Monday, April 30, 2007

One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing!


Eisner’s mid 80’s decree to avoid bankrolling new Disney attractions unless they were liberally slathered in ‘story’ (See ‘The Myth of Story’ Nov. 25 2006) may have effectively shut the door on the future development of plot-free pageants like ‘It’s a Small World’, Jungle Cruise, the original Submarine Voyage or even classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion but certainly the creative geniuses at Imagineering were capable of capitalizing on the strengths of this new mandate rather than it’s limitations. If guests had to have literal plot points fed to them while onboard their boats, trains, subs or rickshaws then at least Imagineering could be counted on to deliver wildly original ones.

Guests would have been wise to keep expectations low.

From the late 80’s on Imagineers indeed affixed ‘story’ after ‘story’ after ‘story’ to their rides, shows and attractions. What eluded most of them, however, was originality.

While certainly WDI saw some unbridled successes under Eisner’s ‘What’s the story?’ ordinance, it seems Imagineers had little more than one ‘story’ up their sleeve. And they shamelessly told it again and again and again.

It goes something like this: a character or prop has gone missing and the guests and/or other characters are tasked with finding it/them.

1989 - Splash Mountain

Br’er Rabbit is missing from home and Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear are out to find him. We find Br'er Rabbit in the Briar Patch and escort him safely back home.

1989 - The Great Movie Ride

Our onboard guide goes missing either in the old West or old Chicago but joins us at the Raiders of the Lost Ark set.


1991- Muppet-vision 3-D

Bean Bunny is missing from the movie and it's up to Sweetums, with the help of the audience, to find him in the theater and bring him back.

1994 - Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Five unfortunate guests of the Hollywood Tower Hotel went missing in 1939. Guests join them in the ‘Twilight Zone’.

1995 - Extraterrorestrial Alien Encounter

An alien goes missing after breaking out of his teleportation chamber. Guests are unwillingly tasked with joining him as he gets up close and personal.

1998 - Kilimanjaro Safari

A baby elephant has gone missing, probable victim of ivory poachers. Guests are tasked with helping to find him before it’s too late.

1998 - Dinosaur

A stray baby dinosaur has gone missing and guests are tasked with rescuing it before an asteroid hits the planet.

2003 - Mickey’s Philharmagic

Mickey’s sorcerer’s hat, victim to Donald Duck’s shenanigans, has gone missing. Donald is tasked with finding it.

2004 - Stitch’s Great Escape

Stitch, captive of the Galactic Federation, has gone missing after escaping during prison transport. Guests, having been tasked with guarding him, are rendered powerless as Stitch wreaks havoc and eventually runs off into the Magic Kingdom.

2006 - Monster’s Inc.: Mike & Sully to the Rescue!

Boo has gone missing in Monstropolis and guests join Mike and Sully as they try to find her.


2006 - Pirates of the Caribbean 2.0

Pirate Jack Sparrow, treasure in hand, has gone missing among the villagers on the Isla Tesoro and Captain Barbossa is out to find him.

2006 - The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Nemo is missing again so guests join Marlin and Dory as they search the seas for him.

2007 - Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

Donald has gone missing before his big concert in Mexico City so it’s up to Panchito and Jose to find him.

2007 - Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Nemo is missing again so guests board a submarine to help assist Marlin and Dory as they search the seas for him.
_____________

If new management at Imagineering eventually decides to stop hog-tying many of their park attractions to this same old banal formulaic story convention in lieu of truly original E-ticket attractions that dare to forgo plot for pageantry, wonder and charm then you can bet all those aliens, dinosaurs, fish, ducks, rabbits, pirates and little girls won’t be missed.

.

76 comments:

Merlin Jones said...

Poor WDI. It's not that there is no imagination left in the world... it's just gone missing!

Gil said...

That's absolutely hilarious.

John said...

This is so true it hurts! At least it's a little departure from the 'and then something goes terribly wrong' story.

-John
http://www.thedisneyblog.com

Bruce said...

Funny how I never realized so many attractions had this "missing" and "finding" aspect. One you didn't mention is "Expidition Everest" where we are searching for a "missing" yetti. Somehow though, I love the story on Everest. Perhaps besause it is so basic and doesn't get bogged down with details.

Adam said...

Way to add to the parental anxiety associated with bringing small children to a crowded park full of sweaty creeps. "Who cares about Nemo, now Junior's gone missing. FUN!!"

Anonymous said...

This is just embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Granted a few of these rides seem to have the same basic story, like Nemo and Gran Fiesta Tours, but it's a bit of a stretch to say they're all the same formulaic story. Dinosaur, Alien Encounter and Tower of Terror are clearly not all the same "search for the missing whatever". The Great Movie Ride and Kilimanjaro have the "missing" theme as minor subplots, but otherwise these rides are focused on the "pageantry" of their basic themes. I wouldn't categorize Tower of Terror as a "past imagineering misstep" because a few people go missing in the preshow.

tony said...

I never saw the connection between them all.

Although, I actually liked the original Alien Encounter.

Anonymous said...

While there is some similarity in theme, I too have to say that it certainly hasn't affected my enjoyment of these rides. When it comes to theme park attractions, it is all about execution.

I have problems with some of the rides and attractions mentioned, but the similarity of the stories isn't among them. I think the forcing of characters into Epcot is a mistake. Nemo fits reasonably well, but the new Gran Fiesta shows me very little of Mexico, as I am so busy being distracted by the search for Donald.

Also, if the contention here is that pageantry is not extant in the attractions mentioned due to their focus on story, I have to disagree. Kilimanjaro Safaris in particular is quite amazing. The story is tacked on at the end, and no doubt is the weakest part of the ride, but overall, this is still an excellent ride. Philharmagic as well, the hat serves as more of a Hitchcockian MacGuffin than anything else, while we are swept up in the pageantry of some of Disney's greatest musicals.

I also feel it is disingenuous to claim that there was only one story told - what is "missing" in It's Tough to Be a Bug? Backlot Tour? Muppets 4D? I could go on. You're even reaching with a couple of the ones you do list. You are hijacked on the Great Movie Ride, and there is no "search" for the missing tour guide at all - he just pops back up. And again, the pageantry is the ride here - the storyline is, I grant, unnecessary, but it is not the same as Nemo and Donald wandering off.

I agree with much of what you all say here, but I think that in this case, you are deliberately oversimplifying to make your point seem more powerful than it is. Rather than saying that Imagineering could only come up with one story, you could still have easily written this entry stating that they showed a disproportionate reliance on a single theme, rather than trying to claim they used only one.

And by the way, on an unrelated note, you have a reference to another article early on in your article, but refer to a date in the future... I think you just need to change the year.

bluesky said...

Amen to this article! Even if some of what was said here is a slight reach, you still have to realize that it is only a slight reach. The stories couldn’t be more dumbed down if they tried. I love the parks and rides as much as the next guy, but they could be so much better.

Mr Banks said...

Thank you, above anonymous. Date is changed.

On an editorial note, nobody is suggesting this is the only story being told at the parks. Just an all pervasive one.

And yes, many of these shows have elements of charm and pageantry; they're just often unnecesarily hobbled by too much plotiness. The true classics at the park forgo all literal narratives in leiu of transporting guests to wildly stimulating fantasy enviroments and captivating scenarios. No lost character in the bunch.

