Parkeology: Disney News Update 6/30/17

With lots of big events soon to be announced at D-23 we thought it was about time to start a semi-regular column covering some of our thoughts on the current Disney news. We know that everyone’s feeds get inundated with Disney PR as is, but we hope to cut through some of the haze. Don’t expect updates on the newest luggage handling procedures or soda refill controversies though, we know our limits.

More PC changes coming to stateside Pirates

Yo Ho Yo Ho a Pirate’s Clock for me!

Yesterday Disney announced that both the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland as well as its Walt Disney World counterpart would have the bride auction scene reworked to remove offensive or degrading depictions of women. Only they did not say that, what they said was that they were “enhancing” the ride and that they are constantly looking to update attractions in order to delight guests. Now let’s get this out of the way; nothing about this will delight anyone. We understand the position Disney has been in; it is a huge multinational family entertainment publically traded company. For over 50 years they have had what is perhaps their signature attraction showcasing rape and sexual slavery, it is hard to believe that they have allowed it to stay this long.

What bothers us is not that they are removing this scene (well that bothers us as well) but rather how Disney seems to try and hide the motivation behind the move. They trotted out now retired former head of Walt Disney Imagineering (who was present for the creation of the original ride) Marty Sklar to say: “To me, the Imagineers are simply reflecting what Walt started the day Disneyland opened—making changes that create exciting new experiences for our guests.” Frankly, it is all a bit insulting. Why not spin it in a different way? Why not tell the truth and say that Disney does not feel comfortable showcasing women in this way, that the world has changed (for the better) quite a bit from the mid-century to now and Disney is simply adjusting to reflect their current attitudes?

Maybe worst of all is the way the new scene is being changed. Rather then removing the old figures and replacing them with all new ones at least some (if not all) of the old figures will remain, oddly reworked to fit the new auction motif. Rather than grizzled pirates bidding on “brides” (wink-wink) they will be competing for treasure and livestock. The famous redhead has now joined the pirate brigade. None of it makes any sense, not within historical context or even the comedic context of the attraction. Pirates did not steal treasure only to auction it back to other members of their crew. Nor did pirates deal in livestock auctions. Reviewing the concept art reveals a scene that appears to be straight out of an episode of Antiques Roadshow as folks line up to have rare antiquities appraised. The former “wenches” now carry portraits in gilded gold frames, chandeliers, and even a full sized grandfather clock, nothing says adventures on the untamed high seas like Victorian era horology!

Listen, we really do understand, as much as we loved the original that attraction has been gone for years. As soon as they altered the chase scenes and then added Johnny Depp the tone and charm were destroyed. The fact that the auction scene slipped by the previous alterations is actually quite stunning. There is precious little left of what was once the greatest attraction ever made. Perhaps they would be better off retiring the whole attraction and replacing it with a version of the movie based Pirates of the Caribbean attraction that premiered last year at Shanghai Disneyland. That ride avoids any and all controversy and is a modern showcase of what Disney can do, no rape, slavery or general misogyny to be found.

Hall of Presidents Delayed opening

Yes we used this image previously, but we really want you to go read that post!

Speaking of Misogyny…

This week Disney had to issue a press statement denying previously published reports that the revamped Hall of Presidents would relegate President Trump to a nonspeaking role. Disney insisted that despite the delay (the attraction was first slated to reopen this week) that everything was on track and that the Trump animatronic (as was the case with the past several presidents) would indeed address the audience with a speech. It has been rumored that Trump’s team have wanted more control over the speech and that Disney has been forced to negotiate stricter terms than with past presidents. We actually predicted all of this last year months prior to the election (check it out here).

We are not so much concerned with the actual show (Disney will doubtlessly produce a milquetoast show that could not be offensive to anyone), as we are with the reaction from the crowds. Loathe him or love him Trump is an extremely polarizing character (I would guess Lincoln may have been a tad more so but still Trump is up there). We hope that once the show does open and robotic Trump takes the stage to deliver his message of America first that the crowds on both sides show respect and dignity for one another. It is not hard to imagine cheers, jeers, chants and worse breaking out within the theater. I have actually heard boos (though rare) during past shows as a president or two may not jibe with an audience member, but we think we will be entering uncharted territory here. Sadly it is virtually impossible to underestimate just how stupidly people can act and I hope Disney has some plans to handle this. Extra security? Maybe rousing music loud enough to drown out the audience? Perhaps the Muppets will have an unexpected appearance crashing through the set as Trump is being introduced in order to add some levity and distraction? It should be interesting regardless.

