Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh, Jesus Christ

Every year (what feels like every 6 weeks) Disney rolls out some harebrained scheme to get more people to go to the parks, and usually they're nothing short of "meh." The harebrained schemes are underwhelming, as if Disney Parks was some kooky sitcom uncle who, in every episode, gets a new idea for a get-rich-quick outfit, and the next 22 minutes are watching nothing but HIJINX. Except here, 22 minutes is about 12 months, and HIJINX are just people face-palming. A few days ago, Disney Parks invited a small group of people (Russian drug czars, I'm told) to New York so they could sit and watch Tom Bergeron - host of "America's Funniest Videos of People Getting Hit in the Balls" - make unfunny jokes about things that have nothing to do with Disney Parks. Speculation was rampant (they were liveblogging the thing, for Christ's sake!), with many people assuming big changes were underway for the parks. Instead, Disney laid down the groundwork for another year of gimmicky bullshit.

The "Let the Memories Begin" campaign is centered around the world's ever-growing need to have literally EVERYTHING shared globally, be it a video of your son's first words, or a picture of a dead hooker new puppy you just adopted. What Disney wants is for you to submit "pictures or videos of never-to-be-forgotten experiences" at the parks, which you can upload to an officially-official website. Then, starting in 2011, Disney will begin taking those pictures and videos and projecting them on Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom, or the "it's a small world" building in Anaheim. Sound cute? Maybe if it's your pictures. But let's review the concept here:

-Disney will be projecting images all over iconic, beautiful pieces of Disney history. Some of it looks cool (as you can see), but imagine the first time you ever saw Cinderella Castle lit up at night. Many, many people won't get to experience that feeling because the castle will be almost completely covered up by distracting animations and pictures, like a giant screensaver. Hopefully, TDO will find a way to make it more of a complement than a distraction, but fingers are merely crossed at this point.

-Disney is going to use your face to promote their parks. If you don't have a problem with that, then fine. It's wholly possible that in the coming months, Disney will start putting your family in commercials for Disney World, and to some folks that's slightly overstepping boundaries. Now I know, if you go out of your way to put your pictures/video on this website, you should be willing to accept any usage Disney wants to get out of it. Once you put it on the internet, it's out there forever. Fine. Whatever. Again, some people may be cool with that. Some people may LOVE that. But I'm more interested in other people - bringing me to point 3...

-Who fucking cares about other people's vacations? Honestly? I think about this from my perspective: Let's say I don't want to put my face or pictures or whatever on this website (I really don't), and I go to Magic Kingdom one day (I hope to soon!). I have no interest in seeing other people's mugs plastered all over Cinderella's Castle. I just don't give a fuck. Also, say I DID post a picture of myself to the website, and it was placed on the Castle. Disney has claimed that somewhere around 5000 pictures will be shown daily as part of the campaign - who says they'll all be decently-sized, or projected for a long enough amount of time to appreciate it? No matter what, it's just dumb to think that the vast majority of people will care about other people's memories. I know it sounds vaguely narcissistic, but it's sadly true. I'm assuming a lot of people will either not care about this or simply bypass the photographers that already routinely hound you when you enter the parks, and it's pretty safe to say those chosen folks won't give a rat's ass about some other family's time on Splash Mountain.

"But wait," you may say, "aren't those the same people who look at videos on YouTube all the time of other people's lives? Isn't that a bit backwards?" Not especially, since those videos and images aren't mundane activities the viewers themselves live everyday. Not everyone routinely feeds carrots to baby hedgehogs or gets hit by a car whilst dancing (although if you did, you live an extraordinary life). No one cares about videos of regular people doing the same shit as them. So, then, why should they care about videos or pictures of people doing things they have done that day/ will do the following day?

Oh, Team Disney Orlando, will you EVER learn, you mischievous scamps?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fuffy the Disney Dog to Appear at EPCOT!

I never feel more old than when a new cultural phenomenon sweeps a country and I have to Google it to find out what it is. It's been happening a lot lately; Disney seems to cash in on a hot new thing once every week these days. I don't usually give a shit, though, because most of these things are either super-terrible or super-terrible. Imagine my utter chagrin, then, when I should find out that various Disney theme parks are getting a new walk-around character - "Duffy the Disney Bear." My first thought upon seeing any of these headlines was, "Meh." But that casual indifference slowly evolved into annoyance that I was seeing so much about this damned bear, until all thoughts toward the matter culminated with the shrill shriek of a harpy, screaming, "What the fuck is a Duffy the Disney Bear?" I turned to an old friend - one who knows far more than I ever will - and asked him to put an end to this miserable confusion. "Tell me, Google!" Google turned to me, glass of brandy in one hand, pipe in the other, and smiled. "Dear boy, he's a GOD." My attention was directed to 322,000 results for my query, and I was lucky enough to see that the second one had an answer for me. According to an article in The Orlando Sentinel:

As the story goes, Duffy was made for Mickey Mouse by Minnie Mouse so he wouldn’t be lonely when he set sail on a long sea voyage. Mickey carried the special teddy bear in his duffel bag, which inspired his name. The pair had great adventures and made many wonderful memories on their trip around the world. Duffy is already hugely popular at Tokyo DisneySea, and he’ll arrive at Epcot and Disney California Adventure on Oct. 14 during grand opening ceremonies.

