After reading my posts on Disneyland California Adventure’s now-open Cars Land, a close friend and loyal reader (hi, Becca!) asked me what I really thought about the park. She knows my feelings on the “Cars” franchise, and thought that maybe I’m feeling more negative about it than I let on in my articles. I admitted that while I’m not super excited that Disney keeps choosing to promote “Cars” in the parks, I don’t really mind. I’d rather them open another “Cars Land” at Disney World, for example, than make a “Cars 3.”
That led me to wonder about the process through which Disney films are selected for focus at the parks. Obviously just about every Disney film, especially the animated ones, are represented somehow at the parks. Fans of “The Emperor’s New Groove” might only be able to meet Kuzco on rare occasions, but I’m sure they can find merchandise somewhere featuring him. But what makes Disney decide to dedicate a part of a hotel or an entire new attraction or park to a film?
The obvious answer is popularity. For Disney popularity means more than just ticket sales. If that were the case, they never would have made a “Cars 2,” or chosen the Pixar film as one of the wings at the Art of Animation Resort. Popularity means how much Disney makes off of the film as a whole, including all of its merchandising sales. That’s why Disney focuses so much energy on “Cars;” as a film it wasn’t that popular, at least not at the box office, but Disney made more money in merchandising from it than any of the other Pixar films.
I’m starting to have a complicated relationship with the Disney parks. As I get older I find myself less and less inclined to go to one. I’m sensitive to the ever-rising costs (if I’m going to spend that much money on a vacation, I’d rather just tour another country), and I don’t think I’d be able to lose myself well in attractions based on the films. Maybe I’ll have to save up and see if I could ever manage a Disney vacation with my children, though even then I’m just not sure.
Obviously thousands of kids really love something about the “Cars” movies, and the Disney Parks are more for those kids now than they are for me. Cars Land is really neat in that it’s a recreation of Route 66 in the movie; you can walk right down the main street and see the shops and residences of all of the film’s major characters. That’s the sort of magic Disney’s always been about, and I’m glad that they’re continuing it.
My dream Disney park is already about to happen anyway, with the Fantasyland expansion. They’re even opening it at Disney World, the park that I’d be more likely to visit because I live on the East Coast.
The point of the Disney parks is to innovate technology and celebrate Disney films. They’re already doing both of those things. If Disney wants to keep milking money out of their pre-existing franchises, I’d want them to do it at the Disney parks, because that’s one of the things for which they’re there. I’d much rather Disney’s creative focus be on making new movies with elaborate worlds they can one day represent in the parks, and luckily this fall it looks like they’re about to do that again with “Wreck-It Ralph.”