Saturday, August 02, 2014

Disneyland Gets Marvel-ous

My last trip to Disneyland was in April. I used to visit the Park twice a month; now it's more like twice a year. Part burnout, part philosophical, and part lack of anything new that interests me, it just seems like the Universe has been telling me to find something else. Expand my horizons.

The recent Club 34 debacle seemed like a clear sign telling me the same thing, and just yesterday, I received yet another blaring message. My sign came in the form of an email survey from Disneyland.

With the acquisition of Marvel by Disney back in 2009, many have waited to see if (and when) this would have an impact on Disneyland. Some were probably excited, and some were dreading the possible invasion of Marvel characters to their beloved park. It should be no surprise that I fall into the latter category.

The first real sign of the Marvel brand seeping in was at Innoventions. No real surprise, there. The company has used this once vibrant building (Carousel of Progress, America Sings) as little more than a corporate dump. With Disneyland facing maximum capacity almost daily and DCA finally pulling its weight, in order to increase profits, the Disney Corporation has three choices:

1. Continue to raise prices (already being done at a rapid rate, and very risky as it pisses off the customer who expects more if they pay more)

2. Physically expand each park to handle a higher capacity

3. Open a third gate.

Rumors of #2 & #3 have been swirling for years. Talks of Marvel being that 3rd gate are a very real possibility, but to complete a brand new Park would take years. What to do in the interim? The recent survey gives a few clues as to what the not-so-creative TDA has brewing in their Keurig. Thinking that maybe I was being contacted because of my Club 33 article, it didn't take long to see that I was (briefly) living in a land of delusion.

My first clue was this extremely helpful educational slide (add in sarcasm). NOW I can say I know the difference between Marvel Universe and the other Marvel characters.

Perhaps a backup plan or gauging interest to the next acquisition? Star Wars is already a done deal; the Disney Corporation can already check that one off the buyout list!

If you were thinking that a new Marvel attraction or something creative and elaborate might be coming down the pike, think again. Disney wants more profits NOW. And they don't want to spend a lot of money to make them. This is all about adding characters. People in costumes. People who aren't paid very much money. You might be thinking, "Dave, why so cynical? How could Disney possibly make money by adding characters to the park?"

Here's your answer. Merchandise. The main love of the Disney Corporation. Cheaply made overseas and quickly snapped up by guests. The Disney Corporation just can't offer you enough merchandise. Expect to see a Meet-and-Greet Marvel area in the near future, and expect to see it inside of Disneyland. Think of an area that is underutilized (Big Thunder Ranch perhaps? Innoventions?) and that is probably where this new M&G will go, along with a beautifully designed merchandise shop.

Mickey dressed as a Marvel character? If they want to do something with Marvel, they really need to open a 3rd gate and leave Disneyland alone. Those two brands have no business co-mingling.

Just when I think they couldn't sink any lower. The sinkhole has now opened wider.

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Irene said...

You and I are so much on the same page! There is coming a time (probably after the 60th Birthday year) that I will not be renewing my AP.

CoxPilot said...

Since we moved to the East Coast (South Carolina) we have made an anual trip to either WDW or a Disney cruise. So far, we have enjoyed every stay. We do a 4 day cruise, or a 4 day stay at one of the better resorts. Because there is so much space, the merchandising is not so much "in your face", even though it is everywhere.

It's so disappointing to here that my beloved Disneyland (and Walt's dream) has succumbed to the dark side.

K. Martinez said...

I have no problem with Disney sprinkling some Marvel brand into Disneyland. It's not really much different than the LucasFilm product they started injecting into the Park over a quarter century ago. As for Mickey Mouse dressed as a Marvel character, they already do that with Star Wars. Spider-Mickey or Goofy-Hulk. I like it! Of course I love the idea of hybrid characters. There's already been a Goofy-stein modeled after the Universal version of Frankenstein with flat head and bolts. Why is Marvel any different?

Disneyland Resort reflects the current Disney company product and flavor of the times as it did back in the 1950s when TV westerns like Davy Crockett and Atomic Space Age sci-fi fascination was at its peak. As for money, it’s been that way with Disney long before today. Personally I think Marvel is the smartest acquisition Disney made and is tailor made for the theme park experience. They’d be foolish not exploit it. I fully welcome Marvel into the Disney fold, even at Walt’s original park. Disneyland Park has been coasting on nostalgia far too long and it could use something new to experience there.

Dave, Can you tell me specifically why you think Disney and Marvel have no business co-mingling?

Dave DeCaro said...

Ken - I am happy to answer! First of all, obviously this is all a matter of taste. I have no doubt that many others exist (like you) that love Marvel and have no problem with the co-mingling. My idea of Disneyland is like water…and my idea of Marvel is like oil…the two should not mix. Marvel is a totally different theme, idea, genre, and in addition, brings a level of violence that does not seem to go with the Disney brand. A third gate that is separate? No problem with that. As for Star Wars and Tomorrowland…it is a sad state of affairs for the creative people at Disney when the most innovative ideas they can come up with to represent the future include Star Wars (a fantasy) and Home Depot (which is basically what Innoventions Dream home was). Although the acquisitions of Star Wars and Marvel may have been shrewd business deals, they send a clear message that the creative well at Disney is dead.

