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If the city of Anaheim's dream comes true, Disney won't be building a third theme park on the giant strawberry field the company acquired just for that purpose.


Anaheim wants to connect the fast-growing Platinum Triangle (right) with the established Disneyland Resort area (left). © City of Anaheim, California.

Instead, Anaheim has proposed building a road right through the middle of Disney's 80+ acre property that would connect the resort area to the “Platinum Triangle” on the east side of town.


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In the resort area, Anaheim has two theme parks, spacious hotels, the Anaheim Convention Center, Downtown Disney, and the long-planned GardenWalk outdoor mall.

In the 840-acre Platinum Triangle, it has Angel Stadium, the Arrowhead Pond, the Grove theater, an Amtrak rail line, and room for a state-of-the-art, 70,000-seat NFL stadium. It's also the city's fastest growing area for new construction. The two districts, however, are separated by three miles of aging businesses and homes.


Existing connection between the two districts—Katella Avenue—would be widened and improved with “smart street” technology, while Gene Autry/Convention Way would be extended as a scenic alternative. © City of Anaheim, California.

The thinking is that both areas would profit by people being able to travel more quickly and easily between them. Instant access to the tourists that stream to Disneyland could also help the Platinum Triangle land that elusive NFL franchise.

“The growth of the Platinum Triangle is driving this,” admitted city spokesman John Nicoletti. “The landscape of the two areas will be changing over the next 10 years. We would like to successfully transport people between them.”


The purple portion of the green line cuts through Disney's property. © City of Anaheim, California.

So, in May the city unveiled plans to transform Gene Autry Parkway—the street that runs from the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) to Angel Stadium—into a “Grand Parkway.” Once extended, it would take residents and visitors directly from the front gates of Angel Stadium to the front door of the Convention Center. The lush roadway, which Anaheim intends to be “comparable to Champs Elyseé in Paris or Commonweath Avenue in Boston,” would feature landscaped pedestrian walkways, a center bike trail, and an eye-catching bridge over the Santa Ana Freeway.

Along the parkway would be mixed-use neighborhoods with smaller streets branching off to beautiful apartments, condos, shops and parks.


Heavy black line shows potential special transit route with dots for stations. © City of Anaheim, California.

Some sort of unique public transportation, such as a monorail or trolley, would run from the Anaheim Pond, alongside the parkway, and then continue on to Disney's Mickey & Friends parking structure.

The city has already received zoning approval to extend Gene Autry Way westward to the Convention Center. The only thing stopping Anaheim is that, right now at least, it doesn't own most of the land where it wants to build the new road.


Disney's strawberry field 10 years from now, if the city of Anaheim gets its way. © City of Anaheim, California.

“The signature street,” said Nicoletti, “has been put forth as a vision of what could happen for the area. So far, there's been nothing [no land purchases or construction activity] west of Haster Street.”

Drive west from Haster on this still-imaginary road and you cut right through the center of the strawberry field Disney spent several decades and tens of millions of dollars to acquire in hopes of building a third major theme park. Any chance for that “third gate” would effectively be killed if the city used eminent domain (a government practice recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) to seize the middle of the property and leave Disney with two smaller, separated parcels.

Anaheim is moving aggressively on the project—certainly more quickly than Disney is on its dusty, old third-gate plans. The city is continuing to employ eminent domain to displace mobile home residents. More than half of the 9,100 new residential units approved for the Platinum Triangle are already in the construction or planning stages.

Yet the city did not consult with Disney in dreaming up the roadway and still has heard no official comment as to whether the company would be amenable to the idea. Disney has declined to discuss the matter for this article.

Although publicly silent, Disney is likely analyzing the proposal from every conceivable angle. On the plus side, the Disneyland resort area increases in size and beauty, likely attracts more tourists, and provides them with a more compelling reason for people to spend additional nights in town.

On the other hand, Disney's neighbors gain even more. Upscale hotels, restaurants and other amusements will be added all the way down the parkway, meaning even more competition for Disney's own hotels, restaurants and attractions.

Most importantly, the project severely limits what Disney can do with the strawberry field. Then again, for today's risk-adverse Disney Company, maybe that's not such a bad thing. The company has been working unsuccessfully for five years to get Disney's California Adventure to stand on its own—a prerequisite before it can proceed with a third theme park. If Anaheim “takes away” the middle of strawberry field, Disney can “resign itself” to building a safer, tamer project—a water park, a themed hotel, or maybe some Disney Vacation Club timeshare units.


