Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Disney Could Learn from Universal

Everything in Disney World comes bundled with a story. Sometimes, I think they emphasize too much on "story" and not enough on "ride." Kali River Rapids is a good example of this - where story sometimes gets in the way of the enjoyment of the experience.

The ride is beautiful; this isn't your everyday raft ride. You are touring through amazing environments and get a spectacular view of Expedition Everest on your journey. The message of this ride is supposed to be one about illegal logging and habitat destruction. The irony, of course, is that we only get the amazing view of Everest because there are no trees to block our path.

But it IS a raft ride, no? Aren't we supposed to get wet throughout? It seems as though there is one big spot to get wet in (the drop at the end), while during the rest of it, you get wet if you are lucky. It's not zany enough; it's not wet enough to be considered a real raft ride. But the Imagineers couldn't make it zanier or wetter without compromising the story they had in place. And the story is so subtle, I imagine most guests wouldn't know what it was until they were told.

I got to ride Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal Studios during my recent trip. The thing SOAKS you. There is a simple story in place (Bluto's got Olive), and there are props everywhere that go along with it. Every thing in there is part of the story, but it also shoots water. It's as if the Univeraleers(?) cared more about the guests having fun on this ride than they did the complexity of the message.

Popeye's Barges is only one minute longer than Kali (6 minutes to 5) but it feels a ton longer, and a whole lot more fun. Disney could use some of that "fun first" mentality - especially in Animal Kingdom, where serious messages are at the heart of many of the attractions.