It’s been an iconic sight at Disneyland since 1955—the Disneyland Railroad conductor loads his final passengers and calls, “All aboard!” He jumps onto a small platform alongside one of the last cars and there he stands, ever vigilant, as the train makes its “grand circle tour” around the Magic Kingdom.
The system, of course, was designed long before Disneyland’s Safety Patrol launched its quest to identify and rectify any possible potential falling hazards (see my article, “Indiana Jones Goes Under the Knife,” from August 14, for details).
The Safety Department now wants the conductors to stand safely inside the railroad cars, in a specially designed booth. During the steam engines’ two-month rehab from September 4 to November 6, one train at a time will be removed from service to be retrofitted with the new booths, as well as to receive other safety enhancements.
Reducing the attraction’s capacity by one train won’t present much of a problem. However, some observers are bothered by the idea of cutting into and adding on to the venerable vehicles. Others fear that placing the attendant inside the train “means the attraction will lose an extra set of eyes and ears necessary for its safe operation.” No one I’ve spoken with can name a single problem that has arisen from the conductors standing on their current platforms.
No one is against improving safety, but privately, cast members sound irked that the Legal and Safety departments seem to be “running out of control.”
Twelve years ago, after a spate of much-publicized accidents, Disneyland began “idiot-proofing” onstage, to ensure that even the most oblivious and clumsy of guests didn’t get hurt. Considering the current safety overhauls to operations—and all the warning signs, designated paths, and crosswalks now visible everywhere backstage—the resort is now trying to do the same for employees.
Club 33 has long wanted to expand its boundaries, hoping to take over as much as it can of the second floor of New Orleans Square. Most of the desired acreage, of course, is the private suite originally envisioned for Walt—an apartment he would not live to see completed. Club 33 did co-opt a small portion of the apartment when it was converted from the Disney Gallery to the grand-prize suite for the Year of a Million Dreams promotion.
The Club would love even more, but in the meantime has settled for a new bit of square footage: the merchandise stockroom above the French Market. Of late, several contractors have been spotted surveying the facility. Sources say the stockroom will be relocated across the railroad tracks, most likely near the Westsider Grill.
The larger the Club can be expanded, the more dinners they can serve per night and the more members they can add to the rolls—generating tens of thousands of additional dollars apiece.
After successfully converting this year’s Grad Nites to “mix-ins” (allowing regular day guests inside the park during the once-private events), Disneyland has now announced plans to make the once-private holiday cast member nights at the park “mix-ins” as well.
For decades, the park was open just for cast members for two nights out of the year during the Christmas season, allowing them to celebrate with their family, friends and co-workers. No more, according to the following letter to employees from last Friday, September 6:
Dear Fellow Cast,
With the recent opening of our multi-year expansion, the Disneyland Resort is gaining popularity with our Guests. Our parks, hotels, and Downtown Disney District are as busy as ever, and we look to continue that trend throughout the holiday season.
Based on the increased popularity and changing visitation patterns of our Guests, it has become necessary to make adjustments to our operating hours in order to meet their needs while continuing to provide the legendary Guest service for which we are known.
For this year’s Disney Family Holiday Celebration, we have decided to move to an all mix-in format with an expanded number of dates, including weekends, as well as deeper discounts for Cast. This change will enable us to accommodate our growing Cast population and allows more flexibility for you to enjoy the parks. The extended mix-in format will also allow you to customize your visits with friends and family, and the extended time period will enable you to visit the resort during slower periods.
This year there will also be exclusive discounts and special holiday offers such as complimentary popcorn and drinks for all Cast Members with the Disney Family Holiday Celebration discount booklet. Disney Family Holiday Celebration theme park admission tickets, ornaments and booklets will be available at TEAM Centers beginning in mid-October.
More details about the Disney Family Holiday Celebration, including the Toys for Tots drive, will be available in the coming weeks.
Thank you for continually creating happiness for our Guests and your fellow Cast Members here at the Disneyland Resort.
The Disneyland Resort
Cast members sounded uniformly perturbed at the news. One CM quipped, “Is it that difficult to let us have the park for two nights with our family and friends?” one complained. Another added, “We have to share the park with guests? Sounds like (Team Disney Anaheim) took the ‘Family’ out of the Family Holiday Celebration.”
“In the good old days,” bemoaned a third, “it was a unique experience having the park open just for us during Christmas. It was a lot more fun and relaxed. Those are now just pleasant memories.”
Cast members also continue grumbling over being forced to park farther and farther off-site, for no apparent reason. Every time management, expecting enormous crowds, has allowed guests to park in the cast member lots, there turned out to be ample capacity in the visitor lots and parking structure.
On the fourth remote parking day—August 26—early-morning employees were directed to park at the Honda Center. The Katella Cast Member Lot would then be reopened to employees arriving after 11:15 a.m. By 10 a.m., management realized there was still plenty of room in the guest lots, and re-opened KCML for cast members.
“As in the previous three times we were kicked out of KCML, it was all for nothing,” said one worker. “The attendance numbers have been good for the summer, but there was more than enough parking without using KCML. The lot has never been full. Most of the time it was empty. This has pissed off a lot of cast members. The Master Services contract is up for renewal in 2013, and you can bet there will be something in it about this. This experiment to ‘ensure the best experience possible for Guests on peak attendance days’ proved to be one big, fat failure.”
As a result, despite heavy crowds on Labor Day weekend, management allowed cast members to park at KCML and instead directed overflow guests to park at the Anaheim Convention Center.
(Send an email to David Koenig)
David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.
After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999) (All titles published by Bonaventure Press).
He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.