Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gettyland

It’s sometimes hard to recall some of the simpler pleasures of Disneyland in this rough and tumble era of season pass holders and video game attention spans, but once upon a time they flourished from one end of the park to the other.

Luckily there are still places you can go in Southern California that succeed in stirring up some of the sense-memories that were very much a part of vintage Disneyland. One of these places is the newly re-opened Getty Villa in Malibu, California.

It’s here, in this painstaking recreation of the Villa Dei Papiri in ancient Hercullaneum, where much of Disneyland’s missing mystique is alive and well.

Plumb the exit polls of Disneyland in its first two decades and you’d get a clear idea of what informs the Getty Villa playbook of today:

Disneyland was obsessively clean. Back when there seemed to be one janitorial host for every 10 square feet it was common for guests to bet on how quickly a cigarette butt would be scooped up the moment it was tossed to the ground. The winner always knew to bet on seconds.

Disneyland cast members were courteous and well informed. Mid century America swooned with approval at all the well groomed smiles and came back year after year for more.

Disneyland was often bucolic, pastoral and idyllic. There were moments to be found around every corner of Walt’s park that celebrated the quieter pleasures found in a small town or a rural countryside.

It is these elements that truly transform mere fun into pure bliss, elements that are in full bloom and firing on all cylinders at the Getty Villa and that underscore so much of the compromised Disneyland experience of today.


Though primarily a world class museum of Greek and Roman antiquities, visitors to the Getty Villa wishing to merely revel in the experience of being transported to another time and place are richly rewarded.

On arriving at what might as well be called Rome A.D. 79 Land, docents greet everyone up close and personal with a smile and guide map and send you on your way through the garden path stairwells to the shining Villa on the hill. This personal touch is classic Disneyland.

Lush landscaping abounds, unobstructed by souvenir stands, vacation club kiosks or popcorn vendors, from the Italy specific herb garden and fruit trees to the 300 varieties of plants endemic to ancient Rome. Along covered walkways around the inner and outer peristyle guests are treated to fanciful fountains, bronze statues and intricate wall paintings. Past the jaw dropping 220-foot reflecting pool a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean awaits, poking up between two terraced hillsides bordering the villa.

Everywhere small wonders excite the senses; the gorgeous sculptural banisters on the way to the second floor, the fountain festooned with seashells, the painted crickets scampering over the peristyle murals, the exquisite craftsmanship of the pocket window shutters along the gallery hallways or the whimsical intermingling of rosemary and boxwood topiaries for textural variety in the gardens.

Granted, these subtle qualities are far removed from the more animated theatrics of Disneyland today but, within the more reflective and calming wonderland of the Getty Villa, no less effective in stirring up a true sense of wonder.

Visits to places like the Getty Villa help to clarify where the Disneyland touch has tarnished over time. Guests are finding it a little harder to find more peaceful pleasures at the park, like an evening stroll along the gas lit banks of the River’s of America, quaint water features like Skull Rock or lazy hikes along the trails surrounding Fort Wilderness. Cast member smiles and personal service are often as barren as Thunder Mesa. Visual clutter and errant trash has eroded the suspension of disbelief in many a themed environment. Crowds and noise seem to have edged out the meaning and value of quieter oases of enchantment.

Luckily there are hold outs in the Disney Theme park hierarchy. The Zen-like environments at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Epcot’s World Showcase in Florida immediately come to mind.

Still, if you’re looking to reconnect with the simple pleasures of Disneyland at at its finest look no further than the Getty Villa in Malibu, California.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you want peaceful tranquility with no one around to break the silence try DCA.

Anonymous said...

The escapist aspect of the"show" has eroded and bowed to many so called "themed" additions that do not really fit the setting.

I recall a slide show they used to present at WED called "The Glacier Effect". It illustrated how the little contradictory visual flaws introduced into the show (and seemingly harmless) add up over time to collectively "break the spell" of disbelief of the guest.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I have not yet been to the Getty Villa, but have been to the main Getty Center several times. It's funny, because I also like going to the Getty Center because of it's old Disney feel. (Mixed with a nice dose of Epcot!)

