Saturday, October 21, 2006

Taking a Seat

When Roy E. Disney accused the Eisner regime of building Disney's California Adventure "on the cheap" it was very clear what he was talking about. Here was a park filled with off the shelf amusements contracted out to less than stellar vendors, no distinct themed areas and nary a penny spent on new show technology, save perhaps Soaring Over California's remarkable hovering benchseats.

But what the park's few guests may not realize is that the 'cheap' across the street from Disneyland went far deeper than Wal-Mart style thrills, mall esthetics and empty sightlines. When it came to the comfort of patrons, DCA proudly demoted the guests to third world refugees by not fully budgeting for one of the most rudimentary of theme park provisions: Outdoor seating.

We all know what happens to guests non-plussed by their stroll along Paradise Pier. They leave and never come back. But what about the few remaining souls who haven't yet given up the faith? What happens when, after searching vainly for any element of charm in the park, guests now need a quiet place to rest their weary feet?

It appears that when it comes to taking a break from your glorious California Adventure Disney would rather you please remain standing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Positive Signs

A baby step forward is still progress, no matter how small.

Whether it was due to Exxon's sponsorship pull-out of Epcot's Universe of Energy or an astute management decision from someone at Disney with taste, the aggressively ugly marquee that sat beside the pavilion is now history. No longer will guests be barraged by over-zealous splashes of mauve, crowded visual elements, pop-icon mugging, covert explosions of pink triangles, incongruous type fonts and golden dinosaurs all randomly glued to a cheap milk crate backing. This was a visual eyesore so discomforting it didn't belong at a Six Flags park, let alone Epcot Center's classy Future World.

On the other side of the country the final retro touches have been affixed to the once equally ugly Club Buzz at Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Also back is the original name for the area, The Tomorrowland Terrace. A lone designer at Disneyland's Entertainment Division saw fit to pay homage to the timeless design sensibility of Disney's legendary Imagineer Rolly Crump and his original modernist motif for this unique rising bandstand. Though not an exact re-fit of Rolly's whimsical airy space-age planters, it's a genuine and heartfelt nod to his take on a promising optimistic future. Club Buzz, on the other hand, was a heavy, brooding, dystopian monolith that sucked all the life out of the area.

Those that value great design and a quality guest experience right down to the smallest detail have reason to rejoice at these recent, albeit minor, changes. Progress at a snail's pace is still better than decay and destruction at any pace.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Irrelevance of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer

Yes it's true. Jay Rasulo and the marketing minions at Disney Corporate are pushing hard for a rushed tear-down of Tom Sawyer's Island to make room for a Jack Sparrow themed Pirate Playground in May of 2007.

Those within the Orwellian confines of W.D.I. now tasked with shape-shifting this classic Walt inspired island of adventure and brave enough to talk about it generally don't agree with their new mandate. Driven hard by the movie's financial success, this is a decision that is both knee-jerk and wrong.

The argument that is being used is that the Island is no longer being attended, so W.D.I. must make it "relevant".

Just when did attendance drop? Was it when the fort shut and locked its entrance gate? When the bridges were temporarily run down and closed? When the allure of a burning cabin was shut off? When water traffic backed off with the loss of the Keel Boats and slimmed down Canoes? When the designated "smoking area" for that region was moved to the load/unload of the rafts?

So now what? Collective wisdom at Imagineering is that the disease has been mis-diagnosed. But no one in upper management seems to care about the legacy of Disneyland anymore. It's old fashioned, and long-term apparently does not appeal to Wallstreet.

Okay, so Disneyland is not a museum. Still, some things are just fun!

But only when they are working the way they had been designed to.