In the end, the argument here is to let attractions be what they need to be and not force story thru-lines on them. Context and backstory are all important. Literal narratives are not.

Anonymous said...

"In the end, the argument here is to let attractions be what they need to be and not force story thru-lines on them. Context and backstory are all important. Literal narratives are not."

Being the above anonymous, I must say it is nearly impossible to argue with that.

As mentioned, the Kilimanjaro Safaris and Great Movie ride both would be as good (or better) without the story. On the other hand, the story of Expedition: Everest adds to the ride, in my opinion, and I would qualify the pre-show of the Tower of Terror more as context and back story. Of course, I have a soft spot for that ride. I loved the old show, and really love the job done with ride at WDW.

David said...

Funny you say that. Just the other day I was mentioning the same to a friend after riding the new Mexico ride.

Joel said...

I came up with a ridiculous variation on the "find someone/something" theme while playing a practical joke on some friends:

In the new Spaceship Earth, aliens from the future will kidnap the cavemen in the painting scene and prevent him from creating the language that ties it all together. We'll go through the regular show scenes and see what we'll miss in the evolution of language until we reach the new climax of the attraction, at which point our ride vehicles will go "Buzz Lightyear" interactive crazy -- we must shoot and defeat the aliens, rescuing the cavemen and returning him back to the proper time and saving the future!

At this point, my friends finally realized that I was kidding, but the fact that I was able to make it this far shows how ingrained this is in the "Disney Formula" nowadays.

How pathetic. Disney needs to create an attraction where they find the missing ability to create a memorable attraction.

Joel said...

@anonymous

PS -- Bean Bunny is missing in Muppet*Vision 4-D

Brandon Starr said...

The plot that has always bothered me more (like john posted above) is the something goes terribly wrong plot. Of course that overlaps with the something has gone missing plotline on many of these rides.

twirlnhurl said...

Something is Missing and Splash Mountain are not at all related unless you only listen to the lyrics to the songs (impossible on the ride). Splash Mountain is the Frog Character telling the story about a time where Brer Rabbit went on an adventure and needed to use his wits to save himself from Brer Fox. If you were searching for him, he wouldn't be in every scene of the ride like he is. I think it's a stretch to say the riders are anything more then the audience in the story (with the exception of being thrown into the Briar Patch.
The Great Movie Ride, Tower of Terror, Alien Encounter,Mickey’s Philharmagic and Pirates of the Caribbean 2.0 are way too much of a stretch to count here. Maybe the theme kinda maybe shows up just a little, but that is to be expected if the ride deals at all with geographic location. If you move geographically in the story, then using your logic, you are Finding Something Missing. In Tower of Terror, you are going into the Twilight Zone, because you're the star of tonight's episode. In Pirates 2.0, Barbosa is looking for Jack in one scene. That's not what the ride is about. It's about Jack finding the treasure and surmounting obstacles in his way. Alien Encounter is about getting rid of a ravenous alien. The arguement would have been much more effective if good examples were the only example.

Mr Banks said...

Joel!

1: Your Spaceship Earth idea is actually pretty brilliant in an odd way. Part of me wishes I could actually ride that sometime. There are endless comic possibilities in the scenario you invented.

2. Your Bean Bunny addition has been noted and added to the article! Thanks. I'm embarrassed I hadn't recalled it!

You're a GENIUS, Joel.

teevtee said...

Well as has been mentioned the spirit of this article is correct, but the story they are focusing on is off. the most commonly used (and now cliche') story is in fact "Something goes terribly wrong"...

Lets take a look at a PARTIAL list of offenders:


Star Tours (Whacky pilot takes us off course right into a space battle)
Body Wars (Ship loses power as we get abandoned inside the patient)
Expedition Everest (peaceful tour goes out of control when a wild yeti mangles the tracks)
Norway Pavilion (Wicked Troll suddenly diverts us off course)
Dinosaur (We are sent back in time too close to a ginat meteor impact)
Alien Encounter (Wild alien gets loose in theater)
Stitch Encounter (ditto)
Mission Space (We lose control and have a crash landing)
Thunder Mountain (Avalanch throws train off course)
Storm Rider in TDS (Lighting Bolt causes plane to lose control)
Journey to the Center of the Earth in TDS (Cave in causes detour to
uncharted depths of the erath where all hell breaks lose)
20K, both the old WDW version and current TDS version (Squid attack /
underwater creatures cause sub to vere off course to uncharted depths)
Honey I Shrunk the Kids (Shrink Ray goes out of control shrinking
audience)
Kali River Rapids (Evil Loggers burn forest causing our raft to vere
into uncharted territory)
Kilimanjaro Safari {Peaceful safari is disrupted by evil poachers who
have shot Big Red)
Jungle Cruise in Hong Kong (Gyser of water causes boat to vere off
course into uncharted canyon filled with smoke and fire)
Tower of Terror (Haunted elevator sends us to uncharted fourth
dimmension)
The Great Movie Ride (Renegade cowboy, or gangster, hijacks the tram
and sends us vereing into scary movies)
Catastophe Canyon (careless tram guide drives us onto the set of a
movie about to undergo a huge special effects stunt and we pay the
price for it)
Armegedon in Disney Studios Paris (Our space station is hit by a
meteor storm causing lots of chaos)
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidan Eye (By looking into
the eye or Mara we curse our expedition sending us vering off course
into uncharted advantures)
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple fo the Crystal Skull in TDS (By
looking at the Crystal Skull we curse our expedition sending us vering
off course into uncharted adventures)
It's Tough to be a Bug (Peaceful show is thrown into confusion and
chaos when evil bugs attack)
Matterhorn (Fun mountain expedition thrown into chaos when Yeti
attacks)
Haunted Mansion (Peaceful tour of historic estate thrown into chaos as
we are trapped in a window and doorless chamber thus being forced to
enter uncharted areas of haunted house)

Now with a few MINOR stretches these are all the same basic "something goes wrong" story. Some are old, some are new but enough is enough... and there are more I did not even bother to list. But with all that said most of these are still quite fun so I am not so much complaining as just pointing out a reality of the parks.

Anonymous said...

I agree with both of the emerging sides - too much of the same, but some inaccuracies to make the point. Certain basic things work for good story-telling (something going wrong, even missing). A good back-story is the most important, without in-your-face narrative every time. Some attractions even go through the story too quickly, leaving out crucial story points (most of the "classic" in Fantasyland).

Again, there is much harsh criticism (sometimes stretching to make the point), without solutions. This site has the creatives coming to it, but needs more creativity.

So...? Should rides be changed, or just take these things into consideration for the new ones as they come? And, for the accountaneers, good story and creativity doesn't have to mean over budget - it just takes even more of the ever-present imagination to make it feasible.

Anonymous said...

What is missing is the creativity and originality and imagination that Walt had and also the Imagineers had around him.

What you see now is the same idea used over and over and then cloned at all the parks.

Eisner liked to think he was creative. Maybe he was or wasn't at one time, but he knew nothing about theme parks or telling a compelling story.

Disney under Eisner was "missing" the heart, charm, creativity and magic that Walt brought to everything.

