totally mind-blowing experience. Carousel of Progress was before my time (I'm an America Sings-era kid) and to be honest, it looks pretty boring. But I'm a firm believer that people's minds could be blown looking at an optimistic future. Look at Star Trek: TNG- beloved by all, set in a utopic future. It could be a time-travel story, a roller coaster, it could even have Stitch in it for heaven's sake, as long as the ideas behind it were truly mind-blowing and innovative and challenged people to THINK while taking 2gs.

Chris said...

I agree with most of the comments here, and another great blog posted.

I fully agree that times are different now and the audience is changed, however that doesn't mean Disney can't appeal to everyone. Space Mountain isn't quite a scientific view of the future, but it's a fun, classic Disney ride nonetheless.

Disney should make the rides that both the classic fans want, and that different fans of today want also. Instead it has turned more into "what ride will get more people in the door to this theme park this year?"

As much as I'd love to see Horizons back or something similar, let's face it, advertising it won't draw more crowds. Disney needs to be able to offer both. Don't do it for attendance numbers, but do it because it's what made Disney special, even if its benefits won't be seen on the annual report, it still helps the overall image of Disney.

These comments have made me realize just how much we've lost the optimism for the future. How did we do it? Is it our media? Movies and TV shows offering compelling dramas and explosions over scary views of the future? Have we just decided that we're getting all the technology we want, and things still haven't improved?

Tocpe said...

Digital Jedi,

You are right about "Didn't they build EPCOT with the same principles that they built Tommorowland? It was all about the visions and hopes of Tomorrow with an examination of how the past shapes the future. And, "garshq" if it wasn't fun experiencing it."

I always felt EPCOT Center was an extension of Tomorrowland. Kind of a whole park dedicated to the Tomorrowland concept. And like Merlin Jones said, the cynical leaders of the time left their mark not only on Tomorrowland but also on EPCOT Center (It'll always be EPCOT Center to me :) ) But it can be repaired and we can have a "Big, Bright, Beautiful Tomorrow" after all.

I'd like to quote something from page 29 of the EPCOT Center book published in 1981 for the opening of the park. I think it summarizes the very heart of what EPCOT Center was, is supposed to be, and may be once again:

“...the following goals outlined by our chairman and chief executive, Card Walker, in an address to the Urban Land Institute on October 5, 1976:

• First, we want Epcot to be a “demonstration and proving ground for prototype concepts” ... constantly testing and demonstrating practical applications of new concepts, ideas, and emerging technology from creative centers around the world.

• Second, we want Epcot to provide an “ongoing forum of the future” where the best creative thinking of industry, government, and academia is exchanged regarding practical solutions to the real needs of mankind.

• A third important objective we have established is for Epcot to be a “communicator to the world,” utilizing the growing spectrum of information transfer to bring new knowledge in the most effective ways to the world community.

• Last and possibly mopst important of all, we want Epcot to be a “a permanent international people-to-people exchange” ...advancing the cause of world understanding among its citizens."

Now after reading that, and looking at the shape of the world in which we now find ourselves, don't you think we need this version of EPCOT Center now more than ever?


I do.

Chris said...

I truly want the real, original E.P.C.O.T., not the theme park...the city.

Hence, I am currently hard at work on a book about the very project and using the newest technology how it could be implemented today.

More to come on that...soon hopefully...

RocketmanRaygunner said...

How do you find the balance between the costs of building permanent attractions with the transient nature of corporate sponsoship, technology advancements and design element dating?

One of the core design elements of the park was the concept of looking ahead to the "Future." Because our view of what this will be like is constantly changing, how does the park stay currrent on the "Future"?

Should the attractions be less permanent or more modular? would then this cheapen the experiance of the park?

Digital Jedi said...

I disagree with you on only one point, opsgirl.

Dumbing down a product is never, ever a wise choice because you belive that it won't be hip, or edgy enough to relate to the present day crowd.

