The Implications of Disneyland Adventures Kinect

I had my birthday recently and my wife, the light that is my world, got me the 2011 Xbox One video game Disneyland Adventures Kinect.  I had played it once before and longed to play again, but I did not have the system, the time, nor money to play it.

As a game that is nine years old, of a park I had only been to a few times, and as a former cast member to Walt Disney World, there are several facets that fascinated me once I gave them more than a passing second’s worth of thought.

1. The characters are…well, THE characters.  Sorta.

So…are the black parts fur?

This one seems the most obvious.  Well of course it’s Mickey Mouse himself, right?  It’s not like he’s a CP in a costume or anything! And yes, I absolutely get that.  However, the characters don’t just look like the characters.  For example, here’s Mickey when you see him at Disneyland…

And here’s the same guy in the game…

No suit and bow tie. His face is fully articulate and expressive.  He’s a good foot shorter, closer to his canonical height of four feet.  And most significantly, Mickey can talk!  This makes sense, when you view this game as a marketing tool for kids so they don’t see Mickey as a costume, but the character they see on TV.  On the other hand, I imagine it might be even more jarring to expect Mickey communicating expressively, only to go to Disneyland and see Mickey with a vacant stare and a face that suggests the Botox kicked in as he walked in on his surprise birthday party.

Now, I like the idea that THE characters are roaming Disneyland, even though it makes little sense a girl from Victorian England and her literal imaginary friends, a wooden marionette puppet from Italy blessed with cognitive autonomy, a waitress-turned-princess from 1920’s New Orleans, and a various assortment of anthropomorphized animals would all mingle harmoniously.

However, there’s one slight issue: the scale on some of these characters.  Chip and Dale, for example, seem to be about three, three-and-a-half feet tall.  You want to talk about rodents of unusual size, Wesley?

“I don’t think they exist”.

But that’s nothing compared to Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, and Stinky Pete, who all seem to be around five to six feet tall.  Pooh and his friends seem to range from two to six feet tall. Umm… aren’t they toys?

Lastly, there are a handful of villains at the park, too.  Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts, and Br’er Fox, are still cranky and irritable, but they still welcome hugs, dances, high fives, and autographs.  Funny they don’t seem that preoccupied with their typical vendettas and the fact they willingly spend time around obnoxious children.

2.  The rides are REALLY REAL.

Um…does my insurance cover this?

Disney has always been hampered by the laws of physics in making their attractions. We know if they could, they could put us in the actual movies, have us weightlessly fly with Peter Pan, cross blades with pirates, and float on balloon with Pooh Bear.  But due to a variety of factors, of course, we’ll have settle for passive experiences where we “sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride”.  In the game, though, that is unacceptable.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I think this idea is great.  The idea that when I get to the Alice in Wonderland ride, I’m not in a facsimile of the imaginary world with animatronics and illusions, but the real deal where the inhabitants don’t break character when I ask where Space Mountain is…is awesome.  But it gets better:  there’s no lines.  There’s no safety spiel telling me to keep my hands and arms inside at all times in english and spanish.  There’s no cumbersome ride vehicle that forces to see with my eyes, not my hands.  The characters interact with me and me alone, one on one.  And I can also…get injured!

Okay, yeah, if you climb out of your boat in Pirates of the Caribbean IRL, it’s not going to be a fun rest of your trip.  But imagine a Haunted Mansion where ghosts swipe at you if you delay too long, or you have to dodge the painful thorns of Br’er Rabbit’s briar patch, or a yeti can hurl a snow boulder at you.  It’s like what they say about adventure and the adage about having to try risky things in order to get the most out of life…but boy, that kind of danger takes it to a whole new level.

Now, of course, in typical Disney fashion, you don’t die or even start over.  If you hit an obstacle, you cry out in pain, the camera moves forward without your sorry butt, and you eventually scuttle back into view, blinking in recovery.  In the end of every game, you never so much as lose as you just win less.  I guess that’s perfectly in line with Imagineering philosphy.

Also, there’s something to be said about where you don’t just not queue up to go on Space Mountain or Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage, but you glide through a pink interdimensional void, as though you are “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning”-ing across time and space. I love it, but do you want rips in the space/time continuum? Because that’s how you get rips in the space/time continuum.

