Saturday, March 19, 2011

WALT DISNEY WORLD'S McMANSIONLAND PLAYGROUND: Why True Disney Ghosts Wouldn't (And Shouldn't) Be Caught Dead There

"We'll take care of the outside [of The Haunted Mansion],
and THE GHOSTS will take care of THE INSIDE."

- Walt Disney (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt)

ALTHOUGH I AM PROBABLY IN THE MINORITY, I loathe the addition of what I call the "McMansionland Playground" to the exterior of Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion. Not only does it kill the ambiance and mystique of what once could be considered a work of amusement, entertainment and storytelling art, it is a slap of disregard and disrespect in the faces of the attraction's original creators and their passionate, ingenious leader, Walt Disney himself.

Walt never wanted the exteriors of his haunted houses to foretell what lay in store for those who dare to enter. In fact, he insisted that they be quite the contrary. He demanded that the grounds surrounding his mansions be pristine and beautifully landscaped, to match the rest of his park, and devoid of any ghostly activity. At The Magic Kingdom, the Florida theme park, the addition of the Madam Leota tombstone was the first departure from tradition and violation of Master Disney's Rule. But the monument's effect was so subtle and its appearance so lovely that it was excused.

The Leota Toombs' tombstone features a subtle and tasteful effect.

By contrast, the new, so-called "queue enhancement" to the same park is an atrocity: a haphazard busy box spoiler of poorly-conceived, badly-placed, cheesy and noisy stand-alones that serve only to distract and add NOTHING to the attraction itself. As far as this ghost is concerned, the members of Team Disney Orlando and their superiors should be ashamed of themselves.

THE SO-CALLED "ENHANCEMENT": Where tombstones top narrow planters, a fairy
godmother-like spirit suffers from writer's block, a drowned sea captain gurgles and
spurts from his bathtub crypt, and visitors can feel their way through cacophonous
and senseless chaos.

The purpose of art is to raise the perception of the viewer, the individuals(s) experiencing the masterpiece. Instead, TDO has sunk to appealing to the lowest common denominator. There are those who will argue that I'm overreacting and that it's only an amusement park. But is it really? There are plenty of other amusement parks, none of which I hold as dear as Disney's.

And who found fault with and didn't love The Haunted Mansion before?

It was The Disney Company's high standards of artistry and presentation that elevated their parks to a level of excellence head and shoulders above the rest. But now, TDO is resorting to fast food chain tactics. What next? Madam Leota's Crystal Ball Bounce and Whack-A-Ghoul??? It's a shame -- a downright shame -- that Disney has so lowered its principles, forgotten its philosophies and cheapened itself that this has become their idea of innovation and improvement. And it's an even greater tragedy that the company's leaders lack the wisdom, vision and integrity to realize it.

LEST WE FORGET: A look back at real creative genius at work.