Move over, Pooh. Arguably the biggest merchandise money-makers at the Disneyland Resort are now the Princesses. Consequently, the head honchos in Merchandise have been brainstorming ways to leverage the living, breathing characters to sell more princess-related souvenirs.
The Entertainment Department was able to fight off the most controversial suggestion: that Snow White, Cinderella and the rest of the sovereign sorority wear lanyards and pin trade with the guests.
But it looks like their latest proposal, according to an eavesdropping Entertainment cast member, will happen. If the merchandise department gets its way, starting Friday, January 17, the Disney heroines will participate in a Princess Procession down Main Street and through Fantasyland.
Their proposal has the Snow White, Cinderella, Belle and Aurora in a procession that starts from Main Street, goes down the parade route, and ends at the former viewing area for Light Magic, he said. The princesses will then do a meet and greet there. The Le Petite Chalet, which is conveniently next to the viewing area, will sell princess souvies to the guests. At this time, we dont know if the procession will be done two or four times a day.
He admitted that while much is still in the planning stages, one thing is for sure: its going to happen, much to the displeasure of a lot of cast members (when they find out and regardless of what department is involved). If this is done right, that would be a different story. But dont hold your breath.
No word on whether or not the princesses will be wearing sandwich boards.
Call it the Curse of California Adventure. DCAs omnipresent critics complain that the second-rate second gate doesnt have enough attractions. Then, when budget-conscious decision-makers announce plans to add attractions, the critics complain that the additions will be second rate.
Tower of Terror under construction in mid-October. File photo.
Its a reflex: if something is going to be built at DCA, it must be inferior. Makes you think if DCA announced plans to add Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, fans would reflexively expect Anaheims version to be a walk-through where the guests shoot spitwads at an under-themed cinder block wall.
Thats the type of talk that has surrounded news of the Tower of Terror, now under construction at DCA. Everyones expecting a bargain basement replica of the Orlando favorite, especially after news leaked that DCAs Tower wont include the Fifth Dimension room.
Well, in a recent article, I quoted a Disney cast member as saying the elimination of the Fifth Dimension room was not only to cut costs, but that the original in Florida is actually the byproduct of a failed attempt at a certain effect that they have now perfected for the DCA version. That sounds like a little bit of PR mumbo jumbo, but Id like to believe it.
Now, more proof arrives that, while DCAs Tower of Terror may be different from the Disney World original, thats not necessarily a bad thing.
CW Oberleitner writes:
Disney Imagineer par excellence Tony Baxter has been hinting at this very thing since word of DCAs ToT (Tower of Terror) first began leaking out. During conversations at last years THEA Awardswhere I believe he won a lifetime achievement awardand again at a Carolwood Pacific Historical Society event held at Walts Barn in Griffith Park, I heard him advising fans not to be too quick to judge the DCA version of ToT. I remember him saying that they (Imagineering) had learned much from the Florida attraction and that he was pleased that the DCA version would give them the opportunity to improve things.
Ive had the pleasure of hearing Tony speak on several other occasions, as well. I have always admired his candor. I hope what hes had to say about DCAs ToT turns out to be true.
And, a DCA cast member confirms:
I have had the opportunity to talk to most of the Imagineers and project manager for Tower. The info that you mentioned about DCA Tower is true. Each of the shafts is a totally separate ride systems with separate towers and control systems. The advantage of this is pretty obvious to us operation folks; that is, the ride will never go 101 (complete shutdown) and will just be considered 105 (reduced capacity) if one or two of the shafts malfunction. They say it is very unlikely that all three shafts would go down at the same time.
The other aspect of this system is that each shaft is unique with unique show elements and all the problematic elements of MGMs Tower eliminated or improved. In addition, we the operators will have the ability to change the ride program. They have not told us how many combinations there will be, but there will be variability in the ride system. So even though a guest may prefer a particular shaft for the different view or such, they will never know what program is being used or what to expect.
And, oh, expect a very elaborate queue.
Its been a long time since anything happened at Disneyland that generated as much online discussion as last months story about the family that, to honor their young sons dying wish, scattered his ashes throughout the Haunted Mansion, necessitating an emergency evacuation, shutdown and cleaning of the ride.
As one reader remarked:
Your 1000th Ghost article is the most bizarre thing Ive ever heard regarding the theme park industry! I might wait a couple of more days before I take the ride in the Haunted Mansion again.
Several skeptical readers doubted the incident happened at all. Such as Scott, who wrote:
Just read your new ghost article about the Haunted Mansion, and am wondering where youre getting this. This sounds, almost word for word, just like an old ghost story from the Haunted Mansion... and it could be that the modern cast members are reinventing it. For years, people have talked about a boys family who wanted to ride it in privacy because it was their sons favorite attraction. And then, they spread his ashes through the attractions interior.
The ghost story adds that cast members have seen the child, sitting and crying alone, at the exit ramp, as if hes stuck forever in the attraction.
So, are you talking news here or urban legends? Its just a little too close to an old story to me...
