Monday, December 22, 2008

On rehabs and refurbishments, Part 1

So, first off, let me apologize for taking so damn long to post, but there's been much going on recently. Maybe this will make it better?


There hasn't been a lot going on in Orlando. Things are quiet, really, as Disney prepares to begin it's new blatant attempt to get your ass in the park "Celebration Vacation" event. But something's put me off a tad bit: the lack of refurbishments and rehabs in the park currently.

I know, I know. The economy is on hard times right now. This country is hemorrhaging money, and the last thing some companies can afford is to shove money into a new paint job for "it's a small world". But I was reading an article on ScreamScape today about the recent refurb for "Primeval Whirl", located in Chester and Hester's Din-O-Rama, AKA the most pointless fucking thing in the history of time.
According to the news bit, the coaster (which just came out of a lengthy rehab) got a shitload LESS than what was expected. Apparently, where people were hoping for better security fences and on-board photos, all they got was some minor tweaking with the brakes - tweaking that has actually made the efficiency of the loading system (however much of that there was previously) plummet: the number of cars has decreased, and the loadout time has increased. This is easily the most popular ride in the sub-land, and Disney has effectively fucked it up with a rehab that a) was uncalled for in the first place, and b) made things worse for not only the riders, but the cast members as well.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily mortified at this piece of news. See, I HATE HATE HATE this ride with a passion. I hate the entire "Din-O-Rama" land itself. Why? Because Animal Kingdom used to have a fairly balanced and consistent experience in its "Dinoland, USA". But then, for no reason but to increase traffic through the area, Disney Parks put one of the tackiest, cheapest fucking themed lands in the middle of the area. I've always hated how it's essentially as if they stripped a piece of the Boardwalk (which, don't get me wrong, is my favorite resort in WDW), and plopped it right outside of the doors to "Dinosaur".
Also, fuck every ride in there.
There are really only two: Triceratops Spin (another lameass Dumbo knockoff - why is Disney now copying the people that copy Disney?), and the aforementioned Whirl, which is the most painful ride Disney has to offer (and yes, I called it a "ride" as opposed to an "attraction", because that's what the fuck it is, unlike almost everything else offered in the parks). I mean that literally. Not since "Dreamchasers" (that horrid advertisement for GE in the postshow area for "Test Track") have I been in pain in Disney World like this. My neck gets snapped around every 5 fucking seconds.


Sorry to complain. The point is: Why is Disney pissing away money like this? It's near frivolous. Yes, the country is in a bad way, money-wise, and YES, we all know Disney has the money to fix up some old girls. I mean, for God's sake, this is Disney World! Plus, they're ridiculously keen on throwing away cash, since (again) they're squandering it on half-assed rehabs for shitty rides!

Seriously, where the FUCK is the rehab for the Norway pavilion? I know EPCOT Central did an article on this a few months ago, but it's been heavily on my mind since I last went to the pavilion in August. That place is falling the fuck apart.
I remember riding the Maelstrom, and being utterly appalled at the condition this place was in. Despite the fact that the line was a 20 or so minute wait to board, the interior of the attraction was just...heartbreaking. The paint was chipped away on alot of the walls, and the animatronics were slow to move, creaking and groaning, as if they weren't up to the challenge. The sound quality was pathetic; distorted noise and static were abound. I mean, I felt like I was in the goddamn "Country Bear Jamboree" (more on that in a second). And then there were the Cast Members. This is a sad lot. Whereas in France or Mexico, you have friendly, cheerful (occasionally) folks explaining where specifically they're from, the Norweigan guides are as slovenly and sad at the pavilion they're in. They don't give a shit whether you stay or go. As a matter of fact, they encourage you to leave.
What's that? You haven't seen the film?
Well, you're among the thousands a year who skip it too. I'd never watched it before this summer, but I decided to humor myself and see what it could be like.

Jesus fucking Christ, guys.

This movie simply is terrible. They could have put on a 5-minute clip from "Innerspace", and it'd be more current than this thing. The hair, the outfits, the all perfectly reflects the care Disney is putting into the maintenance of the place. It's disrespectful. And I'd be a liar if I said my heart didn't sink to the point of near tears when I eyed the dedication plaque near the exit. All that hope and promise, slowly sinking away.

