An engineer’s analysis
Throughout history Disney has consistently been at the technological forefront of theme park design. From introducing steel roller coasters (Matterhorn) to being the first to implement linear induction motors for urban transportation (the People Mover), Disney has always been a leader in world class technology. However, the more recent technology Disney has been using in their attractions seems to lack a certain wow-factor so prevalent in the parks earlier history.
While newer attractions such as Raytheon’s programmable-animatronic arm and Toy Story Midway Mania are reasonably impressive, they lack the quality, theming, and all encompassing immersion displayed in the Pirates, Mansions and Thunder Mountains of years gone by. Toy Story Midway Mania may very well be an exciting attraction, with smiling guests proclaiming their long wait well worthwhile. But exactly how long will those smiles last?
The main driving force behind Midway Mania isn’t the adorable storytelling, funny characters, incredible view or thunderous thrills; it’s the technology. Midway is unique because it offers riders the first interactive 3D experience in a theme park ride. However, while this technology may be remarkable the implementation is weak.
Current generation video game consoles coupled with next generation’s televisions* are able to perform the same tasks with equal awe. In fact, Disney readily recognized this and released a Toy Story Midway Mania game for the Wii and iPhone. While these versions lack the 3D spectacle that makes Midway Mania so amazing, future renditions will be more than capable of providing this effect. That’s right; you can play Midway Mania from the couch in your living room. You may have to give up the ride’s signature quirky-jerky motions in order to skip the line but the trade off is negligible.
Currently Midway Mania is a significant draw for DCA and DHS- meaning that guests attend those parks with the sole intention of experiencing the attraction. But when you are able to play the game at home and in 3D is the long wait now worth it? It’s safe to say Midway Mania will have an extremely short life span.
After further analysis of the ride, it appears obvious that Disney was not only aware of this, but prepared as well. If you remove the 3D effects and guns from Midway mania what’s left? A grocery store shaped room, tacky cardboard cutouts on the walls and TV screens lining the aisles. The basic empty shell that’s left over screams 'cookie cutter': any object of significant value can easily be re-purposed. Not even the vehicles appear to be long term. The attraction runs off of an HP laptop cleverly housed inside the vehicle shell (which is fading and tearing). While the model that Disney used is currently out of production, the closest model with similar specifications sells for $500 from Best Buy.
The lack of quality that Disney put into the environment and the mechanics speak the same message: quick fix. Toy Story Midway Mania isn’t an attraction that will run for years and years; it’s a number in an accountant’s book—adding a quick boost in the numbers for the short term. WDI bit the bullet here and pulled off a wonderful smoke and mirrors attraction. Midway Mania, despite its cheap roots, is highly prized. Enjoy the ride for the time being because it probably won't be around very long.
* 2010 televisions from multiple distributors have been announced being 3D capable at the same price as current generation television.