Friday, June 15, 2007

“When Mickey Comes Marching Home Again…”


It is a sparkling Southern California day as I step off the Monorail into Tomorrowland. The kind of day I associated with Disneyland as a kid, when the drive to Anaheim brought sunshine, ocean breeze and brilliant color to eyes more accustomed to the miserable grey of a Tule fog winter.

Fitting weather for a celebration. Walt Disney’s Submarine Voyage is recommissioned nearly ten years after a critical battle, when the historic attraction was torpedoed by sharp-shooting accountaneers of a tragic wartime Kingdom.

Now the fleet has returned to a hero’s welcome.

Watching the gleaming yellow subs circle though their shimmering lagoon, the future again looks bright, fading the long nightmare of an era when all life was drained from these once-vital waters. Looking across the landscape, there are further signs of that miraculous Tomorrow we were promised by Walt, a world that in recent years was left to rot and ruin for the duration.


Though the hulking skeleton of the Rocket Jets, now a dismembered mechanical corpse, still dominates Tomorrowland’s skyline to remind us of past atrocities - signs of utopia’s reconstruction are evident everywhere. The spires of Space Mountain shine white once again. Modernist sculpture graces the civic spaces of the future city. It’s a world slowly on the move and the mend.

But beneath the surface of Tomorrowland’s lagoon, renewed life is fully vibrant.

As I climb down that spiral staircase into the submarine, I'm embraced by the joy of finding an old friend lost in battle. My sense memory streams with déjà vu of the voyages we had shared. As I dutifully polish a porthole with my sleeve to remove a greasy nose-print, as I had so many times before, I'm carried back to those simple, happy times before the fall.

This is no wallow in nostalgia. Through the bubbles, a new adventure unfolds, colorful, detailed, filled with character and delight. The new voyage is not a pasteboard paradise, but a living environment of quality and imagination, to a depth we have not experienced in many years. The new “Finding Nemo” show elements fill the enormous flippers passed down by fondly recalled sea serpents, giant squid and mermaids. The unique infrastructure of the original Submarine Voyage provides an incomparable platform from which to launch new technological wonders, resulting in a fully animated hybrid that would not be possible to build from scratch today. It is worth every penny, and the smiling crowds that have turned up to greet the fleet underscore the success.

So who are the true heroes of the campaign? To whom do we dedicate this octopus’s victory garden?

We salute those who fought for the Magic Kingdom, those who risked politics and livelihood to pass Walt’s world of wonder to a new generation. Prime among them, Tony Baxter and his fellow Imagineering traditionalists, who kept the lights on in the lagoon during every blackout. And to Matt Ouimet, former President of Disneyland, who recognized the value of the shared treasure with which he was entrusted. Without their passion, dedication and perseverance through the dark decades, these waters might now be landfill; the subs scrap metal, like their Florida cousins.

Along with the submarine fleet, another long lost unit has come marching home again… the animators. And they are bringing the “Walt” back to Disneyland.

While cartoons have never strayed far from the Kingdom, in fact they have been rather persistent in expanding their reach, the specialized cartoonist's-eye and the inventive ideas that made characters into something more than franchise floggers has increasingly become an offshore import.

Walt Disney’s original voyages into theme park design benefited greatly from the taste and talents of Walt Disney Productions artists and animators, the creators of his classic cartoon features. Studio stalwarts like Marc Davis, Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, Ken Anderson, Claude Coats and so many others that helped set the style for the films, did the same for Disneyland. These initial Imagineers knew how to tell stories visually, to art direct an environment that brought the unreal to convincing life. With personality, detail, color and corn, they took us to other worlds without a trace of irony. Their contributions helped make a trip to Disneyland like stepping into the frame of a Disney film. After all, they had created the originals.

Since the early 1990’s, when corporate gatekeepers began to close the inner-kingdom to animators, artists and other creatives of the Walt kind, we began losing portholes of imagination to MBA-holes of management efficiency. Yet that time too has passed.

In the acquisition of Pixar, Disney has bought back their wandering soul and healthy inner child – at a premium – and it could not have been a better move. Here are to be found the traditional Disney talents and ideas, the Walt spirit in exile.

