Asked by gatheredrosebuds
I’m as annoyed by its existence as the next park snob. Why does a single franchise merit an entire land to itself, why is it this particular franchise, what does it have to do with the “California” theme, and so on.
All that said, it’s a masterpiece. For every nitpick I think of, my subconscious responds with a, “Yeah, but…”
"Mater’s spinners are painful and that song is a goddamn war crime."
"Yeah, but it’s a junk yard that’s so well themed that I actually want to spend time in it."
"It’s weird enough that we’re riding around in gigantic tires, but why on Earth are we riding them horizontally?"
"Okay, but that ride system is as much fun as you’ve ever had."
“‘Radiator Springs Racers’ is…I mean, I don’t even know what it is. It’s just…uggh.”
"True, but the animatronics are jaw-dropingly apt, the ride system is more satisfying here than it is in ‘Test Track’ and adapts the film into a ride more successfully than ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,’ and the little kid beside me who was petrified at the Load Dock clearly loves this ride more than he loves his mother."
None of which excuses the content.
Normally, I hate the argument that cartoons are “just for kids,” but ‘Cars’ is an exception. It’s a half-baked pie comprised of low-hanging fruit. It’s designed for the same sort of demographic that immortalized ‘Transformers.’
Everyone with a modicum of taste raised an eyebrow at it. Chances are, that includes most of the Imagineers who adapted it into the park.
Which, to me, represents a rare artistic achievement. Think of a franchise you hate. Got one in mind?
Okay, now adapt it into a theme park land. Not a cynical one, either. It’s gotta be the truest, most fun land it can possibly be. If it doesn’t have food, figure it out. If it doesn’t suggest two hours’ worth of background music and an alternate Christmas playlist, that’s your job, too. And so on.
All that said, I know this isn’t the prickly response that one expects from a snob who’s been asked about ‘Cars,’ so let me end on a darker note.
To me, the most emblematic part of Cars Land is near the end of the queue for ‘Radiator Springs Racers.’ After walking through one of the most magnificently, painstakingly immersive queues ever constructed, we pass a gas station, and this gas station is called “Butte Gas.”
We exit one of the most magnificently, painstakingly immersive queues ever constructed—not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a fart joke. It’s the sort of nihilistic joke that amused me back in high school—“All that perfection, leading up to scatology. Rather like life, no? Kill urself lol”—only it’s preceding a Disney E-ticket instead of on my LiveJournal.
While I admire Cars Land as much as anything built in this current theme park renaissance, touches like “Butte Gas” keep me from liking it, and would keep me from grieving, on the off-chance that it’s ever demolished.
Asked by enkblogs
I have just read through it, and thank you for sending the directions to the piece anew! I in general hesitate to ‘critique’ the theories of others, as don’t wish to be dismissive on accident if I happen to disagree - in the world of the Disney themed attraction, I have my own viewpoints of course but never been one much to directly attack a discourse by other person (the final product - being an attraction, show, special effect, etc - of course is something I will analyze and state my feelings of bluntly in some cases, but try and resist back-and-forth insisting of the view of another is wrong or invalid).
Obviously, with the Mansion, a lot of ‘struggle’ between backstories - some dating back to 1954 - as well as creative teams and overarching concepts occurred. Walt seemed to favor something simple, in later years, during the Pirates project and NoS being built: a tour of the retirement home for ghosts and the fact there’d be a ‘museum of the weird’ for even more haunted artifacts before or after the show. How much he wanted a solid a-to-b plot at that point for the ride is a mystery and totally unknown.
The experiential/observable tug of war aspect of the attraction is honestly not a concept I had considered before, but not without merit. I think the observable story is very slight, or should be - they’ve tipped their hand at Disneyland more than necessary with all the business about Constance and making her definitively the woman in the stretching portrait who gave her husband the axe, and far more damaging, the ‘interactive’ crypts in Florida linking to characters inside the attraction for sake of puns and ToonTown style kiddie appeal, plus the doubling down on the ‘bride’s ring’ and Master Gracey things being intertwined. Little Leota and the Ghost Host definitely ‘see’ us as guests and playfully threaten us - but I never really viewed that as being some big plot to get a new ghost that is essential to the narrative. It’s a ‘accidental’ find for what they might talk to us about and involve the visiting theme park guest in an organic way, that makes sense in overarching progression of experience.
I’ve always swung to a simpler point of reference: the 1969 release of Story And Song From The Haunted Mansion LP record, which predated the actual ride opening. It describes nearly beat-for-beat the 1969 attraction, complete with Hatbox Ghost as he was intended to be seen, with a ‘story’ of a couple of teens getting soaked out by the rain one stormy night and inadvertently embarking on a tour of a ‘typical’ haunted house. Mike and Karen are led on by an unseen voice through the house (foyer, portrait room, upstairs halls, seance circle, ballroom, attic, down to the graveyard) and see many ghosts and specters before they escape just as dawn breaks, and their ghostly ‘tour guide’ bids them farewell and invites them to come back any time. No mention is made of the hitchhiking ghosts in particular on the record - that was a surprise intended to be kept for the attraction experience I daresay.
