Monday, February 20, 2017

After-Action Report: A Tale of Two Dark Rides

Much to the delight of little girls (and often the chagrin of their parents), Disneyland features what might charitably be called a lot of Princess content. There’s the Castle, of course, with its walkthrough attraction. Several shops focus exclusively on Princess merchandise from dolls to costumes to stationery sets, the Princess movies are favorites for abridging into stage shows, every parade has a Princess unit, and the Princess character meet-and-greets eventually got so popular that an entire sub-district of Fantasyland was built around them.
But you know what the Disney Princesses don’t get very many of? Actual rides. And this is true not just of the Disneyland Resort but of Disney theme parks as a whole. Seriously, how many rides centered on a Princess character can you think of? Like, three, right?
This may be because for all their popularity and grandeur, the Princess movies are not ideal for conversion into rides. Remember the cardinal rule of good attraction design: Put the Guests in the Center of the Action. Most of Disney's Princess films actually don't have a lot of action per se, focusing more on an internal journey (falling in love, discovering self-worth, etc.) than an external one. Show someone a movie, letting them spend upwards of an hour getting to know the main character, and you can usually get them to go along with an internal journey. But a theme park ride rarely affords its participants more than about ten minutes to absorb its content—nowhere near enough time to develop a sympathetic bond with a character, even if they weren't distracted by the physical presence of it all.
Nowhere is this clearer than in comparing the two Princess rides that can be found in the Disneyland Resort. One the one hand, we have Snow White's Scary Adventures, the classic that does it all right, bizarre points and all. On the other, we have The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure,* the newcomer that falls flat in so many ways.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Armchair Imagineering: Disneyland Merch That Should Exist

On this blog, perhaps more often than I should, I sometimes wind up speculating about Disneyland merchandise that I wish existed, from LEGO sets to plastic figurines to more LEGOs. Considering that I really can't justify purchasing a lot of the totally awesome goods that already do exist,* it's probably gross folly for me to keep imagining more, but you know, I just can't help myself. I'm not a terribly ambitious person, but if I can prompt just one person to post that Futurama meme—you know the one—it will be a point of pride.
Thus far, I have focused on Disneyland-based toys that I wish existed, because a) I am a giant nerd who never really outgrew toys, b) toys are usually not very expensive, whereas collectibles intended for grown-ups can be prohibitively so, and c) Disneyland and toys go really well together. The park sells gobs of plush animals and action figures and pretend weapons and children's costumes, some of which are even specific to Disney theme parks. For this post, I plan to branch out from that, but I'm kind of freewheeling it, so we'll have to wait and see what all I come up with.

Monday, February 6, 2017

It Came From the Fandom: Little Big Planet 2 Custom Levels

Well, folks, I’ve been sick this week. I haven’t had the energy and focus necessary to think of a good topic to write about, much less put in the actual work. So instead I’ve decided to roll out a new post category: It Came From the Fandom. As fandoms go, the one for the Disney parks is not the most productive in terms of creating content like fan art, fanfiction, etc….but it’s out there if you know where to look. Since I do know at least some of the places to look, from time to time I’ll share my findings with you.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Beyond Blue Sky: Collectible Disneyland Minifigs, Part 2

Last week, I had a purely self-indulgent post where I imagined a wave of Collectible LEGO Minifigures consisting of Disney film and TV characters representing the themed lands of Disneyland. This week, I continue to pamper myself by imagining a wave of Collectible LEGO Minifigures consisting of characters more specific to Disneyland: characters originating in the Disney theme parks, prominent Cast Member concepts, and even a few guests.
I suppose a reiteration of the rules is in order here:
  • I have to come up with 18 concepts for minifigs.
  • There will be two minifigs per land (including the upcoming Star Wars area—although I had to break this sub-rule last time), one male and one female.
  • Each minifig must have an identifiable connection to the land where I assign them, not just fit in a general thematic sense. This should be easier to manage here than in last week's project, since I'm using characters specific to the parks.
  • Each minifig must be original. Last time, that meant no repeats of characters who have already been made into minifigs. This time, it's going to be even harder; LEGO has produced minifigs for a vast variety of themes over the years, many of which cover similar ground to the themed areas at Disneyland.
  • Not a rule as such, but more of a consideration—when crafting the character set last week, I made sure to think about the desires of LEGO collectors and Disney fans who aren't so interested in the parks per se. In other words, even though my goal was a minifig set specifically tied to Disneyland, I wanted it to be something that people outside that narrow fandom could enjoy on its own merits. I'm aiming for the same thing with this one—these should be minifig concepts that anyone can find a use for.