While Pixar’s artists had contributed ideas and comments to their attractions in the past, their people were more-or-less peripheral to the process. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is the first opportunity WDI’s new creative skipper, John Lasseter, has had to fully supervise the execution of a major attraction - - and the increased level of creative spit and polish is more than evident. His efforts to “plus” the project ensured that the fleet’s return was well-worth waiting for.

On sparkling display too, is the Pixar eye for design through the efforts of “Finding Nemo” alumni, including Robin Cooper, texture art director for the film, who helped bring the look and feel of the movie environment to three-dimensional life – and “Nemo” production designer Ralph Eggleston, whose dazzling attraction travel poster at the main gate pays homage to the stylish mid-century original, while adding the fun of the film, ride and characters to the design. While only part of a larger hardworking team, the animation artists help to bring that special “Disney touch” back to the park, with colorful detail at once fresh and new, yet part of the timeless whole.

Through Pixar, we can only hope the entire Disney Company will again be animated by animators, as it has always been, as it ever should be.

As I step from the submersible with a happy heart, I catch an angle on Tomorrowland that I haven’t seen in a decade. From that vantage point, other phantoms of The Happiest Place on Earth live again in my mind’s eye. The bleak Observatron spins again with stellar Astrojets high above, the PeopleMover carries relaxed travelers of tomorrow’s highway on its slender beams, Skyway gondolas fly overhead into icy caves of the mighty Matterhorn, giving a rarified bird’s eye view of this World on the Move. And there are new wonders too, attractions that surprise and delight beyond expectation… It is Walt's utopia reborn from the depths of decay.


The union of Pixar artists and Disney Imagineers will help to further renew, revive and define that dream Tomorrowland for the next millennium, perpetuating the optimistic futurism of the founder though creative application of design and technology, visual storytelling and immersive experience. The triumphant return of the submarine fleet is only leading a pageant of promise from the past to future voyages of discovery in waters of the imagination yet to be explored.

Walt Disney’s great, big beautiful tomorrow is on the horizon once again, thanks to those who let their hearts soar above the bottom line. Though there are surely still mid-level monkeys in the machine, clinging to their spreadsheets on remote islands long after surrender, the news will reach them sooner or later - - or they will simply be left behind.

“When the world is truly ready for a new and better life, all these things will one day come to pass, in God's good time,” predicted Captain Nemo in Walt Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Maybe “God’s good time” is now...

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why was "20,000 Leagues" demolished in Florida at the same time the California attraction was being salvaged? So much has been striped from our Magic Kingdom and never replaced or replaced miserably (Tiki Room, Stitch, Diamond Horseshoe, etc). Are there plans to breathe new life into the Florida project?

JohnG31 said...

Thank you for sharing your optimism with us, it sure is nice to feel good about the way things are going for a change.
Thanks again for the wonderfull words,
Here's to a great big beautiful tommorow!

Jeff Pepper said...

There is some real unbridled optimism floating around as reflected in this post.

It feels good . . .

Bruce said...

OMG that was lovely. I'm tearing up!

We can all only hope you are right that the Finding Nemo Subs signal a return to the ideals that Disneyland was designed with.

Robert said...

I used to read this site and get depressed, thinking my kids would never know the Disney magic of my childhood. Recently, it has been as if the first rays of dawn are breaking after the long night. I can't wait to see the Disney resurgence.

Thank you for Re-Imagineering and keeping the candle burning...

Anonymous said...

We can only hope.

Anonymous said...

It is truly great to hear all of this. I have always admired what has come out of Pixar, and saw at the Screenwriter's Expo last year that it is a utopian (if not too good to be true) kind of a place to work. It just makes me wonder what the Disney animators (who are left) - back in their still sort of new building, with the big hat, but shadowed by the bigger, ABC, too New York looking building next door - think about all of this attention on the animators up North. Are they now chopped liver, and step-children.
I really don't want to bring negativity to an article that is looking ahead and seeing the current hope of bigger, better, and restoring of the good that we all remember it all to be. I just wonder if the animators of North and Burbank will also get together more as collaborators now.
It is also good to see the acknowledgement of those who have stayed the course and carried Walt's torch, surviving to keep WDI the way it should be.
Thanks for the update and positive outlook. May it continue!

S.T. Lewis said...

