Monday, July 2, 2012

Expedition Everest, A Broken Yeti, and Be Careful What You Wish For.

My wife's new boss came back from a trip to Walt Disney World with his family a week or so ago. He had a great time and he singled out Expedition Everest, the massively themed coaster in WDW Animal Kingdom as a ride he went on multiple times because its just simply great.

Fast forward about a week where MiceChat's behind the scenes feature blog The 626 (link here) gives the story of Expedition Everest's fearsome Yeti animatronic which suffered structural failure shortly after the ride opened and hasn't been fixed since. As The 626 points out, WDI probably overshot themselves by creating such a massive animtronic (the ride and mountain had to be built around it) that the stand-alone supporting structure did not have the ability to sustain support for the multi-ton creature that physically moved out over the the track. Instead of motion, imagineers now flash strobe lights at the fixed non-moving creature which gives a bit of an illusion of motion that just isn't there. WDW regulars ask why can't Disney fix the thing now years later from when the problem was first discovered. The scores of people who visit WDW occasionally could care less. The ride is a true thrill just the way it is.

There's a lesson here for us Disneyland people. Park fans in forums are constantly railing about the various parts of both Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain which do not work at all or extremely slow to get fixed. They continue to shake a fist at the tarp covered Alice in Wonderland ride with its tacky railing that Cal-OSHA insisted was necessary for worker safety or safety of passengers in case of evacuation. That little event occurred over a year ago now and Ugly Alice still hasn't been fixed.

Here's the rub. Of course everyone wants a ride to be exactly as brilliant imagineers designed it to be fully functional in every detail. But over time, things tend to break down (even me). Now some things can be fixed up relatively quickly. Other things take a very long time and require budget considerations because fixing these things doesn't come cheap. So what would you prefer? A running ride performing at 80 or 90% of how it was designed or shut the ride down for months of refurbishment. Its easy for those who live within short driving distance to Disneyland to choose the refurbishment. They've been on these attractions so many times that they can easily wait out months of repair. For those who plan Disneyland trips for next year or even two years from now, having an attraction like Indiana Jones or Splash Mountain down for refurbishment can be extremely disappointing, maybe even a trip deal breaker. Disney is in a tough position here but ultimately they like to keep their major attractions running especially, during peak periods, and only take them down for extended periods when its absolutely necessary (Indiana Jones Adventure is rumored to be coming up for an extended refurbishment). 

I'm good with this approach. Why would I really care if a few items stopped working as they should as long as I can get on the ride to begin with?  Half a ride is better than none as they say.

For west coasters who haven't experienced Expedition Everest, here is one of the better videos from MouseSteps. Yes, the coaster does roll backwards for a few heart pounding seconds. The strobe effect Yeti shows up at just before the 3 minute mark. Pretty weak.

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