This post, I want to briefly talk about a couple possible points of view one can take in response to Disney's announcement of Pandora coming to the Animal Kingdom, as well as its acquisition and planned use of Marvel superheroes in the park. When I first heard each of these announcements, my reaction was distinctly negative.
I was in Disneyland, riding the Sun Wheel, when I peered on my phone. I saw the announcement that Disney was planning to add Avatar to its Animal Kingdom park in Walt Disney World, and frowned. I looked around at Paradise Pier, the twinkling lights, the whimsy and magic, and thought about the violent and vulgar and adult world of Pandora, as created by James Cameron. How on earth could Disney put that movie into its arsenal and use it to create a magical experience in its theme parks? Unfortunately, I stopped thinking about it after that because it was saddening me.
I was at Universal CityWalk when I heard about Disney's acquisition of Marvel. I had just exited Islands of Adventure, and was contemplating the shortcomings of Universal Orlando as compared to Disney: their lack of detail work, lack of consideration of interaction, and general grave lack of magic in the parks. I had just seen their Marvel Superhero Island area of Islands of Adventure, and had not had a single interaction with an employee, had seen paint peeling of off the Incredible Hulk, and had been saddened. I was about ready to head back to Epcot and feel like I was part of something important and beautiful. Then I read the news that Disney had bought Marvel. Marvel; the theme of the land I had just exited, full of huge flexing muscles, and heroes who just seem to punch the bad guys to death at the end of the movie.
Since these moments, I have had a few thoughts:
First, Disney is never going to let franchises like Avatar and Marvel overtake and supplant the fairytales on which it was founded. When you walk down Main Street USA, do you see any mention of Indiana Jones? Or Star Wars? Aerosmith? American Idol? Secret Life of the American Teenager? All things Disney has used in its parks, and some of them even worked well!
When I thought of these franchises in the Parks, I got scared, and then I realized Disney has been doing this for years and it had never phased me before! Is Avatar for children? No! Is Indiana Jones for children? Absolutely not! Those movies are violent and sexual and not at all appropriate for children. However, no one ever complains about the fact that Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland is inappropriate for kids. The same goes for Star Tours. Star Wars is violent, and Star Tours is still a wonderful experience at the parks.
All that said, I don't personally care for Marvel, or what it teaches society, or how it makes me feel. Avatar was a big and cool movie, but also not particularly uplifting. However, I think Disney can do something incredible in the parks. And more importantly than that, I don't think we have to worry about either of those brand names replacing what we love: the magical whimsy and nostalgic "dreams come true" mantra that we all come back for while strolling down Main Street.