Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"The Disney Screening Room"

I'll get right to it kids... The idea? A theater called "The Disney Screening Room," a single screen that only plays the classic Disney animated films. Playing each film for a run of two weeks to a month at a time.

I am always surprised by the number of people who sit and watch the clips from the various Disney films inside the lobby of the Animation exhibit in California Adventure. Adults and kids alike will watch for 20 minutes or more, the kids usually dancing to their favorite songs! It's captivating seeing these classics on the Big Screen, and most kids, and even some adults have never had the chance to see them on the big screen.

If done with the "Disney-Touch" it could be more than just a theater. It could be the experience of seeing a movie with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood circa the 1930's, similar to the El Capitan theater today. Complete with a vintage marquee, old fashioned box office, velvet curtains, and some old newsreels and Disney shorts played before the film. Only the original movie poster artwork would be displayed (and available for purchase.)

I can see the Disney Screening Room fitting in well either inside the parks or out. But I think it would be best outside the park as part of DownTown Disney- but separate from the existing AMC theater. Allowing guests of the hotel, or locals who are there for DownTown Disney, but not necessarily for the parks, easy access. And for the people in the park it would be a great way to get away from the crowds and off their feet for a welcome break.

The operational goal of the theater would not be to solely make money per se (I can hear the "higher-ups" coughing as I write this) It would be more about offering a unique opportunity and less about profitability. Admission should be kept below normal movie ticket prices. And as Mr. Lasseter knows, the back end profitability will be made up in the quality of the experience and ultimately the return of the publics confidence to what the Disney name has to offer.

That said, there are other ways to "make money" while not diminishing the quality and integrity of the experience. In the lobby I would add a specialized shop offering various one-of-a-kind merchandise related to the films. I have a lot of complaints about Park merchandising (to be discussed in future posts) so I would be very selective. Here are some ideas:

-As mentioned above, reprints of the original movie posters and development artwork available for sale. Similar to the "Art on Demand" feature at the Disney Gallery.

-Corresponding the screenings to the DVD releases that are coming out of the vault and offering limited edition DVD's with covers that have original artwork and are ONLY available at the Disney Screening Room!

-High end reproductions of the original animation maquettes. This would be a similar idea to the Disney Classics sculptures, but a separate line. Images courtesy of Masked Avenger Studios:

Since John Lasseters' arrival at Disney one of his main goals has been to bring back the heart and warmth that was the Disney name. The idea of "The Disney Screening Room" fits in well with this aim. Allowing both young and old the charm of seeing their favorite Disney classics on the silver screen.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

When Do I Get Mr. Lincoln Back?

I'm going to proudly live up to my profile description of " a sucker for anything nostalgic or historical" here... BRING BACK MR. LINCOLN!!The "Happiest Homecoming on Earth: 50th Anniversary Celebration" show with Steve Martin is getting old. Almost two years old to be exact.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tomorrowland Part 2: Modern Architecture

Modern Architecture, the next step to a Tomorrowland based on the Future- not the past! There are some amazing modern structures out there that are awe inspiring. Some spaces almost feel Cathedral-like in their energy. Some make you feel like you're on a movie set because they're not of this world. The average American, or tourist not living in a major city, rarely get to see the type of structures I'm talking about. What better venue than Tomorrowland/Disneyland to change that.

Walt Disney used to hire talented artists like Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, and even Salvador Dali from outside the studio and bring them in to create new styles and looks for his animated films. Making sure that a house style never got too established and that the look and feel of his films never got stale. This approach seamed to work rather well.

I would prescribe the exact same thing with regard to updating Tomorrowland, but with Architects this time. So here are a few to start with. I'll start with what might be the most recognizable. Frank Gehry, who, ironically, created The Walt Disney Concert Hall:

This building is amazing inside and out. To be technical here I've learned it may be better classified as "Deconstructivist-PostModern," but this isn't an Architecture blog! If anyone is ever in the L.A. area it is a must! I think Disney missed an opportunity when redoing SpaceMountain last year in not renovating the outside of the attraction as well. It would have been a great kick-off to start slowly changing Tomorrowland. And in my opinion it probably would have created much more buzz and attendance had the building had as unique a feel as the exterior of The Disney Concert Hall. And I'm sure Frank Gehry would have been happy to be involved seeing how he has created other structures for the Disney Co. in the past like the Team Disney Building in Anaheim and The Disney Village in Paris.

