Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Selling the Dream: Part Four

What Eisner actually did and what he got credit for doing are often two very different things.

For example, he is credited with entering Disney into the realm of grown-up entertainment. With resorts like The Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, The Boardwalk, installations like Pleasure Island and films like Ruthless People, this is pretty difficult to argue with. Still, this is still little more than a continuation of the expansion policy of the man he replaced, Ron Miller, who sought to push Disney properties into modern, successful arenas - like the partnership with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, which he initiated. Since Eisner was a film executive before being hired by Disney, this is arguably par for the course. So, can continuing a preset trend be considered such a departure after all?

And yet another Eisner venture meant for adults (an extreme departure from Walt Disney World, remember), Disneyland Paris, is ground zero for the Eisner Blame Game. It's fun and easy! You can play along at home! For example: Euro Disneyland failed because:
A) It opened with a half-dozen resorts per park
B) It opened in France, home of Euro-centric cultural elitism
C) Those darn Imagineers built that park too well

Eisner-era marketing tactics included constant protestations of cultural relevance and vacant posturing about how cutting edge the product is. It is an appeal to adults, an attempt to reclaim an audience that was never lost to begin with. This is different from the Miller or Walker-era appeals to adults in that it is fake. So while we can be embarrassed or retrospectively amused by those earlier appeals, The Grand Opening of Euro Disney is downright irritatingly panderous. And if EPCOT's opening special abstracted that park into an intellectual concept, in Paris they seem embarrassed to even show us the thing.

While we can at least detect good intentions - scratch that, intentions - in the earlier Disney promotional specials, all we're left with in The Grand Opening of Euro Disney is endless musical numbers from early 90's top artists we'd probably prefer to forget. The rest of the show is spent on Main Street making an effort to sell the glamor of the opening, Dateline: Disneyland style, but where Dateline: Disneyland at least was making an effort to emulate a news broadcast, the nearest thing to the Paris property's show is an especially soul deadening episode of Entertainment Tonight.

There are annoying, pre-canned, hyperactively cut segments designed to sell the various lands, but these convey almost nothing about the lands themselves except that they have characters and rides: in Eisner terms, Kiddie Stuff. Eisner-era Disney saw a stronger demarcation between child and adult entertainments, and cutting between a Gloria Esteban concert, Entertainment Tonight style segments and a bizarre wordless 3 minute advertisement bumper for Fantasyland highlights everything that's wrong with the Eisner-era appeal: there's enough for everybody but too much for nobody.

And there is, sadly, nothing else to report on here and it goes on for 90 glorious minutes of wasted airwaves. Gone is at least the frantic madness and strained professionalism of Dateline: Disneyland or the earnest tackiness of The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World: here to stay is a soulless promotional bumper which appears to have been slickly shot and edited by consummate professionals who hated what they were doing. And it nicely sums up the deterioration of "the sell" since 1982.


Thanks to all who have been reading and enjoying and commenting on this series; I generally make an effort to balance the longer theory posts with these sort of entertainment ones as I realize not everybody can read densely-worded suspect blathering about Disney parks every week. So in that spirit, I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. All the best!


Adam said...

Wow. Another great post. Who cares that it is shorter?! You still are making an excellent point about the specials which, at least I think, reflect completely the state that the company (and the US culture - particularly with regards to the EuroDisneyland special)was at the time. One wonders what the regime that just left would do (similar to EuroDL?), or the new one, for that matter? American Idol contestants all over the place? What am I thinking, they're on FOX! Only the cast of Grey's Anatomy and Regis, of course!

Please keep up the amazing work. As much fun as it is to read all the rumors and other old stories told over and over again, it is so refreshing to be reading some well thought out and "adult" commentary on the Disney Company, and especially The Parks, which seem just as near and dear to your heart as they are to mine. Your sight here has made my "must check everyday" list.

And in case he is reading, thank you to Jeff at 2719 for showing me the way over here!

Tannerman said...

Keep em coming. Excellent reading.