09 February 2008

Save Our Swirl – Welcome to our living laboratories

My friend Doc and I were talking about how the senses affect your experience at Walt Disney World. Sights are the obvious main source of input, but the aromas and tastes also play an important part in the overall encounter. But the piece that really struck me was in talking about sound, specifically the sounds of the new recorded narration in Living with the Land. We all know that the sounds and music of the parks make these trips something truly unique, but what about the absence of sounds, or their replacement?

I went and listened to the new narration, and it has its benefits to be sure. No longer will boats be empty and drive by, while you stand patiently, and later impatiently, for a boat with a human reporter. I understand that this was due to the fact that to remove boats off of the loop required shutting the attraction down, but it doesn’t help when you see 10 empty boats float by uninhabited. As well, with the new narration you can ensure the quality of the show, whereas, occasionally in the past, pertinent information about the attraction could be conveyed by in a rather dull or lackluster manner. Adding the recorded narration even removed much of the need for Living with the Land to require Fastpass. But, like my friend Doc, I just can’t help but miss having a real person on the tour with me.

Living with the Land, to me, also means living with each other. Whether that means in providing for one another, taking care and interest in our fellow humankind, or coping with each of our flaws and praising our varied abilities, we are, after all, all in this together. Yet, in taking away the human element from the Living with the Land attraction, it now feels more like Living with Technology. Yes, there have always been, and always will be, innovative growing techniques, the partnership with NASA doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and even the opening scenes have those new fangled audio-animatronics, but does that have to mean every aspect of the attraction has to be upgraded with new technologies the minute they become available? The idea of a recorded audio for Living with the Land is not a new one, but the technology to time everything just right was not available until just recently. When the solution to the “problem” became available, it was immediately thrown into practice.

I’ll admit it; the previous human narrators were, at best, spotty. These were not your Jungle Cruise Skippers. For every trip where I had a phenomenal edutainer, there were three other trips with so-so, or even downright deplorable, narrators. While this may have seemed excusable to the first time guests who were more captivated by the tremendous pumpkins and lemons, and really, who wouldn’t be, those of us who had grown up with this attraction yearned for something more. That is why we kept returning, the human element allowed for interaction and, in doing so, allowed for the possibility of a new kernel of knowledge to be passed on. Some of these storytellers were jokers or conversationalist, and these were the types of narrators guests loved to have ferry them through Living with the Land. For those who argue you couldn’t control the quality of these narrators, I disagree. After all, the level of quality storytelling has been kept extremely high over at the Jungle Cruise. These same practices could have been implemented within Living with the Land, rather than implementing innovative technologies.

Once again we sound off with our solemn S.O.S. Save Our Swirl, Save Our Skippers, give us back the human element that was so much a part of growing up Listening and Living with the Land. Sure there may be flaws, but there is nothing on this planet, animal of vegetable, that is truly perfect. Give stricter guidelines as they relate to the quality of the show, and let the peoples’ (in this case the narrators’) voices be heard once more. And thanks Doc, thanks for helping me catch the scent.

1 comment:

FoxxFur said...

I think something to keep in perspective about The Land Boat Ride and Jungle Cruise is that the Jungle is a subculture, and The Land is not. At Jungle there are things like jokes and traditions and even lingo that you are encouraged and even expected to operate with; it's also a popularity contest. If you're a very silly, ostentatious person than Skippers will want to ride your boat and report back on how it is to everyone else. The culture of tradition keeps it a very competitive environment in which you are expected to do your best.

In comparison, Land Boat Drivers really hated that spiel by and large and there was no culture of tradition for what constituted a good Land spiel. I'm not really even so heard I ever heard I really good one. One poor boy looked so bored he was practically suicidal; I was expecting him to stick his head between the boat and the trench at any minute. Success at the Land required appearing to be interested in bananas, which too many people translated as being very "Disney".

To give you an idea of it, a lot of Land Boat Ride people jumped ship to Jungle Cruise when Land became automatic, and a lot of unhappy Jungle skippers went over to The Land at the same time.

I personally don't mind it; I get to ride the attraction whenever I want now due to the shorter line and at worst all that's happened is that we've replaced one kind of awkwardness with another. Not to mention that the hostess getting up to spiel was permission for certain rude people to start screaming information at each other in your ear from the row behind. For some reason the automated spiel doesn't break the spell of the attraction in the way the live one did.