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Not too long ago I wrote a couple of columns on my favorite things about Disney. That was tough to do as there are many, many things I love about Disney. But nothing is perfect, and that includes Disney, and there are some things I don't like as well
What got me thinking about this topic was the Finding Nemo entertainment added to Disney's California Adventure. Rebekah and I made sure we saw Finding Nemo on opening day last week and we made sure we caught the new entertainment at DCA on Sunday. We had already heard it wasn't a very big thing, so our expectations were not high. Nevertheless, I came away very disappointed.
The reason I keep calling it "entertainment' is I'm not exactly sure what it's supposed to be. It's far too small for a parade. It's even too small for a cavalcade. It's kind of like a meet and greet except you can't get too close to the character, Nemo. What it is is this: Nemo and 6 dancers that come out of the parade gate across from the Orange Stinger. The parade moves towards Jumpin' Jellyfish to a sea-themed song. After the first song they get some children out to come and dance with them. They then continue to Jumpin' Jellyfish, turn around, get some more children and dance again, then continue back off stage.
I'm usually not one to be too critical of Disney. I tend to take things for what they are and realize that not everything is an E-Ticket or an Aladdin. But this was underwhelming to the point where I've called it the worst Disney theme park entertainment I can recall seeing. Here we have the biggest animated film opening in history, people are coming to the Disney parks to see and meet their new friends, and the result is this.
I'm not placing the blame on the Disneyland Resort. Given the promotion that the movies get from having characters at the parks, who knows how all the finances and creative occur between the Studios, the parks and who knows what else departments? I have no idea who or what is to blame. I just know that as a guest, it's disappointing. And I know the characters in Finding Nemo aren't exactly tailor made for walk-arounds, but I also know they could've come up with something better than this.
And this brings me to a larger issue - representation of recent animated films in the parks. At first I thought it was a Pixar thing. After all, none of the Pixar films were well represented in the parks immediately after the films' openings. Then I realized it's a larger trend going back to Emperor's New Groove. My personal Disney history goes back to 1995. To be honest, I don't know how things happened much before then and finding out about smaller parades and shows is not always easy. But in my history anyway, the latest animated feature has always received a lot of attention from the parks. I don't mean just new walk-arounds or the addition of the characters to Fantasmic! or the current character parade. I mean real representation.
When I came around in 1995 the Lion King Celebration parade was still going on from its 1994 debut with the film. I know the Beauty and the Beast stage show and Aladdin Royal Caravan parade had already come and gone. The Spirit of Pocahontas show debuted along with the film in 1995. In 1996 came Festival of Fools for Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1997came the Hercules Parade and in 1998 the Mulan Parade. Finally, in 1999, Tarzan received a permanent addition to the parks - Tarzan's Treehouse. Even Fantasia 2000 was represented well by the Parade of the Stars, especially with its original Pomp and Circumstance soundtrack. And then it stopped.
The next film was Emperor's New Groove in late 2000. It's long been said that the company was not happy with this film and did very little promotion. That would include the parks which got no parade nor show nor even windows on Main Street (the Fantasia windows remained). Summer 2001 brought us Atlantis which received nothing. Holiday 2001 was Pixar's Monster's Inc. That did get a small show in DCA, Scream at the Hairy Blue Monster. Summer 2002 was Lilo and Stitch which, again, received a small show, the Lilo and Stitch Laua at Pizza Ooo Mow Mow. Last holiday season was Treasure Planet which got nothing but windows on Main Street, and that brings us to Finding Nemo, this year's big summer film.
Now for all I know, prior to the Beauty and the Beast stage show, this was the norm. But in the 90s Disney not only set a new standard for quality animated films, but they carried that standard through to the treatment those films received in the parks. I know some recent films haven't lived up to those standards, but some have, including Finding Nemo. I can remember seeing The Hunchback of Notre Dame then rushing to the park to experience the Festival of Fools. I can remember reliving Hercules and Mulan on Main Street. I wish I could say the same of Finding Nemo.
It was a huge joy to go see Finding Nemo on opening day and experience that kind of Disney magic. I wish that experience could've been carried through to Disneyland - as it once was. This is one trend I hope Disney does not continue.
-- Doobie Moseley
-- Posted June 12, 2003