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Turning Point: Disney Parks Turn Their Backs on Originality

D23 puts Disney all-in on its own IP

Image: DisneyDisney’s D23 2017 announcements were truly historic in nature. The company delivered one bombshell after another, and there was a recurring them if you paid attention. D23 mapped the future of Disney’s Parks & Resorts division from now until 2021, the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. And the future of Disney is unmistakably popular IP.

Let’s start with the duplication of a prior decision. Disney chose to repurpose an existing attraction that featured IP that they didn’t already own. And they announced the intention to replace it with an attraction with the theme of Guardians of the Galaxy. The old IP in this instance was Jeopardy, and the Epcot version of Guardians of the Galaxy will be a roller coaster rather than a drop tower dark ride, but the underlying strategy is the same.

Disney will no longer pay an outside company for the right to its IP, instead highlighting something from the Disney catalogue. Only a few years ago, Guardians of the Galaxy was a largely unknown property yet now it’s going to have anchor attractions at two different Disney theme parks.

Image: DisneyThe conversion of Ellen’s Energy Adventure was only the first step, though. Disney also announced that Disney California Adventure will drop the body of its core theme, California. In its place, the park will celebrate Marvel and Pixar instead. As a reminder, when Disney California Adventure was built in 2001, the company didn’t own Marvel or Pixar. The themes that they’re now using as the backbone of the park are IPs Disney went out and bought rather than held previously. Clearly, they’ve learned a lesson from the Harry Potter misstep.

To wit, a major new roller coaster is coming to Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland. It’s an American version of Tron Lightcycle Power Run and, you guessed it, Tron is a Disney license. How about Epcot? The Ratatouille ride coming to the France Pavilion is also a Pixar property. And most importantly…

Hollywood Studios is the true embodiment of Disney’s new business philosophy

Image: DisneyWhen you visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios today, you’ll see an advertisement where The Great Movie Ride used to be. In August of 2017, Disney closed the oldest ride at the park, its signature attraction from the 1980s. Why?

Well, Turner Classic Movies sponsored the ride, and it featured movies from many Hollywood studios, not just Disney. At some point soon, this building’s new occupant will be Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. It’s the ultimate Disney IP yet the first ride ever to feature the iconic mouse couple. The change at this attraction is only the tip of the iceberg.

As confirmed at D23, Toy Story Land will arrive in 2018, soon to be followed by Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. Once these themed lands are open, Hollywood Studios will be the IP themed capital of the Disney Parks & Resorts empire.

Image: DisneyDisney also confirmed at D23 that a Star Wars hotel is in the offing. It will presumably connect to Star Wars Land, and Disney has confirmed that this new resort will include an immersive Star Wars experience. No matter which side of The Force that you favor, you will receive assigned missions and quests during your trip that you can accept to enrich your Disney IP experience. Rumors abound that a similar construction will happen at Disneyland, this time with Marvel as the focus. And again, Disney didn’t own Star Wars or Marvel until the past decade.

What we’re witnessing right now is the reveal of a grand design from Disney strategists. The future of the parks is Disney-owned IP, some of which Disney went out and bought in anticipation of this sort of eventual usage. D23 was Disney calling its shots on the next decade of park visits. And Mickey & Minnie, Tron, Ratatouille, Star Wars, Pixar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel, and Toy Story are integral pieces of it. What Disney has achieved here is absolutely amazing, and I say that before they’ve even broken ground on a lot of the stuff listed here.

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There are 3 comments.

Disney only stated that a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' ATTRACTION would be at Epcot. There's no proof anywhere that it'll be a roller coaster. Please only use terms that the park has stated rather than go on what you personally want to see.

D23s announcements for me reeked of soul-less corporate synergizing. No vision. Minimal enrichment or sophistication (the space restaurant may be the only exception). It's all 'Ride our Fantasy Movie Franchises' at the expense of learn-something-about-the-actual-world-while-having-fun. No coherence of theme. No depth beyond what an MBA manager-type understands of "themed amusement parks".


This all makes me so sad. My favorite rides at Disney have always been the original IPs and stories: Haunted Mansion, Pirates (pre-Depp), Jungle Cruise... I have more happy memories of the Carousel of Progress than I do of any of the 600 Toy Story shooting rides. Even Maelstrom's always held a special place in my heart, not because it was a spectacular ride, but precisely because it was so unknown; it was like a little secret tucked away in the otherwise grown-up centric World Showcase.

I don't want or need to ride the movies. Like, I have TV at home. Give us something different in the parks.


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