Monday, October 21, 2013

Sleepless in Harambe

After a week of major announcements and cleverly shot promotional videos, there is one thing we can be sure of, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is on the verge of a major overhaul.  The park we love will be a very different place 3-5 years from now.  And to be honest, despite all of the excitement, I am starting to get a little nervous.

If I were writing this post ten years ago, I would have likely taken the exact opposite approach.  But that was before things like Starbucks, the updates to Test Track and Spaceship Earth, and well before New Fantasyland.  These days, my confidence in Imagineering is beginning to fade as their recent record with overhauls is not perfect, and I am far from certain the “new” Animal Kingdom we are getting will be a better place than the one we have now.

The plans for what is to come look good, very good.  Those who read this blog or listen to our podcast know that I am not one of the Avatar haters and the plans we got to see this weekend for Pandora look exciting.  Additionally, the ideas for a nighttime water parade, additional entertainment, and safari can only get the DAK fans smiling.  But plans are plans, and reality is reality.  In 2007 I would have agreed that Spaceship Earth was in need of an update, but what we got was far worse than a “plus” we were promised.  And that’s just to name one.  I am not saying all of WDI’s recent “plussing” projects have been failures.  But they certainly have not all been successes.

And that brings us to the cause of my sleepless nights.  Imagine, if you will, the next Avatar films bomb, and we are left with not only a land, an e-ticket and a dark-ride, but also an afternoon parade and nighttime spectacular replete with giant blue people who no one cares about anymore.  And even worse, picture if you will a large Starbucks smack dab in the middle of Harambe!  Some of us thought the Main Street Bakery was sacred.  Well if that wasn’t, you can be darn sure nothing at the Animal Kingdom is.

I will admit, we don’t know what exactly will happen.  As far as we can tell, the new “Rivers of Light” show will not be Avatar related.  We are hearing rumors Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade is leaving, and we have no reason to criticize what, if anything, will replace it.  And maybe it is just the lack of details in these announcements that is making my palms sweat.  But whenever I hear of “plussing” my memory always goes back to Future World.  After years of “plussing” that area we were left with a shell of what was once a great place.  And I can’t sleep at night thinking the same thing could happen at the Animal Kingdom.  (Yea, my palms are sweating again...)

The good news is, Joe Rohde’s twitter account tells us the creative leader, the man in whose hands we place our faith, has returned from Mongolia.  And from the video, we can assume he is returning to the helm of the ship he has steered so well.  Avatar is a concept that can easily fail, and it seems many in the Disney fan community are hoping it will.  But this is about much more than just Avatar.  Rohde’s fingerprints need to be on these other additions as well.  The spirit within the man who spent weeks in Mongolia helping to raise awareness for the conservation of the Snow Leopard is the spirit we need at the forefront of the non-Avatar projects.  And not the spirit of whoever it was who felt the Viking Museum at Norway should be replaced by a Frozen promotional area.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

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