March 13, 2008

Imagineers Set To Screw Up Mary Blair's It's A Small World Ride

When I was little, Mary Blair's animatronic masterpiece, the Disneyland version of It's A Small World, made me want to become an Imagineer so bad, I sent off for the brochure. Instead, I ended up becoming what no kid in a boat dreams of becoming: an MBA.

Now the other kids in the boat with me, the ones who actually became Imagineers, are getting ready to deface the very thing that inspired them in the first place, thanks to the cockamamie ideas of some of my fellow suit types at Disney. Someone has decided that Blair's original design needs to be branded and jingo'ed up. They're planning to add Disney characters to the scenes of children around the world. And they're literally planning to cut down the New Guinean rain forest and replace it with a USA! USA! USA! section.

Blair's art has suffered repeatedly at the hands of its corporate stewards, and though the most compelling reason for preserving the ride as is is an artistic one, it's an argument that obviously falls on deaf mouse ears.

In the brand immersion that is Disney, IASW is special, and that specialness is probably what's dooming it to corporate tampering. The ride was originally conceived by Walt Disney--who asked Blair to design it--as the Pepsi Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. The co-sponsor/beneficiary of Pepsi's munificence was Unicef, and the ride and the song were meant to endear the children of the [rest of the] world the fair's largely American audience. The pavilion was then transplanted to Disneyland after the fair closed.

On a Gantt chart, then, that measures the level of brand support or brand experience, or the market support provided to revenue-generating characters, IASW's bubbles inevitably come up empty. But then, until a few years ago, so did the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Rather than treat IASW as a window display for promoting existing characters, or blithely putting an America! section on top of the rain forest [the rain forest!], why doesn't Disney find a way to build a brand and entertainment and merchandise program out of the ride as it exists? Though a ride-based movie was ridiculed at the time, the billions of dollars Pirates has generated since should be proof enough of the concept.

Re-imagineering: A World Of Tears [imagineerebirth]

4 Comments

If you have an inside track on recovering all that sweet Mary Blair art they're going to scrap, I'm interested! Perfect for the kidlette's room!

[I'm already on it. hope for the best, work the backchannels for the worst. -ed.]

Has this story been verified by anyone? As much as I'd love to be outraged, my skept-o-meter keeps spinning.

I'm not skeptical of the story at all. They are doing this same sort of character branding to all of their rides now so I'd be surprised if they DIDN'T destroy it, frankly. Pirates of the Caribbean and the submarine ride have already fallen victim.

Weren't they supposed to bury the Tiki Room a while back, too?

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