Scott is right; this does sound like the stuff of urban legends. But, believe or not, this event really happened. What we dont know is if this was a sincere, grieving family or a group of hoaxsters. In fact, Anaheim police now cannot confirm what the strewn substance was and dont expect to find out.
About this whole Haunted Mansion incident: Now, I realize that the family was at fault for not saying they were dumping his remains in the ride. However, I do disagree that Disney should not have cleaned up the ride. (Im not talking about the Doom Buggies because of obvious health reasons, but the actual sets. Theyre supposed to be dirty, anyway, right?)
I think if they knew that these people were having a memorial service, and they were sprinkling some sort of ash, they could have easily concluded that it was from an urn and respected the familys wishes (once they had determined it was human remains). Stopping the ride would have been a good decision (seeing as they never asked to sprinkle the ashes), but sweeping the stuff on the sets really disrespects a memorial service. Even if they had left it for several days and swept it up it would have been fine.
What are your thoughts?
No, I think it should have been cleaned up immediately. Disneyland is private property. If someone wants to sprinkle a beloveds remains across the ocean or on the top of a mountain, thats great. But would you want them to spread their ashes in your living room or at your office?
And the Haunted Mansion isnt supposed to be dirty. The cobwebs and other effects are atmosphere and sanitary.
Yikes! Id be afraid to visit BryanWorld!
A cast member divulged:
The (King Arthurs) Carrousel might be completed by its deadline (January 31), but dont count on the Matterhorn (Bobsled) opening soon. Talk going around is that the attraction might be opening later than scheduled (February 12) because of the damage from years of neglect, possibly after Spring Break.
The Rivers of America rehab is scheduled (according to the Cast Member Reference Guide) until March 28. Wishful thinking. The talk from the various departments is mid-summer, should things be done correctly. Apparently, the underwater lifts/lightstands for Fantasmic are on their last legs, and the track for the Mark Twain has not been checked since the River was last drained (over 10 years ago).
The rehab of Tom Sawyer Island will involve most of the major parts of the attraction when the Rivers of America is drained next year. The repair of the Treehouse on Indian Hill (the one over Injun Joes Cave); repair and restoration of the Barrel Bridge, the Suspension Bridge, and the caves and rocks (like Castle Rock and Teeter Totter). The final area will involve Fort Wilderness and the north end of the island beyond the fence.
Because no firm decision has been made on the Fort (because of the ADA issue), it is slated to be done after the River is refilled, but is supposed to be completed before the parks 50th anniversary. If they do that, and the Fort is rebuilt, they might float the logs across the River like when the original was built! The back area behind the cemetery will remain closed to guests. It will remain a cast member area only. It has also been discussed that the rehab schedule and the budget be cut for an opening by spring 2003.
There is increasing talk that CircleVision will return for the parks 50th birthday. The Buzz (Lightyear) attraction that is supposed to use the space has been postponed until 2006, after the parks anniversary.
Since DCAs Avalon Cove has been renamed Ariels Grotto, Ariels Grotto at Disneyland (where you can meet the Little Mermaid) has been officially renamed King Tritons Gardens, but some cast members are calling it the Grotto.
So, with the pending Space Mountain closure/rehab, maybe they can just wall up the entire area and keep Tomorrowland off limits. Oh yeahthey did that already.
Seriously, I hope the new chief in town (Jay Rasulo) starts to do some better planning. I predict a turnaround only starting on the 50th.
Referring to the three mounted heads from the Country Bear Jamboree that have been awkwardly positioned in Disneylands upcoming Winnie the Pooh ride, Kevin wrote:
I now expect the heads to be gone by the time the ride opens, thanks to the publicity, and the safety concerns youve mentioned. But I have a couple of suggestions...
1. A mirrored surface within the room in question allowing you to catch a glimpse of the heads without turning around. Shades of Indy?
2. Or move the heads to the show floor, significantly hidden behind scenery, so that you dont have to turn more than 90 degrees to see them. (And so you couldnt see them once youve moved past them.). Done right, they could be moved occasionally, to play hide & seek with repeat visitors. Occasionally turning on their animations (no vocals), or adding minor elements to suggest their bodies are still present, are optional touches...
I wouldnt be surprised to see the heads removed, but I dont think theyd add mirrors or anything that brought them more attention. Theyre positioned where they are because a mounted moose head doesnt quite theme with a Winnie the Pooh birthday party; Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) wanted to have a small tribute, in a faraway corner, that wouldnt distract from the ride for the millions of normal guests.
Why put in the Bear Jamboree heads if you cant see them? Maybe they can reposition the track to accommodate the problem.
Question: Was the Bear show losing guest interest enough to justify removal, or is the marketing of Pooh products the main goal here?
The challenge is finding someplace to put them thats difficultbut not dangerousto see.
Yes and yes.