Once in awhile you saw some of that magic, but then it would disappear back into the Disney Vault.

Walt was not that much into being hip and edgy like Eisner. Hip and edgy could become old and boring after a few months, but Eisner never got that. Walt used technology to make better movies or rides, not to be hip and edgy.

Walt strived to be timeless in his rides and attractions and if they did not work out he would build new and better ones. And the better ones are the ones that lasted like POTC and The Haunted Mansion.

What was "missing" from Eisner was being the creative genius that Walt Disney was. Eisner never had it and never thought that he needed it. He thought that being hip and edgy was enough.

That's why Eisner failed time after time and that's why The Disney Company needs to go back to Walt's original vision and update it for the 21st century.

The "Disney Magic" is still there. They just need to take it out of the vault and use it.

pariartspaul said...

Well Mr. Banks, I agree completely with your article here. As an Imagineer for many years, that ‘story above all’ mantra was something we had to deal with all the time, and it was a shame. Some of us totally got what our great Imagineer predecessors did and we wanted to continue in that tradition. But I’d see in pitch after pitch a brilliant simple idea get torn apart with “I don’t get it! What’s the STORY?!” And oh yes, I’ve been in many story sessions with bunches of hack writers foaming at the mouth, gleefully embellishing simple concepts into incredibly complicated scenarios!

And sadly I knew during that whole period that we’d never get to do anything in the simple spirit of say, a Pirates of the Caribbean or Small World again unless we were doing a copy for a new park. It’s funny that we always copied the classic attractions when they opened a new park, but we were never allowed to create new ones.

But as you all nit-pick about what story elements have been repeated over and over, I think you’re missing the big picture. In cataloging past ‘missteps’, we have to take into account that the creative leader at WDI during all those years was a publicity writer. And now there’s a film/TV writer in charge. When you look at that, you can see how we got so much of what you’re talking about, and why we’ll continue to get more of the same.

It would be good to remember that the original Imagineers were animation artists and set designers who were experts in VISUAL communication.

Wouldn’t you all love to see the current WDI creative management actually replaced with a team of Pixar and Disney animation artists? Not writers, but the actual visual communication people. Wow, what a concept. What do you think would happen?

teevtee said...

Pariartspaul makes some interesting points. The best Disney attractions and parks have always been about building interesting ENVIRONMENTS, not stories.

Think about the classics, old or new, they generally are about atmospheric elements that take guests to a different time or place, literal linear naratives are not needed and serve more as background unifying elements than anything else.

Pirates story is simply that Pirates attack a coastal town. We do not need to know why, we do not need to know who they are. Mansion is a trip through a haunted house. All the talk about sea capatians and jilted brides and so forth does NOT come across in the attraction and is NOT needed. In fact in Phantom Manor when they tried to make those elements more obvious it served to do nothing but weaken the attraction. Thunder Mountain is a wild run away train... cool setting, no set up or linera story neccesaary. Go down th list, virtually every great attraction is about interesting settings a lot more than they are about eleborate story set ups.

Tower of Terror walks a fine line where it balances both the atmpsophere and story about as well as any attraction could, Everest also does an excellent job of this.

But now think about being trapped in a damn pre-show theater and being forced to watch the Dinosaur pre-show movie for the 20th time or the Test Track set up movie for the umpteenth time... you want to shoot yourself. We don't really need to know that a rouge scientist broke ranks and sent us back in time to find a particular type of dino right before a meteor hits earth. Very few people even understand the story AFTER seeing that. All we need is a general set up that we are going back in time to see some dinos... then let things unfold for us as they will.

Disney attractions separate themselves from the rest by putting us INTO the environments and letting us live the story. As soon as they start TELLING us the story things start to fall apart.

It is less about what the frame work of the story may be (something goes wrong, etc.) and more about the fact that linear plot driven story lines are not required in the first place.

Mr Banks said...

Bravo Paul and TeeVee. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Expedition Everest is, as far as I'm concerned, the best current example of an attraction not burdened by narrative. It's got contextual story and story has informed the environment, but it's not a literal narrative. Infact, the 'story' is what happens to the guests, not what the guests have to follow.

Joe Rhode should run the company.

Anonymous said...

wow i never realized how many stories were the same, that is to funny and sad at the same time.

pariartspaul said...

Teevtee, you’re right again, and Mr. Banks I agree with you about Joe. But I laugh to myself when you bring up my poor Dinosaur ride. That thing went through so many story changes it made my head spin! To this day I still can’t tell you which version it ended up with! In the beginning we had some really nice simple concepts, but we were thrown so many curve balls during the design I lost track of what we started out to do. Ha! First they asked us to tie it in with a film that was in early stages of production (learn from experience guys… that NEVER works…) and the story got so complicated it was hard to follow… and then we had to create spaces to incorporate continuing story changes, change existing elements to the changing story… and on and on. Then they told us we couldn’t afford any sets! That was a tough one – hence all the empty rooms. Then in the finale, I was directed to create a vast asteroid impact on the horizon, in a space that was a long thin corridor (the Indiana Jones rolling ball scene layout). Wow that was a tough one. Overall it turned out such a huge disappointment. But as I look back at the way things were I see it was a no-win situation. There were too many people with different objectives involved.

Before that project, I was on that Beastlie Kingdomme concept for years – another Joe Rhode project. I think that would have been really terrific if we could have done it. There were no film tie-ins and some incredible wonderful aspects to it. Everyone who saw it pretty much loved it. But if they hadn’t canned it when they did, they probably would have changed everything so much it would have ended up sucking too. You know at that time they seemed to do a lot of the story revisions late in the game. I never agreed with that strategy. You know, I think they ought to pull all those Beastlie Kingdomme designs out of the vaults and take a new look at it. It was totally original and charming… very old Disney. No, on second thought they ought to wait until there's someone new in charge.

Don said...

This blog is amazing, and truly gives me hope that WDI could possibly improve. Is there any real chance the Disney attractions will ever reach for these types of improvements?

Anonymous said...

First they asked us to tie it in with a film that was in early stages of production (learn from experience guys… that NEVER works…)

I dunno, Paul, Sleeping Beauty Castle seems to have come out pretty well...

I’ve been in many story sessions with bunches of hack writers foaming at the mouth, gleefully embellishing simple concepts into incredibly complicated scenarios!

I can totally see this, as I've seen the results. Too many times I've walked out of an attraction going "what was that all about?" A friend of mine told me he hated Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye because he had no clue what was going on (the queue was set up so they didn't spend much time in the film room). People ride the attractions to have a fun experience, not be totally confused if they happen to relax their brains and miss a crucial detail.

Karl Elvis said...

I'm waiting for the "Walt's dream has gone missing and John Lassiter needs to help him find it" ride.

Anonymous said...

