Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Of towers and fake rocks

When Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom was constructed in Florida, it boasted one improvement over its California predecessor: a complex of tunnels that ran beneath the park, enabling the moving of people and equipment, garbage collection, and other essential park business to be carried on out of the guests' view, lest anything spoil their illusion. There's an old story that says Walt got the idea one day at Disneyland when he saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland, thus piercing its futuristic "bubble". Theming is something at which Disney has historically been very good.

Which brings me to Tomorrowland. There have been many Internet postings complaining that the 1994 refurbishment of Tomorrowland into some sort of Flash Gordon spaceport amounts to an abandonment of the future. This isn't one of them. Ultimately, whether a person prefers the pre-1994 Tomorrowland with its sleek, minimalist design sensibility rooted in the 1960s, or the new version with it's deliberately retro-1930s/1940s/1950s stylings really depends on their own individual taste. However, I encourage you to take a look at the picture below and tell me which element(s) don't quite belong:


Could it be the GIANT FAKE ROCKS? What exactly was Disney thinking here? How do the rocks fit in with the whirlygigs and the radiator fins and the neon lights? They're as out-of-place in Tomorrowland as, well, a Frontierland cowboy. Compare the rocks with what used to be there before the 1994 rehab:



Now, I understand why the towers were taken down. They clashed with the retro-50s design aesthetic the Imagineers were going for, and they would have competed with the fancy-schmancy Tomorrowland sign that arcs over the entrance. But were the ridiculously fake rocks the best replacements Disney could conjure up? They have a distinctly Warner Brothers cartoon look, as if they're the divider between Duck Dodgers In The 25 1/2 Century Land and Road Runner and Coyote Land. And the thing is, they aren't a Magic Kingdom-only abberation. California's Disneyland has them, too:


Clearly the fake rocks are an intended part of the design. What's the story behind this? Did Eisner have some kind of faux boulder fetish? Were a bunch of fake rocks fabricated for a planned Thunder Mountain expansion, then dumped in front of Tomorrowland when the project was canceled? What's really ridiculous is that Disney Imagineers are masters of making things look real. If Eisner wanted rocks, it wouldn't have been that hard for them to whip up something that looked like rocks instead of Looney Tunes come to life.

Or, if they really wanted to save money, they could have taken a cue from Tokyo Disneyland . . .


. . .and simply given the towers a new paint job. Would they still have clashed with the Flash Gordon radiator fins and neon lights? Sure, but not as much as the rocks.


4 comments:

  1. When I see the rocks, they remind of a distant planet on which Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon have landed. I think that is the look they were going for. I see where you are coming from, but I think the Loony-Toonish quality is to give them more of an otherworldly look and not so much a fakey-boulder look. Granted they could have done something better with those towers (I am reminded of the spires from an alien palace--very Flash Gordon if you ask me), but I don't see the rocks as being too out of place taken in that context. Just my two cents.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was thinking Moon or Mars rocks. That sort of ties in with the "alien planet" thing of the previous comment.

    Yet, they really don't fit in. They don't say much, thematically, and are at best ambiguous. Mars, or Monument Valley?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, I too thought they were rocks from another planet.

    They never really bothered me.

    Love the blog though.=-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just going through your past posts. Love your blog! I'm a huge fan of Horizons. And I agree with you about the Tomorrowland rocks....I hate them at Disneyland AND at WDW. I'm a huge Tokyo DL fan and love the fact that their TL has remained original (for the most part.) I hope they never destroy their original entrance structures. They actually just repainted them last year and they now light them at night with black lighting. I have posted a lot of photos of Tokyo DL's Tomorrowland on my blog, but I need to post some pics of that new paint job!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to comment!