K. Martinez said...

Thanks for answering my question, Dave. It helped me better understand where you’re coming from. In all fairness I should add that I’m a big Marvel fan. The Disneyland I experienced in my youth from 1963 to 1984) was in my mind perfection. Once Eisner arrived I never quite felt the same about the place. Over time I’ve developed a different attitude towards Disneyland and don’t view it as religiously as I once did.

On the subject of a third gate, I like your idea, but I never felt that either Marvel or LucasFilm on their own could sustain a theme park, at least not in the long haul. It would have to be a subcomponent of a larger theme, in other words, a "land" within a theme park. That’s why I have no problem with Marvel or Star Wars being injected into Tomorrowland at this point. To some extent it’s always been a catch-all for contemporary themes and I just don’t see Disney going back to the 1950s mentality of how great the future is going to be.

As for your Disneyland burnout, perhaps you might strongly consider giving the place a rest for a while. I had a near solid run of going to Disneyland regularly from 1963 to 2005. Near the end of that period, I started nitpicking so much that I stopped enjoying it. Because of that, I decided to give Disneyland a rest for a while. I didn’t return until they added Buena Vista Street and Cars Land seven years later in 2012 and I found that I thoroughly enjoyed myself like I hadn’t in a long time. It caused me to look at Disneyland through a different lens than I had in the past and I felt a more relaxed attitude towards the place, so to speak. Now I only visit when there are substantial additions or for anniversary years like the 60th coming up. I find I appreciate it more that way. I’ve also developed so many interests and hobbies through the years, that giving Disneyland a rest from time to time is okay. I always enjoy your blog. Thanks, Dave.

Fifthrider said...

I too have been receiving a rather frequent amount of surveys from the Disney resort lately. Maybe their appearance is a good thing that heralds that management knows something is amiss. On the other hand, maybe they only seek validation to continue the existing course.

I know exactly what Marvel characters I'd like to see in the park. None. Agreed on the oil-vs-water explanation. Star Wars and Indiana Jones are the furthest out things that can fit into the park, but that's at the border of the boundary as it is. ...But to branch into Marvel or any of those other proposed acquisitions ( Dr. Who?! Hunger Games?!?! ) is just an absurd wet-dream for executives who know nothing of Disney history, what endears it to us fans, and works only in terms of numbers. These were the very people who Walt was up against when creating a park, the ones who said his plan would never work. Now they're in charge. Boooo!!!

Only in these last few months have I been able to turn around and see the last few years with more clarity. I'd been riding the haze of my pre-existing love for Disney, oblivious to the changes that were currently made without any of the same regard. Likewise, my annual pass will not be renewed in this next year.

Evan said...

I always find the Marvel hate odd. Indiana Jones is a wildly incredible ride, and from a very violent heavy franchise.. Yet no one complains. If Disney does eventually add a quality Marvel addition then I feel it will become part of Disneyland just as Indiana Jones and Star Wars did many years before.

Nobody said...

I have no problem with people who just don't care for Marvel. On the other hand, the Marvel and Star Wars acquisitions seem to me to differ from what Walt Disney himself did only in scale. Walt Disney purchased or licensed plenty of other folks' creative property and made them part of the Disney/Disneyland story, and I don't think that reflected at all on his creativity.

I am also unconvinced that Marvel brings a level of violence that is somehow alien to Disney. Many classic Disney films and TV shows featured both fighting and death, but generally it was of the "good guys always win" variety, which Marvel certainly also has.

giddy girlie said...

I think people misunderstand "Marvel" because when they hear the name they think "comic books" when in actuality the comic book division of Marvel is extremely small. Marvel was founded as a licensing conglomerate. Even today, the bulk of their investments are in real estate.

Anyhow, the Marvel characters have been licensed to the teeth and it is NO surprise that Disney was involved. What is surprising is that Disney is so public about wanting to integrate the Marvel characters with the Disney parks, especially when they are so visible at the Universal parks. Universal's Islands of Adventure park was basically built around the Marvel characters so I don't see it going away. I'll bet that is why Disney won't open a 3rd park dedicated to Marvel - a park like that already exists. But I agree that the Marvel characters don't really fit into Disneyland, thematically. At the very worst, they should stick them in DCA -- the California theme is rickety at best, but they could at least use the Hollywood area as an excuse to show "movie stars" like the Marvel characters.

Dreemfinder said...

Dave, No one does the Disneyland photographic nostalgia like you do.

Can't say I'm enjoying the cynical, simplistic appraisal of the companies objectives and methods.

Keep up the good work, in any event... It is much appreciated!

Dave DeCaro said...

Dreemfinder - I have yet to read an appraisal of the practices of the current regime at the Disney Corporation that would change my cynicism. With Walt and Roy, creativity and finances were perfectly balanced. Can you tell me where the checks and balances are located today? Glad you like my appraisal of the past, but for the present, my hard-earned dollar will be spent elsewhere.