Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Integrity

"I've always said that there will never be another Disneyland, and I think it's going to work out that way. [...] This concept here will have to be something that is unique, so there is a distinction between Disneyland in California and whatever Disney does in Florida." - You-Know-Who
Walt Disney World is now forty years old. That's two entire generations - a lot of water under the bridge. Forty years is long enough for Walt Disney World to, in human terms, grow up, go to school, get a doctorate, have several children, and a mid-life crisis. Now... Disneyland is going to turn fifty-seven in July, a even more impressive number to be sure. But you know what? The difference in time between the opening of Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida is now, frankly, insignificant. The time that elapsed between these two dates - from July 17, 1955, to October 1, 1971 - is sixteen years, two months, and fourteen days. Babies born on Disneyland's opening day were not yet drinking age when the Magic Kingdom opened. And now we're forty years on from that.

Let me put that it even more context. If we took the length of time between the opening of Disneyland and Walt Disney World and subtracted it from today, we'd land at or about in December of 1995. Toy Story is the movie hit of the holiday season. Earlier that summer, Die Hard With a Vengeance and Goldeneye were the summer blockbusters. I bet most of you reading this have a pretty clear memory of 1995. Better than 1955 or 1971, at least.

Put simply: Walt Disney World is old, and Disneyland is only - slightly - older. I bring this up because it's time that we start thinking in long terms about Walt Disney World instead of short term. Yes, ticket prices will go up again this year, stupid things will be built, and that silly little food hut over by Frontierland will try to cut back their menu again. But these are, in the long term, passing things. Moreover, there's an attitude about the differences between Disneyland and Magic Kingdom that is simply no longer historically tenable.

Disney is a west coast organization. They may have been founded by Midwest boys, but all of their major corporate infrastructure, most of their executives, employees, and people who sweep up around the Corporate HQ - they're California kids. And because Disneyland is in California, because the culture of California is super isolationist, and because Disneyland was the first Disney theme park, the natural tendency is to say that Disneyland is the super special, historically interesting, most unique, Walt Disney-approved park.

But, you know, forty years is a long time. And Walt Disney World did not exist in a vacuum those forty years. She has a lot of interesting history too, even if that history did not always invariably involve Walt Disney.... although he was there too. But Walt Disney World very much exists in the shadow of Disneyland, despite Disneyland being hardly large enough to cast a shadow to consume the whole place. There's a lot of stuff to talk about there, as the last five years of my blogging here have tried to suggest. I've been at this blog for five years and I've hardly talked about EPCOT Center - 1982 - or even so much as broken the 1990's.

Disneyland is California pop culture and Disney is a California company, so Walt Disney World history has largely been obfuscated, ignored, and stymied by her own company. I say this as a Walt Disney World researcher, and an independent one, too - I've spent years scrambling after scraps, half-remembered facts, and dead end rumors. Truthfully, the spread of social media has turned out to be the key to connecting myself with like-minded individuals from far-flung corners of the country, and allowed us to pool our resources and expertise. Disney is doing very little to help our cause. And while Disneyland is being treated to triumphant restorations and returns of classic attractions; built, marketed, and sold as loving tributes to the illustrious past; Walt Disney World is.... well....

What Walt Disney World is doing is it's being drawn towards the center of the storm like it's the eye of a tornado, or maybe, a hurricane. That eye is Disneyland. Disneyland has become the officially sanctioned, corporate approved, regardless-of-all else Norm. And in that process, these California kids are gradually sucking the unique culture out of Walt Disney World.

Take, for example, the Jungle Cruise. When I worked at the Jungle Cruise, from time to time, WDI would send over a new spiel for us to learn. Very often, this spiel was by and large copy-pasted from a pre-existing spiel... one meant for Disneyland, asking us to make jokes about baboons on the veldt who were never installed, show scenes in the Disneyland queue installed in 1994, or other such non-sequiturs. This made it very difficult for us to follow the script, but moreover it showed how out of touch Disney could be with their own history. And especially it showed no regard for the idea that unique coastal joke traditions may have been created at the Jungle Cruise in Florida in the past three decades.

Clearly the same man.
This came to a head several years back when new scripts were distributed to be followed at all costs - no exceptions allowed. This was after my time, but I've spoken to several friends about it. Both Jungle rides have always ended with a bare-chested 'native' peddling shrunken heads, although they could not be more different visually. Accordingly, over the years the Florida skippers began calling the figure "Chief Namee" instead of the scripted "Salesman Sam". Now they, and all new skippers call him "Trader Sam" - the same name used at Disneyland since the scene's inception. And another tiny scrap of Walt Disney World tradition is thrown away.

