On the past two Fridays, Disney has attempted to “take out the trash” by announcing the closure of two attractions. Last week, Disney announced the closure of Maelstrom. This week, Disney announced the closure of The Backlot Tour. These announcements brought two entirely different reactions from the Disney community. Outside of a few people, there was a collective shrug of the shoulders at the closure of The Backlot Tour. Compare that to the Maelstrom which brought a large amount of outrage to the point where #savemaelstrom was still trending two or three days after the announcement. It even generated a Yahoo! article discussing the outrage over the closure.
Where is the outrage for The Backlot Tour closure. Is it because Maelstrom is a more popular ride than The Backlot Tour? One could argue that Maelstrom is only popular because of a lack of ride-able attractions in the World Showcase. There are plenty of attractions in Hollywood Studios and the loss of The Backlot Tour won’t be as great.
Is it because of the perceived loss of themeing and purpose of the park? Those who want to save Maelstrom want to save because the closure brings a loss or change of purpose to the World Showcase. The “World’s Fair” atmosphere of the World Showcase will be forever changed when the Frozen-themed attraction opens in 2016. But again, one could argue that the “World’s Fair” atmosphere was lost when the Disney characters were introduced to both Future World and the World Showcase. EPCOT Center’s intended purpose, when the park opened, was to educate and to have cultures come together. The only characters which were present were Figment and The Dreamkeeper. If you wanted to see Mickey and Friends, you needed to head to Magic Kingdom.
Hollywood Studios, like EPCOT, has seen an erosion of its original purpose: to be a theme park within a working Hollywood studio. That original purpose was lost when Disney closed up its Orlando operations. Since then, there have been lots of sound stages which have either gone vacant or been used for attractions. Even The Backlot Tour has become less and less of what it was when it first opened. So, we have two parks both which have attractions closing and both have had their original purpose erode away since the park opened.
A final argument is that Arendelle is a fictional place from a fairy tale and does not fit into Norway or the World Showcase at all. Maelstrom, however, is a voyage into mythology mainly Norwegian mythology. The primary difference between mythology and fairy tales is myths are not, typically, not written down. Fairy tales and other folklore have been written down so people can trace their origin. We have to take myths at face value that they actually come from Norway. Since the myths are never written down, it is harder to trace their origin. Yes, Hans Christen Andersen is Danish and not Norwegian. However, the story of Frozen is an adaptation of his Snow Queen. Disney, further, adapted the story to take place in Norway.
Looking at the big picture, Disney may have looked at their long term plans for the parks and decided that Norway is the only place that they could put a Frozen attraction. They just completed New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. They are in the middle of constructing Avatarland at Animal Kingdom. They just announced the closure of The Backlot Tour to make away for a Pixar Place expansion. It has been heavily rumored that Lights, Motion, Action Stunt Show and/or Indiana Jones will be making away for a proposed Star Wars expansion. EPCOT is the only park which does not have any expansion/major refurb scheduled.
This now leaves the question of where can Disney put a Frozen attraction given all this other expansion? Disney could put a Frozen attraction in the unused area between Mexico and Norway as seen in this article from last week. This area, at least in the short term, will be needed for queue space. The new Frozen attraction and Anna and Elsa meet and greet area will, most likely, be highly popular. The queues can not, in my opinion, spill into the main walkaways.
Disney can not afford to give Frozen the “Little Mermaid” treatment where it waited 10-15 years to add an attraction. The world, now, moves too fast. If Disney didn’t act now, they fail to capitalize on the Frozen phenomenon at all. As a result, this leaves Norway and Maelstrom as the only logical place to put a Frozen attraction given the bigger resort-wide picture.
These past two weeks have taught some valuable lessons in Imagineering/Disney.
- Try to look at the bigger picture before making any conclusions.
- Don’t criticize incoming attractions before I had the chance to experience the incoming attraction or have all the information about the incoming attraction.
In hindsight (which is always 20/20), Disney would be have been better served to flip the announced closures. They should have announced the closure of The Backlot Tour and the Pixar Place expansion first. Then announce the closure of Maelstrom for a new Frozen-themed attraction.