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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... 

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Comments

I’m always explaining what Disney is all about. So many people question the amount of money that is gobbled up going to a park that isn’t as thrilling as this place or modern as the other. For me, it’s about walking up to the gates, seeing the Contemporary off to the side, and seeing, feeling, smelling all the same experiences from the first time I visited. That first holy [email protected]# moment as a kid that you believe it all is real. I saw they brought Marvel into Disneyland, and although my family goes to DW, as a kid Disneyland was my park. If I wanted the Hulk I would go to Six Flags and I expect them to change frequently to keep me thrilled. But for nostalgia and reliving my childhood, I wish it would never change. I have every inch of Pirates memorized and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fire room smells the same as it did when I was 7.

It’s all about the connection. I mean come on, the park is for us. The kids just get to come along for the ride ;-)

Nostalgia is only part of it. What I've seen at the park the last time I went was quite disheartening. The carousel horses badly needed painting, the hitching posts on Main Street were down to the base in some spots, I overheard cast members openly complaining about conditions, and one cast member I talked to said she's "retiring" rather than deal with the chaos that will happen when Star Wars Land opens. She wasn't the only one.

I think the impetus of the ticket and parking prices isn't to limit the number of people entering the park. They could take care of that very easily by simply setting a lower limit. The real reason is greed.

They still, even with the raise negotiated and pending now, don't pay a living wage. They have done away with some shift work, it appears, as the gardeners (there were 23 full time) now are trying to do their work DURING operating hours. Also, the engineers who have to check the rides and okay them for operation, are now keeping rides closed up to two hours into operating times in order to sign off on them.

All these things together tell me they're scrimping and cutting back, where they should be maintaining and improving. That is an effect of greed.

I'm going one final time before "Star Wars Land" opens. Then, I'm done, because it won't be Disneyland any more. Star Wars doesn't belong in Disneyland. Maybe--and that's a big maybe--in Cali-Adventure, but not in Disneyland.

The rise in prices is not to lower crowd sizes. It's to rake in more money.
That's the only consideration. Bean counters don't see how this will impact the rest of the park, or how jarring it is. All they see is dollar signs.

What's further annoying is the Marvel fanboys sticking up for this decision. Consider that the average "The Twilight Zone" appreciator is a well-cultured person, of above-average intelligence. Then consider those same traits with regard to Marvel fans. Yeah. This pits smart against dumb, and dumb appears to have prevailed.

Having been born in the early 70s, I had the chance to ride "Adventures thru Inner Space" and "Mission to Mars" in the "Old Tomorrowland" and when I got out of college and moved out on my own the first thing I bought was a $99 basic annual pass (which I later upgraded to a $199 Premium Annual Pass), and I hung out in the parks almost daily (helped that I only lived about a half-hour walk or bike ride away) and watched them overhaul Tomorrowland and enjoyed both good and bad shows (anyone remember "Light Magic?" Way ahead of its time, beautiful show, but it caused the biggest failure of an annual passholder preview in Disneyland history, massive traffic jams that required the 'back of the house' to be opened up for guest traffic [at that time considered a HUGE 'no-no'] and the generation of kids that were to be in awe of it had no clue who Tinkerbell was and the music seemed to be a rip-off of "Riverdance"--also didn't help that they put in the "Baroque Hoedown" of the recently-closed "Main Street Electrical Parade" [that I watched what was supposed to be the very last run of--still have the keychain and pictures] as the finale).

Fast forward a few years, I moved to central Florida. I'm now a Platinum Annual Passholder to Walt Disney World. Now that I've been here a while, I've seen the problem Disneyland has: simply not enough space for EVERYONE's imaginations. Disney has always been a place that changes with the times; and while WDW has the space to hang on to some of its 'classics', Disneyland doesn't. In order to adapt to new generations they have no choice but to tear out the old stuff; I'm sure they're keenly aware of that conundrum. But in the end, it's a business, and it has shareholders to answer to and make money for.

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