Tuesday, January 13, 2015

World News Op-Ed: The End of an Era

A couple of weeks ago the walls came down revealing the new lobby at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. And it appears my fears have been realized. What was once a brilliant piece of Walt Disney’s legacy, and nothing short of a “wow” moment for those who saw it, is now…well…just a lobby.

the former lobby at the Polynesian
The Polynesian earned a special place in the hearts of Disney World travelers from it’s opening in 1971. And it was not just the location on the monorail loop people loved. From the beginning of Walt Disney World, the Polynesian set the standard for all the future resorts on property. Designers successfully captured the feel of a far off place, and we loved it! As you left the parking lot behind, the Polynesian transported you to the South Pacific. It was a tropical oasis and most of the story was told by the lobby. Your first view of that awe-inspiring and lush rainforest, with amazing colors and the sound of babbling waters, was a sight most of us just couldn’t wait to see again. For me, the sights, sounds and smells of the Poly’s one-of-a-kind lobby were some of the things I dreamed about on those freezing New Jersey winter evenings, pining away for my next visit to the Vacation Kingdom.

And now that’s all gone, replaced by something much more mundane and far less special. Gone are the beautiful orchids, spectacular greens and fantastic waterfalls. When the midday light shone in upon this scene people just couldn’t get enough, or at least I couldn’t. My only regret is that I couldn’t afford a SLR camera back then and was never able to really capture it in all its glory.

the new lobby
Sure it’s more functional and open, and I am certain a heck of a lot cheaper to maintain. And if taken without the resort’s history in mind, I suppose it is even pretty nice. But you simply can not forget history, ever, especially in a company with such a rich and important history as Disney. This is a serious downgrade, there is no other way to put it. What was once an amazing escape into the gorgeous world of the South Pacific is now nothing more than a nice lobby, and not nearly befitting of the resort’s price tag. In year’s past, I would make it a point to trek over to the Polynesian just to have a drink and soak in the ambience. It appears those days are sadly over.

Folks will continue to flock to the Polynesian, and pay through the nose for it. It’s location is enough to guarantee that. And Disney will save a ton, and therefore make a ton, with this new lobby instead of the costly old one. But is that really what Walt Disney was all about? Did he ever opt for the cheaper model? In a word, no.

There are even more changes underway at the Polynesian including changes to the pool, dining and the addition of new bungalows. It may very well be that after all of these projects are completed the Poly will be a better place then it was before. But it certainly won’t blow you away upon your first view like it once did. That’s the standard Walt wanted for this signature resort, and that has been replaced with “low-maintenance” and “functional”, two words hardly ever associated with ideas of Mr. Disney.

by Dave McBride (@RadioHarambe)

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