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Al Lutz
Ask Al!™
You all responded so favorably to the small Ask Al! section I'd added to the update, that I thought it would warrant a page of its own.

First, a little background: As you all can imagine, I get so much e-mail about the site, that it's gotten to the point where I can't really respond to it all personally.  But questions keep coming in, and so many of them keep proving interesting, that I thought I'd try this column so I could respond at least to the ones I feel will have the broadest appeal for the D-I-G readership.

I'll try and update this page about once a week or so - but be patient if I fall behind a bit.  Unlike some sites, the staff around here is basically just me.


The following ten questions were posted on 10/5/00 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted.  I always have a hard time picking from all of them for this update, and am terribly behind, so if I didn't get to your question this time, I may be able to answer it at some point later on for you.

Q.

Keith writes: Al -- I've been following D-I-G for several months now, and I am continually amazed at the quality and depth of coverage that I've found. I tremendously appreciate your, and all the other MousePlanet contributors' efforts to keep us informed.

Regarding your 9/25 update (which I'm a bit behind on reading), I had a couple of comments. First, I was absolutely horrified to read that "In- park training of new recruits has been shaved back from six hours to now under two as I understand it (as far as spending time in the park)". To give you a bit of perspective on why, and how seriously that struck me: I am a former Cast Member of Walt Disney World, specifically EPCOT Center attractions.

When I worked there, the on-site training consisted of a minimum of 3 DAYS. That is in addition to two days of Disney's "Traditions"  indoctrination program. Granted, Epcot attractions are undoubtedly a bit  more involved than an attraction like Roger Rabbit, but I simply can't  imagine a Cast Member being properly trained in 2 hours. That can't allow for much more than showing them which buttons to push.

As to your suggestions regarding improvements to the Roger Rabbit ride's safety, your suggestions were exhaustive, well-thought-out, and a good read. But it seems to me that there is something that you missed, as did others who have written or spoken on the subject.

You have focused only on the "front line" of safety -- specifically lap bars, doors, and other restraint mechanisms. Those are certainly important, and should be addressed. As you and others have pointed out, though, people will still get out of a moving ride, whether of their own will or by force of the ride.

Where that is an issue, I think it's important to address secondary safety measures, which prevent or reduce injury once a guest is out of a ride conveyance. Walt Disney World (and presumably Disneyland) have already addressed this in the Haunted Mansion with pressure-sensitive intrusion mats on the floor, which alert ride operators (and possibly even stop the ride) when someone steps on the mats.

As I understand, Spaceship Earth at Epcot now sports an infrared system which detects passengers climbing out of their seats, and other attractions feature other safety mechanisms. These systems aren't new, and in the scheme of things can't be all that costly. It's certainly worth a child's life, and from Disney's perspective, must certainly be cheaper than the PR even one incident costs them.

In my experience, though, Disney seems slow and reluctant to install such mechanisms. Spaceship Earth allegedly received its system only after numerous incidents. At Journey Into Imagination, I was called upon to monitor guest activity from inside the ride, reportedly as part of a "feasibility study" to determine if intrusion mats or other such mechanisms were warranted there. Such a system was never installed during my term of employment.

The Universe of Energy at Epcot had a known problem with guests climbing out of the vehicles, though I know of no reported injuries. For this, as well as other safety and operational considerations, I made a formal recommendation that Disney install video cameras in the Diorama (the other portions of the ride are visible to live operators). I understand that they finally installed such a system, years after my recommendation.

The bottom line is, all the restraint systems, warnings, and employee training in the world aren't going to keep guests in their seats at all times. This isn't news to Disney, either. Cast members have reported it. I've reported it. Disney has even addressed it in some cases. But I feel that they need to address this issue more universally, and do so BEFORE serious injuries occur.
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A.

Keith, thank you for the kind words and your very terrific letter. You certainly add a lot more to the discussion, and that is welcome at this time by everyone who has some concerns about what has been happening.

As I understand it they had been making some attempts to increase ride training in the last few months - but it's still not to the levels it used to be in the past. The accident of course has placed a new emphasis on this as you can imagine.

Spending money on attractions has always been problematic since there is really no financial incentive for them to do so. I can assure you that if there was a safety condition in a shop or restaurant for example - they always use the justification of increased sales for getting the budget to fix things.

But attractions, even though face it they do draw the bodies in, are never seen as anything but expenses, to be ruthlessly managed. The marked deterioration of many of them [in particular the Haunted Mansion] sadly show how low on the totem pole they are nowadays.

I keep hearing that [as with the very sad Columbia accident] that this recent incident has spurred some action. But I guess what my question is, [and has been for the many years that Paul Pressler has been at the helm now] why does there need to be something awful happening before they get on the ball here?

You'd think it would just be good fiscal policy to maintain the attractions to save on upkeep, and make sure that they are as safe as they can be to avoid accidents. Upkeep and prevention is always cheaper than lawsuits isn't it?

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Q.

Marc writes Al, Longtime site reader, especially in the months before a trip out west. Your updates actually help me to enjoy trips more, as I know what most of the negatives will be in advance. By the time I get there, my disappointment in the state of the park has diminished and I can focus on the positives.

Anyway, you mentioned the forced previews on Disney DVDs. I've found that while the previews aren't skipable with the remote, they can be skipped using the front panel buttons. This is the case with my JVC anyway, haven't tested other models. You have to wait until each logo screen or preview appears, which means two skips for each preview. A few extra seconds before you sit down will save you 10 minutes of ads.

After buying the High Fidelity DVD, I'm not so sure this was a marketing ploy. High Fidelity's menus are the most poorly designed EVER.

Anyway, thought people would like to know. Keep up the good work...we'll win this war yet...
 

A.

Thanks for the kind words and the tip Marc!  I know the readers will appreciate it.

I have to agree with you - those Disney DVD menus are just awful - but hopefully they are turning the corner now there - what with their finally listening to people's complaints about what they've done [as mentioned in my last update].

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Q.

George writes: Dear Al: Recently you've mentioned in the D-I-G updates that the Walt Disney Company is thinking about building more theme parks in foreign countries. When I heard this, it reminds me of a rumor that back in the 1970's or 1980's, Disney was considering building smaller versions of Disneyland in various regions of the United States, but the idea was dropped because the people at Disney thought it would cheapen "Disney's image." Is their any truth to that rumor?

Also you've stated the Paul Pressler claims people won't notice the little things, when people visit the Disney theme parks. If that claim is true, I totally disagree with that concept.

For example, When I visited Walt Disney World last year, I walked through an outside section of the Polynesian Resort. While walking there, I noticed a small rabbit in a shady, grassy area, minding its own business. While observing a wild rabbit wasn't the main reason for visiting Walt Disney World, seeing the rabbit (one of the little things that somebody claims people don't notice), made the trip to WDW more fun.

Finally, from the pictures of the construction of Disney's California Adventure, featured on Mousplanet.com and other Disney Websites, there's not enough incentive to travel from another state to Anaheim, California to visit DCA. It doesn't look any different than a Disney version of a county fair, and most people can see a county fair much closer to their own homes once a year, for a lot less money.

Sure, a local county fair won't have It's Tough to Be a Bug or Muppet 4-D. However, in my opinion, Disney would have been better off building more original, unique, and creative rides and attractions, even though it might have cost a few hundred million dollars more than what they are currently building. That way there may have been some incentive to visit "Disney's California Albatross."

Keep up the good investigative journalism.
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A.

Thank you for the kind words George. :)

The debate about building more USA parks has been a long one at Disney - going back many years. It always got brought up - people would do surveys, and the final result in the past was that they felt they would cannibalize sales on both coasts if they opened too many more parks between them.

Since Eisner has been changing course quite a bit - and people like Paul Pressler have been pushing him to reconsider this - it may very well be we may see more parks stateside at some time in the future.

But don't expect parks at the level of quality you see now at Disneyland and Walt Disney World - the type of places you may see will be more like the new Studios in Paris, or like California Adventure here. There is just no incentive within the company anymore to build anything of any higher quality when something so modest and cheap will do.

It's too bad Universal failed to really push the right buttons with their Islands of Adventure park - that could have sparked Disney on another renaissance as far as their parks go. You have to blame Universal's complete failure to market it properly - as everyone who has visited the place just raves about it.

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Q.

Jim writes: Just got back from the park in an attempt to purchase my Villans Enchanted Evening tickets.