I will definitely have to check out the Villa now though, it looks like an amazing place. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Though primarily a world class museum of Greek and Roman antiquities, visitors to the Getty Villa wishing to merely revel in the experience of being transported to another time and place are richly rewarded.

Whoa. Does anyone else find it ironic that this post is about how Disneyland's "former" values are now living on within a museum? Do we need to bring up the museum/Disneyland quote again?

Its not reasonable to argue that Disneyland's values are gone. Most of America's values have changed since the gates opened. Americans used to have their gas pumped by attendants. Milk was delivered. We'd go to the pharmacy for a prescription and a milkshake. Movie stars used to get "discovered." Business was done on a handshake. Time can and will change Disneyland and its values, like it or not.

I think its great you're enjoying the beauty of a museum, but you have to realize that the difference between an entertainment venue for families and a museum differ greatly. The difference is caused by the core structure of their existence.

A museum is typically non-profit and ruled by a charter. The charter dictates what the museum will cover. This limits the large-scale changes a museum will undergo. The people behind the design usually work with highly educated creators that are the stewards of the artifacts' integrity. Additionally, there are teams of people working to educate the public and preserve the showpieces for future generations.

This might sound similar to what Disney does with various roles in Imagineering, but its not quite the same. A theme park is a for-profit venture. There is no charter and the art used in the parks is usually meant to work in conjunction with an established entertainment franchise. The lack of a charter typically means that there are no hard and fast rules that establish historic preservation or documentation. Change occurs at the whim board, which are influenced by quarterly earnings, market share, potential growth. Preservation of work is entirely voluntary. Many decisions in a for-profit organization must tie back into the bottom line either as a direct sale (merchandise, tickets) or a soft sell (brand recognition & awareness).

I understand your desire for Disneyland to hold on to what it was, but your article says that Disneyland's values now reside in an institution that has an internal structure that Walt explicitly stated he didn't want. If the Disney company was similar in size and structure to a museum, I'd argue that they should be able to function in the same capacity and retain all of the beauty.

Mr Banks said...

Wow, I can't imagine how you read into the article that Disneyland's former values are more akin to the values of a museum. Not my intention at all.

The very Walt specific values of cleanliness, courtesy, uncompromised theming and quiet beauty do happen to be on display at the Getty Villa.

I also didn't argue that these values are gone 'like it or not', but that they've been tarnished over time. If you argue that those values are no longer relevant to Disneyland than I'm saddened you're comfortable with that idea.

And yes, I fully understand the difference between a not for profit museum and Disneyland. And yet isn't it ironic that this beautiful museum on a hill is, in some ways, more Disneyland than Disneyland?

Ken Paris said...

I think that the goals of the Getty Villa and the original intension of Disneyland really are the same in some ways. Walt wanted to do more that just create an amusement park. Part of the purpose was to do some education. What is why in the original planning he did not want to call it an amusement park. He thought it much more than that.

Getty does make the guest feel like one is transported to another place and time. That is not what most museums do. They don't attempt to make one experience that place, only to view pieces from the past. Walt wanted you to experience the feeling of actually being in the past or future. He did not want to just amuse, but also inspire. He wanted not just to thrill, but to bring joy, a much deeper emotion. He wanted Disneyland to be a unique place, not a knock off of other parks in existence.

Mr Banks said...

Thank you, Ken! I couldn't have explained it better myself!

Alex said...

I remember going to the Magic Kingdom in the early seventies and marveling at how clean the park was. The employees kept the park immaculate. Today not only is the park far dirtier but many of the rides show obvious signs of wear and lack of maintenance.

This year, I rode the Jungle Cruise and it was a huge let down. The guides no longer attempt to play the part. One of the hippos was missing an ear and you could see the metal hinge inside. The elephants had algae growing along the water line and the skin below was discolored. I had never, in the many years that I have gone to WDW seen a ride in such a state of disrepair. Even the barriers that form the waiting cue were old, in need of a coat of paint and rusting. This wasn't just ambiance, mind you. It wasn't make believe disrepair, it was lack of maintenance. It took me right out of the ride experience.

