The Progress Essays' Introduction
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
“It had this feeling of a freight train leaving the station at light speed. You better jump on or jump off fast.” – Don Hahn, Waking Sleeping Beauty.
I’ve come to think of myself as a “Disney Parks Essencist” – In other words, I believe destruction in theme park design is not determined by a lessening popularity level of intellectual property, nor the approach of waiting for the attraction to rot to replace, but rather the understanding the attraction’s “essence” – the purpose and meaning in that attraction’s home park or resort and what it was meant to do when it premiered to guests. This is done knowing not only its financial or overall purpose within a park, but it’s storytelling identity.
To me, it’s always a “What is the essence of this attraction that makes it so great? What makes it Disney? What is a “Disney” level attraction? Is the format able to adapt? Can we progress?
As a sincere Disney Parks fan, I think it is time to look at the playing field on what progress looks like, done right, and with a purpose. The Princess and the Frog vs. Splash debates may have brought a large concurrence to theming in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, but spared the balance within Critter Country and Frontierland. This brought a new question to fans: When is progress out of control? Is killing history progress? When in Progress good? When is it bad?
Why is it okay to rip out The Great Movie Ride, but guns-a-blazin’ with Splash Mountain?
These Progress Essays are rooted in the question of a fans’ apocalyptic nightmare of replacing classic attractions at Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide – though not currently necessary, this poses questions and answer to what it could not only look like, but can it be done correctly, wisely, and keep Disney “essence.” Is the Essence of the Magic Kingdom in It’s a Small World? Or can the carrying of a smile in a different attraction be just enough to label it as having that Disney “essence”
Classics will be taken away. You can’t fight classics with classics. This will be controversial, this will confuse fans’ beliefs, this will be out of the box thinking and ingenuity looking forward.
But isn’t all Progress?
The reason for the previous quote above by Don Hahn really defines where Disney parks are at. Disney’s in-between a change in leadership and direction, which boils down to focus and delivery. How do you carry storytelling on you while trying to jump into the train car while it takes off?
So, let’s start with the right side of Magic Kingdom since currently, that’s where most of the park is looking to be updated.