I got to meet Tony Baxter, the head of Disneyland Imagineering, this past Thursday over lunch. My dad had a stint as an Imagineer during his career at Disney, and so managed to arrange for us to get together with Tony at the park. Tony was a complete doll and treated us to lunch at Club 33, and it was all... Rather surreal. Meeting the man behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Star Tours and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye was just pretty damn awesome, no matter how you look at it. We ended up chatting for four hours about everything and anything that came to mind and, thank god, we seem to be on the same page when it comes to design and storytelling.
I can't say much about some topics we discussed, but I can say that I have complete faith in the man whose hands I'm trusting with the future of Disneyland.
Most notably, Tony showed me some of the work being done on the Small World ride, a source of much recent contention and grim faces in and amongst the Disneyana blogosphere. I'll admit that I was initially right there with the pundits proselytizing about the destruction of a Classic DIsney Treasure, but began to hold my tongue upon hearing that Tony and Marty Sklar were in support of the project. These men had both done amazing things for the parks, Things muchly in line with Walt's vision, and it didn't surprise me to see some impressive output upon visiting the studios. The work being done on A Small World is directly referencing Mary Blair's cinematic concept art in many places, and is otherwise beautifully styled and, compared to what the internet was accusing Imagineering of, extremely tasteful. I can't speak to the final product of course, but I am, for once, excited about the direction it's taking.
I understand that the ten year Imagineering slump that resulted in California Adventure and a number of other offenses broke down the trust originally bonding WDI with the fans of the park, and I in turn understand that rebuilding that trust is going to be quite the undertaking, but I'm going to risk it and encourage people to be supportive of WDI's current direction. Imagineers got their jobs because they love DIsneyland just as much as the rest of us- if not more- so I don't feel like it's too much of a stretch to assume they want to take care of the place.