Then, there are the Country Bears.

Please, PLEASE GOD someone do something to this show. I'm not even going to say much; I feel it'd be unneccesary. This show absolutely NEEDS a rehab, a long stint in which literally every piece of robo-ursus gets thrown into scrap and started anew. Remaster the tracks and dialogue, and gussy up that shitty old theatre. I don't think it's as urgent as Norway, or the several other shows that need pick-me-ups, though. At least this one is goofy enough to the point that the broken condition it's in actually works with the theme of the show, overall. It's almost like the show is laughing at itself, with us. But that's the problem: We're laughing AT, not with.

Coming soon, Part 2! In which I (for once) point out some plusses in the "rehab" category, and what Disney can learn from them. Then, in part 3, I'll delve into some upcoming major rehabs, and how I feel about them (sneak peek: BOOO!). Until next time...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Things I Hate: Why not just call this "KidCot", too?

Now's the time for another installment of "Things I Hate" (which may as well be the title of this blog), which allows me to vent my disdain for a recent, unnecessary "Disney move" - most specifically in the "theme park" category.
Recently, on my last trip to WDW, I decided to take in alot of things I had previously vowed not to do (i.e., "The Country Bear Jamboree"), mainly because I found my self incredibly bored with the sights I had seen countless times before. While everyone was enjoying "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" for the first time, I was seeing it for the umpteenth time. It isn't as...striking anymore. So, one day in EPCOT, I'm strolling around Future World when, lo and behold, I see my old friend "The Living Seas". I hadn't been to the Seas in forever and a day, but I was aware of the changes that had taken place inside of this once-amazing pavilion.
As I stepped past the now-redesigned exterior, I chuckled to myself at the revised sign. Again, I had seen pictures, but the yelping seagulls are best viewed in person. I was a little saddened at the idea of Disney retheming this pavilion around "Finding Nemo", but it could very well work out. On I went, into the building, to find myself in line for a ride I had no idea about. Once more, I had heard things about it (mainly the notion of gorgeous projected visuals of "Nemo" characters amid real sea backdrops), but not enough to make me bored shitless the second I got in the queue area. Around the second waiting area is where I became...confused.
While this area had an interesting set of screens utilizing the school of fish from the film AND Thomas Newman's beautiful score, it seemed a bit thrown-together.

About the point where I boarded my Clammobile is where I lost my happiness.

This ride does, indeed, use very pretty effects to bring "Nemo" characters to life. The entire attraction, I'll admit, is very cleverly themed. However, there's something this pavilion will never have that the original did: a destination for a thirst for knowledge. The original pavilion had no gimmicky effects or tie-ins with popular films. It simply allowed those who wanted to be entertained and enlightened to come in and nurture that need.

In a way, that's what all of EPCOT used to be. It was the perfect place to discover and learn, without ever being bored. It combined original ideas with fascinating methods of teaching to deliver a learning experience like no other.
I use "learning" in the loosest of terms, by the way. It's not as if all of EPCOT was about education. Of course, some of it was; but I use "learning" moreso in the sense of discovery. A place where you can share visions of the perfect future and delve into the deep mystery of your imagination was also where you could journey back in time and see the origins of communication and the birth of a universe.
Now, where those visions of the future stood, there is a hightech thrill ride with no real scientific purpose except to kill children and the elderly. Where an area dedicated to finding out more about our bodies once stood, there is now an empty dome, blocked off by a few measly potted plants, begging for you to discover it once again.
Where a beautiful pavilion once stood that opened its doors to those curious about the ocean and its inhabitants, there is now a cartoon circus that merely ties in a broad theme from its predecessor loosely.
Don't get me wrong - if there was any chance of synergy going right, it was "The Seas with Nemo and Friends". But instead of keeping the best of both ideas to create a visually stimulating and culturally relevant attraction with the same amount of educational material "The Living Seas" had, in order to satisfy people of all ages, Disney pulled a...well, a "Disney". They thought the original "Living Seas" was much too boring, and so put in what adds up to nothing more but a playground for generation ADD.
People wonder why I love "The Land" so much...because it's one of the only Future World pavilions left that truly encapsulates what its creators meant it for. And what WDI originally meant for EPCOT. But with these times, I can't help but feel a little edgy...