When I disembarked the tram, I noticed the new steelwork on the Indy building, as per your picture. When I headed back to my car around 10:30 am, you should have seen what they were doing.

Workmen were hanging, from the four smaller sections closest to the corner and facing the hotel, what looked to be a 40-50 foot banner. Not (hey, Disney promotes like this on Sunset Blvd.). But this banner looked to be... camouflage. Patchwork banner of shades of green, with some white. Maybe it will be a forest scape.

If not, I would love to get into the mind of the idiot who decided to hide a five- story hospital scrub green colored building with green camouflage .!!!
 
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A.

Jim, the banner went up, then came down. But even if this is what they were thinking of doing - goodness, you would think they would come up with something else instead!

Let's see what other ideas they may have. I have to tell you, if I'm going to spend $300 a night for one of those new Grand Californian rooms overlooking that - I'd sure expect a heck of a lot more than a rug hanging...  ;)

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Q.

Kathy writes: Al, Can you help me out? I was told when trying to renew my annual pass they Disneyland will be dictating which lots Annual Passholders that have paid for annual parking may use.

If annual passholders choose to use Simba or Timon lots they will be charged the $7 for parking on top of the $35 they have already paid for a years worth of parking. I am urging everyone to spread the word to Disneyland Annual Passholders so that we all may show Disney that these are guest relations we do not approve. The only way to fix this new policy that will be phased in immediately is to go to City Hall and WRITE DOWN your complaint formally.

IF enough Annual Passholders do this Disney is sure to see the error of its ways. Can you share with your Annual Passholder friends that we need to put a stop to this?!
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A.

Kathy you have me going to City Hall, and I did mention this issue [thanks to your note among many others] in the last update.

This is a dumb policy, made by someone in the Team Disney building out back that apparently has never tried to park at the resort.

Let's hope enough people complain to get it back to normal.

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Q.

Aaron writes: I am leaving soon for Disneyland and was hoping to see the rocket rods at least once before they go away. Are they still there? You mentioned the last weekend was the 29th, but no update recently and Disney's site still shows them listed with no plans for refurb.
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A.

I just made note of this on the update page - here's the sign they have up outside the attraction as of last week:

Rocket Rods rehab sign
Rocket Rods rehab sign

Let's see if they come back!

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Q.

Cara writes: Hi Al, I like the DIG / Mouseplanet and read it everyday.

I have a question. With all the safety issues being raised due to accidents have they looked at another potential hazard? I am talking about where the speakers are located on the headrests for the Space Mountain cars.

My husband and I are both small people (5' 2" and 4 '11" respectively) and we noticed when we went on Space Mountain, last March, our heads were smacked around pretty good. The head rests with the speaker systems were not padded and we both came off of there with a bit of an ache. Not to mention we kept hitting the bottom edge which is molded plastic.

I was wondering if the ride designers ever considered this?
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A.

Cara, this has been a problem since day one these things were put in on the ride. What makes it worse is that the things DO look like headrests, so they fool people into thinking they are padded - until they smack themselves on it for the first time. Apparently the park feels no need to make an adjustment - since most people haven't let them know about it.

On ANY attraction at Disneyland, if you do encounter a problem with it, do stop by City Hall on your way out and put in a written complaint. With enough of these on file they will take another look at the issues raised.

Mostly what I suggest for riders do now is lean forward a bit - so you can avoid knocking your head around so much.

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Q.

Doug writes: All those people who email you telling you they love your site? Well I'm one of `em.

It's been a lot of fun watching your DIG morph into part of the expanded Mouseplanet site; and at the same time we're getting this close to the opening of DCA. With you having tracked Disneyland's progress (and otherwise) for so many years, this must be an exciting time for you.

You "hinted" at an upcoming discussion board section; this is something I've long thought would be a big success. If you build it; we will come.

I especially love the photos; keep `em coming! Your desktop shots are beautiful, and call people's attention to details that might otherwise be overlooked. My favorite is the weathervane from Peter Pan. Honestly, it's the prettiest weathervane I've ever seen!

On the topic of photos . . . I would love to see aerial shots of the park and surrounding area. This would go a long way toward helping us with where things are in relation to everything else. I remember years ago when the lockers were across from the fire station, there was a very large aerial photo of DL behind the CM desk. I always loved that picture.

So if you've got any access to birds-eye views of the park, please post them, or even email them to me. Obviously the more current the better, but even older ones are fascinating.

Thanks for doing all you do..
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A.

Made my day with the kind words Doug, thank you. Even with my mixed feelings about the new park, I do look forward to all the changes coming along - it is interesting to see just how much the area around Disneyland is changing.

Right now we are looking at providing aerial shots - as you can imagine it is expensive so it may take a while.

Microsoft's Terraserver does offer satellite photos online now that you can look at - but they've just started encrypting them and they are difficult to view the way they've set it up. Clicking on the link provided will take you to a list of what is available - although the latest shot available [March 1998] only shows cloud cover.

The other older shots show the resort way before the new California Adventure park was even started, it would be nice to see more recent photos.

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Q.

Roger writes: Thanks for your commentary on the recent Disneyland accident at Roger Rabbit's CarToon Spin. As soon as I heard of the accident, I went straight to MousePlanet. I knew you'd have links to the story plus additional insight. You exceeded my expectations.

The factors you considered brought a lot of additional insight, things I had never thought of. Especially interesting to me was the possibility of a language barrier.

We visited Disneyland for the first time this summer. We live on the East Coast and have been to Walt Disney World numerous times. We were really surprised that everything in Disneyland is in English. WDW is completely bi-lingual (multi-lingual in many places), and considering how many Asian and Hispanic visitors that Disneyland gets, this really took us by surprise. In fact, when we road the Monorail and heard the recorded announcement ("Please stand clear of the door..."), it felt like something was missing when the Spanish version didn't follow. My son repeated it each time for us, since he has it memorized.

We encountered a lot of International visitors at the park during our brief trip. After comparing the two parks, it almost seems like DL and WDW are run by two different companies. Thanks!
 

A.

Thank you for the kind words Roger. As far as the two parks being run as two fiefdoms - you don't know how on the money you are about that.

I've never seen a company run like I have Disney in this type of situation. Both parks are each essentially re-inventing the wheel when it comes to operations most of the time. This happens in big companies when they decide everything has to be a profit center - and then the divisions start fighting with one another instead of helping each other out.

This has been the case at both resorts for a long time now.

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Q.

Edwin writes: Dear Al: Just wanted to thank you for putting together a very informative and the most up- to- date site. You had posted one of my "Ask Al" questions in the past that had expressed my disappointment and concerns in the New Tomorrowland. I have decided recently to email a letter to Disneyland Park on the subject. Here is a portion of my email to Disneyland:

To Whom it May Concern:

About 1 year ago, I was able to visit the park as an adult. I was very disappointed in many of the changes that took place, especially in Tomorrowland. I remembered Tomorrowland as my favorite because it had the best attractions in the park.

In 1987, I can remember 12 attractions:
1. Space Mountain
2. Captain EO
3. Peoplemover
4. Mission to Mars
5. Submarine Voyage
6. Skyway
7. Monorail
8. Rocket Jets
9. Autopia
10. Circlevision - I really miss this one :(
11. America Sings (didn't care for it much)
12. Innerspace

In 1999, it only had the following attractions on the day I had attended:

1. Space Mountain
2. Honey I shrunk the audience
3. Astro-Orbiter
4. Innoventions
5. Star Tours

The following attractions were clearly visible, but not in operation:

1. Rocket Rods
2. Autopia
3. Monorail
4. Cosmic Waves

I'm sure you can see why my girlfriend and I were very disappointed in the new Tomorrowland. It was frustrating to see an attraction in plain sight and not being able to ride it. I becomes almost depressing because you wish that you could still ride those "classic attractions." I just wished they had replaced those classics with at least some kind of attraction, not just leave the space abandoned with the same structures and attraction signs still visible! Was this all a result of cutbacks?

I paid around $80 for the admission for 2 of us to get in and got only 5 attractions in Tomorrowland compared to 12 in 1987. We were not able to see even a glimpse of the Tomorrowland we remembered.

This is how Disneyland "personally" responded:

9/12/2000

Dear Disneyland Guest:

Thank you for your recent letter to Disneyland.

