Is Tomorrowland experiencing technical difficulties

"Disney’s Tomorrowland is deeply, thoroughly, almost furiously unimaginative. This isn’t the fault of the “Disney culture”; it is the fault of our culture. We seem to have entered a deeply unimaginative era." (PJ O'Rourke in the Atlantic)

Obviously, O'Rourke has some significant issues with the redesign of the venerable park, inflamed by an Associated Press story about the redesign that originally ran in February and confirmed during a visit to Disneyland with his family earlier this year.

This is not a new topic: Tomorrowland was originally built in 1955, rebuilt for the 1967 season, "renewed" in 1998, and new components were unveiled earlier this year.

(flickr is strewn with pictures from all three eras: pre-67, pre-08 and today)

The Re-Imagineering blog, which draws contributions from current and past Pixar and Disney imagineers, has wondered aloud about the changes that could be made - over and over.

"In updating Tomorrowland these days, where thematic concept has gone off-track - - for the original Disneyland anyway, as Walt had a specific vision for his work and park that should be maintained - - is to discard the idea of utopian modernism.

When Imagineers turn instead to recent trends in fantasy-science-fiction, Hollywood (Star Wars), eco-futurism (agri-future gardens), dark apocalyptic vision (Alien Encounter), cartoon franchise marketing (Buzz Lightyear) or nostalgic pre-modern futurism (Jules Verne, steampunk), it no longer feels like Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland ...

Disneyland should always be a complementary platter of Past, Future, Fact and Fantasy, Nostalgia and Challenge in all its angles, a unified timeline with a running theme. The recipe for the future is on the dedication plaque.

Go back? Go forward?

Do both."

It's easy to decry a lack of imagination or reliance upon corporate sponsorship on Disney's part, especially if a portion of your childhood memories are vested in the fantastic and seemingly unattainable technologies first imagined and sold forty years ago.

With the acceleration of personal technology, Disney executives recognized ten years ago that all of Disney's vaunted imagineers and the displays at Tomorrowland would never be able to outrun the work of millions of nerds, techies and scientists.

"Nicholas Negroponte, [former] director of the media laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of whose sponsors is Disney, thinks that the company has realized that the future, as it unfolds today, is no longer good entertainment.

''The story line just doesn't carry with it the same sort of punch as going off to the Moon,'' he said. ''Things like highly personalized information services and computer agents that do things for you just don't make a good story.'' (NY Times, February 1997)

*"Technical Difficulties" hed lifted from a Wired article about the rationalization of the Imagineering team.