Monday, October 6, 2008

American Idle

So, as many of you know, there's been quite a hooplah about the Disney-MGM Studios these last few months.
Some of you don't know? Well, then, let me (using the brilliant news source refresh your memory:
-Fantasmic! is losing showtimes, to roughly 2 shows a week
-Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey is going to be opening up late: about 6 hours before the park closes
-One Man's Dream will be closing it's doors about 3 PM daily

What in the hell could be causing this kind of a disturbance in the force? It must be something...big. Colossal, even. Maybe it's a new ride. But it can't be! It's closing up attractions on all sides of the park! What's doing this?

Would you believe...American Idol?
No? Me either.
Unfortunately, it's true. Disney heads have been concocting this brand-new show to plop into Disney-MGM Studios, right where the Monster Soundstage went.

*Sigh*...Where do I begin?

This is, without a doubt, one of the WORST ideas WDI has shit out in the last decade. Fucking Stitch's Great Escape was a better concept than this! And NO-ONE likes that concept! Why in fuck's name would WDI think it's intelligent to create a show based on a series that isn't even Disney-owned, and has been around for the last 8 years?
Let's think back on that first point: Disney spent money on this. Presumably mad money. Serious dollars. They don't own the American Idol name. But someone at WDI thought this should be done.
Higher-Up:"Guys, I love what we have here at the Studios. But it could use something a little more...known. Not everyone knows what Muppets are, but they sure as hell know what American Idol is!"
Underling: "But...that show was popular 8 years ago. It was a fad. No one really cares that much anymore!"
H-U: "YOU BASTARD! You won't be laughing when you see my other idea!" *holds up a poster for a Furby roller coaster featuring Spice Girls music*
This idea is just...bad. It's cashing in on an idea that should have been cashed in on in 2000. If they had done so then, this attraction would be gone by now. That's how outdated the whole concept is. Did the Astuter Computer Revue teach them NOTHING?
As you can tell, I'm being a big outrageous today. That's because I'm in an outrageous mood. Why? Because this idea is fucking LUDICROUS. Honestly. But what if it isn't outdated? What if, by some divine miracle, Idol-mania sweeps America again? Here's problem #2:
-At least 2/3 of the viewing audience stop watching "American Idol" after the audition rounds. One of the show's major draws is that you get to see people fuck up the Star-Spangled Banner on live TV. Drag queens sing Bowie, guys in chicken outfits breakdance, and at least one angry young man an episode curses Simon Cowell for not supporting his dream like his mother does. It's a draw because it's getting to watch people at their lowest. Some just do it to be on television, and some honest-to-God believe they have talent. Sure, it's pleasant to see some talent thrown in there, but we all know what we like. If it wasn't popular, there wouldn't be entire episodes of the show dedicated to poor auditions. When's the last time you've seen an entire show dedicated to the best auditions around? Sure, Kelly Clarkson is still a big deal, but how many American Idol winners of late have drawn a commotion as big as that of everyone's favorite neer-do-well, William Hung?

"The American Idol Experience" won't offer that kind of entertainment. The show will - for incredibly understandable reasons - privately audition people, then let audiences watch the best of the best throughout the day, culminating in a finale that (I would assume) will take place in the ampitheatre where "Fantasmic!" is housed. Which brings me to my greatest gripe with this whole idea: perfectly amazing attractions are being downsized to make room for this shit.
Fantasmic! is easily (aside from Illuminations) the best show Disney has to offer in their Florida resort. Fantasmic manages to make audiences applaud and scream with joy everytime I've seen it; it never fails to make people cheer when Mickey appears on the top of that mountain (which literally just made me think of Sorcerer Mickey as a Christ figure...I'll go into that another time, I guess). The show is just...brilliant. So the only thing that would be the cause for Disney to cut showtimes like this HAS to be nothing short of perfect. The greatest achievement in entertainment ever beheld by human eyes. Nope. It's "The American Idol Experience". Disney honestly believes that crowds for this show will be a match to that of Fantasmic!, which already has a line going allllll the way down that winding path to the ampitheatre an hour before the show even starts. It's a pity.
Then there's One Man's Dream.
Personally, I'm amazed this one is even still in the Studios. It's one of my favorite attractions of all time at WDW - one that honors the legacy of the man who brought this to us almost single-handedly. However, this wasn't supposed to last that long. It opened during one of Disney's annual celebrations (the "Celebrate the Future" one), and was supposed to be closed up afterwards. But, for some reason, WDI thought it'd be wise to keep it going.
One of the smartest ideas they've ever had.
But I personally am surprised that the WDI of today hasn't decided to gut that building and turn it into something else. I'm pleased, but surprised. They'd better by God never hurt that show too bad; but I guess closing it up early every day is better than shutting it down totally. Actually, when you think about it, "One Man's Dream" will have some weeks where it gets more people than Fantasmic!. Food for thought.
Then...there's Sounds Dangerous. To be honest, if they closed this and turned it into a queue area for the "Experience", my biggest argument would be that the building deserves better than to be used as a waiting area for hell; a Disney purgatory.