Think I can do it again? Let's find out!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Beyond Blue Sky: Collectible Disneyland Minifigs, Part 1

I'm going to talk about LEGO again. If that's not your thing, please examine the sidebar for other websites you might enjoy for the next two weeks.
Remember last year when I was getting all excited about LEGO minifigures of Disney characters and the Cinderella Castle set and the prospect of more theme park sets to come?
Well…we haven’t had any more theme park sets, but the character minifigs were enough of a hit that we expect to get another wave of them. The speculation about which characters will be included in Round Two has been madder than a Tea Party…but you can probably guess where my mind is going in all this. As long as we're going to have collectible Disney minifigs...why not collectible Disneyland minifigs?
Think they wouldn't sell? I beg to differ. I can't really think of any minifigure concept that is so specific to Disneyland as to hold no interest for the adult LEGO fan community at large. “Disneyland minifigs” potentially fall into two main categories: 1) Disney characters, which have already proven their appeal, and 2) general characters, whose potential appeal can be demonstrated by...basically all the other non-licensed waves of collectible minifigures.
To further illustrate what I mean, I offer this hypothetical set of minifigs designed to satisfy fans of both Disneyland and LEGO, so that the true breadth of their appeal will be evident.
In fact...I'm going to offer two sets: one for each of the two main categories mentioned above. I'll cover the pre-existing Disney character this week and the others next week.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Armchair Imagineering: Plussing the Show

Always plus the show,” Walt Disney was known to say. I have no idea if he innovated the practice of using “plus” as a transitive verb, but fans have picked it up right alongside other Disneyland insider jargon, including “weenie”* and “protein spill.”** To Walt, “plussing” meant any sort of improvement on what was already there, but as language does, the term seems to have evolved. When most people talk about “plussing,” they are definitely not referring to new attractions or even wholesale renovations of existing ones. Nor is the term used in connection with essential maintenance—fixing a broken animatronic is not plussing…more like “un-minusing.”*** Plussing, rather, is making a small improvement to the park—a new garden planter here, an array of verisimilitude-enhancing props there, an Easter egg added to a show scene to reward the sharp-eyed and/or well-read.
There is no hard bright line separating the mere plusses from more significant alterations, but we know the difference when we see it. The 2015 changes to the Matterhorn are too extensive to be considered plusses, but the revamp of Big Thunder Mountain’s climactic scene might count. The addition of a cross-country skiing troupe to A Christmas Fantasy Parade definitely counts. Here’s another great example, spotted (by yours truly) just over a week ago in the Enchanted Chamber:

Pictured: The funniest scene in any Disney movie ever. Period.

There is an infinite “possibility space” of plusses that could be made to Disneyland. Here are some I would like to see.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Armchair Imagineering: Saving the Heraldry Shoppe

So they’ve gone and decided to close the Castle Heraldry Shoppe, reportedly to extend the queue area for Peter Pan’s Flight. While I am sympathetic to this purpose—the spillover for Fantasyland’s most popular dark ride really was getting out of hand—it’s still disappointing to lose yet another unique and classy feature of the park. It’s nowhere near the travesty committed by walling off the Court of Angels to the general public, but dangit, I like the Heraldry Shoppe, and not just because I have an interest in heraldry itself. It's one of the few places in Fantasyland to have something going for it with more substance than just animated characters presented without comment.
And the thing is...we didn't have to lose it, per se. Shops come and go all the time—the Heraldry Shoppe itself only goes back to 2004—and sometimes they simply move. There’s no particular reason some other location couldn’t take up the mantle of Disneyland’s purveyor of fine coats of arms and bladed weapons. This is definitely true of Fantasyland, whose retail spaces tend to be underused or redundant to begin with.
So here are my picks, in descending order of preference, for where the Heraldry Shoppe should be moved. Even though it won't be.