The French-Fry cart in
a good fit at Disneyland?
The corporate presence of
McDonald's - soon to replace the Harbour Galley - at Disneyland.
I first heard about McDonalds coming the the park (in a story
by you) my initial reaction was slight shock. How could Disney
/ Pressler / Eisner / Greenberg commit such a sacrilege? Did
they really think we, the Disneyland fans, would stand for
But you know
what? As I continued to think it through I slowly came to the
conclusion that I didn't really care. That depending on how
the actual restaurant looks I don't care if it is McDonald's
or Disney preparing the food.
||As happens to me on so many
topics, I find myself conflicted here and seeing both sides to
the argument. Someone hurry up and accuse me of sophistry so I can
defend myself against my own uneasy ambivalence, please!
On the one hand, let's be real here: this is
just food. And it's supposed to be fast food, whether it's
McDonald's or not. Plus people like McDonald's, really. It is
a large multinational, after all.
On the other hand, Disneyland is supposed to
be different, right? The idea here is to remove the public
from reminders of the outside world. I suspect we'll get into
a debate about sponsorship in general at Disneyland.
do realize, that by arguing both sides you are leaving me the
role of cheerleader?
But alas, I forge on and do my best to
counter your ambivalence with adamancy (if that is a word). I
agree, for many people the main issue focuses on sponsorship
within Disneyland. At what point, if any, does it become
Is a Dole Whip a reminder of the outside world? Not
really. Are FedEx commercials at Space Mountain over the top?
A bit, but its not too bad. McDonalds providing a McDonalds
just doesn't strike me as that big of a deal, as long as it is
not a traditional red and orange, double Big Mac McDonald's.
||It might be relevant to discuss
what McDonald's has done over in Animal Kingdom at this point.
I don't know if you've seen it, but Restaurantosaurus is not a
traditionally colored McDonald's. It's themed to the land (in
this case, jungle safari style). I didn't eat there, so I
cannot say with certainty whether the menu items are
reproduced (ie, is it called a Cheeseburger or is it the Big
Mac?) I found that one, at least, to be fairly unobtrusive.
Still, it bothers me to some extent. Disney theme parks have
always had sponsorships. Not just a name on a ride, but also
products. You can buy Coca-Cola or Kodak film - are those
reminders of the outside world?
I would argue that they are a
DIFFERENT kind of reminder. Those are products, not a location
unto themselves. The Coke thing at Epcot - where you can enter
a fake-ice cave and sample coke products - also steps over the
line in my opinion.
Station Cool as EPCOT did not bother me at all (other than the
fact that every single flavor of Coke they offer was
||"Beverly," anyone? (if
you've never tried this Italian soda, consider yourself
understanding is that it is not going to be a normal
McDonald's menu, is that correct?
||Naturally, we don't know for
absolute sure. But I think we're hearing about a modified
menu. Some items will be the same, but not all.
have to conclude that the issue of whether McDonald's
sponsorship is crossing some line is completely subjective.
I'm sure some people are going to be highly aware of it, while
most people will be almost oblivious and view as simply
another food source.
I think one thing we need to admit is
that with a few exceptions, Disneyland food is nothing
special. Much of it isn't particularly good (Tomorrowland
Terrace) and much of it is just adequate (Redd Rockets). Only
occasionally does the food enter into the "good"
category. The fried chicken at Plaza Inn or the entire menu at
Bayou. McDonald's may actually be filling an empty niche -
decent quality, truly fast food.
||Well, I am highly biased here.
