It's December 23rd and that can only mean one thing: Happy Festivus! As we did last year, we thought we’d celebrate the Festivus season by reflecting on the year in Disney in a way that would make Frank Costanza proud, including the traditional Airing of Grievances, the Feats of Strength, a celebration of Festivus Miracles and, of course, a traditional Festivus pole (or “poll” in this case). It’s a Festivus for the rest of us!
The Airing of Grievances
“I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! Now, you’re gonna hear about it!”
The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. While we admire most of what The Walt Disney Company does over the course of a given year, there is always room for error and bad decisions. Here are some of the ways Disney let us down in 2016:
Jim and Joe keep pretending Pandora is real
During this year's Destination D event, one of the most anticipated panels saw Avatar director James Cameron sitting down with Imagineering all-star Joe Rodhe to discuss the Pandora: The World of Avatar section coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom. While that sounds great, the pair made the somewhat odd decision to keep up "kayfabe" and pretend that Pandora was a real planet and that the theme park expansion was a gateway to said planet. Look, we all know that Disney is known for great theming and storytelling, but this is just annoying. Maybe if Cameron spent a little less time making up stuff to talk about at a fan convention, he'd have more time to make those sequels he's been promising! Just saying....
The Guardians take over the Tower
Speaking of Mr. Rodhe, more than a few fans had some bones to pick with him when the Imagineer was put front and center in a video announcing the closure of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure and the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! In a year that saw a lot of Disney nerds complaining about a lot of things, the outcry over this retheming took the cake. Adding insult to injury, the still-open ride has been covered in tarps and scaffolding for months in order for workers to get a jump start on the exterior theming. Although we here at LaughingPlace are actually split on the issue of whether this ride is a good move or not, it wouldn't be right to talk grievances without giving it a mention.
Animal Kingdom's Rivers are still dark
Isn't it funny that Disney plans to completely retheme an attraction on the West Coast in four months time while a nighttime show on the East Coast is already eight months beyond its originally planned opening day? Yes, Rivers of Light has endured a tumultuous year, as briefly documented in our Turkey of the Year feature where the seemingly doomed "spectacular" came up just shy of the top prize. But it's not just that the show still hasn't debuted that's the problem — it's that Disney has kept fans completely in the (pardon the pun) dark. What's even stranger is that a few people have now seen some version of the show thanks to Cast previews, and yet an opening date or any hint of one beyond rumors eludes us. Honestly, at this point, it may be time to just send this one up the River and start fresh with a new name — and this time, be sure to hit your target date.
What was your biggest grievance this Disney this year? Be sure to vote in our Festivus Poll following the Feats of Strength.
The Feats of Strength
And now, as Festivus rolls on, we come to the feats of strength. 2016 was another great year for Disney overall as they flexed their muscles at home and abroad. Here are a few examples:
First studio in history to reach $7 billion in global box office
The year isn't even over yet and The Walt Disney Studios are already breaking massive records. Following the successful launch of the first Star Wars spinoff film, Rogue One, the studios officially broke $7 billion for the year at the global box office — the first time that milestone has ever been reached. Furthermore, while there were a few flops in the mix (we're looking at you, Alice), many of Disney's films surpassed expectations. For example, the fact that a Captain America title was able to best not just Superman but Batman as well speaks volumes about the power of Marvel and Disney.
Making a metric ton of cash on your products is one thing, but what about quality? Well, turns out Disney does pretty darn well in that arena as well. Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book boasts a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, Moana has a 95%, and Critics Choice winner Zootopia rocks a very impressive 98%. Meanwhile, Marvel hits Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange are both sitting pretty at a 90%, Lucasfilm's Rogue One holds an 85%, and Pixar's sequel Finding Dory managed a 94%. In fact, the only "Rotten" films released by Disney this year were The Light Between Oceans and Alice Through the Looking Glass (The Finest Hours scraped by with a 63%). Overall this another Disney accomplishment worth celebrating.
Shanghai Disneyland is awesome (no matter what you've heard)
The jury may still be out on the long-term viability of Disney's latest resort, the opening week seemed successful enough. Tickets for the park's first days sold out quickly and there were no major operational issues to speak of during the Grand Opening. More importantly, our contributors who traveled to the park say it's gorgeous and have pictures to prove it. Plus headlining attractions like Tron Lightcycle Power Run and Pirates of the Carribean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure highlight some of Imagineering's best work and make the park unique — perhaps even elevating it to the best castle park the company has built since 1955. For those reasons, we're counting Shanghai Disneyland in the plus column for the time being.
Our Festival Poll? What was your biggest grievance with Disney this year?
— LaughingPlace.com (@laughing_place) December 23, 2016
What other explanation can there be? These were truly Festivus miracles:
Muppets finding success in the Disney Parks
Following the so-so box office for Muppets Most Wanted, the unceremonious closure of Muppetvision 3D in Disney California Adventure, and the cancellation of their ABC sitcom, it seemed like the Muppets were on the way out of pop culture. In fact, when a shareholder asked Bob Iger why they company didn't use the beloved characters more, the boss's response was essentially, "We're trying!" As it turns out, he wasn't lying as the Muppets managed to expand their role at Walt Disney World this year. From Rizzo getting his own pizza joint in Hollywood Studios to the whole gang performing two well-received shows in Liberty Square, it seems like the Muppets are back on track and we couldn't be happier for them.
Rogue One seems to have been saved in reshoots
Earlier this year fanboys and analysts were panicked as rumors spread that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was undergoing substantial reshoots. Then came the arguments as to whether these were just a normal part of the filmmaking process or whether these went beyond the typical pickups and signaled Disney's unhappiness with the film. Truthfully we may never know how much was changed or "saved" after principal photography wrapped but, whatever they did, it seemed to have worked.
Disney's Hollywood Studio's Tower is confirmed safe... for now
Yes, you can all put down the pitchforks as Bob Chapek confirmed at this year's Destination D event that the company has no plans to give the original Tower of Terror the Marvel treatment that Disneyland's is receiving. Count this as another Festivus miracle!