Saturday, October 1, 2011

Walt Disney World 40 Years Later

And 45 years after Walt's death. I present to you a list of things in the park today Walt would be proud of, baffled by, and angry at, in no particular order. Or to be more accurate in the order I thought them up.

5. Monorails! They go almost everywhere- er a few places!

Monorails and trains were Walt Disney's personal obsession, from the mini train he built in his backyard, the Carolwood Pacific to the 5/8th scale steam engine that circled Disneyland. I think the fact that Walt Disney World's highway in the sky is less a highway and more a few residential streets would confuse Walt as he originally laid out all of the hotels (including Asian and Persian Hotels that never made it past blue sky,) along the monorail path. The fact that only 3 hotels and two of the four parks are connected to the monorail would be baffling to the train loving zombie (I am assuming he is coming back as a zombie, that was just inherent in the premise right?)
[Map of monorail route taken from]

4. New Technology:

Walt would likely be amazed by, and proud of, many of the new technologies employed by Disney attractions. Between compliance allowing for more realistic movements, new silicons being used for "skins," and better computers for the Audio Animatronics' puppeteer to program it's movement, AAs are far more advanced than they were when Walt died. Other technologies that would likely make Walt, who was notoriously stingy with praise, ask what took so long; FastPasses have made it so that parkgoers no longer have to spend the majority of their time waiting in line, thus missing lots of attractions and shows, new projection systems have plussed the fireworks shows perhaps more dramatically than they have been plussed before (even Wishes was really just music and fireworks, like the first fireworks shows in Disneyland,) new theming and attractions have made the parks more immersive than ever before.

3. EPCOT is neither a community nor very experimental, discuss:

In fact, it is a just a combination of two tried and true concepts, every bit as trite as the cliche that describes them: Future World is Tomorrowland 2.0 and the World Showcase is a year round World's Fair (with the added benefit of showcasing fewer countries and less innovative products! Oh wait...) As much as I love Epcot I think that Walt would have a tearfilled aneurysm seeing his truly original concept for an ultra modern neighborhood turned into a rerun of the old classics in entertainment. He would likely also be confused by the decision to combine the two separate projects by, as even the imagineers working on it describe it, shoving two models together. Yes the World's Fair was where many new products and technologies were first shown to the public but really what does Future World have to do with truly new technology, particularly now that Innoventions is no longer about new arcade games, cars, and robots, something I mourn as robots always beat games that teach children about recycling. That is just a fact.

2. Animal Kingdom, a dream world Jungle Cruise finally actualized:

When Walt was first developing the Jungle Cruise he envisioned an attraction filled with real giraffes, hippos, and yes real god damn crocodiles and lions. He went on designing the attraction including the idea of a live cast of animals for a nearly a year before someone at WEDway said hmm, animals don't do what they are told on the set of movies, and those are usually well trained domesticated dogs, not rhinoceroses, this might not work out well. Actually it was Harper Goff and a zoologist who convinced him of this and it is a good thing that they did as with the plans, space, and technology of the time it would never have worked; animals would never be in the spot they were meant to be in order to be seen and the hippos would have inevitably turned on the Skippers and their constant fake gun fire ("you brought a fake gun to a giant nearly amphibious mammal fight, Sucker.")Now I can't help but picture hippos yelling "Skiiipppers come out and play-ay," like the scene from the Warriors. Anyway, Animal Kingdom developed an attraction successfully starring live animals. Sure it was forty-three years too late, but it is a beautiful park and that attraction would make Walt proud. While portions of the Animal Kingdom might confuse him, with the park's emphasis on thrill rides that were not seen at Disneyland until after his death, I think he would overlook that or accept it when he saw the whole package.

Image from Imagineer Disney's Why the Decline In Park Maintenance post
1. Maintenance, or lack there of:

The famous anecdote tells of Walt Disney stopping to pick up trash on the ground and place it in a trashcan on his walks through Disneyland. More than an anecdote this was often observed by cast members and guest alike, and in later years Eisner and other heads of the company affected this compulsion. Given his near daily attempts to make Disneyland even just a little bit more spotless I believe Walt would be saddened by the state many attractions reach before getting their yearly refurbishment. Touch ups to paint jobs in the middle of the night, divers cleaning the Rivers of America, and other daily maintenance once touted on travel programs and in books like my large beige Walt Disney World book have been abandoned it seems. Imagineering Disney contributer Lilly pointed out in her post Why the Decline in Park Maintenance?* what many stateside Disney fans have been noticing and lamenting for some time, as surely zombie Walt would when not foraging for brains. I tend to travel to the parks just before the holiday season, during the time right before the peak when everything is shined up for the massive crowds, and even then I have seen terrible maintenance issues, particularly on Fantasyland favourites like Peter Pan's Flight.

Read More on:
Walt & Monorails
Abandoned attractions that sadden me,& also zombie Walt
A biased but interesting look at why zombie Walt might be sad
The Jungle Cruise History

I have linked this before but: Walt Disney's EPCOT plan

* Warning: This post will severely depress