"MBA-holes." I love that... never heard them called that before, but thought it many times. Hooray for putting creative ventures in the hands of the creative people! Long live John Lasseter, Pixar, and Imagineering. Things are looking brighter lately, and I LOVE IT!

(I thought I'd never sit in one of those submarines again... what a great thing that it's back).

The Clab said...

I wholeheartedly agree that Nemo is a step in the right direction, both for story telling and using technology to bring these characters to life. If this is the start of a new era in Imagineering than I am excited.
There were a lot of memories that came back when I climbed down the spiral staircase in the sub. Who knows what could happen if Tommorrowland started living up to it's potential. It really could be a great big beautiful tomorrow.

Spokker said...

I had the same nostalgic feelings you did about the return of the Subs and the return of movement to Tomorrowland. However, I'm not too sure Pixar motifs are the answer to Tomorrowland's problems.

While in the end I "like" the Nemo makeover, it's more a defeatist type of acceptance. Personally I don't want to see anymore cartoons, Pixar or otherwise, in Tomorrowland. But I also realize that the only reason the Subs returned is because they were able to tack on a popular movie concept regardless of content or merit.

The Nemo makeover is quality, don't get me wrong. The film it's based on is my all-time favorite Pixar movie. But it's not for Tomorrowland. Buzz, Stitch (MK), Nemo, and Monsters Inc. (Tokyo Disneyland) all take away from the "optimistic future on the move" concept and turned it into Toontown 2050.

Keep the cartoons in Toontown and Fantasyland and in the Main St. Cinema where they belong. I like my Rocket Jets, People Movers, and sea serpant filled Submarine Lagoon just fine, thank-you-very-much. My biggest dream for Disneyland as a whole is a 21st century dark ride in the spirit of Horizons that would either be enclosed in the Carousel Theater or replace Autopia. Tomorrowland is missing something without that big "show" to tie it all together.

However, if you guys want to turn DCA into Pixarland, be my guest. It'll be a huge improvement.

Adam Morgan said...

A very well thought out article. I agree with you so much and am so glad that Disney is once again turning to animators. It was the incredible visual talent and creativity of their artists that made Disneyland what it was and then they forgot that. And they could not have picked a better group of animators to remind them.

Anonymous said...

It was so great to see the "old girl" up and running again. So lovingly restored, with a new theme and great new effects. Even the WATER seemed clearer than before! While there's always room for improvement (especially the cue).

I'm pleasently surprised to see how taken aback Disney management is at the near rabid anticipation and great reviews the ride has recieved. BRAVO!

WHAT'S NEXT?

Brandon Starr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeaceLove said...

Wow. The prospect of a new, movie tie-in ride emerging from the shameful rust and rot of the long-dry lagoon had me pretty petrified. What a thrill to hear from a trusted source that Disney didn't screw it up! That they actually made something great!

Lasseter's a genius, and the best thing to happen to Disney in decades. Anyone know if Steve Jobs gets involved in new park projects at Disney?

Biblioadonis said...

Beautiful article.

Thanks for sharing your vision with all of us!

Tongaroa said...

Wonderful article. Inspiring and beautifully written.

Merlin noted a few of the great souls who contributed to bringing back the Subs, but perhaps the bravest soldier in this battle fell victim to the politics of wartime Imagineering and was not at the Subs grand opening.

Bruce Gordon played a crucial role in the return of the Subs. Without him the Sub Lagoon would have been filled in with dirt and scrap metal just like its cousin in Florida. Bruce fought the good fight and sold the Subs project to Disney corporate. WDI management, after securing the precious job numbers that come along with project approval, laid off Bruce. So, when you take your next trip through liquid space remember to thank Bruce Gordon. He lost his dream job because he did the right thing for Walt’s legacy. Disneyland is richer for it, and we are all the beneficiaries.

Ghostbuster626 said...

I just wish they incorporated more realistic AA's into the ride...especially at the beginning.

The old Sub Voyage had so much to look at in the first portion of the ride and its now so barren. Perhaps in a few years when Disney gets there stuff together they could add more to the lagoon?

Anonymous said...

I just wish they incorporated more realistic AA's into the ride...especially at the beginning.

The old Sub Voyage had so much to look at in the first portion of the ride and its now so barren. Perhaps in a few years when Disney gets there stuff together they could add more to the lagoon?

