Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Editorial Comments


One time imagineer and current Pulitzer Prize winning editorial artist Ann Telnaes recently chimed in on the recent Small World refurbishment over at Flipanimation.net.

"Like many of my former CalArts classmates, I'm a fan of Mary Blair's work and this redo sounds like another unfortunate move by people in the company who have no business making creative decisions. It also sounds very political, adding a big 'Up with America' scene at the end. Maybe they should include animated Bush and Cheney Dolls."

More of Ann's amazing work can be found at her site.

55 comments:

dreemfinder said...

I can't help noticing that all the negative word-of-mouth on this comes from people who make no claim of having seen the actual work being done.

Or of knowing anything about the actual motivation and history behind this effort. It's all speculation.

IMO, the same kind of speculation that said Michael Keaton would never make a good Batman and they'll never make a good Hulk movie and Disneyland will be a colossal failure.

I'm not doubting anyone's wisdom, mind you. Just their skills at precognition.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Spokker said...

The new Hulk movie is awful and Michael Keaton didn't make a good Batman.

Why do you actually have to see the work to know that you won't like seeing Disney characters in It's a Small World?

I have an idea, let's add a frightened Donald Duck AA to the Haunted Mansion. See, the story is that Donald is in the market for a new house and is looking to become the 1,000th happy haunt.

Uh, how do you know you won't like it? You haven't even seen it yet!

The history and motivation behind this effort is pure Disney propaganda. Check out the Save Small World blog for all the contradictions from WDI and public relations on this misguided project.

Brian said...

spokker - well said ;)

freedogshampoo said...

"As you go through this show, it's visually amazing."

"People will want to go on it time and time again."
-Daivd Municiello
Art Director, Walt Disney Imagineering


"We wanted to do something different; something that the people of Hong Kong can call their own."

"I think it would be fun as the guests go riding through.. and they can challenge each other to see Pochahantas or Mulan, and then they can ride on it again and see who they missed."
-Jodi McLaughlin
Creative Director, Walt Disney Imagineering

Motivation: Besides the obvious upside that marketing and Walt Disney Consumer Products receive, it seems that these imagineers had re-ride ability in mind, along with the want to keep the classics alive for newer generations, which I assume is what their job asks of them.

History: It was originally planned for HK Disneyland. I guess it proved popular? Or maybe it just moved enough merchandise that Anaheim decided to get on the bandwagon?

freedogshampoo said...

Woops, I'll go check out that blog that spokker suggested..

Anonymous said...

”History: It was originally planned for HK Disneyland. I guess it proved popular? Or maybe it just moved enough merchandise that Anaheim decided to get on the bandwagon?”

It was already in the works for Anaheim before the attraction opened in HK.

As for the Imagineers you mentioned, they have no option but to respond with the company line, even if they totally disagree with it. Those that actually challenge that line (Pete Dokter) get reprimanded for their honesty and integrity.

Anonymous said...

They never did make a good Hulk movie!

Mr. Lincoln said...

"I have an idea, let's add a frightened Donald Duck AA to the Haunted Mansion. See, the story is that Donald is in the market for a new house and is looking to become the 1,000th happy haunt."

Don't give them any more bad ideas spokker!

Spokker said...

"Don't give them any more bad ideas spokker!"

There's actually a Mickey Mouse cartoon that takes place in a haunted house. I'm sure it's already come up! Fortunately it was made in 1929, so if it ever did cross Walt's mind, he passed on it.

"Those that actually challenge that line (Pete Dokter) get reprimanded for their honesty and integrity."

Backstory? Did he really get reprimanded for his comment on It's A Small World?

Anonymous said...

Michael Keaton did make a good Batman. Spokker, get your head out of the early sixties. When are the contributors to this website going to take their blinders off and realize how much the world has changed?

mr wiggins said...

> I can't help noticing that all the negative word-of-mouth on this comes from people who make no claim of having seen the actual work being done. <

I can't help noticing how the huge number of posts, clearly stating that the issue isn't with the execution of the new AA figures but the bastardization of IASW's story, are conveniently ignored.

