(c) Disney / Pixar
Say you’re a theme park like Hong Kong Disneyland. A project that – even though it’s still at least a year away from opening to the public – has already acquired a reputation for being built on the cheap. For offering far too meager an assortment of attractions on opening day. What do you do to turn around a public perception like that?
Well – if you’re the Walt Disney Company – the answer is simple: You throw a whole lot more money at the project as you hurriedly add another attraction to Hong Hong Disneyland’s line-up. Which is why – even as we speak -- WDI is reportedly prepping plans to add that perennial Disney theme park favorite, “Autopia,” to HKDL’s Tomorrowland area.
Given the relative ease of quickly constructing an attraction like this (not to mention the relatively small construction costs involved in adding an “Autopia” to Hong King Disneyland’s line-up of rides & shows), most Disneyana fans would probably view this project as a no-brainer. They might even express surprise that this attraction wasn’t already included as part of Hong Kong Disneyland’s opening day line-up.
Well, there’s a reason that the Imagineers originally held back HKDL’s “Autopia.” You see, WDI had deliberately designated this Tomorrowland favorite as something that should only be added to this theme park as part of Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Phase II.”
Why for? Because they wanted to use Pixar Animation Studio’s 2005 release, “Cars,” as the jumping-off point for a brand new version of this attraction.
Yep, the Imagineers wanted Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of “Autopia” to be built around the characters & locations featured in this upcoming John Lasseter film. So that this Tomorrowland attraction – just like Pixar’s 2005 holiday season release – would feature a cast of talking cars.
Had things gone according to plan, HKDL’s version of “Autopia” would have allowed theme park guests to ride in cars that were modeled directly after various characters that are featured in the forthcoming film. Better yet, these kiddie-sized cars would have actually talked to you as you motored along. Comically commenting on the scenery that you drove past, even heckling the other cars that you’d encounter as you rolled through the ride.
Photo by Jeff Lange
Sounds like a pretty nifty idea, don’t you think? Wait. It gets better. This “Cars” themed version of “Autopia” is a concept that that the Imagineers really want to bring stateside. With Disneyland’s “Autopia” and the “Tomorrowland Indy Speedway” at WDW’s Magic Kingdom already supposedly slated to receive toon-ups in late 2008 / early 2009.
But the key to the stateside “Autopias” getting a “Cars” –based retheming was that the cost of developing this all-new version of this Tomorrowland favorite would be assumed by the Hong Kong Disneyland project. Now that HDKL’s “Autopia” has been moved up to “Phase I” of this overseas Disney theme park, plans for adding “Cars” themed overlays to ANY of these Tommorowland attractions appear to have hit the skids.
According to my sources within WDI, current plans call for the Hong Kong theme park to receive a clone of Disneyland’s “Autopia.” You know, the version that opened at the Anaheim theme park back in June of 2000?
Which – as you can probably guess – makes the Imagineers very sad. Given that they had visions of this witty, pretty Pixar-ified version of “Autopia” opening at Hong Kong Disneyland as part of that project’s “Phase II.” More importantly, that this Tomorrowland attraction would so quickly become a hit with HKDL visitors that Disney Company management would have no choice but to bring this “Cars” themed overlay stateside ASAP. With Disneyland Paris & Tokyo Disneyland’s “Autopias” getting their very own “Cars” overlays in the not-so-distant future.
Which perhaps explains why the guys at WDI are now said to be actively campaigning for HKDL’s version of “Autopia” to feature at least some elements inspired by “Cars.” Like – say – a full-sized version of the race car that Owen Wilson voices and/or the tow truck that Larry the Cable Guy provides vocals for. Which would then talk to Hong Disneyland guests as they rolled past these animated autos as they drove through this Tomorrowland attraction.
As you might expect, Disney’s sharp pencil toys – who are already upset at the idea that the Mouse is throwing all this extra money at HKDL in order to get an “Autopia” in place for opening day – are reportedly livid at the Imagineers for even suggesting that the company blow even more dough on this theme park rush job.
So what excuse are Disney’s accountants using for resisting the idea of throwing any more coin at Hong Kong Disneyland in order to fold “Cars” –related elements into “Autopia”? The sharp pencil boys are supposedly saying that this will be a complete waste of money, given that the theme park will be actually be open (or – at the very least – be in the middle of previews) before Pixar’s next release even hits theaters in Asia. Which means that guests who visit HKDL in late 2005 / early 2006 won’t know or care that the “Cars” characters are featured in Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Autopia.”
Of course, this was the moment that the Imagineers pointed out that the Disney theme parks have a tradition of opening attractions well in advance of the films that actually inspired them. Witness Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, which opened in July of 1955. Even though “Sleeping Beauty” (the movie) didn’t open up at that theme park ‘til January of 1959. Likewise, the “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” attraction which opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in April of 1998, a full eight months before “A Bug’s Life” hit theaters.
“Besides,” said one wag at WDI, “Given that the bootleg DVD version of ‘Cars’ will probably be available for sale on the streets of Hong Kong weeks before the movie actually opens in the U.S., I don’t think we really have to worry about the Chinese knowing who these characters are.”
So what happens now? Well, what is certain right now is that Hong Kong Disneyland is going to get its very own “Autopia.” As to whether the characters from Pixar’s “Cars” movie will play a prominent part in this or any other version of this classic Tomorrowland attraction … We’ll keep you posted on that, okay?