What's your favorite Disney theme park fan theory?
I love using my imagination to "complete" the story on many theme park attractions. Why is this ride here? Where does it fit in the canon of the franchise it represents? What's the backstory? And what's the future hold for these characters, after I exit?
With their emphasis on narrative over thrills, Disney theme park attractions especially have elicited this sort of consideration from their fans. You give us a little bit of story, and our imaginations will take it the rest of the way. One popular term for this is "headcanon," and that's the topic of my Orange County Register column this week.
What's your favorite headcanon for Disney theme park attractions? Or for attractions from Universal and other parks, as they dive deeper into immersive narrative in their parks?
Stories that answer every question, tie every loose thread, and resolve every conflict, frankly, can bore me. As much as I love resolution in a story, it's nice to have something to think about — and debate with other fans — too. Was Snape ultimately a good guy? Why is the Pirates' treasure cursed? Why is Taneleer Tivan's collection in Disney California Adventure?
Reading or hearing other fans' headcanon often inspires me to think about stories I thought I knew in different ways. And that, ultimately, just makes me more of a fan.
I want to make clear here that we're talking headcanon and not urban legends. The difference? Headcanon exists in the world of fiction, while urban legends are about things that are supposedly real (Walt frozen under the castle, emu instead of turkey legs, etc.)
So what's your favorite, or most twisted and thought-provoking, headcanon from the stories we see in theme parks? (One of my favorites: From Snow White's perspective, the apple worked. Think about it from her perspective....)
Read Robert's column:
After Pinoqio left Gepetto the old clockmaker became depressed and whaled into his loneliness. Then one night he had a dream that told him to build a companion. When he got awake he clearly had lost his mind and started to make the most disturbing dolls he could think off. His inspirations were all the places his little wooden boy could have been. That's how It's a Small World was created.
Damn. That was fast to get a winner.
Not sure if this fits the topic but one of my favorite is the man in the rocking chair in the original POTC. Why is that man there and who is he? It's a prominent position as the introduction to this massive ride and just before the first drop. I have always imagined that he is one of the pirates in the ride reminiscing about his past, and we are experiencing his memories. Maybe the pirates life was too intense for him so he retired to a meager but peaceful life on the bayou. I have heard people criticise that rides like POTC lack a story but I have always disagreed. Part of the genius is that the ride allows you to make your own story and fill in the blanks. Anyways I have always had a hard time believing that Walt and his imagineers just randomly put him there.
I always love to imagine that with POTC, by pure chance, TWO pirate ships just happened to pick the exact same time to attack this town. That's why you have one ship firing on the town with pirates already inside. It's why some are locked up, they ran afoul of the other crew and this is all something of a race to get at the town vaults first.
Let's indict the whole concept of a story in an attraction. They are irrelevant. There's no way to have a decent length story in an attraction that lasts a few minutes. Disney tries to have a story, but it is their fault that people are so wrapped up in a story that brings justification to the attraction. Before, stories began and end within a ride. Then, stories begin in the queue and pre-show. Now, the entire land and theme park must be consistent with the attraction.
Inspired by Anton M's comment:
My personal favorite is the meta theme theory regarding the pirate Jean Lafitte and the entirety of New Orleans Square. Many Disney records and sources have gone on record to state that this meta theme was suppose to be implemented fully, but a slew of factors led to it becoming muddled and ultimately abandoned. When New Orleans Square was built, Jean Lafitte was meant to be the unifying character which tied all of the major elements of the land together. A notorious pirate(PotC), Lafitte's exploits brought him great riches which he used to build his stately mansion in New Orleans (The Haunted Mansion). After settling down after his wild pirate days, Lafitte was said to marry a beautiful bride, from which he hid his previous life from. Unfortunately for the bride and Lafitte, old habits die hard, and he constructed an elaborate series of tunnels which led beneath the catacombs of his mansion and New Orleans to a secret stash of his pirate gold on a nearby island (Tom Sawyer Island). Upon their wedding eve, the bride found out about his secrecy life. Consumed with grief, she killed herself by jumping off the large cupola of the mansion, thus causing Lafitte to do the same by hanging himself from the rafters of his mansion. Other version say that it was Lafita who killed his bride after the discovery. This was apparently the original plan when mapping and designing NOS and you can still see remnants of this meta theme throughout Disneyland today. The landing riders depart from in PotC is called Lafittes landing and there is also an anchor in New Orleans Square which has a plaque which states it belonged to Laffite.
Space, the final frontier. Not in Tomorrowland!
For a long time, my mother convinced me that Little Leota at the end of the Haunted Mansion was actually Jackie Kennedy. I seriously believed that until I was like 9.
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