Unexpected Thanks

by David Koenig, staff writer
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In the 25+ years I've been writing about Disneyland, I don't think a single year has gone by without a cast member telling me, "Employee morale has never been lower." And, in recent years, the park appears to have given up even trying to dispel the notion.

In the 1980s, even as the company began slashing pay scales, benefits and work hours, managers were still trained to at least feign appreciation to the rank and file—holding elaborate Christmas parties (when cast members had the park to themselves), organizing retirement parties, providing buttons on the park's July 17 birthday, and handing out a host of other perks simply to say, "You're appreciated."

Over the last few years, most of those perks disappeared. Cast members grumbled, but soldiered on. But the disenchantment all seemed to come to a head this past Memorial Day weekend, at a 24-hour party during which guests filed a record number of complaints against cranky cast members.

To its credit, management finally got the message. So this week, to mark Disneyland's 59th anniversary, Team Disney Anaheim rolled out Cast Celebration Week—six days of treats and thank-yous to show employees that they're appreciated:

  • On Monday July 14, cast members were given free healthy snacks, including apples, oranges, bananas, and granola bars.
  • On Tuesday, each received a meal, consisting of a hot dog, bag of chips, chocolate chip cookie, and soda or bottled water.
  • On Wednesday, every employee was treated to a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. 
  • Yesterday, cast members got a Disneyland birthday button. 
  • Today, the Opera House on Main Street will show vintage footage of Disneyland with artifacts from the Disney archives in the lobby. Popcorn and bottled water will be served.

And throughout the week, cast members have been able to have their photo taken with a classic attraction vehicle at various locations.

They're all simple acts, but so unexpected that, together, they're going a long way to help repair cast member/Mouse relations.

A Peek Inside the New Club 33

Today also marks the reopening of the remodeled and expanded Club 33. A few observations, from cast members who toured the facility earlier this week:

  • "It was nice, but it lacks the Disney feel to it. It resembles more of a generic fancy restaurant than an exclusive club inside the park."
  • Most Club 33 employees sound unhappy with the restaurant's cartoonish new logo.
  • Maybe it's best that me and the rest of the peasantry can no longer see the Court of Angels, since it sounds like the remodel destroyed much of its charm. The spiral staircase has been "safetyfied" with additional metal railings and lights. The new elevator is huge and intrudes into the courtyard.
    "The courtyard looks a lot fancier—or should I say tacky?—but it doesn't improve it," one witness reported.
    The metal plaque in memory of cast member Sally McWhirter is still there, but absent was the stained glass sign that heralded the "Court des Anges."
  • The Club's original entrance has lost its elevator and been converted into a merchandise stockroom for Le Bat en Rouge, La Mascarade d'Orleans, and the Arribas Brothers Crystal Shop, which lost its stockroom to the new Club 33 lounge.
  • La Mascarade is no longer a pin shop; it's now a high-priced boutique selling items themed to New Orleans Square.

Disneyana Show Signing

Yesterday, wasn't just the 59th anniversary of the Happiest Place on Earth. It was also the 20th anniversary of the first publication of Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland, the book that started me on this wayward backstage path.

Come celebrate with me—and maybe pick up a copy of the new paperback edition of Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World—this Sunday June 20 at the Disneyana Collectible Expo (formerly the NFFC Show & Sale) at the Wyndham Garden Grove (formerly the Crowne Plaza). I will not be handing out free buttons.

Comments

  1. By fairestoneofall

    It's really too bad that people have such a cynical view of the changes to Club 33. I think there are just so many Disneyland purists out there that didn't want to see a change, no mater how awesome it is. Because. believe me, it's awesome. The renovations are beautiful and classy, and while I'm sad that the Court of Angels isn't open to the general public anymore, I'm so thrilled for the much needed and deserved expansion.

  2. By Jimbo996

    Club 33 is nice when I went there many years ago, but I find the whole concept to be unnecessary. It is essentially a private club to use one table service restaurant, which you also have to pay to use at prices higher than the Blue Bayou. Whoever thought of it is a genius. Nonetheless, Disneyland needs more table service restaurants in the same way that Disney World has plenty of table service restaurants even for minor parks like Animal Kingdom and DHS. Disneyland itself should be able to easily fill-up two additional table service and character restaurants.

