Most people have heard of Andy Rooney. He’s been doing his Grumpy Old Man act on 60 Minutes since Alexander the Great was President. If by chance you haven’t experienced the Joy of Rooney, then let me enlighten you:
Wasn’t that perfectly awful? I never knew someone could be so angry about having survived to see the 21st century. I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Rooney, though, after witnessing the reaction within the Disney fan community to the news that WDW’s The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh will be getting a new queue with video screens and interactive elements. The small corner of Twitter-sphere where I live was all a-grumble with negative comparisons to the current version of Spaceship Earth and general complaints about Disney attractions with video screens of any kind. From all the vitriol, you’d think that Pooh was a beloved decades-old attraction, instead of the thing that replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in 1999.
I’m a little more sympathetic to the howls of protest over the installation of an interactive queue at the Haunted Mansion. After all, the Mansion is a classic attraction with generations of fans. But the immediate denunciations of the changes to Pooh really surprised me. Sure, the way that video screens are utilized at Journey Into Dr. Nigel Channing’s Imagination is extremely cheap (like everything else on that ride), and I’ve read some very well-thought-out negative opinions of the screen-centric Toy Story Midway Mania, but the fact is that all this newfangled interactive stuff is the future, just like Audio-Animatronics were the future in the mid-1960s. Can you imagine a frequent Disneyland visitor complaining about Pirates of the Caribbean in 1967, saying that these Audio-Animatronic things were just another gimmick and that Disneyland was better before they started popping up everywhere?
Sure, there are legitimate issues to be had with the way that new technology is being implemented in the parks, and a lot of the folks complaining about it are people I respect tremendously who write blogs infinitely better than this one. But I think we need to realize that times (and theme-park audiences) have changed. While describing the nightmarish crowds that Walt Disney World experienced on Thanksgiving Weekend in 1971, the book Realityland relates that people were waiting in line for two hours to see the Country Bear Jamboree. There’s no way Mr. Average Theme Park Visitor of the Year 2010 would be willing to do that, not for the Country Bears.
Obviously, it’s really tempting (and fun, to be honest) to go all Andy Rooney when confronted with the fact that the world has changed and forgotten to bring you along for the ride, and in the case of pop culture abominations like reality TV it’s totally justified. But maybe, just maybe, we should try to suppress our inner Rooney sometimes, just long enough to try a new thing and see if it really is worthy of the disdain we were so ready to heap upon it.
Of course, if really is as bad as we feared, then all bets are off.