A gangbanger doen't come to Disneyland to be reminded how bleak the future is anymore then Ken and Buffy from Belle Air do.

If there is one thing that is unique about Disney theme parks, it's that everone, regardless of background or race or creed, comes to Disney to be entertained. To be taken away. After all, Dinsey is not Gang Banger central, nor is it a recreation spot for Mexicans, Europeans, Catholics, Republicans. It's a place for everyone the world over.

You must never underestimate the intelligence of your audiance. You must never presume that they aren't intelligent enough or too cynical to gather you point. You must always speak to them as if they are as high minded or even higher minded then yourself. Thinking that your customers are incapable of thinking a certain way is sure fire way to invite disaster, or at the very least, displeasure.

As I said before, I'm a nobody in this business. I don't have any angle of perspective to speak from other then the perspective of the paying customer. And if there is anything that I as a customer have always hated, it's the assumption that I won't understand or "get" something, so it was decided for me that I wouldn't like it. Yet a bunch of consumers like myself can sit around and say to each other "gee, I would have really liked to have seen that. Why did tey think we wouldn't like it?"

Belive in us as we believed in Disney once. We're not as hard edged or cynical as you may think. We're not that much different from our 1960s counterparts. All we really want to do is have fun, and if you can remind us that it is okay to have fun dreaming, then by all means pay us that courtesy.

The old saying goes "You attract more flies with honey then with vinegar". Optimism. Positivity. Idealism. Joy. Who does this alienate? Who does this scare away?

Scott M. Curran said...

Dare I suggest some Re-Imagineering merchandise? With all this exciting talk of starting a new wave of Disney creativity, I'd like to buy a nice Re-Imagineering t-shirt to promote the cause, heighten the dialogue and help make the movement more visible.
Don't get me wrong, I know that some people will hate this idea (Oh no, more branding!!!), but I think it would be fun to put you creative people to a t-shirt designing test. Oh, the places this could go...
Then again, maybe this is just a silly late night thought.
Oh, and if anyone makes a nice little bundle of cash off of this idea, all I ask is for a t-shirt of my own for being your muse.

Charles G said...

Optimism. Positivity. Idealism. Joy. Who does this alienate? Who does this scare away?

I think that we have been so wounded by the events of the last few decades that optimism in short supply.

Because we live in such gloomy times, anyone who tries to be positive and joyful risks being labeled as naive or trying to hustle us to buy/invest in something for their own profit. We have thicker skins now. That protects us from being hurt, but also can prevent us from feeling good...or letting down our guard to be open to hopeful visions.

Many feel burned by false optimism of past ages, or feel we've fallen far short of lofty goals that we set for ourselves.

No, we don't have rockets landing on mars with astronauts. No, we don't live in plastic houses.

But we have landed on Mars, and seen so much. Disney even released the Roving Mars IMAX movie.

We have everday gadgets like cellphones and Ipods that are beyond the inventions predicted by Tomorrowland in the 60s and 70s. We don't have a cool "bike wheel" space stations and moon bases, but we are getting there...one way or another.

Despite our current troubles, technology is making our lives better. The fact we can talk like this is proof.

Now what is the next step?

That is where Disney can make a difference. They have the money, resources, talent and brand name to bring the biggest players and the brightest minds together.

We are not as starry-eyed as we once were. That's a good thing. Who wants to live in a plastic house anyway?

Let's see where we are now, and where we are headed. Disney can show the way, like Walt did with Man in Space. We are savvy enough now to appreciate a more detailed and realistic vision.

Merlin Jones said...

"If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." - - Pollyanna's Locket

Pragmatic Idealist said...

Focusing on timeless fiction is entirely appropriate for The Magic Kingdoms.

Imaginary characters and settings are, after all, Disney's stock and trade. And, the creativity these fictions embody is just as much of an inspiration as the more "science-factual" elements that have been discussed here.

EPCOT has taken the science-factual mantle from Disneyland, and, creatively-speaking, that configuration works much better.