>...get your head out of the early sixties. When are the contributors to this website going to take their blinders off and realize how much the world has changed? <

Get your head out of the Accountanteer's cubicles. When are the Defenders of Management going to open their eyes and see how much Disney showmanship has gone down the toilet?

Spokker said...

"When are the contributors to this website going to take their blinders off and realize how much the world has changed?"

The world has changed? But I thought It's a Small World was "just as relevant as ever" according to the Disney PR machine.

NASAMan said...

One of the most often received comments from IASW guests is "Where is the United States?" Adding a US scene is not political but meets a perceived need, to satisfy the guest. There is enough rancor in the real world of politics than to manufacture a controversy be injecting it into this discussion.

/bsdb said...

Did he really get reprimanded for his comment on It's A Small World?

One of Pixar's Sacred Seven scolded for his public opinions regarding a Disney business unit he doesn't work for? That's about as likely as Disney-ABC TV telling Roper no "thumbs down" for Disney films.

Ain't gonna happen.

Merlin Jones said...

I have still never accepted Michael Keaton as Batman. Too short. No chin.

dreemfinder said...

Has anyone besides me seen the actual figures that have been designed and installed?

Yes, I understand that you don't have to know anything about them to have an opinion (or, for that matter, to have an opinion about someone else's opinion), but has anyone SEEN them?

And if you have, what did you think of what you saw?

mr wiggins said...

>Yes, I understand that you don't have to know anything about them to have an opinion (or, for that matter, to have an opinion about someone else's opinion), but has anyone SEEN them? <

What part of "Stitch, Cinderella, Prince Charming and the other Disney feature characters have nothing to do with the story of children of the world singing about peace among cultures" is so hard to understand?

freedogshampoo said...

dreemfinder, I didn't like them until I saw them : )

Spokker said...

"Has anyone besides me seen the actual figures that have been designed and installed?"

I've only seen pictures of the ones in Hong Kong. Are the ones planned for Disneyland's version similar?

I mean, you claim to have the information and are anonymous. Why not tell us what they have planned?

drew said...

"Has anyone besides me seen the actual figures that have been designed and installed?

Yes, I understand that you don't have to know anything about them to have an opinion (or, for that matter, to have an opinion about someone else's opinion), but has anyone SEEN them?

And if you have, what did you think of what you saw?"
Seriously, is it that hard to actually read and comprehend what is being stated in so many of the disagreement?

Anonymous said...

This may be the Y2K of Disney Debates.

rehallag said...

Walt Disney could have put Disney characters in Small World from the beginning. He didn't. He could have put them in Carousel of Progress, or in Mr Lincoln. He didn't. He did put them in plenty of other attractions. It is Disneyland and there are Snow White, Peter Pan, Mr Toad rides. Characters are all over the place.

The absolute least imaginative thing to do to modify an attraction is to add Disney characters.

It avoids actual imagination to update or upgrade Small World.

The overall aesthetic of Small World with the song, colors and art and puppets and boat ride in blue looking water is the strength of the ride. Adding some Disney character puppets won't destroy that but it makes no sense.

I guess the thing is this upgrade is engineering but is sure isn't imagineering.

Anonymous said...

Just to be fair, one reason that the characters are not in those rides created for the fair, is that they were too valuable to give to the brands. Disney was hired to develop for the fair, not necessarily lend the characters and I'm sure they were not paid that way.

I'm sure Pepsi would have loved having disney characters associated with their products. I think they came to the opening but that was it.

drew said...

"Just to be fair, one reason that the characters are not in those rides created for the fair, is that they were too valuable to give to the brands. Disney was hired to develop for the fair, not necessarily lend the characters and I'm sure they were not paid that way.

I'm sure Pepsi would have loved having disney characters associated with their products. I think they came to the opening but that was it."

The Ambassadors of Disneyland, the characters, stayed after the opening due to their popularity with Fair goers. "Disneyland Goes to the Fair" features an entire segment with the DIsney characters at the fair, and ends with us joining the ambassadors of Disneyland on a cruise through "it's small world".

