An Open letter to the Suits and Hawaiian Shirt re: Imagination Pavilion

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To: Bob Iger, John Lassiter, George Kalogridis, Tom Staggs, Jim MacPhee, Erin Youngs

 Let me begin by saying that I love Phineas and Ferb. I have been watching since the showed premiered after High School Musical 2 in 2007, and I have been impressed from the first episode. The writing was fresh and witty and showed a clever twist on the tired cartoons that had been airing for the past several years. The “weird for the sake of being weird” cartoons had met their match with the angular boy geniuses and their pet spy platypus.

            The show only went up from there. The show has a special reverence for nostalgia from the latter part of the 20th Century, especially the 1980’s, which appeals to adults while not alienating the kids at whom the show is generally directed. It finds a way to include these references without making the viewer feel like they are missing something. That in itself is a difficult task that most shows that reference pop culture tend to fall short at.

            There exists within the show a sense of education as well, although not to the extent that kids would be turned off. It is more an understanding that the characters feel that education, especially science and math are important. The boys wouldn’t be able to do the things they do without them. This is most impressive considering the kids are never in school during the show.

            Finally, the show, as the creators had hoped, never “dumbs things down” because their target audience is children. There are high concept science ideas being discussed and the vocabulary usage is wide and deep, challenging viewers, but not to the point of discomfort. When Baljeet describes curry as  “not inherently evil,” it brought me to tears. As a teacher, I find that refreshing and applaud the writers for this undertaking.

            I follow the creators and many artists and writers from the show on Twitter and look forward to announcements about the show’s upcoming (though often sporadically released) episodes. This is a program that I feel comfortable watching with my 5 year old without fear of what words he might repeat after watching it. It has just the right mix of high-brow, clean, adult humor, and jokes that are aimed squarely at a child.

            Having said all of that, I am pleading with you to not let the rumors of a Phineas and Ferb overhaul of the Imagination pavilion at Epcot be true. As much as I enjoy this show, I, along with many others would be devastated to see that attraction be wiped away, only to be replaced with Phineas and Ferb.

            I see why the idea has surfaced, and on some levels, it makes sense. The show is immensely popular. After almost 6 years, the characters are still appealing and the plotlines are still fresh and funny. The merchandise is a major seller, as I see kids all over the school I teach at wearing shirts and carrying backpacks featuring the show’s characters.

            The eponymous boys also show a tremendous amount of imagination in the projects that they undertake, leading to a direct tie to the theme of this beloved Epcot pavilion. The songs, the machines, the contraptions all contain clever ideas that could be fantastic and exciting in an attraction.

            Just not here, please.

            As I stated above, I am a teacher. I teach fifth grade and I often tell stories of my time at Walt Disney World as a cast member and I use historical accounts from Walt’s life while teaching history and other subjects.  My students are not the ones wearing Phineas and Ferb merchandise. Yes, it is popular as I mentioned above, but not for fifth grade and above. They still watch it, but they are not fans to the point of wearing the clothes. That is reserved for the under 9 crowd. To alter an attraction using a property that is fading a bit with older children would be, in my mind, short sighted. Do I hope the show’s popularity continues? Yes. I don’t believe that an overhaul of this pavilion with these characters at the heart is the solution to the pavilion’s problems.

            As many websites have documented and several Imagineers have agreed, the current Journey Into Imagination is a poor attraction. The troubled history of removing Figment and then trying to shoehorn him back into a lesser attraction was obviously a terrible choice, and one that needs addressed.

            Figment is a timeless and wonderful character that still retains his popularity both with the hardcore Epcot Center fans and with new visitors to the park. I have an 11-year-old student whose favorite character, parks or movies, is Figment. Not her favorite attraction, but her favorite character. Should he be kept around for one eleven year old girl, of course not, but the fact that guests still connect with him 25+ years later speaks to the qualities that people see in this character and it would be disappointing to see these qualities lost in what appears to be a merchandising money grab.

            I think adding these characters now, is too late. This is the way of the company though these days. There is so much trepidation about what will be a hit or what characters will be relevant, the company will not commit to bringing an attraction or even in-park characters until often the property has past it’s window of popularity. Twenty years to get the Little Mermaid into a park? Seems a bit excessive doesn’t it? I understand that money is certainly at the heart of decisions like this, but shouldn’t entertainment and giving the people what they want also be considered.

            That being said, I am not the Disney fan who feels that I am owed something by the company. I am not entitled enough to believe that this company should cater to the whims and desires of the fanboys who clamor for ridiculous changes and make outlandish ultimatums and complain and the drop of a hat.

            I am grateful for the memories and experiences that this company and its products have provided my family, both as a child, and now with children of my own. As a guest and as a cast member my time spent in the park has been unforgettable.

            I simply don’t believe that the solution to the Imagination problem is Phineas & Ferb. Is there a place for them? I believe so. Maybe in the post show, interactive area? A refurbished Imageworks Playground featuring Phineas & Ferb? I could live with that, as long as it was done well. Maybe that shell of an attraction that was once Innoventions? It is clear there is no direction there either.

            If I sound desperate, it is because I am a little bit. The direction the company is headed in creatively scares be to be perfectly honest. Let’s not forget that there are 3 attractions that are nearly identical in the Magic Kingdom (Dumbo, Aladdin, Astro Orbiter) The creative edge is gone. Is New Fantasyland a step forward? In some ways, yes. In others, not really. Don’t let the same thing happen to this pavilion. It is a small thing, I think, but huge to all of the fans of the parks out there.

            You have already hitched your wagon to a franchise that is irrelevant at this point and have moved forward with huge plans for Animal Kingdom with Avatar at the heart rather than stick to the brilliant concepts behind Beastly Kingdom. It will undoubtedly be beautiful, but the Avatar tie is unnecessary. Where are the original intellectual properties that made the parks what they are/were?

 

Please make a good decision with this character (Figment) and this pavilion.

 

But what do I know?

 

I’m just a guy who doesn’t wear a suit to work everyday and count numbers in the millions. I’m just a guy who loves the Disney Parks and wants the legacy protected for my grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

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