For that matter, each of the realms of The Magic Kingdoms works better focusing on fiction. So, the criticism should rightfully be placed on EPCOT for not fulfilling Mr. Disney's lofty goals for transforming reality.

Imagineering needs to ask itself what the purpose of EPCOT really is?

Originally, I thought that the creators wanted to make EPCOT Center the interpretive attraction for the larger city of EPCOT, which they still considered viable.

Now that the city of EPCOT seems as if it will never be realized, is the purpose of EPCOT, as it currently exists, to predict the future of humanity? And, if so, are those predictions going to be of a better future or one that is frought with seemingly insurmountable challenges left by the mistakes of our ancestors and ourselves?

Disney is in the creativity business, so the Utopian idealism to which Walt Disney subscribed was and is about solving problems by using the power of the human imagination. To do so necessitates that The Walt Disney Company rise above the role of mere storyteller and, instead, actively propose its own solutions based on consultation with specialists in each field.

EPCOT needs to, then, demonstrate these new ways of life and advocate their incorporation into our daily lives by allowing guests to sample the future, as Disney imagines it.

Epcot82 said...

I love that this discussion has turned to Epcot and its troubles. Clearly, there is a lot of passion for Epcot!

epcotplanner said...

Tomorrowland and Epcot should be viewed as a culmination of various Modernist showcases . . . (from the 19th Century International Expositions, to the 1939 "World of Tomorrow" Chicago Fair and on). The optimistic faith in humanism and technology were core tenets on Modernism, which culture seems to have moved beyond in a Postmodern era.

Although I'm a huge fan of Epcot'82, it is due to the earnest efforts which were put out in the what seems to be last flicker of the ethos and optimistic futurism that drove world's fairs for over 100 years.

Mr. Dawes Sr. said...

Well put, Pragmatist. Couldn't have said it better myself.

I think bending Tomorrowland into a more sci-fi appraoch (and keeping it optimistic) is completely appropriate, given that Epcot retains the mantle of providing a more "true-life" and pragmatic view of the future.

Further to your point about Tomorrowland vs Epcot, better definition need to be assigned to each of the parks -- and all the park's lands-- so that each retains it's own persona and purpose. Otherwise, the WDW parks are going to become homogenized (arguably this has already begun) and lose their differentiation and unique spirit.

Ever stir up a bowl of rainbow sherbet? What do you get? Grey muck. Hooray for different themes, contexts and storytelling devices!

Charles G said...

Tomorrowland and Epcot should be viewed as a culmination of various Modernist showcases . . . (from the 19th Century International Expositions, to the 1939 "World of Tomorrow" Chicago Fair and on). The optimistic faith in humanism and technology were core tenets on Modernism, which culture seems to have moved beyond in a Postmodern era.

So I guess we need Post-Postmodern park?

I don't think we will ever embrace the idea that technology will solve all our problems and create utopia. That idea is rusting on the ocean floor with the Titanic.

But I do think there is a hunger in people to try and imagine what the next stage of modern living will be like.

I find myself asking this question. Will the future hold more of the same: pollution and suburban sprawl?

What about technology? The desktop PC, the cellphone and the Ipod have all become common household items. What next?

There are websites that cover this, like Slashdot, Gizmag and Engadget. When the latest gizmo goes into beta testing, they often have the first photos. Publications like Dwell show off the possible homes of tomorrow that actually exist.

But even these publications and websites are read by small audiences of interested gearheads and people who have an active intrest in design and technology.

Disney is the company that could take ideas like green architecture and fuel cell technology and let people actually see and touch it.

Writer William Gibson one said "The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet."

Disney could be the place where the big ideas of the future are introduced to the public who doesn't read Slashdot.

It could be a plus for corporations, because then could take great ideas that may do nothing but gather dust on the shelf or languish in R&D and show them to the public. That would give them the boost to make it a real product.

