Theme Park Insider

ABC is making a TV drama about the Disney parks. What should it be?

September 30, 2016, 2:23 PM · The Disney-owned ABC network has bought an hourlong network television project about the Disney theme parks from the team that produced "Agent Carter."

According to a Deadline report, showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have sold ABC on a project "based on the Disney theme park mythology." That's all we know about the content of the show at this point. It's one of two projects that Fazekas & Butters has sold to ABC.

Don't expect to see episodes on the network this season. This is just the start of what can be a long production process. Few production deals ultimately make it to the network schedule, and some don't even end up getting filmed. But it's certainly exciting for theme park fans to imagine what an hourlong weekly drama based on the Disney theme parks could become.

"Disney theme park mythology" is a huge space to work in. But the project needs to connect with a network television audience, and between the conventions of the hourlong drama format and Disney's PR needs for a show about its parks, the showrunners are facing some limits to what they can do with the concept.

Given how much Disney loves to send characters from its various sitcoms to Walt Disney World and Disneyland for episodes set in those parks, the cynic in me wants to see Disney just go all in on that concept and develop a "Fantasy Island" reboot where a different collection of guest stars check into a Walt Disney World Deluxe resort each week. But who would play the new Mr. Roarke? Hey, I hear Michael Eisner is available.

I doubt that image-obsessive Disney would approve a gritty crime drama that follows the WDW security team as they chase counterfeiters and underage drinkers, but if they did, TH and I would be happy to accept consultant contracts for that one.

What would you like to see this show become? Share your ideas — from the practical to the absurd — in the comments.

Replies (27)

September 30, 2016 at 2:31 PM · ABC also ordered a pilot of a drama based on Big Thunder Mountain back in 2013 but it never saw the light of day. Who's to say this one will, either?
September 30, 2016 at 2:38 PM · That's because that one lacked the awesome creative input of TPI readers!

But, yeah... Don't hold your breath.

September 30, 2016 at 3:09 PM · The would be better off doing a Kingdom Keepers series for Network TV
September 30, 2016 at 3:12 PM · The Real Housewives of Main Street USA?
September 30, 2016 at 4:27 PM · They could make a show where people compete to come up with Imagine ring ideas for new attractions. The winner would get their attraction built. Have some famous Imagineers like Baxter, Rhode and Sklar be the judges.

Felix

September 30, 2016 at 4:28 PM · How about a Mythbusters type show? For example, I like to joke with my wife that we went to WDW after failing at IVF. Next thing you know, she's pregnant. Funny thing is we know at least a couple other parents with the same story. A whole show could be on these kinds of myths or legends. Is there something magical about the place or is it something sinister? I like to joke that they need more customers, so the water is spiked.
September 30, 2016 at 4:36 PM · I'm guessing this might be based on the Kingdom Keeper books.
September 30, 2016 at 4:47 PM · With how they botched their annual Christmas Special, The Muppets, and their theme park infomercials, I'm sure this will be no exception. Just a big mistake!
September 30, 2016 at 5:15 PM · A reality show with the stratosphere characters in DHS.
September 30, 2016 at 11:31 PM · I'm thinking a Night at the Museum type of show, where after hours the attractions all come alive. After a few more bombs at the box office, they may be able to get Johnny Depp to play Jack Sparrow on the small screen

It would allow them to film the parks more easily, since most of the action would take place at night.

The big bad from each season could be various corporate types that they're trying to save the park from.

October 1, 2016 at 4:08 AM · A show where a small group of teen/young-adult guests, while visiting WDW, get sucked into a magical realm where the lands and themed attractions of Disney become real places, and the heroes have to traverse the now-real threats of those locations in order to get to the next land - and all with an overarching plot of an evil Eisner-esque former executive of Disney having accidentally sent himself and them to this world while trying to unlock the secret to the special magic that ol' Walt had discovered decades ago, and hid away at WDW.

10-12 episodes per season, with strong budgets. One or two episodes per attraction/land. A Jungle adventure, Haunted Mansions, Pirates, Towers of Terror, having to catch Figment in an imagination institute, take a broken train to the Yeti on Everest. And each episode they can only escape the land if they get to the next magical Monorail stop (or - if it's not too intense for television - Disney-Bus stop)

With the control of rights that Disney has, there's nothing stopping our heroes from travelling to a Galaxy Far Far away to hitch a ride with Star Tours Captain RX-24, or get some help from Iron Man.

Hey, that's actually not a bad pitch for 7:00 AM. If you're interested in my idea, Disney, give me a call. My writing career stalled years ago, and I'm willing to give up my current job for any amount of millions you want to offer.

October 1, 2016 at 7:09 AM · Dreamfinder and figment on a journey to the dreamport get lost in a storm of thoughts and have to find their way home through various lands based on disney attractions
October 1, 2016 at 9:51 AM · I don't know what it should be, but I know what it should NOT be. And that is one filled with superficial, egoistical, sarcastic, entitled teenagers and where every adult is a quasi-moron, particularly the dad.
October 1, 2016 at 10:54 AM · It should be about Wall Street's dominant influence over the Disney parks over the last 32 years, and the explosive growth in profits from 1984 to 2015.

Topics could include: How Disney Inc. jacked up prices for its American fans while systematically under-investing in the USA parks, throwing money away overseas, and lobbying Congress to grant Disney Inc. a perpetual monopoly on characters like Mickey Mouse that should now be in the public domain.

Disney Inc. is the poster child for modern day Robber Barons. Let's all celebrate how profitably Eisner and Iger threw Walt's legacy under the bus :)

October 1, 2016 at 12:49 PM · While Disney park rides are fun, their backstories are an inch deep. They need to develop them into credible full stories.

First, do a short mini-series. 6 episodes per season. Perhaps 2 to 3 seasons max.