I do see a bit of that story concept strewn amongst these ride plots. But I don't neccessarily see them ALL as the primary focus of the plot. For instance, Tower of Terror may have the "people gone missing" element but the major pull is not that "They" went missing, it that "you" might just share their fate. Granted its something they should be trying harder to NOT repeat over and over again but the type of ride that REALLY bugs me is the one which tries to tell the WHOLE story behind a movie with just a few scene snapshots. Moster' Inc is the perfect example. The movie is like an hour and half long- lets see how to re-tell it in 3 1/2 minutes. Boo gets loose, Boo gets lost, Randal finds boo, Boo hits randal with bat and wins, "Kitty got to go now" The End. Did that tell the story well at all? No, and I notice that there is the implied element of Audience emmersion with this unstated idea that maybe we're actually helping Sully find Boo before Randal does, but the whole this ends up selling both the Movie AND the ride short. I don't want to see an anamatronically enhanced(if you can call the Monster's Inc. figures Anamatronics) yet abridged version of a movie I have at home.

teevtee said...

Ah yes, Dinosaur, certainly a missed oportunity and yet still a fun attraction. The details of how this thing went off the rails are not surprising and really illustrate the real problems WDI deals with... that is that this is now a HUGE corporation and decisions are made by comitee.

It is easy to say that Walt did this or Walt did that but it was a different time then. The company was tiny and Walt could more or less do whatever he pleased. He allowed some really talented people to do their thing and the results were often stellar (and sometimes not). The real root of ALL of the problems now is not a lack of talent or creativity or in some cases even budget, rather it is too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many people trying too hard to put their stamp on an attraction and pulling it in ridiculous directions.

case in point... Dinosaur,,, or should I say Countdown to Extinction which is what it will always be in my mind.

So much is great about this show... the queue is stunning, the actual AA dinos are impressive as hell, the ride system is every bit as great as it was 10 years ago and the simple idea of seeing real living breathing dinos can't be beat. But then you mix in all the stuff Paul described. Idiotic orders to tie the attraction into a movie which has long been forgotten (thus causing a name change to the bland and generic "Dinosaur"), budget cuts, forcing the designers to use the exact same track lay out as the Indy attraction at DL. It ends up gutting or at least hobbling what by all acounts could have been an all time classic attraction.

Imagine if there were not the comittees and the marketing folks and the short term views of budgets. Imagine if WDI were allowed to build what they wanted to build. This is NOT about WDI not "getting it" it is about them trying to please too many people with too many divergent needs.

I still hold out some faint hope that some day a budget will be freed up for some tweaks to Dinosaur. They could easily go in there and add some dramatic set pieces, then re-light the show and suddenly you would have a sense of scale and scope. Father than feeling like a trip through a dark warehouse it would feel like an epic adventure. The show is missing that "wow" moment that Indy gets when you first enter the main chamber. They need a grand vista with a setting sun way off in the distance and a horizon full of smoking volcanos and distand herds of dinos. They need that one establishing shot that puts everything else into perspective. And I think they can still do it, and not even for all that much cash.

Oh well, we can always dream. AK is a really great park with so much potential, it kills me to see them lose opportunities to do really GREAT things with it.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is interesting commentary. I must say I don't agree with many of the comments but it is a healthy discussion.

On the positive side, most of this debate and the associated issues are painfully evident to the vast majority of Imagineers, and they are starting to be very proactive about it. There is a growing sense that something is about to change. It could be bad or it could be good. It all depends on how Iger and Rasulo play the cards. 30 seconds after they announce the change, we will know how our future will play out. It might be a continuation of second rate over micromanaged concepts, or it might be a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, many Imagineers are being proactive and assuming the best and not that" something will go horribly wrong".

I for one am tired of complaining. I am following my heart and I am going to assume the best. Many of my fellow Wed Imagineers feel the same. It's time to start acting like we were trained to act.

Look out world, were back.

and by the way

Story is essential and still important.

To Quote

"As Leonard Maltin, author of /Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons/, notes, "John has said from the get-go that Pixar films are about storytelling and character. In this he follows the classic Disney template. The medium is not the message, but a tool to tell the story. He might use a cutting-edge tool, but he and his colleagues redefine their visual vocabulary every time they tackle a new subject matter."

I have decided that John has pointed us back in the right direction and the comment above can be directly applied to what Imagineering does with Theme Parks.

You should all keep us honest by questioning our direction but I pray that with some strong new leadership we will once again shine at doing what we were destined to do.

/bsdb said...

There is a growing sense that something is about to change. It could be bad or it could be good. It all depends on how Iger and Rasulo play the cards. 30 seconds after they announce the change, we will know how our future will play out.

The only change I could see making such an impact for how your "future will play out" involves removing executives and redistributing the org chart. Again.

If I sound skeptical, it's because we've seen this before, ad nauseum. For the past 13 years since Wells' death, the changes have pushed the company further into the abyss with every new reorg.

Change is not always a bad thing. But for WDI, it seems that change is rarely a good thing. Unless this change is a complete break from the status quo of the past decade, I don't see a bright future for Imagineering. Radical change is needed at this time, to put the company back on track.

A massive reorg involving plenty of executive pink slips is the only way to go. Just moving a few positions around or eliminating one or two VPs ain't gonna do it. Think machete in the jungle, not gardening shears in the flower bed.

teevtee said...

I don't think anyone is suggesting that "story" is not ESSENTIAL to a great Disney attraction. The question is how is that story told.

Pirates has a story of sorts, Mansion has a story, even Small World has a story. But these stories are simple set ups that then allow us, the guest, to live the tale. Things like the set up for Dinosaur are overly complex and linear.

There are many ways to tell a story, Disney attractions work best when that story is told from an almost purely visual sense. When you try to nell a narrative plot driven story, in a 3-5 minute attraction, things go astray.

What applies to a 90 minute movie does NOT always apply to a 5 minute ride. While they share certain things in common there are also vast differences between them that must be addressed and understood.

That said I appreciate your optimism and hope that you are correct. I also believe that WDI continues to do the industries best work and even some attractions I complain about are still head and shoulders above the norm. It is just that things could be that much better still.

Xander said...

Joel- Thanks for pointing out the Bean Bunny thing in Muppets 4D. I had completely forgotten (I'm the anonymous who originally brought it up).

I've been trying to figure out which park to go to this weekend. Must be Disney-MGM Studios time.

One of the things I really like about this site is that people here are capable of civilly disagreeing, and having real discussions, rather than arguments.

Anonymous said...

The announcer says you have a choice: You are about to enter a room that will take you into a magical, fantastical world filled with some of the most amazing sites you will see. You have two rooms to choose from. Room #1 is this wonderful new world for you to see & explore and imagine yourself in. Room #2 is the same as Room #1 except that there's a voice on the loudspeaker telling you the story about a character and the amazing quest he/she must go on to save the day. It is the same story every time you enter this room.

Which do you choose?

Eh, food for thought...

[First time poster. Long time reader. Worship this blog.]

Adam said...

