Monday, August 23, 2010

Just Who Is Living In Fantasyland?

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Disney has revamped their plans for the Fantasyland expansion.  Originally, the plans called for a new Little Mermaid ride, as well as increasing the size of Dumbo the Flying Elephant and creating a circus tent to house it in.  Pixie Hollow, a character meet-and-greet area, was to be added for guests to interact with Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.  Additionally, guests were to be able to visit their favorite princesses in their own themed attractions: celebrate Aurora's birthday (that’s Sleeping Beauty, if you weren’t sure), dance with Cinderella, and frolic with Belle in Beast's castle, which would also include a new themed restaurant.

Disney immediately started receiving a lot of flak.  Many who reviewed these plans found them to be too focused on girls, without enough appeal for boys.   It appears the new Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, Tom Staggs, agrees.  According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Staggs claims designers are attempting to rebalance the plans, which initially tilted heavily towards young girls by emphasizing attractions and experiences built around Disney’s stable of animated-movie princesses.  

Do the critics have a point?  Absolutely.  Even with the renaming of Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel to the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (I still haven’t figured out how much of a difference that’s supposed to make), Fantasyland is a little girl’s idea of heaven.  Heck, it’s my idea of heaven.  So I’m not surprised to find out it’s not necessarily appealing to little boys.  But part of me has to ask, “so what?

Now, before you get your panties all in a bunch, let me explain.  Yes, there is a severe princess bias in Fantasyland.  But there should be.  The princesses are the backbone of the Disney fantasy/fairy tale franchise.  They are Fantasyland.  Are they more appealing to girls than boys?  You bet.  Fortunately however, Tomorrowland is right around the corner.  I mean hello, you’ve been to Tomorrowland, right?  If that area isn’t designed specifically for 10-year-old boys, nothing is.  First, there’s Stitch burping chili dogs in your face.  If you are not a prepubescent male and you find that appealing, please keep that information to yourself.  I just don’t want to know. 

Next, there’s the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.  I’m sincerely hoping Disney isn’t trying to convince us that in the future all cars will only go 7 m.p.h.  If so, is it any wonder I want to escape to Fantasyland?  Everything else in Tomorrowland I’m willing to concede at least has the possibility of being as appealing to girls as boys, even if Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (teenage boys will love the acronym) and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin could be argued to be more boy-centric. 

If we’re really going to look at the big picture, I think society as a whole should be blamed for this sexual segregation, not Disney.  After all, we see nothing wrong with a girl liking Space Mountain, but get up in arms about a boy visiting Pixie Hollow.  I say that if the boy has the guts to admit he wants to visit fairies and princesses, more power to him!

Do I think Disney is making the right move with the change in plans?  For me, it has nothing to do with male versus female.  I’m far more interested in attractions versus character meet-and-greets.  My problem with the Fantasyland expansion has nothing to do with the theme; it’s that tons of money is being spent, but only one new bona fide attraction is being added.  If they want to ditch the princess parties and add some more E-ticket rides, I unequivocally vote yes, no matter if they are princess or pirate themed! Here’s a thought: many in the Disney community have been begging for more villain-themed attractions.  What better place for them than Fantasyland? 

1 comment:

  1. I understand where you are coming from, but I think the biggest issue is that they are lacking in experiences for little boys. Sure there are lots of coasters and such for older boys, but where are the magical, immersive character meets for the 5 and under set? Afterall, I think Fantasyland is geared towards the little ones anyway.

    Pixie Hollow is an amazing character meet. You are totally wisked away in this fairy wonderland. While there are some character spots that my little guys are interested in, they are far from being the magical experience that Pixie Hollow is. That is what I want to see for them because they do enjoy meeting the characters. Why not include a Pirate Cove or something like that complete with a pirate ship to explore, and maybe even a character dining spot themed to pirates as well? I think something like that would fit in very well with Fantasyland. I don't think it would hurt to replace one of the planned princess areas with something like that. Disney has played up the pirate and princess combo before, so I'm sure they could do it again.