16 May, 2008

It's time we're aware

So here's the thing.

I came across an article today stating that Disney is planning to change the "It's A Small World" ride in Disneyland. The change: adding appearances of Disney characters to the ride. Which is an ... interesting idea, to say the least.

Look, I've been to Disneyland twice - once when I was 10, and once when I was 25. And I was never a big fan of the ride - mostly because of the song, which I never really liked to begin with. It didn't help that they would play the song on a loop outside the ride as well as inside, so by the time you get to the front of the queue and board your boat, you're already sick of the damned song. And then you go on a ride where you just listen to the song over and over again for however long the ride is. So, while the actual ride is a great ride, the song itself really detracts. If I was to go to Disneyland again in the future, I would go on It's A Small World once - after all, it is one of the park's signature rides, so you kinda have to - but no more than that.

But the thought of adding Goofy or Donald, Aladdin or the Hunchback, José Carioca or Simba to the ride? That is just wrong. The entire concept of the ride is that a collection of children, all representing countries of the world, coming together in a display of global unity. And it's difficult to see how adding a bunch of recognisable characters actually does anything but detract from that. You're not thinking about what the ride is actually saying, you're thinking "Oh! It's Tarzan!" It' doesn't matter if they go off-model for the characters and try to make them fit in with the original design of Mary Blair, (as Marty Sklar, ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering has claimed), because their inclusion itself is inconsistent with, and surely distracting from, the original ride intent.

I see Marty Sklar, in his response to complaints over this issue, cites the recent changes to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as an example that supports that change. But I disagree with that comparison. I have not seen the new Pirates ride, but I hope to some day. I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but I agreed with the idea of adding appearances by Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbosa to the ride. But there are several reasons for that. Firstly, I can understand why people might go on the ride expecting to see the main character from the movie, and Disney would want to provide for that. But, beyond that, it is not a significant change. They've got a ride filled with pirates, and they're adding a couple of new pirate figures. The fact that it is a more recognisable pirate doesn't make a huge amount of difference to the ride itself or its theming.

But with It's A Small World? There's no movie tie-in for people to expect to see any particular characters. And the inclusion of other characters actually detracts from the whole idea of the ride, which is "children of the world uniting for peace". It doesn't matter if the characters are placed in the appropriate country section, if Simba is in the Africa section or José is in Mexico. Because it still does not fit with the entire point of the ride.

Now, I recognise Marty Sklar's long history both with Disney Imagineering and with It's A Small World itself - he worked on the ride in its development. So if he genuinely believes that these changes are consistent with the ride as originally conceived, then it is probably worth giving the benefit of the doubt - at least until the final result is revealed. But I have difficulty conceiving of any way of incorporating the characters into the ride that is sufficiently discrete as to not distract from the point of the ride while still sufficiently noticable as to be worth doing.

Besides - it's not as if it's terribly difficult to see the Disney characters in other Disneyland rides. Let It's A Small World exist in its own corner of the park - a tribute to humanity as a whole, albeit a humanity that sings a bloody annoying song.

1 comment:

eT said...

As earworms go, it's only surpassed by:

Duff beer for me
Duff beer for you
You have a Duff
I'll have one too...
(repeat ad nauseum)