Dueling reViews  Click to go back to MousePlanet main page
 Discussion Boards | Reviews | News | Trip Planning | Shop | Travel | Site Map
Dual reViews
Opinions and discussion
Google-
Look in: MousePlanet WWW

Alex Stroup and Kevin Yee
July 6, 2000

--Innoventions at Disneyland
The Innoventions building, opened in 1998
-
  Innoventions 
- waste of time or time well spent?

Reviewed:
The corporate-exhibit "attraction" at Disneyland's Tomorrowland

 

ALEX KEVIN
Among my 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.

Well, let 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.

I'm going 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 to them.

But that 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 rides.

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 job screening.

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.

The only 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 attention. 

I hate those shows. They are only tolerable for the wonderful Audio-Animatronic (AA) nearby, the exposed-skeleton "Tom Morrow." 

This AAs fluid motion excites even the CMs. 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. Barely.

That's 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 Innoventions. 

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, alas.

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 its like the shows it replaced; it too is harmless. Just not harmless fun.


We want your feedback! Join the debate by mailing us both. Just click here.

 
Dual Reviews

Alex and Kevin debate current events and review Disney books.

This column is about opinions; unfortunately, we don't know any important Disney insiders so they are just our opinions. We are bringing this column to you as two ordinary Disney fans, much like yourself. We hope you enjoy and respond.

-TOP | SECTION CONTENTS | MOUSEPLANET MAIN PAGE
-Copyright MousePlanet Inc. | Really Scary Legal Page & Privacy Policy