Responsibilities of a Disney Blogger

Recently I wrote an article entitled, “A Tale of Two Birthdays” for the AllEars® Newsletter. The article was a commentary on two Walt Disney World attractions, which were about five years old, and how I have seen their “reception” by the guests over the years.

The two attractions are, of course, Soarin’ in EPCOT’s Future World and Stitch’s Great Escape in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

I enjoy and welcome all the emails I receive from readers and I want to share one with you. It comes from Ramona and she writes”¦

“Hi there! I have to start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of both your website and newsletters! I never miss one! You guys are truly wonderful! My life revolves around WDW so I can’t thank you enough for all your information and guidance!! But for the first time ever I just had to write in regarding Mike Scopa’s article, “A Tale of Two Birthdays”. Boy, that was mean! And that was shocking for me, coming from an AllEars newsletter! I am a major Stitch lover (meaning the character) and I totally get that the attraction is not the greatest in the “World” but it felt to me like my poor little Stitch was being personally attacked, not just the attraction. It’s one thing not to like a ride or attraction but I felt this was particularly harsh. Maybe it came across feeling so personal to me was because of the context in which it was written. It seemed as though it was Stitch, not the attraction asking “Will you come back to see me?” It was so sad to me. Now, I truly believe that the world would be a very boring place if people didn’t disagree very now and then, and I understand the message Mike was trying to get across with his article, but I just had to comment on Stitch’s behalf because as I mentioned before, it really was quite harsh. Not to mention the fact that your articles do have an affect on your readers, so I really hope Mike’s article does not discourage anyone from experiencing the attraction who maybe hadn’t before. Poor Stitch!”

Thank you Ramona for sending that email.

Soarin’ continues to entertain guests and the best tribute that an attraction can get comes from when a guest emerges from said attraction and remarks, “I can’t wait to try it again!”

I have introduced Soarin’ to many people, friends and family alike. Of those, there have been at least a dozen who are not thrill ride seekers and were quite reluctant to give this attraction a try. However, after experiencing Soarin’ it became their favorite ride”¦every one of them.

Stitch’s Great Escape, on the other hand, has never hit the mark. On a day when Stitch’s Great Escape was offering a soft opening I happened to be with several friends of mine, very prominent in the Disney internet community. On that particular day my colleagues and I were right around the China Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase when we got the call about Stitch.

We hustled over to The Magic Kingdom and waited for about 40 minutes in line to see this attraction. The five of us went in, experienced the attraction, heard several children cry in terror, and then sat down and discussed the attraction. Of the five of us, three had children and each one of us said we would not bring young children into the attraction.

We questioned many of the components of the attraction and were puzzled as to what the imagineers were trying to do. Should the audience be on Stitch’s side? If so then why was he portrayed as a six-foot monster instead of a cuddly little blue-furred alien? If he needs our support then why does he spit on us?

Since that day I have received many comments from guests and visitors, not just about that attraction, but the other Stitch attractions that have popped up and failed.

As much as it sounds like it’s just my opinion, all you have to do is take note of the covered Fast Pass machines outside Stitch’s Great Escape (do you ever see Soarin’s FP machines without lines?), the short life-span of Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration which lasted just about a month last summer (2009), and the poor reception from the “Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show” which prominently showcased Stitch at the 2009 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

The powers at Walt Disney World, and of course the imagineers, do their best to try and provide their guests with the best attractions in the theme park industry.

But no one is perfect and without guests and bloggers expressing their opinions, imagineers would have no idea as to what components of attractions are most welcomed by their paying guests.

Stitch, an interesting blue-furred, mischievous alien, comes across well on the screen”¦but he is not a viable character for a theme park attraction”¦at least not as he has been portrayed in recent attempts.

Now perhaps if he were the central part of an attraction like Buzz LightYear’s Space Rangers Spin attraction then many of us would feel that way”¦but he isn’t.

Those of us who blog on Disney have a responsibility to two distinct groups”¦first of course is to those who read us”¦who look for thoughts and ideas on all things Disney. For you, we try to provide information and insight to help you perhaps plan vacations or just to get you thinking about certain things in the Disney culture.

We also have an obligation to the Walt Disney Company. That obligation is not to be a shill and say everything that has the Disney moniker is wonderful and perfect but instead to try and express in a most respectful and productive manner, what works and doesn’t work so that those individuals working on concepts and ideas, have a frame of reference to work with so that their “batting average” gets better every year.

