My Geek Dream: Star Trek + Disney Parks = AWESOME!

Warning: This post contains extreme geekery and wish-fulfillment and should not be considered as anything more than my blue-sky fantasy on my part. I think it is a good idea, and hope that someone somewhere with the ability to “make it so” is reading…

One of the many things that Star Trek doesn’t have that its rival space epic Star Wars has is a tourist attraction. Star Trek used to have the great Star Trek Experience attraction in Las Vegas, but that has been gone for over 18 months now. Star Wars has the long running (and soon to be revamped) Star Tours ride at Disneyland and Disney World, and Disney also offers the Star Wars weekends special events every year in Orlando.

Yes, Star Trek has a traveling exhibition, which is cool, but it’s not like the Experience was – a must-see destination for Trekkers like me. They are still trying to get the Experience revived but the economy – especially in the troubled Las Vegas region – is not helping matters. So, I thought to myself as I was daydreaming the other day, how do you do a permanent Star Trek destination on the cheap?

The answer came in a flash. Retheming.

Retheming is the term used when a theme park attraction is, in affect, “re-skinned”; When a new tie-in or story is applied to an old attraction, to leverage the legacy hardware and building. And no one does it better than Disney.

Disney has rethemed buildings at their parks numerous times, a fairly recent example being when they changed a mostly-empty stage building to the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s cheap (compared to building a new attraction), it’s relatively quick to implement, and can draw people in who would not have gone to the “old” attraction before.
I have three retheming ideas Disney can use if they cut a deal to license Star Trek (which would not be unprecedented – Universal licenses Star Trek form Paramount for an attraction in the 1980s).

Option 1: Stitch’s Great Escape. Instead of having Stitch in the center of the auditorium, have a Borg be the specimen that has been captured. Enhance the ride with two or three cast members in Borg outfits browsing through the audience.. and give the audience Phasers attached to their seats that can let them defend themselves. Leave in the dark, scary moments and re-theme the entryway and signage to be Starfleet. It’s already been rethemed once before, why not again?

Option 2: Innoventions. Add Star Trek theming to Innoventions, and surround the new inventions to a Star Trek scenario. Have the cast members don the red, blue and gold tunics and divide the areas into science, engineering and command. Sell Star Trek merchandise in the carts in front of both entrances.

Option 3: Mission Space. This is one of my favorite rides at Epcot, and features a great spaceflight simulator that (unfortunately) not a lot of people ride nowadays. The thing is, the ride uses a fictional space agency and a futuristic space ship you pilot…. So how hard would it be to replace the agency with Star Trek and the space ship with a long-range shuttle in the ride film? Not very, I think. Rebrand the whole thing “Starfleet Academy”, put the cast members in Trek uniforms, and then rebrand the Advanced Training Lab play area and gift shop. Heck, you can even add on to the building and create a quick-service area/bar like Quarks (from the Star Trek Experience) or you can use the nearby (and mostly abandoned) Odyssey Center for the new Quarks Bar and Restaurant… Or a Star Trek museum.

It’s this last option – rebranding Mission Space – is the most ambitious and the one that I think would resonate with the most folks (it would also take away from the stigma the ride had after two people died on it the past few years). Of course, all this would cost money, and Disney is already tying up a lot of cash with a refresh of Fantasyland…

But I can’t help that it would work. As we saw with last year’s Star Trek reboot, a lot of people still love the property and a lot of new fans were created from the film. It would be expensive but not THAT expensive. And it could live up to the promise of Epcot, the city of the future. What’s more futuristic than Star Trek?

Anyway, it’ll probably never happen. But a man can dream…

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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