Avatar: Environments vs. StoryWalt Disney World: The concept art for Disney Animal Kingdom's Pandora presents an intriguing premise: What if a theme park attraction focuses on "environment" over "story?"
From TH CreativeI can envision the boat ride at Avatar being developed as a constantly changing environment. Where every time a guest rides the experience is different. Could it be possible that boats travel different routes? Encounter different wild life?
Posted October 13, 2013 at 1:48 PM
The possibilities are almost endless.
Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.
From Andrew DoughertyWhat is the story anyway?
Posted October 13, 2013 at 4:23 PM
From Andy MilitoIt's Pocahontas... with cat people.
Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM
From Tim ChatlosThe Avatar attractions have a real chance for success if they focus on the environments instead of the specific story of the film. A floating mountain with waterfalls pouring down the sides could be spectacular regardless of how uninspiring the source material might be.
Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:27 PM
From Oscar MarquezI love to see Avatar Land at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Then Disney would acquire Lightstorm Entertainment.
Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:43 PM
From Andrew DoughertyNot really anything in Lightstorm Entertainment worth acquiring. But it would be interesting to see what happens to T2:3D over at Universal if they do. I just don't see it happening.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 8:00 AM
From Matt BabiakThe film was much better with visuals than story. It'd be foolish for Disney to not do the same.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM
From Russell MeyerIt's likely that the boat attraction will use Disney's newly patented boat technology.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 11:39 AM
However, the entire Avatar project concerns me. It looks great on paper, but in the end guests want stories to get them to come back over and over again. There are no characters or stories yet in the Avatar universe that are going to grab attention and repeat business. Thus, as TH has noted here, Disney is attempting to create a unique environment devoid of story. They seem to be trying to pattern Hogsmeade and the world of Harry Potter. However, I think they fail to realize that world is based on stories, and the infinite detail in the WWoHP is about those stories, not just a feel or environment. There have been many theme parks that have attempted to build lands and attractions around environment or "feeling" with spectacular failures.
1. Hard Rock Park---pretty much the entire park and all of the attractions were based around a "feeling" and not a story. The park failed after one season, and the rides are finally being placed on the open market for purchase.
2. Disney California Adventure--Many parts of the park before the billion dollar makeover were about creating the "California" experience or feel, but many of the attractions and "lands" lacked a real story. Soarin' which is completely devoid of story, is the only original big attraction with any semblance of popularity. I still don't understand why.
3. Most Six Flags themed attractions---Six Flags does at least make an attempt nowadays to theme their attractions, but it's all about the "feel" or ambiance around the ride. Their heavily themed attractions still lack an actual story, and thus fall behind in the ratings to less-thrilling, story-based attractions.
Now, there are a lot of spectacular failures of story-based attractions (Kali River Rapids Dinosaur/Countdown to Extinction, and Mission Space come immediately to mind), but more often than not, those story-based attractions find a way to survive. I think Disney is making a big mistake not trying to craft a story in the Avatar universe. Perhaps they are, and they're not revealing it because it will give too much away from the upcomming movie sequels, but relying on ambiance and an environment could be a monumental mistake in an attempt to one-up what Universal has found with HP.
From TH CreativeMr. Meyer writes: "However, I think they fail to realize that world is based on stories ..."
Posted October 14, 2013 at 12:36 PM
I Respond: Oh sir! The head of WDI is John Lasetter. Are you seriously suggesting that Mr. Lasseter fails "to realize that world is based on stories ..."? The author of 'Toy Story' and so many other Pixar features and/or shorts?
I would also contend that DAK as a whole is not dependent on story-based attractions. That it is based upon environments. Even with it's shorter operating hours the AECOM/TEA Report (for what it's worth) marks DAK's attendance at 10 million. Add a night time show and the Avatar attractions and I'll wager the park's numbers will rival EPCOT's before WDW reaches its 50th anniversary.
From Russell MeyerI agree that adding a nighttime show will have a big impact on attendance at DAK, but I think you could say that about any park that increased their operating hours 15% and gave guests a reason to stay at the park until closing.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 1:01 PM
However, I strongly disagree with your assertion that somehow the presence of John Lasetter at WDI is going to magically inject stories into James Cameron's "baby". I think you're right in considering the fact that WDI may be trying to create a theme park more about atmosphere than stories. However, you look at DAK, and it is still a very story-driven park, much less so than other park, but still very rooted in stories. Now, they haven't been the best or well-executed stories (Dinosaur, Kali, and Kilimanjaro), but those are still at the core of just about every attraction in the park.
I think the world of Avatar is pretty amazing, and it's obviously a commercial success being the highest-grossing movie of all time, but focussing on the feel of the world as opposed to the details of mythology and stories about that world is a huge mistake, and that appears to be the direction they're headed. Avatar is not the kind of movie people watch over and over and over again like Star Wars or Harry Potter, or even The Godfather for that matter. It's a seen that, been there kind of movie, and that plays out in DVD sales and TV ratings. I worry that WDI is putting all of this investment into a look or a feel trying to replicate the success of WWoHP, and they're not crafting a story around it. I worry that the D-ticket boat ride is going to end up like Gran Fiest Tour at EPCOT's Mexico pavillion, a ride without a real story or connection to the guest that relies on beloved characters just to get people on the boat. I also worry that the E-ticket ride ends up being a "wow" kinda ride for a year or two, but looses its luster faster than Disney can recoup their investment.
That is really what I thought when I first heard Disney purchased the rights to Avatar. It was a real head-screatcher considering that they're banking on the success of a single stand-alone movie. Sure, it's a HUGE movie franchise that is still relevant and has future expansion potential because of planned sequels, but were people really turned on to the movie becuase it looked cool or because it was an amazing story.
