Saturday, February 21, 2015

What would Walt have done?


This coming July is the 60th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland.  Frankly, I'm not looking forward to it.  Living less than a mile from The Park, and driving through the resort area daily as I must, I'm sure that there's going to be events around the anniversary that will bring increased traffic or closed roads, and I'm sure that as we get closer to the date itself, there will be 4 AM live feeds to the east coast news channels.  No, I'm not looking forward to it.

My history with The Park (as I like to call it) is based on family.  When I was younger, and we lived in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, we'd make a trip to Disneyland every few years.  It was a special event, and we'd try to squeeze as much into the day as we could.  This was back in the day of general admission and tickets.  My brothers and I all had our idea of which E-ticket ride we wanted to take.  Growing up, I loved the old Mine Train ride, and the Submarine ride.  

When Lorrie and I started to date, we bought passes, which were VERY reasonable at $180/pass for admission to Disneyland (California Adventure debuted a year or so later).  We'd go there sometimes to take a ride with Justin, who was around 5 years old at the time, or we'd go there for a dinner at New Orleans Square, and then come home.  At that time, entry was around $60, so for us, the passes, and the rate we used them, paid for themselves quickly.  Lorrie, having grown up in this area, had a much more active involvement in The Park, having attended there for years with her family.  And it was Lorrie who started pointing out things to me that made me think "Wow.  Would Walt have allowed this?", or, as my blog title states, "What would Walt have done?"

Lorrie would point out things like paint peeling off the various fixtures, or the bars that guide you through a queue for a ride.  Or the sheet of plywood that was used to cover a hole in a bridge.  Or how the horses on the Fantasyland Carousel are all white, when at one time, they were each a unique color.  Or just things that didn't work.  And she'd say how much this stuff would have been paid attention to under the Disney family.  And I had friends who told me that the new California Adventure was very little like the concepts that had been shared with them when they were Disney Company employees. California Adventure had many more rides and attractions originally planned (like that section of street between the Grizzly Rapid Run area and the Monterey Wharf area that has NOTHING in it - it's just building facades), but they didn't want to put the money out up front to make it special.  That section of The Park floundered for years with only California Soarin' and California Screamin' pulling people in.  We'd go in there, take those two rides, and then go back to Disneyland.  It wasn't until they added Cars Land a couple of years ago that attendance in that part of The Park has soared.  And with it, prices to get in have soared as well, putting them out of reach of most families.  

It was during that time I started to think about what Walt would have done.  Walt saw Disneyland
differently, and I truly believe that the corporate structure and profit have driven decisions since the Disney family has either relinquished control or died off.  Walt wanted it to be a place for everyone, and it was that way for decades.  I don't think he would have added the 2nd gate, and if he had, he would have done it right to begin with.  One thing he didn't like was the very thing that exists in Paradise Pier - the Coney Island feel.  I'm sure that he would have either needed a great deal of convincing to add that, or would have said no from the start.  But the details that Lorrie points out that are gone would have bothered him, and would have been important to correct.  Granted, I didn't know him personally, and most of those who did are either gone, or very old.  But we have enough documentation of his personality and drive to guess that he would not be pleased at the way things are run now, and I just wish we had someone with Walt's attentiveness running The Park.  

It would become a Magic Kingdom again if we did.

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