Tree-covered roadways, bike trails and pedestrian walkways, with plenty of colorful businesses along the way. © City of Anaheim, California.

Quickly Disney begins to recoup part of the cost of the land acquisition and gets someone else to build the expensive transportation system that connects Disneyland/DCA to whatever it builds in the strawberry field.

Too bad Disney can't work with the city to find some middle ground on the fate of their middle ground. What a powerful advertisement it would be for, say, a Westcot-type park if the potential guests could zoom right through the center of it in a themed tunnel or overhead on a monorail.

Universal Update

Budget cuts are changing the face of Universal Studios Hollywood. After 40 years, the theme park is preparing to tear down the tram tour's popular Collapsing Bridge. Evidently, the structure has become too expensive to maintain, and USH has secured permits to demolish it by the end of the year.

The news comes on the heels of a series of other desperate moves aimed to shore up dismal revenues:

• An immediate 30-percent budget cutback in all areas of spending.

• Massive firings in the offices “Black Thursday” September 8.

• Closure of the recently introduced Fear Factor Live show (although it may temporarily reopen as crowds pick up after Thanksgiving). No plans are even being discussed for a replacement show in the venue.

• The park's other shows have all drastically reduced their number of performances, some only playing weekends.

• Next year may see the removal of the last remaining part of the Western street on the backlot as well as the 13-year-old Backdraft attraction.

USH seems to be learning the same hard lesson as DCA—offer too steep of discounts for too long, and visitors will never pay full price again.


Now It's Time To Say Goodbye

From: Eisner, Michael
Sent: Friday, September 30, 2005
Subject: Thank you

Dear All,

I'm sitting in my office thinking about how much I have enjoyed working with the people who make up this company. I am about to pack up 21 years of pictures, books and letters and other Disney memorabilia from around the world that hopefully my great grandchildren will not sell on eBay. In the meantime, I will use these objects to trigger fantastic memories of my two decades sitting under the roof supported by the Seven Dwarfs in the Team Disney Building.

I've learned so much over all these years from my partnership with you, from how to build theme parks to how the evening news is put together, from building an animated movie to building a legitimate theater on 42nd Street, from the revitalization of the 100 Acre Wood to the build-out of the thousands of acres of swamps and beet farms and landfill of Florida, Paris and Hong Kong, and even learning what a World Series ring looks like. I even finally learned the precise relationship of Huey, Dewey and Louie to Donald Duck. But I never really learned how to master reading a TV teleprompter. There is still time

In 1984, there was plenty of room in my brain to acquire this much-needed knowledge. At my first speech on the first day on the Burbank lot, at the old gazebo, I met my first cast member, Angela Philo, and asked what department she was in. Her response, “BVD.”“Wow,” I responded, “I didn't know Disney owned an underwear company.”

And it was in search of knowledge during those first few weeks that I met almost everybody who worked for the company, 28,000 at the time, and learned that this iconic institution had the most dedicated and talented and enthusiastic group of people I had seen since I left camp as a staff member for the last time in 1964. There are now 129,000 of us, diverse, unique, and of course proud to be creating the magic.

I wish to thank all of you for your good spirits, your fantastic pride and sense of duty working for this wonderful company. From what we do on the big and little screens to how we program our radio and television stations, from what we do on ESPN and all our world-wide cable channels to how we treat our guest in our parks, nobody does it like you. From how we develop our consumer products to how we imagine our attractions, from how we design our computer-generated worlds to how we envision our business strategies, nobody does it like you. And from the growth of our architecture to the management of our financial and legal lives, from our publishing and music operations to our emerging Internet opportunities, from every morning until every next morning, nobody does all of this as well as you. And you do it all over the world.

This company, which I so love, is poised for a tremendous future, with superb management at all levels, entrusted to the brilliant and steady chief executive officer, Bob Iger. I want to thank everybody for letting me share a piece of your lives for two decades.

While I leave Disney with less hair than I had when I arrived, I do know creative inquisitiveness never ages or tires. I feel as optimistic as I did on Oct 1, 1984.

By the way, I have since learned that BVD stands for Buena Vista Distribution.

Good luck, and go see “Chicken Little.”

Michael

 

(Don't think you've seen the last of Eisner on the Disney lot. As his army of executive assistants were packing up their pencils last Friday, one was heard to remark that they weren't leaving—they were relocating to another office, “to help out the board of directors.” )



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(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.