I'm pretty sure it was the look (mostly because it was the first feature film completely filmed with "Red" cameras and new state-of-the-art effects), and not the story that drove the box office. I guarantee that you could walk down any street in America and ask 100 people to tell you the name of one character from Avatar, and almost assuredly no more than 5 could do it. That's a HUGE challenge from a creative perspective, especially when you probably can't take drastic liberties with story or characters because of Cameron's control. I just think it's big trouble for a park that should have gone back to its roots (Beastly Kingdom) to tell stories instead of creating the look and feel of a world very few connect to in a strong way (unlike Harry Potter, Star Wars, Simpsons, etc...). In the end, I think the results will be jaw dropping, but does it really matter if people don't care?
From Andrew DoughertyI agree. The visuals were the main reason that many saw it. Others saw it because it was James Cameron's film and the good reviews helped. However, could Disney be jumping the gun? With 3 more planned sequels, how long can the franchise drag itself out for. I truly think that Disney should have waited to see how the second movie did before staring up any construction. Because really outside of Toy Story, Star Wars, and Harry Potter how many franchises can you make into 3 or 4 movies, with the critical reception being good and the box office results favorable? Sure it might look good in 2017 but will the franchise have already driven itself 6 feet under?
Posted October 14, 2013 at 1:20 PM
From Matt BabiakTo be honest, the thing that excites me the most is the night safari
Posted October 14, 2013 at 2:15 PM
From Jay R.With Avatar, it's the high grossing film of all time (barring adjusted totals....and even then, it's still ranked high).
Posted October 14, 2013 at 2:34 PM
It's made it's mark in Hollywood. Even if the sequels make less & are critical duds, the first film will still be OK.
Look at Jurassic Park....2 sub par sequels that didn't match the original in financial or public opinion, yet the first film is still popular & you have attractions & rides based on the strength of the first film.
The average theme park traveler on vacation isn't going to debate the merits of Avatar Land (that's for us, lol).
Look at Cars Land....Cars was arguably the "least loved" of the Pixar family....yet it's theme park equivalent is the most popular place in DCA & has rave reviews for RSR & the land in general.
Transformers - Bad franchise.....Loved attraction.
There are people who have enjoyed HP at Universal who have never seen the movies or read the books, folks who ride Splash Mountain who have never seen Song of the South, folks who ride the Simpsons who can't stand the show, etc.
You don't have to like a franchise to enjoy a land or attractions based on it (provided that said land & attractions are impressive :-)
People will go to Avatar Land. It doesn't matter if you go in with a huge smile or a huge frown of disappointment & angry eyebrows....as long you go....that's probably Disney's bottom line.
From TH CreativeBy the way, my CM better half spent her day today performing at DAK. The CMs are TOTALLY JACKED-UP about the new artwork.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:00 PM
From TH CreativeMr. Meyer writes: "However, you look at DAK, and it is still a very story-driven park, much less so than other park(S) ..."
Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:00 PM
I Respond: So in one sentence it goes from "very story-driven" to ... well, not-so-much.
Mr. Meters: "However, I strongly disagree with your assertion that somehow the presence of John Lasetter at WDI is going to magically inject stories into James Cameron's "baby".
I Respond: That's not what I said. You implied (in a fairly direct manner) "However, I think they (Disney) fail to realize that world is based on stories ..." My response was an expression of confidence that a storyteller of Mr. Lasseter's caliber is certainly capable of determining the value of story telling. I mean I think it's a bit early (like four years) to associate the word "fail" with this project.
Mr. Meyers: "That is really what I thought when I first heard Disney purchased the rights to Avatar. It was a real head-screatcher considering that they're banking on the success of a single stand-alone movie."
I Respond: Their not banking on "the success of a single stand-alone movie." They're banking on this attraction and this park working in concert with other attractions and parks and restaurants and shops and resorts to draw millions of people to Central Florida. I'll bet the Pandora environment helps them achieve the attraction ... in a VERY big way.
By the way (directed at Mr. Meyers or anyone else) is anyone else jazzed about how the Pandora environment will change from day to night? Certainly the night time show as well as the effects in Pandora will draw multiple visits.
From Andrew DoughertyJay, I see where you're coming from, but Jurassic Park's sequels (and yes, they were bad) released AFTER the ride came out leaving the ride to debut with just the (good) first film for people to base the franchise off of. Many people I know actually have enjoyed some of the Transformers movies (the third was a bit repetitive). Sure they aren't world class movies but they are decent popcorn action flicks. And Cars gained massive critical reception and won many accolades. So in the mean time, I still se Avatar as having the possibility of driving the franchise into the ground.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:22 PM
Some of you though might be thinking to yourself, "hey what about Waterworld. That movie didn't make money nor get good critical reception." My response to that would be that the show had time to prove itself before the movie came out. Also Jaws had 3 awful movies before the ride came out. My excuse there was that Jaws was a classic and who really remembers Jaws 3 or 4 if you even remember 2.
From Tony DudaThe movie had great visuals and ground-breaking 3D but the actual story was moronic.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:29 PM
If one were to make a action ride from the movie, it would either be:
1) Humans slaughtering aliens
2) Aliens slaughtering humans
I don't think either premise would be Disney correct.
From James TrexenI find it hilariously ironic that the old Pocahontas show is going to end up being replaced by a Pocahontas ripoff.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:55 PM
From James TrexenUgh, double post.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 4:55 PM
From Andy MilitoJames, I never thought about it like that. Irony at its finest indeed.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:02 PM
From Jay R.But Andrew, do you really think the sequels to Avatar will differ vastly from what we've seen before? So much that it can "ruin" the franchise.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:06 PM
The first Avatar film: #1 film of all time, received 9 Oscar noms (including a best picture nom) won Golden Globe for best pic, broke blu ray records, top many critics list, won all 10 Saturn awards etc.
So there are plenty of fans of that first film. And James Cameron has previously said the next sequel will focus on the oceans of Pandora, so it doesn't seem like he's straying too far from what people liked about the first film.
Plus, it's James Cameron....yes, while everyone can have missteps, he has a pretty solid track record (more if you count sequels T2 & Aliens)
Much like Transformers, I think Avatar can be "critic proof". Yes, the 3rd film was repetitive (and even Bay & Shia APOLOGIZED for the 2nd ), yet, people still turn out in droves for the films (and will for the 4th)
I guess my point is, when it comes to THEME PARK ATTRACTIONS, Avatar's selling point isn't so much the QUALITY of the franchise, but the fact it's an immersive, alien world that's being created.