Anonymous said...

Now if only anybody in the entire organization cared about us east coasters and WDW... our Magic Kingdom continues to rot away in the Florida sun. We get the Tiki Migraine Spectacular, Stitch Spittle Spectacular, and Monsters Lobotomy Theater. And a beautiful sub lagoon filled with landfill. Oh well, I'm happy for you west coasters... at least someone wins out!

I just wish futurism could return to Tomorrowland... it's just turning into Fantasyland II. But it's great to see those subs running again...

Spokker said...

What's stopping the so-called new era of WDI from rehiring Bruce Gordon?

Anonymous said...

I hope they do fix up Tomorrowland. It was so inspiring as a child, but now it's turned into a space-age carnival.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Lasseter lately? Can he fit in the sub?

Anonymous said...

Merlin and I must have led parallel lives. I grew up in the winter Tule Fog belt of California and as a kid had the same sort of spiritual experience every time I exited the monorail and rode down the speed ramp, staring into the blue Sub lagoon. It was my favorite ride, and the first ride I trained on when I went to work in Tomorrowland Attractions as a college student years later. To this day, when I get a whiff of diesel exhaust, I'm transported back twenty-five years to the loading docks of the sub ride, and I smile. I'm thrilled it's back, and we do indeed owe a great deal to every Imagineer and other Disney warriors who stood against the tide and delivered this victory.

From a submarine-loving kid and former Disneyland submarine pilot, thank you.

Ted said...

I think that we are all forgeting someone in all this: Bob Iger. NONE of this would have happened without him. He made nice with Steve Jobs, he authorized the purchase of Pixar, he put Lasseter in a prominent postion, he approved John's more lavish sub budget, etc, etc, etc.
I was given some important advice by an old manager of mine, "the fish rots from the head".
And no, I am NOT from corporate. In fact, I don't even work for the Disney company.

Frank Catalano said...

As a long-time Disney theme park enthusiast who has been increasingly disenchanted with what I've seen at the parks as a mere customer, this entry gives me hope. While I realize nostalgia always tends to pretty-up memories, I recall a two-hour live radio interview I did with Dave Feiten (who, I think, was with WDI at the time) during the opening of Star Tours at Disneyland. While the details he described were fascinating, almost palpable was the eagerness he showed to do something that would awe the guests. I'd welcome a return to that being out in the open.

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping the animators down here get a chance to chime in and be involved in the parks the way they used to. And why not they'll be neighbors soon enough!

http://www.wedenterprises.blogspot.com/

The Big Fez said...

I have to question whether Disneyland's new subs would be embraced as lovingly as they seem to be if they hadn't been closed for 10 years?
If they had been operating as they had been and then all of a sudden, Nemo was put in, would the reaction be the same?
I don't really know, but it seems that in almost every case of something like this happening (new character replacing an older one), there is an outcry of Walt turning over.
Don't get me wrong, the attraction looks amazing and I think it is a great idea, but a part of me wants to know if the "love" being shown is a love of the nostalgia or really a love of the replacement. Maybe it is a bit of both and how much of each side depends on the age of the person you talk to.

Capt. Tomorrow said...

Now let's get rid of that PLAYGROUND at WDW and build the Little Mermaid dark ride!

Anonymous said...

merlin, you mention Tule fog. are you from the San Joaquin Valley?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog it is a wonderful, thoughtful take on the future and history of the parks.

As a long time fan of Disney Imagineering and the parks, I have often looked for different ways in which to showcase them to others, and try and invoke the same excitement I feel when I visit them.

This site was my attempt to bridge that gap, and wanted to share it with this group.

www.laughingbear.tv/walkinthepark

David Arroyo said...

Nice article. Your quality of writing on this one was amazing. I too am feeling optimistic after riding this attraction. I think this is one of the most quality driven attractions in the post splash mountain disneyland. I can only hope it leads to more good stuff. As for cartoon characters in tomorrow land I don't know if that will ever go away. it's been Sci-fi land for so long (at least the eighties) I don't think it'll change any time soon if ever. But at the "world on the move" is moving again.

garth said...

What a refreshingly optimistic, and beautifully written essay. Thanks for writing about hope, rather than all dispair. Beautiful.