For the public, they could get a glimpse at items that only industry techies and geeks get to see.

Pragmatic Idealist said...

Disney's stock-in-trade is fiction, but it is a particular brand of fiction that resolves conflict satisfactorily with happy endings.

Essentially, Utopian, problem-solving creativity does the same in actuality by applying imagination to remove real-life conflicts.

The reason most science-fiction and other stories set in the future seem to be pessimistic or cautionary tales is because they are relying on conflict to create drama and action. Perhaps, though, these stories do not show endings that are as happy as they could be.

Walt Disney's own film version of "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" ends in a poignant way that is made especially more so considering that the first use of the atomic bomb happened just a few years prior.

dreamdoer said...

I was looking at the Honda website today. I was led there by the ticket from Innoventions at Disneyland, for the show with ASIMO, the latest in robot technology. We almost missed the show - with only a sort of suggestion from CM's about "a show going on... if you want..." We had been in Innoventions a couple of months before, and didn't know about the show, at all.

The only thing my boys want to do in there is play video games (just like at home, but with a system that they don't have.) Not much else is very cutting edge...
The ASIMO and Honda website seem to be what it should all be about - the latest, and future of technology. The theme of the whole site is "The Power of Dreams" - a perfect fit for Disney, that is overlooked. There are other companies out there, even following "The Disney Way" that could be great partners.

Also, I think it would be great to see previews of what is going on at Imagineering as a part of the Innoventions displays, and what is going on in the rest of the world's other Disney theme parks, for those who only get to their closest "home" park.

The future changes faster than ever, now, but that is part of the fun of it, too.

stefank@talktalk.net said...

I think this article neatly links into the unrealised plans for EPCOT. Reminds me of some of the content of the book, 'Married to the Mouse'!

We need to pick up the mantle and drive new ideas forward. If Walt was here today, he'd be dreaming about the future and seeing issues that we're facing, such as climate change as not only a challenge, but a great opportunity.

Creativity does not flourish in bureaucracies. It's sad to read here the frustrations of WED (rather than WDI)professionals.

But I feel that the direction of the Company has changed and is driven towards and by different drivers.

Lou said...

I'm don't agree that people today only want escapism and not ideas. Both are fun, especially when mixed together.

I like the idea of a "tomorrowland through the ages" exhibit, walking around and above a giant miniature "city of tomorrow" as people thought it might look in 1950's "futurism" style with flying cars, robots doing work for us, mile-high googie skyscrapers and maybe even larger scale 3D model "callouts" of things like kitchen vending machines.

Then after that, let's see which of those ideas from the past were either met or exceeded in the present...there are so many things to choose from.

Finally, move on to a current vision of what tomorrow might be like, and illustrate it in ways that are entertaining, inspirational and fun with maybe even a little mystery thrown in.

It doesn't have to be a 3D version of Popular Science...it can, and should, be the same type of optimistic hopeful vision of the future that many people had back in the '50s. With all we've accomplished technologically in the last 5 decades, what's possible now compared with what we dreamed might be possible back then, is no less impressive, and it need be no less imaginative or starry-eyed.

And these visions of the future should be demonstrated using cutting-edge technologies and showmanship so that, as always, people will walk out of there smiling, saying "Would it be cool if..." and wondering "How'd they do that?!"

Anonymous said...

Don't know how to email the people who run this, but thought you may be interested in this article.

Disney selling parcels in project Flamingo Crossings will be developed on resort's western edge
Orlando Sentinel (FINAL) - November 28, 2007 - p C1, CENTRAL FLORIDA BUSINESS
By Scott Powers, Sentinel Staff Reporter
Private developers and merchants will be able to build, run and own small restaurants, a grocery store, service and retail shops, and several "value"-oriented hotels and motels on the western edge of Walt Disney World later this decade as part of the giant resort's next development.