  3. By olegc

    just so I go on record, I'm in the wait and see for Club 33. I have been once, and loved the idea of a private area that is many people's bucket lists. Now, with the jazz club on top of French Market, and a larger entry way - even if behind a door - its much more visible. In the last few years the parks, in my opinion, have had this exclusivity kick. And they ensure that this is put out front and center in a sort of "don't you wish you were here" sort of way. Now its Club 33s turn. Sure there have been thousands of reports and postings of pics from inside - but you never really noticed it while inside NOS. Now, with the bridges, open windows, etc., the subtle mystery is gone and instead its more like we are here cause we can afford it - and you're down there. Yes, the cynic in me is out in full force about the gulf between guests growing, and yes its a business and Disney is entitled to make money, but it just iritates me a little like a pebble in my shoe. Again - i have to see down the road - but it definitely will be more in plain sight than it used to be.

  4. By fairestoneofall

    The door is larger, but the logo etching on the glass above is smaller and more subtle than the plaque next to the original door, so if you still don't know what it is, it's less noticeable than before. As for the windows, they were always there, they're just larger now.

  5. By amyuilani

    Those are nice small gestures for the Cast Members, but here is what I noticed makes a bigger morale difference than "stuff:"

    SPEND TIME WITH THE CAST AND LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY.

    Every company I have ever worked for has complained of a morale issue. What employees complained about was that management didn't care what they did or had to say. Spending half an hour of your day going from location to location, chatting with your teams, and seeing first hand what their complaints and concerns are, go a very long way toward improving morale. Ice cream and hot dogs provide calories, sugar crashes, and temporary relief.

  6. By ser5250

    The remodel is quite beautiful, but the heart of the Club is gone.

  7. By fairestoneofall

    Quote Originally Posted by ser5250 View Post
    The remodel is quite beautiful, but the heart of the Club is gone.

    I'm sorry you feel that way. I disagree.

  8. By Malcon10t

    I'm extremely disappointed in the article. It doesn't seem like anyone who had been was interviewed. I was lucky enough to get to experience it this past weekend. While there are numerous changes, most are for the better. Alfred (the Vulture) has come to life. The Courtyard is gorgeous. I only heard members commenting positively. I feared the club would lose Walt's "spirit", but I didn't find that to be true. I loved all the artwork, and look forward to the rotation of the art work from the studio vaults.

  9. By cstephens

    I'm very disappointed in the article. A couple of comments from cast members who had some kind of look at Club 33 before it was finished would not seem to qualify as an article. I could troll Twitter and Instagram and come up with more than that. I'm disappointed because I've come to expect much more from David. If he didn't like what he saw of the Club, that's one thing, but to quote random, unnamed CMs looking at an unfinished product? Way below par for him, imo.


    Quote Originally Posted by ser5250 View Post
    The remodel is quite beautiful, but the heart of the Club is gone.

    I'm curious as to what you mean by that. Would you care to elaborate?

  10. By MickeyDogMom

    Quote Originally Posted by cstephens View Post
    I'm very disappointed in the article. A couple of comments from cast members who had some kind of look at Club 33 before it was finished would not seem to qualify as an article.

    I have to agree with the above. Unsubstantiated claims from unnamed CMs does not an article make.


    The Court de Anges sign still hangs in case anyone is curious. I've heard of some CMs disappointed by the new emblem but everyone I talked to is excited about the new renovations, most of them were grinning ear to ear when showing off the new place. Even the guy handing out Splash Mountain posters was excited. I'm sure there are a few who are not but you can't please everyone.

    Twitter is not happy though.

  11. By AVP

    Not only is the Court des Anges sign still hanging, it's still broken. (There's a crack in a clear panel on the right side of the sign looking from below). I know it was cracked before the renovation began, so either they didn't even remove the sign at all, or took it down and hung it back up without fixing it.

    I was fortunate to be able to dine at the Club with friends yesterday, and get a good look around. It's a change, I'll give you that. There are a few things that I'm not thrilled with, but overall I think they did a beautiful job in the expansion. Photos soon.

  12. By anniedg

    I likely will never set foot in Club 33 so don't have a strong opinion about the remodel, but I am disappointed the club took over the courtyard. My favorite line, "Maybe it's best that me and the rest of the peasantry can no longer see the Court of Angels ... ".

  13. By cstephens

    Quote Originally Posted by anniedg View Post
    I likely will never set foot in Club 33 so don't have a strong opinion about the remodel, but I am disappointed the club took over the courtyard. My favorite line, "Maybe it's best that me and the rest of the peasantry can no longer see the Court of Angels ... ".

    I forget what the store is called now, but it's the one that used to have access to the courtyard. Anyway, we were in there yesterday, and you can see part of the stairs in the courtyard from that store. I didn't look to see if you could see the Court of Angels sign.

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