If the sequels still focus on Pandora or "that world", I think people will embrace it.
Based on what many are saying here, it was the visuals that brought people out, so if that's recreated in the park....a terrible sequel won't prevent people from enjoying the land.
From Frank PrshaDoes anyone else think Disney should try to acquire The rights to Lord of the Rings? Or is that something that could never happen? I know Tolkien was an A-Hole and wanted nothing to do with Disney...: but I can see great potential with Disney incorporating Lord of the Rings throughout their parks.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:26 PM
From Anthony MurphyI think that Tolken's history of not liking Disney is the main reason
Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:28 PM
From Oscar MarquezI Think Disney and The Lord of the Ring could be BAD idea, because Warner Bros. and Disney are Rivals and Warner Bros. can partnership with Universal.
Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:05 PM
From Andrew DoughertyI get where you're coming from, I agree that the environment will play almost 90% of what this land is about, but will people have had enough of Avatar at that point? Could the possible stench linger in the air, diminishing some enthusiasm for the film? And where will Avatar 3 and 4 go? They don't have a ton of ideas left.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:50 AM
From Russell MeyerI understand your points TH...Lasetter is an excellent storyteller, as he has proven it on numerous occasions, and with his direct involvement with Cars Land. I wonder though how much leverage WDI will be given with the property considering how much of a control freak Cameron is. Will they be allowed to tell stories? Will they be forced to tell the "save the planet" overarching story that Cameron couldn't stop banging over people's head throughout the 3+-hour runtime of the movie? I know that was a long-standing point of emphasis for the original DAK design, but it has kinda faded into the background because it was initially too heavy-handed.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:59 AM
I actually felt a similar way about Harry Potter, and wasn't a big fan of the series myself, just at least Universal had 7 books and 4 or 5 movies in the can at the time to pull from. When the plans were revealed to create this little tiny place around two re-themed roller coasters and a new dark ride, I wasn't sold. Even after being there, I think the place is pretty amazing, but it's far too small, and a bit underwhelming if you were at IOA before Harry Potter took over. After the "wow" factor wore off, I thought to myself, $1 billion for this--One new ride, a couple of cute little shows, and an overlay of a couple of roller coaster and a restaurant? Universal, to their credit, has quickly double-downed on the concept, and is rapidly expanding the experience to meet demand.
In my opinion, Disney is doing the exact same thing with Avatar, except they're only working from a singular movie (no books or other material, just what's in James Cameron's head), and whatever liberties Cameron will let them take with his property, and hints he's willing to divulge about upcoming films. I'm not saying that the project will fail, I just don't think it will equal what Universal has created with Harry Potter or what Disney will ultimately be able to do with Star Wars. I see guests being wowed at first by Avatar, but do you honestly think there will be 8-hour lines wrapping around DAK just to get into Pandora? Do you think the success of the project will be so great that Disney will need to green-light an immediate expansion of the concept with a second E-Ticket attraction? I think Avatar will be fine, but everything now (especially expansions geared around a single, very expensive intellectual property) is gauged against WWoHP.
I applaud Disney for obviously not taking the property lightly, and diverting huge amounts of resources to the project, which is comparable to the cost of the rights. However, I just don't see the same level of excitement in this project, or droves of fans showing up opening day clogging the pathways of DAK to be the first people to see Avatar.
And yes, I think Pandora could be very stunning at night. DAK is currently a very dark and dingy place at night, deliberately, so it won't take much to change that, but it must be measured so as to not eliminate the theme of the rest of the park.
From Russell Meyer@Jay---There are quite a few franchises that have been able to sustain through multiple sequels...Bond, Star Trek, LOTR, Die Hard, Transformers, numerous horror franchises and characters, The Mummy, The Matrix, Narnia, and many more. Just because the first movie makes a bunch of movie becuase it's such a giant spectacle, doesn't mean the franchise as a whole is successful. Box office success does not always equate to a relatable theme park concept. Here are the top 10 inflation adjusted box office movies, and yes some easily translate to theme parks, while other simply to not...
Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:26 AM
1. Gone with the Wind
I would argue that "Cars" was not Pixar's "least loved" property. "Bug's Life" and "Ratatouille" are probably below "Cars" in terms of likability and marketing potential ("Up" and "Wall-E" are probably up there too, but were more critically loved, just not so much by children). Also, "Cars" was easily adaptable into DCA, and the results are obviously stunning.
"Transformers" is only a critically "bad" franchise. It's made TONS of money, and has HUGE marketing potential. Just because hard-core, old-school fans of the original toys and cartoons don't like Bay's take on the robots in disguise doesn't make it "bad". I personally HATE the look of the new Transformers, but I give it lots of credit. They also paired a modern set of characters with an existing ride technology (on steriods compared to the first versions), and created an amazing attraction.
I agree that the execution of Avatar will ultimately determine the success of the expansion. However, as TH is intimating, can a theme park land succeed on environment alone? Yes, many people go to WWoHP or Springfield, or Cars Land without any previous knowledge of the characters or stories, but they're still told a story while they're there. It does have a lot to do with taking people to another place, but it is also about telling them a story, which is what gets people coming back. I hope that WDI and James Cameron are able to craft those stories, because I don't think they exist right now in the world of Avatar.
From TH CreativeMr. Meyers writes: "I'm not saying that the project (Avatar) will fail, I just don't think it will equal what Universal has created with Harry Potter ..."
Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:17 AM
I Respond: You use the word "equal" -- which a quantitative measurement. How will you make that assessment after Avatar opens? Attendance? Revenue? Subjectivity?