WDW gets a lot of visitors every day and ticket prices have never been higher. There is no excuse for lack of upkeep on any ride. It is simply unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is one of the postings on this blog I can empathize with. I won't get into the lament of the "quiet walks" one could experience in the park, but I do agree that some of the friendliness and cleanliness has gone out of the park. What has caused it? It's more the way the SS Troopers called supervision treat the employees. The employees are supposed to smile and be friendly, but it's really hard to do that when brown nose Nazi supervisors are trying to score brownie points by looking for every little reason to establish their power over the hourly employee by consantly reprimanding and writing them up. Many of us Disneyland (or in my case former) employees used to revel in getting those written reprimands. We considered them a right of passage. Maybe if the managers of the parks treated the frontline employees like human beings, instead of dirt, the employees would treat the guests a little friendlier too. But when everyone is removed from the fact that the guests, not the supervisors, ultimately pay their salaries, then why should they care?

Anonymous said...

I think that the goals of the Getty Villa and the original intension of Disneyland really are the same in some ways. Walt wanted to do more that just create an amusement park. Part of the purpose was to do some education. What is why in the original planning he did not want to call it an amusement park. He thought it much more than that.

Ken, I agree too. That is why I wanted to bring up the charter. It documents the intention and makes it a "rule" for the operators of the Getty. Disneyland didn't have that same kind of document in place, leading to the various leaders to slowly drift from the original intent.

I know a lot of Disney fans like to quote Walt to help prove the original intent, but the problem arises when these intentions were not written into the business practices. As you've probably witnessed in the past decade, Disney has been slowly transitioning from being known for fairy tale cartoons to generating teen pop stars. A whole generation of children view the company in a different light. These tweaks to the overall vision of the parks change with each passing leader.

Its also important to remain objective. Unlike the Getty, Disney has not had to chance to completely shut down operations and re-open to get back to their "roots." Should they? That's a decisions for the people in charge.

Most customers would love sweeping landscapes. Most accountants would love another popcorn stand on a busy corner. Neither is entirely right. There is an art to business and the business of art. When a company has two camps of people with separate philosophies the best outcome is a compromise.

Walt probably would have loved to have created his own version of the Getty, but to make that viable (as a for-profit company without popcorn stands) into today's world would be a challenge. Its possible, but how?

Anonymous said...

The destruction of the the less measurable, like ambiance is destroyed subtly and over time. If you believe in the principle of "death by 1000 cuts" , Disneyland is probably near number 752...

Anonymous said...

Nothing is supposed to live forever.

mr wiggins said...

> Nothing is supposed to live forever. <

...except standards. Forms change. But when the standards that dictate them die, kiss the whole show goodbye.

welcome_to_my_deathlist said...

While you make valid points, it would be interesting to compare attendance numbers e.g., at the Getty and Disneyland. I agree that one of the great pleasures at the Disney parks have always been the quiet, peaceful, nooks and crannies and get-away-from-it-all environments. However, management would hardly be content if attendance numbers reflected the bucolic and peaceful atmosphere you long for. Beyond a certain point, the presence of people -not all of whom appreciate peace and quiet- does spoil those qualities for the rest of us. My prime example is always the Monet gardens at Giverny, France: any restful, idyllic qualities the gardens have is ruined when the human contents of several tour buses overflow it at the same time, no matter how courteous the staff or how charming the layout.

David in Los Angeles said...

The Getty Villa is definitely worth seeing. Check their web site, you need advanced reservations for parking. If you go with kids, spring for the headsets - worth every penny.

By the way, despite the fact that it's called the Getty Villa in Malibu, it's technically in Pacific Palisades. Guess more people know where Malibu is.

mr wiggins said...

> However, management would hardly be content if attendance numbers reflected the bucolic and peaceful atmosphere you long for. Beyond a certain point, the presence of people -not all of whom appreciate peace and quiet- does spoil those qualities for the rest of us. <

You mean management's sky high salaries wouldn't be content! (Check Iger's compensation for 2007.)

