Monday, November 10, 2003

Disneyland lacks interactivity

Yesterday, I revisited Disneyland after 37 years. Not surprisingly, it seemed rather dated to me although the children under about 10 seemed to be enjoying themselves. I think the problem with many of the offerings that were not just outright motion rides that always appear to appeal to younger age groups, was that they are just too passive now that we are growing increasingly accustomed to an interactive environment. I was particularly disappointed in the "new" Indiana Jones ride. As you lurched along in a track-controlled vehicle, little scenes would appear along with way with an animatronic Indiana Jones warning you about your precarious position. I think a telling indicator about the lack of impact of the experience was the absence of anyone saying "let's do that again" as I walked through the exit tunnel.

Now, what I think would have been a superior experience would have been a walking/running journey in which each participant is given a bullwhip, a sack of sand, and a fedora and you are told you have ten minutes to complete your mission. As you proceed cautiously through the cave, creatures, activated by a disturbed laser beam, scurry across in front of you and Disney would use the same air puff technololgy as they use in "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience" to make it feel like they are scurring across your feet and ankles, You are confronted by what appears to be a bottomless pit with a vine hanging over it that you must grasp and swing across, As you round a corner and see a fork in the trail, a laser beam activated rack with a simulated body pierced by stakes swings down in front of you blocking your path down one fork of the trail. You enter a chamber where snakes appear to block your path. You must snap them with the bullwhip to get them out of your way. You make it to the map room where you must pick up the crystal-embedded staff and try to position it into the map so a beam of light will activate to provide a clue to a successful mission. You finally arrive in the cave with the golden statue on the weight-sensitive altar and you must try to judge how much sand to leave in the pouch and carefully remove the statue and replace it simulataneously with the sand pouch. Temple walls appear to start to fall and you turn and run for the exit. Laser activated darts fly across in front of you as you dash down the corridor which has been reconfigured with a movable partition to shunt you off into a different tunnel. As you run you see a big boulder rolling towards you and you look desperately for the simulated cobweb-occluded escape slide that deposits you amid tropical plants and native warriors pointing a spear at you. The warriors separate and the Last Templar steps forward offering you a selection of cups on a tray in exchange for the statue (if you still have it). He tells you to "Choose but choose wisely". At the bottom of one of the cups is the offer of a free copy of a picture of you somewhere during your experience. Movable partitions could be used to create a variety of pathways to increase the replayability of the attraction.

I revisited Pirates of the Carribean and the Jungle Cruise. I've done "Star Tours" in Orlando so I didn't bother to take the opportunity to hurt my back any more than it already is. I think of the "ride" experiences, I enjoyed the Davy Crockett canoes the best. It was a beautiful day and it was relaxing just to paddle around the waterway. I smiled to myself as I watched a little boy of about three (the same age as one of my grandsons) swish his paddle through the water with such a serious face. I'm sure he was convinced he was doing his part as a real frontiersman.

I also particularly enjoyed the Abe Lincoln presentation. The dimensional sound experience was nicely done and I thought it was interesting to hear the sounds of the Civil War and its participants from the viewpoint of a soldier.

One of the most disappointing "reunions" was my tour through the Haunted Mansion. It had been redecorated with cartoon images from Tim Burrton's "A Nightmare Before Christmas". I didn't think the film was worth seeing when it was released and it definitely detracted from the Haunted Mansion experience.

The Parade of Stars at the end of the day was enjoyable. I got quite a kick out of some of the park guests who had been commandeered to participate in the parade. There were big husky guys dressed in tootoos trying their best to piroette when instructed to do so by the Disney "choreographer". Of course the Disney heroines were beautiful (Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, etc.) and Tarzan was quite a hunk! Later I saw a little girl whose parents had bought her what I thought was a Cinderella costume (actually it was an Ariel costume I learned later) and she was just walking along waving gracefully to the other visitors that passed by as if she was Cinderella herself.

Thursday night, Educause sponsors treated everyone to a Party In The Park over at Disney's California Great Adventure park. Although I enjoyed the "Soaring Over California" Omnimax-type experience, the rest of the park was little more than a 50s-type carnival with the old manual games of throwing balls and typical rollercoaster, Octopus, and ferris wheel-type rides. I'm glad it was provided at no charge because I definitely would not have paid $47 to spend the day there. In fact, the few hours we were there was more than ample for me.
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