Second, do an anthology series with lessons learned, similar in structure to Twilight Zone. Absolutely don't make it an action show like Disney's Tower of Terror made for television movie starring Steve Guttenberg.

Third, don't feature much of the actual attractions. They have camera ready sets, but not suitable to develop an actual show around. Recreate the ride on full sized sets.

Four, create new backstories and characters that can later be added to the ride or attraction.

Five, what attractions? For haunted mansion, Part 1: the mystery of the bride. Part 2, the woman in the globe. Part 3, the grave digger.

Splash Mountain: an opportunity to refocus the movie on the animated characters instead of the controversial Uncle Remus. Call it the Songbook of the Splash Mountain.

Space Mountain: what happened in space to cause them to abandon their space station?

This is my suggestion. Enjoy.

October 1, 2016 at 1:19 PM · More episodes:

Big Thunder: The mining town went bust. The millionaire left a mysterious legacy that's hidden in a cavern that concealed his secrets.

Small World: The Tomorrowland movie presented a chance to tell the story of Small World, but of course, went on to Tomorrowland oddly. The ride interior should not be featured at all. The concept should be explored. A world where kids are appreciated for the hope and potential for the future.

Come to think of it, there isn't much left since Disney already did other attractions on the big screen like Tomorrowland and Pirates in a much bigger and complete production. Main Street was covered in Savings Mr Banks. Maybe doing the minor Disney Parks like California Adventure with Grizzly Rapids could help a bit, but the newer attractions are heavy with existing Disney IP like Cars, Frozen, and Toy Story.

October 1, 2016 at 6:50 PM · Personally, I think the entire drama of Eisner and how he rebuilt the Disney brand back up only to have it fall apart would be fantastic for a one-season show. So much behind the scenes drama to play with.
October 1, 2016 at 7:47 PM · WestDisneyWorld: a group of Disney animatronics, led by the Goofslinger, rebel against their overlord Imagineers and take revenge on the world.
October 1, 2016 at 7:56 PM · Anybody played Disneyland Kinect game.

I can imagine the show be exactly like the game. Where guest visits the theme park and all the sudden a "magical" portal or vortex opens up and guest is sent into the real world setting of the ride. If they waiting in line at Space Mountain and the queue leads to the door where it leads to a Sci-Fi setting of the ride. Then the guest must figure out how to escape
the realm by hopping on a spaceship and racing through the perils of space until the reached end of the episode. Each episode would either have guest fall into the next ride or lead to a secret world where each ride is a realm in a giant land that is in flux by some evil forces.

There was a short live 80s sci-fi show called 'Otherworld' about a family that was zap into another alternate dimension. They would constantly be on the move journeying to a new town where it would parallel earth, but be opposite in some way to law, government, lifestyle, or religion.
I can see Disney theme park show taking this route only it wouldn't be so dark like that 80s show was. I do love the 80s sythn theme.
October 2, 2016 at 4:33 AM · Perhaps a story on Bob Iger, and how he counts profits - with mean evil laughs - whilst laughing at the lemmings as he invests nothing back into Orlando Florida. And you have creative people begging him to do projects, but he just laughs at them. Meanwhile his wife who loves shopping, turns Disney into a huge shopping mall.
October 2, 2016 at 3:58 PM · I've worked on projects for both Universal Creative and Walt Disney Imagineering ... A lot of projects ... I have always believed that a theme park attraction version of 'Project Green Light' might have some (minor) legs ... A reality show that punches fanboys in the face and makes them understand how the nuts and bolts CONSTRUCTION priorities carry most of the weight when it comes to developing multi-dimensional brick and mortar fantasy.
October 2, 2016 at 4:26 PM · TH Creative, I'd love to see an idea like that. One thing that aggravates me about so many guys going "I can do a ride better" is ignoring the realities of construction override what your dream plans can be. Showing some of these guys who go "I can run Disney better" how the business really works would be terrific.
October 3, 2016 at 2:40 AM · Well, I think that Robert got something with the "Fantasy Island" reboot idea. Imagine families arriving at WDW with a "problem" (something not too heavy, this is Disney) and solving it thanks to the magic of the parks... Marketing guys should be very happy with this one ! ;) What could be interesting however, would be an historical mini-series like Tom Hanks' "From the Earth To The Moon". Season 1 will be about the construction of Disneyland and Season 2 about Walt Disney World.
October 3, 2016 at 8:50 AM · Disney will probably just show the Carousel of Progress on a loop and see if anyone notices... hahahahahah
October 4, 2016 at 7:56 AM · Gee, this is simple.. How about Iger gets an entry level position, like that reality show . where he tried to adapt to The real world, and live on min pay. The reality of a paycheck, after taxes, dues to the union, and the Obama care. Then wonder why "The happiest place on earth" has employees that look enslaved. It is all a bunch of non reality higher ups trying to sell a theme.
I would really love a show... that shows all the YouTube videos of breakdowns, from monorail, to the funny situations where cast members go off on guests with their rants. You really have to check that out, Lmao
The best was Carousel of Progress meltdown.
October 4, 2016 at 3:53 PM · I'm in agreeemnt with the people mentioning kingdom keepers... I hope this is the case I've been begging for that
October 6, 2016 at 12:32 PM · A story about Walt Disney, building Disneyland, the adversity he faced, his vision for Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. The last scenes in the final episode would include the reporter visiting Walt at the hospital and Walt sharing his vision with him using the ceiling panels as a grid, Roy visiting Walt, finding that he passed and saying, "We did it." Cut to: October 1, 1971 -- Roy's dedication of WALT DISNEY WORLD. Then, the opening of EVERY new Disney theme park opened in Florida, Japan, France, California and China.(In chronological order of course.) Yes indeed, they did it! -Scott Kearney

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