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.