A more recent example, if you don't mind. In 1971, Magic Kingdom opened "The Enchanted Tiki Birds in a Tropical Serenade", just one of a complex of Adventureland features sponsored by Florida Citrus Growers. Although the actual tiki bird show was the same one - aurally - as "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" at Disneyland, visually the theater was an entirely new experience, quite different from the intimate little room which still plays on at Disneyland. It was technologically quite different too, with all new figures performing all new actions for the Florida show, beautifully animated by Wathel Rogers, as technology had come quite far between 1963 and 1971. And it was prefaced with a unique preshow, wrapped inside a unique new building, and followed by a new "post-show": The Sunshine Tree Terrace, where orange cheesecake, orange soft serve, and orange chiffon pie were served. The entire complex had its' own name - The Sunshine Pavilion - and even its own mascot, the Florida Orange Bird. It had its own Dedication on October 20, 1971, alongside the Contemporary and Polynesian Village hotels. This was a new show designed for a new, and important, sponsor.

Almost as much fun as New Years' Eve in the orange groves
The show itself was returned to us last year, but the name was not. Now it was "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room", the same name of the original Disneyland attraction, as if "Tropical Serenade's" life cycle could be conveniently swept under the rug. Although the unique preshow returned, the original 1971 holding area music compiled by Jack Wagner just for the Sunshine Pavilion did not. Instead, that same piece of music that has been playing for about a decade outside Disneyland's bird show took its place. Disneyland has again replaced Walt Disney World history. All of this is especially ludicrous because the 1971 Sunshine Pavilion loop circulates online amongst collectors and is not especially hard to find. This could have been obtained, for free, after probably less than an hour of searching.

You probably see what I'm getting at here, but I'd like to go on.

Pirates of the Caribbean's 2006 movie tie-in reboot happened at Disneyland and Walt Disney World on parallel time lines. It's no surprise that Disneyland's version got all the love and attention, since it's a brilliant ride, but that doesn't excuse what happened in the Florida version. The Barker Bird outside the attraction was removed - a unique Florida Pirates feature with a unique Florida Pirates history. Absolutely nobody connected with the refurbishment has ever managed to explain to me why this happened, it just did. He was removed and was last seen -- at Disneyland, promoting the fourth film last year. At the same time, the Florida "talking skull" figure was removed, although Disneyland's similar figure was not. Again, nobody seems to know why - it just happened.

But the real thing that proved that a lot of these people were Disneyland kids imposing their Disneyland-centric views on a ride they were not familiar with happened in the queue, and again it was a piece of music. The Disneyland and Walt Disney World queues could not be less similar...




...and so, those 1973 Pirates designers, the same ones who did the beloved Disneyland show, elected to use a unique, spookier piece of music in part of the new queue instead of Bruns' sprightly Pirates Overture, a piece called the Pirates Arcade music, which was far slower with some eerie segments, perfect to set up the attraction to follow.

...but moreover, this music then faded out, giving way to a very carefully thought out textural sound scape, with several unique pieces of audio echoing down those corridors to unique effect. In 2006, the Pirates Overture was thoughtlessly dropped in to the 1973 queue, and worse yet, it plays through the entire queue instead of just in the spots WED intended. In one careless move, a careful and intentional choice was obliterated in favor of a direct lift from Disneyland and, on top of that, the Overture plays now through the entire queue, drowning out the original 1973 sound scape. Disneyland history replaces Walt Disney World history yet again.


One final example. In the 2007 Haunted Mansion refurbishment, which was in many many ways tasteful and carefully done, this same Disneyland infection struck. The main site here in the Corridor of Doors scene.

The Florida Corridor was pretty barren compared to the Disneyland version, which always had those cool framed "family photos" of ghouls. I have no conclusive evidence, but I believe Claude Coats left these out of the Florida version on purpose. It is certainly one of the few exclusions in a version of the Haunted Mansion which included so many expansions and reproductions, so its absence is both unique and remarkable. Furthermore, instead of the amber and blue lights from the Disneyland version of the scene, the Florida Corridor of Doors scene was lit in a pallid and uncomfortable red, created by special red globes placed over the hurricane glass lamp chandeliers.  The entire scene was capped with a new gag not present in the Disneyland version, with a pair of hands prying off the corner of the final door.

Those red globes - a photo from 1999
 Now, I don't know why Coats did all this, but it has all the earmarks of being intentional. Perhaps he disliked the way the ghoul photos distract you eye away from the doors? And the red light made the corridor feel more claustrophobic than it really was - the red walls signaling danger unconsciously to the mind. The doors were painted a strange green-grey to appear brown under the red light, just like all the other doors elsewhere in the attraction. The 2007 refurbishment crew added the long-missing ghoul photos, but they removed all the red light and, for good measure, took the ghoul hands off that last door. Now the scene was just like Disneyland's - the way it was always meant to be.

