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by Ken Pellman (archives)
July 23, 2003
Ken wonders if Disney is neglecting some good business opportunities.

Unused Potential - Disney’s Neglect of Obvious Opportunities

Here’s the Problem
As both a Disney fan and a shareholder, it can be frustrating to notice Disney missing what appear to be clear opportunities to generate revenue through offering unique entertainment. This is especially true of Disney’s use -or rather lack of use- of film elements and characters at Disney Resorts.

Recently, the editor of LaughingPlace.com expressed his disappointment with the use (or lack thereof) of properties from the blockbuster hit of 2003, “Finding Nemo?, at the Disneyland Resort.

There is a difference between good synergy and overexposure. Simply slapping the image of an animated character on a shirt, for instance, may not be the best way to go. The problem is that Disney has lost the drive and desperation of fledgling entertainment producers. Content gets lost in the shuffle of a multifaceted corporation and is often not adapted to other media where it could find a great fit.

Specifically, what has Disney done at its theme parks with content from Eisner era films?

The Animation Game Returns
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?? and “The Little Mermaid? marked the revival of the animation game. Roger Rabbit, a character shared with another company was so prominently featured everywhere that it had seemed he was to Michael Eisner what Mickey Mouse was to Walt. Eventually, Roger was given a large “dark ride? in an area of Disneyland Park inspired by the film.

Ariel was featured prominently and widely on merchandise, appeared in parades, and got her own black-light puppet show at Disney-MGM Studios. Eventually, she was given a modest “meet & greet? location at Disneyland Park and her father was given a carousel in Disney's California Adventure park (DCA), but it wasn’t until the Oriental Land Company’s Tokyo Disney Seas opened that elements from “The Little Mermaid? were use extensively in theme parks.

But then, Disney will still getting its footing back when those films hit the big screen. Indeed, you don’t hear much about “The Rescuers Down Under? these days.

Films from the New Golden Age
At Disney parks, “Beauty and the Beast? was translated into live stage shows. “Aladdin? was most immediately turned into a parade, then was used to retheme an eatery in Adventureland at Disneyland Park (now a small show venue), then a basic spinner “flat ride? in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom, and finally a larger-scale live show at DCA.

“The Lion King? had a very successful parade adaptation, a puppetry show, and the characters have been used in videos at Walt Disney World Resort (WDW). “Pocahontas? had a live stage show, as did “The Hunchback of Notre Dame? (at Disneyland Park, a special performance arena was constructed for it, replacing the Ranch attraction, but it is now only used for private events). “Hercules? and “Mulan? both had parades, “Tarzan? was used to retheme the treehouse in Disneyland Park’s Adventureland and for a show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park (DAK).

“Fantasia 2000? was loosely adapted to a parade (that is still running) at Disneyland Park.

Then came “The Emperor’s New Groove? which was pretty much ignored by the parks. Also, there were no stage shows, parades, or retheming of anything for “Atlantis: The Lost Empire?, “Lilo & Stitch?, or “Treasure Planet?, either. As I just said, Disneyland Park still features the same parade it premiered in conjunction with "Fantasia 2000".

Pixar’s Hits
Pixar projects have arguably fared a little better. The “Toy Story? films have resulted in some live entertainment adaptations, but not on the scale of Pocahontas or Hunchback. There was the renovation of “Dreamflight? at Magic Kingdom into the popular Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and a temporary Funhouse at Disneyland Park. “A Bug’s Life? lent some characters to the It’s Tough to Be a Bug 3-D attraction at DAK and DCA, and was given a whole area inside of DCA targeted toward the youngest guests.

However, “Monsters, Inc? and “Finding Nemo? haven’t yet been given anything but minor live appearances.

Other Disney Films
“The Nightmare Before Christmas? has been adapted into the very popular holiday Haunted Mansion overlay.

“Dinosaur? was used to rename Countdown to Extinction at DAK, but is pretty much ignored otherwise.

Meanwhile, Winnie the Pooh, a character Disney doesn’t have all of the rights to, has been featured in three decidedly different theme park attractions because his merchandise has proven extremely popular.

Some live-action films have also been adaptable to theme parks, but have not been used to their full potential. When “Dick Tracy? failed to become Disney’s answer to “Batman?, he never got more than a great stage show, “Diamond Double Cross?. At one time, Disney had been planning an elaborate attraction based on the movie. “Mighty Joe Young? and the “Spy Kids? trilogy have been left alone. “Armageddon? has been turned into a “special effects? show at Disney Studios Paris, but could be the basis for a much more involved ride-through attraction.

Finally, Disney theme parks haven’t offered anything new with the “Star Wars? properties of George Lucas for a long time, even though he’s released two of three new movies. Star Tours has remained the same since it opened in Disneyland Park at the dawn of 1987.

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