As a result, I’ve always viewed the finished Disneyland attraction as mimicking basically, you being the ‘teenager’ or lost person who happens to enter the Mansion one dark and stormy night. It’s a fixed temporal point, could be happening in 1915, 1969, or today. You are given a tour of the home: entertained, threatened and ignored at various points, and certain spirits do respond to you being there, while others are seemingly ‘fixed’ in repeating their hauntings, or are poltergeists/nonhuman entities or so forth. The maids and butlers and the vehicles are gracefully handled ‘necessities’ of theme park operations and don’t matter in terms of what little story is to be found. You enter most likely in daylight, but get inside the house a little ways and it’s thundering and nighttime - just like the record. You are taking the archetypal haunted house tour, and that is as in-depth as it goes. There are hints of course of history for certain ghosts, if they died there - the hanging man, the coffin-trapped ‘thing’, Constance or the old eerie bride (Emily, if you like), some of the tombstone poppers in the graveyard - but some are just there because that’s where the party is. But unlike the scripts dating back to Ken Anderson in 1954, the ‘point’ of the tour isn’t a special event or related to the back story of one particular ghost - a wedding, for instance, or the drama between the sea captain/pirate and the young bride he murdered, or the Headless Horseman, or any other related element. You see the house and the grounds, and a variety of spirits and illusions, who would be there anyway even if you were not - some notice you, some don’t. You get the impression they likely party in the graveyard every night. The HHG’s again are a subtle requirement of the theme park experience - the desire to end the attraction with a notable, talked-about gag - married to a well-known ghostly trope (the vanishing hitchhiker), and are a bit outside the experience of a general tour of a haunted house, but don’t cause it harm at all by inclusion.
So, those are my basic reactions to the ‘war’ between types of story inside the Mansion - and sorry for rambling nature of it!
Lilly’s response to my essay about the Haunted Mansion, which I very much appreciate.
What’s the harm in rambling when it’s full of this much insight?
Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!
I love this as a GIF Story.
You guys could’ve walked wherever you’re going, by now!
John Hench, Designing Disney
Fellow cast members: please, remember what it was like when you visited a Disney park for the first time.
How it was familiar, yet different. How many simple things couldn’t be taken for granted any more.
How high your expectations were set, and how they inspired you to dream up even higher expectations. How easily the words, “They should…” leapt to the front of your sentences.
How exciting and confusing it was. How many “dumb” questions and behaviors it provoked from you.
You were a family member, coming home for the first time.
Well, you live here now, and we’ve got newcomers at the door. Let’s look after ‘em.
The Haunted Mansion: an attraction so evocative that guests have been deducing its fictional history since it opened in 1969.
Who owns the house? Is it the Ghost Host, or Master Gracey, or—hey, are they the same person? Does the Bride push us off of the balcony, or is it a coincidence that we enter the graveyard on our backs? Why are the maids and butlers loitering in the Stretching Room when there’s a mansion’s worth of cobwebs that need dusting?
It’s a ride full of open-ended questions, and its fandom has been trying to answer them for decades. Most of the resultant fanfic it is convoluted, much of it is harmless, and—for better or worse—some of it has been canonized.
This belief is nonsense, but it’s a dangerous breed of nonsense: the kind that prevents progress. If we hope to see more attractions like the Mansion, it’s crucial to understand what its story is, why it’s easy to miss, and why the ride is still fun if we miss it.
If you’d like to understand it, I recommend reading my new essay!
Ariel’s Magical Vagical Tornado,
from the Little Mermaid dark ride
Just imagine the bearded, middle-aged guy who probably animated this.
Asked by scienceghostgirl
I honestly haven’t put that much thought into it in terms of the modern ride spelling it out/needing that kind of backstory in specfics - earliest ride scripts called for basically a ‘ghostly wedding’ to be the centerpiece of the attraction, both as a walk through and a ride. Ken Anderson lavished a lot of attention on that concept, and Yale Gracey worked up a much-talked about effect involving a murdered bride and her drowned sea captain husband for the walk-through haunted house that he showed Walt personally.