Shawn said...

I just visited Hong Kong Disneyland yesterday and have to say that the characters fit in perfectly with the original vision. Let's not forget that Walt didn't put the characters in over 40 years ago when he designed the attraction.

Now everything is global. Perhaps the message has changed that the fact that these characters are recognized all over the world is part of the story.

Either way, I was skeptical at first, but after seeing the HK Disneyland version, I have to say it is a winner. I had seen pictures, but they don't even do it justice.

In the end, when I was leaving the HK Disneyland resort on the train line and I heard a three year old girl singing It's A Small World After All in Chinese over and over I am pretty sure that is what Walt would have wanted.

Shawn said...

In the above comment when I wrote this:

"Let's not forget that Walt didn't put the characters in over 40 years ago when he designed the attraction."

I meant to highlight that the world has changed a lot in forty years. When I reread it, my point didn't seem clear. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It's disappointing that an otherwise intelligent person would find an "Up With America" scene to be "political." To play devil's advocate, the United States is one of the few successful polities in the history of the world to integrate races / religions / creeds from the world over in a fully functioning and (more or less) harmonious body politic. If the point of 'It's a Small World' is to celebrate the many cultures of the world, maybe it's appropriate to include a celebration of the culture that brings those many cultures together in the (if imperfect) way America has and does. There shouldn't be anything "political" about celebrating the United States and its unique role in the world. And there's certainly no reason to use our President and Vice President as bogeymen. There's something woefully middle school-ish about it.

Anonymous said...

^^^^^^^ Well, if the whole issue was placing the Rainforest portion into the proper locations (instead of it’s current “afterthought” position) and if the new American scene were populated with similar generic “Children of the World” dolls, then I think that the arguments against the changes could be resolved.

HOWEVER, it’s the forced inclusion of the Disney characters that throws a wrench into the works. The two issues are pretty much separate. It’s the addition of Disney characters that stand out from the rest that causes such rancor. While a couple are fairly innocuous, some stick out like a sore thumb – some because they are out of place (Bambi, Pocahontas, Lilo, Donald Duck), others because their dolls visage is just wrong (Cinderella & Prince? Woody & Jessie as TOYS), and some JUST DON’T BELONG AT ALL – STITCH.

The attraction WITHOUT the characters would not have any problem getting people to relate. However, if they want to add them to the HK version, that wouldn’t be as much an issue since it is a copy. But contaminating the ORIGINAL is just a major error in judgment.

Anonymous said...

I was against the changes until I saw a video on Youtube of the attraction at HK. I must say that the whole look of the ride is beautiful and faithful to Walt Disney's original vison, as well as Mary Blair's wonderful art. The Disney characters are perfectly integrated into the various scenes and actually make it fun to go on this ride and try to search for them. They are created in the same classic style of the orginal dolls and blend in beautifully. All in all, I think this attraction has been improved and I can only hope that IASW at WDW in Orlando, Fl gets the same treatment eventually. Beautifuly done! Stop complaining, the attraction is still a marvel to look at and the new additions only add to the charm, not detract from it.

dreemfinder said...

Well... some people have seen the new figures and seen that the people at WDI cherish the work of Mary Blair as much as we and (as intended from day one, folks) worked to preserve her vision.

Perhaps next time we can keep a good thought and wait and see what Disney does before condemning their efforts out of misplaced passion and prejudice.

I'd like to think so.

/bsdb said...

Well... some people have seen the new figures and seen that the people at WDI cherish the work of Mary Blair as much as we and (as intended from day one, folks) worked to preserve her vision.

And the WDI execs responsible for adding these new figures, the ones who supposedly cherish Mary's work... aren't they the same execs who fired Steve Kirk, John Stone, Nina Rae Vaughn, and Bruce Gordon? For caring too much about Walt's legacy and wanting to maintain higher quality standards? Isn't that rather hypocritical of them?

"I'd like to think so."

Brian said...