Speaking of Trump and the Hall of Presidents it got us thinking that the Trump figure may be the worst Audio-Animatronic of all time. Why? Not because reproducing his hair presents an unbelievable technical challenge, but rather because those tasked with creating this new version of the show almost surely did not vote for Donald Trump. These are after all a bunch of artists from Southern California, which is not exactly Trump territory. Nearly 70% of the population of California voted against Trump in the 2016 presidential election, if you break that down by county and specific demographics it gets even more lopsided. We have no idea what political preferences the individual Imagineers working on this have but it is very likely that they do not like President Trump or his policies. Yes, these are professionals and I am sure they can put politics aside but when you have no passion for your work it is very difficult to produce great results. If we are being cynical we could imagine intentional sabotage, maybe the figure’s hands get made just a tad smaller then the other presidents on stage?

New Marquee for the Muppets

Photo courtesy of

Yesterday Disney also unveiled a new marquee going up on the Muppetvision building over at Disney Hollywood Studios. Rather than the previous Six Flags-like sign the new one is actually themed to a theater and belter fits the feel of the park and the attraction. It is worth noting only inasmuch as it confirms that Disney is sticking with the Muppets and actually improving it. It is good to see them throwing a bit of love to this attraction, especially with so many higher profile projects going on. Nice.

Ratatouille coming to Epcot?

No complaints here

Yet more good news! Rumors are rampant that the Ratatouille attraction from Disney Studios Paris (the worst park Disney has ever been associated with) is coming to the France pavilion at World Showcase in Epcot. While the attraction itself is not quite as spectacular as we would like it would still be a welcome addition to the park (and perhaps they would improve the new version).

Currently the France Pavilion features a 35-year-old movie (starring some awesome sheep) that has never been substantially updated. Unlike the awkward fit of cramming a fictional character from a fictional country into the Norway Pavilion Ratatouille is not only based in modern Paris but the city is prominently featured throughout the film. At the French park Imagineers more or less recreated a mini version of the French World Showcase pavilion to set the attraction in, it would be a perfect fit here. Adding new rides while replacing outdated movies is never something we are going to complain about, we hope this turns out to be true and may have more on this topic soon.

Avatar finally opens

Go ahead, rub it, see what happens. Photo courtesy of

Lastly I wanted to touch on the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This is hardly news as it has been open for a while and has enjoyed a great deal of hype but I am happy to report that the headlining attraction there: Flight of Passage lives up to any and all hype. It is an incredible attraction that far exceeds any past simulator based rides and immediately propels itself to the top of any “best of” list out there.

Rather than discussing the details of the land and its attractions (there is more than enough of that out there) I would like to mention an aspect of Pandora that is both a little uncomfortable and also fascinating: it is the most overtly sexual area Disney has ever built.

I know this sounds a bit insane but the amount of phallic symbolism within the land is overwhelming, too many instances to count. One of the first thing guests encounter when entering the land is a huge throbbing semi-erect flower that guests vigorously rub until it erupts with a gush of water spraying from the tip.

On Flight of Passage guests straddle seats that reveal themselves to be “banshees” the flying dragons from the film Avatar. In the movie the native inhabitants of Pandora (the Na’vi) physically connect to the banshees with an intimate pairing. On the ride guests feel the creatures heaving and heavily breathing as they squeeze their legs tightly onto the torsos of the beasts before thrusting and gyrating over the moon of Pandora. One may feel they need a cigarette afterwards.

Everywhere you look are mushroom headed alien flowers and various alien plant life that could easily be interpreted as something one might find in a middle school “health” textbook. Even the food offerings join the fun; the jiggly blue orbs offered for dessert would be great served as a pair, ’nuff said. It is of course all completely harmless and perhaps reflects the natural feel the Imagineers were going for but maybe 50 Shades of Blue would be a better name for the land!

That’s it for today, what are your thoughts on the news of the day?

Comments (13)

  1. I personally think Pirates needs a complete overhaul. For one, as we have seen with the Jack Sparrow scenes, technology has come a LONG way. Secondly, I hate how they have tried (and failed) to give the ride an coherent ongoing story line. The beauty of the original was that there was no story line, you were just dropped into the middle of a chaotic scene were pirates were running the show. That was fine, you didn’t need a story line to follow, it was fantastic. By adding Jack Sparrow they tried to give us something to follow, but seeing as they just randomly interjected him here and there, it doesn’t really work. The best thing they could do is either go back to the original (or a more PC version of the original) which of course isn’t going to happen, or they can completely overhaul the whole ride and give us the full cinematic treatment. Captain Jack, Elizabeth, Will Turner, Davy Jones, and of course Captain Barbossa (not to mention all the side characters) and create all new scenes and stories while retaining some of the classic scenes (such as the jail scene, maybe making the pirates in the cell be Pintel and Ragetti)

    But that’s just my opinion.

    • Well Matt what you just described (as the new version) is almsot exactly what they did in Shanghai. That version of Pirates is super high tech and totally based on the films while also maintaining some nods to the original (specifically the jail scene). It is a GREAT ride, fantastic all the way around but also very, very different from the classic versions. It may be themed after Pirates but is in many ways just a totally new and different ride experience. It is tough with the classics and they simply don;t get more classic then Pirates. I think ditching it may be throwing the baby out with th bath water but I do agree that it has become so watered down and has drifted so far from the actual original (and the WDW has always been a pale imitiaiton of the original DL version to start with) that it coudl use an overhaul.