Spokker said...

the big fez, it's definitely nostalgia for the old subs.

The new attraction is good, but it's still a makeover (not the brand new E Ticket we haven't seen since Indiana Jones in 1995). It's still based on a popular movie and follows a concrete plot that never lets you forgot the IP it's based on. Tomorrowland still sucks.

If the original subs were closed down and Nemo announced the same day, there would be an outrage. The truth is that the lagoon has been empty for so long, we are content with being served anything at all at this point. Luckily they made a quality effort but Pixar makeovers are not enough.

And keep in mind that this blog is supposedly written by anonymous Pixar folks who would have a more favorable opinion on any new attraction based on films they worked on.

If more Pixar attractions are in the works at Disneyland, nothing will be solved. Please please please turn DCA into Pixarland, not Disneyland.

Yes, Disneyland has always had rides based on movies, but there was ALWAYS a focus on bigger and more elaborate original attractions. These Pixar ventures are not a return to the golden days as this blog suggests. Disneyland is not Universal Studios where you ride the movies.

Justin said...

Beautifully written piece. Watching, via the net and a few trips to DL, the development of the new Sub Voyage. Made me realize that Disney has turned the corner. Many Bothan died (figuratively) to get this point. DL has been cleaned and fixed up and now new creative endeavors launched.

What really hit home for me was Captain Nemo's quote at the end and how fitting to the Nemo Subs.

Eric said...

I've been reading this site from day one.

I've been wanting to post a comment, but have never felt that I had anything to offer the discussion. I've agreed with absolutely everything posted. It's a case of, "you can say it better than I."'

One particular line really stood out to me in this post...

"...attractions that surprise and delight beyond expectation."

This statement points to my personal dissatisfaction with Disneyland over the recent years.

I was seeing the new generation of children being treated to dumbed-down attractions that lacked soul and creativity. The "new" attractions were not pushing any envelope or impressing beyond expectation.

During this time I became a father. I had always fantasized about taking my 'future' children/child to Disneyland... that fantasy was losing it's lustre over time as Disney lost it's way.

As my 2 year old grows older, I hope that her and I can experience together the absolute 'wonders, surprises and delights beyond expectation' that Disneyland brought me as a child. Disneyland fostered my creative spirit, and I wish it for it to do the same for my children.

So true... about bringing back the artists/animators as the creative force in WDI. Pixar is the new Disney... Disney lost it's way somewhere. Thank God that Pixar exists and has picked up the baton. Seriously, if any of you Pixar folks actually do read this... thank you... all of you.

Please march on and fight for what's right and creatively just! Long live Disneyland!!!

Anonymous said...

The problem with any argument over "no more Pixar attractions" is that Pixar is now wholly owned by Disney. They're DISNEY attractions. In spirit, t hey always have been. Should they be BETTER attractions? If they're all as good as the Nemo Subs, YAY! And all new rides shouldn't be based on movies, anyway.

Also, in response to "Many Bothan died (figuratively) to get this point."

How else could they have died? I mean, they're FICTIONAL. (lol)

Anonymous said...

the return of the subs is such a beakon of hope for Tomorrowland. it has made the hope for the return of the Peoplemover all the more a reality rather than just a dream, and even the possibility of the Astro Jets moving to where they belong.

the Skyway, alas, is but a dream and will always remain so.

ricke said...

I just missed the Finding Nemo Sub ride when we were in Disney this spring I would love to see it. We wondered why it disappeared from WDW Magic Kingdom. At WDW there also seems to be a big influence of Pixar with the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland and the Nemo influence in the Living Seas at EPCOT. There could definitely be some modernization at Tomorrowland in WDW as well as the Carousel of Progress ride is really long in the tooth. We went there last year and it really hadn't been updated much and it got stuck for 20 minutes at one point.
One really nice touch in the recent past was the updating of the Alien Encounters ride to be Stitch's Great Escape. I remember as my kids grew up how they at various ages were terrified of that ride. Somehow adding Stitch to the mix really made it more acceptable even though it really was basically the exact same attraction updated with a Stitch flavor.
Keep up the great work at WDI and keep those changes and refreshes coming!
Rick

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

I apologize in advance for the length of what I’m about to write.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t give Disney, as a whole, much thought for the first 35 years of my life. Sure, we went to Disney World on a summer vacation when I was about 5. But my memories of that aren’t super-clear. And we went to EPCOT the year it opened, for a day…again I remember only vague aspects of it and little slices of that afternoon. And yes, I’d seen a few of the more recent movies, but having been interested in sci-fi more than fantasy, I would have the strongest connection to movies like TRON and even The Black Hole, rather than The Little Mermaid or Aladdin.

