the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Today - just to stir things up - I'd like to argue that Disney ought to think about retiring one of its non-movie-themed attractions.Yesterday, I wrote that now is the perfect time for Disney's theme parks to invest more in one of their original IP franchises - specifically,
So which attraction ought to get the axe?
Let's back up and consider the criteria for a great theme park attraction. All this started when Disney decided to retheme Splash Mountain, which was based on a franchise that the company could no longer promote. As a self-styled lifestyle brand, Disney wants its theme parks to feature franchises that can deliver across multiple platforms. But not every attraction has to feature motion picture IP. An original IP attraction can work for Disney if it connects with some other shared experience in guests' lives — especially a shared experience with which Disney wants to be associated.
Throughout Disney's history, one of those shared experiences has been American patriotism. There's a flag retreat ceremony daily in Town Square. The grand finale of Disney's most famous theme park parade was entitled "To Honor America." The company's first human Audio Animatronic was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. And when the Walt Disney World Resort opened, Disney supersized that attraction as Hall of Presidents.
While the current installation of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland and The American Adventure show in Epcot's World Showcase prove that Disney can produce shows that appeal to American's shared patriotism while still acknowledging difficulties in the nation's history, the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents has had a rougher go with park guests in recent years. The trouble started when Disney chose in the 1990s to add a speech from the current president to the show. Before, only the animatronic Lincoln spoke to the audience.
If Disney had hoped that the addition would make the show more relevant and appealing to repeat WDW visitors, the change instead injected partisanship into what had been a relatively noncontroversial presentation. The acknowledgement of recent presidents often had elicited reactions from the crowd, as guests cheered and jeered based on party. But those moments passed swiftly. Now, with the additional speech, that discomfort can linger.
Remember, one of the criterion for a successful attraction is its ability to create a shared experience with which Disney wants to be associated. But now Disney has tethered Hall of Presidents to the approval rating of whoever reside in the White House. That's not ideal for the company.
The easiest change Disney could make here would be to ditch the current president's speech after President Trump leaves office. With two Republicans and two Democrats having had the new spotlight, Disney could fairly call it even and retire the feature. Then maybe Hall of Presidents could return to being a more patriotic, and less partisan, show.
But even then, Hall of Presidents suffers in comparison with the far superior The American Adventure show over at Epcot. Could there be a better use for this space in Liberty Square? What if Disney had a wildly popular franchise, set in the time of the American Revolution, that the company could instead slot into this prime theme park real estate?
(I can sense that some of you now see where I am going with this.... Buckle up.)
We're coming up on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and even though millions of Americans will be stuck at home during this pandemic, The Walt Disney Company is still poised to own the holiday, with the premiere of a new blockbuster on Disney+ tomorrow. It's a perfect franchise for the holiday, and the perfect franchise for that big theater in the heart of Liberty Square.
Forget the Hall of Presidents. America loves a founding father who never got elected to that office — one Mr. Alexander Hamilton.
Would Disney ever drop the HOP in favor of a "Hamilton"-themed attraction at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom? Could an abridged live version of the show work, logistically and creatively? If so, could even Disney afford those performance rights? Or should Disney just go nuts and throw a truckload of money at Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring an animatronic "inspired by the Broadway show" Hamilton-themed production to the space?
Who knows? But I cannot imagine that Disney wouldn't put through way more people with any type of "Hamilton"-themed attraction in Liberty Square than they've been getting with HOP. Some old-school theme park fans might hate the idea of losing HOP, but I'd bet that the public at large would embrace a change.Tweet
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