As a fan who practically grew up at Disneyland since being an ankle-biter in 1955, I'd often see crowds in the 60's, 70's and 80's so thick you couldn't move down Main Street. Yet on the most insanely packed days, the quiet "eye rest spaces" that had been designed into the park were still there.

They disappeared under Eisner and Pressler, whose vision for Disneyland as a Disney-Store- merchandise-mall-with-rides is alive and well and raking in the cash.

Yeah, Disneyland is different today. But not for the reasons your post implies. From ODV carts cluttering up the view; to Herb Rhyman's quiet courtyard in New Orleans Square turned into a store to sell cheap Chinese-made merch at astronomical markups; to fewer benches so more people keep moving past potential points of sale; to the soundtrack from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly blasting from loudspeakers in Frontierland where quiet banjo music used to be heard, the junkification of Disneyland isn't the fault of overcrowding, it's the the plan of management -- to squeeze every dime out of every customer that it can.

Spokker said...

Well, it's the difference between New Orleans Square on a night Fantasmic! is scheduled and on a night it isn't.

Both are interesting scenarios, at least to me. I like the anticipation of the crowd before each performance of Fantasmic! and I enjoy the show itself, obviously.

But there is something to be said for those nights when Fantasmic! is dark. Taking the last ride around the river on the Mark Twain (even if ROA is pretty dilapidated these days) on a cold winter night is still a great pleasure of mine.

Unfortunately these quiet spots at Disneyland are becoming more and more fare. The Disney Gallery was another favorite of mine. Now another area in New Orleans Square, an area I forget the name of at the moment, is being turned into a marketplace for Holiday-related products.

Even the People Mover, lumbering over Tomorrowland as it did, served as a break between the hustle and bustle of the park. It hardly ever had a line and allowed you to slow the hell down. They turned it into a thrill ride and then got rid of the whole thing.

It seems like today they don't want guests to sit and watch, sit and wonder, or sit anywhere for that matter. DCA has had a drought of benches over the years, believe it or not!

If guests aren't buying, management is crying. It's too bad. They seem to have forgotten to give us what many of us paid for in the first place, a relaxing, imaginative day at Disneyland.

mr wiggins said...

> It seems like today they don't want guests to sit and watch, sit and wonder, or sit anywhere for that matter. <

It's not your imagination. The first thing Paul did when he came in was to reduce the number of places that people could sit, and increase the number of places where people could buy.

The #1 rule of mall management is that people on their butts aren't buying -- you gotta keep 'em moving past your POPS (Points of Potential Sale). Rule #2 is to fill every walkway and line-of-sight with POPS. Rule #3 is to shovel in the customers. And so it is at Disneyland -- from the cheap AP's that pack in the people; to the loud, uptempo BG music that hastens their pace; to the Fastpasses that move 'em quickly through rides and back on the walkways in view of POPS; to the proliferation of POPS themselves and the cheap, generic merch they carry.

The look and feel of the modern Disneyland experience is no accident. It's a carefully crafted application of modern merchandising, marketing and mall management techniques designed to extract the most cash from the most customers at the absolute least cost to the company. It's no coincidence that in 2007, Bob Iger and Tom Staggs alone raked in $36.75 million in compensation.

> Now another area in New Orleans Square, an area I forget the name of at the moment, is being turned into a marketplace for Holiday-related products. <

It's the "Court of Angels," Herb Ryman's masterfully designed courtyard. A thread about this latest monument to Disney greed is ongoing at http://micechat.com/forums/disneyland-resort/105509-courtyard-angels-now-store.html

Spokker said...

It wouldn't be such a big deal if those profits were invested back into the park. But they are clearly not.

There is no excuse for an empty People Mover track, a rotting Motor Boat Lagoon, a dilapidated Rivers of America, an empty second level of Starcade, a "Pizza Port" where there used to be an attraction, monorails that can't be operated on days above 80 degrees, an Innoventions that is less attraction and more of a commercial for brand name consumer products and the recent problems with Indy.

