Years ago when Saturday Night Live used to be funny (no even before Will Ferrell… no even before Phil Hartman… no even before Eddie Murphy; we are talking original cast here) in the mid 1970’s a staple of the then unique fake news segment was called “ Point- Counterpoint”.
Weekend Up-Date co-anchors Dan Aykroyd (who you may remember from such movies as Ghost Busters, Blues Brothers and other good movies made prior to the mid 90’s) and Jane Curtin (who you may remember if you are old) would debate the hot topics of the day. Jane would start with a well thought out, carefully articulated opening remark clearly stating her point of view in a logical and professional manner. Dan would reply “Jane you ignorant slut!” undermining her point and reducing the debate to it’s most base level.
After reading Shane’s recent account about the misguided arguments made by Disneyland loyalists all I can say is “Shane you ignorant slut!”
As it turns out Shane and I missed each other at Disneyland by a slim couple of weeks but we were there at in essence the same time and I am sure had similar experiences. Shane is now a local Orlando boy, he is used to breezing in and out of the Florida parks at a moments notice. He will not subject himself to 90 minute waits for Space Mountain and knows how to reverse manage the crowd flow as well as anyone. Now take him and toss him into the similar looking but totally different world of Disneyland at one of the busiest times of the year and it is a recipe for disaster. Suddenly Shane was no better off than the sea of tourists he was forced to join. Most of his WDW secrets and tricks don’t function at Disneyland and worse yet a very high percentage of those around him were savvy locals pulling the same techniques on him that he is used to lording over the confused masses at WDW. The Emperor was stripped naked.
Lets take a look at Shane’s points and give some context to them.
• Disneyland was first
Shane argues that even though Disneyland was first that fact holds little meaning. I think he has a point here to an extent. 20 years ago it did make more of a difference, 30 years ago it certainly did, but as The Magic Kingdom has aged many of the benefits Disneyland held have been equalized. The saplings of Walt Disney World have grown nearly as large and old as those at Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom is now closing in on 45 years old… it seems like Disneyland’s 50th anniversary just passed. As time goes by both parks can boast long histories and have had lots of time to grow and perfect the operations.
And for the record Shane, the bald chick in Star Trek: The Motion Picture is hot and being first still counts for something. It may not affect the average tourist but being there longer means a couple additional generations of people who have fond memories of being there. Those people are in many cases the brave soldiers who fought World War II… are you saying that the greatest generation is worthless trash… it sounds like you are.
• Walt Disney actually walked at Disneyland
Shane dismisses Walt’s personal influence on the park arguing that he has been dead for 45 years and his same inspiration was used to craft the Magic Kingdom.
On this one I think he misses the mark a bit more. Walt more than inspired Disneyland, he inhabited it both literally and figuratively. He breathed life into it and his legacy there has been respected through the years to the point that you can still sense his presence. Yes, that is the type of sentiment that we usually make fun of around here but sometimes we make fun of things that are still true.
There are still enough old timers, still enough baby-boomers who recall seeing Walt as a kid strolling the park, still enough Imagineers that respect that legacy that Disneyland feels less corporate than the other parks. It feels more special for a lack of a better description. They have left many areas virtually untouched since Walt last visited and these areas hold up today as well as they did back then. It is a real difference. Now I admit, it is harder to enjoy those differences when there are 50,000 other guests crushing you but your bad timing cannot be held against the park.
• Disneyland has more rides
Shane’s stance on this is that the Magic Kingdom works as part of Walt Disney World as a whole and therefore it is an unfair comparison. To that I say tough.
