Friday, March 13, 2009

On rehabs and refurbishments, Part 3

Hello again!

Sorry for the delay...I got back from a trip to Orlando the other day, and blah blah blah you don't care.

In the last part of my ludicrously over-thought view of rehabs and refurbs, I focused on some of the sweet ones that have filled the Disney skies with a glimmer of sunlight, or what have you.

But it's not all gumdrops and cotton candy.

There was, of course, the much talked about (by me) Primeval Whirl rehab. And the long-discussed recent rehab of "it's a small world", which apparently was vastly improved through the new process of raping its foundations while everyone watches.

A bit extreme, I know. But the rehab was pretty fucking extreme.

Over a year or so ago, reports were going around that Disney was apparently going to put the Disneyland version of "it's a small world" into rehab, with more than a new paint job. An improved soundtrack was in order, with Disney characters added into the scenes and an all new "Hooray for America" sequence being plopped in right where the rainforest scene was.

Pretty much all true.

To the credit of WED, the changes made tried (TRIED being the operative word) to be subtle. There were no goofy looking Disney animatronics breaking down as you floated past.

The "Hooray for America" sequence does TRY to match the style that Mary Blair used to make the attraction so unique.


The whole concept of the refurb is all wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Wrong. Wrong in principle, and wrong in execution. The prime reason of its wrongness is "Why couldn't the damn thing just stay the way it was?" There was nothing wrong with it. It's gone for 4 decades now running the way it is, and people have been consistently charmed by it. Some of you may ask, "Good point, but why not?'"
There are several reasons as to why this shouldn't have happened.
A)The reason I listed above; that it's fine the way it is. As long as Disney doesn't let it become Norway, it's fine.
B)The induction of the Disney characters is just awkward. They don't fit. They do look like they've been infused with Mary Blair's style, but it still looks painfully obvious that Disney just slapped these 30-odd characters into the show.
Tell me that's not the creepiest thing you've ever seen.

C) The America sequence is fucking USELESS. It adds nothing to the show. It actually subtracts, considering WED tore down a rainforest to put up some cowboys and crop farmers. Again, we ask ourselves, "Why? In what way does anyone benefit from this?"
I suppose children will, seeing as how they don't remember the good old days of when original attractions didn't need "plussing" with Disney characters. And thus, Disney makes money, by profiting off of the children's lack of complaint.

Not that this is the first time Disney has been known to use the cluelessness of youth to make a quick buck.

Marty Sklar explained to us why this happened, and soothed our nerves. But I still can't help but call bullshit (especially on this letter, it's hard to imagine an Imagineering legend would be so welcoming to such bastardizing changes), and think that if Walt were around today, he'd want to know exactly what in hell that blue monster has to do with the "Children of the World".

P.S. I also read a piece on the rehab that criticized everyone's critiques of the "America" scene. Aside from this being pretty much the dumbest thing ever written, and probably written by the same Disney exec who wrote Marty Sklar's letter, the whole idea of Paris having an "America" section is acceptable because Paris ISN'T IN FUCKING AMERICA. Ass.

And sure, it's in Disneyland. So why am I talking about it? Because if this idea is gold in Disneyland, then we may soon see the Orlando counterpart getting the same facelift.

Anyway, moving on. I promised everyone I'd conclude this letter with a retrospective of what was (and still is!) the most horrendous and despicable rehab known to man. And it's not "Under New Management!"
...The attraction that has its opening known worldwide by Disney fans as the moment Walt not only rolled in his grave, but also sat upright and screamed bloody fucking murder.

No, the attraction I'm referring to is "Journey Into Imagination". Also known as "Journey Into YOUR Imagination" and "Journey Into YOUR Imagination - with Figment!" And probably something else. Hell if I know.

JII opened up in 1983, a year after EPCOT Center opened, and it was well worth the wait. People were amazed at the simplistic (almost Mary Blair-esque) design of the queue, and the show waiting inside was something much more than a dark ride. It gave Disney its first unofficial park mascots; characters serving as ambassadors to a theme park that weren't preestablished Disney creations. Figment and the Dreamfinder were 100 percent EPCOT, and you couldn't go anywhere else to find them. Unless it was your middle school science class (click on the TV, then the icon in the dead center with an animated Figment).

However, in 1998, to commemorate 15 years of Imagination, WDI thought it necessary to completely gut the shit out of the building and rebuild it - inside and out. What resulted was a disturbing blend of corny effects that you could find in a Ripley's building on I-Drive, a bunch of anticlimactic nothingness, and Eric Idle (in a move to better combine the theme of JII and its neighbor, Honey I Shrunk the Audience, which also led Disney to re-establish the entire pavilion as the Imagination Institute) called "Journey Into YOUR Imagination!". As if people would approach the ride thinking "I wonder whose imagination we'll be visiting?"
What followed was bat-shit INSANITY. Pure hysteria. People called it, in a show of amazing wit and tit-for-tat, "Journey Into Your (Lack of) Imagination".


Don't worry, I was right at the forefront as well. I'm pretty sure I wrote a pissy letter to Kodak the second I found out that Figment was demoted to a shitty cameo at the end of the ride.


Disney, in a rare occurance, decided that maybe 10,000,000,000 complaints can't be wrong, and shut down the ride just a week after its 2 year anniversary. They reopened it with most fans (myself included), hoping a Dreamfinder and Figment-filled journey would be waiting for us. What we got was significantly better than the previous iteration of the attraction, but still lacking in any sort of enjoyability. Dreamfinder was gone, still, with Eric Idle in his place. Figment played a much more significant role in the story - Disney even slapped his name on the ride as a white flag - but for some reason the show writers (perhaps in a show of bitterness towards the fans that demanded him) made him into kind of a...well, kind of a dick. He always pops up in front of Nigel, fucking up the whole show, to do something annoying.

Now, believe me, I don't like the character of Nigel Channing in my Imagination anymore than I like cockroaches in my tortellini (ew). But Figment just overdid it. He was annoying. He came off as a pest, instead of a fun-loving, childlike dragon. He was a pest that pooted in your face. Literally.
Nevertheless, fans have accepted this one, seeing as how if it didn't exist, we'd still have that God-awful shitmonster from the Millenium Celebration. Yet, we can't help but feel that some change is in the air. Shirts have popped up in shops with the Dreamfinder on them. Pins, and other little goodies are circulating, too. The cynic in me is pretty sure this is merely a marketing ploy for the recent 25 years of EPCOT deal that was going around. But still...we can dream, yeah? Besides, Disney's bound to get tired of all the bitching for a proper Dreamfinder return. There's still alot of people who haven't discovered what's become of their favorite EPCOT duo...

Anyway, that wraps up this piece. Leave comments, and let me know if you agree/disagree, or what your thoughts on recent/future rehabs are.

I'm gonna go watch Captain EO.


Walter Sobchak said...

Is everyone using that damn video? I just saw one complaining about how Zach Snyder fucked up the ending to "Watchman."

Adam said...

This is hilarious, well done.

WS: Yes, everyone is using it.

You do know the real reason they gutted JIYI right? The new one takes up 80% less space and probably costs 90% less to maintain. Corporate America must have ever increasing dollars.

Anonymous said...

And what the shit is up about closing off the Imageworks? The upstairs had the best view of EPCOT Center. Great video.