Saturday, June 24, 2006

By the Numbers, Part II

Epcot continued to see attendance growth in 2005, according to attendance estimates from Amusement Business (which were released a while ago, so I'm way late in discussing this). So, it continues to be a head-scratcher why Disney seems to put such little creative effort into developing Epcot. In 2005, the park got a ride transported from Disney's California Adventure; closed an entire pavilion; saw two people die on a controversial thrill ride/vomit machine; and allowed its Living Seas pavilion to become the latest victim of Pixarization.

(Don't get me wrong, please -- I love Pixar ... but, they didn't have to do it like this.)

Here are the top five North American theme parks for 2005. Epcot's growth slowed substantially from 2004, but it actually came close to welcoming 10 million visitors last year, which would have put it into the very rarified realm of eight-figure "population."

1) The Magic Kingdom, 16.1 million, up 6.5% vs. 2004
2) Disneyland, 14.5 million, up 8.5%
3) Epcot, 9.9 million, up 5.5%
4) Disney-MGM Studios, 8.6 million, up 5%
5) Disney's Animal Kingdom, 8.2 million, up 5%

Epcot is like the middle child starving for attention. It continues to succeed despite Disney's best efforts to dumb it down, make it wear stupid clothes (or, at least, a stupid magic wand and big glove -- photographic evidence above) destroy its spirit and make it be like all the other kids when it's clearly different.

You gotta love it for that, at least!

It's like the Jan Brady of Disney theme parks.


Anonymous said...

Conversely, couldn't it be argued that the park attendance isn't growing despite these changes, like you said, but possibly because?

Epcot82 said...

Yes, I suppose it could be argued that closing three major attractions, several minor attractions (all in the Wonders of Life Pavilion) and getting negative press for two deaths on a single ride in the course of a year could be causing an increase in attendance. If so, then the future is looking mighty iffy.

Anonymous said...

Marsha Marsha Marsha!

Epcot82 said...

Magic Kingdom! Magic Kingdom! Magic Kingdom!

Anonymous said...

As much as I love discussing this sort of thing on the Internet, data like that leads me to believe that this is all fairly pointless.

The fact that this blog exists reveals that we are already in trouble. The idea that a bunch of disgruntled fans would have to poke Walt himself with a stick to demand quality is ludicrous. Who could have imagined 15 years ago that the most innovative and exciting dark ride in the world would be on Universal property?

Unfortunately, the secret is out that mediocre entertainment sells as well as superlative entertainment, because most people can't tell the difference. The only reason one would go the extra mile would be for reasons of personal satisfaction and pride. We lost our benevolent genius madman who actually took pride in his work. Those guys are so few and far between that the current result is likely unavoidable. Capitalism usually has its way with any corporation that originally built its name on unparalleled quality.

I have the slightest sliver of hope that Lasseter will be our new madman, but already he seems too eager to take the low road of mindless Pixarization.

I see this as a potential turning point for Disney theme parks, so I'm not completely without hope. But almost.

The frustrating thing is that the idea is the cheapest part, but never seems to get the appropriate attention. The average five-year old can look at Test Track and wonder what's futuristic about the car that got them to the Epcot parking lot.

There's plenty of evidence that stupid entertainment sells, but there are also plenty of examples of intelligent entertainment that rakes in the dough. You can give people the same flash and excitement they've come to expect from pop culture, but make sure it all makes sense and that the basic premise isn't wildly off-base.

The problem is that the impetus for creating top quality work has to come from within. Market forces never demand that you please that whiny 1% of your audience that prefers the brilliant to the merely non-sucky.