With announcements in recent years about new attractions and lands coming to various Disney theme parks around the world, questions have arisen regarding the evident homogenization of them, particularly the idea that Disneyland and Walt Disney World are becoming more and more like each other, and more like the parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Paris. The team on the DIS Unplugged has also discussed this topic at times, forcing everyone listening and watching to reckon with the concept of park homogenization for themselves.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2018 prior to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Disney has been releasing more and more details about the highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands coming to Disneyland Park in Anaheim and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, but it turns out that the land is going to be exactly the same in both parks. It would be perfectly acceptable for the land to be basically the same on both coasts, but there should be some differences — one attraction that is not the same, or dining locations offering different choices. The best idea would be for Disney to make two lands themed around different locations in the Star Wars galaxy so that they offer completely different experiences, but it is clear that will not be happening because of the expense of designing one land and the tremendous cost the company would have had to undertake in order to simultaneously make two lands that are similar in concept but different in execution.
The Ratatouille attraction at Disneyland Paris that has been heavily praised for its theming, innovative use of new technology, and overall ride experience has also been announced to be going into the France pavilion at Epcot in the near future. The issue with the introduction of this ride to Epcot is not the ride itself, but rather the fact that it is being brought here from Paris in order to give American visitors something new without actually having to go about making something that has not been seen before. In a similar way, the Tron coaster being installed in Tomorrowland is a copy of the one in Shanghai and looks to be the exact same experience for guests. These two rides are very popular in their home theme parks overseas, so Disney is banking on the attractions maintaining their levels of popularity with the American audience; these attractions are probably a lot of fun to ride, but the point is that Disney has refused to innovate in its theme parks as much as it has been able to for the last several years because of the focus on cost-cutting.
Critics will say that it is important for people to be able to experience attractions at domestic parks that originated overseas because many people simply will never be able to afford a trip to Europe or Asia to be able to ride the originals. The same people, I would argue, are not likely to support a complete overhaul of Disneyland to replace Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Snow White’s Scary Adventures with Mickey’s PhilharMagic so that people who go to either park can have the same experience. It is for this reason that certain attractions should be left where they are and not duplicated all over the world.
Now, this is not to say that a popular ride or show in one park should never be added to another park, just that it should happen less frequently so that the focus can be on innovating and creating unique experiences at all parks for people around the world to enjoy. For instance, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has become a big hit and is entering the parks in different ways. At Disney California Adventure, the former Tower of Terror has been replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy–Mission: BREAKOUT! in an elevator-type ride for which its predecessor became famous. At Epcot, however, the former Universe of Energy with Ellen’s Energy Adventure is being turned into a Guardians roller coaster. This new ride will have the same characters and themes as the attraction in Anaheim, but the experience will be totally different. This is a prime example of how Disney can expand its intellectual properties to many parks but do it in a way that creates new magic at every turn with attractions that are not exact replicas of popular rides in other parks.
Disney’s first goal as a business entity is to maximize profit, and it feels as though lowering costs to build new attractions by copying existing ones is the best way to do that; however, it is possible that if the parks are different enough while still all maintaining the same level of magical Disney atmosphere, people will save up to go to different parks to be able to experience other attractions, thus giving more money to the corporation as a result. Disney should not continue to homogenize its parks, lest it result in virtually the same experience for guests on either coast or anywhere around the world.
Part of what makes the Disney theme parks so special is that they each have their own charm, things that set them apart from the rest of the parks. If every park has the same rides and the same lands, it could spell disaster for family entertainment as we know it. Disney has shown that it can create multiple attractions based on the same theme, and the Imagineers should be left alone to create whatever they want in order to maximize new and exciting experiences for all people visiting parks on both coasts and several continents.