Graveyard Shrift

by David Koenig, staff writer
Advertisement

The employee First Aid station at Disneyland is now closed on weekends during the graveyard shift. Cast member First Aid had been staffed around the clock by registered nurses, with similar qualifications as those who work the guest First Aid facility.

"No one is happy about this," said one worker. "If a cast member needs medical attention, the manager of that department has to find a way to transport the cast member to the nearest urgent care facility, or call for paramedics."

Speculation is that Disneyland is merely copying similar cutbacks at its East Coast counterparts. "Florida does it, now we have to," the employee said. "It's another example of how Florida is taking over our operations, as part of the One Disney initiative."

There's Something about Mary

The new Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe is packed to the rafters with references to the film Mary Poppins, with one glaring omission: Mary Poppins herself. The decor includes snippets of song lyrics, chalk-sidewalk-painting flooring, and plenty of penguins, but the closest you'll find to Mary is her tiny visage atop the weathervane.

Disney might argue that playing down the Poppins was a conscious design decision, to make the cartoonish elements more subtle and protect the theming on Main Street. Yet the Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep face characters had long been regulars on Main Street and, after a gig greeting guests out front of the bakery when it opened two weeks ago, have since been absent from the area.

Some cast members suspect sinister forces at play. One suggested that the bakery and its adjacent dining area are "off limits to the face characters due to some legal issue."

"Pretty sad," he remarked, "Mary and Bert being barred from a location themed just for them."

As expected, the opening of the new bakery coincided with the closure of the old bakery—along with every other shop between the two (what internally is classified as the "400 block" of Main Street), including the Carnation Cafe, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Penny Arcade, Candy Palace, and Coke Refreshment Corner. Carnation is expected to consume the old bakery, to convert into much-needed indoor seating. Meanwhile, the ice cream shop desperately requires a revamped serving and queuing set-up, and the highly popular candy store would love to expand its borders. That may place a squeeze on the facility between the ice cream and candy shops—the once richly themed Penny Arcade. Hopefully, the rehab doesn't spell the end of what little is left of this 1955 showplace.

MatterHoned

Shutting down about the same time as the shops was the Matterhorn, to install an entire fleet of new high-tech bobsleds. Most noticeably, the new vehicles feature a sleeker look and individual seats, bringing an end to the custom of having fellow guests sit in your lap (which likely will force Disney to increase the ride's height limit).

What's less obvious is that the sleds are considerably heavier and more complex, primarily due to the addition of lawyer-mandated safety equipment. "They are not just simple sleds," said one ride operator. "Among the new safety features are electronic locking safety belts, like in Star Tours."

He also noted, "It's going to be a snug fit for tall or large people," due to the streamlined design, compartmentalized seating, and ability to accommodate six adults. A cast member who sampled the sleds during earlier testing agreed: "There is not much leg room. It is as if the designers forgot people have legs. If you have really long legs, it will take you longer to get out."

Personally, I look forward to seeing if the heavier vehicles make for a faster ride!

What won't be faster is loading, unloading, and the sure-to-be-never-ending queue. Consider that the ride will reopen about the same that Cars Land is unveiled—and that by the time the mountain reopens in mid-June, it will have been closed for more than seven of the preceding 12 months.

Final Chapter

Prepare to say good-bye to one of Downtown Disney's last original lessees, Compass Books & Cafe. The bookstore/coffee shop's lease expired December 31, and Disney refused to renew—instead giving the business three months to evacuate (meaning the doors could close as early as next month or early March). Although Disney's press honks say the departure was a "mutual" decision, Compass enjoyed one of its best years to date in 2011 and would have loved to continue.

The move continues an unfortunate trend of forcing out unique lessees in favor of more homogenized, Disneyfied retail experiences. Downtown Disney is becoming, one Compass regular bemoaned, "a long corridor of Disney shops leading to more Disney shopping."

Having a neighborhood bookstore/coffee shop at the far corner of Downtown Disney was a masterstroke of planning genius. I shudder to think of what will replace it. Consider the kiosk in front of Compass that Disney kicked the bookstore out of five years ago. It's sold everything from trinkets to T-shirts in the interim. Every idea has been a bust.

Comments

  1. By spectromen

    Highly disappointed about Compass. What a great spot for all the hotel guests to chill and get something to read, not to mention all the day tourists who might enjoy a quiet spot. Selection was spot-on, too. What on Earth could Disney possibly want to put there when they have a rent-paying tenant in place?

  2. By olegc

    the unfortunate thing here is that Disney may be willing to let their own "branded" shops stay in place longer even if they don't appeal to the public simply because there is no concern over agreements, leases, etc. It's a ploy the Irvine Co. uses extensively in Irvine - charge high fees and don't provide services, if a business leaves there is no pressure to fill it since they own the property and find it more cost effective to wait until someone is willing to pay the price. In Disney's case, they'll fill the space with something of theirs but it may not have that many guests. The one benefit (to Disney) that DTD in Anaheim has over Orlando is that the public HAS to walk past some of the shops, or all, in order to get to the parks.