Right?

Except...

They very probably undid Claude Coats' carefully planned intentions in the process.

Now, I have this to say, and I love Disneyland dearly, but when it comes to Walt Disney World -- to hell with Disneyland.

Disneyland has a colorful and unique history. But so does Walt Disney World, and Walt Disney World's history has been slowly whittled away these past few years by thoughtless and presumptive choices, choices held up only by ignorance of the unique local culture of the Florida park.
 
WDI has the resources available to make these decisions, and do the research, but I suspect the research doesn't get done because the assumption is that there is no research to do. It takes very little effort to make those forty years of history go away in a poof. Historical preservation is a creative act - it takes someone who recognizes the value of the history to want to save it. And the much-maligned and uncreative boilerplate moniker "DisneyParks", implying an interchangeability between all Disney outdoor entertainment, becomes more true each day.

WED East, 1972
To some of you, my above examples probably seem like minor things to you, and they are, but they're minor and meaningful things that hit me very close to home. Because, you know, in broad outlines, Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom are pretty similar - they both have castles, haunted houses, pirate rides, fancy malls at their entrances, and world of fantasy tucked away in back. It's the small things that make the park - like the smell of Country Bear Jamboree, that thick perfume of sawdust and motor oil, or the unique sound of the station brake at Big Thunder Mountain, that distinctive and Florida-unique hiss.

Walt Disney World needs to start thinking long-term now, now that forty years have breezed past. They need to seek out and maintain a roster of talent who know and have Walt Disney World bound into their blood and every fiber of their body the way Disneyland does. So far, the last two decades they've been content with Marriott hotel managers and accountants, people who don't see past the ends of their own nose. And lots of being led around by the wrist by Disneyland. But Walt Disney World, she isn't the second Disneyland. She's the first Walt Disney World. And she needs to start acting like it.

Relevant Addendum: Michael at Progress City, USA weighs in eloquently on this piece.

30 comments:

Tom Bricker said...

Very thought provoking.

This issue first became apparent to me at the otherwise excellent Destination D, when it initially appeared that many of those running the show were much more comfortable discussing Disneyland than Walt Disney World. There were excellent Walt Disney World-centric presenters, to be sure, but much of the initial content seemed lifted from the similar Disneyland Destination D presentations.

I think the biggest issue is getting people to acknowledge that things of Disney historical significance can, and have, occurred since the passing of Walt Disney. Not only is Walt Disney World living in the shadow of Disneyland, but the entire Walt Disney Company lives in the shadow of the man himself. Since Walt's passing, a number of incredibly talented people have carried on his legacy, and created some absolutely brilliant things on both coasts. Rather than being defined by their creations, these people are often defined by their association with Walt. It seems more attention is paid to what has been done at Disneyland (even after Walt) because it was "Walt's park." He never set foot in a completed Walt Disney World, so to many, there is no meaningful history associated with the resort. That misconception is troubling.

Most of the creations of TWDC are post-Walt. Many of these are artistically brilliant, and should be appreciated not because of their tenuous connection to Walt (even yesterday when reading about Ernie McLean's passing, much attention was devoted to the supposed fact that he was the last person hired by Walt--how on earth is this significant to McLean's contributions to New Orleans Square?!), but because of their artistic merit, standing alone.

Posts like this, hopefully, will open some eyes and cause people to recognize that there is rich history throughout the company, not just on those things stemming from projects Walt stewarded from start to finish. I'd love to see a branch of the Archives established in Florida. I doubt it will happen anytime soon, but with how much history there is in the Vacation Kingdom, I'd think that they'd have more than enough work to keep a small team occupied.

ICU Stat said...

Bravo, that is all. Bravo!

Herr Punkinstein said...

A wonderful post.
I've never been to Disneyland. My first Disney park experience was at WDW in either 1981 or 1982 (can't quite remember now) and I have been back several times since then. I have been to Tokyo Disneyland, but never the California park.
As a dedicated Southern Boy I have a fierce loyalty to the WDW complex and through reading blogs such as yours and websites all over, have come to cherish the idiosyncrasies of WDW, including that local flavor. These things are to me, as you noted for yourself, minor but of major personal significance. I don't want a Wal-Mart conformity for Disney parks, and certainly not to make such a large, varied and complex entity as WDW fit into the cramped package of Disneyland.
This reminds me of how I felt when Busch Gardens Williamsburg took down the Big Bad Wolf.
Is there anything we can do to stop this callous disregard for the consumer?

BluebonnetBaker said...

As a former WDW castmember, I can only say: Amen!

Adam said...

