If you make a hit movie, even if it's not popular with the critics, then there's a good chance that it will leave a legacy. Popular movies stand the test of time. However, there's one way that a movie property can potentially live on that might be ever greater than the movie itself: the theme park attraction. I've spoken to many people who have seen characters they created brought to life in theme parks as either full attractions or simply walk-around characters, and there is clearly something special about seeing it all brought to life as a tangible thing that people can touch and experience in a more personal and visceral way.
One Disney property that has not made the leap to the theme parks is National Treasure, and recently franchise producer Jason Reed said that one of the reasons the franchise itself never got a third film, even when a lot of fans were asking for it, was that Disney never found a way to integrate the franchise into the parks. While he was speaking in a more broad sense, i.e. that merchandise and ancillary income is a big part of the Disney machine, I began to wonder, would it really be that difficult to integrate National Treasure into the theme parks?
I don't think so. I came up with at least the beginnings of a few ideas that I think could potentially work, and might succeed in getting fans pumped up for a third National Treasure. Here are some thoughts.
The National Treasure Mystery - The American Adventure
First thing's first: there is, without question, already the perfect place to locate a National Treasure-themed attraction at Walt Disney World: the American Pavilion inside Epcot's World Showcase. The location consists of a large Colonial-style building, and inside you'll find the American Adventure animatronic show and a host of references to America's past in the form of art and history. The space is there, the only question would be what to do with it.
There is, to be honest, enough room around the building to probably add a small attraction. Or we could gut the American Adventure, but simply replacing an existing attraction with something new is too easy. Let's consider how we could add something totally different, and it doesn't require massive ride-building. Over the last few years, Disney Parks have been adapting smartphone technology more to make the customer experience easier, adding the ability to order food, schedule FastPasses and even unlock your hotel room door. The company has also begun to use smartphones as elements in attractions.
Several Disney Parks have interactive experiences that use your cell phone. Epcot is in the middle of a transition from a previously Phineas and Ferb-themed adventure to the Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure, which will see guests solving puzzles, running around Epcot to different locations and using phones to trigger simple animatronic animations and other pre-set sequences.
Something like this could very easily be designed around National Treasure inside the American Pavilion. The film franchise is all about riddles and puzzles, and running from one place to another looking for the next link in the chain. You could even expand the space where guests could run around by throwing the U.K. Pavilion into the fun due to Colonial America's connection to the U.S., and the fact that the second National Treasure movie did go there. While the American Pavilion is probably the best place for this, we could also do basically the same thing at Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom.
The National Treasure Dark Ride
National Treasure was, in some ways, Disney's Indiana Jones before Disney actually owned Indiana Jones. So it would make sense to give the franchise a similar sort of attraction. The Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland is a dark ride with some thrilling elements that elevate it beyond the simple dark ride of your Fantasyland-style attraction. It can have the ride vehicles moving at high speed, dodging out of the way of dangerous obstacles and escaping traps, all while an animatronic Nicolas Cage takes us through a National Treasure adventure.
Like the Indiana Jones ride, I would see this as an original adventure concept rather than trying to turn one of the existing movies into a ride, unless this ride could be designed in conjunction with National Treasure 3, which offers just the sort of cross-promotion Disney loves. If the movie is a hit, people will flock to the ride. If the ride is a hit, people will give the movie a chance.
As far as where to put an attraction like this, there are a few possibilities. The current Rock N' Roller Coaster Featuring Aerosmith is believed to be not long for this world, so that spot at Disney's Hollywood Studios would work. Alternatively, if Disneyland hires me and takes my idea for how to expand New Orleans Square, the now extra small Critter Country will likely need some redesigning, and a National Treasure attraction could work well there in a new land dedicated to historic America.
The National Treasure VR Experience
Ok, with this third one, I'm cheating a bit... barely. If Disney can't figure out how to make National Treasure part of the theme parks, perhaps somebody else can. The VOID is a company that runs a collection of high-end VR locations around the country, and it has locations at each of the domestic Disney resorts; one at Downtown Disney in Disneyland and one at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World. The VOID also has a licensing deal with Disney that has created awesome VR experiences out of the likes of Star Wars, The Avengers and even Wreck-It Ralph.
So let's combine the two previous ideas into something new. This would be a VR experience that puts you and a few friends inside a National Treasure adventure. Again, Nicholas Cage and the rest of the cast can appear and "help" you on your adventure. An idea like this would combine the immersion of the dark ride with some of the puzzle-solving elements that fans enjoy in the movies. You'd still need to visit a Disney Resort to have the experience, and that's as close to a theme park attraction as it needs to be.
All of this is a long shot, of course. Getting a National Treasure theme park experience now isn't likely considering it's been years since the last movie. We'd likely need the third movie to revitalize interest in the franchise, and that's not likely if the producer's comments are accurate. Still, there have been indications a third movie might actually happen, so maybe this isn't entirely crazy.
These are fairly simple ideas that mostly use existing technology to put something together that I think would be fun. Who knows what Walt Disney Imagineering has cooking that could make for an even better National Treasure theme park experience. But Nicolas Cage needs to actually be a part of any attraction that happens. On this, I stand firm.