If you are going to directly compare the inadequacies then you also have to also directly compare the superior points of Disneyland. We are not debating the Disneyland Resort to the Walt Disney World Resort, we are comparing Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom and I think just about every visitor (other than Paul Pressler who oddly seemed to hate rides) would agree that more attractions is better than fewer attractions. And lets be clear here, we are not talking about a couple extra rides or a few small scale attractions, we are talking about major attractions, E-Ticket attractions, many of which do not appear anywhere on WDW property. Indiana Jones, The Matterhorn, Roger Rabbit, the Subs, Alice in Wonderland, the big Holiday makeovers on Mansion and Small World… the list goes on. While the Magic Kingdom can point to lameness such as Stitch or repeat attractions such as Mermaid Disneyland hosts a full days worth of additional quality shows and attractions.
On top of that many of the Disneyland rides are superior to the Magic Kingdom versions in execution, maintenance or both. Pirates, Space Mountain, Tom Sayer Island, Fantasmic and so on. They are just superior, not much more to say.
• The people at Disneyland care more
Again Shane dismisses this as a one sided argument made by “homers” who are incapable of seeing beyond their blind prejudice for the park they grew up with. Well I did not grow up with Disneyland, I grew up with WDW dating back to the very earliest days. I was there many times when it was only the Magic Kingdom, I saw the opening of EPCOT Center and had many sleepless nights looking forward to it. Disneyland was some far away place I only visited once as a kid. I was totally stacked against Disneyland, it seemed small, old and inconsequential to me. Then I realized that I WAS WRONG.
I am not a homer for Disneyland but I can see that there is a general sense of caring more from the cast members and those who actually run and design the place. Look at the name tags… in Disneyland virtually everyone is from a 50 mile radius. They grew up at the park, they have fond memories of the park, they want to transfer those memories to others. At WDW most cast members are not only not from the area, many are not from the country. While this creates it’s own interesting dynamic in general the cast members are less invested in the parks, do not have as strong of a personal connection to them and therefore, well, they don’t care as much. Real world example: The Jungle Cruise skippers are nearly across the board better at Disneyland. They really try and put their all into it, they simply perform a better show than the zombie-like mumblings and murmers you get most fo the time at the Magic Kingdom. Yea, they don’t have throngs of Brazilian tour groups to deal with and yes, I know first hand how difficult it can be to consistently deliver an “A” Level performance… but your odds of getting a good skipper at Disneyland are much higher than at the Magic Kingdom.
The management teams that run Disneyland know that despite long term plans they are catering mainly to locals who know the parks and have visited them many times. They cannot get away with allowing major show elements (ie: Yeti) to sit dormant, hulking shells of rotting steel because the demographic at Disneyland knows that they did not just break that day but rather management has all but given up on them. They have more pressure to create newer and ever evolving attractions and show elements. It is debatable if they “care more” or not but regardless of the motivation it is clear that they maintain the attractions and the park better at Disneyland and that they offer more newer additions much more frequently.
If you read through the full post you will see that most of Shane’s downsides about Disneyland are related to its physical size. The tiny castle, the many bottle necks, the sometimes odd placements of attractions. Much of this is true, and yet it is the physical size that gives Disneyland many of it’s greatest benefits.
They had to figure out how to cram all that stuff in there. The whole opening act of Pirates is there because they needed to get guests under the berm and out into the show building. The great queue for Indy, still a true part of the attraction in my opinion, serves the same purpose. The way Alice in Wonderland winds above and through several other attractions, the interaction of the Monorail, Autopia and Subs (and formerly the People Mover) are all because they were forced to do this because of the tight spaces… and yet all of these things add many layers of detail and enjoyment than newer, more pre-planned parks fail to capture. And frankly being able to get from one side of the park to the other in 5 minutes is not bad either.
Disneyland may never have a big ass castle with a character dining opportunity inside and a 6 months wait list to eat some mediocre roast beef but its scale gives it a dare I say charm than is lost at the Magic Kingdom.
But of course I am also being unfair. Shane’s post was never meant to be about which park is “better” but rather how visiting one when being so familiar with the other can be confusing, almost disorienting. From this perspective he is 100% correct. At this point I get Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland so mixed up in my head that I honestly often do not realize which park I am in at any given time… but Disneyland is still the best.