By Karen Axelton

photo disneyMy family went to Disneyland this past weekend. We let my 9-year-old son bring a classmate and both boys agreed one of their favorite experiences at Disneyland wasn’t a ride, but the Innoventions attraction.

Part of Tomorrowland, Innoventions is a big complex showcasing high-tech developments.  One level is devoted to the “house of the future,” which is full of high-tech items like digital photo displays; touchscreens that control the home’s lighting, sound system and temperature; and keyless entry biometric alarm systems. (I’m really not sure how “futuristic” this house is at this point–if you’re, say, Bill Gates, you’ve probably got a lot of this technology in your current home). The second floor has things like digital 3-D games and scientific exhibits.

We were letting the kids have the run of the place until suddenly we realized that they were basically running around touching screens and playing Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Playstation games. Maybe they were slightly more futuristic versions of the games they’ve got at home, but they were still essentially doing things they could do at home.  We decided that (at $62 a head plus parking) we needed to force them outside to enjoy Disneyland’s rides. So we did–but frankly, they would have been just as happy staying inside and touching computer screens all day.

Outside, we asked if the kids had any interest in seeing the Captain EO 3-D movie which is back at Disneyland now. I recalled being really impressed by it in the 80s, but quickly realized that two kids who had both seen “Avatar” in IMAX 3-D wouldn’t be, even though they like Michael Jackson. And we joked about “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” — would an old-fashioned animatronic of Honest Abe have any appeal whatsover for today’s kids?

The whole thing got me thinking: Is Disneyland becoming obsolete? When kids can go to a video arcade or movie theater and be swept up into an alternate reality that looks way more exciting than the real thing, how much value does a roller-coaster hold? I love Disneyland, but for newer generations that don’t share my nostalgia for the place, I can see how it might seem pretty dated. I also noticed more trash than usual at Disneyland, and we were dismayed by how many of the rides we waited in line for broke down. Overall, I was left without my usual feeling that Disney is dazzling.

The host who started our tour of Innoventions told us that Tomorrowland was Walt Disney’s favorite part of the park because he believed the future was a wonderful place full of adventure. But tomorrow can also be full of threats to your business if you get complacent and don’t keep on the alert for how your “playground” is changing.

The lesson? No matter what industry you’re in or how confident you are of today, you need to always keep one eye on tomorrow. After all, that’s how Walt Disney would have wanted it.