Yesterday was March 11th — or 3/11. Naturally, this led to this jam from my high school days being stuck in my head all day:
This then got me thinking about the current and future state of the Disney Parks. Earlier this week, Bob Iger told an audience at the Deutsche Bank 2016 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference that he believed the strength of the Parks could be attributed to investing in shows and attractions that are based on Disney franchises. But what about those classic attractions like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean? Those weren't based on movies and, in a twist, have since inspired film's... to mixed results. This trend is also set to continue with Jungle Cruise and It's a Small World (seriously) flicks in the works. So what about original attractions?
If I'm going to write an article about originality, I have to point out that I am in no way the first person to bring up this point. In fact, it'd say 99.9% of Disney fans have spoken on the topic positively or negatively in their lifetime if not within the past 24 hours. It's something we all discuss but realize it's just wasted breath.
As black and white as it may seem — Disney used to build more original rides, now they don't — it's really not that simple. For example, one of the most successful Disney attractions in the past 15 years has been Soarin' (Over Calfornia). Score one for originality right? Well, then the ride was copied for Epcot, which is understandable but it's still copying. Once it proved popular there, they decided to add more capacity, which some argued took funds away from building a new attraction. And now we're close to debuting a new film for the ride which, in Hollywood, would just be considered a sequel and everyone knows that sequels are devoid of originality, right? So is the upcoming Soarin' Around the World (or Soaring Over the Horizon in Shanghai) really a win for originality?
In my mind, one of the most original parks Disney has ever built is Tokyo DisneySea. Incidentally, it also one that contains a lot of IP attractions and it's about to get one more when a Finding Dory ride replaces StormRider. Meanwhile, one of my favorite attractions in the park is an original — Sindbad's Storybook Journey. Well, actually, while it's not a Disney movie or property, Sindbad isn't exactly a new story. And although I've never seen the 2003 DreamWorks film, I know that it exists and others walking by might assume they're related. So, once again, could this really be considered an original?
Don't get me wrong, I would love for Disney to create more attractions a la Haunted Mansion (or the more recent Mystic Manor)... but I'm also super excited for Star Wars Land. Additionally, how many Disney geeks lost their minds then it was announced that a Tron coaster was coming to Shanghai? Isn't that just another franchise tie-in? It's also important to remember that, on opening day, Disneyland still had plenty of "IP attractions" (I believe back then they just said "movie rides") and so it's hard to say that franchises don't have a place in the park.
While I know it can sometimes feel like the parks are being taken over by synergy or even one film in particular (not that I'm pointing any fingers...), I'm not sure it's any different than it used to be. Yes, the idea of having an entire land dedicated to one property is a relatively new concept for Disney and one I'm not sure I fully support. However, it's what we as fans and the public at large have demanded. And, if this is a decidedly new direction for Disney, doesn't that mean it's original?