>>There are many ways to tell a story, Disney attractions work best when that story is told from an almost purely visual sense. When you try to nell a narrative plot driven story, in a 3-5 minute attraction, things go astray.<<

teevee, I couldn't agree more. As someone who has written and sold screenplays, I can tell you that excellent movie writing is acheived when you 'show' the audience, not 'tell' the audience. The same principle can be applied to theme park attractions. In fact, attractions are an even better example because the audience is completely immersed in the environment rather than watching a flickering screen one hundred feet away. Pirates of the Caribbean 1.0 was a perfect example of that. The opening scenes set the tone of the attraction with only one sentence (dead men tell no tales). Then, you transition into the second part of the attraction - pirates attack a coastal town. There was some smattered dialogue throughout the attraction, but what did it matter? Did anyone really care what the pirate captain was yelling at the fortifications while blasting away? Of course not, we understood through the visual context of the scene (the pirates want in, and they're going to go in guns blazing). What about the pirate dunking the man in the well? Not there, either, because the visuals tell us everything we need to know (the pirate wants what the man has, and he's going to continue to dunk him in the well until he gives it up). The 'buy-a-bride' scene? Once again, what dialogue there is is completely irrelevant to the visual storytelling; who cares what the pirates are saying? We can clearly see with our two eyes what is going on; dialogue is incidental at best and only serves the visual storytelling, not the other way around. When the pirates set the town ablaze, what narrative is there? The pirates sing "Yo Ho, Yo Ho" and one drunk pirate in the corner tries to get a cat to drink some rum. Everything is told visually, which is the hallmark of excellent writing. What dialogue exists in the burning prison scene means nothing; I've ridden Pirates dozens upon dozens of times, and I couldn't tell you what they say in there. But, through the use of superior visual storytelling, I definitely know the pirates are desperate to get out and they need those dog's keys!

A more recent and decent example is Soarin' Over California. I would of said great example; however, even the little bit of ridiculousness of an airplane "pre-flight video" about how we are "catching a flight" to California is pointless. Who cares?! We get it, it's called "Soarin' Over California", we know what we're going to be doing. Get out of the way and let the visuals do all the work. When we are flying over the orange groves, or watching the surf break on rocky shores - that is where Soarin' succeeds, not by trying to dumb us down into telling us what the environment, not to mention the name of the attraction itself, already has conveyed.

Someone said on here that the first Imagineers weren't writers, they were artists. I would argue that they were both - they were writers who understood that attractions, like movies, were visual first, narrative second. An attraction should nevervbe about 'Captain Exposition' clubbing guests to death with a heavy-handed narrative plot. Movies only have a limited amount of time to tell their story, and attractions only a fraction of that time at best. If something can be 'shown' through the environment of the attraction rather than be 'told', not only is economy of expression used but it futher adds to the overall immersion of the guest into the environment, which is what an attraction is supposed to do after all. There have not been many good recent examples of this, which I believe is one of the reasons of WDI's slip into multi-million dollar mediocrity. If indeed "What's the story?!" is the mantra at WDI, then I suggest an addendum to that mantra that all good screenwriters have known for years - "SHOW me, don't TELL me."

teevtee said...

Adam:

You have done a wonderful job of crystalizing exactly the thoughts I had.

People confuse "story" and "theme". They are certainly related but a story in it's literal sense is not always required to create a great attraction. In fact complex, plot driven narratives simply bog down most attractions. Now this is NOT to say that we do not want hevily themed attractions, we just do not need all the exposition and luggage that goes along with most "stories".

Pirates, Mansion... you name it, the true classics all have eleborate themes and very little plot or story.

Here is another exaple from the world of film. this is a case when the less backstory and exposition you have the BETTER the film works. I am talking about the Star Wars saga.

If we look at the original three, and especially the original Star Wars (Episode 4) we are simply thrust in to the middle of a story. We do not know the motivation of Darth Vader or the Empire. We do not really understand who the main characters are... but damn it sure is fun. The movie works so much better just junping in to the action as oppossed to making us sit through all sorts of set up which really would add very little to the film and totally destroy the pace.

As if there was any doubt of this Lucase proved my point when he made the more recent three films (episode 1-3). These movies are all set up, all exposition and all plot. They are also pondering, move at a glacial pace and are just no fun to watch. Worse still is that they destroy much of what made the first movies so compelling. If watched in correct order the surprise of learning that Vader is Luke's father (for example) is now gone. One of the absolute quintisential moments in modern movies has been lost... all because the film maker lost focus on what people loved so much about his movies to start with.

Now imagine applying that logic to an attraction, say Pirates. We would find ourselves sitting in some pre-show room watching a film about how the pirates came to be, who they are, why they need the booty they plan on stealing and why they want to get ahold of some women. We would be told thier names, have some B level actors tell us about a wicked spell or something and a curse on the gold or whatever. After being bored silly for 5 minutes we would stumble onto the attraction, much of the wind taken out of our sails. Now, instead of enjoying a fun and frivilous adventure in which we each, as individuals, can create our own stories as to what exactly is going on, we would be spoon fed little plot points. "LOOK! Captain Barbosa is looking for Jack, just like he said he would in the pre-show movie!" Does any of this help the attraction in any way? Of course not, in fact it makes it much, MUCH less enjoyable.

Allow us to live the story, allow us to create our own tale. Give us the framwork to let imagination happen and then get the hell out of the way!

dan_steinberg said...

Not to be an apologist for the Imagineers (because if I ride another attraction where "something goes horribly wrong" or I have to watch another 3D movie that sprays water and stink at me, I'm going to heave my Dole Whip...), but is this really all their fault?

Like I've said before, it's hard enough for TV writers to create a good and compelling narrative in 60 minutes (okay, 46 minutes after commercials) with characters that we already know from previous weeks. That's why there aren't any 30-minute TV dramas.

So now let's try to cram the same thing into a 15- or 20-minute theme park ride like Pirates 1.0. And if it's using brand-new characters that we've never met before, it gets even harder (which I think is one reason - other than the famed "synergy" - that we get so many rides based on movies; at least we know the characters).

Want to make it even worse? The other thing that a Disney / WDI big-ticket ride absolutely must have these days in every is "thrills". Physical thrills usually means "high speed", and high-speed rides combined with limited space equals short rides. Indy's about 3-1/2 minutes, right? Try to write a good compelling narrative that fits in 3 minutes.

So if you want compelling stories on rides, slow things down and make them more than 4 minutes long...

Nicholas F. said...

So basically over the years the "writers" of WDI have taken control making everything about story. Dang I can't draw well. So should all of it be more visual?

In some instances dependent on circumstance there has to be story I suppose. In Tower of Terror the story is necessary to set up the ride. Most people don't know about the Twilight Zone and that helps them know what lies ahead. It doesn't however land blast you with it.
Also another attraction that sets up what little story as necessary with what I've found is Adventure Thru Inner space with the set up of the explorer's thoughts. But however it lets you create every thing else.

In all reality it is a problem I face to with coming up with ideas at home. Don't think too much for the person who is experiencing the attraction. Let them think. I need to learn how to draw......

Adam said...

>>Not to be an apologist for the Imagineers (because if I ride another attraction where "something goes horribly wrong" or I have to watch another 3D movie that sprays water and stink at me, I'm going to heave my Dole Whip...), but is this really all their fault?<<

Well, I freely admit I'm not at WDI to witness all the goings on. I must say, reading this blog over the past year has peaked my interest in a WDI career; it's one thing to 'talk the talk' behind the safety of a computer screen, it's another to 'walk the walk'. Nothing will change unless good people do something about it. But I'm digressing...