Remember that I worked for nine years in Disneyland food, so I
defend that as I would my home turf. :)
One thing we should
perhaps clarify is that DL's food is nothing special in
comparison to what? Other theme parks? Fast food out in the
In a sense, I agree with you. A hot dog is a hot
dog (though the corn dog cart has been voted the county's best
corndog at least once, but that's beside the point).
comparison to good food.
||"Good," too, is every
bit as subjective as the notion of intrusiveness. Walt himself
preferred beans out of a can – is that "good"
food? But this is niggling. I was in the process of switching
sides briefly to point out that there is precedent for a
company-sponsored restaurant: Carnation Plaza Gardens and Carnation on Main Street. Or
the tuna boat, once sponsored by Chicken of the Sea.
difference, one might argue, is that those places did not have
established reputations *as restaurants* out in the real
world. Again, they evoke a product, not a location.
example of an outside corporation setting up in-park presence
would be when the Bank on Main Street was a real Bank of
America. At a purist level I can see why this is troubling,
but in the practical world I just find it impossible to get
worked up over this "sin."
And I think it is safe to
say that 80% of the guests are not going to have a problem
with it, either. The fries wagon certainly wasn't hurting for
||About the Bank of America: the
difference there is that it fits a themed time and location.
Main Streets at the turn of the century did have McDonald's in
them. If Disneyland were to open up Mall-land or Sprawl-land
or some such, then McDonald's would fit in just right.
niggling again. I think you are right that 80% of the guests
will have no problem. I even agree with the figure. A good 20%
of fans are purists, but 20% is no majority.
Oh, and the fries
cart? Internally it's known as the "kiosk" for some
reason, and here's a secret: for the first few months of its
existence, it was not making profit. Sales were not even
paying 100% of the labor costs, let alone all the other
factors! To be fair, this was partly due to the overstaffing
of the place, something that happens often when new locations
are opened. But I would take issue with the idea that the
kiosk does good business. I never see a line there.
the lack of a line could be more a sign of there efficiency at
handing out food (why do I have to stand in line for 15-20
minutes as Blue Ribbon Bakery?) rather than as a sign of poor
One nice thing they could do with the restaurant
(that would help with its popularity) would be to have that
store perpetually use Disney for its Happy Meal Toys (if they
will be selling Happy Meals). Even better would be if this one
restaurant had special DISNEYLAND Happy Meal toys. I would bet
that would get a lot of the purists into the place.
||Yes, that would go a long way to
making the purists happy.
By the way, and I recognize this is
changing the topic slightly, we should mention that the prices
here will not be standard McDonalds. Like the kiosk, prices
will be raised so as to be as expensive at Disneyland. There
will be no 39 cent cheeseburger Sundays, nor even 99 cent
cheeseburgers normally. The Big Mac, if they have it, will cost several dollars.
The result is that a McDonald's burger will cost the same as a
I don't know. Maybe this is a good thing! For
four dollars, do you want a Disney burger or one you know and
trust (the Big Mac)? McDonald's is clearly counting on name
recognition. It just might work, though I think it doesn't
work as well for the fries cart alone.
I hope it quickly gets absorbed as just another place in the
park. Then I could sneak away for some french fries without
certain fellow MousePlaneteers having me committed.
I don't eat beef I probably won't use their restaurant for any
of the other food. Personally, however, I have no doubt that
the restaurant will prove reasonably popular. Especially as
that area of the park is underrepresented by food services.
||Underrepresented when it comes to
fast food, perhaps. Cafe Orleans and the French Market are
right across the way, remember. Actually, even Hungry Bear
isn't that far. The bigger problem is that only Splash
Mountain draws people up that way.
I think I hear your point
that this is not the end of the world. And in fact, you're
right, it's not the end of the world. Purists will be annoyed,
yet Disney will soldier on despite them, because popularity
and profit matter more than cohesive theme that doesn't
intrude. All this I understand, and even accept.
But part of
me remains a purist. Recently we talked about Walt and whether
he would be happy with today's Disney company. When I ask
myself if Walt would be happy with McDonald's, I'm surprised
to discover that I think he would be.
Walt was a plain guy and
liked to live like other folks. Lest we forget, the only movie
he directed for the company (The Golden Touch) ended with King
Midas going out for a cheeseburger.
So although I am a purist,
especially about Disneyland, I think in the final analysis I
can "get over it." It just might take some time.
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