From Russell MeyerI would say there are a number of measureables Avatar would need to reach. First, it would need to provide a significant (more than 20%) attendance increase to DAK in its first year. However, that increase must also be tempered with the expected increase in park hours. Second, the initial demand must be palpable. There don't necessarily need to be lines around the park on opening week for the new land, but there must be significant interest in the expansion that requires some level of crowd control or adjustments to other park attractions to even crowds around DAK. The opening of Pandora should be a "hot ticket" for at least a few months following the opening, and should have some noticeable staying power beyond the initial push (far more than what has been observed during the first two phases of New Fantasyland). Finally, there should be enough interest in the property for Disney to at least begin to examine expansion concepts for Avatar. I'm sure WDI went through a full session that resulted in a number of potential concepts, and success of the expansion would be hailed if WDI was able to either green-light one of the runner-up concepts or begin another session to develop new concepts around the property.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM
That bar sounds really high, but that's what has been set by WWoHP, and what Disney needs to always attempt to exceed when they develop new attractions now. So far, New Fantasyland has not yet met those expectations (Seven Dwarves Mine Train may change that though), and the Avatar project should not lower those goals. Afterall, Disney is reportedly spending over $500 million for this expansion (probably at least $100 million or more on the rights alone), so that investment needs to pay serious dividends. Ultimately, this expansion is going to be compared to WWoHP along with the Diagon Alley expansion, which has forever changed the way people think about theme parks, so let the battle begin.
From TH CreativeMr. Meyers: First, it would need to provide a significant (more than 20%) attendance increase to DAK in its first year.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM
I Respond: That seems arbitrary and a bit heavy.
Mr. Meyers: "Second, the initial demand must be palpable."
I Respond: "How would someone measure that?"
Mr. Meyers: "So far, New Fantasyland has not yet met those expectations ..."
I Respond: Not sure there's been a statistical analysis that has drawn that conclusion.
Mr. Meyers writes: Afterall, Disney is reportedly spending over $500 million for this expansion (probably at least $100 million or more on the rights alone).
I Respond: How on earth can anyone make such a calculation? The attractions are being built using an integrated project delivery form of construction management. This approach includes pre-construction and design assist phases that are conducted over several months between the general contractor, all subcontractors, designers and Disney. The purpose of this exercise is to create a budget for the project. That process has not yet commenced. Where is the critical analysis from an identified and qualified source that has offered a $500 million budget?
From Russell MeyerWWoHP boosted IOA attendance 50% in its first year. I think a 20% attendance increase for DAK following Avatar is more than a fair measuring stick.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:21 PM
You can measure palpability based on attraction wait times, merchandise sales, and immediate return visits. MyMagic+ will be fully integrated by then, so it will be very easy for Disney to measure the interest in Avatar. They may not disclose it, but you'll be able to tell when you're there 6 months after it opens and through online buzz for the expansion.
There sure hasn't been a significant attendnace boost from New Fantasyland. Also, reservations for Be My Guest, which were almost impossible to get in the first 3-4 months, can now be secured less than a week in advance. General reviews of the expansion are good, but pale in comparison to even recent reviews of WWoHP from first-time guests.
How do you think theme parks stay in business?? They are always making calculations based on investment and return. If an investment is not preceived as wise, it's not made. Sometimes risks are made, but they are calculated ones. In this case, Disney has a baseline budget for this project (rounded up number) that includes R&D, construction, marketing, operation, etc... Those costs are then weighed against the benefits to determine the viability of the attraction. The $500 million budget was widely reported when the deal was struck with Cameron a few years ago. That may have changed, but based on what they've revealed, it seems prtty reasonable. If they don't have a budget for the project yet, than these guys are the worst project managers on the planet. You do not start development and put together concrete plans for something like this without having at least a ballpark figure as to how much it's going to cost. I know some people have these pie-in-the-sky ideas that WDI sits around dreaming up things constantly, and spends whatever it costs to make the ones they like happen. That's not how business works, and if you don't have a budget, and a projected return on that investment, than investors in the Walt Disney Company would have put the kiabosh on this project long ago.
As far as rights, it's well published that Spielberg gets a 2% cut of Universal Orlando receipts in perpetiuty. I would presume that a similar lump sum or perpetual right offer was given to Rowling, and thus to Cameron. $100 million is not an unreasonable sum considering the scale of this development, and that falls in line with most industry rumors concerning the deal. Whether that's paid all up front or through the lifetime of the deal is really inconsequential, because it would still be included in the development budget, so it can be compared to receipts. Again, they would not have made the deal if they did not think they would make a return on the investment, but I think they're taking a bit of a risk with this property, whereas Star Wars and Marvel were sure things.
From TH CreativeMr. Meyers writes: The $500 million budget was widely reported when the deal was struck with Cameron a few years ago."
Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:52 PM
I Respond: "Widely reported" by whom (gotta link)? Again, where is the critical analysis from an identified and qualified source that has offered a $500 million budget?
From Jay R.@ Rusell,
Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:12 PM
I see some of your points, but what I'm saying with Avatar is that, even though there are sequels coming, the first film was successful enough.
And I still disagree with Cars. Merchandise wise, YES....it was huge (which is 1 of the reasons many claimed it received a sequel) , but critically it has the lowest MetaCritic score & lowest RT critics score among the Pixar films.....unless you count it's sequel, Cars 2, which brings me to my next point.
Cars Land is based only the first film....In fact, I think there are only 2 tiny "references" to Cars 2 in the entire land, beyond that, you wouldn't know a Cars 2 existed if you went to Cars Lands.
So even if Avatar "2 & 3" went off the rails & were complete flops (which I can't see happening), the land could still be based only the Pandora we saw in the 1st film & succeed
Also as a side note, I actually think that at least 8 of the films you listed in the adjusted films could be the basis for an immersive themed evironments. Now I'm not saying they'd all fit the Disney profile, LOL, but there's certainly the potential for some interesting lands.
From Russell MeyerThe Orlando Sentinel, a pretty respected source for theme park industry news, provided that $500 million number when the aquisition was announced in 2011...
Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:41 PM
I don't think anyone is going to give you the "qualified" source that you're seeking. All you're going to here through the media are estimates. Most companies hold budgets tight to the vest, especially in the entertainment industry (there's tons of information about movie budgets, but they're typically speculative and not directly from the studios so they can temper the disappointment if the project fails). But I guarantee you there's a budget floating around there somewhere in Mickey's head. In reality, it doesn't matter what they spend, it matter if they recoup that investment in an acceptable period of time, whether that be 5 years 10 year or longer.