I'm not at WDI, so I can only speculate. I would lay the fault at the management team who foster this sort of thinking and hires/promotes those individuals who perpetuate it. Unfortunately, the "something goes terribly wrong" storyline is what you're going to get from a lot of these attractions simply because a narrative story without conflict equals nothing happens. When you write something, anything (a short story, a broadway libretto, an attraction script), there are three main things you do, whether consciously or unconsciously: 1. establish the status quo, 2. shake things up, and 3. resolve the conflict. As an example we'll use Stitch's Great Escape, a true dud of an attraction if ever I saw one (too scary for the target audience of Stitch the character, not scary enough for those who see the 'scary' label and actually enjoy a little thrill with their theme park day).

1. Establish the status quo.
Guests enter for their first day of guard duty training at the Galactic Federation Prisoner Teleport Center (I would of loved to be in on that blue sky session - 'The guests will get to be prison guard trainees - doesn't that sound like fun??'), where they watch an orientation video spelling out their duties ('Your job is to guard them until they have decided to become nice' - actual line. Whoever wrote that dumbed down vaguery...gets a time-out. Does that mean if the inmates are nice they can also 'lick the bowl'?) Further along, the officer on duty goes through the monotonous motions of teleporting prisoners, even to the ho-hum extent of teleporting in someone they pick up all the time (he even has a nickname - 'the donut guy').

2. Shake things up.
All of a sudden, red alerts and klaxons everywhere? A level three prisoner coming in? We didn't even know there was a level three! We are thrust from the ho-hum to an extremely menacing looking chamber (almost...extra'terror'estrial if I may use the pun). Never mind that it doesn't fit the established 'milk and cookies' mindset of the Galactic Federation we've been (repeatedly) told about and shown, because we at WDI are going to play the ol' bait and switch! Of course, anyone with two brain cells or over six years old will see past WDI's 'clever ruse' and know who the 'scary' level three prisoner is (it 'is' called Stitch's Great Escape). To be fair, I'm sure there are some who have never seen Lilo and Stitch or their subsequent cheap-quels, so it may work on a few. Anyway, bait and switch. Scary level three prisoner, dark scary chamber, cue the countdown and brace yourself for...Stitch. (Actual line - 'Is this some kind of a joke?!' Don't you just love unintentional humor?) Ah, but it gets better! Now the power goes out and Stitch is free to burp nauseating chili-dog on you (I'm told that initially Stitch burped peppermints on you until an upper level WDI manager said, 'Isn't Stitch supposed to crude and disgusting?' Thank God good taste prevailed, huh?).

3. Resolve the conflict
Stitch hotwires the power back on and teleports himself to the Magic Kingdom, thus allowing everyone to get out and end the training day. (Quick aside - if this story is supposed to be taking place before 'Lilo and Stitch', anyone figure out why Experiment 626 is calling himself 'Stitch'? Me neither.)

I could go on and on about most of the other attractions, but as I said if it's a narrative plot you're going to get that "things were fine at first but now something has gone wrong" plot thrown at you again...and again...and again...and again...and again...

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you folks need to quit grousing, get lives, give Disney a break, enjoy things for what they are and worry about even bigger world issues like the wars overseas!

You all complain too much and couldn't be more wrong even if any of you tried, IMO.

For example: putting the characters in Epcot is an EXCELLENT idea, so please get used to it. And none of the characters and whatnot mentioned in this article WILL NOT become forgotten anytime soon. The magic is NOT dead!

teevtee said...

Adam is correct again.

This simply illustartes why a narrative plot is NOT required by the vast majority of attractions. Now listsen, there will be exceptions to any rule. There are plot driven attractions which work extremely well, but as a general rule they do not serve the purpose of a theme park attraction.

Adam points out that to have a "plot" you need to go through the motions of establishing the norm (this is often done in a very boring pre-show video that only works on the initial viewing and then bogs down any repeat rides), introducing conflict (when you have 3 minutes about the only conflict you can fit in is "something goes wrong" or maybe "we need to find something" there just is no time for anything else), and finally solving the conflict (quick wrap up and happy ending).

Not to beat a dead horse but apply that criteria to Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Mansion, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain etc. The most famous and beloved Disney attractions which have worked for decades and decades (50 plus years in the case of Jungle Cruise) and you will see that there simply is NOT a plot driven story. We do not know who the jungle cruise skipper is, why he is in the jungle, why he is driving a boat. We do not have anything major go wrong (well in the Hong Kong version they actually have introduced this element... which does nothing but hurt the pace of the show), therefore there is no conflict to resolve. The attraction is simply about a fun and silly outing in which we get to see some exotic locations and imagine what is going on. It works on a visual level and an atmospheric level, NOT because of a plot of any sort.

Now to be fare the example Adam used, Stich's Great Escape, is slightly unfair, simply because this was a retrofit. WDI was tasked with taking an exisiting (and generally very good attraction, though it was plot driven) and force an overlay onto it without spending much money. The basic idea of scary and Stitch really do not go hand in hand, making it a near impossible goal from the get go. This is yet another marketing driven move and not something I can blame WDI for.

WDI has all the talent in the world, it is absolutley NOT a lack of talent that is the problem, it is a lack of understanding by those above them.

Merlin Jones said...

>.Seriously, you folks need to quit grousing, get lives<<

For many of those posting, these issues ARE their chosen livelihood and expertise, their dedication and their passion. Good for them. We need them to carry the torch of Walt's vision to future generations.

>>worry about even bigger world issues like the wars overseas!<<

Alot of other people are already on that, it seems, to little effect.

But these issues need the focus of those who care. That's how our kids of all ages will get through these wars and troubled times... through enlightened and reassuring entertainment of the Walt Disney variety; inspired escapism, laughter, wonder, inspiration from the past and optimism for the future.

Things that are not necessarily provided for in MBA or marketing courses or by product branding initiatives.

Go, Re-Imagineers!

Tongaroa said...

Go Merlin Jones!

StrangeVoices said...

>>The magic is NOT dead!<<

For you.

pariartspaul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pariartspaul said...

I’m enjoying a lot of the comments here, there are some interesting points being brought up. I love teevtee’s example of what Pirates might have turned out like if it was built today using the design strategies they keep using over and over:

“….imagine applying that logic to an attraction, say Pirates. We would find ourselves sitting in some pre-show room watching a film about how the pirates came to be, who they are, why they need the booty they plan on stealing and why they want to get hold of some women. We would be told their names, have some B level actors tell us about a wicked spell or something and a curse on the gold or whatever. After being bored silly for 5 minutes we would stumble onto the attraction, much of the wind taken out of our sails….”

Funny, but so true! When you look at some of the best attractions, the visual experience stands on its own, and narration is used only when it is really needed. Somebody brought up Big Thunder – exactly right. And Indiana Jones. There’s Small World. Pirates has very little narration. The only narration there I can think of is the talking skull right? And even if you can’t hear the dialogue, it is so well themed to the environment it doesn’t matter. The skull isn’t trying to get across some strong plot point right?

Then on the other hand, you have attractions like Carousel of Progress, full of narration. But story? It is simply about a man who invites the audience into his home to show how advances in technology made his family’s lives better - in a musical, magical way. That was it. Then they built funny situations to support that story. There were no additional complicated plots about somebody getting lost in the first act. Nothing went wrong. It was kind of nice.

It would be interesting challenge to see if WDI could come up with an attraction today with a one sentence story where nothing goes wrong.

Anonymous said...

Strangevoices, the magic is not dead to people like you either...and I know you feel that way deep down.