Then, a few years ago, through a friend of a friend, I had the opportunity to buy into a very small toy company and, as part of the job, got to travel to Japan one recent summer. While there, we spent half an afternoon at Tokyo Disney Sea. And something happened while we were there. Something inside me was awakened. And it felt great.

Now, I should point out here and now that I am not, obviously, somebody who’s been to the Disney parks hundreds of times. I’m not somebody who knows every fact about every Disney film and every little piece of trivia about Mickey Mouse. And I’m sure there are things about Tokyo Disney Sea that many guests and even some Imagineers aren’t crazy about.

But I will tell you the things that impressed me the most about Tokyo Disney Sea. First was how clean it was. Since my last dozen or so theme park experiences before this were at various Six Flags parks, I was simply amazed at how clean the park was. Next was how authentic the various buildings and attractions looked. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a few places, and I found myself walking up to buildings and touching them to see if they felt like stone or like something else. I found myself wondering how this park was able to make things look SO much like what they were meant to look like, when most of what I’ve seen at themed attractions was so obviously fake and only meant to look good from far away. Venice and the Mediterranean Harbor, the Arabian Coast…these areas were just beautiful to look at.

And while we had very little time there, two rides stood out in particular. First was the Sindbad ride. Oh my lord. Here I was, a 35+ year old man, practically feeling myself falling in love with Disney while on that Arabian voyage. I simply could not BELIEVE the fluidity of motion of the animatronics in that ride. The fact that I didn’t understand a single word of the Japanese that was being spoken was entirely without consequence. This was a smooth, colorful, wonderful, truly astounding ride that seemed, happily, to last a very long time.

The second such ride was the 20,000 leagues under the sea ride. As we walked toward the queue for this ride, now excited from my Sindbad experience, I started to vaguely recall flashes of memories from the 20,000 Leagues ride at WDW from that early childhood Florida trip. I didn’t realize of course that this ride was completely different. Sure, I thought the little “pods” were cute, but it wasn’t until a few moments after the ride first started…when I saw the water rise up above my porthole…that my jaw dropped and I looked at my friend and business partner Mike, four years my junior, and we just started laughing like kids. Again, if there was a story being told, I didn’t know it, and it didn’t matter. The ride was beautiful and mysterious and made me want to live in that undersea world.

Before leaving the park, we stopped at several of the fairly enormous gift shops and this was one of the other things that impressed me the most. I’ve always been somewhat of a collector…in fact it was this interest, and my inability to “let go” of the toys of my youth…that interested me in becoming a partner in the toy company. But the souvenirs and toys and statues and things in these shops were far nicer and more innovative than anything I’d seen at any gift shop in the U.S., possibly ever. Much to my chagrin, I mis-calculated the exchange rate and bought far more than I should have while I was there, but the fact was that the merchandise was simply top shelf stuff…and this not just from a “consumer” viewpoint, but from somebody who was at that very time in the thick if production woes on various toy and collectible products. How Disney was able to get such consistent quality on such a huge variety of products in these shops was at best curious and at worst depressing for us, professionally haha.

Even more than the business at hand, it was that partial day at Tokyo Disney Sea that had my mind reeling for the next couple of weeks. So it was with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I met my mother’s suggestion that we all take a family trip down to Disney World in Florida the following November. It would be my girlfriend (now my wife) and I, my mother, my older sister and her son…all of us living near Chicago…and my younger sister and her family, who all live in Florida, a few hours from Orlando.

And while I won’t got into as much detail about the 3 ½ days we spent at WDW on that trip, suffice to say that my love of Disney was cemented. Sure, it only took about 37 years to happen, but better late than never, right?