3.  Trash cans are MAGIC.

And parasols, too!

It’s clear they wanted kids to think EVERY part of Disneyland is magic.  I guess it makes sense, since that’s the nature of the place.  But like attractions, there are parts that have to exist to provide that functional experience.  Most people just ignore them completely, as it’s part and parcel of suspension of disbelief. And in the video game, they still added these things, like lamps, trash cans, and manhole covers, but they’re not part of the aesthetic so much as they themselves are also magical!

Among your many sidequests are to hoof the entire park and turn on lights, water plants, and enchant the trash cans, sewer covers, and parasols.  Do every single one per area and you’ll unlock more of the completion “secrets” your game keeps track of.  All 35 Matterhorn lupin flowers need to be watered!  All twenty of the lamps around Splash Mountain need to be lit!  Enchant every parasol at each cafe!  These’d be fine, but each time you do so, the set pieces churn out a flurry of coins you have scramble around to collect, and more often than not, you miss a few due to obnoxious barriers and spastic camera glitches.

The old Universal Studios game for GameCube had players collect trash to earn points, which could be redeemed.  Disney apparently said “Hold my Dole Whip!” and programmed pink sparkles around the garbage cans that hop with ecstasy as if straight out of Beauty and the Beast.  Talk about going the extra mile.

4.  You can’t be anything but the perfect child…

There’s a face that’s been drugged into submission.

Disney clearly sees childhood as idyllic, innocent nostalgia.  It’s as though Disney has never heard the phrase “Kids can be so cruel”.  They never seem to realize kids will joke about body parts, think cartoons are stupid, or do inappropriate things “’cause”.  My point is, kids are weird, unpredictable monsters, and Disney usually fails to consider that possibility.

So when you dash up to any of the characters, your default reaction is barely restrained zeal, like Disney thinks all kids must do.  You can’t talk back to cast members.  Can’t hurt, insult or do anything untoward to other guests.  Your job as a ten year old sprinting around the park unsupervised is to be enthusiastic about everything, whether it’s zapping a parasol with your wand or heading over to Jungle Cruise.

But the most egregious thing I find is the complete and utter uselessness of the jump feature.  I have my avatar leaping in futile attempts to go faster, but I have yet to find a true use for it.  Now, what I have noticed is the benches, tables, planters, even curbs and grass and other such minor obstacles are completely insurmountable.  Having grown up on Sonic and Mario, I’m used to jumping onto anything as long as it’s within range.  So it’s super lame and disappointing that I can’t jump on a planter and survey the area.  There’s even a small stage at the Tomorrowland terrace restaurant that is accessible by going up the stairs…but the game’s mechanics won’t even let you jump down from the stage and you can only step down by running down the stairs!  Seriously, what was even the point?!

5.  …Except when you’re explicitly told to do things you can’t actually do.

At least it isn’t a selfie stick.

In late 2015, four years after the video game was released, and following gun violence in Paris and San Bernadino, Disney drastically stepped up their security game.  This included metal detectors at park entrances, and – most significantly – the ban of selling toy guns at the park.  The wooden flintlocks from Pirates, the bubble blasters, everything that was vaguely gun-looking, gone.  There was some backlash from the second amendment crowd, but nothing substantial.  In any case, these toys were almost totally harmless.  But in Disneyland Adventures

Yup.  Among the items you can collect to enact your sidequests are a laser gun from Buzz Lightyear and a water squirter from Donald Duck.  The water squirter is used to water the aforementioned plants throughout the park.  The blaster is used to turn on lights, shoot drones, and play minigames.  Shame.

But there’s more.  Br’er Fox gives you a very obnoxious megaphone used to blast at trees and hitching posts for the sole purpose of knocking coins out of them.  You even get a fishing pole so you can fish out treasures at various waters like the Storybook canals and even the water feature at the base of Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  Good gods, can you imagine just how dangerous that is?

6.  Everything is basically free because you’re, like, Scrooge McDuck-level stupid rich.

Bless me bagpipes!!