And that's because it's true. The magic really isn't dead and it never will die, no matter what.

You just have to stop being such cynics and get back in touch with your inner child.

I'm also just trying to instill some reason, optimism and positivity into a rather mean-spirited and emotion-driven blog dominated by a bunch of seemingly-curmedgeonly individuals.

teevtee said...

>>> It would be interesting challenge to see if WDI could come up with an attraction today with a one sentence story where nothing goes wrong.<<<

Well they have, the most recent good example would be Soarn'. It's concept is simply "We hang glide over California" and it is a nice, pleasent ride in which nothing goes wrong, we do not almost die, the thrills are gentle and uplifting not bombastic and nausia inducing and it all ends on a nice happy note.

My issues with Soarn' have nothing to do with the story or concept but rather the execution. They flying effects are great but the attraction is held back from true greatness by some cut corners.

rather than walking into say a hanger and having big doors slide open to star our journey we walk into a generic theater with a big blue screen sitting in the open in front of us. No theme whatsoever. They tell us that we are hang gliding and yet we are clearly sitting in suspended seats... they could have added a wing like canopy over us which not only would help with the illusion of hang gliding but also hide the edges of the screen from us even if we tried to find them. Then there are the hard cuts, a contriversial decision. Some like this feeling it gives a feeling of jumping all over the state. I would prefer soft cits as we drift through clouds. Finally is the illogical idea of boarding an attraction in Florida and flying over Ca. Yes, in the orginal DCA version it is fine but for WDW it should be something else. In fact i think they should of put it in World Showcase where the Milennium Village is now and have us flying over the countries of the world.

Still and all (and to get back on topic) Soarn' is a good example of a fun, current attraction with no plot or narrative of any substance, and it has been a HUGE hit for them... so maybe not all hope is lost.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Marty was a publicity writer. Tom is or was a film writer. What was Walt. Well, he didn't draw, except in the early days. He actually didn't write, but was a story guy. His credit? He was a producer, that amalgam of creative manager, creative director and the keeper of the vision. What Imagineering needs is a good visionary producer to move it forward. And not one of the political types it seems to have put in place in the past and currently there. Walt knew when to let his creative people do their thing, and when to say no.

Tongaroa said...

Xander said...

“One of the things I really like about this site is that people here are capable of civilly disagreeing, and having real discussions, rather than arguments.”

Me too. I hope everyone will help keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

To those of you who write these Re-Imagineering blogs, you folks don't sound like Imagineers at all. You're more like more of those crazed rabid fanboys/fangirls who have nothing better to do than complain, complain and complain some more about Disney.

If you're going to write blogs like this, actually write real suggestions rather than what appear to be mere bitter adn mean-spirited b*tching and moaning typical of Disney blogs and message boards these days.

/bsdb said...

What Imagineering needs is a good visionary producer to move it forward. And not one of the political types it seems to have put in place in the past and currently there.

I'm no longer convinced that this is the core problem that needs to be solved.

Having a "good visionary producer" is only effective when that producer gets adequate support and backing from on high. Without corporate officers and accountaneers willing to accept the producer's visions and invest substantial levels of capital accordingly, the producer's involvement will eventually become unnecessary.

Changing out the Glendale political players is only a fraction of the solution. Several Burbank leftovers from the Eisner/Pressler era continue in their hyperfocus on short-term "cost effective" gains at the expense of more substantial, long-term investments. And those long-term investments are vital to the continued health of Imagineering and the Disney theme park family, moving forward.

Replacing WDI's executive leadership with those "good visionary producer" types will only be a temporary solution, unless P&R's executive leadership is also replaced with similar professionals who understand and accept those visions.

What's the point of having a top flight cardiovascular surgeon perform quadruple bypass surgery if you steadfastly refuse to change your unhealthy lifestyle?

pariartspaul said...

I don’t mind comments from an opposing view, but I’m starting to get tired of anonymous comments from people who write to complain about the blog itself. This is all opinion here, and we all have a perfect right to state what we think. If all you are looking for is starry eyed optimism, go to laughingplace or mouseplanet.

Mr Banks said...

To the above anonymous;

Your meanspirited bitching and moaning has been duly noted.

Anonymous said...

Great Movie Ride - It's actually old Chicago, but I'm splitting hairs. Still love your articles.

Xander said...

So, as I said I would, I went to Disney-MGM Studios this weekend, did indeed re-watch Muppet*Vision 3D. I now remember why it had been a while since I watched it - I am not a fan of Waldo, the embodiment of 3D they introduce for the movie. I can see how some people would be, but mixing animation with the puppetry of the Muppets isn't my thing. (Although the Muppets themselves make me laugh every time, and it was empty enough this weekend that I got to walk around and read the contents of the boxes, etc. in the pre-show area for a few more laughs)

That said, we also went on a few other rides - The Great Movie Ride, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Backlot Tour (I had never volunteered to be in the show, and figured I might as well)

As usual, the story in The Great Movie Ride washed right over me as unimportant. Which is kind of sad, as our guide and Mugsy both did a great job, but I do feel as though the story there interferes with, or at least doesn't contribute to, the pageantry of revisiting some of the all-time classic movies.

Tower of Terror, though, I still feel is well served by the pre-show. Even viewing it through the filter of this entry. And, the Backlot Tour. I tried to sit back and experience it through the eyes of those around me, who hadn't been on it as many times - they seemed to be having fun, and I always like this ride, although I must say that the Villains display at the end could use a change. Overall, it was a good day, and I stand by my original feeling - telling this story, even over and over again isn't necessarily a bad thing - when told well, it can be quite rewarding. The problem, at least to me, is when the story is bolted on to attractions that don't need it.

Adam said...

There is one other inherent flaw with a primarily narrative-driven (as opposed to visually-driven) plot; namely, guests that do not speak the language the narrative is delivered in will be left completely clueless as to what exactly is going on. If you can tell your story visually, such as my example with Pirates 1.0, you are speaking a universal language that all your guests will understand and appreciate.

bluesky said...

I think that Teevtee hit the nail on the head with his Star Wars analogy. You are exactly right! that is what makes parts 4, 5 and 6 much better than Parts 1,2 and 3. It is also what makes POTC and HM superior to most of the newer rides. I hope that if anyone is listening, that they get rid of movie screens, pre shows, and boring repetitive stories. Just immerse us in a place in time. Take us somewhere and let our imaginations do the rest.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the whole idea of the rides for a person to be in the action or in a movie? Didn't Walt Disney first make movies and took it to the next level, the ride or the attraction? Pirates of the Carribean movie is defeating the purpose.

Anonymous said...

"Nemo!"

-giggle giggle sound-

"Nemo!"

"I'm thinking of something pink"

"A jellyfish. Nemo!"

-giggle giggle sound-

"C'mon out Nemo. Fish are friends"

"Where's Nemo?"

"Your Dad's lookin' for ya"

"I found him!"


You've just experienced The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

I know WDI is capable of much better.

Anonymous said...

Pariartspaul, Laughingplace.com is also mean-spirited at its forums. And a blog like this DOES need immediate injections of so-called "starry-eyed optimism"...AND FAST!

And Mr. Banks, you folks at this blog DO b*tch and moan a lot and need to get lives, so go get lives!

