Disney Imagineering faces tough challenges under shrinking budgets

Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2002 3:47 AM | Contributed by supermandl

For 50 years, Disney's Imagineers have put the tech magic in the Magic Kingdom. Now economic pressures are bringing the grand ambitions back down to earth, where it's a smaller world after all.

Read the feature from Wired.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002 4:29 AM

Those MousePlanet guys are always complaining about something.

I have a mixed take on things after visiting three of the Disney parks last week in Orlando (leaving out Epcot). Animal Kingdom is a neat park, but I've seen animal attractions before. On one hand, I think the Dinosaur ride is a huge standout, but I didn't even know it was there! It wasn't even on the radar, yet we were blown away by it. On the flip side, you have Primeval Whirl, which is fun for enthusiasts, but just stinks of mediocrity for a Disney park.

I'm not ready to give up on Disney, but unless they do something that will blow me away, my next visit to Orlando will probably be 90% on the Universal property.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
"Climbing as we fall, we dare to hold on to our fate, and steal away our destiny to catch ourselves with quiet grace" - The Stairs, INXS

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 5:25 AM
Ahhh Disney Imagineers,

The article really doesn't state how many projects they are working on so it's tough to say if they really need that many.

Personally I think if you have the right brain...and know how to use it you can make anything happen.

I also think the "Imagineer" title has gone down the drain. An Imagineer to me should be someone who can imagine something that has never been done or see and then build it using their skills.

Now they just hire someone who does electrical work here, some mechanical work their, etc. And put them in one roof and call them imagineers...note it doesn't quite work like that, but pretty darn close, from what I've seen and been through. From what I have seen, I don't like their program.

I too was much more impressed with Universal and what they have done. Yes, Disney has done a lot but they need to do something different to keep up or not get passed.

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"The Future of Roller Coasters"
-RollerCoasterGod
Haunted Ohio Parks...you've been warned!!


*** This post was edited by RollerCoasterGod on 11/26/2002. ***

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 7:20 AM

I agree and disagree with the statements above. Yes, Disney has lost a lot of it's magic and Universal has come up with some spectacular rides and attractions in their parks. However, I believe that Disney is still #1 in the design of attractions department, when done CORRECTLY. Rides like ToT and even RnR are truly amazing, and rides like Dinosaur, Indiana Jones at DL, Splash Mountain, etc. are the cornerstone of the Disney brand. When Disney does something all out, it's still breathtaking, as evidenced by the Haunted Mansion Holiday at DL. Truly amazing. That's Disney magic at it's best, and it shows. However, when Disney does it wrong, as evidenced by most of DCA and rides like Primeval Whirl, it REALLY shows too.

Universal is amazing in their ride creation, and they are now on par with what Disney can do. Disney needs to get back to the way that Walt used to design attractions, using mostly story to drive the ride along. When you have a great story to a ride, then things like special effects can be added to completely enhance the experience. Universal learned this and they are profitting from it. Disney has forgotten this recently and their bottom line is showing it. If Disney gets back to story, however, there is nothing they can't do. Guests are hungry for Disney magic, I know I am.

Justin

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 9:14 AM

Random tidbit: Indy at DL and Dinosaur have the exact same layout and ride vehicles. The only thing different is theming. Still impressed Justin? ;)

I'm usually one of the first to stand up for Disney's parks, but lately I just can't. Cut back hours, limited operating times, cheesy attractions (Primevil Whirl, Jouney into Imagination with Figment), less than favorable appearence of the parks all add up in my book.

I never thought I'd say it, but my next trip to Orlando will be to Universal also. I'm going to give Disney a few years to "regroup." Now that Pre$$ler is gone things may change.

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- John
I got a B&M T-shirt!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 9:34 AM

I was extremely blown away by Islands of Adventure last March when I visited during Spring Break. It was the last park I visited after all four Disney parks. I suddenly had this bad stomach ache wishing I could have spent more days at Universal. The water rides alone were some best and most fun experiences I ever had on a ride.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 10:59 AM

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE IoA, it's one of my favorite places to go and the attractions there are incredible! (no pun intended ;)) It's just that for me, Disney is still #1 and will always be. Their attractions have the "magic", even some of their not-so-great rides. Universal has magic too, but not like Disney in my opinion. When done right. Only when Disney does it right do they have the edge over Universal. That's what I was getting at.

And MD, yes I did know that the rides shared the same system and layout. Thanks for reminding me though! ;) They are still awesome rides individually. I really can't wait for Mission Space to open, that sounds like Disney done right!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 11:14 AM

I am the biggest Disney fan you will find. However, I am not a "blind" fan. I have been to IOA twice and both times I walked through the park thinking, "what Imagineers left Disney to build this place?"

If Disney were to build a 12-35 year old park, I think it would look a lot like IOA. That said, I still think Disney delievers the entire package (ie service, cleanliness, efficiency) much better than Universal.

If Disney Imagineers were allowed to take off the gloves and do what they do best, it would knock the theme park industry into yesterday as is evidenced by TDS.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 12:31 PM

As I understand it, wahoo skipper, about 30 Imagineers left Disney from IOA. Apparently most of the "Lost Continent" section of IOA (Including Dueling Dragons) was intended to be built at Animal Kingdom in the still unrealized "Beastly Kingdom" section. Apparently you can find hidden Mickeys within the layout/track of DD, but that's just heresay, although I have reason to believe it may be a possibility.