Bravo! As an East Coaster, WDW is my home park. While I might not have been able to tell you about the changes at the HM or Pirates that were that subtle, I could tell there was a change. And that they are coming from DL, at the expense of WDW is a shame. But really you had me at the HISS of the brakes of BTM.

Thank you again for a great essay.

Adam said...

Bravo! As an East Coaster, WDW is my home park. While I might not have been able to tell you about the changes at the HM or Pirates that were that subtle, I could tell there was a change. And that they are coming from DL at the expense of WDW is a shame. But really you had me at the HISS of the brakes of BTM.

Thank you again for a great essay.

MMouse said...

Excellent piece! I totally agree.

I do want point out that this imbalance has existed virtually from the beginning, though. As a kid in the 80s and 90s (and a WDW visitor only), I was always frustrated when the plushes at WDW carried Disneyland or Disneyland/Walt Disney World tags. It took until the very end of the 90s for WDW to get her own official album that she didn’t have to unceremoniously share with Disneyland (and even longer to get WDW-specific recordings of some attractions that overlap). I also loved the video souvenirs that they used to produce for both parks, but felt very frustrated when, for example, the video would show scenes in Pirates (such as the shoot-out in the armory) that were unique to Disneyland as if they were in Florida.

The only change is that back in the 80s and 90s, the administration in California was distracted and didn’t even contemplate refreshing/enhancing WDW attractions to begin with. For better or worse, however, now they are.

So, sadly, this kind of thinking is nothing new. I, too, hope that someone in California with WDW roots/respect gets hired into a high position at WDI/WDC. (Coincidentally, I’m available.) (I’d also be happy to support your nomination.)

Jamie said...

Thanks for a very insightful post. I've been to WDW many more times that Disneyland, and therefore I feel more closely connected to it. It's been over 20 years since I last made it to Anaheim, half as long as WDW has been around. Ultimately, The Walt Disney Company, Disneyland and Walt Disney World are institutions with deep and storied pasts. You make an excellent point that each park should have its own identity.

C33 said...

Overall I totally see your point- this idea of their being synergy between the parks (OneDisney, as it's called) often has it's heart in the right place, but often it seems things are being synergized without reason and frankly without benefit.

Speaking as a Disneyland Resort Cast Member, I have to say this really does work both ways. Situations such as the one you describe with the script from California being imposed upon Florida CMs work the other way too. Much of this however happens in backstage capacities, where it isn't as apparent to guests. One particular annoyance, much of the material describing Cast Member policies and benefits are written for WDW CMs and in many cases the rules in CA are different and undocumented- Disneyland be damned! WDW is far bigger and has three times as many employees. If you were to call casting at Disneyland and try and get an interview you would end up speaking to a recruiter in Florida.

But I digress. All I'm saying is that it does go both ways, but that in no way argues against your point. I will, however, take issue with one claim:

"Although the unique preshow returned, the original 1971 holding area music compiled by Jack Wagner just for the Sunshine Pavilion did not. Instead, that same piece of music that has been playing since 1963 outside Disneyland's bird show took its place."

This is simply not true. In fact, it's not even possible.

The music that is played in the Disneyland tiki lanai area is all drawn from one album, Steel Guitar Magic: Hawaiian Style, by Jack de Mello.

http://www.amazon.com/Steel-Guitar-Magic-Barney-Isaacs/dp/B000008NU3/

The CD was released in 1995. Amazon claims that there was an earlier release, presumably vinyl, that was put out in 1975, but it's hard to find reference to it. What is certain is that that music was NOT playing at Disneyland in 1963, because it hadn't been recorded yet.

Nevertheless, there is no evidence I have been able to find that this music was playing at Disneyland at all prior to the late 90s, and it may possibly not have been installed until the major refurbishment in 2004. In all likelihood the person compiling the loop did a search for "Hawaiian music" in the iTunes Music Store and this is what they landed on (try it- you do indeed end up being led to this album).

What we believe was used as the original Disneyland Tiki Room area music is actually a loop of lush Hawaiian string instrumentals running 59:40, and compiled by Jack Wagner. This was the original area music loop for Tokyo Disneyland's Tiki Room, and still plays there to this day. The loop has recently returned to Disneyland and is being used at the Tangaroa Terrace quick service complex at the Disneyland Hotel.

The original Sunshine Pavillion music appears to have stopped playing in 1995 or so (which is also when the Polynesian Resort Area Music was changed), and after the New Management change oever it was definitely replaced with a 10 minute loop taken from a Best Of Martin Denny CD with one Arthur Lyman track thrown in.

So really, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have befallen equal fates: having their original, lush background music tracks replaced with some fairly generic Steel Guitar music.

Melissa said...

Sing it, shout it!

