The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are mine alone, and are in no way representative of those of Theme Park Tourist or its entire staff. As a frequent contributor here, I hope you've taken a look at the Legend Library I'm contributing to. In each entry, we look back at the in-depth stories behind famous (and infamous) attractions. We dissect them to discover what makes an attraction a classic, what role Imagineers play in shaping the parks, and what tough decisions go into keeping a ride relevant. I hope you've come to respect my stories, efforts, and opinions through those features, and I hope today we can use the expertise we've gained together. Do me a favor: give me the benefit now of listening to what I have to say. 

I think I'm done with Disneyland.

Before you go telling me “Good! Shorter lines for me!,” give me a chance to explain.

And before you begin thinking this is a gut reaction – shocked by the announcement Disney just made – that I’ll regret, let me be clear: I’m not acting emotionally.

I'm not blindsided. I don’t feel irrational. I’m not in grief. I’m not just reeling from yet another blow. I'm not directed by the preception that those damnedable executives have yet again chosen the 'wrong' path in my enthusiast-centric mind.

Image: Disney

Every time Disney closes a ride, makes a seemingly out-of-touch decision, ruins a classic, or raises prices, fans leap to their feet with vitriol and rage, followed closely by fuming promises that Disney will never get another penny of their money, and that they'll never visit Disney Parks again! I've criticized my peers for blind, angry, passionate assertions like that – righteous (but weightless) anger that quickly cools. So this isn't that.

While all of the above emotions would be justified, they’re not the case. I’m not angry. I’m just… deflated.

Let me be clear: it has always occurred to me that the Disneyland I love – the park I grew up with and celebrated and adored – is detested by some. As hard as it has been for me to imagine, I realize that this version of Disneyland – my Disneyland – is an affront to those who grew up there in the 1970s. Many of them were shocked and dismayed at the inclusion of Star Wars or Indiana Jones, and they no doubt weep for the lost classics of that era – rides that I never knew (Adventure Thru Inner Space, Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland, and more) and thus never missed. I know that for some of those fans, the changes simply overtook the Disneyland they knew – their Disneyland.

Image: Disney

But what those 1970s fans didn't realize is that an entire generation of Disney Parks fans had already moved on. There were no doubt those who cherished Disneyland in its earliest days – the '50s and '60s – and politely moved on when the elements of the early years (the things that made their Disneyland different) gave way to the Big Thunder Mountains and Space Mountains of the '70s. 

Put simply: everyone adores the Disneyland they grew up with – their Disneyland – draped and drenched in nostalgia and viewed through the rose-colored, idealized lens of childhood wonder heaped on top of the romance that's already baked-in. Each generation cements their Disneyland carefully, detail-by-detail, ride-by-ride, in their minds. It’s natural. They imagine that the way they experienced things is the right way to experience them.

Image: Disney

But Disneyland doesn’t stay the same, and as the Disney Parks Blog frequently and frustratingly remind us in their most apologetic announcements, it was never supposed to! It changes, and at each and every stage of Disneyland’s growth, fans have dropped away; personally hurt by the way the park has progressed. Any two snapshots a decade apart will show that Disneyland changes drastically, and as quickly as people grow, so does the park. Before long, Disneyland isn’t their park anymore.

And in my back of my mind remained the creeping thought: someday, the things I love and cherish in Disneyland will be gone, too. I’ll have to watch as my favorite attractions age and fall to the whims of time and progress and finances and synergy and leadership changes and tastes and technologies. I consciously and regrettably realized that eventually and unavoidably, there would come a day that Disneyland wouldn’t look the way I knew and loved it… a day when Disneyland wouldn’t be my park anymore.

Today, the essence of that becomes real to me.

And yes, the permanent closure of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure is the reason. But don't roll your eyes quite yet.

My Disneyland 

It didn’t start today. I mean, I grew up in the 1990s, so the Disneyland I see today isn’t too far off from what I grew up with (with respect to those who cherished the park in earlier eras, for whom it must look absolutely unrecognizable today). While my time with Disneyland is short, I’ve seen some of the creeping, crawling changes here and there. I saw the Country Bears evicted for Pooh and the Submarine Voyage drained for Nemo. I watched as New Tomorrowland swept in, decimating Walt’s Tomorrowland and the beloved Peoplemover. I saw the devastating opening of the creatively starved Disney’s California Adventure and the does-it-matter-or-doesn’t-it out-of-touch changes to New Orleans Square that lit fans ablaze. 

Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

Just this January, I was forced to reschedule a trip from across the country when it was announced that this would be my last chance to see the Rivers of America, the Disneyland Railroad, Tom Sawyer Island, Fantasmic!, and more before a sweeping 14-acre expansion created a Star Wars land, inexplicably set against the otherwise literary themed lands of Walt Disney’s park. And I admit that a Star Wars land inside Disneyland Park rubs me the wrong way despite my logical understanding that most guests simply don't mind. But c'mon. Save it for a third park, right?

But see, that's not all!

