Wednesday, July 11, 2012

California Grill Refurb: Good News or Overkill?




The California Grill will be closing for six months in January 2013. This is a really long time for one of the flagship dining experiences in WDW to be out of service. While I understand refurbishments are the nature of the business, and that things need a face lift from time to time, I have to question how necessary a major renovation to the California Grill is. The last time I was there (three months ago) it still looked fresh, clean and modern.

Disney can get a lot done in six months, so we may be treated to totally new feel when it reopens next summer. The menu will also be tweaked a bit. Here's hoping they expand it, add a few more "signature" items and keep the flatbreads.

While many of us look forward to anything are new and exciting, does Disney run the risk of over tweaking something that already works?  When I think of some of Disney's "fails" over the past years, there are two  attraction refurbishments that could be attributed to over thinking the problem or insisting that there was a problem there in the first place.  Keep in mind that this isn't a "Horizons was great, Mission: Space sucks" argument.  Mission: Space may have been a failure, but Disney went big and got burned. These two attractions represent a steady deterioration of an acceptable attraction by failing to leave it alone:

#1: Alien Encounter

Yes, it was very scary for little kids, and no, it did not fit in with the "spirit" of Tomorrow Land.  However, the attraction was still entertaining, intense and made good use of a new type of interactive theatre.  Disney's need to tone down the effects, add Stitch to the attraction and not frighten children has lead us to a watered down useless attraction with fake chili dog belches that...you guessed it..still frightens some small children. 


#2.  Dreamfinder and Figment: Journey into Imagination

Journey Into Imagination never really qualified, at least in my mind, as a major attraction, but if you take a look at its history you can see that it is currently on its third version since in 1983.  The Dreamfinder had, and continues to have, a cult following.  Disney redid the ride in the late 90's, got rid of Dreamfinder and almost entirely eliminates the beloved Figment.  Why would they get rid of a popular character that was created for the ride itself?

People, as you would expect, hated the second version.  So, in 2002 Disney changes the ride again, brings back figment, changes around the show scenes and sticks with leaving out Dreamfinder in favor of Dr. Nigel Channing.  People were somewhat mollified, but not nearly as happy as they were with the original attraction.

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