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"As Long as There Is Imagination Left in the World": Putting the Phrase to Better Use

Recently, my buddy and I were talking about how Walt Disney (the person) is too often misquoted. There's one quote in particular that stood out in our conversation. I asked this friend to write an article about this topic.

Article by Guest Author, Stan

[Author’s Note: My intention here is not to have a “whine session”; but rather have a “wish session” where positive solutions to these current problems could be considered and “imagined” by readers. Thanks.]

Walt Disney said:

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.”

This oft-quoted statement is a good one. In context, it describes Walt Disney’s development philosophy and plan for his beloved theme park. Unfortunately, this statement is also ill-quoted all too often by many in the Disney ranks who seem to say it anytime the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts business is discussed publicly or anytime changes to the parks are announced. Whether the changes truly are imaginative additions or solutions doesn't seem to matter. The quote has been tied to announcements and discussions for not only new and revamped attractions, but also for meet and greets, time shares and radio frequency wristbands. What was once a philosophy about park additions and innovations now often seems like an excuse for mediocrity and neglect.

If there is any imagination left in the world, and I think there is, maybe it could be put to better use by solving some of these problems currently plaguing the U.S.-based Disney theme parks:

1. The Giant Sorcerer Mickey Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I can imagine a once-gorgeous and perfectly scaled theme park entrance that could be made beautiful again with the removal of this promotional structure which has, unfortunately, overstayed its welcome by 12+ years. The Hollywood Boulevard entrance used to be a brilliant first act to the park. Scaled using the same forced perspective as Main Street, U.S.A., but with buildings and facades reflecting architectural styles found in Southern California during the golden age of Hollywood, and using the design of a classic movie palace as the park’s “castle” so to speak, it was like Disneyland dedicated to the love of movies. It sure made this movie and Disney fan very happy and inspired, at least in the year 2001 B.H. (Before Hat) and earlier. Even though all of the buildings and facades are still there, I believe that the giant hat severely detracts, if not completely erases, all of the beutiful proportions, charm, and artistry of this formerly great entrance. I can imagine that someday this wonderful entrance could return. What do you imagine?

2. Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.
I can imagine a land that embraces a cartoon alien/monster-free future and adds instead fun and truly futuristic attractions in their places. I’ve never had much of a problem with the Magic Kingdom’s 1994 Tomorrowland re-do in which “the future that never was” actually arrived in the form of metallic retro sci-fi futurism. It’s the attractions that reside inside the retro-futuristic facades that I think miss the mark. Stitch’s Great Escape (I can’t even bear to include the exclamation point) misses the quality and excellence that are the hallmarks of a well-designed Disney attraction all the way around. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is a enjoyable and well-run attraction in a wrong part of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. I can imagine that these two attractions could be replaced by experiences that are more in alignment with what the Tomorrowland dedication plaque in Disneyland states: “A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements...a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: the Atomic Age...the challenges of outer space...and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.” What do you imagine?

3. Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
I can imagine a Tomorrowland that works. Whether it’s the removal of the former People Mover/Rocket Rods track (since it’s probably never coming back in any form), the returning of the Astro Orbiter/Rocket Jets to its rightful place where it was from 1967-1997, or the addition of an enjoyable and innovative ride-through attraction where the Carousel of Progress/America Sings/Innoventions building now resides, I can imagine (and truly hope), that needed aesthetic and functional changes could be coming soon to Tomorrowland. What do you imagine?

4. The Disco Yeti in Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I can imagine this attraction closing down for a few months in order to get a better solution in place for this eternally broken audio-animatronic. I’m quite baffled why one of the best effects in a flagship ride in a park that really needs a flagship ride never gets fixed. I can understand that operationally it might not be feasible to close down the attraction for the length of time needed to make the repairs and modifications. However, wouldn’t it make sense in the long run to get things working? It all seems very short sighted to me. I might not be able to see the entire picture, but I can imagine that a solution is plausible and possible. What do you imagine?

5. All of Future World at Epcot.
I can imagine a return to beautiful, relevant, inspirational and well-maintained Future World pavilions. Of all of the current problems happening at Disney theme parks, the current state of Future World is the most heartbreaking to me. I don’t pine for a return to the 1980s (although they were awesome); what I wish for is a return to the “future” in Future World. Let me reference again a dedication plaque, this time it is Epcot’s plaque from opening day in October 1982: “EPCOT Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.” What current Future World pavilion lives up what is stated in the dedication plaque? I can imagine that Disney (The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Imagineering, Team Disney Orlando, or whoever will make this decision) would want to allocate the money and resources necessary to restore and renew this portion of the park to its intended aspirational vision and guest experience. What do you imagine?


Related posts:

That's What Walt Said
Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad
My 10-Point Plan for Better Character Attraction Placement
Disney Management Apathy / Hockey Analogy
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Vintage Disneyland Home Movies- Meeting Walt Disney Himself
THEN AND NOW: Walt at Disneyland