I wonder if it's a symptom of the lack of leadership you touched on in your 2011 year in review post. Without a strong, passionate overseer in Florida who has both the authority and the will to really lead, the choice is either to do nothing or to imitate Disneyland.

Marcus said...

I spent a semester working at WDW back in 1992. I didn't get back there until early in 2000, and was shocked to see how much had changed in the details and what was considered acceptable for "good show" in 2000 that would have been totally forbidden in 1992. After returning every couple of years since that 2000 trip, I continue to be disappointed with the spiraling homogenization. Now, I understand that most visitors probably never notice. But once you have spent time in the culture, at least the culture that existed 20 years ago, those changes stand out dramatically. Walt Disney World very much possess a culture all its own. And I can't begin to understand how anyone in the Disney company could fail to recognize that fact. It is WDW that sits on top of the attendance numbers. The focus should be there.

FoxxFur said...

C33 - thank you for your insight into the DL Lanai loop - I am by no means a DL expert and will be amending my post shortly. :)

soak said...

extremely well written and wonderful write-up conveying how important these parks are to those that pay the higher and higher entrance fees.

as a traveler to both parks over the years I can say that finding the unique characteristics to each makes for a much better experience overall. If the idea is to follow Walt as much as possible, than giving over to the creation of a shared fantasy, while also respecting the very nature of simulacra in it's most altered forms of whimsy. One would think that this was at the core of having multiple parks with multiple ways of seeing through the same pair of primrose glasses that drove Walt to create WDW in the first place.

I always wonder how much the perceived failure of EuroDisney has had on the corporate culture to take less risks from Walt's era, and force more of a homogenization across all brands to ensure that every tick mark on the success metrics can be easily gauged and reworked when a 10th of a percent falls off the stock.

Major Pepperidge said...

I am a Disneyland fan (and have never been to WDW), but I agree with your sentiments completely. The things that fascinates me about The Magic Kindgom are the differences; I don't want to finally get to the Florida park only to find that everything is just like Disneyland. What would be the point? I want to see the Florida versions of "Pirates" and the Haunted mansion *because* of the dissimilarities.

Vive la différence!

Dude Can't Draw said...

Eh, turnabout is fair play, imo.

We here on the west coast have had to suffer through the Disney Worldification of Disneyland for the past couple of decades in the form of east coast merchandise bigotry. For example, for many many years the only Matterhorn and Splash Mountain ride vehicle toys available featured side-by-side seating seen only in Florida.

Disneyland is the original, but from the late 80s through the early 2000s, Disney was focused directly on the fact that it's younger but larger sibling was the real cash cow. All investment went eastward, Disneyland saw none of the innovation that was being put into the Magic Kingdom and the other parks, and general maintenance and upkeep suffered.

Fortunately the 50th anniversary gave the company motivation to re-focus on the park that started it all. So I see what you describe as restoring a bit of balance and trying to keep WDW from perpetually overshadowing the original.

K. Martinez said...

Having lived all my life in California, the majority of my Disney theme park experience has been with Disneyland starting in 1963. I grew up on Disneyland and am familiar with every facet of that park and its history.
As a young teenager in the early 1970’s, I remember reading about the opening of Walt Disney World from Life Magazine as well as other magazines like Look, Time and Boys Life. I was so intrigued by what I read and saw in those magazines about WDW back then that I knew I was going to make the trip out to Florida someday. I finally did go in June 1978. What surprised me was that it wasn’t the unique attractions like “Mickey Mouse Revue” or “If You Had Wings” that blew me away, but the duplicate attractions that were actually unique experiences because they were design differently from Disneyland. Some were expanded upon and others approached differently. I was also impressed with the scale of the Vacation Kingdom and the grandeur of the Magic Kingdom. I went back again in 1983 to see EPCOT Center as well as the Magic Kingdom one more time.
Since then I have not returned. I feel fortunate that I was able to experience WDW in its original form in the 1970’s before it changed dramatically. I’m glad I saw “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, the “Mickey Mouse Revue” and “If You Had Wings” before they disappeared. Having visited both DL and WDW I can appreciate both places for their own unique qualities. Neither is second to the other. Both were new concepts and firsts.
I’ve always felt WDW got the short end when it came to publications. Besides “Since the World Began” and “The Art of Walt Disney World”, there really haven’t been any great publications on the scale of “Disneyland - Inside Story” or “Disneyland - The Nickel Tour” for WDW. I’m still puzzled why they didn’t release a WDW version of “The Musical History of Disneyland” for their 40th Anniversary. There’s a ton of unique material to work with. Even their similar attractions have different soundtracks. It appears detailed coverage of the rich history of Walt Disney World can only be found on fan sites and blogs like yours. That I greatly appreciate. Thank you.

