By Aaron Wallace
Disney announced today that one of the Walt Disney World monorails is undergoing a change-over to promote The Avengers. The move calls to mind the similarly obnoxious “Tronorail” overlay from 2010. I took to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr and posted that “the monorail deserves more respect than the side of a city bus.”
One of my long-time show listeners (and an outstanding Disney fan) responded to ask what’s so wrong with a temporary promotion to the monorail, which is basically a big bus anyways. I ended up posting a lengthy response on Facebook, and since others have been asking me for my thoughts on today’s news, I thought I’d post my response here for everyone to read.
First: was Tronorail “city bus” treatment too, then?
…Yes, but less offensively so, given that:
(1) Tron‘s film universe is more in keeping with the spirit of the monorail than The Avengers‘;
(2) the Tronorail’s design, while not exactly beautiful, was sleeker, less garish, and more flattering to the monorail’s design; and
(3) it seemed at the time like a one-time-only kind of a promotion, rather than the beginning of a new “Mono-sell” trend
Second: Respect? It’s mass transportation….it IS a giant city bus. It’s a short-term promotion and will be gone in a few months.
If the monorail is no more special and no more deserving of respect than a city bus, why do we care about the monorail at all? We don’t care about buses. People don’t stop on their way into the park to look at the buses. Vice Presidents of the United States don’t travel to theme parks for the grand opening of buses. City infrastructures don’t look to Disney parks for models of their buses. Fans never asked to sit up front and ride with the driver of buses. Guests don’t line up inside Disneyland’s Tomorrowland to get on buses. You’re letting the Monorail’s function (one of its several functions) — that is, the carrying of people — distract you from its more important appeal. I fear Disney’s doing the same… failing to realize (or care) what makes its attractions special. If the transit function is all you care about, consider that the California Supreme Court held that the Indiana Jones Adventure ride is a common carrier in the same way that a bus is. It carries people. Why don’t we plaster ride vehicles with superhero decals too, then? Attractions deserve more respect than run-of-the-mill common carriers because, unlike buses, they are innovative, artistic, and unique. The monorail is not just a bus. It is history, it is an attraction, it is art.
As an attraction, the monorail’s appeal is substantially, if not primarily, external. Its wow factor is aimed at the guest on the ground, not the guest onboard. It’s a visual prelude for Tomorrowland, Epcot, and the broader spirit of progress, innovation, and futurism that helps define the parks’ whole ethos. Wrapped up in an Avengers poster, it excites people about a movie when it should be exciting people about Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disneyland, and the spirit of tomorrow. It essentially fails to serve its purpose — or at least all its *other* purposes, aside from the routine and decidedly unspectacular purpose of moving bodies from Point A to Point B.
Temporary? Sure. But it’s seemingly clear that “Mono-sell” is now emerging as a trend. Major movie on the way? Wrap up the monorail. But if you treat it like a bus, that’s basically what it becomes. It’s meant to be much more than one.