It was like pulling teeth to get the Subs up and running again, but only with a Pixar makeover. It took Buzz Lightyear to justify adding an attraction to the old Circle Vision building.

Now Pixie Hollow is going into an area that is already nicely landscaped and maintained while the areas I just mentioned continue to rot. The Disney Gallery was a quiet little spot to visit, and yet they had to "upgrade" it into a "Dream Suite".

With the "improvements" to Pirates, you have to wonder why Disney insists on fixing what isn't broken, while continuing let other areas of the park go forgotten. Disneyland isn't too small for expansion, Disney's imagination is too small.

mr wiggins said...

> With the "improvements" to Pirates, you have to wonder why Disney insists on fixing what isn't broken, while continuing let other areas of the park go forgotten. <

It isn't about fixing or upgrading in the sense of Walt-era showmanship, it's about greenlighting those presold, franchise-driven concepts that will bring in the bodies who buy the merchandise. Depp was dumped into Pirates as a draw -- like hiring Hanna Montana to appear at your mall Disney Store -- not because Pirates needed an improvement. Ditto Buzz, Nemo, Toy Story and now Tinker Bell & her teen friends.


> Disneyland isn't too small for expansion, Disney's imagination is too small. <

Blank-page imagination of the Walt/Imagineering era has squat to do with the concepts that get greenlit for Disneyland. It's about the marketing of presold franchises.

Digital Jedi said...

The problem that has always existed with the "Disney is not a museum" argument is that it's a straw man argument. It misconstrues the reasoning behind why we think Walt's principles worked and why the new ones don't. Cry preservation, whether it's of an artifact, an attraction or an idea, and it's suddenly assumed you want the Smithsonian. But if so, your picking up on the wrong points. The same line of reasoning could be attached to adding more places to eat. Well, Disney it not a restaurant either, but the logic that contributes to adding more eating places, whether good ideas or bad, is not solely born from the intention of turning Disney into a giant Ruby Tuesdays.

You'll notice, the aspects the posts lauds and even the pictures it features are not strictly the educational or archival aspects of Getty Villa, but the very Walt-like principles of the museum. The ambiance. It's cultured, it's clean and it's quite. An elegant feature of the parks that actually contributed to Disney's early success, as people used to only frequent amusement parks for a couple hours in the days before Disney was built. Walt got them to stay longer due to the graceful ambiance of the parks and in turn spend more on food and souvenirs due the extended stay. A simple concept the mall-minded accountants today might want to think about.

At first, when Mr. Banks spoke of "video game attention spans" I thought he was talking about short attention spans. But that's probably not the case with video games these days, which are expected to keep you entertained for several days if not weeks. In retrospect, I think he's referring more to the flashy aspects of the games, where your expected to have something happening at every moment. Not a thing that inspires any quite reflection or unwinding. And if we're to be honest with ourselves here, Disney's parks successfully had these quite areas long after the nation became a pill-popping therapy-driven dog-eat-dog nervous wreck. That's probably why we remember them so fondly and seek them out today.

I will say one thing for Disney today. Up until a short while ago, I thought modern day Disney had no plan or direction for the parks and that the utter chaos was simple mismanagement along with some greed. I realize now that it's far more destructive and greedier then that. There is a plan that appears to be to make Disney as efficiently lucrative as possible, even if long term it's not the healthiest solution for the company's well-being. To me, this is like a revision of The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg story. Instead of the guy cutting open the Goose to try to get to more eggs, he's hopped the Goose up on steroids and fertility drugs to try and get as many eggs as possible as quickly as possible, knowing full well the goose will probably not survive as many years or have the quality of life that it could have had, had it's owner been more caring, had it's owner not showed such unfettered greed.

Someone should do a blog post with a new mantra. "Disney is not a Mall".

mr wiggins said...