Sterling, Massachusetts said...

A bit off topic, perhaps, but the Soarin' attraction in WDW irks me. Really, how much would it cost to make a Florida version of the film? I think it is the worst of the Cut & Paste errors.

Android8675 said...

I love my Disneyland. I'm in Norcal, I don't get there too often, and I've been to WDW once right after Epcot opened (I forget the year, but I was pretty young).

I recall distinctly how similar, but also how different WDW was vs. DL, and it was pretty cool. I thought having the Matterhorn type bobsled cars for space mountain was a stroke on genius, and the haunted mansion was so unique, but eerily similar. I wish I could remember Pirates, it's been a while.

You make some amazing points. I'm sorry to hear that WDW is loosing some of the things that makes WDW unique. Honestly it hadn't crossed my mind because I really can't afford to visit both parks, but you make me want to visit in the near future before it's too late. Nice article.

mike_ch said...

As I wrote on Twitter, WDW's identity is wrapped up in the whole of the place. MK itself is a large but somewhat hurried attempt to plant the familiar trappings of Disneyland out east and while there are some things different about it, I wouldn't say each difference is better.

I'm more concerned of the integration of west-coast assets replacing traditional experiences at a unique gem like EPCOT. And honestly, I'm okay with the various kingdoms all blending together into a slightly different but otherwise samey experience at each city. One big reason why: they're really spread out.

I remember being disappointed that many area loops were the same at WDW and DL, but I only figured this out on a very special year when I managed to go to WDW for the first time and visit DL in the same year. At this point, the fact that I can make up "Now Is The Time" in the TLand loop at Disneyland (where the song was never played once) just isn't that big of a deal for me.

I dunno, I feel like this kind of complaint isn't wholly invalid, but I feel it's exclusively limited to the few people who get to travel to both coasts frequently and "compare." The primary reason I'm okay with blending the Kingdom Park experience is because I'll simply never get to see them all. I'm quite aware I'll probably never see DL Paris or Tokyo in my lifetime, and if there's good concepts in those parks I'm okay with their effect being brought to the two US parks simultaneously.

It is a rather interesting concern, but an example of a new emerging genre of concerns that comes from the internet creating a smaller, more tightly woven together Spaceship Earth (I've seen a lot about Disney parks that I'll never go to thanks to YouTube, et al) and the reduced cost of long-range travel.

Ian. said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. You're doing Important Work with this blog, and I thank you for it.

SeaCastle said...

Not much to say here that has gone unsaid (including this being a fantatic article), as the post and ensuing commentary is poignant and intriguing, respectively. I would like to add two thoughts that came to me to this discussion: a.) WDW as a whole was planned (destined?) for much grander things than DL was. This is apparent in many aspects of its original design (i.e. the train station, Seven Seas Lagoon, Cinderella Castle), though later additions detract from this (i.e. Flying Carpets). Disneyland is seemingly designed to be understated. b.) There seems to be little pride of WDW on the part of cast, execs, and fans inherently. Discussions about WDW vs. DL seem to focus more on justifying WDW's differences rather than taking pride in or affirming them. WDW c. 2012 has a self-image problem, and its fans and owners must be proud of their park for it to be better. Al Lutz's (and supposedly, company execs)frequent referring of WDW as "the swamps" certainly isn't helping. WDW is much more than that.

M Wade Hobby said...

As to the Chief Namee comment. He was called Trader Sam when WDW opened but in the early 90's WDI tried to force a change and when we were reading over the new script at a cookout hosted by management after hours to let us discuss the new changes and try to make them sound cool, the fellow reading it out loud to us came to the change for him, he read it verbatim: 'Chief (name) ...' but said it Namee as a joke with a shrug. they never gave us another name so it stuck for a couple of years. It wasn't a 'piece of WDW history or culture getting dropped' it was a return to the original term from park inception. I never called him Chief Namee (in 17 years there) because I thought it was stupid and insulting to native culture (he obviously is not a chief). Nice blog for the most part though. bye-bye, buy bonds, buy me dinner; Wilderness Wade

Rich T. said...

Awesome article. I agree completely.

As a West-Coast Disneyland fan, I'd like to point out the the biggest change to the DL experience that happened because of WDW: The whole California Adventure/Downtown Disney complex.

A lot of good came from the change--and the Cars Land/Buena Vista Street unveiling this June should be awesome--but for long-time fans like myself, a chunk of Disneyland charm vanished with the resort-ification: The whole experience of seeing DL's main entrance from afar as you approach--and all the anticipation that went with it--is gone forever. Now you approach DL's entry from the side through the busy hubbub of Downtown Disney, and you can't see the classic park's gate until you're right on top of it--with California Adventure's gate just yards away.