In early conceptions, the disembodied voice/ghost leading the tour was called the Lonesome Ghost (after the Mickey Mouse cartoon, naturally, most likely) and he was just an ‘outsider’, not a resident of the home, but was visiting for the big wedding. With the multiple scripts detailing the potential for the mansion’s owner to be a notorious pirate (Captain Bartholomew Gore in some scripts) whose secret was discovered by his new bride, whom he then killed in a fit of rage (echoing shades of the classic tale of Bluebeard, who got his own crypt, along with his seven wives, in Florida outside the Mansion), before having remorse and taking his own life. In these versions, sometimes the bride would be ‘re-marrying’ in her afterlife, with gags like her head rolling down the stairs ahead of her like Marie Antoinette, or eerier appearances like the sea captain vignette.
At any rate, the modern attraction as opened basically ditched the overarching ‘story’ or central conflict in favor of memorable, stand-alone characters and scenes - Madame Leota, the attic bride, the singing busts, the grand hall party, the corridor of doors - and the rest conceived solely as what would be a strong effect/character, without a larger narrative in mind. I tend to think the Ghost Host is not, nor ever was, the owner of the home - he was inside it certainly at some point, as he died there, but circumstances of such are fuzzy beyond the fact he was in the stretching room under dire circumstances/locked in, and therefore the hanging followed when he saw there was no other way out. He has/had no personal relation to the other prominent ghosts before his death that I think is feasible to conflate - he was a unlucky victim of the house’s eerier properties who met a grisly end and who took a certain liking to mortal visitors after his death: not the bride’s husband, Leota’s second cousin, manservant to the absent Hatbox Ghost, or anything else in particular, character-wise.
The tendency to think the main ghostly ‘players’ in the Mansion are all somehow related, there’s a curse, or intricate backstories Imagineers intended that tie certain characters together (many seem to favor some kind of strange romance between the GH, presuming he owned the house, with Leota, and try and paint the hitchhikers as mixed up in the business while alive) to me has always seemed highly doubtful - it’s a retirement home for ghosts, and so ones from all over stay there, not just ones with a personal connection to the structure or each other (see, for instance, the medieval executioner, the Egyptian mummy, and the British/Dickensesque character hanging from the chandelier in the ballroom - no way they all knew each other while alive). As a result, I take away that basically all the specters presented inside are not tied to the house in terms of dying there, apart from Constance and her husbands (which took place in one time period), and the eventual Ghost Host (who died there much later, after Constance’s death, when the house was already well-haunted and would result in a frightening circumstance where he couldn’t escape).
Sorry for the rambling reply, but that’s my basic take on the rather needlessly complex nest of current ‘theories’ on the Mansion’s story, and the desire by some for all the characters to be inter-related.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Me, at the end of the Little Mermaid dark ride.
Theme parks often tell us two stories at once: a Presentational Story (which uses a third-person perspective) and an Experiential Story (which uses a second-person perspective).
Few attractions flaunt this structure as clearly as Splash Mountain does. While its two stories are obvious enough by themselves, the ride connects them in a way that builds an unsettling degree of tension.
To understand how, check out my new essay!
A thing that is seldom-noticed and never-talked about, that I have seen: the small vignette of a collapsed mine shaft and ore carts near the finale of Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (just before the newly-enhanced tunnel featuring the blasting and ‘explosions’).
The cars whip around it very fast and no pause to study it in person, really, so I think many don’t even register the details of it beyond a half-second glance. Also notice the emergency evacuation staircase in the far back of photo, beyond the front ore cart.
Most rides build a world and let us explore it, but Thunder builds its world and whizzes us past it.
This increases the tension. “There’s so much to see here, but there’s no time, because it’s all going to hell, get out get out get out while you still can!!”
That said, damn it you guys I’ve been riding your roller coaster for over twenty years and I’d quite like to know what’s in it thank you very much
"In order to make the Graveyard scene a true showstopper, [songwriters X. Atencio and Buddy Baker] did everything they could to give ["Grim Grinning Ghosts"] an even more other-worldly quality, including detuning the instruments and recording the music backward and combining it all the final mix.”— Jason Surrell, the Haunted Mansion: from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies
photographer: Mr Giflocation: Walt Disney World
An ineffective GIF Story from the Little Mermaid dark ride.
Look at Eric’s face! You could get thrown out of a brothel with an expression that gooey! He’s ready to kiss her, and there’s nothing stopping him from doing it, so why isn’t he?
…um…well…because then the ride would end too soon?
It works even less in person, because every so often, Eric and Ariel will lean forward to kiss, but then decide not to. Why?
…um…well…because Ariel has bad breath but Eric forgets every few seconds…?
The simplest solution I can think of: place Scuttle in a tree, squawking along with the music…right by Eric’s ear. Then, whenever Eric leans in to kiss Ariel, he registers Scuttle’s squawking and its kills the mood, and the cycle begins anew.
Terry Rossio, “Nine Pieces of Eight"
There you have it. Not even the screenwriter who voluntarily put his name on Pirates of the Caribbean Four Colon On Stranger Tides likes the Jack Sparrow’d ride.