17 October 2011

Go to the end of the earth

We in the Disney community can, at times, appear to be overly enthusiastic about a change or attraction. On the flip side, we could also be excessively critical of the same snippet of news or corner of the park. What always surprises me, however, is how a similar design standard, stretched across two parks, can be heralded in one park but cause vehement disdain in another. In this instance I am referring to the off-stage elements of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the off the rack elements of Dino-Rama.

For those unaware, the two security booths found near Star Tours and Commissary Lane demark the borders between the onscreen world of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and the backlot areas where props are made and stored, sets are incomplete, and everyday production folk dine. This can be seen in everything from the concrete walkways and lampposts to the hollowed out structures of New York Street and the AT-AT.In the soundstages that house the various attractions and stores this off-stage world can be seen by simple looking up. Above guests’ heads are exposed air ducts, basic lighting fixtures, and the steel superstructure that holds the buildings together. In a studio environment where television and film productions create precisely what they need, and only what could possibly be seen on screen, this is to be expected. In fact, incomplete facades or open roof elements are generally applauded for the way they adhere so closely to the park’s theme of a working studio.

Conversely, the pay-to-play games and generic fair-type attractions of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama in Disney’s Animal Kingdom tend to leave a bad taste in the mouths of die-hard Disneyophiles. There is no clever rockwork disguising the steel structure of Primeval Whirl, and its characters are simple cut-outs, not larger-than-life Audio Animatronics figures. Yet, to me, it holds itself to the same scrutiny of authenticity that can be found all throughout the uncompleted backlot areas of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.Chester and Hester’s, once the only stop for gas along the old, worn Route 498 in Diggs County has reimagined itself as a roadside attraction of all things dinosaur, though it may actually appear more as a garage sale where everything must go from a young boy’s dino-crazed years. After a little success, Chester and Hester decided to expand their operation out into their parking lot, creating a dinosaur state fair of a sort. Now, if you were to repurpose your parking lot as a roadside festival attraction, with limited funds, would you worry about the pavement, the possibility that another roadside temptation may have an attraction with a similar structure and cut outs, or how best to cover up that unsightly steel frame? No, you would put out the most gaudy and tacky thing you could, as cheaply as you could, which is precisely what Chester and Hester have done with their Dino-Rama.

Now, does that mean that Disney’s Animal Kingdom needed Dino-Rama? Perhaps it does, perhaps it does not, that is a debate to be had another day. When it comes to Dino-Rama, however, the discussion needs to be focused on the validity of the area, not its attention to detail or the lack thereof. If we can all agree that the exposed elements of a movie soundstage in Disney’s Hollywood Studios are in keeping with the theme of a working studio, then the same standard of attention to detail must be applied to the off-the-rack components of Dino-Rama in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, no matter how shoddy it may seem. Tacky is, after all, the point of Chester and Hester’s.

6 comments:

A Snow White Sanctum said...

You make a good point. Yet the "off-the-rack" components of Dino-Rama still don't do it for me.

M.Sedlar said...

Nicely done!

Makin' Memories said...

BRAVO! I love the comparison and just as you pointed out, there is a story behind Chester and Hester's and if we as Disneyophiles love having a story and detail as much as we seem to, then this one is a gimme!

Ellen said...

Awesome post! Fantastic point!!

Ben in RI said...

I agree with Snow White. You make very good points in comparison. I think the problem that most people (I know it's a big reason for me) have is that you are already at an amusement park that takes you out of "reality" and puts you in a fantastical world. There is nothing fantastic or even appealing about going to a tourist trap like a road side dino park. That for me is the problem. I love being taken to the places Disney provides, but this seems like it would be the park that Walt went to when he decided to make Disneyland. To me this small area embodies alot of the things that Walt wanted to avoid. He spent alot of time and money making his dream come true and this seems to miss the mark by a long shot. That's just my point of view when I am at Animal Kingdom.
As for Hollywood Studio's, if the point is to transport us to a working Hollywood set then one can understand why there would be an unfinished, or off-the-shelf aspect as there. That is why I believe people are more willing to accept that in Hollywood studios.

Richard Harrison said...

Ryan, I think it comes down to the carnival aspect of C&H's Dino Rama. While there is an ample backstory to this area of DAK, it doesn't come through and the primary element people see is a carnival atmosphere which Walt set out to counter. In the end, it smacks of arrogance and a belief that people will consume whatever is there. What's most disappointing is the fact the Boneyard, which is well executed, is right next door. It wouldn't have taken too much more to push the excavation story line and small-town feel that would support the C&H backdrop. (I just spent an hour there last week trying to make this area work for me and it still doesn't hold water.)