Honestly, I like the idea behind the show, but like "Experience", this was outdated about 3 months after it opened. If you watch the television monitors while you wait, you'll see trivia for shows that aren't even in reruns anymore. Not many people go there these days, but if they rehashed it - kept the same "sensory attraction" theme, but with a different, more accessible star - it may be a hit. But the Drew Carey theme has to go. The man isn't popular anymore, and if Disney can afford to buy the rights to a show that's past its prime AND build a giant monument to it, they can afford to slap, say, Robert Downey Jr.'s face on this show. Just a suggestion. God knows Disney has a bad habit of creating attractions around only celebrities who are 15-minute men (Bill Nye the Science Guy has appearances in TWO shows).

Anyway....yeah. "The American Idol Experience". I'm pretty sure I'm only going to experience this once, just to say I did it, but honestly...I can't see this one lasting more than a year. Poor idea, poor theme, and bad timing all add up to what's probably going to be a major bomb. Synergy at its lowest.

My little blue friend, you've earned good marks today.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Things I Hate: Should "Great" really be in the title?

So, since I'm such a filthy cynic, I've decided I want a new feature on this blog: Things I Hate. This little number is a totally honest observation about something either well-loved (i.e. "The Country Bear Jamboree" needs to fucking be refurbished), or something that everyone has a complaint about (seriously, what the fuck is Chester and Hester's Din-O-Rama even about?). That said, this week's complaint goes to:

Balls to the people who came up with the concept for this ride. A bit of history: "The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter" was an amazing attraction housed in the Interplanetary Convention Center in Tomorrowland. The plot? You're witnessing a demonstration of spectacular new technology from an ambitious - and sinister - intergalactic conglomerate. In the demonstration of X-S Tech's new Teletransportation device, you are greeted by what you believe is the company's chairman. Unbeknownst to you, Murphy's Law (every Imagineer's best friend) has intervened, and a hungry, clawed, winged, pissed-off motherfucker of an alien has been beamed down, right in front of your sweating faces. Before you can say "Spinlock", the alien has torn its way through the teleporter tube, an X-S Maintenance worker, and the power cords, all while it touches and snarls at you in a darkness only outer space can match. Just as you think you're lunch, one of X-S's scientists finds a way to lure the alien back and blow it the fuck up into satisfying chunks, to the relief of everyone in the tiny theatre-in-the-round.
Sound exciting?
Fucking right, it is! It was exciting, dark, a tad funny, suspenseful, and (most of all) terrifying. And the best thing? It was in the Magic Kingdom. The theme park where kids can ride Dumbo, fly with Peter Pan, shake hands with Mickey Mouse, and see a bunch of malfunctioning robo-bears guffaw their way through a blugrass extravaganza had a show where the blood of an innocent maintenance worker is poured on you while his screams are heard up above. It was the perfect escape from all the cutesy shit parents (or grown-ass folks looking for a good time) were surrounded by on all fronts. Unfortunately, the powers that be at WDI felt this attraction was too much. Walt wouldn't approve. It was terrifying to kids and even some adults. Never mind "It's Tough to Be A Bug"--that has synergy. We can gas children with fog while black widows and hornets attack them mercilessly, but they're surrounded by familiar characters.