We are very concerned to learn of your negative impressions of the new Tomorrowland. We would like to assure you that our goals for providing a happy and unique experience in our theme park have remained constant throughout the years. One of the ways in which we attempt to maintain this goal is to continually evaluate the various aspects of our operation and make changes at times. Some changes prove to be positive and well-received by our Guests, while others are not as beneficial. We rely on input from our Guests to help us determine when these changes should remain in effect or when we should implement something different.

We have researched your concern regarding the Cosmic Waves Fountain in Tomorrowland. Based upon the information you have provided, we have addressed your concern and have taken the appropriate measures to correct the situation. Thank you for your interest in Cosmic Waves. Your input is appreciated.

Walt Disney stated, "Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world." In that spirit, we will continue to make additions and changes to the Magic Kingdom, all with the goal in mind to keep the Disneyland experience new, fresh and exciting. As diverse asthe 10-12 million visitors are who come to Disneyland each year, so are the reactions and opinions that we learn about. While we realize that it is impossible to please everyone at all times with the decisions that are made, it is always our goal to provide a quality "show" for our Guests.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. We hope you will have the opportunity to visit the Disneyland Resort in the near future and trust your visit will be pleasant in all regards.

Sincerely,

Stewart Kingsley
Disneyland Resort
Guest Communications

Sounds like a cut and paste job to me, especially the cosmic waves portion. If there was one thing I could always count on from Disneyland in the past, it was their customer service. I felt almost insulted when I read the above response letter that was obviously a template which didn't address my concerns on the other attractions (or lack of) in my letter.

Just thought I would share this with you, since you seem have the same passion in the park as many of us do. Keep up the good work!
 

A.

Edwin, thank you for forwarding the note - it's always interesting to see what the park is currently saying about known problems.

The good news is that major improvements for Tomorrowland are on the way. The bad news is that we all knew this last redo was low quality even before the darn thing opened up.
 


The following ten questions were posted on 9/26/00 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted.  I always have a hard time picking from all of them for this update, and am terribly behind, so if I didn't get to your question this time, I may be able to answer it at some point later on for you.

As you can all imagine - most of the questions today involve the recent Roger Rabbit ride accident.

Q.

Zan writes: [RE the recent update detailing the Roger Rabbit ride system] According to an interview with Tony Baxter that was on the Discovery Channel last week, a teacup was put onto Pinocchio, not the Mansion.

[and] According to the diagram in the LA Times (which was from the US Patent Office), the Roger Rabbit cars  are not pulled. Their drive system is identical to that on, for example, Snow White. The cars are driven by an electric motor along an electrified rail.

The similarity to the Onmimover system is that there is a false floor with a slot in it. If Roger Rabbit ran on the same system as the Mansion, it would not be possible to stop the cars to load and unload.
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A.

Zan, thank you for your note. You're correct about how the ride system works - in my write up I confused the two systems due to several different explanations I was offered this weekend - as you can imagine it was rather hectic. Corrections have been made to the update to acknowledge this.

The main focus of what I wrote - about combining ride concepts, and having to re-think safety measures involved - remains valid though.

When I first answered this question on the morning of 9/26 I'd said: "Despite the interview you saw on TV - the tea cup story is true. I spoke to the person who rode that cup and was assured that it was tested in that manner. Tony was incorrect in this case."

Mouse Tales author David Koenig was kind enough to clarify this even better in a follow up e-mail on the same afternoon: "No, Tony's not incorrect -- but neither is Bob. The teacup was tried first on the Mansion, then with better results on Pinocchio, which convinced them it would work (see Mouse Under Glass, page 187!)."

Thank you both David and Zan for helping me to give the readers the best information possible.

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Q.

Gregory writes Hi Al!

The issue of safety a Disneyland has always intrigued me. As a frequent theme park attendee, I can state positively that Disneyland is STILL the safest. However, guests will do stupid things. They forget their brains and figure Disney won't let anything happen to them. I had just such an experience.

I was at Disneyland on a busy summer day, waiting to board SPACE MOUNTAIN. I was a single rider and was motioned to move up to the loading line of a car that was being loaded. Now, I'm a veteran coaster fanatic. I know the rules. I know the dangers. Yet, for reasons I can't explain, I chose not to wait behind the yellow line, but tried to board that Space Mountain vehicle that was in front of me. Why not? The seat was vacant. The why not was that the vehicle was being DISPATCHED.

Fortunately for me an eagle eyed cast member grabbed me and pulled me back just as the the car was leaving the station. Was I yelled at? Nope, the cast member merely smiled and said please wait for the NEXT car. I was so embarrassed. I WAS told to wait. I knew the car was about to be dispatched. Yet, I had done what many people do. I left my brain outside the gates. I probably would have been injured badly had that cast member not been paying attention.

So, I suppose my point is that there still ARE some well trained cast members paying attention and doing a great job keeping us idiots safe. The incident did make me realize that those annoying safety gates that slow down loading are a good idea, especially during a hectic day..
 

A.

Thanks for the note Gregory - I do agree with you about how safe Disneyland really is. And they even manage most times to watch over you with a smile.

Generally my concerns these days come about when I hear that the very good policies they've had in the past are being constantly changed - many times only for budget considerations.

There are usually good reasons many of those procedures have been developed over the past 45 years at the park - too many times it seems to me they discount that experience too easily.

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Q.

David writes: As always, thanks for being right there on top of things. I ALWAYS appreciate your updates.

I feel so awful for that little boy. My nephew is 4 and I cannot imagine how horrible this is for him and his family.

I agree that Disneyland has to make everything as safe as possible for everyone. However with that said, I cannot imagine this youngster's family not be focused on him enough to protect him.

I know that when we took my nephew to WDW we made sure he was as safe as possible. Checked his restraints, put him on the inside or between 2 adults when we could. As you stated, parenting isn't what it once was and I think the Parenting in the Parks segment is great, if only people would wake up!

People everywhere expect someone else to take care of them or their children. In this world today, that's just not going to happen. Even in a Disney space, people have to be diligent. I agree that Disney should make some changes if small kids are slipping out, but that would not have stopped the 13 year old unless she was tied down. People seem to have gotten a bit dumber over the years when it comes to their personal safety.

We have a problem in my town with college age kids darting out in traffic and getting hit. Sometimes they are in a crosswalk, sometimes not and while they have the right of way when not jaywalking, that does not stop the injuries. When I cross the street I make sure I'm not gonna be hit or I don't go. Same thing in the parks. I check my own restraints as much as possible and watch out for those around me, especially kids because anything can slip by someone working in the parks. Parents have to be ever more vigilant in a wild world like today.

As for posting the ride history with regard to accidents, in a perfect world I could see this working. In the modern litigious society we live in - I see a formula for lawsuits.

At any rate, I truly believe that there will always be dangers in the parks and, in a perfect world, Disney would take your advice and make things just as safe as possible. As a stockholder I want the Disney name to be well-respected, but I would also like the value of my stock to increase. I don't see any easy answers since this was obviously the parent / adults fault for not thinking clearly enough. I'm not sure that the cast members could have stopped this. I'm not sure a door would prevent people getting out and being stupid. I dunno.

Its like a lot of problems Disney faces, no answer will really solve the problem while people are involved.

Again, my heart goes out to this poor little boy. I've got to go give a hug to my nephew.

Take care..
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A.

Thank you for the note David - you bring up a lot of very solid points. People do dumb things - heavens, I know my list of those is long.

The key to all this is pretty simple though - by thinking what all the possibilities may be, you can reduce many of the problems.

I asked a friend who is a coaster fan if there was really any reason doors couldn't be installed on most coasters [if the rider didn't already sit down in the car with legs / feet protected as on Space Mountain or Matterhorn]. He replied, no, there really was no reason for not having them. It's just something that isn't really looked at.

It's like having a belt *and* suspenders - you're covered with both, just in case. :)

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Q.

Mike writes: Hey Al...

Due to the "accident" on Roger Rabbit this past weekend (the proper solution probably would have been to "make sure all children are seated to the inside of the tram", in this case ride vehicle. It's probably a policy that should be added to any and all attractions so kids can't jump out easily. I would probably say this accident is probably both parties (Disneyland and Guests) fault because Disneyland did not have the child sit towards the inside and the Guests did not heed to "remain in the vehicle at all times during the ride").

