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Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

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  • [Chat] Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

    Preface: When I refer to Disney in the following I am referring to the Disney company but specifically to their theme park operations.

    I am submitting this topic because so often here I read complaints or negative views towards some aspects of what Disney does (or doesn't do) and when people express those views they often refer back to when Walt was in charge and how he would have done things differently. While I can certainly agree with such statements, Walt was a visionary of which I don't think we shall ever see the likes of again, I don't believe such sentiments have much bearing on the world we live in today.

    Like it or not, Disney is a corporation. They rely on revenue to stay in business. Their success is predicated on increasing revenue and/or keeping expenditures low. They operate on an annual budget. People always mention the "bean counters" and "pencil pushers" that run Disney, or at least seem to have the loudest voice within the company. What exactly do you expect? If anyone ran a business with no eye towards making a profit you couldn't expect to be in business very long.

    Walt Disney existed in a very different time. If you read any of his life story or early Disney history it is very lucky that we have Disney as it exists today. Many, many times Disney was on the verge of bankruptcy due to Walt himself. If not for his brother Roy keeping an eye on the finances there might not have been a Disney as we know it.

    It is my belief that Disney does an admirable job in keeping the kind of quality that one might have reason to expect in the current times. In addition, I believe that even with the overall size of their enterprise they do a lot to keep things as fresh and new as possible and that they are still innovators within their field when it comes to theme parks and vacation experiences.

    Everyone has a right to complain or voice their opinion on certain matters. I'm just offering up this topic as a means of conversation. Everyone is going to have a slightly different view.

  • #2
    Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

    I'll agree with that. None of us expect Disney to run like when Walt was around, or to even ask what Walt would have thought.

    But what I do think we should think about is quality. Disney has become so large that quality has suffered dramatically. If the company actually spilt things up between the business operations, I think you'd see the quality in the parks go up dramatically. The problem is that Disney (the company) still has underperforming units that the parks have to support. That money is diverted from the park operations to help the other areas of the company, while the park budgets get slashed. And quality and maintenance suffers because of it. Kind of a messed up way to run things, don't ya think?
    -Bill

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    • #3
      Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

      nostalgia absolutely clouds our vision of present-day Disney. Go on the DL board and read how outraged people are about a cute and well-themed addition, Princess Fantasy Faire. There's no need for that sort of reaction--people just get defensive when the memories they have of Disneyland is threatened. Does anyone who hasn't been to DL before really miss swing dancing in the Pavilion PFF replaced? No. The only reason there's such a fuss over it is the fact that people have nostalgia for it, but this reasoning is masked by outrageous claims that it's out of theme and misplaced.

      This isn't just with Disney...every place is like this. I know that I'll never enjoy Universal Studios as much without Kongfrontation, even though the Mummy is a great ride. The Simpsons ride gave birth to a great new themed area (the Springfield expansion opening soon), but I still prefer BttF. All of the changes theme parks and other places make are usually for the better, but nostalgia will always win in people's minds.

      Let's look at the latest additions to Disney...which have been positively-received? Splash Mountain, Indy, Toy Story Midway Mania, Everest, Carsland. Now what hasn't been so favorable? The Princess Fantasy Faire, Test Track, Mission: Space. Each addition is a fun, solid attraction, but the difference is that the first group of rides took up unused land while the latter group replaced already-established attractions. Even though all are great additions. While a lot of people who have been to Epcot since its inception grumble about Test Track, new visitors love it. That missing variable between those who approve of certain attractions and dont of others is simply nostalgia.

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      • #4
        Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

        People are sad to see the company go from "Bluesky Dream Anything" to risk averse.

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        • #5
          Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

          Ive been to WDW every decade since it opened, and I don't understand why people beef about such small things, when the resort offers so much. It has evolved with the times. My last vist was in Feb., and I had planned on a day trip to both Universal and SeaWorld, but I was enjoying WDW resort so much, I never made it out of the resort area, and I was there for 17 days. Did I miss attractions from the past? Maybe....lol....when you pass something that isn't there anymore, you think about it. I missed the Skyway, the subs, Snow White, and other former offerings. Its called memories, and I cherish all my past Disney memories, as I will from the visits in the future. Is there things that need attention? Sure....but I love and accept what WDW has to offer now, and deeply appreciate all the hard work of the Cast Members. Of course, if members here "dispise" and " hate" WDW now, theres always LEGOLAND....lol

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          • #6
            Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

            ORDDU: My sisters and I look at all this a bit differently. Instead of seeing that nostalgia 'clouds our vision' of what we have a right to expect from the Disney Company, we see nostalgia as something to never forget because--once fans DO forget how much better things used to be--it's all too easy to give current management a free pass to lower standards and that is something that should never be acceptable.

