Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Walking in Walt's Footsteps

John Hench often talked about Walt's desires for his staff of Imagineers at W.E.D. to visit the Park often.

"You guys get down there at least twice a month. For God's sake, don't eat off the lot. Stay there... lunch with the guests... talk to them."

Why would Walt Disney suggest such a thing? The answer is of course very simple. Walt understood that the only way to discover what works and what does not work is to experience it for yourself. You must have a personal emotional response in order to progress with any sincerity. Think of the potential strength of your creative work force when they have been educated by their own product. Walt thought about that very thing.

How often have you experienced great joy at a Disney theme park? Was it your Jungle Cruise Skipper with his impeccable comedic timing? Was it seeing the family of ducks that crossed the parade path over to the StorybookLand canal for a swim? Was it the smell of fresh buttered popcorn? Now, do you personally feel qualified to tell your family, friends and/or peers about all of these things?

Of course you do.

How often have you experienced disappointment at a Disney theme park? Was it a crowd control Cast Member who was rude because you did not know which way to traverse Main Street in the evening? Was the restaurant you were anticipating the most closed early or not open at all? Was the restroom you went in to unclean, with a mysterious wet floor? Again, do you feel personally qualified to tell your family, friends and/or peers about those same things?

Yes. In fact, you become the most qualified, just for having been there.

But, what if the extent of your theme park visit was a piece of paper handed to you some 40 miles away? The contents therein being such information as- 37% of the clicks through the turnstiles may not have experienced Space Mountain today due to periodic attraction closures? This same paper also tells you that churro sales are up 5% from the same peak Saturday a year ago. What is your emotional reaction to that information? How interested are you in making sincere attempts to resolve any negatives in such reports? How damaging is it for a person who is in a position of decision or influence to only see the theme park guests as numbers or percentages on a spreadsheet?

Walt knew what he was saying when he would stress the importance of going to the Park. He knew, because he was there as a guest.


Strike Up The Band!

Let the drums roll out! Let the trumpets call! Let the people sing! Strike up the band!

It may be appear to be an insignificant trifle in the great corporate universe of the Disney Company, but the re-installation of a classic Disneyland detail gives all those who care about good taste, timeless design and the heritage of Walt's classic theme park reason to rejoice.

Rolly Crump's fanciful space-age planters that festooned the original Tommowland Terrace bandshell appear to be making a return. For three decades this classic Disneyland icon never lost its design appeal or its ability to transport guests to a groovy sleek and optimistic world of tomorrow. When Rolly's imaginative ornamentation disappeared with the installation of Club Buzz, a heavy-handed, grim and aggressively unappealing redressing of the stage in 1998, Disneyland not only lost a peice of great design from an accomplished artist but it lost a bit of its heritage as well.

But somewhere, somehow, someone at Disneyland's Entertainment Division is fighting the good fight. To those who reinstated this glorious Disneyland gem, bravo to one and all.

May this be the beginning of a great big beautiful tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Words can’t begin to truly describe the mess that has befallen Epcot’s Communicore. Infact, weeks have passed and still this writer struggles to find the perfect analogy, the sterling turn of phrase, the precise metaphor to summarize the visual nightmare this once comforting futuristic landscape has become.

The clean spartan lines are gone now; the simple visual statement completely covered over in designer excreta. Where less was much more, now more apparently isn’t more enough. Where the original Imagineers worked overtime to create a visually pleasing forward thinking urban environment, later embellishers, well schooled in the art of ugly, spared no expense in making a mockery of Communicore’s once pure and reassuring architectural statement.

Giant metal poles, tightly affixed with metal bolts, painted in garish grunge-mall mauve now spear the landscape. Twine and sharp edged tarps splay out over the area like malevolent fish nets descending for the catch. Add to that endless metal doo dads and twirly gigs, spinning whozits and whatzits, towering kiosks and assaultive souvenir pushcarts, billowing tents and oversized umbrellas. And all of it stirred up with a healthy helping of cheap.

The gentle sensuous lines of Communicore East and West are barely discernable now; the grand vision suffocated by the very worst in bad taste.

Shame on the perpertrators.