Anyway, was wondering based on the accident if you could give an update to a story you had posted in one of your updates many, many months ago. When the "Picnic Area" first re-opened you showed a couple trees that were close to the Monorail track and how they were a safety hazard because kids could easily climb up the tree and possibly get hurt if they came near the Monorail track.

I was wondering if you could follow up on this (with pictures if possible) as to whether anything has been done to fix this problem and any comments you might have as to the current state of safety in the park. Is it more Disneyland's fault or riders to blame?

Talk to you later!!!
 
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A.

Mike, I agree with you - in this case I think there is probably equal fault here - Disneyland's ride operations cast member should have probably made sure the child was properly seated, and the parent should have both thought of that, and kept a closer eye on him.

But saying that, we all know how accidents can happen with children - a moment's distraction is really all it takes to get into a dangerous situation.

As far as the trees at the picnic area, I did check on them a few weeks ago and found one pruned, and another not so pruned. I guess they did take a look at this and did some work - but with one tree, I think they are still a bit too close.

I'll follow up with photos in the next update if I can. Usually I do try to show any action I see taken on things - such as painting or repair - so folks can see something is going on.

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Q.

Paul writes: The site has been awesome lately.

I noticed this troubling detail, however. In your recent article on [Roger Rabbit], you stated you've ridden many coasters that do have doors built into them. And that they can be automatically popped open when the car returns to the station.

I've ridden over 250 different rollercoasters, and just offhand this morning I can't think of a single one that actually has doors that open and close. And you say you've ridden many that do? Also, it's the lapbars that pop open sometimes automatically in the station.

And there are sometimes "doors" in the station that open and close in each row to keep the next boarder behind the yellow line. I think of Disney monorails and shows when I think of lots of doors opening simultaneously. On coasters, however, I'm drawing a blank.

Also, doors on a coaster car would widen the clearance of the train, which isn't such a great thing. Anyway, people are likely to challenge you on the many coasters with doors thing.

Just thought I'd raise the question in a cheerful manner. Keep up the good work!
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A.

Thanks for the kind words about the site Paul. I don't know why I remember rides having doors on them - but I guess chalk this up to my not being such a coaster fanatic.

As far as the issue of doors - I think they could easily be incorporated without too much effect on the actual rides themselves. Certainly they can be worked into new designs with little or no problems since they would be planned for since the beginning.

I guess I am of the opinion that there really should be no pulling back in how reasonably wild a ride can be - just so long as they keep thinking as to how to keep problems at a minimum and safety at a maximum. Coasters / attractions / rides still need to be fun.

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Q.

Robert writes: In the stories regarding the Roger Rabbit accident, no indication was given as to how long it took Disney to contact emergency services. With the Space Mountain Accident, the guests were sitting there for ten minutes before anyone turned on the lights. I hope in this case the response time was immediate and not a factor in how badly the child was injured.
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A.

As I understand it Robert, this time everything went about as well as it could. Both the park and the Anaheim Police department were right on the scene as quickly as they could be. And the cast members did what they needed to do.

I'm glad it sounds like they won't be repeating what happened with Space Mountain.

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Q.

Shane writes: I am a huge fan of your site and I respect you tremendously, so don't think this is a comment from a crank:

As you know, hindsight is 20/20, and given the recent history of park management it's easy to pile on. Your criticism of the Roger Rabbit ride vehicles, however, would carry much more credibility if you could point to an Update, Usenet post, press clip, or any public forum where you criticized the vehicles *before* these accidents occurred.

Since there is no evidence that many of the factors you cite were involved in this accident (lack of training, language barriers, etc.) one presumes that you hold the design of the vehicle primarily responsible. (Your quote in the L.A. Times indicates as much.) One presumes, as well, that you noticed the potential for danger when the ride opened a decade ago, despite the fact that it operated for years with no exit injuries. One also presumes that your willingness to speak out on every less-than-ideal aspect of the park, from peeling paint to the price of ice cream, would impel you to speak out on the danger inherent in the design of this ride. It must be out there somewhere.

And if you did not -- if you neither foresaw the danger nor spoke out against it -- don't you think it's unfair to pile on management in the wake of this tragic accident with an attitude that screams "I told you so" or "What did you expect?"

Of course, I cannot discount the possibility that you have spoken out and are refraining from bringing it up in order to avoid a "told you so" tone to your comments. That's fair, though I disagree with the reasoning.

Just some food for thought . . ..
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A.

Shane, thank you for your note, and I do understand what you are saying. There are many things I continue to be concerned about, but due to lack of time / space / proper confirmation I cannot always put them into a column or a post.

As you can imagine, not everything I hear about Disneyland can be placed into print right away - usually because I need confirmation from other sources before I run the item. For example, I only heard after the accident about the many times in the past where people got out of their Roger Rabbit ride vehicles.

It also helps when I can see something for myself - hopping into a Matterhorn sled a few months ago I noticed they were not checking my seat belt - that thankfully is no longer happening.

Usually on Sundays, when I meet up with the other folks at the hub, I tend to discuss many of these concerns with them. As you can imagine, this site is really only a small part of the continuing dialog I have about the park.

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Q.

Todd writes: Hello Al: I enjoy your site

I operate a sizable railroad enthusiasts site which sees about 8000 visitors a day and if you want to hear them I have some suggestions for your discussion area. Check out my discussion area. I get about 500 messages a day posted to it and my visitors love it.
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A.

Todd, thank you for all the kind suggestions in your note. I included it here because I think you have a terrific site others would like to visit.

We'll have some news for everyone very soon about some of the new things we'll be doing - I'm sure you and the readers will be very pleased with what's on the way.

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Q.

Jeannie writes: Your site is awesome... do you have information regarding the new Grand California Hotel? Specifically, do they plan to have a monorail stop on the premises?

Thank you - I have spent literally hours reading, reading, reading and more reading about my favorite place on earth. I have been a DL fan since my first visit in 1959.
 

A.

Thank you for the kind words.

The monorail will just pass through the new hotel, but the actual stop for it is nearby, just across a pedestrian bridge. I have a feeling that it will still be much easier for hotel visitors to just walk on over from either of the park gates [and there will also be a gate from the new park right into it].

When you next visit you'll see just how close together everything now is - the new layout doesn't make the two older Disney Hotels seem so far away, although they haven't moved any closer.

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Q.

Julie writes: Hello. I just read your Disneyland Information Guide update, and you seem to dislike everything about the California Adventure. If you dislike it that much, why do you take the time to put together that webpage? You seem to know more about the new amusement park than anyone else, but you had all of the attraction names wrong.
 

A.

I put together the info because I think people should be able to read all kinds of opinions on the new park, not just what the press releases say.

As far as the attraction names - well, a space shot is a space shot, and a mad mouse is a mad mouse, no matter how fancy the new Disney- given name for them at DCA may be. More people will know exactly what these rides are by referring to the names they are generally sold or known by in the rest of the theme park industry.
 


The following ten questions were posted on 8/25/00 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted.  I always have a hard time picking from all of them for this update, and am terribly behind, so if I didn't get to your question this time, I may be able to answer it at some point later on for you.

Q.

Josh writes: I really love your site, just like most of the other folks who have written in. I consider myself a Disneyland-aholic. I can never get enough of learning about it, planning trips, and especially going there.

Anyway, I have a great experience that I wanted to share that happened last weekend when my family and I were at the park. Perhaps if you think it's as neat as I did, you can pass it on to your readers. 

We were there on a Sunday night and everyone in our party wanted to see Fantasmic! but no one really wanted to fight the crowds to get a good seat. We had four young children and they were already pooped from a long day of careening down the icy slopes of the majestic Matterhorn, and other eventful activities. Well, we were in Critter Country during the first showing of Fantasmic! and we were dreading the long trek across the waterfront to get to our favorite seats near the Golden Horseshoe. Anyway, we found ourselves downstairs using the facilities at the Hungry Bear when we heard the finale music from the show. 

Then it donned on us that the steamboat carrying every character that our children loved, was going to pass right by us. We all lined up right there at the Hungry Bear, with the Rivers of America literally lapping at our feet. Sure enough, here came the boat. The characters, who were pretty much "backstage" now from the rest of the park, stayed in character for us and continued to wave and blow kisses at our children. It was really a neat and unique experience for us, almost like our own little private Fantasmic! We will definitely do that again.