  3. By carolinakid

    I'm not exaggerating when I say that Compass Books is the ONLY store (apart from World of Disney) in Downtown Disney where I ever went in and purchased anything. I have gone to Marceline's but I consider that more in the food/restaurant category than straight shopping. When Compass closes there's absolutely nothing else there that appeals to me.

  4. By David Koenig

    Regarding Poppins: Disney says Mary & Bert continue to make appearances in the hub, but not at the bakery because "it is not a character dining experience."
    Regarding 3rd shift's loss of First Aid: Disney says it's "a pilot program" that may be temporary, in anticipation of adding thousands of cast members this summer.
    Regarding Compass: Disney won't say, but my guess is Compass' ouster may be related to the rumored signing of Starbucks to open in Downtown Disney. I'm guessing part of any deal would be the elimination of competition.

  5. By wendygirl

    Something, or perhaps I should someone, else you can say good bye to is the Miner 49ers over in DCA. They just got their notice Tuesday night and on their Facebook page Wednesday announced their departure. Last day is scheduled to be Feb. 13th. They are taking it with a stiff upper lip (went to see them perform today), but let me tell you that it is the talk amongst the other entertainers at Disneyland and has sent a chill down their spines. All us fans are very upset over this. Sure hope this isn't part of the Disney Florida thing because we all know there is very little entertainment back there!

  6. By olegc

    Quote Originally Posted by David Koenig View Post
    Regarding Poppins: Disney says Mary & Bert continue to make appearances in the hub, but not at the bakery because "it is not a character dining experience."
    oh, yeah, forgot that you have to PAY EXTRA to do that. Sheesh. IN fact - when they take their break behind the Corn Dog Wagon - they make their way down the sidewalk NEAR the bakery but not NEXT to it. Such teases.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Koenig View Post
    Regarding 3rd shift's loss of First Aid: Disney says it's "a pilot program" that may be temporary, in anticipation of adding thousands of cast members this summer.
    Really? with all the claims of costly healthcare - you'd think they would want something on site - but I guess if the rest of America gets dealt a "you're on your own" hand, then Disney CMs can too. How many now will call to ask for assistance on a cut or a twisted ankle when there is no local first aid - the pressure to NOT report it will be significant - from a personal cost AND employee file perspective IMHO.

    I guess it's the way Disney can shave dollars this summer off the balance sheet. they're piloting "cost containment"

    Quote Originally Posted by David Koenig View Post
    Regarding Compass: Disney won't say, but my guess is Compass' ouster may be related to the rumored signing of Starbucks to open in Downtown Disney. I'm guessing part of any deal would be the elimination of competition.

    Unfortunately - I see that and understand it. But what about Disney's own coffee location at the hotel? I know it's only open until 2pm but still.

  7. By Avant Gardens

    Sorry to say that that the ride wont go any fast just by the cars being heavier, in case you havent heard, a few hundred years ago Galileo figured out that all masses fall at the same speed. The ride actually might even go slower since each car will have three seating compartments sticking up causing wind drag instead of two. Hmmmm

  8. By Ohthatjeff

    But the Matterhorn relies on momentum as welll and momentum is affected by the mass of the object (where p=m*v). The speed the vehicle travels downhill initially won't change*, that's true, but the ride vehicle will lose less speed on the upswings which will translate into a higher velocity on subsequent drops.

    *All other factors being equal (and they obviously won't be). I suspect the mass of the safety equipment will easily offset the additional surface area.

  9. By olegc

    i realize this thread went off topic - but I wanted to add about the sleds - if you look at the pictures on a couple of fan sites today (miceage for one) you will see that they have marked off where they have to cut the mountain along the track to make room for the sleds - but not just room, they probably need to adjust for the movement and force of the vehicle as it goes around the track. I think the momentum point is a good one. turns might be more interesting ;-).

  10. By pixelrevolt

    The decor includes snippets of song lyrics, chalk-sidewalk-painting flooring, and plenty of penguins, but the closest you'll find to Mary is her tiny visage atop the weathervane.

    There is an adorable porcelain Mary Poppins featured prominently in the display case in the left queue area. I am not sure if this is a recent addition.

  11. By houseofmouse

    They are going to cut the Matterhorn?? Wow!!

    Now we know what is replacing Compass Books and I am very excited!! Plus it is NOT another Disney shop! Earl of Sandwich!

  12. By schnebs

    I like Earl of Sandwich, and it'll be nice to have another place to eat at DTD that's (relatively) cheap, but I'd rather have a bookstore - particularly one that has a decent selection of books about things Disney. Such is the way of the world for readers, I guess. Amazon, here I come!

  13. Discuss this article on MousePad.