Like any good video game, commerce is an integral part of the gameplay.  As you discover various spots where the game’s currency, Disneyland coins, are bouncing, you collect them to purchase items you need in your quests.  To be honest, you collect coins so fast I can’t tell how much each coins are worth, especially since there are little bronze ones, big silver ones, and tiny gold ones.  Of course, my dumb American brain thinks “Oh, okay! Pennies, quarters and…um, whatever those are!”

It’s no surprise these coins that these abundant coins are used to buy items for your inventory to help complete the game, from photo albums to costumes.  We all know merchandise at the parks IRL is already insanely expensive, but I don’t think a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt costs 50,000…um.. dollars?  Euros?  Bitcoins?  Simoleons?  Whatever.  Yeah, that’s a lot, but if you follow the rules of inflation, it very much isn’t.  Every time you hop aboard Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Matterhorn Bobsleds, or Alice in Wonderland, you race through each level collecting thousands of coins, so after even a few successful whirls through the mini games, you have more than enough to buy the most expensive thing in the gift shops.  And to top it off, the coins are all replenished for every ride through, so you could zip through Peter Pan’s Flight four times to buy the pirate costume!

And it doesn’t stop there: a few times the game has shut down on me during gameplay, and while my progress gets saved each time, I find the bouncing clusters in all the various nooks and crannies of the park proper get restocked, which provide a sudden boost in my already substantial wealth.  I seriously collect more money than Jeff Bezos.

7.  Cast members?  What cast members?

Have a magica-magica-magica-magica…SYSTEM ERROR…

Disney seems to think lately that they can run the theme parks without cast members while at the same time crediting that they can’t do what they do without them.  I can’t think of a more perfectly embodied example of that than this game.

So there are no character performers, since we’ve established the characters are THE characters.  No operations cast because Matterhorn is a real snowy peak, not a roller coaster.  No snack carts or restaurants are open, so no QSR or F&B cast.  No custodial staff, of course.  Each land has precisely one gift shop and there is a single cast member standing outside (Not dressed in their respective lands’ costumes), and they do nothing but greet you as you dash by and chirpily cheer you on as you spend your millions on photo albums, pins, and t-shirts.  The only other cast member seen is Karen, a guest relations lady in the traditional jockey cap and plaid skirt…who randomly appears in multiple areas simultaneously.  At least the gift shop CM’s are all different (At least in appearance), but Karen is the same one in her batch of clones throughout the park. Anyone else find the irony in name the guest relations CM after the memetic name used for women who are the bane of such a profession?

Disneyland: Where dreams of genetically growing our own human automatons live!

8.  OH MY GODS, SONG OF THE SOUTH EXISTS!

They live again!!

Yes, this was certainly a big eyebrow-raiser when it was first announced.  After 25 years of keeping Song of the South hidden from public view, Disney shocked the smoo out of us when this game brought back Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear!  And they talked!

Of course one of Disneyland’s biggest E-tickets, Splash Mountain, had to be part of the game, so that meant having to create some mini games, which meant bringing the the trio in as part of a story.  First, Br’er Rabbit (Voiced by Animaniacs‘ Jess Harnell) leads you through a winding briar patch to Br’er Fox’s (J.D. Hall and Jess Harnell again) lair to prank the wily fox and his oafish accomplice, Br’er Bear (Good old Uncle Phil himself in one of his final performances, James Avery).  After the two get stung by bees, you and Br’er  Rabbit shove off in a boat and feverishly paddle away, now avoiding the angry foes throwing stuff at you.  In the second mini game, you continue paddling through the river in a barrel and dodging the two.  It was a truly new and refreshing experience to see they had pulled these characters out of limbo to create a new story.

But it didn’t stop there.  The three all are in Critter Country for hugs, photos, autographs, dancing, high-fives, and send you on adventures to prank each other.  The touch I truly respected was dancing with Br’er Fox, where he shuffles and kicks, a dance he did in Song of the South while taunting Br’er Rabbit.  The designers did their homework and watched the movie.

I think if they didn’t, Critter Country would only have been home to just Winnie the Pooh and friends, but then again, they only have Toy Story characters in Frontierland, and that realm is far bigger than Critter country.  Still, they admitted my favorite Georgia pals existed and used them in a new way.  I’m extraordinarily grateful for that.

