The Innoventions building, opened in 1998
- waste of time or time well spent?
"attraction" at Disneyland's Tomorrowland
Disneyland friends, Innoventions is pretty much attraction non
grata. They don't like it and they never go into it. And while
they all have some pretty valid complaints - which I am sure
we will get into - I think I am going to surprise a bunch of
people by saying that, overall, I like Innoventions.
||Whoa there. I did expect you to
provide a balanced view like we always do - the good with the
bad. I know I planned on not being completely negative or
completely positive. But you are being rather positive,
surprisingly. OK then, I'll be a bit more polemic about the
negative things I have to say in that case.
Let me start off by saying that Innoventions
is worst when you consider the kind of show it replaced and
when you consider the kinds of shows they had dreamed up as
alternatives. Seen in that light, this attraction stinks even
more than it does on its own merits.
me get this off my chest at the beginning. I never saw
Carousel of Progress at Disneyland. I saw the show for the
first time earlier this year in the Magic Kingdom at Walt
Disney World, and assuming it was pretty much the same, then I
didn't think Carousel of Progress was much of a show.
But I see your point and am
willing to concede it to a degree. Innoventions fares much
better when viewed as a singular entity rather than within the
context of the entire park.
||Carousel of Progress, as well as
America Sings, were nice, lightweight, harmless little shows
that "charmed" more than entertained heavily. They
also provided comfortable seats and relief from the elements -
a feat not to be underestimated at a place like Disneyland.
But let's talk about the "context of
the park," as you put it. This is one of my primary
complaints, actually. Let me ask you first whether you think
Innoventions "fits" at all in Tomorrowland.
to take a firm stand on this one, Kevin: Yes and no.
Obviously, it does fit within the very general Tomorrowland
theme of technology and the future. But through its various
rehabs throughout the decades Tomorrowland has become not just
a place about the future, but a place about a fantastic
future (fantastic in the sense of fantasy).
In that regard, going from
the space opera of Star Wars or the camp of Honey, I Shrunk
the Kids to the mundane issue of next month's digital camera is
a bit of a misstep.
||Hmmmmmmmmmm. OK, I'll buy that to
an extent, but arguably the fantastic elements of the rest of
Tomorrowland interrelate at least somewhat. It's all still
fantasy. With Innoventions, you leave the notion of fantasy
and return to this world with today's realities. Yes, many
of the shows within are about what the future holds. But
seriously, Honeywell? Humidifiers? Regis Philbin?
I think it's a jarring transition from just
about anything to Innoventions, whereas at least the other
rides/shows of Disneyland all feature some element of escapism
wasn't always true. If anything Innoventions is a better fit
for the 1960 Tomorrowland than the 2000 Tomorrowland. But they
learned a lesson back then that Innoventions is trying very
hard to ignore: It takes two days to install tomorrow's
technology. By the time you build a great technology exhibit
it is outdated.
That's why I try to consider
Innoventions as discrete from the rest of Tomorrowland (TL), I
think they are trying to do something different with it.
||Well, Tomorrowland in 1955 was
little more than corporate exhibits, such as Innoventions is,
and the focus then was on learning something, just as it is
now. But we should keep in mind Walt was not so happy with
that version of TL, that's why it was the first land to
receive a complete makeover. And guess what disappeared? The
exhibits about learning. And in their place? Entertaining shows and
I can almost convince myself to view the
place as you just suggested: Separate from the park and the
land. So let's weigh the place on its own merits. My answer:
It still comes up short. Horribly short.
|It seems to
me that if you want to consider Innoventions on its own the
guide for comparison would be the kind of technology museum
most mid- to large-sized cities have (I'm most familiar with
the Tech Museum in San Jose and OMSI in Portland, OR).
Considering that Disneyland
is very much trying to balance some sort of educational value
with blatant corporate propaganda, I think that Innoventions
has come up with a series of exhibits that just about any tech
museum would be proud to have.
||I will grant you that... for some
of the displays. What leaps to mind is the health-oriented
stuff (Kaiser) and the satellite zoom stuff (sort of like
Blade Runner, with image zooming). But have you sat down and
played some of the games there? The SAP game is horrendous.
What does a software company have to do with launching a space
shuttle, and what does launching a space shuttle have to do
with catching hockey pucks and re-launching them? The game is
so far from intuitive as to be ludicrous.
Similarly, the Honeywell quiz show game is
embarrassing, frankly. I pity the Cast Members (CMs) as people simply walk
away in the middle of a bizarre, pointless game.
|OK, I didn't
think the games were that bad, just aimed at kids. The SAP
game isn't about launching a space shuttle but about
information storage, retrieval, and organization.
I must admit, my experiences
in Innoventions have varied dramatically based on the crowds
inside. If I have to wait to use anything, it isn't worth it.
