Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Winter is Coming

(That's right; a Game of Thrones reference in a Disney blog. I'm a geek through and through; accept it and move on.)

I'm sure that you've heard the same rumors I have, to wit: Epcot's Maelstrom will be shutting down this fall to either be completely redone as a new Frozen attraction or (far more likely) to receive a Frozen overlay.

Fan reaction to this (admittedly completely unconfirmed but highly likely) rumor has, of course, been mixed. (Poor Disney; for being arguably the most beloved brand on the planet, they must feel like somebody is always complaining.) When I discussed it with my stylist (young mother of two elementary-school-aged daughters), I swear that I saw tears of joy in her eyes. On the other hand, Disney fanboys across the internet have lit their torches and are sharpening their pitchforks. I'm going to try to take an objective look at both sides (admittedly not one of my strengths), and then give you my opinion (okay; that I'm good at).

Frozen fans – they are aplenty. I mean holy crap, these people are obsessed. And hey, I write a Disney blog, so I know a little about Disney obsessions. But I'm probably not the best person to comment on this. I mean, I liked the movie a lot, but I don't understand the mania that has swept the nation. I guess I'm fortunate that my daughter is nineteen, not nine. And while I love Idina Menzel and the collective works of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, I certainly don't get the whole “Let it Go” craze. Of course that's probably because I'm from Ohio, where it's miserably cold about nine months out of the year. The phrase “The cold never bothered me anyway” would pass my lips exactly never.

And let's face it: World Showcase doesn't currently have a lot to offer small kids. I'll admit it: when Epcot first opened, I thought it was boring. There were few rides, no characters, and to be honest, I had been expecting Magic Kingdom: Part Two. Epcot, in my considered prepubescent opinion, left a lot to be desired. And even though it's come a long way, I can see why it wouldn't have the same appeal for someone without a credit card or a valid ID that it now has for, well, me.

Also, there's the “change is good and new is better” philosophy. Some people have done Maelstrom repeatedly and are ready for an update. And when you add to that the “let's not have a repeat of The Little Mermaid” fear, where it took Disney around twenty years to get around to making a ride featuring a very popular character – well, you can see why Disney might not want to let the grass grow under their feet on this one.

In the other corner we have the Disney Purists: Epcot is supposed to be educational, characters (The Three Caballeros aside) don't belong in World Showcase, it's an insult to the people of Norway to replace the attraction designed to represent their culture with characters from a fictional film, and this is an attraction that belongs in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, not in World Showcase.

I think the fanboys have some valid points, as well. But my objections actually stem for a different source.

Let's look at Epcot as a whole. What would you say the two most popular attractions in Future World are? My money would be on Test Track and Soarin'. Test Track got an update in 2012, and Soarin' is rumored to be getting one soon as well. And to what end, I ask? To make them even more popular? Meanwhile, the Wonders of Life Pavilion idly languishes for the bulk of the year, and the Imagination Pavilion is just sad. And now Maelstrom, arguably the most popular attraction in World Showcase (certainly the one with the longest lines) and one of only two rides in WS, is slated for a refurb. My point? Look at the park as if it were a smile. Instead of replacing the teeth in the smile that are broken (Imagination) or missing entirely (Wonders of Life, all of the countries that could/should be in WS), Disney keeps polishing the teeth in the smile that are already pretty. How does that make any sense? If Fastpass+ is allegedly redistributing guests throughout the park with the goal of making wait times more equitable, couldn't this be done far more efficiently and with a far better overall guest experience by “plussing” attractions that really, you know, need it?

(Sigh) Of course, WDW management has a history of this “polishing the pretty teeth” practice. After all, how many updates do The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean really need, while their poor little stepbrothers Tom Sawyer Island and the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway get ignored? But that's a discussion for another day.