> To me, this is like a revision of The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg story. Instead of the guy cutting open the Goose to try to get to more eggs, he's hopped the Goose up on steroids and fertility drugs to try and get as many eggs as possible as quickly as possible, knowing full well the goose will probably not survive as many years or have the quality of life that it could have had, had it's owner been more caring, had it's owner not showed such unfettered greed. <

That's exactly right. Disneyland's business goals are the same as DTV (Disney TV Animation) and DisneyToons in the 80's and 90's -- the strip-mining of franchises that are first developed by other Disney divisions (or in the case of Pixar, by other companies). It's pure Eisner-think to take a hit show like Millionaire and run it into the ground with overexposure. He did the same thing years earlier with the Winnie the Pooh franchise -- a hit Saturday morning TV show in 1987, until years of corporate-ordered spinoffs and sequels overexposed it to death. Ditto the dozens of "Drek-to-Video" movie sequels that diluted Feature Animation's brands, until John Lassiter said "enough!" and fired DisneyToon management -- only to put his own stamp of approval on the same quick-buck crap with the Tinker Bell Movie. From Pirates, Princesses and Pixar to the tidal wave of Tinker Bell that's about to drown the park, Disneyland management is following the same philosophy.

Anonymous said...

The problem that has always existed with the "Disney is not a museum" argument is that it's a straw man argument. It misconstrues the reasoning behind why we think Walt's principles worked and why the new ones don't. Cry preservation, whether it's of an artifact, an attraction or an idea, and it's suddenly assumed you want the Smithsonian.

Its museum quote isn't a straw man. What it says is that the original intent of the park was to NOT function as a museum. I would be a fallacy to think that anyone that wanted to preserve a park is against all changes. The sad fact is that this blog has actually has cried preservation towards almost every change in at a Disney park since it startd. Tiki Room, Small World, Spaceship Earth, Epcot's Leave a Legacy, Epcot's O Canada!, Baylake Towers, and new attractions 1989-2007.

The "museum" quote stands as a valid argument in terms of this blog. Very little posts and comments around here support the concept of change. As a matter of fact, the only change supported around here is internal. Its funny that you're all ready to take heads to the chopping block but resist to change the art on the wall.

Mr Banks said...

To above anonymous I ask: When it comes to the changes made at the Disney Parks, is it different or is it better?

Change for changes sake is not the answer.

Digital Jedi said...

Anonymous said:
>>>Its museum quote isn't a straw man. What it says is that the original intent of the park was to NOT function as a museum. I would be a fallacy to think that anyone that wanted to preserve a park is against all changes. The sad fact is that this blog has actually has cried preservation towards almost every change in at a Disney park since it startd. Tiki Room, Small World, Spaceship Earth, Epcot's Leave a Legacy, Epcot's O Canada!, Baylake Towers, and new attractions 1989-2007.

The "museum" quote stands as a valid argument in terms of this blog. Very little posts and comments around here support the concept of change. As a matter of fact, the only change supported around here is internal. Its funny that you're all ready to take heads to the chopping block but resist to change the art on the wall.
<<<

This is a classic example of why it precisly is a Straw Man argument. You've either chosen to ignore the precise sentiments of this blog, or you've just skimmed over them. Or maybe you've just bought into party line of this blog's critics. Because if you only see cries for a museum, then you've missed the point by a distance measured in light years.

The whole message of this blog has been clear as crystal for those willing to, if not agree with it, at least get the sense of it. No one wants change for the sake of change. They want change for the better. Anyone paying even the slightest attention to the recent election could tell you that, no matter who they're voting for.

Look at what your arguing against. Cleanliness, friendliness, idyllic environments that make people want to stay. What part of that is so inexorably tied to museums that it doesn't make the absolute most sense businesswise? "Disney is a museum" is most certainly a Straw Man argument, because no one wants or even promulgated what it implies: Freeze drying Disney the way it was, so it can never move forward. How antithetical to the purpose of this blog.

What you've linked to are criticisms of poorly thought out change. In fact, some of those articles you've pointed to even site how in some cases a new direction was needed, but the wrong direction was taken. One of them even encourages Imagineers to stop sticking to the same formula of Something's Gone Wrong type of attractions that have the potential to wear thin over time. It's actually advocating change!

