I have been a “Disney Blogger” for a while now. This allows me to see the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Disney and fan sites. I have seen arguments break out over paint colors, shrubbery, and even ingredients used to make a dole whip. Disney fans care that much about Disney Parks; after all, they pay a heavy price for it. However, do these fans go too far? Many would say shrubbery arguments are evidence of that — but it’s not that they keep arguing. It’s that many fans take the Walt Disney Corporation’s decisions personally, as if the company personally wants take away their favorite attraction in favor of some new shiny object just to spite them. Examples of this can be seen with the new announcement of a “Star Wars Land” at Disneyland and Hollywood Studios.
If you are just joining us, Star Wars themed lands will be coming to Disney Parks in the future. These lands create the largest single-themed land expansions ever at 14-acres each, transporting guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port, and one of the last stops before wild space, where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life. Exciting, right? Not for all. Many people are upset by this news. Countless bloggers have posted articles such as “Star Wars and Disneyland – This Isn’t the Park You’re Looking For,” or “The Disneyland Walt Wanted.” Some of these articles make some valid points:
“Disneyland has been shaped for the past 60 years into a delicate balance of different experiences. A virtual fantasy buffet of sights, sounds and impressions that together, combine to form arguably the most beloved theme park in the world; one that was envisioned by Walt Disney and his team longer ago now than most of us have been alive. Disneyland isn’t a haphazard accident; it has always been a carefully-planned and executed enterprise. Yes, unabashedly one of complete corporate synergy – Walt knew absolutely that Disneyland was to be – and was – a living extension of his company’s film and television assets. However, Walt Disney Imagineering has gone to great lengths over the decades to maintain that balance and thematic order at Disneyland, despite the presence of corporate sponsors and more recently, pop culture icons such as Indiana Jones and Star Wars that have been introduced into the theme parks. Disneyland is the near-perfect example of a modern-day theme park that designers around the world look to first when creating new attractions and experiences. It works, and it has worked beautifully for 60 years”- Star Wars and Disneyland – This Isn’t the Park You’re Looking For (Theme Park Adventure)
The article continues to discuss how complete lands were not lost to pop culture icons, they were just added much like Captain EO or Indiana Jones.
However with Star Wars, Disneyland will lose Big Thunder Ranch. The idea of losing Big Thunder Ranch area has people and cast members up in arms. In fact, one former cast member said:
“I love Disneyland. I love Disneyland when there were not a million passholders (thank you payment plan), I could walk around and recognize many people even after being gone for a few years, and when it was about that magic. That has all gone downhill to a place that makes me sad. The past two times I’ve seen a few things that have made my heart happy, but it faded quickly as I saw cast members grouping, attractions not being taken care of, and seeing Walt Disneys dream no longer being lived. You can say things need “progression” but that’s the issue, Disneyland was supposed to be a place unlike any other. I feel it gets more and more like others as it gives into land theming and “movie” theming. I love Star Wars. I do not think Star Wars land is necessary. I think they need to take money to fix things that need it (Tomorrowland, Ranch Jamboree, etc.) rather than start on a new land. Keep those attractions that are close to the heart, but update it with something new. It’s like seeing someone you love change for the worst, but there’s someone behind them changing them because it’s what they like. It’s not for the good of the other person.”
As someone who is not an expert in theme parks, nor do I fully understand all the inner workings of the Walt Disney Company, I would like to make a public rebuttal. First, I do not believe that the Disney Company does everything correctly. From being a former cast member to lifelong consumer, the Disney Company has some flaws. Yet, I do not think Star Wars is one of them. Yes, it is sad that the ranch area could be going away, or that we might lose Tomorrowland. Nevertheless, in my opinion, this is needed for Disneyland to stay relevant. With the progression and development of virtual reality, many of our smartphones hold as much power as some of Walt’s first attractions. When I walk around the park, people are on their phones, tablets, or handheld games – especially children. They are at Disneyland; how can they not pay attention?! It is because Disneyland is remnant of former days. It’s why many of us love it. For example, Adventureland is a reminder of when we could get lost in the jungle and not rely on Google Maps to get us out. Disneyland was created during a time where life went at a slower pace. But as technology advances, attention spans grow shorter and people aren’t as impressed. Thankfully, shows like Paint the Night, World of Color, and the Disneyland Forever Fireworks were created to keep one’s attention, and are astounding. Yet, the lands and the rides just cannot keep up. For nostalgic purposes, I love every attraction. But am I really entertained? Does it take my breath away like it used to? No, it does not. When Cars Land opened, I remember walking down Route 66 and being amazed. Radiator Springs Racers instantly took me back to being a child; it made me feel awestruck. I have not felt that with a Disneyland attraction or land in a long time. Disneyland as whole has not changed very much, and people like that. Perhaps our love for the old is hindering the new. In order to move forward, we must let go of the past. I personally believe that Star Wars could be the thing that will move Disneyland forward. We often forget that Disneyland is not a museum, non-profit, or historical foundation. It is a business – a business that is competing with other theme park businesses. If Disneyland does not evolve, it will no longer be profitable, nor will it be relevant. Adults will go for nostalgic reasons, but the younger generation will lean toward Disney California Adventure or Universal Studios Hollywood. In many ways, Disneyland could become like Knott’s Berry Farm if they do not change.
Change is good and change is healthy. As Walt said, “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” Star Wars is no longer outdated with new films coming out. It will draw guests from all over, especially the younger ones. This will drive younger people into the park and make way for future expansions. While change is hard, it’s necessary for product to stay pertinent. That is what Disneyland is doing, and I am thankful for that.