Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Small World Got Larger
Forgive the off-topic post, but I am a Disneyphile and this news makes me so, so sad. As some of you know, It's A Small World has been closed for a few months and is scheduled to remain closed until the Christmas season of 2008. The excuse given for the closure was a need to redo the flume. You might remember there was some suggestion that heavier riders were causing damage to the flume and it needed remodelling? That wasn't entirely true - in reality, the flume leaks like a sieve and, to patch it, an apoxy is added to the cracks and holes. Over the years, this layer of apoxy and sealers got pretty thick (almost 50 years of repairs will do that). The boats weren't riding low because of the weight of riders, the actual depth of the flume had been changed by years of layered "fix-it" materials. But, I digress... so... the claim was that the ride was being shut down to replace the flume.
It's come to the attention of Disneyphiles that this was not the only reason to close the ride.
Mary Blair became a Disney artist and stylist in the forties. She was one of a pioneering group of women hired by Walt Disney to bring feminity and color harmony to his movies. Saludos Amigos is a prime example of her talent. Later, she was moved to WED Enterprises and put in charge of designing a ride for the World's Fair, partnered with UNICEF, that would highlight the community of nations and, especially, the unifying concept of children making the world better through common ground. When you think about that...that's just not an easy task to take on. But, take it on she did. Blair used color harmony which, admittedly, looks dated to modern eyes, but...she also had/has a unique flare for design. Certain elements of IASW are signature Blair- the dancing tiki boys, the crocodile with the umbrella, the ceiling decorations of wonderful flowers and birds that most people don't ever look up to see, etc.,. In fact, the whimsical nature of the ride is a credit to her brilliance.
It has emerged that the remodel for IASW was capitalized by those in the Imagineering department. Three major decisions have been made:
1. The New Guinea Rain Forest scene is going to be completely scrapped. In it's place, the Imagineers have planned a America/Patriotic/RahRahUSA display.
2. After the remodel and the Christmas season, IASW will feature appearances from movie characters. Example: Finding Nemo in the mermaid's lagoon. Or, Belle and Beast in the Paris scene. Or, Mulan and Mooshoo in China. Jasmine and Aladin in Arabia.
3. Most, if not all, of the original dolls and color schemes will be replaced so that the addition of feature characters will not look out of place.
To say that I have problems with this decision is a gross understatement. In fact, it makes me a little sick to my stomach.
I'm a Disney purist. I've been a cast member at Disneyland. I've gone, as a guest, so many times that I have lost count. I love the rides that made Disneyland special in the beginning: the canoes, Tom Sawyer's Island, Country Bear Jamboree (which, by the way, I'm still not over them replacing that with Winnie the Pooh), America Sings (only slightly made better by putting the characters in Splash Mountain), Dumbo, Casey Jr. Trains...etc.,. It's classic Disney!! Small World has never been my favorite ride, but...it was the Velveeta of Disneyland. It was the cheese in the grilled cheese that you expected. If you replace the crappy cheese in a grilled cheese with something like Provo or Meunster, it's NOT the same!!! It may be new. It may taste better. But, the sandwich has been irrevocably altered. It's A Small World will not be the same when you take out Blair's designs and influence.
Taking out the Rainforest scene will result in the destruction of Blair's whimsy. And, probably more disturbing, it's a little eerie that they're destroying a rainforest in a ride that's supposed to encourage global community. Replacing it with a Rah-Rah-USA scene is completely jacked up. THE WHOLE POINT of It's a Small World is to encourage children to consider the cultures of the world. Yes. The United States is one of those cultures. But, the USA has always had a place in the showcase that left it on equal footing with every other culture displayed. EQUAL! Not better. Not more. Not less. EQUAL! What does it say to the spirit of global cooperation and childish hope when you hold a post-9/11, "America Rules!" mentality? There goes the whole point of the ride!!!
More disturbing...I have a problem with taking a ride that is about CHILDREN (or ugly child puppets) coming together in global cooperation and turning it into, yet another, marketing scheme! With the exception of a plushy Nemo being stashed secretively in the Christmas finery, this is unprecedented. Highlighting movie characters devoids the ride of it's purpose and innocent message. When did global marketing and branding become a central theme for It's a Small World? What are they thinking? It's not like Disney is struggling for cash revenue and needs a global booster shot of Jasmine belly dancing alongside the harem girls. And, dear Vishnu...how awkward is THAT going to look? 1960's dolls in Blair-inspired outfits and colors next to a voluptuous, 1990's Madonna inspired persian princess? HOW does that work? It doesn't! Joyce Carlson (the doll maker) is flipping in her grave! Enough with the marketing!
When I was a kid, I had a little record and book set (Read-a-Long) about It's a Small World. In the story, a little orphan named Timmy is at Disneyland with the orphanage and finds himself on the ride wondering where, in this world, he belongs. The message, by the end of the story, was that he was a child of the world and belonged anywhere and everywhere he ever wanted to go. Apparently, the story will have to be re-written for Timmy. As, he'll be allowed to go everywhere and anywhere, but he'd better remember that he's an American child and America RULEZ for pity's sake!!!! And, Timmy better pony up some cash on the way out of the park because if he really wants to know Paris, he'd better pick up Hunchback and Beauty and the Beast on the way out.
Ugh. So disgusted.
Posted by Atheist in a mini van. at 3:06 PM