It would be a huge disservice to both groups if I or any blogger would refrain from expressing concern or disappointment from a theme park attraction, parade, show, or restaurant that we feel is not up to what we have been used to as far as Disney quality”¦but to that point it helps to try and be creative to let the word out that “it just ain’t workin’.”

The bottom line is that I am a guest, a customer, a patron of the theme parks, and have been such for 40 years and I have seen many things come and go, some have, and continue to be the best things going, while others just seem to miss the mark.

If you or me or anyone visiting the parks do not express what we like and what we don’t like, then we in fact are not helping The Walt Disney Company work towards making their business as successful as it can be.

I don’t know about you, but I want The Walt Disney Company to enjoy success now and well after I am gone. I want my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren bask in Disney Magic and feel that Disney Zone vibe that we all feel.

That means whenever I can, for what it’s worth, I will do the best job I can in letting them know when they strike out, as well as when they hit home runs.

You won’t always agree with me, but as my late uncle use to say, “If everyone agreed on everything then Howard Johnson’s would have never come up with 28 flavors of ice cream!”

Now let me tell you about last year’s decision to remove The Lights of Winter”¦

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8 Replies to “Responsibilities of a Disney Blogger”

  1. Mike, i enjoy your “take” on the parks because you give your honest opinions. if WDW wasn’t a great place, none of us would be obsessed with it.

    but, boy, corporate needs to hear voices like yours and other bloggers and “podcasters”. no place, not even the most “magical place on earth” is above criticism. thanks for being honest.

    i like Stitch, the character. i think the park is doing the “Lilo & Stitch” franchise a disservice by presenting Stitch with such a crummy attraction.

  2. A couple thoughts:

    First, I don’t think the commenter was upset that you didn’t like Stitch’s Great Escape, I think she didn’t like the way you needlessly abused the ride for humor.

    Second, I think you’re giving yourself a little too much credit if you believe the Disney Imagineers are scouring your blogs to determine whether their attractions hit the mark or not. Attendance at the attraction tells them plenty.

    By the way, I still like everything you guys write. Keep it up.

  3. After reading your blog with Ramona’s response to your newsletter article “A Tale of Two Birthdays”, I went back and reread the article. I personally would not characterize the article as “mean” spirited, more like sad. This is my own interpretation, and of course Ramona’s thoughts on the subject are equally valid in the public forum.

    I do agree with you that it is the duty of bloggers to present their honest opinion and not to “shill” (love those archaic terms, adds so much flavor to the language) for anyone. I am certain that the readers of AllEars.net and its newsletter will agree that Disney is the standard of the world, but it is still a human enterprise, so all things are not even. I believe it was author Jerry Pournelle that put forth that “The great is the enemy of the good.”

    And Ramona, bless your heart and your love for Lilo’s little blue “dog”.

  4. I would love to hear your intake of the ending of Lights of Winter. Also, why they ended the Night Before Christmas Show at Mickey’s party and replaced with what they did. I realize the Night Before Christmas Show is old, but is a classic. Back in 1994, there was a travel package themed to it and a show at the Fantasmic Ballroom.

  5. Hmmmm, am I the only one that liked the Stitch attraction?? I find that there is something for everyone and some of us do like to live something a little freaky every now and again…. oh well!

  6. well said Mike – I liked reading this article as well as the one featured in the All Ears Newsletter a few weeks ago.

    Something that always surprises me is that “alien Stitch” is featured in WDW, when it’s “Lilo’s pet Stitch” that is popular in the movie and in merchandise? maybe something themed to Hawaii/nice Stitch in Adventureland would be more appreciated by WDW guests, and younger children!

    I quite like Stitch’s Great Escape – it’s not a must do for me but I don’t mind it.. maybe because it’s predecessor, Alien Encounter, completely terrified me as a child – so SGE was a welcome change! 😉

  7. Just to let you know, Disney does have a successful Stitch theme park attraction — just not in the American parks. It is an attraction that allows Stitch to “come across well on the screen” as it is a broadcast live from his spacecraft. Stitch interacts with the guests in the theater, much like Turtle Talk with Crush. I’m not a fan of Stitch (the Character) and definitely not a fan of the MK Tomorrowland attraction, but I really enjoyed the attraction in Hong Kong.