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Saturday, July 13, 2013

When Disneyland Animatronics Don't Work

In his MiceAge In The Parks weekly feature yesterday (link), the author Fishbulb spent a large segment talking about how some key animatronic characters in Disneyland's Splash Mountain were not working - remaining stationary rather than having their customary hydraulic movements. He went on to say that the animatronic characters in SM have not been working for over three weeks. Keeping the hundreds (maybe in the thousands) of animatronics at work in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is a huge task for park maintenance but in the end, it is Fishbulb's take that at the prices Disney charges to get into their parks, making sure everything runs as it should is an expectation that should be a high priority. With a Disney Park, we are paying for all the detail and paying through the nose.

You can't dispute that logic and I certainly won't but I do have a couple of points. First of all, from everything I have read, the Disneyland animatronic community is far better kept up than their counterparts in Walt Disney World. The Yeti in Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest attraction has not worked as designed almost since the day the ride opened. The WDW Splash Mountain animatronics have been known to be non-functional for a year or more in some cases. Now Disneyland isn't perfect. Elements of Indiana Jones Adventure were allowed to fall into a non-functional state for years as well and only recently brought back to life in its recent refurbishments. Issues have cropped up with the new Radiator Springs Racers with tipping tractors not tipping and the Doc Hudson and Luigi animtronics failing to perform as they should. Disney seems to be working hard trying to keep these attraction elements running on their brand new premiere attraction but there have been repeated failures since the ride opened last summer.

But in the end, here is my take. Most of the time if an animatronic inside of an attraction is not working, I won't even notice. It's still there, just the movement is missing. Maybe for the people who frequent Disneyland on a weekly basis (and there are a lot of them) having things not working at 100% when it comes to attraction details is a big deal. But for the occasional park visitor or vacationer, it's not that big of a deal usually. When the people begin lining up for Splash Mountain today, most of them will be thinking about the drop, the splash, the getting wet. A mental checklist of making sure each character is moving the way it should will probably be the furthest thing from their mind. Same goes for Radiator Springs Racers. The interior show building scenes are nothing short of incredible but most people getting strapped in their cars already have the minds out on that race track.

And my final point is that it is far better to have a ride attraction running than taking it down unexpectedly for a day or two to fix the non-essential attraction elements. If Radiator Springs Racers were to be shut down for a day to fix tipping tractors during one of my trips. I'd be kind of ticked off about it. Shows like the Enchanted Tiki Room or Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln need to have the animtronics operating at a 100%. With the rides, maybe the high standard can slide just a little bit because the best thing of all is the ride experience itself.

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