I just visited Hong Kong Disneyland yesterday and have to say that the characters fit in perfectly with the original vision.

I haven't seen the Hong Kong version, but I have seen film clips and videos. Somehow an oversized Aristocat looking over the children in the Paris scenes don't strike me as fitting in perfectly. If anything, it looks like a point was made to make the cat stand out instead of fit in...?

drew said...

"Well... some people have seen the new figures and seen that the people at WDI cherish the work of Mary Blair as much as we and (as intended from day one, folks) worked to preserve her vision."

I'll be the first to say that the new figures blend into the style almost perfectly (Cinderella and Prince Charming kind of creep me out). I have absolutely no issue with the use of the aesthetic to create a new attraction about playing hide and seek or about showcasing characters.

So much what Disney makes hoopla about the Hong Kong Disneyland attraction is not about the children of the world. It is about the Disney characters. I take issue with the altering of the meaning of the attraction. I have to see any official mention of the hypothetical "stories of the world" angle either (Which, at Disneyland, has that attraction right next door. Such close repetition seems to fly in the face of the need for stimulation that begat the new interactive initiatives.)

Start anew says I if the desire is something more "relevant". I don't see the characters as new or a change, as the reality is that it is simply the latest in a long list of similar attraction changes. At this point a character overlay just seems lazy to me.

Shawn said...

^Brian,

I went on the attraction three times and didn't even notice that figure, so that tells you how much it sticks out.

There are a lot of characters in the HK version and if one or two stick out to you than that is your opinion. I am just offering an opinion as someone who has actually been on a boat floating through this ride. The detail and color are incredible. This ride feels completely like IASM and never once did I think the Disney characters took away from the experience or message.

Once again, going in I was skeptical, but as soon as it was over I knew that this was my favorite version of the ride. If Disneyland's version comes away looking this refreshed and beautiful, then I think all Disney fans should be happy that they have brought a classic ride a new life.

In the 1980's when I was a kid IASM used to have much longer lines than it has the past decade. I think people have moved on from the ride. What I saw in Hong Kong will make them come back. It was that good!

drew said...

shawn, if the characters are not as noticeable as you make it sound then Disney has failed miserably and should not continue with this project at Disneyland.

1) The Hong Kong Disneyland website is full of calls to play hide and seek and find the characters. Either one hand is not talking to the other, or that goal has been missed.

2) With Disneyland, if things will go as unnoticed, then the expense of new figures just does not make sense. There is no benefit to justify the associated expenses, be it showmanship or marketing. The characters themselves will not make the attraction look new.

The idea of "you won't notice" just does not make any sense.

freedogshampoo said...

Well, at least people are finally watching the videos and getting a better idea of whats being done.

Shawn said...

Drew there are over 30 thirty characters on the ride and I didn't notice that one. I did enjoy looking at several other characters that I don't need to mention.

My point is that the characters add to the ride and stick out related to the children. They feel like a part of the ride instead of IASM with Disney characters thrown in afterwards.

Brian said...

My point is that the characters add to the ride and stick out related to the children. They feel like a part of the ride instead of IASM with Disney characters thrown in afterwards.

How do the characters add to the attraction? Do they enhance the objective of the attraction? Do they add to the overall visual experience? Do they give riders something to do - "count the characters" is inferred by the marketing folks, I believe. I just don't see how Disney characters add to an attraction that is supposed to celebrate children and their varied cultures.

And if the characters don't stick out and aren't noticable, what's the point of putting them in?

Perhaps Disney should have simply created a new ride with the characters rather than trying to change the theme of an old one. But that would mean they'd have to be creative - and lack of creativity seems to be the root cause of all of this in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"Well it's all right now, I learned my lesson well, ya' see ya'.. can't please every-one so ya' gotta please yourself."

Rick Nelson
"Garden Party" 1972

rehallag said...

"The Disney characters are perfectly integrated into the various scenes and actually make it fun to go on this ride and try to search for them."

This is a justification or rationale that is common and has been the basis for almost every new ride it seems. This site did a hilarious entry on it. This is it.