            ORWEN: Just because Uncle Walt is dead and gone is no excuse for those who are still alive and know what quality could and SHOULD be like, to just roll over and pretend they don't see the glaring faults that need to be corrected.

            ORDDU: Of course it's a tricky tightrope to walk because when you try to uphold the same standards that Walt created, you risk being called a 'whiner' or a 'chronic complainer'--particularly by the younger crowds who weren't around to see what the glory days were really like at Disney.

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            • #7
              Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

              It's called Walt's Legacy. To say it's dead makes continuing to support the parks pointless.

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              • #8
                Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                Originally posted by CaliforniaAdventurer View Post
                People are sad to see the company go from "Bluesky Dream Anything" to risk averse.
                I don't view Disney as being risk averse. If that were the case you wouldn't see much change at all and yet the past few years have seen an explosion in growth and change.

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                • #9
                  Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                  We haven't seen fervent pro growth strategies since Eisner, now it's all about buying up other 'media properties' like Lucas and Marvel.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                    Originally posted by CaliforniaAdventurer View Post
                    We haven't seen fervent pro growth strategies since Eisner, now it's all about buying up other 'media properties' like Lucas and Marvel.
                    I was referring to growth and change in the theme parks and resorts. Not really so much the Disney company as a whole. I do see your point about just acquiring other entertainment properties instead of coming up with something on their own.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                      Originally posted by TylerDurden View Post
                      nostalgia absolutely clouds our vision of present-day While a lot of people who have been to Epcot since its inception grumble about Test Track, new visitors love it. That missing variable between those who approve of certain attractions and dont of others is simply nostalgia.
                      I suppose the recent refurbishments for the Mexico boat ride and the Journey Into Imagination attractions are also considered to be "solid" attractions in your opinion?

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                      • #12
                        Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                        Nostalgia can cloud our judgements for sure. I suspect Adventure Thru Inner Space might not as fantastic an attraction as I fondly remember, as an example.

                        None of us can say for certain what the Disney theme parks would look like today if Walt were still (hypothetically) running the show. What we can evaluate is to what degree the company has diverged from Walt's core philosophies.

                        Walt designed Disneyland to be something families can enjoy together. He wanted it to be a good value. He did things that were original. Upkeep was extremely important.

                        Has upkeep declined? Are original attractions extinct in favour of nothing but movie tie-ins? Are too many rides thrill based? These are legitimate questions.

                        I don't want to live in the past, but look at Epcot for example. Do the thrills of Test Track mesh with the original concept of Epcot? Is the closure of an entire pavillion acceptable? Why aren't the films updated? Canada was the last, surely the rest are due.
                        My Micechat cruise trip report, Part 1:http://micechat.com/14795-disney-wonder/

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                        • #13
                          Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                          I would like to add that Disney is trying to cater to an entirely different audience today than Walt could have ever imagined. When Walt was around he created what he wanted and the public enjoyed it (for the most part anyway). Today Disney has to compete with so many different avenues of entertainment they have to find ways to capture the attention of people in new and different ways. Think interactive queues and Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom for example. All an attempt to capture the market that may prefer video games and the internet to real life experiences. Obviously these things can conflict with a vintage attraction in ways that Disney fanatics (of which I am admittedly one) may not agree with.

                          In regards to upkeep and quality issues, Disney, like any company, has a limited budget set aside for such issues. I work in an industry that is similar in many ways to what Disney does and I understand that there is only so much to be spent each year on maintenance projects and employee training. Sometimes it can be a struggle to keep up especially when the infrastructure is as old as some of what Disney has to deal with.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                            Originally posted by DisneySam View Post
                            In regards to upkeep and quality issues, Disney, like any company, has a limited budget set aside for such issues. I work in an industry that is similar in many ways to what Disney does and I understand that there is only so much to be spent each year on maintenance projects and employee training. Sometimes it can be a struggle to keep up especially when the infrastructure is as old as some of what Disney has to deal with.
                            Well, imagine another unit of your company cutting the maint. budget even farther because their side of the company didn't do well this quarter. That's how bad it has gotten. This is why some of us are upset.
                            -Bill

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                            • #15
                              Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                              Also, there's not necessarily a lack of quality anymore, just a different expectation. Imagine if World of Motion, Dreamflight, Mission to Mars, or 10,000 Leagues premiered tomorrow--no one would be very thrilled--the rides everyone misses so much aren't up to the standards of today. Every addition people gripe about because they replaced 'classics' are very impressive to newer visitors (who have original "quality" attractions to compare them to).

                              I liked my sneakers from when I was five, that doesn't mean I should wear them now. There comes a time when things just have to go and we move on.