The same trip would also have to serve as a final farewell to the beloved fan-favorite Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, closing a decade-long run at Disney California Adventure for (you guessed it) Frozen, despite tremendous outcry. It didn’t matter. It didn’t make a difference that overwhelmingly, the Disney Parks Blog was overrun with comments repulsed at the change and that fans reared back in disgust. What would Walt do? What would Walt do? No matter. Business is business. And one thing I’ve never ever faulted the Walt Disney Company for is being a business. I haven’t let my personal appreciation for the founder or the company's would-be image of a mom-and-pop-shop enterprise mislead me. I get it.

Sometimes when you care deeply about something, impersonal things can hit personally. But this is the last straw... Read on... 

Comments

Iv never commented on any of the posts on here but after reading this one i just felt i had to. Everything you said hit home with me, everyone indeed has their own Disney that they have grown up with, myself included and to read your thoughts on the matter was like a punch to the stomach, making me realize i too feel the same way but hadn't fully processed it through properly. I feel your pain and your post is one that moved me and made me get frustrated at myself equally once i realized my own feelings on the matter and on other similar Disney decisions of the past.

Fully agree that change is hard. But, how can we complain about change when that very change brought us the rides and attractions that we so dearly cherish.

We are quick to point out the 100 people that agreed with us on a blog, but fail to admit Frozen fills the theatre more than a 10+ year Aladdin production.

We fail to admit, the Submarine Voyage never had a line prior to Nemo. Or that the People Mover was considered BORING in our hip teen years.

Bring on something new and exciting, you know... that e-ticket rush Indy and Star Tours gave us as Hollywood films joined Walt's classic lands.

Turns out, they didn't destroy Walt's original lands. They're following Walt's example, for he too, continually changed and expanded them.

you hit the nail on the head! my sentiments exactly except that i am refering to Disney World because i have never been to Disneyland. Disney World is my happy place. i've been there many many times. but with the removal of so many things like the sorcerers hat, and now the ears tower, and several rides, i'm upset. the addition of Star Wars is horrid!! not to mention Avatarland. good grief the kids will be scared to death before they even see mickey!! start a whole new theme park somewhere else for this stuff. leave my happy place alone. i suppose next i'll see tinkerbell being shot by a deathstar super laser. ENOUGH already!

I agree with you Brian. Disney today seems to be increasingly out of touch with their own fanbase. The last 10 years of decisions have been questionable at best and they are becoming increasingly frustrating. First they pick an unestablished ip to bring into a park instead of their planned original expansion. While odd and risky they have poured a lot of resources and thought into this expansion and are going to make it worthy addition to Animal Kingdom. Then they inject characters that only marginally have anything to do with the Norway. But at least the outside structure still very much fits in with the flow and theme of the area. Now this decision with tower of terror will be an absolute blight on the entire park. What happened to the Disney that so carefully plans out sight lines and themes to the point that they build a building with the careful thought of how it will look even from another park?

But one area I have to disagree with is that while Hollywood Studios is limping by with 5 Eticket attractions (not three like you suggest) there is no way that California Adventures has a dozen.

Beautifully said and right on point. I grew up a child of Disney World. We would go every other year when I was young. But the last 3 times I've flown down to Florida, I've thought, "This just isn't what it used to be." I didn't feel the magic anymore in Disney World. I hadn't been to Disneyland since I was 6, but last year (after a 23 year hiatus), I returned to Disneyland in October for the 60th anniversary celebration. I fell in love. I felt the magic that I used to feel at Disney World. I decided I'd much rather fly to Disneyland from the east coast than make the much shorter trip to Disney World...And then Star Wars land was announced, and I found out they'd be closing so much at Disneyland for an extended period of time. But it was ok, I'd deal. I flew back to Disneyland last month to experience the 60th anniversary celebration again. I stayed in the Grand Californian and started every day staring out my window at Grizzly Peak and Tower of Terror. At night, I walked onto the balcony and watched the Tower Hotel glowing eerily in the distance. To me, it was the best view imaginable from a hotel room. And now it's going to be gone? Replaced by some superheroes that I don't know (and probably never will because I'm so over superhero movies). I'm just sad. Sad that Disney doesn't listen. Sad that they think they know what's best for us even if it's not what anyone wants. And for me at least, it goes way back. Remember when Winnie the Pooh replaced Mr. Toad in Disney World? Awful. Or when they said they were closing 20,000 Leagues for refurbishment and put in a Pooh playground in Disney World? The worst. Or how in Disney World, they're still shoving Avatar down our throats even though no one cares about it? Or how they tore out Maelstrom and gave us Frozen, which has nothing to do with Norway?
And now Disneyland. This beautiful place that I've just rediscovered. The place where the magic still lives. They want to destroy that too. (Sigh.) I was kind of hoping if they put anything in California Adventure, it would be a Big Hero 6 ride. At least that would actually fit the Californian theme (kind of...since it's San Fransokya, and not San Francisco). But this. Guardians of the Galaxy makes no sense. It doesn't fit. It's going to ruin the landscape. And even when I return to Disneyland, I know I won't ride it...just like when I was there in June, I didn't see the new Frozen stage show. I can't support these decisions that they're making. I do understand it's a business, but they've gotten so far away from Walt's vision that it hurts my heart.

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