There are no familiar characters in "Alien Encounter". So let's fix it. Let's create a show that seems more kid-oriented because of synergy, but is in essence the same fucking show.
What I'm saying here is, the huge change at "Alien Encounter" was NOT because of the content of the show. There are plenty of scary shows in Disney World. No, the changes occured were because right now, Disney is trying to Disney-fy all of the attractions there that are totally original. "The Living Seas" became "The Seas with Nemo and Friends". "El Rio de Tiempo" became "El Gran Fiesta Tour - Starring the Three Caballeros". Hell, even "it's a small world" is about to have it's artistic balls cut off in order to add an assload of Disney characters (as well as a "Hooray for America" sequence, but more on that later). Before we know it, "Journey Into Your Imagination" will remove Figment and toss in the Genie from Aladdin. "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" will replace the "Twilight Zone" atmosphere and shift to a "Suite Life of Zack and Cody" theme. Why not? It's cheaper than having to pay CBS all the time, and there's synergy galore!
However, Disney couldn't give "synergy" as a reason for changing a beloved attraction. The people won't understand, and the ones that do will be insulted. So they did something more insulting: they blamed the renovation on the content of the show. It had nothing to do with that! The show has all the terrifying effects "AE" did. Sure, there were no gross gags, like Maintenance One's death. But in place of that, a grosser gag: The little shit burps chili dog IN YOUR FACE. You're still in the same motion-restricting harnesses in the same darkness in the same theatre. The only thing that's changed is the plot (you're a security guard?) and the preshow (the once amazing character S.I.R. is now a bumbling, unfunny, annoying security chief robot whose name ends with the digits "90210" and - when he gets scared - takes a cue from "Finding Nemo" and claims "I think I just oiled myself." Har har har.). This show takes a concept that was great - scaring you using literally every sense you have - and dumbed it down so much it's reminiscent of an old "Family Guy" joke about Christina Aguilera: "You're an insult to every one of my senses. Even taste."
Disney did not want to have guests scared by an outsider, so they hired a cheap familiar entity to do it. They wrote this overnight, threw the show together - complete with poor animation and a finale that makes the whole show so pointless, it's like a spit in the face for spending the last 15 minutes there - and are reaping the benefits. Where an amazing show with the creativity and genius Disney lovers have come to expect once stood, there is now a piece-of-shit excuse for a merchandising opportunity. God knows you can sell more plush toys of Stitch than Skippy.
*Sigh*...when will Disney learn the theme parks are not mere extensions of fads the company holds rights to, but entertainment mediums of their own? They're beginning to remind me of another company...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Toon Disney" to become "Disney XD"; my life officially in shambles

I've been reading a lot of reports on teh internets about the upcoming demise of everyone's favorite crippled horse, Toon Disney.

See, for those of you who are unaware, Toon Disney was once a haven for those of us who absolutely hate the fucking garbage Disney channel has been airing. This was before "Hannah Montana", folks. This was around when shows like "Lizzie Mcguire" began generating steam as tween favorites. I remember a time in my childhood when (this was before we could get the channel in our house) Toon Disney was essentially the best thing about hotels in Disney World. Fuck atmosphere! I wanted "Gargoyles"! There was nothing like coming back to the hotel room after a long day at Magic Kingdom and watching "Bonkers" or "Marsupilami". Re-living the amazing cartoons of the past, before ADD-infused skullfuckery like "Jake Long: American Dragon" was born. So, imagine my dismay when, after a few months of finally getting the channel, a little monster named "Jetix" decided to move in with Toon Disney. This was not a mutual agreement. Toon Disney HATED Jetix, because Jetix was slowly stealing all of Toon Disney's precious on-air time. They were forced to live together, though, so Jetix made Toon Disney his bitch.

TD: "Jetix, what the fuck, 'Power Rangers' is NOT a cartoon! And what the hell is 'Super Monkey Robot Team Hyperforce Go!'?"
Jetix: "Shut up! Just for that, I start at FIVE P.M. NOW!"