This may be old news, or even not-that-exciting news for you. But we really enjoyed it and I thought I would pass it on. Thus, this entry is more like a "Tell Al" than an "Ask Al". Sorry!

Michael also writes Hi Al, This is more of a comment than a question. My wife and I were very disappointed at the cancellation of "Woody's Roundup." Another victim of budget cuts I would imagine. It would seem that hiring a live band is a bit cheaper than putting on a live show. Apparently, the budget cuts extend to the web staff as well, since even after the show's cancellation, the Official Disneyland Website posted the show as "All New!" 

Oh, but not too worry! Woody and Jesse aren't standing in line at the unemployment office just yet. If you find yourself at the Big Thunder Barbeque at the right time, you might get to visit with "Toy Story 2" characters (read - Woody and Jesse, recently released from their previous engagement). This has an interesting side effect. In the down time between appearances, I was inclined to get a drink, which turned into my wife and I possibly splitting a platter, which ended up being a platter for each and a Mousekameal for my son.

Considering I had vowed not to buy food that day after spending nearly $100 at Blue Bayou a couple of days earlier, I would imagine they could stand to make some cash by recycling some pristine, previously indoor costumes.

I just had to vent. To the rare visitor, this seems like a treat, but for a frequent visitor (sometimes 2-3 times a week), it borders on insulting.

Maybe Woody and Jesse could work in the McDonalds when it opens... (don't get me started on the Harbor Galley).

Thanks for all the info!
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A.

Thank you for the notes Josh and Michael! You've both noticed in your own ways one of the particular things that I like so much about the park - the attention to details such as these. Even with some of the more depressing news we report on here - it's these little things that still keep so many of us interested.

Paul Pressler [head of the parks now] is quoted over and over again as saying people don't notice this kind of stuff, justifying things as he slashes yet another budget or cuts back another detail.

But your letters, among so many others I get daily it seems, shows quite the opposite. 

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Q.

Jose writes Hi Al, Not long ago I was hired as a ticket -taker for the main gate. I was available to work any and all hours, my schedule was totally open to work any time I was needed. 

I was awarded with four hours each week, not each day, but for the entire week. I thought because it was Summer and they took the time and the expense to train me that I would get full time work (40 hours or more per week).

My leads and managers referred me to the schedulers to try to get additional hours for Fantasmic, or Parade (crowd control). The schedulers informed me that they did not have any hours available, and in fact were looking to reduce hours. 

Needless to say, I decided to quit since I was not getting more than four hours per week. What gives, why bother to hire, and train me and then not have any hours available to me???? Love your column, and the entire Mouse Planet Site.

Thanks, Jose

Denis also writes: Al, I stumbled across your very informative and fun site while planning our September trip to Disneyland. Great job on the site and keep up the good work!

Are the cutbacks of CM's hours and shorter (or non-existent) entertainment really all due to budget cutbacks, or could it also be an effect of a serious labor shortage in California? 

I'm sure it is a little of both but, in my area at least, there is a serious labor shortage for the local amusement park (Santa Cruz Boardwalk). I know that because I worked as a Seasonal Employee Recruiter for them for five years. There were some lean employee times when I was there that caused some "creative" scheduling of park operations due to lack of available workers. 

Some of the "creative" scheduling techniques were closing down less-popular rides until the staff came to work after school, or closing them down the entire day. My favorite was pulling us office workers onto the rides so we could see what it was really like out there.

From my friends still working at the Boardwalk, this year has been devastatingly bad for finding employees, and included with the creative scheduling are now some creative hiring practices... like $100 referral bonus to any employee referring a friend that will and does work through the summer; it used to be $25 in my day. You see, with all the new malls and discount stores paying above minimum wage and offering a year-round full 40/week paycheck, who would want to work for less money and get laid off come Labor Day.

The reports of cutbacks of Disneyland staffing sound like tried- and- true "creative" scheduling practices at the Boardwalk.
 

A.

Thanks for the kind words Jose and Denis. What you've seen in action is how extreme things are getting at the parks under the current direction.

Rather than have a steady workforce - with a stable core group working solid 40 hour weeks, and an additional batch of employees brought in to supplement them during Summer / Holiday seasons- you now have things arranged so that no one will be employed for any longer than necessary to make absolutely sure no benefits or overtime is paid out.

How in the world Disney expects these people to drop everything they are doing on [usually] less than a day's notice to work, for such limited hours, is beyond my comprehension. Even McDonalds allows people advance schedules and as many hours as they can accommodate to help them make their living.

The kicker is that they get so short handed with such terrible scheduling [since so many people quit] that they end up actually spending more in overtime just to keep key areas staffed. I was appalled the other day to overhear a few Parking Lot Cast Members discussing this very issue - a few had been working almost double the hours per day you'd normally put in.

I understand that in foods for example, there is a 75% turnover rate - it's a bit lower in merchandise and attractions. I guess when you have a former toy executive playing around with park budgets, as Pressler is wont to do, this is to be expected.

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Q.

Karen writes: Love the site; the good, the bad and the ugly. Even with the negative comments, Disneyland is still the "Happiest Place on Earth"!

I just read your response to Rhonda who states that she is going to spend her 40th birthday at Disneyland. I did, too, last year, and it was the greatest! 

I don't know if your readers know about the "birthday sticker" they can receive at City Hall on their birthday (and I hope this feature still exists!). You get to wear a birthday name tag all day and be greeted by (almost) every Disneyland cast member with a great big "Happy Birthday"!

The best part was as we were entering the park, I received a huge hug from a security guard - as if we were old friends - a birthday greeting, and a free pass to the front of the line of my choosing. It was the best birthday ever and I hope you can find out if this practice still exists and please remind your readers. Thank you!

Regards to Mickey next time you see him.
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A.

Thank you for the kind note. Yes, they finally got back in some more of the Birthday stickers, and they are available at City Hall for the asking.

Thanks to a kind friend who always gets one for me [his Birthday is the day before mine] last year I got a complimentary dessert at Cafe Orleans, and this year last weekend a lot of the Cast Members [CMs] took a few moments out of their routines to smile and wish me a happy day.

As I mentioned before - it's these kind of small details that still delight people.  Let's hope they continue them. 

-

Q.

Brian writes: Al I really enjoy your website. It takes an excellent behind the scenes look at Disneyland. However, I am very disappointed by what I hear about the cutbacks.

I don't know if anyone has asked this question before and I don't mean to sound repetitive, but have you ever thought about sending all of the e-mails to Disneyland so they know the views of your readers. 

I don't know how many readers you have, but if each one sent one e-mail wouldn't it make a difference? I sent one and got a response saying that info on unofficial Disney sites are unreliable sources. However, I have been an eyewitness to many of the things you mention from going to the park a dozen or so times a year. Although I never mentioned your name or website they said they were concerned about the accusations I described to them.

Maybe you should send them a hyperlink to MousePlanet (especially the DL blues section) and let them see your reader's responses. I for one fell in love with this park 20 years ago and DO NOT want to see it destroyed by greedy business executives. Keep up the good work!
 
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A.

Thanks for the kind words Brian. The park is well-aware of the site and monitors it daily for feedback and comments.

I'd like to share a recent e-mail I got that may shed some light as to why they continue to do nothing on some of the major items - you may find this as fascinating as I did:

Hans wrote: Hello Al, when he was working at Paramount, a senior exec suggested that Eisner be fired for not giving quick answers. This was Eisner's response taken from the Jan - Feb 2000 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Page 118, Column 2, final  paragraph:

"Sometimes in our business the best thing to do is nothing. Sometimes the best thing to do is delay - because it buys you two things. First, it buys you time to incubate and idea, to let it simmer in your brain so you can edit it yourself and improve on it. 

And the second thing it buys is the ability to see the truth. Because a delay lets you know how deeply someone believes in an idea. If a person really believes, he'll fight for it. He'll create a stink - friction, that is. And if he doesn't believe, he'll back off.

And then you can negotiate for what you want - like another version of the idea or another director for the movie."

Does this philosophy hold today for the parks? Is the public backing- off and settling for a second-rate version of Walt's dream? Perhaps we should continue to create a stink (or "friction" as he calls it).

Keep fighting Al!

P.S. I submitted a trip report of my last Disneyland trip to Cynthia. Some good, some not-so-good. I think it's best to write to the execs.

Interesting no?

I do feel the new park is a perfect example of this - it is purposely designed and built not to excel, but just to be adequate. The hope being of course, that they will need to do nothing more if it fills the bill.

