Welcome to those of you joining me from A Glass Slipper Vacation and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail
Walt Disney was never content with the status quo. Discussing the Jungle Cruise an interview, only 1 year after its debut, Walt declared that the ride needed upgrading, telling his interviewer “My monkeys have gone to pot. I need new monkeys.” Any account of Walt’s involvement with the design of a new ride or attraction is usually filled with imagineer frustration because Walt was always looking forward for ways to improve and upgrade attractions. And, for Walt, there was no end to the process. He was, on occasion, known to toss a nearly completed attraction back to the drawing board because new technology had become available to make it better. Much as we treasure “Walt Disney World Classic Attractions,” I can never quite shake the feeling that if Walt were around, those attractions might not have much resemblance to their original design…
…So when it comes to refurbishing, or even re-imagining rides at Walt Disney World, there’s no shame. Walt would’ve probably done it, and those upgrades can be an important part of keeping the magic alive. Or, as in the case of my top choice for refurbishment, restoring it.
1. Journey into Imagination. Epcot’s Journey into Imagination stands as the centerpiece in my earliest memories of Disney World. That mirrored glass pyramid was my palace of dreams. It resonated with me in a way that no other ride or attraction did. I loved the fatherly guidance of Dreamfinder and enthusiasm of Figment. And I spent hours upon hours in the ImageWorks playground upstairs. I still have fond memories of digital painting, seeing my shadow frozen on the light-sensitive wall, and stepping on the lighted tiles to make noises (Do you remember that?)
Unfortunately, Journey into Imagination has fallen far from those early days of EPCOT Center. A renovation of the attraction eliminated its two stars, closed the Imageworks playground inside the glass pyramid, and failed to resonate with guests. Realizing their error, Disney refurbished the attraction again, restoring a version of Figment to the ride, but the themes and visuals still failed to reach the audience, and more often than not, the modern Journey into Your Imagination stands woefully abandoned in its corner of Future World.
It is because of that sorry fact that Journey into Imagination tops my refurbishment wishlist. In an earlier post, I considered where the spark that so illuminated the original attraction went, and I passionately believe that in the idea of imagination is still vital to Future World. But without nurture, guidance, and playful encouragement, imagination doesn’t just “happen,” and until Disney rehabs the attraction, it will not draw crowds.
Since this is a wishlist, I wish that Journey into Imagination would be refurbished to reflect an updated, perhaps interactive version of the original attraction. Dreamfinder, or a similar benevolent, imaginative guide needs to be added (not an unimaginative buffoon), and Figment’s whimsical enthusiasm needs to replace the impish “Stitch-ness” currently in effect (leave that to Stitch – he’s wonderful). And, of course, an interactive playground needs to be restored at the end of the attraction. With today’s technology, just think what we could encourage young guests to do with their imagination! And, with a little innovation, the playground could include interactivity with guest’s smartphones, eliminating lines for play areas and allowing guests to upload their own creations…imagine how much fun it could be….
2. The Haunted Mansion – The Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion will always remain one of my favorite attractions. Claude Coats’ brilliant atmosphere and Marc Davis’ characters never fail to enchant me (and give me a few chills) no matter how many times I visit the 999 happy haunts. But I want a refurbishment of the ride.
First and foremost, the Haunted Mansion, like numerous other Magic Kingdom attractions, is showing its age and lack of servicing. It breaks down with disturbing frequency, and its regular unavailability implies a lack of care for existing attractions that upsets me as a Disney lover. Secondly, however, while the ride is being repaired, I would really, really like to see the attic renovated.
When the Haunted Mansion went under renovation in 2007, its attic was re-done in order to add in a new plot element – Constance, the black widow bride. The resulting background detail was truly breathtaking. Each of Constance’s marriages is detailed as guests ride through the attic, a masterpiece of visual story telling…and the more you see, the more amazing the storytelling becomes (you should see the attic with the lights on!!). But one part of the attic scene did not get finished, at least according to popular rumor. And, ironic enough, that unfinished part was the most important – Constance herself.
Rumor has it that the Constance figure in the attic was originally supposed to be far more akin to the singing busts in the graveyard – a carefully sculpted figure with features to match the projected overlay. The unearthly projection of her face would have fit perfectly over the features, as a hidden fan blew among the gauzy drapery of her wedding dress, pausing as the axe appeared in her hand. But, rumors say, the ride went live before the figure was completed, and imagineers put in a temporary Constance, intending to upgrade the figure later.
Years later, I want a better Constance! Seeing the remarkable effects Disney imagineers have created elsewhere in the parks, I want a refurbished Haunted Mansion that works reliably and features a truly haunting bride trapped forever in the remnants of the wedding dress she profaned with her murderous sequence of marriages.
3. Expedition Everest – When the attraction was unveiled in 2006, Expedition Everest was promoted as the most technologically advanced roller coaster ever designed. Disney imaginers spoke about the complex layers of steel and concrete interlocking to create the mountain and the attraction it contained. Unfortunately, as explained in an earlier post, the complex design didn’t quite work as planned, and the Yeti has been reduced to a strobe light sideline instead of her original animatronic self.
In wishing for an Everest refurbishment, I can’t really wish for the Yeti’s arm motion to be restored. That seems hopelessly unrealistic considering the depth of the problem (pun intended). I would, however, like to see Disney’s imagineers refurbish the ride with a new storyline that would perhaps more adequately engage viewers in lieu of the thrill of barely escaping the Yeti’s grasp.
My refurbishment would be to re-imagine the ride as a mother Yeti trying to protect her young from the encroaching mining track. Such a story would explain her aggressive behavior toward guests, and if Disney imagineers added a baby yeti at the full-size animatronic’s feet in the climactic scene, the strobe lights could be dispensed with…everyone would be too busy looking at the baby yeti that big mama was protecting. And, in addition, I’d be willing to bet that baby yeti merchandise would make Disney a hefty chunk of change.
So, yeah, in the words of Walt Disney…”we need new monkeys.” There are more than a few great Walt Disney World attractions that could use a refurbishment, but in my dreams, those three attractions are the ones that will be announced as major renovations at the next Disney convention. The Disney parks are places devoted to magic, but keeping that magic alive is a matter of constant work and effort.
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Focused on the Magic