Monday, December 3, 2012

On Disney parks and Renaissance festivals

So recently (as in, over the last few months) I've been reading Yesterland, a website dedicated to Disney theme park attractions, and I learned that California Adventure, the "other" Disney theme park, has been all but scrapped and renovated from its original form. But you know what? I liked it before. Not that I've ever been, but there's something about the original form that was endearing (not "Hollywood Superstar", though, brr). But, besides opening at the worst time possible (months before 9/11), people were whining about the fact it wasn't "Disney" (read: Mickey Mouse and friends figuratively smacking you over the head) enough, that it didn't have enough things for kids especially to do. The theme park was also developed under the assumption that people wanted to shop and eat. With that in mind, there was some rather innovative stuff developed.

Within a decade, though, the wacky California pastiche things and most of the dining was closed for the whole "Disney romanticization"...and the whole thing became a "second Disneyland".

But there is something to keep in mind...while it was an incorrect assumption to believe that people came to Disney theme parks to shop and eat (because that's the first thing people think of when it comes to mind, duh) but it's not an absolutely wrong assumption.

First off, when EPCOT Center opened in the early 1980s, the restaurants there really were worth going to, which may have started it (and California Adventure was built on the scraps of the canned "WESTcot"). Secondly, I can tell you where it has worked out...Renaissance Festival in Texas. There's an admission fee, and a huge percentage of what's there are shops and eateries (both of which are very good). And it is successful. But the success of RenFest in this area and the non-success of original California Adventure is for two reasons, and it has neither to do with skimpy clothing.

1. Renaissance Festival serves alcohol. Besides being a money-maker itself, it's also easier to be convinced into buying something. Disney doesn't serve alcohol based on tradition.

2. Renaissance Festival has better shops. At Renaissance Festival, you can find a large selection of handcrafted jewelry, Renaissance-era (replicas, of course) garb, giant chimes, awesome and/or impractical weapons, blown glass, things made out of wood, pewter, leather. It's all unique, and you can't find elsewhere. At Disney theme parks, it's mostly licensed Disney stuff.

I suppose if California Adventure had actually done things a bit differently, a bit cheaper, served alcohol, and all--it could actually have been a success instead of a huge money-loser. And so, a combination of poor marketing and whiny people killed what could've been an interesting concept. Too bad!

(Yes, I did go the Renaissance Festival this year, what with my super-budget Link costume...a Link hat from a Halloween costume a decade ago and a green t-shirt)

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