It sickens me, knowing the rich and creative history and legacy of the Walt Disney Company in the themed entertainment area, to see people defending this inexpensive carnival with every excuse in the book they can come up with. How very sad.

We really could have had the superior quality park Tokyo is now getting - if we as customers had only continued to ask for more. Sadly it appears all the excuses people are willing to make for this management team is going to get us something next to the crown jewel Disneyland is that Six Flags installs regionally all over the country.

What's Marlon Brando's line from "On the Waterfront?" "I could have been a contender!" We could have had the quality of Disney Tokyo Seas folks. Instead we meet someone else's lower standards.

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Q.

MMworks writes: Dear Al, While going through the family photo album last year, I noticed a few differences in two of Disneyland's attractions. Although quite minor, I rather enjoy these "minor" touches that Disney adds to create a better experience. Anyway, these undated photos show:

1.) statuette fishes that appeared to be shooting water in the little pool at Snow White's Wishing Well

2.) a seemingly animated Dumbo figure in the circus organ display at the Flying Dumbo Ride

Since then, I've gone to these locations to find that Snow White's fishes are now submerged and that the Dumbo display only plays music. It's possible that they have malfunctioned or that Disneyland has found them to be unimportant, but I'd still like to know...

What did Dumbo and the fishes originally do? Did these additional touches get cut? If you could shed some light on such (obscure) Disney info, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks
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A.

These are the kinds of details that go missing when budgets get so cut back - and are deemed unimportant by the folks in charge.

The little wooden Dumbo at the circus organ didn't really do much, it just popped out when the box was opened - the box opens on this type of organ to change the sound. [In the same way a pipe organ does - by opening up areas or pipes to change pitch or character of sound.]

The three little fishes at the Snow White Grotto are always breaking down - for such a simple mechanism and action it performs [basically the fish circle, then raise up during the song at a few key points, then lower back down]. The difference now is that they simply do not devote the time to them they used to in maintaining or repairing them because there is no money for them to do so.

There are plenty of other examples of this in the park right now - although to be fair, it appears some budgets have been freed up for paint. I noticed last Sunday that they had finally begun to repaint all the huge green cement cones in the Lion King Tram boarding area [they had faded and chipped beyond belief] - and they also had walled off the train station in New Orleans Square / Frontierland for what appears to be a good- sized rehab. [Although the Mansion continues to get worse by the day...]

Sadly for every little victory - the replacement after almost two years of all the trim lights on the King Arthur's Carrousel in Fantasyland for example - there are still major items such as the fading and chipped metal roof of the Carrousel itself that remain untouched. 

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Q.

Jason writes: I was taking a closer look at the 45th anniversary "Tour Map" that Disneyland released in July and two areas stood out. Some of the attractions were marked with an orange "x", indicating projects in development. 

Could you tell me what became of the wax museum and thieves market in Frontierland and, more importantly, what happened to Liberty Street and Edison Square? Thanks!

PS: where did the pirate ship in Fantasyland (current location of Dumbo) go?
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A.

Jason, I'm presuming here you are referring to the reproduction of the first park map. These and many other questions such as yours are answered on the wonderful Bob Baranick tour we are now offering here on MousePlanet

I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek during a try out last weekend, and learned so much about these and so many other things, that I know everyone who takes this tour will end up just as delighted we were with it. The limited group size - and the leisurely pace - made for a very personalized experience, and allows a lot of give and take between the visitor and Bob. I'd like to take a moment here to remind folks that we are filling up the spots now, so if this is something you really want to do, please go ahead and book your reservations for it at this time.

Now to get to your answers here, Bob discussed these areas with us and he filled us in on what happened: As with many blue sky projects and ideas mapped out for Disneyland, they just didn't come to be as originally planned - but since no idea gets thrown away by Disney, they usually came back elsewhere in different ways shapes or forms.

For example, the Thieves Market morphed into New Orleans Square - and a pirates wax museum planned for this area was further developed [after the success of the boat ride system at the New York World's Fair for small world was seen] into Pirates of the Caribbean.

Liberty Street actually became Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World - and Edison Street morphed into the Carousel of Progress. Before either of these concepts, there was also another discussed for this area - International Street - where a Wally Boag voiced Audio- Animatronic Confucius show would have anchored a Chinatown style restaurant. This idea eventually morphed into World Showcase at Epcot. The Nickel Tour book that Bruce Gordon and David Mumford authored teasingly call this Main Street area "The Sight of Future Sights" - and they note that the temporary wall built there when the park first opened is still there 45 years later.

[Mind you - the idea of placing a second street parallel to Main Street did finally come to fruition - in Disneyland Paris of all places. The arcades placed behind Main St. help with crowd control during busy parade times - and are just one of the clever ideas used from the original Disneyland to make Paris that much nicer and visitor friendly. It's said that of all the parks, Paris comes closest to what would have happened at Disneyland had they the luxury of rebuilding it as they wanted to over the years.]

The Frontierland Wax Museum never really existed per say - although they did have two effigies of Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket in the Mercantile for a while after opening, that eventually ended up in the fort on Tom Sawyer Island. Sue Kruse remembers these vividly when she visited, and her site photo [minus the two mannequins] shows the kind of shots you could take there. 

The Fantasyland "Tuna" Pirate ship was originally scheduled to be dismantled carefully, and reused in the Motorboat area at a later point. Sadly it was in such poor shape, and the crew just did not have the proper ability to properly preserve it, that it just fell apart. Some of it still can be seen in Fantasyland though - inside the Peter Pan attraction. As you float over the Pirate ship near the end [around the sail] - some of the detailing was saved and reused there.

If you can take the Baranick tour you'll learn even more about the Disneyland that never quite was - and if you are like me, you'll find it as utterly fascinating as the actual park that got built.

-

Q.

Julie writes: I wanted to drop you a quick line to thank you for the update on the submarines. My 6-year old has been obsessed with the idea of them coming back since it first came up on your site. Now that he knows that won't be happening, he has informed me that he always wanted the boats to come back! What boats, he never knew of their existence until I told him.

Thank you again, your site is a daily pleasure.
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A.

Thanks for the kind words Julie. As Fab also mentions in her column today - we get a lot of info to pass on to folks - and much of it comes at very advanced [or what they like to call "blue sky"] stages many times.

As a result of this, things do change, and we then try to fill folks in on what else is going on as they continue to change their minds about things. It's been speculated some of this has been / is done to try and gauge some kind of advance reaction from the public out there - but I find that hard to believe.

We'll continue to fill everyone in as things develop - yes, sometimes it's disappointing to hear for example that the subs are back down the list of things to do - or the Mansion holiday make-over gets put off a year. But then other times we can pretty much nail it, as with the revamping of the parade earlier this year.

One thing I have to say about covering this park for the readers - it is an endlessly fascinating story - and one never knows what is happening next. Millions of MousePlanet readers apparently agree.  :) 

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Q.

Roger writes: Hi Al, Keep up the good work on your website. It's getting better every time. Anyway, for my question.

I went to DL and it took 25 minutes to get from the loading area to the parking structure just waiting for the trams. Why are the trams for the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure going one by one at the end of the day? I know that there are two loading areas. Why don't they use both? If I remember right, you wrote something about the trams "wolfpacking" at the end of the day. Why aren't they doing just that?  
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A.

It's all due to budgeting Roger - although it seems to have improved somewhat over the past few weeks. The most reliable schedule for trams seems to be for the Lion King route - since they also service the two Disney Hotels. The Mickey and Friends route [formerly the Pinocchio lot] is still a bit rough around the edges it seems as they continue to get the hang of operating and managing the new parking structure.

One tip for all readers - do try and avoid boarding the trams to leave the park right after any parade, shows or fireworks end. Usually thousands of others have the same idea and things do get bogged down.

I always try and plan viewing the fireworks from Town Square for example - so just as they end I can quickly exit on out to the trams and avoid the coming crowd from the castle area / Fantasmic.

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Q.

"X" writes: Al, First, thanks for the fascinating site. I really enjoy your information and opinions, and agree with you for the most part. I hope, as I think most Disney fans do, that Michael Eisner will retire soon, and that a more visionary and less bottom-line oriented CEO will be appointed, although I think this is unlikely as long as the current Board is in place.