One of the best things about Small World visually was to search for the countries. Looking at the dolls and seeing what country they represent.

That was fun and broadens horizons.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost...to DREEMFINDER...

1) Walt Disney himself felt that Disney characters weren't needed in the attraction when he approved if for the World's Fair

2) Would the Vatican ever employ an artist to touch up the Last Supper so that Christ and the Disciples are wearing Armani or Levi's suits in an effort to make the art more relevant to today's generation?

Now to my comment...

If they're adding an Up with America scene isn't that in and of itself isolating all the many peoples of the world? What about drawing creativity from diversity? Oh, that's a marketing line for casting isn't it? At any rate...as its been stated before, its about the children. In children is the hope eliminating the things that separate us from one another either on both micro and macro levels. America isn't that popular at the moment and to provide an "Up with Us" is inappropriate in a venue that has the potential to bring down the very walls that separate us from one another and between cultures.

David H
(You know Michaelango's David is obviously representative of males from an Anglo-European descent to the exclusion of Africans... I think its time to touch up the statue)

Shawn said...

^Did you just compare IASM to the Last Supper? Get over yourself! It is an amusement park ride. (A classic one, but just a ride!)

I will never understand how people can rip something apart that they have never seen. Give them a chance to show you what they do with it. IMO the Hong Kong Disneyland version is superior to the 40+ year old Disneyland version. (I.E. the colors and overall feel) Maybe with a fresh coat of paint and a few new animatronics, the original vision could be enhanced.

drew said...

"I will never understand how people can rip something apart that they have never seen. Give them a chance to show you what they do with it. IMO the Hong Kong Disneyland version is superior to the 40+ year old Disneyland version. (I.E. the colors and overall feel) Maybe with a fresh coat of paint and a few new animatronics, the original vision could be enhanced.

Again, the issue is not aesthetics.

I have a hard time buying that the characters, that you claim were so well blended, really make the whole thing look fresh and new. Either it was because it was new, and therefore in better condition, or the characters stood out and changed the experience. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

^Did you just compare IASM to the Last Supper? Get over yourself! It is an amusement park ride. (A classic one, but just a ride!)

Yes I did because fundamentally they are the same - works of art.

David H

CJ said...

> Did you just compare IASM to the Last Supper? Get over yourself! It is an amusement park ride. (A classic one, but just a ride!)

You said it yourself. It's a classic. It's a ride which must be taken, as a whole, as a work of art.

IMHO, when Walt said that "Disneyland is not a museum," I don't believe he was talking about re-imagineering existing classics. Attractions come and go in the Parks, and if an attraction is not drawing the crowds, has lost its relevance, etc., it should be retired, and a new attraction should be installed; one that is built from scratch. From the ground up.

I believe you have to take the attractions as wholes once they are OTTP (open to the public). Attractions should be placed, or removed, as wholes. Updates should be like the last update to IASW, in which they cleaned all the costumes, repainted, changed light bulbs, etc. Piecemealing the attraction is not my idea of creating relevance. And no, I don't think the addition of Jack Sparrow to POTC was appropriate, nor do I think that the changes to HM were appropriate (even though those were some of the best changes they've ever made to any existing attraction -- not overstated or gaudy, but for the most part, very tasteful. I was actually surprised not to see Eddie Murphy's AA in there, assuming they're following the same logic as the renovation of POTC).

Bottom line, if the attraction is still relevant, leave it alone. If it's not, retire it, and put something new in. And by new, I mean something like HM or the original POTC. Something worthy of being called "Imagineered." Today's Imagineers aren't any less talented or creative than Walt's original cadre, but clearly, something changed which is not allowing them to completely unleash that creativity.

That's what we need to get back.

dreemfinder said...

cj said:

"Bottom line, if the attraction is still relevant, leave it alone. If it's not, retire it, and put something new in."

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the numerous upgrades and revisions to the Jungle Cruise. Should it have been closed in the early 60s, rather than updated time after time after time?

dreemfinder

Brian said...

