Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Life After Lost

Yes, it's true.  February 2 marks the beginning of the end as Lost rapidly approaches the premiere of its final season.  One of the inevitable questions is "What happens next?  Is this really the end?"  As executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof pointed out in a recent interviewLost is a franchise that is worth billions to the Walt Disney Company, so you know they're going to do something with it in the future.  Now I don't think that means that fans should start freaking out about some hackneyed Lost: The Next Generation or some lame spinoff like that.  Disney is a company that prides itself in its ability to exploit creative properties across multiple platforms.  In other words, think beyond television. 

For one group of fans, that means "Disneyland."  They are circulating an online petition asking Disney to create a Lost theme park attraction.  It's an idea that actually makes alot of sense.  Lost is a unique fantasy/adventure with a devoted fan base that would love to experience the adventure for themselves.  But I don't think it is the type of franchise that would translate well into a thrill ride or even a traditional "dark ride."  Would a Lost fan be content to sit in a slow-moving car that passively takes you through a diorama of Dharma stations and island locales?  I don't think that would be satisfying.  The television show is full of mysteries that beg for answers, and often create more mysteries.  It's great big puzzle game.  And that's what the Disney's Lost Experience (that's as good a name as any, right?) should be.

The Disney theme parks have already been aggresively looking into ways to make their attractions more interactive.  This has resulted in new rides like Toy Story Mania! and the interactive Kim Possible quest at Epcot.  In December 2008, Disney even experimented with, well, the Muppet Experiment, an online and text message based scavenger hunt that sent participants roaming around Disney's California Adventure park.  The Kim Possible adventure and the Muppet Experiment offer the best model for what could be a truly unique Lost attraction.

Imagine entering into a mainland Dharma station, like the Lamp Post.  Or perhaps a special corporate facility run by Charles Widmore or the Hanso Foundation.  You watch a series of orientation videos explaining that, several years after the crash of Oceanic 815, you are being sent to the Island to explore its unique properties, maybe to locate a specific item that was left behind or to answer some unresolved mystery about the castaways.  You are given a unique handheld device through which Widmore or whomever your benefactor is in the storyline can maintain contact with you and which allows you to send back information (they even take a picture of you as a security measure).  You then enter a submarine, where you are given a few last minute instructions and then fall asleep (really, the sub would just blackout).  And when you exit the submarine a few moments later, you are no longer on the mainland.  You are on the Island -- a fully realized environment based on locations from the show that you can explore and interact with. 

As you follow the clues given to you on your handheld device and input the correct responses, you trigger different responses from the things around you.  Perhaps you locate a hidden Dharma station and unlock it, or maybe you activate a video greeting from Dr. Pierre Chang in the Dharma barracks.  Wandering through the jungle you may hear whispers.  Once you've solved all of the puzzles, you finally find your way to the Temple and have a close encounter with Smokey.  And strangely, as you look into Smokey, you see your own image reflected back at you (it looks alot like that security picture you took at the beginning of your journey).  Best of all, there can be multiple combinations and variations of puzzles for you to solve and things on the island for you to interact with, so it's a different experience each time. 

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty great attraction to me.  It would offer a unique, immersive, interactive, and repeatable experience that would excite fans but also engage regular theme park visitors.  Hopefully, Disney could engage Cuse and Lindelof to participate in planning the attraction so that it would nicely compliment the "official" Lost storyline.  As to where it would go, I thing the most natural fit would be the Disney's Hollywood Studios park at Walt Disney World, where it would fit in thematically and where there is hopefully enough space to build the large indoor/outdoor environment that would be necessary.  "Armchair imagineering," where fans like me daydream about what ride they want to build, is usually a fruitless endeavor.  But the possibilities here are so exciting, and fit in so well with what Walt Disney Parks & Resorts is already trying to do, that it was irresistable to me to put my thoughts down.  My hope, really, is that the Imagineers are planning something even better.  Namaste!

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