Now to business. Amazing as it seems, a friend who was working construction on DCA told me that a construction worker was killed a few months back, but that Disney somehow managed to keep it quiet. I believe my friend, but he said that he is unwilling to speak out out of fear for his job. Have you heard anything about this rumor. 

He also told me that this is one of the most disorganized construction projects he has ever worked. Those in charge tend to rush things, running up overtime, and then the workers have to wait because lumber is not there. They also are told to do something a certain way, even thought they are told it will not work or hold up to heavy use. Then, sure enough, that thing is torn out and done again.

In other words, the cheaper and faster mentality has ended up costing Disney in the long run. This sounds troubling. The death rumor and the cover-up also sounds quite troubling to me. What do you think?
 

A.

I've heard nothing about a death - and from what I can gauge, there may not be one that can be related to the park's actual construction. Considering just how much has been done, I think it's pretty amazing so little has actually happened.

There have been a recent rash of smaller accidents - most recently when a few workers fell off a scaffold and broke some bones. They should have been wearing safety harnesses past certain heights - but as one of the local papers documented, most workers on most sites [Disney or not] simply refuse to do so. As the son of a general building contractor - I can vouch that most of these guys try to avoid this kind of stuff as they scramble all over a building they are working on.

As far as the disorganization of the construction site - that's exactly what I hear too. And what is so dismaying is that millions more dollars are being wasted due to this mismanagement than they were trying to save in the first place.

Not only do we get a carnival - but an expensively built cheap one I guess...  ;)

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Q.

Sity writes: Dear Al, I’ve just recently discovered this site, and am very impressed. It’s nice see others who share my opinions. I’m glad my mom and I are not the only ones out there who are so immersed in the parks past, present and future. My parents and I went to the park for quite a few summer vacations, and I have gone many times since I’ve “grown up”. My mom, my son and I now take a yearly fall trek to the park.

Over the years I had attributed the change of atmosphere in the park to just getting older, but from reading this site, it all seems to stem from the deterioration of the park under Eisner and Pressler’s rule. As much as I’d like to be tough and cancel our yearly plans, I still have a great time with my family, and we don’t get together enough as it is. But still, it feels somewhat empty now, similar to the feeling you get when you celebrate a holiday when a loved one is absent.

Ok, now that you know my life story, here are my questions.

Is any of the Disney family at all involved in the company anymore, or are they just figureheads now? Do they still have controlling interest in the Disney Company? 

What I really want to know is whom do we contact to go above Eisner and Pressler’s heads? It seems that there are enough of us to be heard if we band together. Could a massive e-mail or letter writing campaign be organized? It may not get those two fired, but maybe they will take more of an interest in preserving “Walts Dream” and help restore the park to the grandeur that he was so proud of.

Let them ruin something else. DCA, McDonalds, and all the cutbacks on the general care of the park are resulting in destroying what many consider an American landmark. Cynthia Harris seems to care but is unable do effect much change under these greedy, corporate fools. Walt said, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in when they’re in the park. I want them to feel they are in another world.” That about sums it up on the subject of McDonalds in my opinion.

Doesn’t anyone care about Walt’s dream anymore? He was always more interested in entertainment and happiness than profit. He must be spinning in his grave right now.

Thanks, and sorry it’s so long., -

A.

There have been an increasing amount of letters arriving at Roy Disney's desk in the last year - and I do understand he has been asking questions quietly now about just what is going on. So I don't think it could hurt to add to that stack at this time. If you write him keep in mind the following:

Be polite. - Cite specific examples, such as the Mansion falling apart, or trash you spot all over the park. - Do let them know how much you care about the original concept of Disneyland, and why you are interested enough to write about it. - Do not ask for anything to make up for any deficiencies. -  Let them know you would appreciate an answer and their looking into it.

The address is:

Roy E. Disney
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, California 91521

I have heard Roy has been behind some minor changes when he's aware of the problems - and it is important to let him know just what is going on with the consumers too.

Another approach, which we tried the last time we had the DisneylandBlues page up, actually can affect Disney in the pocketbook. The goal here is to contact a few of the Disneyland Corporate Sponsors and tell them it's a poor reflection on their company and brand name when [for example] their ride at Disneyland closes an hour - or two - or even more - early, or their sponsored attraction is dirty or not painted. [Could you even fathom how these sponsors will feel after paying Disney's rather high sponsorship fees only to have their advertising not be available to you? Not to mention even having the ride maintained well?] 

Make sure in order to get your message across your letters are kind, sounding concerned, and that they express your disappointment with Disneyland over how these sponsor's attractions are unavailable / un- kept. [As an example, you may want to let Fed Ex know about how poorly the Space Mt. queue is maintained, or let Dole know how ratty the animatronics look in the Tiki Room.]

These sponsors may reconsider their involvement with the park if the customers are so unhappy with the way it is run. And a reduced revenue flow is something the park will clearly understand. Below is a list of helpful URLs & e-mail contacts:

Coca Cola:  Minute Maid (Moonliner / Park beverages)
http://www.coca-cola.com/co/equeries.html

Nestle SA: Carnation, Friskies, Contadina, Hills Brothers
, Stouffer
, Stouffer
http://www.nestle.com/html/q.html

Federal Express (Space Mt.)
http://www.fedex.com/us/contact

Dole (Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room / Juice Bar)
http://www.dole.com/contacting_dole/general.html

Kodak (Honey, I Shrunk The Audience!)
http://www.kodak.com/cgi-bin/webGuestBook.pl

AT&T (Indiana Jones)
http://www.att.com/cgi-bin/ATT_WEB/feedback?id=wts_other

Energizer (Star Tours)
energizer@ruppman.com also (800) 383-7323

Compaq Computers (Innoventions)
http://www.compaq.com/comments.html

Kaiser Permanente Medical (Innoventions)
http://www.kaiserpermanente.org/email.html

Kaiser Permanente Press / Media Contact (Innoventions)
http://www.kaiserpermanente.org/pressroom/mediaguide/contacts.html

General Motors (Innoventions)
http://www.gm.com/tools/feedback.html

SAP (Innoventions)
http://www.sap.com/writeus.htm

Honeywell (Innoventions)
http://www.honeywell.com/support/contact

National Car Rental (Main St. Vehicles)
http://www.nationalcar.com/middle/c_consumer.html

[I'd like to thank MightyAlweg@webtv.net who originally did the research for this, updated it, and posted the information online. If needed, please forward any updates or changes to me, and I'll be sure to make them to this list.]

Will any of this work? Who knows. But it shows customers care - and that may be what is needed here.
 


The following ten questions were posted on 8/9/00 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted.  I continue to have a hard time picking from all of them for this update, and am terribly behind, so if I didn't get to your question this time, I may be able to answer it at some point later for you.

Q.

Daniel writes: Ok here is my Ask Al Question. Why all the negativity?

When I typed Disneyland in Yahoo I found your site..

"Disneyland Information Guide (DIG) - includes tips, tricks, showtimes, and news." After seeing this link, I'm thinking.. Oh cool a site that can help me out. In terms of tips.

But I don't find this stuff anywhere. All I see are topics about budget cuts, rehab pictures, and pictures of guests of who the author found annoying.

Not the kind of stuff I want to read when looking forward to going to Disneyland.

You might want to consider changing the name of your site to "Disneyland Sucks" or something that reflects what the site is about. Not the Disney INFORMATION Guide. Since there is NO info, but personal opinions of Al of "Ask Al" I presume.

I doubt I'll find this in ASK AL. But hey, it's worth trying.. 
--

A.

Now now Daniel calm down - note that first of all you DID find your e-mail here. ;)

Second of all - it looks to me like you didn't scroll down and read the rest of the contents page. If you had, you'd find all that information you were looking for and more.

Yes, I am opinionated. And, yes, in the update sections sadly, there's a lot of bad news to report lately. But don't automatically blame the messenger, try to look more closely at what is going on and ask yourself as a customer, if things are going your way in how the park is now run.

There are thousands of fan sites out there on Disneyland - many do good jobs of just giving you the information you may be looking for. Only a handful, this one included, have anything critical to offer the reader. Here on the D-I-G, and on MousePlanet, of which it is a part of, we give you both the good and bad. 

If you go to the park, and you have a great time, and none of the issues we discuss affect you - well, then I am wrong and you are right. We're probably going to be the one site you don't care for and you can go ahead and delete the browser bookmark.

