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Disneyland Ex Machina

This week in Disneyland news: Promote Al Lutz!


Suddenly the flume levels rise, the lines thin out, the Abominable Snowman cries “Maria!” and Walt’s frozed-up head raises an insouciant eyebrow! Al Lutz has filed an update!

The longtime Disney gadfly used to post his Disneyland insider reports weekly, even daily (I admit it: I was in Usenet) — but like me, he’s dropped down to a monthly publishing schedule. Even as the hardcore, straight-edge Disney geeks hit the popcorn-strewn front lines to issue their reports of freshly-painted railings and perceived executive malfeasance, Al Lutz hangs to the rear of the company, wringing his hands and wondering What Hath Eisner Wrought.

Mr. Lutz has, ah, been doing a hell of a lot of wringing lately. He’s steadily becoming more difficult and less enjoyable to read. It used to be that you could count on him to make you want to be at Disneyland — either to enjoy yourself, or drive out the feckless middle-managers that took over the Park in the early 1990s. He even managed to position his one-sided feud with Paul Pressler — quite possibly the most clueless man ever to don the mouse ears — in a positive light, with his “Promote Paul Pressler” campaign. Judging from this week’s update, he’s no longer of a mind to promote much of anything.

He starts out eagerly enough; he calls Toy Story Midway Mania “a nice addition to (Disney’s California Adventure)” with a “surprisingly reliable” ride system. “This was never meant to be an E Ticket,” says Mr. Lutz, adding that this second-tier attraction is merely “living up to the goals set out for it by its designers and budget.”

Kickass! I can’t wait to see it; he makes it sound so adequate. From there, however, he drills down:

“There is … some evidence that perhaps (Walt Disney Imagineering) over-thinks some things they put into the parks… Imagineers love to say that the magic is in the details, but sometimes they can be far too obscure to matter much.” That’s his reaction to a themed fast-food stand, and that’s a man who’s been writing about Disney for too long.

Every piece Mr. Lutz written about DCA has related to the park’s lack of creative detail. I never thought I’d read the words “Imagineering over-thinks” in one of his DCA pieces, or at least not so close together.

There’s more to the update, but honestly, I don’t have the heart to slog through it again. It’s as depressing a document as I’ve ever read about the Happiest Place on Earth. Hell, I’d rather go to Kafkaland, giant freaking cockroaches and all, than go to the park Al Lutz has been describing in his recent posts. “Gregor Samsa awoke to find that he’d been turned into a surprisingly reliable ride system.”

In any case, here are a few people who rode “Toy Story Midway Mania” and didn’t feel the need to damn it with faint praise.

LA Times funster Brady McDonald calls it “addictive” and “excellent.”

After a slow start, Laughing Place’s Doobie Moseley comes around: “(If) I had to pick one ride to go on 5 times tonight, Toy Story Mania would probably be in the top 3.”

And the OC Weekly’s Gabriel Ryan hates Disneyland, yet loves the new ride.

I wonder what I’ll think of it. Three more months, Mr. Lutz. Try not to harsh my mellow so much until I’m able to check out the Midway Mania myself.

I AM LEGION … ER, LINCOLN. Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle rates “The Worst Disneyland Ride(s) of all time.” He names “The Hall of Presidents,” “Country Bear Jamboree” and “it’s a small world,” which tells me two things about him: 1) he thinks that one lone president equals a “hall,” and 2) he hasn’t queued up for “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.” (For the record, Hartlaub counts “Captain EO” as the second-best Disneyland attraction of all time, which is just perverse enough to make me like him.)

SOME LIMPNESS CAN’T BE CURED WITH LEVITRA. Comedy writer Ken Levine has posted a sweet-smelling fart of a Disneyland humor piece over at the Zsa Zsa Gabor Post. He starts off strong — “Since becoming an adult, this was the first time I was ever there without kids or a joint” — but soon descends into a series of one-liners that fall flat without rimshots. Best in show: “Gas prices are so high that for the Autopia, the cars are now just being pushed by Disney employees.” G’night, ladies and germs! Tip your server!

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Florida man is suing Disney for discrimination: He refused to shave his beard, which he keeps for religious reasons, to fit the theme parks’ grooming code.It amazes me that Disney would refuse to hire anyone willing to work for Mickey Minimum, but to paraphrase George Carlin, only terrorists have beards. Disney executives have whiskers.

OUGHT TO BE THE THIRD GATE. Daveland and the Daveland Bl-g rule all known ass. They make me want to be at Disneyland. Imagine!



1 Comment

  1. You know, I don't much like Mr. Lutz's gesticulations and online spasms much either, but what's really started to weird me out lately is how much he's started to shill for the mouse. I mean, in the Pressler days he was a show quality psychopath, which was creepy (so says this ex-CM who spent her breaks pacing the land looking for burned out light bulbs), but at least he was right. Now I can't help but feeling like I'm reading some very clever ad copy as he talks about how carefully done X, Y or Z in Toy Story is or how carefully WDI stayed in budget or how nice the ride vehicle is. I can't be the only one getting this vibe. He even bothers to switch over the main page to be themed to whatever blockbuster Mickey's slipping you this season and tell you that you should go see Ratatouille because it will mean The Good Guys Will Win!

    I guess the ultimate reason I still read his stuff when I've since sent a fleet of Disney "typists" (what most of us do online is neither journalism or really even writing, let's be honest) down the river and off my radar, is that he *is* shilling for the mouse – his facts are straight and if I have to deal with some pompous self-righteousness about my parks over here in Florida from him, then it comes with the territory. At least he's a usually fun and rarely labored read.

    He is, however, dead square on the target about WDI current mania for set dressing, where everything has to signify some greater plot importance. It's bullshit, and it doesn't mean anything to anybody but the people who put it there. When I speak about the "economy of gesture" (offline, not on my blog… yet), I mean that WED enterprises knew how to set something up to suggest space / necessary information without extrapolating space into some narrative point. Because you don't need it. 50% of what you put in a dark ride falls away into black space, and the rest should read in silent movie terms: you see it, you get it, you move on. The stuff you won't ever notice is just filler.

    A great example is WED's Haunted Mansion vs. WDI's Haunted Mansion. When the HM was redone in Orlando, they dumped all the stuff in the attic and replaced it all with period correct stuff, all of which is literally or symbolically meaningful. It's wonderful set dressing, but it's meaningless, because you can't look at it and say "oh, hey, look, that's there because it represents the struggle of women in the 20th century!" or whatever. Do you know what was in the attic before it was all removed? Saxophones. Kites. Silk Plants. Main Street hitching posts. Random boxes. WED knew that nobody would look because nobody would care, so they just filled that attic with… junk!

    Great play on Promote Paul Pressler, by the way, but I'm not sure anybody will get it these days…

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