From Russell MeyerJay, I would agree that many of those would be pretty interesting case studies, and I also agree that the success of the first Avatar is enough. I'm sure Disney did this before they bought the rights, but before you plunk down a bunch of money for a huge investment like this you have to determine whether the property is a "flash in the pan" or something that will last. Theme parks can't risk huge sums of money on "flash in the pan" projects (HP is even borderline IMHO). It takes far to long to go from concept to reality (especially for Disney) to expect the popularity to continue far beyond the original release. In the case of Avatar, Disney's decision is bouyed by the fact that 3 sequels have already been announced. the success of those, however, is unknown. Is the success of Avatar a phenomenon like LOTR and HP, or is it a 1-shot deal? Can it last the test of time? If theme parks just cherry-picked ideas from the top grossing movies every year, they'd be in big trouble. Again, I'm sure Disney did this when they made the initial deal with Cameron, but I don't think they fully considered the risk of their investment, and were just looking for a concept to create their version of WWoHP.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:47 PM
From Jay R.Russell, I see what you're saying.
Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:52 PM
There's always the risk of leaning too much on "popular" properties (or what's popular at the moment) & then you'll run into the longevity issue.
From TH CreativeNot sure that one unnamed executive in a single newspaper article constitutes a situation that would be described as "widely reported."
Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:25 PM
Mr. Meyers: "I don't think anyone is going to give you the "qualified" source that you're seeking."
I Respond: Which would mean the $500 million (at best) would be an unqualified estimate?
Mr. Meyers (on a licensing deal with James Cameron): "As far as rights, it's well published that Spielberg gets a 2% cut of Universal Orlando receipts in perpetiuty (sic). I would presume that a similar lump sum or perpetual right offer was given to Rowling."
I Respond: A presumption that conveniently supports your point. (Chuckle).
Mr. Meyers (on a licensing deal with James Cameron): "$100 million is not an unreasonable sum considering the scale of this development ..."
I Respond: Then it should be easy to find some qualified source indicating that's the deal."
Mr. Meyers: "...and that falls in line with most industry rumors concerning the deal."
I Respond: Perhaps our disconnect is I find it dubious to embrace a standard described as "industry rumors." Especially when it involves $100 million.
Before I publicly embrace speculation, I try and do a little research.
This is the kind of documentation I prefer (Link):
From Frank PrshaI think TH secretly works for Disney. He must be one of the suits in disguise!
Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:17 PM
From Russell MeyerYou're not going to get those kind of data on something in development. Sorry TH, but you're asking for the impossible, and if you think this project is being created without at least a baseline budget, than you're completely irrational. Whether it's $500, $600 million or $1 billion, it's obvious Disney is spending a lot of money on this project, equivalent to or maybe even more than Universal spent on WWoHP. Thus, there must be some tangible results, aside from it's really pretty, or an award from a website. It needs to draw people to DAK, and get guests to spend money to visit or extend their Disney vacations. If it wasn't meant to do those things, than you must believe that theme parks are not businesses designed to make money, and that Disney just creates things to put smiles on little kids' faces. Sorry TH, but I wish the world was made of rainbows and lollipops, but that just isn't true. Even Walt himself was a known ruthless businessman, and while he was motivated by making the world a happier place, he was also very interested in operating a profitable business.
Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:17 AM
I don't really understand your line of argument with my posts. I post a link to a respected source and it's not good enough for you, even though the numbers are not terribly consequential to the argument. My primary point is that I feel that Disney is taking a significant risk with this project, which could pay huge dividends, or result in a dramatic failure. You ask me to quantify success and failure when there's no way to even know what Disney's metrics are for this project. I think it's perfectly fair to speculate within reason. If you feel that my speculation is unreasonable, just say so, but don't just blast it asking me to support what I feel are reasonable statements with facts that wouldn't be available except to the most high-level Disney executives and project managers.
I'm hoping that Disney is successful, and good competition is ultimately what has brought the theme park industry to the point where parks are willing to invest huge sums of money to create immersive environments and highly-themed attractions. I'm merely pointing out some of the issues with this project based on available information, perceptions, and known impressions of the Avatar franchise.
The issues include:
1. Lack of story. Let's face it, Avatar did not win Best Picture or Best Director because the movie lacked a story. It was all whiz, bang, gloss, and flash, and very little substance. Theme parks are places for immersive storytelling, and I believe WDI will need to work hard to develop a story around this development. I do think WDI has the ability to do this, but it's going to be a challenge with this franchise.
2. Lack of interest. This is more difficult to quantify, because it's the largest grossing film of all time, but my impression (and this comes from a serious Sci-Fi and movie fan's perspective) is that this franchise does not have staying power or serious interest in the upcoming sequels. Other serious fans have logged similar opinions of Avatar (the movie has been lampooned by the Simpsons, SNL, and others), and the film has lost serious cache since it raked in over $1 billion at the box office almost 4 years ago. The announcement that Disney bought the Avatar rights went by with a thud, especially in comparison to the Marvel and Star Wars purchases. There just isn't the teeming interest that there was for HP or what there is for Star Wars.
3. Lack of flexibility. James Cameron is a known control freak, and anything that has his name on it is going to be the way he wants it or it's not going to happen. Watch any of his movies with the commentary, and you instantly see what type of person he is. He took over 10 years to just create Avatar because he could never do it the way he wanted until the technology came about. The only Cameron franchise associate with the big-time theme park attraction is T2 at Universal. I'm not sure what involvement he had back nearly 20 years ago with that development, but you can bet it's going to be more today. What's going to happen when WDI is not able to satisfy his vision for this theme park world? How much control will Cameron really have on this project? If he's in the trenches and needed to sign off on every little detail (while he's filming sequels and producting other project), than this project could get seriously out of hand (over budget over time), and the group really responsible for connecting with the theme park audience (WDI) has less control than someone who's only experience with theme park entertainment is a show/attraction developed 2 decades ago.
