Déjà vu: Prince Caspian's Familiar Walk-thru
The walk through exhibit dedicated to the Disney movie Chronicles of
Narnia: Prince Caspian has opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS). This
movie hit theaters all the way back in mid-May, and remains only at a very few
screens in my area, despite earning B/B+ ratings (and a 66% from Rotten
Tomatoes, compared to a 97% for Wall-E). Movies don't seem to have much of a
shelf life in theaters these days, which may be one reason I'm seeing previews
for titles that will be shown in 3D, including a couple of high-profile animated
The Caspian exhibit replaces the walkthrough that used to be
dedicated to the first Narnia movie. The facility is a soundstage tucked between
One Man's Dream and the new Toy Story Mania attraction.
A Caspian meet and greet is off to one side.
As before, there are really only three rooms to this walkthrough. The first
is a waiting area, with a flat-panel TV off to one side and an imposing "stone"
gateway in the middle, and stone walls otherwise. We are held in the first room
and treated to (subjected to?) a promo video about the movie, then we are
ushered into the main room. In the previous version, this was a snowy wood
scene, and my hazy memory suggests a live actress appearing over our heads to
intone words of import at us.
In the first version of this attraction, we
saw an actress up above.
Now, though, this same room is a circular chamber with large screens all
around us, almost (but not quite) in Circle-Vision format. There's a large,
broken stone table in the middle; this is apparently Aslan's How, the sacred
place were the lion was sacrificed years ago. The screens around the outside are
covered in bas-relief images of a castle. Except those aren't relief images at
all; they turn out to be mere projections on a simple screen, and we are shown
several minutes of the Prince Caspian movie. It's more than a trailer; it's the
entire darned plot, including, to my surprise, the complete ending of the movie.
No surprises left here. We were then invited to step forward into the third
room, which, as before, was a very minor collection of props and costumes from
the movie. Mostly costumes. Is it just me, or are the costumes not really all
that interesting? Most of the AFI room, the exit to the Backlot Tour, is also
filled with costumes, and I'm always underwhelmed.
I came away from the experience pretty amazed that they had given away so
much of the movie's plot. Usually, the idea is to whet the appetite and only
show parts of the movie. At the very least, they don't show the ending of the
flick. But this time, they did. That struck me as odd enough that I had to
reflect on why they would do that. I walked out of the experience a bit relieved
that I now wouldn't have to pay to see the movie in theaters. Surely that wasn't
what they had wanted?
But then again, maybe that's exactly what they wanted. Perhaps they knew,
early enough in the design phase, that this exhibit wouldn't be ready before the
movie. In that case, maybe they conceded that most folks would have already seen
the movie (or alternately, wouldn't be interested anyway). In other words, maybe
they were chasing a different audience. Perhaps they want the DVD audience? That
would make their strategy a bit more logical, if true. If you're chasing the DVD
crowd, you don't need to keep the plot and its twists a secret; you showcase the
excitement of the movie and hope that's enough to get people to buy it, since
after all the folks who will buy it are likely to have already seen it in
The impressive bas-relief.
I did like the video effect at the start and end of the sequence in Aslan's
How. The fake bas-relief was pretty darn effective. That said, there wasn't
anything particularly great about this set and its set design. In the old
version, we felt lost in the wintry forest, a sort of snow-covered E.T. forest.
The sense of "placemaking" was strong indeed. But this new set seemed fairly
absent any such immersiveness. In fact, it was only later that I even realized
there was a cracked stone table in this room; at first, I thought it was just
screens all around us. That's much less atmosphere than we saw previously in
Still, when all is said and done, I wouldn't want to complain too much. This
is a new thing in the parks, and goodness knows DHS needs new things. The
staleness in this park is almost palpable. Overall, it's a harmless addition,
and change is good. That said, it's unlikely I'll visit this again, at least not
until they revise it for a third movie.
My five year old decidedly hated the new exhibit, proclaiming he never wanted
to go in there again (he didn't give a reason, and I didn't press him. I had my
own thoughts to stew in. Knowing him, I assume he was simply bored). Still, even
that factoid ought to give the executives pause. Are they really in the business
of boring the five year olds?