      • Personally (despite Pirates 1 and 3 being two of my favorite movies of all time) I’d just like to see it revert back to the original (or something closer to the original) with modern AA technology. But I know that’s wishful thinking.

        • Yes, wwishful thinking fr sure. But wouldn;t it be cool to see all the pirates replaced with totally modern ones and maybe updated FX for the fire and so on. There was a time when the ceiling was almost totally moonlit clouds, now there are almost none. Why not sue the projection mapping they love so much to bring back a greatly enhanced version of that. Honestly if they replaced like 10 key AA figures and modernized some of the effects it would be stellar.

  2. I have a conspiracy theory that Trump being added to the Hall of Presidents is exactly WHY Disney is making the change to Pirates, it’s a way to “save face” and try to distract people from the controversy of adding Trump, as I’m sure a lot of idiotic people would take it to mean Disney is in some way “endorsing” Trump instead of adding whoever’s President no matter who they are, it’s the only reason I can think of as to why they’re changing the scene now instead of in the past.

    At any rate it’s a change I absolutly hate, “we want the redhead! we want the redhead!” is only one of the most iconic quotes from the ride, on top of that it’s changing a scene that’s a joke, un-PC though it may be (the pirates don’t want the fat lady, they want the hot redhead) to something that’s not a joke, makes no sense and renders a major show scene pointless, it sucks.

    I’m glad at the very least the redhead herself gets to stay in some way, though now she’s a pirate, which makes no sense, while there were female pirate captains, I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t have a random female pirate mixed in with an otherwise all male crew, so what’s her relationship with the other pirates? it’s dumb as hell.

    It seems like people have forgotten that the pirates are supposed to be the VILLAINS of the ride, lovable anti-heroes to be sure, but still the villains, you’re supposed to be intimidated sailing around all these scallywags who are up to no good, which includes thieving, destroying property and yes, selling women into slavery.

    Basically the pirates are like the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion, who are funny and amusing but creepy and intimidating at the same time, Pirates of the Caribbean is not at all an endorsement of thieving, pillaging and sexual slavery, but the message has been diluted thanks to the inclusion of Jack Sparrow (who even then, it’s not working with the other pirates, but sneaking past them to try to steal the treasure out from under their noses)

    • You will get no argument from us. We hate the change. But we also confess that the world of the mid to late 60’s is a very different place from today.
      In DL Pirates their is a portrait of a redhead pirate, it has always been understood that she in fact was the redhead (the portrait itself was only added during a past rehab). The idea is that she was eventually sold but so strong willed that she became part of the crew. That in no way mitigates the stupidity of these changes but you can see their thinking behind it.

  3. To be fair, I heard horribly racist comments coming from the back row of the HOP sudience during Obama’s speech the last time I saw it. People complaining loudly at a robot will be nothing new.

    • That is truly sad. Regardless of ones political views I would hope people could be civil. Racism is a whole different beast.

      Considering the Wreslemania tweet President Trump recently released though it just feels like this version of the HOP will be the most divided ever.

  4. To be honest, the change in the Muppet Vision marquée makes it seem temporary. The letters are replaceable, so it seems that Muppetvision’s time is limited. This, alongside the filled in fountain, makes me think that it will sadly go away.

    • Yes those are valid concerns. Though I have to think that if they are going to replace it a marquee is hardly the biggest concern. I’d imagine that it would either be removed totally to allow Star Tours to connect to Star Wars Land or be totally re-done into something totally new. If it was all new having some existing sign would not be much help. Now true, maybe it would be converted into some generic movie based preview theater or something, in that case we could be seeing the beginning of the end. Still, why start doing that so early?

      I have no idea but the old sign was never really themed. The new sign at least fits the building and theater theme so let’s hope for the best. After Star Wars opens I bet we see lots of other changes around the park.

  5. I like it! Getting tired of Disney news being reported in the same boring manner on other websites.

    I’m with you on the POTC change. It’s been one of my favorite rides ever since I first rode it as a kid back in the 70s. The planned scene makes no sense. And while I can somewhat understand why they’re doing it, I still think we’ve become a society of oversensitive wusses. At what point is any of the activities taking place in that ride acceptable behavior? Theft, pillaging, destruction? The whole point is that they wanted people to feel like they were inside a story. I know! They should remove all the guns and cannons and just have them hurl politically correct insults at each other. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll still enjoy the ride.

    Btw, I’d like to get you guys’ takes on the rumored changes to the Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Whatever they replace it with, I hope they stick to the educational theme that Future World is supposed to be (although that seems to be slowly fading).

    • It would be easy to take the changes too far. They likely already have.

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