4. The HP effect. I don't think there's any way you could argue that the purchase and development of Avatar is anything but a deliberate answer to what Universal has done with HP. Disney's thunder has been stolen, and they want it back, so they reached for the first thing they could find on the shelf while they negotiated with Lucas for the ultimate trump card to Harry Potter, Star Wars. Every metric, internal and external, for this project is going to measure it against WWoHP. It started the moment the purchase was announced, and will continue probably for a decade after the project is completed.
What do you think, TH? What makes you think this development will be so successful, and how would you define success?
From TH CreativeMore avatar news ...
Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:41 PM
From TH CreativeApologies to Mr. Meyer ... I had not realized that you are a "serious Sci-Fi and movie fan." In light of this revelation I defer to your unique level of expertise.
Posted October 22, 2013 at 1:29 PM
From Russell MeyerFlattery will got you nowhere TH...
Posted October 23, 2013 at 7:53 AM
Ultimately, you're the one who started this topic, yet you're the one criticizing everyone's responses. If you're going to lead people down a rabbit hole and decide to just shoot them on sight, than why start the thread in the first place? You do realize that people have divergent opinions right?
I don't really understand your obsession with the budget for this project, or why you can't allow others to have an opinion regarding the potential of this expansion that doesn't agree in lockstep with yours. I also don't understand why this project shouldn't be compared to others, and why you are unable to articulate the metrics for determining a project's success or at least state a valid retort to others' definitions of success.
From TH CreativeMr. Meyer writes: "Ultimately, you're the one who started this topic, yet you're the one criticizing everyone's responses."
Posted October 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM
I Respond: I certainly have posted comments that disagree or question some of your assertions ... but "everyone?"
Aside from you there have been nine other people who have offered perspectives regarding this thread's topic and I can't find where I've been critical of any of their opinions. Which would mean I am not the "one criticizing EVERYONE'S responses", right?
From Emily JonesReading through this thread there is a lot of hostility.
Posted October 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM
Avatar is all about love...I think...I'm not sure I took several naps during the film.
Anyway, I think the changing environment idea is quite intriguing and lucky for us we have half a decade to speculate on it!!
From Andy MilitoEmily said: "Avatar is all about love...I think...I'm not sure I took several naps during the film."
Posted October 23, 2013 at 6:22 PM
Ha ha, good one! I was feeling a little sleepy when I first watched it myself, the running time sure did creep up on me.
From TH CreativeI got through the first 45 minutes before I turned it off. But I can say the same thing about 'The Avengers.'
Posted October 23, 2013 at 6:30 PM
From Andrew DoughertySaw Avatar in theaters (keep on mind I was in 5th grade, now a HS freshman) and alls I remember is some othe the banshee scenes, the ending and done helicopters blowing up some tree. Not a whole lot.
Posted October 23, 2013 at 7:18 PM
From Andy MilitoThese are all reasons why I'm concerned about Avatar Land. I think the movie simply wasn't memorable enough to warrant something like this. It was visually stunning, but that's it. I feel like, even with an overload of sequels coming up, Avatar isn't really relevant in popular culture anymore.
Posted October 24, 2013 at 2:23 PM
From TH CreativeMr. Milito writes: These are all reasons why I'm concerned about Avatar Land. I think the movie simply wasn't memorable enough to warrant something like this. It was visually stunning, but that's it.
Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:30 PM
I Respond: And if the combined forces of WDI and James Cameron produce an immersive, interactive and "visually stunning" themed entertainment experience, DAK's Pandora has the potential to become something extraordinary.
From Andy MilitoI don't see it becoming much more than a pretty addition to AK, that's all. Avatar doesn't have the same impact something like Harry Potter or Star Wars has gained in society.
Posted October 25, 2013 at 4:10 AM
From TH CreativeInteractivity, and state-of-the-art attractions will make Pandora so much more than "a pretty addition to AK." Longer hours and planned evening entertainment will add to the expansion's "impact."
Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:42 AM
From Jay R.^^^^
Posted October 25, 2013 at 10:58 AM
I agree with TH.
Avatar as a franchise, may not have the fanfare or be beloved like Star Wars or potter......but I'd argue that it doesn't NEED that to necessarily be an fantastic land.
If you have great attractions in an immersive land, no matter what the franchise, people will enjoy it.
There's a lot of focus on "Avatar the film" & it's place in pop culture, but I think that won't matter if the experience / attractions / land blows people away.
You can despise the film & have a great time in the land if it's done correctly.
And looking at the individuals involved (Cameron & WDI), I'd say the chances are pretty good that Avatarland will be impressive.
From TH CreativeWow ... Russell ... or as he would describe his opinion "everyone" ... sure got quiet all of a sudden.
Posted October 25, 2013 at 6:41 PM
From James TrexenAvatar looks to be a success on all but one count: merchandising. I just don't see the kind of successful toy brand or unique food/beverage appeal. Then again, Beauty and the Beast didn't have that either, and it seems to be doing fine. Overall, a bit of a gamble, but a very good one at that.
Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:14 PM
From TH CreativeCrickets: Chirp, chirp ... Chirp, chirp.
Posted October 26, 2013 at 4:46 PM
From Frank PrshaWhich park is better during the Christmas season, Magic Kingdom or Disneyland?
Posted October 27, 2013 at 6:44 PM
From Russell MeyerTH, I asked you a bunch of direct questions that you have yet to answer, so in reality the crickets are coming from you....I guess you really don't have anything to say about this project other than it's going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm not sure what else you want me to say other than to attempt other than to spar with your no existant responses.
Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:33 AM
I again ask, what are your metrics for success of this project, and why in the world does it matter precisely how much Disney is spending on it or that others have cited published numbers on the projected cost of Pandora?
From TH CreativeOkay, let's start with the affirmation that your claim that I'm "the one criticizing everyone's responses" was wrong. On that we can agree, right?
Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:38 PM
Next, Mr. Meyers writes (regarding my post): "I guess you really don't have anything to say about this project other than it's going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread."
