09 August 2012

Loyal Order of the Lugnuts

There have been some rumors and speculation that Cars Land could be hop, skipping, and burning rubber across the country and setting up shop in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A lot of this comes from the fact that the lead developer of Cars Land, Imagineer Kathy Mangum, is reportedly being shifted to Walt Disney World in the role of Executive Producer, a title that previously did not exist. The question is, does Disney’s Hollywood Studios really need Cars Land?

This isn’t going to be the popular theory, but I whole-heartedly believe the answer is no. Does Disney’s Hollywood Studio need some new attractions and experiences? Yes. Is Cars Land, specifically Radiator Spring Racers, a true work of Imagineering art? Absolutely. Yet I still think there is ample reason for it not to come to Florida.

Let’s start with Disney California Adventure. Since the second gate in California opened its doors in 2001, it has been the target of snark and disdain. Only through its 1 billion dollar makeover has this park truly come into its own. It is beginning to climb the ranks of theme parks in terms of quality and attendance. The new attractions and shows have given East Coast homebodies a new reason to venture out to Disneyland again, which is precisely what it was designed to do. If you duplicate the marquee land from the park now, however, Disney would seemingly be debilitating Disney California Adventure once again.

WestCOT, the plan to reproduce EPCOT Center at Disneyland, was never built in California. Keeping that park unique to Walt Disney World certainly provides a reason for guests from all over the country, if not the world, to come to Florida. DisneySea has some of the most amazing attractions ever imagined, but there hasn’t been a copycat effect from this park either. Why? Keeping parks as individual as possible drives guests to visit more parks in more locations. Plus, I imagine, creative types like the Imagineers hate repeating themselves.

But what about Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Doesn’t it need some love? Doesn’t it deserve some fresh attractions? There isn’t even a question that Disney’s Hollywood Studios could use a little TLC, but I don’t think adding in more E ticket type attractions is the answer. Of the four parks in Walt Disney World, Disney’s Hollywood Studios actually has a higher percentage of its attractions that are E ticket than any other park. Think about it, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, and The Great Movie Ride are all massive draws and incredible attractions, but aside from a few shows, there aren’t a lot of mid to lower ranged attractions.

Some of my favorite attractions are the attractions that aren’t the big, must rush to first thing in the morning attractions. Things like Tom Sawyer Island and the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, or Impressions de France, the trails of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Living with the Land. These attractions have their place in the parks, the fill and need, and are crafted in a very special way. I dare say they are the reason guests return time and again. Sure, Space Mountain and Test Track are great, but if that was all you had to do in a park, spending a majority of your day in a queue and finding very little to do otherwise, how excited would you be to return once the adrenaline wore off?

Disney’s Hollywood Studios needs some great attractions that may not actually be headliners. Fleshing out Pixar Place, filling in the empty soundstages of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is a must. As much as I love the Studio Backlot Tour, it is a shadow of its former self, and perhaps could be put to better use. A dark-ride of the Axiom, the ship from Wall-E, Monsters Inc. scare floor, or even an exploration of the wild creatures of Paradise Falls, the South American locale from Up, would all be terrific places and ways for families to spend part of their day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Although, I’m sure that the Imagineers could come up with some better ideas than those I’ve just thrown out there.

The relationship between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure has been obvious as of late. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror can be found in both parks, the gate from Disney’s Hollywood Studios has found its way to the entrance of Disney California Adventure, and even some of the unrealized plans for the Florida incarnation have finally been completed in California. It is critical to the success of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World that each park has a unique identity that it can cling to, that they do not become simple carbon copies of one another, with differences only appearing on the periphery. I cannot wait to venture out to Disney California Adventure to see all the incredible new experiences that have popped up since my last trip. Just as enticing are the ideas of what could be coming next to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I hope it is new and exciting, and something not found anywhere else in the world!


Rich T. said...

Excellent points. Cars Land is amazing, but I hope it remains a California exclusive; DCA desperately needed this. I think a big Pixar expansion themed around all of Pixar's films would indeed be a great addition to Disney Hollywood Studios. How about a huge Brave dark ride, complete with a Scottish Games Festival outside the castle walls? And, for crying out loud, build Monstropolis!

J. Jeff Kober said...


I agree totally, and probably disagree totally. I do think the Studios needs more C & D attractions in the form of ride vehicles. Dark ride ideas based on Monsters or Muppets or Nightmare Before Christmas are all great (and considered) possibilities. All three together would be better than one E. Yet I would be so totally disappointed if they put a Toy Story Land just as they did in Paris and Hong Kong with camouflaged carnival rides. What ever happens, I pray that doesn't happen.

Conversely, a solution for the Studio Backlot tour is in order and probably more needed than anything. It takes up a lot of realty, has a terrific Catastrophe Canyon, and yet the rest of the tour is ho hum and not really handling enough capacity. Half of the vehicles have been abandoned in the back of the Epcot lot. It's not going to be revitalized. But if that area was to be reinvented, I think a ride that used Test Track technology and Cars and Catastrophe Canyon would be awesome. I would see it as making a Cars movie, and having it as something totally different than an entire Radiator Springs themed land, which I agree should not come to the studios. It could even take up some of the parking space area on the west side and do a drag style race. If made uniquely for the Studios, I could see it happening.

Jeff Kober