The only thing this blog has been guilty of, as I myself have been, is advocating the ideals and business tenets of Walt Disney. And that's because those ideas are more progressive and forward thinking then the tired old brand placement business tactics that have historically done long term damage to companies as opposed to those who remembered where they came from and what made them great to begin with.

Anonymous said...

The "museum" quote should be viewed in context, and keeping in mind what a museum was at the time. It was meant to say that things should be interactive and not stale - not that old classics or anything resembling art should be dumped in the garbage.

Tampa Mike said...

I agree with the intentions of this post 100%.

I would like to point out and example, however, to the people pushing the stale "not a museum" argument: the Haunted Mansion changes at WDW are fantastic! Because the attraction was 'plussed'; nothing of the original spirit, intention, or overall execution of the attraction was compromised by the changes. Rather, the ride was in fact ENHANCED. These were very positive changes: the new effects and improved sound, the endless staircase scene where the goofy giant spiders used to be, the attic scene, etc.

The POTC changes in contrast, were PURELY a result of giving focus group participants what they wanted: a pointless tie-in for a movie that was based on the classic attraction in the first place.

My point(s):
1) Disney is quite capable of making positive changes to existing attractions. However, in 9/10 cases they choose not to, leaving some to decay and rot and making pointless changes to others.

2) You can't always cater to the lowest common denominator. The "general public" doesn't always know what they want; it is the job of a true innovator, one with imagination to spare, to TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT, not GIVE them what they want.

- Mike, Tampa FL (Go Rays!)

coconutcamels said...

Wow, what a terrific post! I never heard of this Getty Villa but I would love to take a trip there.

I just received some terrible news that Busch Gardens in Williamsburg has been sold and rumor has it that it might go the way of the Mouse. I can't bear the thought of losing that beautiful, exquisitely maintained park too, along with the Clydesdales. I almost cried when people working in the park this September said it might be the last year. SOB!

Busch Gardens almost made up for the loss of the original Disney experience. I forget the name of the company that bought it. It certainly American. Belgian, maybe?

I am fascinated by the topic of this blog. It is so important to the quality of life in the future for us and our children. Nobody is saying that change itself is bad. Change is good when it is is made for a positive, carefully thoughout goal. Change merely to increase profit is bad because it destroys the original value of the commodity. That is the ultimate laziness, to expecting everything and giving nothing.

mr wiggins said...

> The "general public" doesn't always know what they want; it is the job of a true innovator, one with imagination to spare, to TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT, not GIVE them what they want. <

That's a good definition of the job of an innovator.

But it isn't the job of Disney. Not anymore.

Before Disney greenlights an attraction for Disneyland, they require proof that the project is connected to (read: derivative of) a property that people are familiar with (like Pixar toons); that people have proven they'll spend money on (like Pixar toons), and that Disney owns (like Pixar toons).

Sadly, the years of Disney innovation are long past. It simply isn't that company anymore.

Anonymous said...

The Getty Villa is a gem. I get to go twice a year and I love it! The staff are very much a part of the magic of the place and it does have a Disney quality feel. Be sure to visit when the family room is open so you can have fun painting a vase or acting out scenes on pottery in a shadow vase.

Anonymous said...

Time to update the log...News is, It's a Small World Holiday opens on November 21st. Lets see what happens...Any serious changes will be visible and seen on Nov 21.

Cory Gross said...

I'm late to the party but feel compelled to write anyways.

One of the problems with going back and forth about the "Disneyland is not a museum" quote is that it really tells us more about what our perceptions of museums are than what the direction of Disneyland should be. There are certainly still the holdout institutions that pack cupboards full of things that you're not supposed to touch. But by in large, museums have changed and its the rhetoric about them that has yet to catch up (much to museums' chagrin, mind you).

Take, for example, any passable historical village. In addition to the antiquities, they have costumed interpreters, hands on activities, silent movie houses, penny arcades, and vintage vehicles up to and including full size steam trains and paddlewheelers... All the sorts of things that Main Street and Frontierland originally set out to have.