Basically, while the Disney Channel was losing it's male boy demographic in favor of talentless teenyboppers like "Hannah Montana" or The Jonas Brothers or the "High School Musical" kids, Toon Disney was slowly getting more of this demographic. Disney saw that boys, when faced between watching "The Wizards of Waverly Place" or "Jackie Chan Adventures", opted to watch the latter. So, instead of just making The Disney Channel have a "Jetix" lineup every evening, the company decided to eliminate it altogether.
So, Toon Disney is safe now, right?
Toon Disney, which has been slowly fazed out over the last few years, is disappearing completely. It went from a veritable Fort Knox of brilliant cartoon nostalgia to a network that had to pick the best (read: most chronologically relevant - *coughcoughBuzzLightyearcough*) programs to show in the mornings so Jetix can spoon-feed our children with zany, cheaply made bastard cartoons like "Ying Yang Yo!"

So what's becoming of the network? Why, it's being revamped, of course! To none other than "Disney XD". What's "Disney XD"? Glad you asked! Disney realized that instead of having essentially one-half of a network devoted to boys while their flagship network is so popular with the princess crowd, why not balance things out? Let's make the channel 24-hour Jetix, but without the Jetix name (it needs to have that Disney ensignia somewhere!). How about something....extreme? Yeah, with an X! Xtreme Disney...XD! Sweet Jesus, the guy who worked on that project must have gotten a nice raise (I'm really assuming it stands for "Xtreme Disney", because what else does it mean? Is it a laughing emoticon?). So, fuck you, Toon Disney! No more "Darkwing Duck" for the kids, because now they're getting..."Aaron Stone"!

"Aaron Stone" is a brand-new comedy/drama show that will be the major deal for the network. What's the plot? Basically, this teenage guy is a spy in his spare time, but has to hide that while keeping a normal life.
I want everyone to stop and take a lonnnnng breath.
Now picture the fact that Disney is making money off of - essentially - taking a dump. "Aaron Stone" is just a male rehash of a popular show (guess!) and, needless to say, has already been done. Why not just call it "Jim Possible"? Or "The Famous Jett Jackson: Now in Caucasio-vision!"? See, Disney is, unfortunately, going to make a shitload of money off of this channel. Which is sad, because it certainly means that our old friend, Toon Disney, is going away for a long time, and may not come back.

There's always DVD...

Friday, August 8, 2008

My last day here...

So, today is my last day in the Walt Disney World area; I've been here maybe a week now. Let me say this: a week is FAR too long for me to be here anymore. I've come here maybe 17 times in my life total, and I have to admit, aside from a few attractions (PhilharMagic), I've found myself getting really tired of the same old things. Now, it's not to say the shows aren't good. I love Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, and I feel like it's one of the best shows EPCOT has to offer. However, I can't see this show once a year. I find myself enjoying the gags less and less, and as I figure out how things work, they fail even further to impress.
Let me say this: I'm a huge on WDW nostalgia. If I could rip up the "Leave A Legacy" monuments, or pull that eyesore of an "icon" the Sorceror's Hat is in MGM Studios, I would. I am quite vehemently opposed to major changes in the parks, and like them the way they are (mostly). That said, my views of boredom in the parks may seem a tad...hypocritical. But don't think that. I'm merely saying that I myself plan on taking at least 3 years away from the resort, and hopefully when I return, there will be some things added. This is where talks of hypocrisy step in.
"Wait a minute," you say, "For someone who loves the 'old' Disney World so much, you want more added?" Yes. See, while I am opposed to bastardizing classic elements of Disney World (like "The Seas with Nemo and Friends", which I'll cover later), I am not opposed to removing some of the lower-caliber attractions for something good.
Example? Why not.
MGM Studios (which you'll notice I do NOT refer to as "Hollywood Studios" around here, I'm too used to its former name) removed a relatively popular show - "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire - Play It!" - in order to make room for one of the best attractions the park has to offer: "Toy Story Midway Mania".

Now, at first, I was unsure if this was a good choice. However, I rode this bitch THREE times, and found that each ride was well worth the ridiculous wait times. On the other hand, for every "Midway Mania", there's a "Stitch's Great Escape" - a useless merchandising ploy that took the place of an amazing, original concept.
Nevertheless, I've found myself getting bored with the thousandth ride of "Mission: SPACE", so I'm hoping that if I come back in a few years, I'll be as entertained by everything as much I was entertained by the newer stuff.