Review of "Defunctland"
Photo Courtesy: https://defunctland.creator-spring.com/
Amusement parks are a concept that goes back to Lake Compounce in 1846. Since then, parks have become a major industry around the world. There is a large amount of interesting history in the foundation of parks, with their development in the US alone being very long and tied to the economy, the film industry, infrastructure, cultural shifts, and more. There could be an entire book on the history of theme parks…which I will not write here because it has already been explored masterfully in the YouTube Channel “Defunctland”.
- Map of Lake Compounce. Photo Courtesy: https://www.lakecompounce.com/plan-your-visit/experiences/attractions
Created by Kevin Perjurer (who describes himself of looking a bit like Brad Pitt), the channel is largely focused on a central idea: examinations of theme park attractions which have been removed or decommissioned and are therefore now “defunct.” Each episode uses a documentary style to explore its target attraction, each with a similar structure. The episodes start with a history of the ride in question as well as its construction. This is followed by a walk through of the experience of the ride (with footage if available) to give an idea of what it was like to actually ride it. This is followed by recounting public reaction to the ride, before finally going into the circumstances that led to the ride being removed from its respective park.
Theme parks as a subject has proven to very popular in the US, as evidenced by the prevalence of “Disney Adults” who explore their parks on a regular basis, or in the popularity of YouTube Channels such as “Attractions 360” or “Theme Park Worldwide” or the podcast “Podcast: The Ride”, but what sets “Defunctland” apart is the sheer quality of its presentation. Every episode is extremely well-written, and the editing is top-notch. Kevin has an engaging voice that pulls viewers in and he uses his deadpan delivery to occasionally insert genuinely hilarious jokes – a favorite being his reaction to the antics of listeners who rode Garfield’s Nightmare. Every episode has a unique title sequence and score, and despite footage being almost entirely composed of archival video and photos, is a match for many theatrical productions.
- He just wants to give you a hug. Photo courtesy: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgDFVgTnw_W5DftgN2NQApQ
“Defunctland” examines old theme park attractions in a way that every person should take the time to experience…this would be enough to recommend this channel, but it doesn’t stop there. Kevin and his team do not settle.
In addition to normal videos on the history of defunct theme park attractions, there are several sub-series and miniseries exploring related subjects. These include: “DefunctTV”, a series that examines cancelled children’s shows ranging from Bear in the Big Blue House to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?; and “DefunctTV: Jim Henson”, a six episode miniseries exploring the history of Jim Henson and his work.
The normal videos themselves are divided into seasons; each episode typically studies an individual attraction while often bound to a larger narrative related to the larger history of theme parks. The first two seasons are more loosely connected; the first season has an undercurrent of documenting Michael Eisner’s time with the Disney company, while the second dips into longer stories that tie more into America’s cultural history. But the real treat comes with the third season, which recounts the life story of Walt Disney, his creation of the Disney company, his dreams for Disney theme parks, and how that has shaped American culture to this day.
- This should trigger memories of deafening early 2000's DVD music. Photo courtesy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzKCIQXHHBQ
Not content with producing high quality series and shorts, the channel has also released a few feature-length videos. Once again, these projects manage to display insanely high quality, and in addition to handling their subjects with grace and care, bring in a level of emotion not capable for many films. Disney’s FastPass: A Complicated History manages to use an exploration of the Fast Pass system to not only create an almost definitive comment on classism in the US, but to deliver one of the greatest twists every put to screen. Disney Channel’s Theme: A History Mystery uses the ridiculousness of Disney Channel to deliver a heart-wrenching and ultimately joyous examination of what it means to be an artist.
“Defunctland” delivers in a quality that few other artists could ever dream of, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it might be the single best channel on YouTube in terms of quality. Every single episode is a must-watch.