Next up, Santiago Calatrava. This guy is absolutely amazing! If you could "copy and paste" in the real world I would be tempted to grab all of his work and paste it right into Tomorrowland. But who could imagine what he would come up with if hired to specifically design for Tomorrowland. Here are some examples of his work at the "City of Arts" complex in Valencia, Spain:

This next one looks like it could house Mission:Space in California pretty well?

Let's hire this guy! And for his first project? How about a building for a new StarTours, based on the new films. Let's get ILM and LucasFilm in on it while we're at it. The advancement of 3D animation and ride capabilities since the original StarTours was created is astonishing. Trust me there is potential for a new StarTours ride inside and out that would put Tomorrowland more than just "back on the map!" What a perfect way to update a classic while integrating it into the new Tomorrowland v2.0!

Last but not least, Thomas Heatherwick. This borders more on Urban Design but it's still in the vein of Modern Architecture for our purposes. His work really gives character to functional necessities which would be great for the "ins and outs" of a new Tomorrowland:

One of the only complaints I can think of to updating with Modern Architecture is that it may be too cold. I don't think that's true of any of the examples given above but I agree that sometimes it can feel barren and maybe a little "institutional" if you will. This would definitely have to be guarded against. But I also feel that along with these modern influences that a certain Disney touch and flavor should still be added to make it feel Disney-like. You can see Eyvind Earle's influence in "Sleeping Beauty" but it's still Disney at the same time. With a merge of the Modern and the Disney touch, that only Disney can do, I think there is great possibility!

The only other down side? All of this will eventually get dated as well. But that isn't a bad thing. When these structures are dated I can't imagine what the latest and greatest would look like. And that's part of the spirit to keep moving along. Walt always said the park was a continual work in progress.

So lets wash our hands of the old and move on to the future!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Tomorrowland Part 1: A Brave "New" World

I've heard rumors that Tomorrowland may be revamped in the next few years. To which I say great!! There are some large issues as to the basic idea of Tomorrowland to be addressed first, specific ideas will be covered later.

It's obvious that Tomorrowland it isn't so Tomorrow-ish anymore. But that's only part of the issue if you ask me. When Tomorrowland was re-done a few years back, it was changed with a style that wasn't aimed at being futuristic. It was modified with what, to me, is an antiquated view of the future. Sort of what the 1800's thought the future would be like. A weird mix of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and a Steampunk type wanna-be future. This new antiquated industrial style seems to have been integrated into the Tomorrowland of Florida even more than in California. I actually like this style and think it has huge potential in the Disney parks- just not as "Tomorrowland."

I don't know why this has happened exactly. Maybe it was easier to make it feel older and logistically more beneficial requiring little or no updating over time. The theming of the parks is usually based off of a historical period or fantasy with a specific geographical flavor. Maybe the rut of that mindset crept in some how. But I don't think that was what Tomorrowland was originally intended to be like. So if it is to be redone to any extent let's get "back to the future."

The first step: change the overall feel of the land. At present it is a jumble of buildings and styles that have no harmony, visually or practically. Tomorrowland needs to have a presence so that it's not just "the land that has SpaceMountian in it," but a place that offers an exciting vision of the future. Besides the updating of the buildings a simplification to the layout of the whole land is drastically needed.

It should be redesigned to have a main thoroughfare with a clear line of site leading to a center of interest, similar to MainStreet with the castle at the end. This "main drag" leading to the focal point can house existing attractions, with new exteriors, and use them to support the focus into the land. The focal point at the end could be a futuristic "Times Square-ish" hub that houses a new Innoventions and various restaurants, shops and new attractions that would need a new home. In addition to those large scale ideas here is a short, and hopefully obvious, laundry list of things that would make Tomorrowland better:

-Rockets/PeopleMover "hub thing": Remove it. Apart from the shade it provides, all it's doing is hogging up vital space with no return.

-StarTours & Innoventions: New buildings and a total redo of attractions. For Star Tours new ride technology and new theme based on the more recent films.

-Starcade: A sleek new building and update it with games from the 21st century. A StarWars shooting gallery would be nice too?

-Don't Add Test Track! I know it's tempting but don't do it. Besides the fact that it's starting to look dated already, most people only go on it for the big outdoor G-pulling turns. There are better ways of doing a car based thrill ride in Tomorrowland.

-Wall E: Don't wait to see what it does at the box office, just let the guys at Pixar make a cool ride and put it in!

All the lands of Disneyland transport us into the past to some degree, but Tomorrowland was specifically meant to inspire us to look forward "savoring the challenge and promise of the future." If changes are in store for Tomorrowland I hope the mind set of it being truly futuristic and optimistic change as well.