Actually there were moose heads stored in the Haunted Mansion as far back as 12 years ago when I worked there. I dont remember if it was all three or not or why they were even there, but they were stored in the area behind the ballroom scene. If you were to go up the stairs in the back of the ballroom or through one of the openings along the back wall youd end up in a big black painted room where the lightning flashed out of. Doors in the back of THIS room opened into the endless hallway. The head(s) were stored at ground level on a couple of sawhorses. There was PLENTY of room in the area to store stuff so I can believe they stored the new heads there as well.
A current employee elaborated:
I believe the Bear Band heads in Pooh are from the old and long closed Brer Bar in the area. The heads had been under the graveyard, long before Bear Band closed, with no internal working. At least they have a place to Hang Out now.
Before that, they remained in the restaurant until well past the time that it closed. I was told that originally they were supposed to be animated (there was space behind then in the soffit of the building for the animation), but it never happened.
Tired of articles quoting cast members that deride co-workers in the Costuming department, an employee wrote:
Its funny how everyone thinks costuming is the butt of every joke. Enough is enough we in costuming are tired of hearing all the trash talk. Yes, we have a simple job. Standing around and answering questions... Oops, thats what people think we do. Of course, they are never there when our cast members are scanning and placing away over a thousand garments in about three hours just to have cast members come in and screw it all up.
Of course, they always complain when we dont have their sizes. Of course, they are also the ones damaging their garments. Of course, we are also the friendliest cast members through out the resort, but no one mentions that. Did you know costuming has a cast member now a lead that has received well over 60 compliments and about seven are known to be from outside managers, yet they get no credit since they are backstage.
Did you also know costuming now has a select team that is cracking down on all costume violators, we now also have the three strike system, and we are really breathing down area managers necks. Our computer system does work; it does have its flaws, but you answer me this: if a cast members computer screen reports them as having three extra costume pieces we can check the bar codes and possibly give them the benefit of the doubt. But what would you do if it reports them as having 16 to 20 extra pieces out when all bar codes have been scanned at least five times already?
I also remember they said costuming was full of weirdos who were too ugly to be on stage, yet the guys in costuming have at least broken a heart in every location through the resort, and there are at least 12 girls in costuming that leave the guys coming back for more. Or maybe we should talk about how much of a bond each of the cast members have with one another that no other division or department has.
So to recap, lets just say costuming cast members are hard-working, sports-playing, good-looking, friendly, caring, kind, loving, with the right attitude.
My theory as to why cast members like to bag on Costuming is the Abusive Parent Syndrome, wherein abused children grow up to abuse their own children, or children of alcoholics grow up to be alcoholics themselves. In serving guests, the on-stage cast members take so much grief from the public, that they pass that grief on to those backstage who serve them.
Another cast member wrote:
As far as the costuming issues you wrote about, those kind of memos go around all the time, and nobody hears anything about them. The only time you do is if your in bad with a manager. But I have a good relationship with all my managers so they usually wont mention anything to me about anything, even though I probably have at least five costumes and various accessories out (ties, suspenders, belts).
Managers and leads have their favorites, and they play that hand. Anyone who thinks they dont needs to wake up. Never p-ss off a manager or a lead, cause they will screw you indirectly. Most are really nice, though, and I like them personally. I think I am well liked by them. The best thing you can do is invite them to go drinking with you after work.
Also, regarding costumes, cast members do steal them. And it is not a secret. Most talk about it if the subject is brought up. Especially if you work at an attraction with an in demand costume by Disneyphiles (like Mansion, Canoes, Pirates, old Matterhorn, etc.). Veteran cast members boast often about the closets full of stolen costumes they have at home and when the time is right they are going to the highest bidder. Most cast members feel that the time they have spent working for the company and the cr-p they have taken justifies this.
Finally, a new hire shared:
Had some free time, so I interviewed for one of those great minimum wage jobs at the Happiest Place on Earth. Filled out tons of paperwork, including secrecy agreements (much of what a high school or college student would have no idea what they are signing).
Did the two days of Disney University last week. The first day was a general overview of the company and the two parks (48 people, plus two instructors in my classone was an Innoventions Host, the other a lifeguard at the Disneyland Hotelboth had been with the company for two years, and both were probably around 2021 years old). The day was split between instructional videos and a backstage/onstage walk-thru. Lunch was free for us (up to $10) at the Inbetween Cafe backstage behind the east side of Main Street.
In the (corporate) Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) Building, we used Michael Eisners large conference room for the sexual harassment video. The walls had big charts of the future timelines for Disneyland/DCA, leading up to the 50th anniversary in 2005, but sadly someone had pinned up large sheets to cover them from prying eyes. Day Two was with a four-year department employee as instructor, who was around 22 years old. This was with six new-hires. He, like the other instructors, kept pretty close to the Disney propaganda line, but did say that the good-looking girls get the easy jobs in the department. He also asked if anyone was an Annual Passholder (he said they are the biggest troublemakers and complainers in the two parks) and said there is a huge turnover in the department (which explains why Ive seen hardly any one-year service pins on anybodys name badge).
Good luck on your new career! And if anybody gets a peek at the rest of that timeline, please drop me a line!
(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.