This has always been something that makes me scratch my head. Every time someone mentions changing or closing an attraction that Walt Disney himself had a hand in, fans freak out. In a recent article I wrote about The Hall of Presidents, one of my readers left this comment:
He’s not wrong, Walt had the idea for the Hall of Presidents when he was alive. This would have gone into a never opened expansion from Main Street USA called Liberty Street. Long-time Disney fans know, while Liberty Street was never created, it ultimately was morphed and expanded into Liberty Square which opened at Walt Disney World in 1971. Did he oversee the script or even know what the narrative of the show was going to be before his passing? No, he did not.
Without question, Walt Disney was a pioneer in entertainment and arguably the foremost visionary of theme parks in the world to date. Any theme park built after Disneyland was built on the backbone and shoulders of what Walt created and opened in Anaheim in 1955. While he certainly was a visionary, many Disney fans see him as a deity.
The parallels between how Disney fans view Walt and how religion sees their deity (such as Jesus Christ) are almost identical. There are statues in his honor all over the globe. His quotes are immortalized and memorized like Bible verses in plaques, posters and collectible pins. His principals and ideals laid the groundwork on how the Disney company owes its success to this day.
One can even take college courses on just Walt Disney himself. You’ll learn about his upbringing, his struggles getting certain projects up and running, even his philosophies towards business. You could call this an equivalent to Sunday school for Christians. In my personal collection, I own at least 20 books that focus on Walt Disney alone and there are dozens more out there.
When it comes to Walt Disney’s animated classics, those will always remain intact for generations to come until the end of time. Even though they may remake or have a sequel to certain films like Fantasia, no one is stealing your original copy of Cinderella from your home library. You may not like the idea of remaking classics for modern audiences, but when the new version is released, no one comes and steals your DVD of the original from your personal collection in the middle of the night.
Theme park attractions are an entirely different ballgame. Despite many cries to reopen old attractions or recreate them in a theme park of its own, it will never happen. For better or worse, once any theme park attraction closes, it’s gone forever. You can only relive it through videos online and anyone can tell you, that’s just not the same.
It’s also worth mentioning that not one classic Walt Disney attraction (either one he personally supervised or inspired and opened after his passing) hasn’t been altered in some way over the years. Pirates of the Caribbean now features Jack Sparrow and a reimagined auction scene. Carousel of Progress features a (now dated) final scene which features virtual reality and a voice command oven. Even The Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland cut the original “Offenbach” number in order to hold audience retention by shortening the show.
Thus, despite how he is often perceived, Walt Disney is not a deity and the attractions he was involved in have not been untouchable. Thus, when is it ok to actually close some of them down? Also, what is a good indicator of doing so?
Personally, I think attendance and percentage of seats filled is the biggest indicator that an attraction needs to go. At full capacity, are you filling less than 50% of your seats on an average day? In a park that desperately needs to pull people in from the streets and queue times that are over an hour long? Perhaps, it could be time to pull the plug.
Finally, if not soon, then when? I’m not advocating that all of Walt’s classic attractions get put to bed, just the ones that don’t bring in the crowds like they used to. Some of these have been running continuously for over 50 years. That’s an incredible run! Perhaps 100 years? 500 years? 1000 years?
Could it be possible that audiences who visit a Disney park in 50 or 100 years from now no longer care about Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and maybe 10% of all seats are filled? Maybe 500 years from now? Is that ok, Disney worshipers? Do we ever give in to this notion that Walt’s classic attractions must never close regardless of circumstance and attendance?
More important than anything else, isn’t it more important to always keep what Walt Disney stood for? Which is family entertainment that brings people together? I don’t even think Walt himself would have kept some of these attractions around for over 50 years. Yet, we remain in the past, with attractions usually at less than half their capacity, to honor a visionary who was always looking forward. Why?
Make sure to follow Theme Park University on Instagram, on Twitter, subscribe to YouTube and like our Facebook page! Want to support Theme Park University? Donate via Paypal! Doing any online shopping? Click on any Amazon link on this page and it helps TPU pay the bills and costs you nothing extra!