Today's Imagineers aren't any less talented or creative than Walt's original cadre, but clearly, something changed which is not allowing them to completely unleash that creativity.

Yeah - marketing, stockholder returns and CEO bonuses.

CJ said...

> I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the numerous upgrades and revisions to the Jungle Cruise. Should it have been closed in the early 60s, rather than updated time after time after time?

My opinion is my opinion, right, wrong, or indifferent.

I don't believe the changes to Jungle Cruise were necessary when they were made. Some of those changes have been undone, anyway (the pistol was taken out, the pistol went back in).

In all fairness though, those changes are a little different than what we're been talking about here, though. They didn't make those changes for the sake of relevance, but for the sake of political correctness and sensitivity. For example, the change to POTC where they changed the order of the balcony chasers (instead of the pirate chasing the ladies with bedroom eyes, the ladies now chase the pirates with brooms and rolling pins). That was a change to suit the political environment of the time. You have to do those things or risk being called insensitive. Did those modifications change the character of the show? Not at all. It modified the storyline slightly, but the theme of the scene is still the same: pirates wreaking havoc in the town.

The changes to IASW are being made to try to draw the crowds, to keep the ride fresh and relevant. It's a gimmick. And a bad one at that.

John Silver said...

To Admin or anyone else in the know,

How far along are these changes so far? Are they still in the idea phase, or have the new AAs been installed already?

drew said...

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the numerous upgrades and revisions to the Jungle Cruise. Should it have been closed in the early 60s, rather than updated time after time after time?

I see them as completely different. The Jungle Cruise is still a cruise through a jungle. The most dramatic change was the move away from seriousness. Even then it is still a cruise through the jungle.

This is a complete change around. The children of the world now play second fiddle to the Disney characters.

dreemfinder said...

drew said:

"The children of the world now play second fiddle to the Disney characters."

I'd be interested to know if you've you seen the new additions.

Anonymous said...

Ann may have a point about the SW ride, but her irrelevant Bush-bashing weakens her cred considerably IMO. Is it a career requirement that all artists must blindly lean to the left? Would putting in a Clinton figure and (squee!) Obama figure make her feel alllll better? Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

"Attractions come and go in the Parks, and if an attraction is not drawing the crowds, has lost its relevance, etc., it should be retired, and a new attraction should be installed; one that is built from scratch. From the ground up."

So how do you explain yanking out Country Bear Jambore for Winnie the Pooh? Or that montrosity known as The Enchanted Tiki Room, under New Mangement (excuse me for even mentioning that piece of crap)?

The thing about Small World, is that its TIMELESS, maybe it doesn't attract the teenages and its just for the kids but as they say....we are forever replenishing the supply of little kids and babies.

David H

Anonymous said...

**Ann may have a point about the SW ride, but her irrelevant Bush-bashing weakens her cred considerably IMO. Is it a career requirement that all artists must blindly lean to the left? Would putting in a Clinton figure and (squee!) Obama figure make her feel alllll better? Sheesh!**

Amen to that. After all, the left got their guy into the White House, and given that he's very busy trying to include tax cheats, among other criminals, to his administration, forcing Americans, whatever their religious beliefs, to pay for babykilling overseas and endeavoring to run this country even more deeply into debt through bone-headed Democrat pork projects, why, heavens, you'd think they'd be too happy to keep bashing Bush!

Or maybe they just desperately need a distraction?

Sheez, some foaming leftwing idealogues are NEVER satisfied~!

And I agree with the person who identified America as a great melting pot of ALL cultures of the world, and supported its rightful place in SW. After all, the ride was conceived, designed and built in AMERICA. Can you see such a ride being thought up in Saudi Arabia? In Russia? In China? In Cuba? In Korea? The inclusion of the U.S. is way overdue. What was common knowledge in Walt's time - that America is the greatest country on earth because of its promise of freedom and opportunity to all cultures - is apparently a lesson lost on the obsessively idealogical and hopelessly naive of today.

Kudos to the Imagineers for refreshing and updating SW while respecting its legacy.