Once inside DL's berm, the classic magic returns, but the experience of arriving is forever changed, and all as a result of trying to make DL part of a more WDW-like experience. Ironic, considering how important the visual "arrival anticipation" experience is to the WDW parks.

The big difference, though, is that DL's transformation into a multi-park resort was probably inevitable (and mostly a positive change), while the lost WDW details you point out could easily have been retained or more thoughtfully adapted.

Thank goodness for writers and fans like yourself. Even though I'm a California native, I've learned a ton of WDW history, and it's all because of sites like yours, picking up and carrying a ball that the Disney execs seem content to ignore. Bravo!

MIKE COZART said...

Fist of all great insight "Passport"!!
I grew up here in California so I have been to Disneyland hundreds of times. To Walt Disney World, about 25 times. But Like a parent and their children - I love them both the same. Certain elements at each, more than others. Walt Disney World was designed and built by the same designers who built Disneyland and they knew what they were doing--Disneyland is CHARMING --Walt Disney World was designed to be GRAND. They were never to be twins, but brothers and sisters. I love that there are similarities and that there was once greater differences. I like that an attraction shared by both parks has variations. I loved Disneyland Haunted Mansion with it's corridor of changing portraits and that we (California) didn't have a Music Room or Library and that WDW did. Those types of things. As new attractions are designed with the intention of being replicated around the world, I think these variances will continue to vanish in the design. A sad fate of what Imagineering was.

Now in regards to the music --in the case of of the mention of the Sunshine Pavilion-Tropical Serenade. I can see why original music--needle drop source was not used again. 1. the current sound designers were probably completely unaware of what was first to play there from Jack Wagner's original selections. 2. They probably didn't care and wanted to ad their own input to it. Also you have to remember, Jack Wagner was well connected in the radio/broadcasting/and recording industry and was able to use many recordings because of his connections to Capitol Records and other companies. He also had an immense record collection well known in the broadcasting world. He was hired full time to develop audio for specifically Walt Disney World and eventual Disneyland and other projects. Most of his work was done out of his own recording studio. Now Jack was a great guy--great sense of humor and very talented....however he was also notorious for billing clients......as much as he could. Why did MAIN ST. USA have a AM & PM set of tracks? Because the guest traffic flow at certain times of the day? NO. Because Disney didn't want guests to possibly hear the same tracks in the evening they heard in the morning? NO. Because Jack was able to bill Walt Disney World for TWO Main Street U.S.A recordings. That's why early WDW Frontierland has had 4 different general BGM tracks while Jack was alive--not including separate tracks for the Frontierland entry "Bridge" ...and restaurant seating areas all within earshot of the general BGM music. Some located shared the same music with Disneyland, but Florida had mostly its vast own set --that changed quite often prior to Jack's retirement.I'm glad though Disneyland's Tiki Room Lanai music was different than Tropical Serenade's que or that the WEDWAY PEOPLEMOVER and DL's PeopleMover was the same source but different tracks. It helped add to Disneyland and Walt Disney World it's own identity- whether CHARMING or GRAND.

In regards to Walt Disney World not getting it's own 40th CD set---I know Randy Thorton said WDW would have to wait for it's Th like DL did and that it would be almost the same music. RANDY: if that's what you think you are the wrong man for the job and you need to do some real homework!--WDW's magic Kingdom alone has a distinctly different tone and Walt Disney World fans WILL know the difference and they would expect a difference.

MIKE COZART said...

Fist of all great insight "Passport"!!
I grew up here in California so I have been to Disneyland hundreds of times. To Walt Disney World, about 25 times. But Like a parent and their children - I love them both the same. Certain elements at each, more than others. Walt Disney World was designed and built by the same designers who built Disneyland and they knew what they were doing--Disneyland is CHARMING --Walt Disney World was designed to be GRAND. They were never to be twins, but brothers and sisters. I love that there are similarities and that there was once greater differences. I like that an attraction shared by both parks has variations. I loved Disneyland Haunted Mansion with it's corridor of changing portraits and that we (California) didn't have a Music Room or Library and that WDW did. Those types of things. As new attractions are designed with the intention of being replicated around the world, I think these variances will continue to vanish in the design. A sad fate of what Imagineering was.