Or a reasonably modern zoo... The days of poor animals stuck in dreary cages is, thank God, a thing of the past. The prevailing model is of immersive environments carrying you in sound and sensation to the farflung places from which the animals themselves came. I couldn't help but notice that Animal Kingdom got applause, and it is basically a zoo pimped out with roller coasters (and therefore the only part of WDW that actually holds any interest for me). This was the original intention of True Life Adventureland's Jungle River.

If you want to see a true Tomorrowland - a true melding of past visions with a new spirit of discovery - skip Disneyland for one day and head over to the newly renovated Griffith Observatory. Over the last decade, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology has switched out those cabinets with endless rows of fossil shells for all-but living, breathing, animatronic, multimedia immersive dioramas of prehistory.

This example of the Getty Villa demonstrates that even those museums that are most akin to the classic stereotype can be vital places that provide not only objects for examination, but room and peace for aesthetic and historic contemplation. Like a modern zoo, a modern museum will not just diplay objects but build an environment around them that carries into the conceptual space of the culture. To see another example of how the manipulation of space can create an engaging experience, look at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Japan.

The fact is that museums aren't like museums anymore, going by the old perception. That brings the problems of Disneyland into sharper focus... Disneyland is not a museum. Compared to the shopping mall with rides (Mall of America? West Edmonton Mall?) it is proceeding towards, would that it were a museum!

Anonymous said...

Here's the bottom line these days. Disneyland pulls in 10 BILLION dollars a year. That's not an exaggeration, it's the factual truth. Walt is probably rolling in his grave at the overcommercialization of the place. Greed takes the place of the simpler cultivation of joy.

And when are they gonna change the wierd greenish mucky water all over the park?

Anonymous said...

"
The "museum" quote stands as a valid argument in terms of this blog. Very little posts and comments around here support the concept of change. As a matter of fact, the only change supported around here is internal. Its funny that you're all ready to take heads to the chopping block but resist to change the art on the wall."

The issue is that people are focusing on the wrong elements. What people are looking for when they long for the quality attractions of the past – is the QUALITY. Changes that embody the QUALITY, INTEGRITY and CREATIVITY of the past are more than welcome as long as they are also an improvement over what they are replacing. Unfortunately, recent changes are based on cost reductions, marketing and promotion, with little support for even the creative aspects, let alone the integrity or quality. And, more than often, they are NOT an improvement.

Spokker said...

Spent a total of $0 at Disneyland this year and I'm glad. I will be foregoing a trip this Holiday season out of protest of the changes to it's a small world.

Will probably return for World of Color, though.

They always get you, the bastards. At least 2008 will have been a Disney-free year!

Digital Jedi said...

I'll actually be skipping Disney for 2009 as well, but mainly for financial reasons. Though, I have to admit, it's not as difficult a decision to skip Disney for a second year as it used to be.

mr wiggins said...

For the first holiday season since 1955, I won't be going to Disneyland. Turning the NOS "Courtyard of Angels" into a merch location, as small as it is in the overall picture, was the proverbial last straw.

And if WDI/TDA continue their current run of craptastic storytelling (like the Nemo Submarine Cartoon Rehash Ridethru), calendar '09 will likely follow.

theatreman said...

It is November 28, and no new topic has been posted for this month, which makes me a bit sad. I would venture to say that the improvements in museums are to some large extent the result of the trails which Disney blazed. Ihopce that the deep Disney spirit is not dead.

I wish that Disney (and I am a stockholder) would realize that "improving stockholder values" EVERY YEAR and enlarging corporate salaries byond all sense are less important goals than keeping longstanding product value.

Disney parks should be basically in the entertainment business and not the plush-toy and cheap plastic novelty business.

The toy dog is wagging the show tail.

Were I in charge, I would remove the souvenirs from the "Main Streets" all over the world, and replace them with various forms of entertainment.

That would be a start back to basics.

Kayoss said...

Thought you would all like a link to my high quality gallery of Getty Villa photos, taken just days after it had reopened several years ago.