Disney had to take to the internet a couple of times in the last week or so to debunk rumors that certain long loved attractions were being replaced. Certain sites had started spreading fake news about the Country Bears and the Tiki Room in the Magic Kingdom both being replaced in favor of newer IP-laced attractions.
We now know that these shows are going nowhere for the time being. And like many others, I'm relieved. But the entire situation also made me take a bit of a step back to consider just how fine a line we force Disney to walk here in the parks.
Some of my first memories are of watching the Main Street Electrical Parade and sitting in the Enchanted Tiki Room with my late dad. He loved those damned birds so much.
So many others cling to similar memories around Big Al of the Country Bears. Or Uncle Orville in Carousel of Progress. I could go on and on.
When Ellen's Universe of Energy closed two summers ago to make way for Guardians of the Galaxy, we lined up to ride. But how many times had we visited the attraction in the years leading up to that? And how many of us joked that even then, it was just for the air conditioning?
And in the end, I just want to give Disney a nod and a pass here. Because I cannot think of another company that is forced to walk such a fine line between preserving sacred memories and delivering state of the art experiences. I might cling to my old Fisher Price toys and the memories that are tied to them – but I don't demand that they continue to mass produce the old toy record player of my childhood.
In just a few months, we'll say goodbye to Illuminations – Reflections of Earth after a 20 year run.
I'll be amongst the crowds crying at that last show. But I also understand that it's time that gorgeous 360 degree view lagoon got a new experience…and I'll be at that first new interim show the next day just as excited to see what's to come. (And saluting Disney for getting its audience so well that it's taking away Illuminations and replacing it – at least temporarily – with Epcot Forever, a show that will celebrate the very extinct attractions beloved by the people that will be mourning the passage of Reflections of Earth.)
I love that Disney protects the attractions of our youth – especially the ones touched by Walt – but I also see the crowds around me during shows like Illuminations, often made up of people that are visiting for the first time and have no emotional ties to the show. And I understand that in their eyes the show just doesn't measure up to new spectaculars like Happily Ever After. And if you're the nostalgic type and want to claw my eyes out for daring to say that…know that I get you. Because it hurts to type it.
But it's true. And sometimes it's time. And I guess all I'm saying here is that Disney deserves a nod for juggling its devotion to always growing and improving against its devotion to the long-time park visitors that cling to the memories that its oldest attractions hold.
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What are your thoughts on Disney's balance between nostalgia and innovation? Are they getting it right? Or are they going too far in one direction or another?