Now in regards to the music --in the case of of the mention of the Sunshine Pavilion-Tropical Serenade. I can see why original music--needle drop source was not used again. 1. the current sound designers were probably completely unaware of what was first to play there from Jack Wagner's original selections. 2. They probably didn't care and wanted to ad their own input to it. Also you have to remember, Jack Wagner was well connected in the radio/broadcasting/and recording industry and was able to use many recordings because of his connections to Capitol Records and other companies. He also had an immense record collection well known in the broadcasting world. He was hired full time to develop audio for specifically Walt Disney World and eventual Disneyland and other projects. Most of his work was done out of his own recording studio. Now Jack was a great guy--great sense of humor and very talented....however he was also notorious for billing clients......as much as he could. Why did MAIN ST. USA have a AM & PM set of tracks? Because the guest traffic flow at certain times of the day? NO. Because Disney didn't want guests to possibly hear the same tracks in the evening they heard in the morning? NO. Because Jack was able to bill Walt Disney World for TWO Main Street U.S.A recordings. That's why early WDW Frontierland has had 4 different general BGM tracks while Jack was alive--not including separate tracks for the Frontierland entry "Bridge" ...and restaurant seating areas all within earshot of the general BGM music. Some located shared the same music with Disneyland, but Florida had mostly its vast own set --that changed quite often prior to Jack's retirement.I'm glad though Disneyland's Tiki Room Lanai music was different than Tropical Serenade's que or that the WEDWAY PEOPLEMOVER and DL's PeopleMover was the same source but different tracks. It helped add to Disneyland and Walt Disney World it's own identity- whether CHARMING or GRAND.

In regards to Walt Disney World not getting it's own 40th CD set---I know Randy Thorton said WDW would have to wait for it's Th like DL did and that it would be almost the same music. RANDY: if that's what you think you are the wrong man for the job and you need to do some real homework!--WDW's magic Kingdom alone has a distinctly different tone and Walt Disney World fans WILL know the difference and they would expect a difference.

coneheads said...

I always thought of Disneyland as Walt's Park and Disney World as Roy's Park. I think it was his stewardship between Walt's death and WDW's opening that set Disney World on the path to what it has become.

My Mom was hired in Feb 1969 by RCID so I got to see the Park being built and opened. My most prized Disney souvenier is a brochure from the opening of the Pre View center that I got Roy to sign for me.

I've only been to Disney Land once when I was 8 or 9 and it began my fascination with Disney. I've been to WDW more times than I could count. To me changes are a constant at Disney World, from Day one til today. Some good, some not as good but ever changing and thats part of what keeps us going back.

The main difference in my mind is that Florida is the only Park in the world that a man of modest means like myself can take my whole family and stay on property for a few days. And for those few days be treated like Rockefellers by the Resort staff, Park staff transportation and on and on. At any other Disney Park in the world I couldn't dream of staying onsite.

Foxxfur, all I can say is stellar job again. I love seeing all the early WDW stuff on your site. Mom's got a pretty good collection of pre-opening and early stuff squirrelled away, I've tried looking for other pre-opening ephemera but man that stuff just didn't survive. Any hints to where I might find such unobtainium?

Andy

Melissa said...

"Some good, some not as good but ever changing and thats part of what keeps us going back."

I never thought about it, but that strategy works with two different audiences: some people will go to see the new stuff, and some people will go to see old favorites before they're gone (Ever since Mr. Toad and 20K, we know nothing's too sacred to be safe). I'm sure there's plenty of overlap between the two groups, too.

Richard said...

Really great article! Well done! Well done indeed.

tamajinn said...

I feel such a connection to your articles, the things you write about are so dear to me as well. There's a part of me that grieves when changes are made, especially when those changes seem so thoughtless. The changes made to EPCOT seem to sting the most for me.

Thank you for caring so much, and putting so much love into your articles.

Cory Gross said...

Disneyland USA remains my favourite park, because it was my first, was the first, and is the easiest for me to get to living in Western Canada. I've also had the luxury of being the Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney Resort. But despite having thought about it, going to WDW isn't really a priority of mine... Not when it would be cheaper to go to Anaheim and cost the same for me to go to Paris or Tokyo. Why should that matter though?

The conclusion I've arrived at is that WDW doesn't seem to have anything that appeals to me. A lot of the unique things that would have made it a destination for me have been removed, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Adventurer's Club. A lot what remains are things I might be a little interested in but not enough, like Animal Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge and World Showcase.

Unique identity counts for a lot. I was fairly ambivalent about Tokyo Disneyland because it was pretty much just another Magic Kingdom. With a few exceptions, most of the comparisons did not really come out in favour of TDL. Disneysea, on the other hand, was a must-see destination for Mysterious Island if no other reason. DLP was attractive because it's not just another Magic Kingdom. Instead, it is in many was a fundamental alteration of the idea, similar but totally unfamiliar.

WDW would have much more appeal for me if it really had things I could not experience anywhere else. A zoo does not count, nor does a National Parks-style lodge, nor ersatz versions of countries I could actually go to. It's not even big ticket things like 20K that are necessarily required. Keeping something as simple as the old Fort Wilderness RR would have added value to going.