So Duffy The Disney Bear (aptly named because of Mickey's propensity to leave cherished items of goodwill from loved ones in duffel bags) is a smash hit in Tokyo, where people apparently die at his adorable, cotton-stitched feet. It should only make sense that Gym Baggy come stateside this October, presumably only for a few months, seeing as how Mickey's on R&R from doing service, and God knows he has recurring nightmares about killing all those people, which would explain why we may eventually see a lot less Mickey, and a lot more Sacky.

Why should this matter? Why should we care? Because while CERTAIN buildings in EPCOT remain unused due to (presumably) financial reasons, Disney is bringing in a totally unrecognizable face into the parks, spending money on marketing this adorable plush teddy bear in a Stay-Puft outfit to our youth. Get ready, folks - Nuffy the Disney Something-or-other is coming!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CONFIRMED: Kodak Leaving Imagination Pavilion

So for the last few weeks, filthy little rumor-bugs have been flying around, getting caught in the teeth of the collective subconscious of the Disney message-board community. "Shoo!" they said. "Bah!" The rumors were concerning some recent activity at EPCOT's "Imagination!" pavilion. WDWMagic had reported that Kodak - who has been a sponsor since the pavilion opened in 1982 - had lost some (most?) of their signage around the pavilion, and recently the "Journey Into Your Imagination" post-show (known as the Kodak "What If?" Labs) has seen walls go up, covering most of the area. Similarly, the pavilion's spot on park guidemaps has lost the sponsor's logo. For many, many people - myself included - this was a sure sign that the sponsorship had ended. With no official confirmation from either party (any official word was missing citation), it was hard to postulate what the future held for the pavilion. I wanted to get some confirmation from SOMEONE, so I set out over the last three days in an attempt to get word.

I contacted several folks who work at Kodak, and was met by either answering machines or promises of getting a return call. I finally was able to get in contact with David Lanzillo, Director of Corporate Communications at Eastman Kodak, and asked if the sponsorship was still happening. He promised to see if he could find out, and promptly called me back not too long after. He told me that although he "couldn't get a 100 percent confirmation" from a few people at Kodak who could give a simple "yes" or "no" due to their being on vacation, he was able to confirm from "several emails sent throughout the company that sponsorship of the 'Imagination!' pavilion ended at the end of June." I asked him if there was any chance of that sponsorship being renewed, and I was met with a rather fast "No." Lanzillo did ask that I point out that although he couldn't get in touch with his colleagues, he did urgently request they get in contact with him no matter what concerning the situation.
Now, this brings up several points concerning the future of Future World (and Disney World as a whole). Now that Kodak is out as a sponsor of Imagination!, there are several possible outcomes for this beloved building - some good, some TERRIBLE. Let's take a look:

Outcome #1: A new sponsor takes up Kodak's reigns and leaves the building alone, making sure the building stays well-maintained.

Outcome #2: Nothing happens; Disney keeps the building maintained on its own, a la "Horizons" (although that didn't end too well). Outcome #1 can still happen down the road.

Outcome #3: New sponsor joins, and revamps/redesigns the show building. This can be an overhaul of "JII", the Magic Eye Theatre, or both. This outcome has 2 branching outcomes, seeing as how a sponsor redesigning the show buildings can either keep the same general theme (with Figment), or completely change everything.

Outcome #4: Disney pulls a "Wonders of Life"; puts the building into seasonal mode until it's used primarily for Events.

Now, outcome #4 is highly unlikely right now, seeing that "Captain EO" has just returned to the Magic Eye Theatre, but it is still possible. Speaking to #3, though? Several people on Disney message boards have expressed their wishes for any new sponsorship to leave Figment in the pavilion, and not turn it into a coaster or a churro stand. A few people have responded to these claims, and it's easy to agree with them: An attraction like "JII" doesn't pull in any crowds at all. To be honest, I don't think I've ever seen a line there that went past the loading area, at least not for a few years. So why would a company invest so much money into something that so few people will see? It would, sadly, make a lot of sense for the next company to take up sponsorship at "Imagination!" (if anyone) to turn some part of the pavilion into an E-Ticket attraction. That way, pouring all kinds of money into the pavilion would be somewhat justified.

Now, when it comes to Kodak's sponsorship of the resort as a whole (and it's hard to turn anywhere in WDW without seeing a plug for Kodak), it gets tricky. Is this the end of Kodak as a major sponsor at Disney World as a whole? It's hard to say, and I didn't ask (because I'm a genius). However, in my search for someone to give me official word on Kodak's deal with "Imagination!", I did speak to a gentleman at the Kodak Corporate Line (800-698-3324), who told me after putting me on hold that "Kodak was not accepting requests for or beginning any sponsorships for the rest of the year." When I asked him if this was for financial reasons, or if this was a permanent situation, he simply told me he didn't have access to specifics at the time. So take that however you want - either Kodak is slowly putting brakes on sponsorship deals for the time being, or they're completely pulling out altogether. Either way, it's going to be an interesting few months ahead...

Mr. Lanzillo contacted me again this morning to give me final confirmation that "Yes, Kodak is no longer a sponsor of the 'Imagination!' pavilion at Epcot, and that relationship ended at the end of June. However, we continue to have a relationship with Disney and we're investigating other ways in which to collaborate; we've had a long-term relationship with them, its been a successful partnership, and we continue to look at other ways to collaborate with them." Thanks to Mr. Lanzillo for following up; still not sure what this means for other sponsorships at the Resort, but this is better than nothing.