I Respond: Sorry, but that would be a swing and a miss. I have said that the idea of creating Pandora has "potential." I wrote "And if the combined forces of WDI and James Cameron produce an immersive, interactive and "visually stunning" themed entertainment experience, DAK's Pandora has the potential to become something extraordinary."
Please note the use of the words "if" and "potential."
Whether or not an attraction is going to satisfy every fan of themed entertainment ... I have no idea. I can only speak for myself. But while the finished product may not meet the standard established by pre-divided baked goods, I'm sure that it will help WDW draw visitors to Central Florida.
And regardless of whether or not the final product makes everyone happy, I still believe that the scope of the project -- along with added night time entertainment and draws from the other theme parks -- will make this attraction a success.
Mr. Meyers demands: "I again ask, what are your metrics for success of this project ..."
I Respond: As I posted earlier in this thread, I believe that "They're (Disney is) banking on this attraction and this park working in concert with other attractions and parks and restaurants and shops and resorts to draw millions of people to Central Florida. I'll bet the Pandora environment helps them achieve the objective ... in a VERY big way."
From David L.Quick note TH, when considering the measure of success, regarding bringing in millions and such, do you mean that it will be a success if it brings in a some (say 2) million EXTRA guests to Animal Kingdom with little or no affect on the other Florida Disney parks? I think most people are trying to figure out a more specific answer than "a VERY big way."
Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:59 PM
I personally think that the rides and environment will have a comparable effect to DCA's expansion in that while the total attendance of the expanded park rose greatly, the net was only somewhat larger because some guests spent more time at the expanded park sacrificing time at the other park(s). I also believe that the food and merchandise sales will not have as big of an impact as Harry Potter did due to a lack of pre-established food and merchandise possibilities that Harry Potter benefitted from.
I also love the expansion idea because I know Disney's potential in themed areas and well themed rides thrills me like no other theme park has done.
From TH CreativeYes.
Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:54 PM
From Russell MeyerI agree that other than Andy Milito, you have only directly retorted me. However, I have emphaized a number of points made by other posters on the thread that you directly retort as attributable to me.
Posted October 29, 2013 at 9:45 AM
As far as the "potential" of the project, you seem to reject any notion that this project will not be successful. Myself and others have provided numerous reasons why this project may not be as successful as Disney might expect, yet instead of retorting those ideas and opinions, you shifted the discussion to budgets and inconsequential details. Let's discuss those ideas and opinions instead of getting caught in the weeds.
I think as a business, Disney would need to have more specific metrics than the generalities that you are providing. A project the size of this has significant costs, which thus require significant revenues to offset. You would be hard-pressed to convince me that this project was green-lighted simply with the goal to "draw millions of people to Central Florida". Perhaps goals that general were identified when the IP was initially purchased, but now that detailed plans are being drafted and concrete ideas are being put into motion, the executives that approved the expansion had to weigh the costs with the benefits, which in turn would require the development of goals and objectives of the project. Disney would not only need have loose financial obvectives, but increased attendance objectives, and specific "soft" objectives that I have already articulated. Projects with 9-figure budgets don't get off the drawing board unless they're going to pay off, and you don't need to have an MBA to know that. Universal didn't spend all that money on Harry Potter to "draw millions of people to Central Florida", they did it to make money, which would be above and beyond what was spent, and create attractions with long-lasting appeal, measureable by reviews, ratings, lines, and continuous increased attendance. If you don't think Disney has those same or similar goals with Avatar, than you must not believe that the theme park industry is a business.
And eventually you will learn to spell my name properly. I'm not sure if you're doing it deliberately, or not, but it is consistant, despite being shown correctly on each one of my posts.
From TH CreativeMr. Meyer writes: “I agree that other than Andy Milito, you have only directly retorted me.
Posted October 29, 2013 at 4:00 PM
I Respond: Which would mean you were wrong to assert that I am “the one criticizing everyone's responses." And for the record your accusation came BEFORE I commented on Mr. Milito's post ... Swing and a miss.
I Respond: Um … “a number” … Care to provide some examples (you said “a number” so a plurality of examples would seem to be in order) of points made by other posters that I attributed to you?
Also (by applying your strict standards) here’s hoping you will eventually learn how to spell “emphasized.”
Mr. Meyer writes: “As far as the "potential" of the project, you seem to reject any notion that this project will not be successful."
I respond: No. If I had said something ridiculous like “the Avatar project is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread” then I’d be rejecting ANY possibility that it might fail.
Mr. Meyer writes: “Myself and others have provided numerous reasons why this project may not be as successful as Disney might expect, yet instead of retorting those ideas and opinions …”
I Respond: I’m sorry, but first you complain about me criticizing or (to use your new word) “retorting” “everyone’s responses” (well, your responses anyway) and now you’re concerned that I have NOT retorted some of the content on the thread? Um … okay.
Mr. Meyer writes: “I think as a business, Disney would need to have more specific metrics than the generalities that you are providing.”
I Respond: I imagine they do.
Mr. Meyer writes: “A project the size of this has significant costs, which thus require significant revenues to offset.”
I Respond: Of course.
Mr. Meyer writes: “You would be hard-pressed to convince me that this project was green-lighted simply with the goal to "draw millions of people to Central Florida".
I Respond: It’s never been my goal to convince you of anything. Sorry to disappoint.
Mr. Meyer writes: “Universal didn't spend all that money on Harry Potter to "draw millions of people to Central Florida", they did it to make money …”
I Respond: As a theme park operator in Orlando, I would suggest that Universal's ambitions related to making money were achieved by drawing “millions of people to Central Florida".
Mr. Meyer writes: “If you don't think Disney has those same or similar goals with Avatar, than you must not believe that the theme park industry is a business.”
I Respond: I do believe Disney has “those same or similar goals”. And I think the way they will achieve this objective is by drawing “millions of people to Central Florida". And I believe that Pandora -- working in concert with the Star Wars expansion, and new attractions a WDWMK and EPCOT and new resorts, and shopping and entertainment and interactive technology -- has the potential to accomplish that goal.
