Get an extended preview of the new Star Wars show coming to Disney XD and lotsa talk about an all Star Wars theme park.
Now normally, I wouldn’t bother posting anything related to a Star Wars cartoon. Much like Agents of Smash or a Rainbow Party, I’m not saying the kiddies aren’t entitled to them, but I’m ain’t coming. But you know what? All of this Episode 7 Star Wars news (and an ample amount of free time) has me in an ultra-receptive mood for anything with an X-Wing or a lightsaber. Not only did I watch this extended clip of the upcoming Star Wars Rebels (it’s fine) I’m actually wondering how much I may’ve missed out on with Clone Wars/Saga animated fare. It’s all on Netflix, right? I hated that CG movie, but I heard it got better… COMMENTS!
Way more in my wheelhouse is the news of a “significant Star Wars presence” increased within the Disney Parks, to be announced some time next year, which much of the web has interpreted as a self contained Star Wars theme park. Well, I sincerely doubt that’s happening. The only way that even makes sense any sense, even theoretically, is with Orlando’s Disney Hollywood Studios, having lost its MGM-branding, its waning classic movie identity, and generally plateauing attendance. But even then, that’s a massive, billion dollar undertaking with little shot of a return for years to come, plus I also doubt such a plan that costly involves a single coast. In case you’ve never looked at Disneyland on a map, it’s completely out of room to grow. Disney’s California Adventure was only possibly following the destruction of 50-year-standing staff facilities and is only now on its way to generating a profit after over a decade of trouble and transition (into basically PixarLand.)
What I love, and the reason I’m writing all this, is that what’s probably going to happen is right there in Disney CEO Bob Iger’s vague statement made during the official conference call that launched a billion news headlines today.
“When we grow ‘Star Wars’ presence, which we will do significantly, you will see better bets being made that will pay off for us than were made in the past”
Many of you probably know the Disneyland project was as absolutely fucking insane gamble in the 1950s, but Walt’s fearless perseverance in the face of rational logistics is why the man’s idolized. Yeah, it worked, but it almost didn’t. Disney rather dangerously invested the vast millions they’d earned throughout several decades in the entertainment business in a thoroughly untested theme park model, but it still wasn’t enough. Nowhere near it. One of the things Walt had to compromise along the way was auctioning off parts of the yet-to-be-built park, including a giant investment from the now Disney-owned ABC network, and the corporate sponsorships of attractions and entire areas.
(According to legend, Walt hated this idea from the beginning, and although you can still see the evidence of the compromise today in Disneyland, and Epcot was practically built of the model, Disney World/Magic Kingdom’s near-complete lack of corporate-sponsored rides is the proof of Walt’s original intent.) Without these corporate subsidies, neither Disneyland, nor it’s global counterparts would exist. And no Disneyland attraction was a bigger victim of ballooning costs and failed expectations than this one:
Originally envisioned as a science fiction escape built within a whimsical prototype of the unseen future, Tommorowland was and still kind of is the most troubled area in Disneyland’s proud history. Every other area in the park, Frontierland, Fantasyland, etc., had some basis in reality, and more importantly, a somewhat well-defined model and cost attached to for bringing imagination into reality. Due to the enormity of costs and grandscale vision, Tomorrowland’s couldn’t even be completed in time for Disneyland’s 1955 opening, and almost everything involved in the area suffered serious compromise and delay as it struggled to become a reality.
What Tomorrowland was left with was presenting human-scale dioramas of the future, essentially glorified science projects, and what electronic/technological company wouldn’t want to pony up and take part of what Uncle Walt was assuring millions of annual Disneyland’s attendees was America’s future? More so than any other themed area of Disneyland, Tomorrowland fell victim to so many corporate sponsorships, it’s practically been defined it ever since. Where once stood Disneyland’s tallest structure, an airline-sponsored Rocketship, is now home to more shuttered rides and unfinished attractions than any theme park in Disney’s history or otherwise. The dusted bones of an unrealized futuristic vision. Attractions that hold out only as long as a sponsor is willing to pay. What’s remained the most consistent in Tomorrowland is equally bittersweet: WONDERFULLY FUTURISTIC… uh, automobiles and submarines? But even worse, a horribly crass showcase for mass-produced gadgets available at Wal-mart and TV shows coming this fall to ABC (Fuck you, Carousel of Progress!)
It’s an unfortunate situation: To accurately represent an idealistic future, Tomorrowland would need massive, expensive, and most importantly, frequent overhauls, something no other area of Disneyland requires, and yes, really puts a damper on that “classic” vibe the parks give off in undulating waves.
Another sad aspect of Tomorrowland is what I love most about it: It’s as a relic of what our grandparents thought the future would look like. In between Star Tours and Space Mountain are the remains of America’s Space Race – the Rocket Age! – and all of the other unsophisticated gadgetry that makes Tomorrowland the closest any of us will ever get to walking onto the Venture Bros’ compound. Again, I love that, but it’s also made Tomorrowland one of the least popular and least trafficked areas in every Disneyland. In short (he said after 1000 words), Tomorrowland is an investment that has never paid off for Disney, and almost assuredly the “bad bets” Iger is referring to above. Reconfiguring Tomorrowland will always bother me a little, but doing it with Star Wars is the biggest no-brainer in the history of easiest decisions ever made. Not an entire theme park, but an entire, very large area of Star Wars-themed glory that can benefit all five Disney Parks throughout the world.
As long as this is getting, I really wanted to make a brief mention above regarding other areas in the Disneyland have existing frameworks to work within, because it’s the biggest, perhaps the sole reason I’m okay with a Star Wars conversion. It’s important to remember because it what makes Disneyland special (or sickening brand synergy if you wanna be a cynical dick about it) compared to other theme parks. There are characters and fictional icons everywhere, even if you don’t recognize them. Disneyland IS fan service. Disney was enjoying massive success with Davy Crockett on TV back when Frontierland debuted, Fantasyland is built in the image of the villages found in Disney’s earliest animated classics, and even things as simple as a carousel and a fucking train are from Sword in the Stone and Dumbo (Casey Jr, whom you can hear in Laser Time’s break FYI!) Tomorrowland didn’t have the luxury of being based off anything, because Disney has NEVER had a successful sci-fi property on which to do that. Now it does. And yes, it should also go without saying the prospect of looking up and seeing an AT-AT walking over my head makes me so happy I could shit my pants.
MUPPET/STAR WARS GOODNESS