Although we did go on quite a few rides and attractions (some favorites included Soarin’, Space Mountain, The Tree of Life, It’s a Small World, Pangani Trails, Pirates of the Caribbean) in all four parks over the four days we were there, we spent a lot of our time just walking around and looking at everything, trying to take in as much as we could, talking about how we’d need at least 10-14 days to really get everything out of the parks, and talking about how we hoped we’d actually be able to do that sometime in the next few years.

But after we got back home, I started reading a little bit about Disney…about Walt, about the early years of Disney animation, about his dreams of Disneyland and then Walt Disney World. I started to learn more about the masses of people who are so devoted to all things Disney…the pin collectors and the Vacation Club members and the Walt Disney Classic Collection, etc….I read about the Imagineers. I started reading about ALL the thought that went into things like park sightlines and “reveals” and about all the little details that have been put into the various areas of the parks.

And to be honest, it was all a bit overwhelming. And humbling. And, in a way, sad. Because it made me wish I could have been a part of that, and made me wish that I could be a part of it now…part of a team that had accomplished SO much and has brought so much to so many people.

See, the thing is, as has been said in these posts in a number of places, it’s much more than the sum of its parts. It’s a wonderfully dynamic cycle of creativity breeding passion breeding more creativity and the whole thing having snowballed into something that is almost too good to be real. And something that, it seems, will never be able to be replicated by any other group of people outside of Disney.

It’s more than the rides and the attractions and the scenery. It’s more than the smiles and the friendliness that, literally, every single Disney “performer” showed us while we were there.

It’s a place where it’s still cool to be a nice person in a society that seems to be growing more and more impatient with courtesy, kindness and people being friendly without an agenda.

As old fashioned or corny as it may sound, it’s about hope. It’s a microcosm that represents, at its very core, the absolute best of the promise of America and of humanity as we all wish it could be…a melting pot of people from every corner of the world, coming together in the same place at the same time to smile, laugh, have fun, experience things we couldn’t otherwise, learn a thing or two, and fuel a whole new set of dreams and fantasies about our future, both as individuals and as neighbors in the global community.

It’s an experience so magical that you rack your brain trying to figure out how you can get back to the park as soon as possible. Can we afford it? Can I somehow make a business trip out of it? Can we bring the dog?

It’s an experience that makes you want to hold onto all of those feelings for as long as possible.

And it’s an experience so magical that it’s almost unfathomable that there are people within the very Disney organization itself who, for lack of a more articulate way to put it, simply seem to not get it.

How is it that you could be an executive in this company and not see what your brand means to MILLIONS of people?! How is it that some people at Disney cannot understand the importance of the cleanliness, the attention to detail, the level of quality that people automatically associate with their brand? How is it that the legacy of one of the most massively creative individuals of our, or any time, and his partners and assistants and creative teams could be at the mercy of bland, droning, corporate dullards who are seemingly no more passionate about the Disney brand than they would be about a paper clip manufacturer?

Reading through this site is frustrating. It’s frustrating to fall in love with something so powerful…to realize that you’ve been missing out on something that was right in front of you your whole life and to finally grab hold of it…only to realize that not everybody sees what you, and so many other people, see. It’s frustrating to know that, whether due to fear or greed or lack of vision, that people in a position to do so can potentially ruin something that you’ve just recently become so attached to.

How is it that there could be people who cannot distinguish between the everyday, forgettable nature of some of the more recent movie-themed rides and the importance of TDS’ Sindbad animatronics ride…a ride so brilliant, in my very humble opinion, that I would ridiculously consider dragging a 5 or 6 year old halfway across the world to experience it (although I’d much rather see the ride incorporated into WDW :)?

The work that Walt Disney and the Imagineering teams have done over the years to create this singularly magical reality is astounding. It’s inspiring. And it’s delightful and hopeful to read about the “Imagineering Renaissance” on these pages. I hope that the right people are paying attention, and that they can keep focus on what’s important to the millions of people to whom Disney means so much more than just one thing or another. To those of us who can’t wait to come back to WDW, or who happily spend $100 on a Silly Symphonies snowglobe because it so perfectly captures the characters and moments of those early animation classics.

And if my relatively new-found passion for all of this leads somebody reading my post to call me a geek or a foamer, then so be it. I’ll wear those badges proudly. Right next to my Mickey Mouse patch and Disney pins.