Disney World's land-development company, Buena Vista Land Co., said Tuesday it has begun offering parcels for sale and development within Flamingo Crossings, the 450-acre lodging-and-shopping district it announced last winter.


The project will rise mostly west of the State Road 429 interchange at Western Way, which connects S.R. 429 -- also known as the Western Beltway -- with Disney's theme parks and hotels. Early marketing materials declared it to be "outside the western gateway to Walt Disney World," but in fact all of the land is and will remain within the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government agency that the Florida Legislature created specifically for Walt Disney Co. in 1967.

That prospect creates a first chance for third-party owners to buy and develop land inside Reedy Creek. Disney has previously allowed numerous private developments of hotels, stores and restaurants within Reedy Creek, but always through long-term land leases that have kept the real-estate deeds in Disney's hands.

Flamingo Crossings is to be built in phases over eight to 10 years, the company said. Infrastructure construction could start this winter, and the first private hotels or shops could break ground in a year or two, Buena Vista spokeswoman Andrea Finger said.

The district would aim for "value" hotels and motels, she said. Plans call for 4,000 to 5,000 rooms in low- to mid-rise lodges -- priced to compete with moderate hotels and motels off Disney property.

"We think there is room for expansion in that area" of the market," Finger said.

The 300,000 to 500,000 square feet of retail space at Flamingo Crossings would target merchants of practical wares and services that tourists, Disney employees and area residents might need, such as groceries, toiletries or basic clothing -- thereby competing with area shopping centers and outlet stores that draw many visitors off Disney property. The restaurants might include a mix of fast-food and casual-dining franchises not common on Disney grounds.

"Generally speaking, it's your typical shopping center that you see along the interstate," Reedy Creek Administrator Ray Maxwell said. "It's the value end of the market."

That retail concept contrasts with Disney's other major shopping and dining district, Downtown Disney, where patrons find a mix of entertainment, nightclubs, themed restaurants, Disneyana, and offbeat, niche and high-end gifts.

All of the private development would be developed under Disney's watchful eye, fitting into the project's master plan and aligning with Disney's restrictions and prior developments, Finger said. That is one reason Flamingo Crossings land will remain within the Reedy Creek district, rather than subjecting it to Orange County's development oversight.

Consequently, future landowners there will earn the rare power to vote to elect members of Reedy Creek's governing board or to decide any district-wide initiatives -- a right that has been extended to very few outside of Walt Disney Co. during the past four decades. Such votes are unlikely to change any balances of power within the district, Maxwell said, because the district's charter allows property owners one vote per acre. Flamingo Crossings could result in the sale of 450 acres to third-party owners, but Disney would still own about 17,000 acres within the district, while another 7,500 will remain under the control of the district itself or the state of Florida.

Don't need to publish this if you don't want to, I just figured this was the only way to get this article to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm leaving this comment because I read that people with real power at Disney read some of this stuff, and I'm really angry with Disney and I hope someone will see this and ponder. I bought Ratatouille on DVD yesterday. It took about 5 minutes of fiddling around with it to get to the menu page where you could select the movie. Inside the dvd box was a leaflet congratulating me on being so honest as to buy the official dvd. I wish I could impress on someone, anyone, at Disney, that their policy of loading compulsory viewing of trailers and adverts for Disney product at the start of their dvd's is just incredibly annoying from a consumer's point of view, and congratulating me for being so honest into the bargain just reminds me that you (Disney) can communicate with me, but I am in no way privileged to communicate with you in turn. No contact section on the Disney site.

You talk about the Disney vision and message here - here's the message that I get from Disney: If you've got kids we're going to lay a trail of sugar for them from this product to all our other products, until we've squeezed every dime out of you that we think you're worth. And it's a shame, because your product is so fantastic (especially Pixar's) it really doesn't need that sort of approach, and might actually suffer negatively because of it. Faced with an even choice of a disney dvd and someone else's product, I'd definitely go for the alternative, because I get so upset at having bought a dvd that's just a brochure for the first ten minutes.