From Tim HillmanRussell, you've been on this site long enough to know that THC is loving this.
Posted October 29, 2013 at 12:42 PM
It is a no-win situation because any points you score in the argument will be studiously avoided like a cowpie, and then the argument will shift to more favorable territory. You are not going to get any acknowledgement of victory. Remember the epic arguments between THC and Kevin Baxter? Did you ever see Baxter win one?
....somewhere in Orlando THC is making the motion of an angler pulling in a big one and smiling gleefully...
From TH CreativeHillman NAILS it!
Posted October 29, 2013 at 1:04 PM
Sometimes debating on these threads is like wrestling with a pig: An hour into it you're both dirty and you suddenly realize the pig is enjoying it.
Mr. Hillman (did I spell that correctly) notes: "You are not going to get any acknowledgement of victory."
I Respond: I don't know how that would be possible for either of us. This entire discussion is an exercise in speculation ... by both parties.
And for the record: I am pretty sure Mr. Baxter kicked my butt on more than one occasion.
From Tim HillmanKevin won out when it came to discussions about movies, beyond that, you usually came out ahead. (Wonder whatever happened to Kevin?)
Posted October 29, 2013 at 3:28 PM
I like the analogy about "wrestling a pig." That's a keeper for future use.
From TH CreativeOink!
Posted October 29, 2013 at 3:29 PM
From Russell MeyerTH writes: What if a theme park attraction focuses on "environment" over "story?"
Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:01 AM
I respond: I think it's difficult to base an entire theme park land around asthetic. Ultimately there needs to be a narative and characters for people to relate too. I've already gone through some examples of where designers pushed environment over story with spectacular failure (Hard Rock Park most notably). It's one thing to be immersed in an environment, but a guest is willing to come back over and over again because they relate to the story or characters from the story being told. Even when people go on vacation (unless it's simply to relax and getaway, which is the exact oposite mindset of the typical theme park visitor), they visit historical sites or natural wonders that have a story behind them. The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder, but has an amazing history and the ever-present "why?" that permeates every visitor's mind when they look at it. A trip to the Great Wall of China brings a similar intrigue to the tourist as they wonder what stories brought about the amazing structure. What are guests going to do when they enter Pandora? They will wonder what the story is around the bioluminescent plants and creatures that are around them. While some many recall the movies and have a basis for what's going on, simply presenting the environment ultimately does not fully immerse the guest in the world.
However, if anyone can pull it off, it's probably WDI. Perhaps they're attempting to create a narative where the guest is the character, which would be very interesting, but also very challenging. I could conceive of a land that is simply a recreation of Pandora with guests taking the roles of the humans from the movie. The guest would write their own story in this world as they explore and investigate the interactive elements. The tough part will be engaging a large percentage of the park's guests into this concept. However, I don't think simply building a foreign world and asking people to appreciate it for its beauty and a few interactive elements is going to be the home run that Avatar or even theme park fans would expect. This expansion needs to go to the next level, or offer some type of experience truly unique, and far more than some touch screens and phosphorescent plants.
From Anthony MurphyI realizied I never really responded to this discussion so here is what I think:
Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:01 PM
I think Disney is building this for a couple of reasons: Bring the mythical element to Animal Kingdom that was supposed to be built, but then was scrapped (and now is the Lost Continent) and they are making it for the visuals.
While story is still imporant, it becomes less important with theme park attractions. Tron, Cars, and Avatar had ok stories, but the visual of the light cycle, Radiator Springs, and Pandora is what really sticks out in your mind. Look at Splash Mountain. Disney seems to be afraid to release Song of the South, but that attraction is one of the best that has come out in the last 30 years.
I find the Pocahontas irony interesting, but I think that is a nod to older Native American/Colonial movies as well.
From Jay R.^^^^^
Posted October 30, 2013 at 6:37 PM
I've been saying the same thing for awhile. I think the original source material can always be improved upon when creating it's theme park equivalent.
The quality of the films these lands & attractions are based on, isn't as important as the environment & attractions that will be placed there.
The visual world of Pandora & the special effects of Avatar were actually the things (at least here on TPI, lol) people enjoyed, so as long as the land is visually exciting & some state of the art attractions, I think Avatarland will go over well with visitors.
From J. DanaAvatar Land will be a spectacularly-designed dud.....people don't have a heart-felt fondness for the film. It was and is disposable. Theming an Animal Kingdom land around the film had me and my friends scratching our heads....until we all realized that what Disney really wanted was to get into bed with James Cameron... Avatar made 2.7 billion buckaroos....what can he make for Disney Studios???
Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:06 PM
That being said, I'm sure that people will initially flock to this land, but because it's Disney, not because it's Avatar....after that, the love affair will soon die. Harry Potter is loved! Mator and Lightning McQueen are loved. Star Wars is loved....Avatar is....pretty.
In my never-humble opinion, this is one of Disney's biggest blunders in quite some time.
From Jack HammondJ Dana,
Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:39 PM
My viewpoint is the complete opposite and I think your logic is flawed. For the record, I am not an Avatar fan, but have you seen the concept art for the land? It is spectacular. If Disney can pull that off it will be a beautiful land. Who cares about the movie, when the land is great. Song of the South is not loved, but Splash Mountain is. And honestly, Cars isn't the most popular disney movie, but the land is loved.
You are putting too much emphasis on the source material. While Harry Potter is loved, non harry potter fans still like it because of the great attractions and the detail of the land. If Avatar is a spectacular land, people will go to it because of the LAND not the MOVIE! I hate transformers, love the ride.
If Disney does amazing things, floating mountains, light up plants, and great attractions, would you really not go? Would you turn down an extraordinary land because you don't like the movie?
From Jay R.^^^^ I agree Jack.
Posted November 13, 2013 at 3:22 PM
In addition to Song of the South / Splash Mountain, there's Dinosaur (the film isn't considered a beloved Disney classic)
And my go to favorite in this debate, lol.
Transformers, film franchise gets terrible reviews, the attraction, rave reviews.
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