If there are lots of kids playing the games, they tend to get
into it more than the adults, and they are fun to watch.
Since you bring up pitying
the Cast Members working Innoventions, I would like to say
that almost universally they are working harder, and with less
of a script, than just about anywhere else in the park. Kudos
to them all.
||Yes, hats off to the Innoventions
CMs from me as well. They are also the most likely to be
spirited all the time. Apparently job boredom doesn't set in
there as much as elsewhere. But it could also be that the
selection process - which is completely different from the
normal DL hiring process - is more rigid. They've done a good
In a way, the CMs here have to be a bit like
midway barkers, luring people in to do things they don't
otherwise like to do.
While I appreciate the CM spirit, this is
also somehow an "anti-Disneyland" way of doing
things. Whenever I do join a game or activity, it feels like
I'm obligated to do things to make them happy, which annoys
me. I want to stress that I blame the system here, not the actual
performance of the CMs.
place I noticed that was at the SAP game. There's no queue
system for that game and people were wandering up to it
wondering what was going on.
If anything, they could use a
bit more CM supervision down in the game pit on the first
floor. Too frequently I see kids running around from game to
game, butting in on people playing a game (I'm not bitter
about having my game of Millionaire messed up).
You mentioned earlier that
the previous uses for the building provided a nice place to
rest for a moment. I don't think that has been lost at all.
||But there's no place to sit!
|It is still
air conditioned, it is still relatively easy to find a place
to sit (I once just sat in one of the outer ring shows for a
couple rotations of the building). There are quiet spots. I
find it a nice place to go and get away from the general
hubbub of the park (much as Country Bear Jamboree serves the same
purpose on the other end of the park).
||I suppose I've located an alcove
to even nap in - uncomfortably - once.
You mention the outer ring shows. This is
the Innoventions "Family," where Sports, Home,
Computer, or whatever "Zone" is given complete
I hate those shows. They are only tolerable
for the wonderful Audio-Animatronic (AA) nearby, the
exposed-skeleton "Tom Morrow."
This AA’s fluid motion excites even the CM’s.
One Innoventions CM, while hyping up the robot to me on my
last trip there, went so far as to claim to be his sister (her
last name is also apparently "Morrow"). That tells
you something about the loyalty to this robot! I do have to
admit, Tom Morrow makes a trip into Innoventions worthwhile.
funny, because I try to ignore him as much as possible. (I
prefer the little robot in the virtual reality GM exhibit).
||His name is Sparky. SparkyMotors.
|Now that I
have pretty much covered why I like Innoventions I am going to
tell you why it needs to be removed from Disneyland. Every
single one of the positives I have mentioned (cool and
relaxing, good CM interaction, mildly enjoyable games and
exhibits) is impossible if there is any kind of crowd inside
The attraction actually gets
better the less popular it is. And that is self-defeating and
enough to kill the attraction. Because, even with the low
attendance it has now, a peak summer crowd is enough to drown
out the positives.
||Since you briefly switched sides,
let me betray my negativity for a moment and say something
positive (it just wouldn't do for us to agree at the same
time): I enjoy playing free video games. Starcade across the
way charges me to play games, but here I can play all I want.
Granted, there aren't many, and most aren't as good, but they
are free. Call it a guilty pleasure.
But getting back to your point, I agree that
a busy Innoventions is just a pain and not beneficial to
anyone. In such a case, you'd enter the building and promptly
leave (and just why is that exit on the second floor? Yes,
yes, to make sure the sponsors get their money's worth by
making us visit their exhibits. It's very annoying).
I really wish we'd gotten a nice, relaxing
musical revue like America Sings instead. The idea for
Plectu's Fantastic Galactic Revue would have combined
Country-Bear style animatronics, zany songs, and wacky
otherworldly designs. That would have been so much better,
|Well, one thing
about it is, it shouldn't be too much trouble to tear it out
and put something else in there if necessary. The
way I feel is that, although Disney (and the myriad Corporate
Sponsors) have managed to produce a moderately enjoyable
experience, for whatever reason it
has not resonated with the guests (perhaps because many of
them have something similar back home) and Disney should admit
defeat and move on to the next idea.
||I admire your pragmatism but
suspect they will be less forthwith about it. After all,
corporate sponsorships are probably signed over a certain
period, and Disney is stuck with it. Moreover, it's
unlike the modern Disney company to admit a mistake, so I
think we're stuck with this one for a while.
Personally, I just consider it a lemon that
offers at least good air-conditioning ... and maybe a few free
video games. Anything more is just plain hype. Is Innoventions
fun? Not really. But it's hardly a negative or a damaging
attraction either. I guess in a way it’s like the shows it
replaced; it too is harmless. Just not harmless fun.
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