                              And even more important to note I think is the fact that the classic attractions that are still there (Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, etc) are often empty, even though there would be outrage if they were removed. And the classics that were removed were done so because of low attendance.

                              Its not about quality, it's about the new standards of theme parks. And nostalgia can really damper the effect of a new ride even if its great, and draws more people than its replacement.

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                              • #16
                                Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                                Originally posted by Bill View Post
                                Well, imagine another unit of your company cutting the maint. budget even farther because their side of the company didn't do well this quarter. That's how bad it has gotten. This is why some of us are upset.
                                I don't have to imagine it, it happens. When the company as a whole is not producing the expected revenue budgets across the board usually have to present some savings the following year. It is the reality of the business.

                                I understand the frustration. Most people probably feel as though the theme park operations shouldn't have to suffer because the movie division produced too many duds. For a company that is as diverse as Disney when it comes to entertainment everything must be looked at as a whole.

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                                • #17
                                  Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                                  The central question ("Do we let nostalgia cloud...", aka "Is WDW actually better/worse today than in, say, the early 1990s?") being discussed has so many varied component pieces that it could hardly be covered in 10,000 words, much less a couple of paragraphs. And any attempt to give a brief overall answer frustrates because of the many "moving parts" to assess. It's akin to asking "Is America a better country today than it was 30 years ago? "I say 'yes/no' because...[insert three sentences]."


                                  Originally posted by DisneySam View Post
                                  Preface: When I refer to Disney in the following I am referring to the Disney company but specifically to their theme park operations.
                                  To take it further, if we look first specifically at WDW's theme park operations (versus WDW's design/creative piece, e.g. new rides replacing old ones), I, unfortunately, have seen a significant, fairly non-subjective decline at WDW - mostly in show/maintenance. This would be expected when one understands the changes/reductions to the maintenance department over the years, among other factors. The most simple example to use are the light-bulbs. In its day, the Company line was to boast (rightfully) about lightbulbs being checked and replaced nightly. Today (and for the past decade at least), anywhere you find popcorn lighting (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Main Street), you will find lots of individual burned out bulbs: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/162/34...4da37fde_b.jpg. A small thing, perhaps, but one of many symptoms of a reduced emphasis on show (via meeting performance goals). So, operationally, I am hard-pressed to think of things being better at WDW now than they were when show trumped efficiency (profitability).

                                  Merchandise/Retail is another operational area where I think there has been a drastic change for the worse, but won't get into the details on that.

                                  And regarding the need to meet performance goals of a for-profit business, I think Quality (premium offering) remains the best way to sustained financial success. WDW could decide to re-adhere to the Gold Standard of operations it once defined.

                                  ***
                                  So there is nostalgia for an Operational Standard and then there is nostalgia for a Creative Standard (e.g. WDI's new rides/lands). The second is much more subjective. I think in some places the Creative Standard of the past was superior to what's there today, not just in specific rides, but moreso in cohesiveness of theme, non-brandedness (new word) and sophistication of content (Future World being the main case). But there are also areas where I see a big improvement: my opinion is that the New Fantasyland exceeds the 20,000K, Skyway and Toontown Fair it replaced and certainly strengthens the theme and aesthetics of the land. So, I don't think nostalgia for the past is clouding my vision.

                                  Another example at Big Thunder: The former "shaking rock cavern" of old was much, much better than the current "still rock cavern". At the same time, I think the new queue is a great improvement.

                                  Again, nostalgia hasn't that much to do with it (for me); more one's judgment of Quality, piece by piece by piece.

                                  ***
                                  Last edited by RandySavage; 04-02-2013, 02:42 PM.

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                                  • #18
                                    Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                                    Once again, it's Randy for the win!

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                                    • #19
                                      Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                                      Originally posted by RandySavage View Post
                                      The central question ("Do we let nostalgia cloud...", aka "Is WDW actually better/worse today than in, say, the early 1990s?")
                                      That really wasn't the question but your interpretation. For me it's not a matter of whether WDW or Disney in general is better or worse than the 90's, 80's or even the 70's (when I first experienced it), it's whether or not people actually take in to account the complexities of business operations today versus when Walt Disney ran the company when they make negative comments.

                                      Obviously the interpretation of the question is going to be up to each individual that reads the post but I just want to clarify that this is not at all what I meant.

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                                      • #20
                                        Re: Do We Let Nostalgia Cloud Our Vision of Present Day Disney?

                                        You wake up each new day, and open Disneyland.

                                        If you stick to sweeping floors and replacing bulbs and other maintenance issues, the way they were performed yesterday and the day before, then you don't need to account for complexities of business operations today.

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