Jason B said...

I usually enjoy the site, but this topic is a bit of a stretch, sorry. You can manipulate almost every great story to a "gone missing" theme because in order for the protagonist to embark on their adventure, they have to GO somewhere other than they were before. Frodo Baggins went missing from Hobiton. Luke Skywalker went missing from his home planet, Neo went missing from the Matrix, Citizen Kane went missing from his simple home life. Are you seeing a pattern here? There's enough legitimate beefs to support the fact that Disney needs improvements, there's no need to dig for stuff that doesn't exist.

Mr Banks said...

Not a stretch at all. Nobody went searching for Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Neo or Charles Foster Kane. Nobody was tasked with finding them. Nobody wondered where they went. Characters going somewhere they weren't before doesn't mean they've gone missing.

Jason B said...

Exactly my point... Alien Encounter was not about an alien that went missing; it was about an Alien breaking out of a teleporation device and terrorizing the audience. Bean doesn't go missing in Muppet Vision, he runs away (more than half way through the show). Brer rabit is not really missing in Splash Mountain, he is just away, setting out for adventure, and we eventually catch up to him only a few minutes into the ride and join him. These stories are no more about the search for something missing than Lord of The Rings is about the black riders searching for Frodo, or The Matrix is about the Agents searching for Neo, or Star Wars is about the Empire searching for Luke, etc. The heroes have accepted their call to adventure, so it just stands to reason that for the story to continue, the audience must follow. It's a bit of a distortion to suggest that this makes all of the rides mentioned redundant in their themes.

Mr Banks said...

And you've made the point of the article as well. Quite simply it's sad that the Disney attractions mentioned have to be tied to ANY forced narrative contrivance. The very best of the Disney attractions knew better; the very finest imagineers and their management teams knew better.

Jason B said...

Maybe, and I agree that a ride shouldn't be forced into telling a story, but I would consider Splash Mountain one of the very best Diseny attractions; maybe too good for its own good, since so many rides afterwards followed the narrative format.

Joey said...

'Nother remark in regards to exaggeration of things in here, you got the plot completely mucked up in regards to Dinosaur. It's not even a baby dinosaur we are tasked to find. We're looking for Aladar the Iguanadon to bring it to the future on the basic premise that Seeker has that it would be a grand idea(read: badass idea) to bring a dinosaur back to the present to study, the bonus thing behind it being that Iguanadon was one of the first dinosaurs discovered (but doesn't occur to people who don't know their dinosaurs).
Just saying there...

teevtee said...

I am not sure if anyone is reading this thread any longer but as an aside...

One of the very nicest things about AK when it first opened, which has sadly been removed, was that there was an AA Iguanadon playing in the river near the banks of Disocvery Island. He was visible from the long gone Discovery RIver Boats as well as from the bridge leading from the Oasis to Discovery Island.
The premise here of course was that this was the very Dino we brought back with us while riding Dinosaur (then called Countdown to Extinction).

That added level of detail, that a ride was expanded beyond it's boundries to interact in unique ways and times with guests is one of the many things that elavated AK above most other parks. Now many if not most of those details have been removed. I believe the internal structure of the AA dino was last seen rottting in the boneyard of DSP movie rtour of all places. If it is still stored somewhere (meaning the one in France was something else) then I wish they would recomission in for use elsewhere in the park. Hell, just have it hanging out in the little trail near the ride...anything is better than just removing such great work to be replaced by nothing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like sour grapes as conveniently packaged by a few guys who didn't get their ideas chosen to me.
If creativity sucked so badly and this one lone idea was all that Disney has been able to come up with over the past few decades, well...it sure hasn't hurt attendance or the company's bottom line, has it?
If you few crybabies have all the answers, then by all means stop wasting your time on a blog and build this perfect park and resort--the one your bosses won't seem to approve.
Tens of millions of guests a year don't seem to be getting your message. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before everyone stops going to a Disney park and simply admits you few were right all along--everything since Walt died sucks.
Or not.

Anonymous said...

The above sounds like a smug response by someone who DID get his ideas chosen, and knows that they were inferior. Having all the answers does no good if politics control what gets developed. It’s pretty obvious where your loyalties lie.

As for the guests, while many may be oblivious to the slow degradation of the parks, many more realize what’s happening. Just because they are dedicated Disney fans doesn’t mean they will just roll over and accept it when they are given inferior attractions.

Competition has increased immensely. And often, the creative efforts of other companies have been enhanced by former Imagineers. Disney cannot afford to continue to lose top talent and take shortcuts that improves their competition while weakening their own capabilities.

Tens of millions of guests ARE getting the message. While they may not have reached their breaking point yet, they DO see the deterioration, and many are complaining about it. While there is little chance that Disney’s parks will completely collapse in failure, long-term disregard and laxity can result in the loss of enough perceived value that they will no longer be looked at as being worth visiting.

CJ said...

There are still glimmers of hope.

Has anyone commented yet on the improvements to WDW Haunted Mansion?

I have to admit, knowing what I know now from this post, when I got on and noticed the first few changes, I got scared thinking about what kind of insane things were going to have been changed (I seriously expected to see Eddie Murphy somewhere in there).

However, I was pleasantly surprised. The changes were subtle enough to not be intrusive, but were very effective. They seemed to fill in a lot of the dead space (no pun intended) between the scenes. They were all very tasteful and very effective. The now-floating head-in-globe was a much-needed update and now looks really good.

What I did notice was that the tone of the enhancements is a lot darker than the previous overall tone in the ride. The "grim grinning ghosts" and "happy haunts" themes made them seem not so scary and evil, but just dead and loving it. These new changes added quite a bit of "evil ghosts" to the ride (e.g. the bride near all the headless photos appearing with a hatchet and some limerick talking about how she enjoys relieving her hubbies of their heads). I'm not quite sure what the impetus was to change the tone of the characters, but it was certainly palpable.

Overall, I was stoked to see the changes to the attraction, and I was glad to see that its original appeal has not been disturbed by the changes.

-cj

Kristy said...

this is cute BUT

Great Movie Ride!

Are you suggesting this attraction is not completely original? I don't think for a second this attraction needs any change or should have been done differently, and btw we are not looking for the tour guide she comes back to us and it's supposed to be surprising and for most of the first-time guests it all is.

Blogger4uNme said...

As I am reading all about the individuals that are upset because Disney is adding characters of their movies into the attractions. I feel that growing up and going to Disneyland, I used to wonder why it was called that because in the attractions, except for Fantasyland, there were no characters. Afterall, it is called Disney for a reason! I think it is a great idea to create the atmosphere of any Disney movie or add the characters into the attractions to create the Disney environment. I think the Imagineers are doing a really great job with their new ideas and making the parks a more advanced place to go. They need to keep up with the times to keep people going back today and tomorrow!

Dr Bitz said...

Interesting points at times, wouldn't it be nice to be able to write it all shorter?

One man's "missing" is another man's "McGuffin".
The lost thing everyone wants but can't get their hands on worked for Alfred Hitchcock over and over. The same idea done different ways gave him his career. So it can't be that bad, it must be in the execution.

BTW- When you watch Disney animated movies, notice how the same plots are recycled over and over.