Foxxfurr's latest article on Disney theme park history is yet another amazing and insightful read that uses the tenth anniversary of Stitch's Great Escape ("the worst ride in Disney World") as a jumping-off point to show how the history of theme-parks, animation, the elusive 5-12 year old boy market, and the entertainment business all influenced one another.
As always, Foxfurr's articles are must-reads that leave you wanting to visit Disney parks with a notebook.
The financial 'afterlife' of films in the theme parks is a very strange thing. Most studio and theatrical films are ephemeral things, and the explosion of the home market has not changed this. Movies like Die Hard are really freaks of nature, evergreen moneymakers. Disney films are traditionally very strong on the secondary market, but when they get into the theme parks they begin to meld and morph into sometimes bizarrely different things.
Take something like the Swiss Family Treehouse, which more people visit in a month than have seen the movie in the past ten years. And yet, it still works and is fully comprehensible to any viewer. This is because the only thing you need to know about the film to enjoy the attraction is right there on the sign – shipwrecked family builds a house. That's it. The attraction allows you to go into the house, and the attraction-tree never really resembled the film-tree in a serious way. The form of the attraction is harmonized with the tie-in film property in a way that has universal, not specific, appeal.
Where Stitch's Great Escape, and all of these movie tie-in attractions in general go wrong, is that they are bound to weirdly specific moments in the narrative of the films to have their effect. Nearly every moment in the attraction is referencing some moment in the film. If you know nothing about Lilo & Stitch besides that it exists, then Stitch's Great Escape is the worst advertisement for it imaginable. It conveys nothing of the tone of the film or the love the character inspires in audiences. Actually, you'd probably correctly infer from the attraction that Stitch is a malicious bastard.
That's probably the real reason Stitch's Great Escape fails to interest audiences, it isn't because of those restraints or that it isn't a ride; that's just shorthand people use to skirt around the real issue, which is that there's no payoff for going to see it. It's a lot of sound and fury for no good reason at all. At least, one could reason if she wished, Alien Encounter was trying to be scary. Stitch's Great Escape has no reason to exist, no onus, besides itself.