9.  Clearly some rights just weren’t available.

Who?

Nearly twenty rides are treated as full, immersive experiences, and some, like Dumbo, Gadget’s Go-Coaster, the Mad Tea Party, Astro Orbiter, and King Arthur’s Carrousel, provide brief POV rides without much point.  Others, like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Storybook Canal, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Autopia, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, Mark Twain Riverboats, and the Disneyland Railroad don’t do anything at all (Shame that.  I think a frenzied motor car dash through London and Hell would have been thrilling) But three rides just don’t exist, period: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Star Tours, and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.

Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, so despite the good faith relationship with Disney, it’s clear they would have had to worked out some negotiation to feature Indy or Darth Vader.  And Roger Rabbit?  Well…due to Disney unable to come to terms with Amblin Entertainment, Disney ceased usage of Roger.  Of course, it helped four super-popular purely Disney-owned cartoons came immediately afterward so they didn’t have to deal with any icky legal stuff. 

There’s also Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland, which is clearly there, but not a scrap of theming anywhere to indicate it.  Even when you get near the base of the tree, you can hear the lilting tune of “Swisskapolka” from the attraction’s previous incarnation, Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  Tarzan is one of the very few Disney properties they don’t own and they have to pay royalties to the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate.  That’s why we saw a Tarzan TV show, a mid-quel, a show in Animal Kingdom, a world in the first Kingdom Hearts, and the treehouse here all come and go with the decade of the movie’s release.  Now, unless Disney really thinks they’ll make money on something related to the ape-man, they’d just as soon go without and not have to pay the royalties.

But then there’s Black Barty.  Who? You got me.  Despite the popularity of Captain Jack Sparrow, even as late as 2011, the game designers opted not to use the famous scalawag in the game and introduce a character cut from a wholly original cloth.  Naturally, much like Splash Mountain, to not use the immensely popular Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is practically heresy.  Black Barty is easily the most boring, stock character in the game, and that’s saying something considering your avatar is overcome with enthusiasm every time they talk to a character.  I can only imagine the developer couldn’t get the rights to Johnny Depp’s character, because what other reason was there? 

10.  LOL, Donald Duck has subtitles.

So a lot of people think Donald Duck is a potty mouth.  The Duck has been garbled in his delivery since 1934, and because our human ears are fallible, we often mishear what he’s trying to say.  Even as recent as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, many have speculated that Donald dropped the N-word (When what he actually said to Daffy was “Doggone stubborn little…”)  And in this game, it’s pretty clear they wanted to avoid any potential controversy.

Although I’ve seen screenshots online of characters with subtitles, heck if I know how to turn them on.  However, Donald’s subtitles were available automatically.  Bear in mind, the characters don’t just talk when you interact with them, they chatter every time you run by them.  Of course, this means their voices can get drowned out by music, sound effects, other guests, and even distance.  I can imagine that was the deciding factor to completely eliminate ANY potential for mishearing, leading to some misanthropic gamers trolling online forums to claim they heard Donald Duck dropping F-bombs.

It’s like when they scrubbed the original Little Mermaid VHS cover or edited Jessica Rabbit’s dress when she got flung from Benny the cab.  Even though there’s a good chance there never was a controversy to begin with, it makes sense they’d take the initiative to preemptively silence negative press before it even started.

**************************************

So there we are.  Disneyland Adventures Kinect is a great game and I love discovering all its secrets and bonuses, even if I have to go online and look up where to find that last bone of Pluto’s, find which lamp I still haven’t lit yet in New Orleans Square, or how to complete all the secrets then the game refuses to explicitly spell out WHAT secrets I need to find!  WHADDAYA MEAN 30 OUT OF 33?!  I DID EVERY SMOOING TRASH CAN, MANHOLE COVER, PARASOL, FISHING HOLE, LAMP, TREE, PLANT, HIDDEN MICKEY, AND PHOTO HERE!!  WHAT ELSE COULD YOU WANT?!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m at 83% and I need to finish this game because if I don’t complete it at 100% I’ll hate myself forever.

Author: TAP-G

Writer, former podcaster, entertainment enthusiast. Movies and media have the power to shape our world and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

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