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- John
I got a B&M T-shirt!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 3:06 PM

Although IOA is an awesome theme park nothing compares to Disney. Every aspect about Disney is incredible and it is a joy to visit year after year.

Also, MD I'm still impressed by Dinosaur, just because it has the same layout doesn't mean they are the same at all. The layout isn't even recognizable because they are 2 completely different themes.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 4:18 PM
I have never ridden Indy, but from what I've been told it is far superrior to Countdown to Extenction...er... Dinosaur. I love Dinosaur, so I don't think I can imagine what Indy is like!

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- John
I got a B&M T-shirt!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 4:52 PM
I think that in latter years Disney has been trying too much to compete with other parks, rather than just trying to be the unique attraction that it always has been. Most Disney parks have tried over the last 10 years or so put in "thrill" rides (California Screamin, R 'n R, Primevil Whirl, etc.) to draw more people to their parks, perhaps to compete with SF, Busch or Universal.

Unfortunately, most of these attractions seem a bit lackluster. If i just want to ride crazy coasters, I'll go to Six Flags or Cedar Fair. Take for example Alien Encounter in WDW Magic Kindom. That is one of the most intense and thrilling, yet incredibly fun rides I've ever been on, and the seats don't even move an inch! It's basically "Turn off the lights, and let the Imagineers work their magic." The charm of Disney has always been amazingly themed ride experiences that are fun for kids and for adults alike. There are rides at Disney that i might have thought were thrilling when i was a kid (i.e. Thunder Mt., Pirates of the Caribbean), that i enjoy even more now because i can appreciate the intricacy that went into every detail of the experience. Well, and of course they make me feel like a kid again. =)

Disney Imagineers have elevated the amusement park attraction from a cheap thrill to an art form. Anything the park does to limit their creativity is harmful to the company in my opinion.

So, there's my 2 cents, although it turned out more like 10. =)

~me

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002 5:58 PM

MD: I've never ridden Indy either I was thinking you were comparing it to Dinosaur because you had been on it.

Sorry, I should have asked you before I said something.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2002 4:17 AM
I was impressed with the technology of Dinosaur but I didn't get into the story. I loved Spiderman but only thought about the technology AFTER I rode it because I was immersed in the ride.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002 5:30 AM

That's where you know a ride is good... when you aren't thinking about the tech. Granted, after several rides now, I do look around on Spiderman and try to figure stuff out, but the first time I rode it I was blown away.

Dinosaur was cool because of the meteor showers, the blasts of air that made it feel faster and the overall great lighting.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
"Climbing as we fall, we dare to hold on to our fate, and steal away our destiny to catch ourselves with quiet grace" - The Stairs, INXS

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Wednesday, November 27, 2002 7:02 AM

I can't help but think about the technology of any ride that I ride. For me, that makes it a better ride (of course, I'm weird like that). I usually end up riding a ride after I learn about the tech. of it, that's just how things seem to happen. For me thinking about how the ride was done doesn't make the ride more exciting, but more interesting.

When I'm in Florida, I'm not looking for thrill rides, I can do that down the road at CP. When I'm in Florida I'm looking for entertaining rides. The high tech monsters entertain me.

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Thursday, November 28, 2002 12:13 PM

Personnally... I'm not too impressed by Universal. Hulk is a great start... then for me falls flat on his face: the worst parts are the Arrow/Vekoma "regular" corkcrews instead of the genius snappy B&M usually has. Spotty operations (last sunday: 2 trains running on Hulk with a 45 minutes wait, 1 train running on each Dragon for a whopping 45-60 minutes line, with one dispatch every 4 minutes if we're lucky!!). Spiderman well... spins too much in my taste and the forced perspective the vehicle has (note that you can you can't look around you, unlike the EMV at the Disney parks). The spinning detracts from the experience. On the other hand, IoA has brilliant water rides. Cat in the Hat goes down with Journey into Imagination with Figment in my abyss of horrible dark rides....

If Universal could fix up their operations and hire ride ops worthy of working there.... there is hope. As of now, Universal joins Sea World in my list of "Trying to be Disney, but not quite close".

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Thursday, November 28, 2002 2:59 PM

From what I have seen first hand with IOA's ride opps, all of the good ones either quit or get fired for little things. They don't like to keep opps for any longer than a few years. I was a ride opp at IOA and I can honestly say that they will hire just about anybody to work there. Getting a promotion is just darned near impossible though.

Let me add that I think a lot of IOA's ride opps are good. The park really doesn't give a crap about them though. It seems to me that a lot of the lackluster opps get the praise and promotions.

I dissagree about Spiderman spinning too much. It doesn't spin when you are viewing the show scenes. I have no idea what you are talking about.

On topic, I think Universal Creative does a better job. Just look at what they do for HHN. I think they might get a larger budget due to less parks, and that helps them to be more creative.

Please note that this is all just my opinion.

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Please God, help me to spell words correctly, so that I don't get insulted by people who are perfect and wiser than myself. Amen

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Thursday, November 28, 2002 5:11 PM
The spinning thing i'm talking about is whanever you go from one scene to the other, you just... spin. Spin like I was riding a Tea Cups spinning ride...
I got nothing against the spinning, but, are you forced to do it during all the attraction??
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Thursday, November 28, 2002 5:54 PM
When Attendance is down 11% its hard to have a budget for Imagineering
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