But if you go, and wonder why the lines seem longer than ever before, the place doesn't look as well kept up as it used to, and there is less entertainment for you to enjoy than there was upon your previous visit, well then you'll at least understand why by reading what I put up here.

I think it's important all kinds of views be available on Disneyland. I'm sure when you really think about it, you will probably feel the same way too.  :)

-

Q.

Allison writes Hi Al! Big fan of DIG, and I'm glad I decided to check out the ask Al section.

We will be visiting from the Bay Area, (we always go for a full five days) I came across your advice to someone who asked what we can do to really let our feelings be known about what is happening at our park. that's what Walt said, Disneyland is your land. I have believed those words all my life, and become heartsick, over the stories of garbage, peeling paint etc... Dirty bathrooms at DL? I just can't believe it. 

I didn't realize you could fill out a form at city hall, and I pride myself at being in the know. you can bet I will line up for that! Please keep telling people about this option, if nothing else, it will give us some measure of hope for change. I know I am in the minority here, but it's not the rising prices that upset me, but the decline in maintenance, and cutbacks on everything. I hope everyone who really loves Disneyland, fills out a form,

Thanks Al! Allison, lifelong Disney fan....
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A.

Thanks for the kind words Allison - and yes, do fill out those forms when you visit IF you encounter anything that isn't up to the quality you expect of the park. 

It could also very well be that your visit will be just fine - and you won't even need to say a thing too. One can always hope!

-

Q.

Douglas writes: Let me first say that Mouse Planet is AWESOME! I was confused on your first day when I typed in the old URL and got a message inviting me to Mousplanet.com. "OH my GOSH!!" I thought "Is the D-I-G, R-I-P?? However all my fears were laid to rest when I was brought to your new web site!! Nothing has been lost in the transition and your site still rules!! 

Ok now for my question: My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Disneyland for the upcoming Christmas Season. I was wondering when do they normally put up the Christmas decorations and when is the best time to visit during this magical period? The pics of DL at X-Mas really got me craving more and I have made it my goal to visit DL this Christmas Season.

Thank you for your time and good luck with MousePlanet!!

Andrew also writes: First of all I would like to say that I love your blatant honesty about DL's condition under current management. Eisner and Pressler have absolutely no respect or concern for Walt's dreams.

Anyway, I would like to know when the slowest week - attendance wise - in the holiday season is?
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A.

Thank you both for the kind compliments. 

We had a great deal of success with the Christmas in July section - many readers really enjoyed seeing the photos this very warm summer it seems. More than a few of you even went ahead and booked trips.

It appears that Disneyland is going ahead with holiday decorations [as usual] the last week of October. I noticed on the rehab schedule that "small world" comes back from it's fall / holiday makeover rehab on Nov. 2nd, so anytime after that should be full of holiday cheer at the park.

It used to be the first two weeks in December were the quietest time of year to go - but with the relentless holiday promotion, those days are long gone. If last year's numbers are any indication, you'll have to shoot for mid-week days - Tue / Wed / Thur - during that period for the lightest crowds.

-

Q.

Rhonda writes: Hi Al thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed the backstage pictures! You have done a great job with DIG, I didn't think you could get any better but with the additional contributors it is just fantastic! 

I have a question about the annual passholder benefits that I thought you or someone at your site could help me with. I heard that passholder's were offered a 45% discount for the DL hotels this summer and I was wondering if that was just a special thing or do they usually make offers available like that? 

I am trying to decide between the Magic Kingdom Club card or an annual passport for my next trip. It will be for my 40th [can't believe I'm admitting to that!] so I wanted to stay at the DL Hotel and splurge for the concierge level. I am trying to figure out what to get that would help save some money. It won't be until Aug / Sept 2001 so I'm not needing an answer real soon! Do you have any advice ?

I really appreciate your site and all the work you put into it to bring the magic to so many! Thanks for your time .
-

A.

You're very kind Rhonda, thank you.

Yes, on occasion they do offer discounts for passholders to the hotels - usually when they see holes in their booking patterns. It all depends on how they are doing. Usually they manage to announce them in the newsletter they send out, which this past year at least, has been coming on a somewhat regular basis finally.

Also Disneyland likes to sometimes run weekend specials, that are advertised in the L.A. Times Calendar section for locals - at pricing almost at or better than the passholder discounts.

Before you splurge on buying the Magic Kingdom Card membership - you may want to ask at work [or have someone in your family do so] to see if they offer it for free there. Other than the toll-free reservations numbers for the paid version, the benefits are the same.

Lani Teshima will be doing a Trip Planner column soon on staying at the concierge level at the Disneyland Hotels - you may want to keep checking MousePlanet for what promises to be a most thoughtful article.

And congrats on your birthday - you'll have a blast at the park.

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Q.

Chris writes: Hi, love the site. I go to Disney about once a month, live about 40 mins. away. 

I got there today and the Pinocchio lot was closed down. That's fine, I figured I'd find the entrance to the new parking structure, but I couldn't.

How do you get into that place? I ended up just circling around and said forget it, went to the Block instead and got some new threads, better than dealing with the crowds at Disney. 

Anyway, if you can let me know where to park now, that'd be grand. I come from the north on I-5! 
-

A.

If you are heading South down the 5 - take the Ball Road off-ramp onto West St. / Disneyland Dr., and then stay in the left lanes that lead right into the new structure after you pass Ball.

If you drive North up the 5 - get off on Katella - make a right on Harbor, go past Disneyland and back over the freeway, and make a left on Ball, then a left again on West St. / Disneyland Dr., staying in the left lanes if possible.

We've just added a new page to the DIG that contains a printable map to the parking garage - which you can mark your car's level and location in when you arrive - it should be a big help for the readers. 

-

Q.

Bruce writes: It was with great sadness and much depression that I read your second installment (so to speak) on the continued budget cuts at Disneyland. Can't somebody do something to stop these two idiots from running the one part of the company that supposedly makes the most money for them? 

It seems to me that very soon there will be no more Disneyland. What's the point of going to a park on the West Coast that closes at 6pm just to funnel people into a shopping mall. I'm sorry but this goes against everything that Walt Disney started with Disneyland. 

Why can't your revelations about shoddy construction at DCA forcing rides to be torn down before the park even opens, and the mess with the parking structure escalators, and all the other stuff that you have let us in on in your last two updates, be forwarded to major newspapers (like the LA Times and The Valley Daily News and other national papers and get them to start making a fuss over this. 

After all, the majority of Disneyland guests are just people coming to the Park for fun and all that, and they don't see the stuff on the Internet, because they just don't have the connection, or use there computer strictly for business and never think to look up cool stuff about Disneyland on the Web. 

Your site is always the most informative and fun to read. Until lately when all the news about Disneyland had been so bad. I can also see the future in that when DCA fails and attendance drops at Disneyland and all the other bad stuff, the sacrificial lamb is going to be Cynthia Harris. All the blame is going to dumped on her because she is the first female in charge, because she is the only one fighting to keep the cuts from ruining things, and because she truly cares about Disneyland.

I was there over the birthday weekend, and got to meet a lot of people who write for your site. I met Jim Hill and Michelle, the Fab Disney Babe and others. We had a great time. But in all honesty, I probably won't going back to Disneyland any time soon for the simple reason I want to remember the Park as it was, not the depressing mess they are making of it and are going to continue to make. 

It's too bad somebody can't get a lawyer somewhere to put a class action suit against Eisner and Pressler and get an injunction or something to stop them from degrading what is supposed to be a landmark attraction in Southern California (if not the World), or something like that. I have no intention of going to DCA, or Downtown Disney at all after reading all this stuff. And, unfortunately, that has to include Disneyland as well. I have to use subways and busses to get from the San Fernando Valley to Disneyland now that I no longer drive, and that is a 2 1/2 to 3 hour trip, each way. Just too much effort and time wasted to get something that I love so much, but am so saddened by what is being done to it.

I think that if something isn't done, and done soon, we are witnessing the death of Disneyland as we know it, if not its complete destruction. If things keep up the way they are going, there will be nothing left for the 50th anniversary to celebrate. Just a dilapidated and run down amusement park, with a lot of stores, restaurants and movie theaters. How incredibly sad. I would love to be around when Pressler starts telling Tokyo Disneyland to cut this and that. They will probably just look at him and say, "crazy American, go away you have no power here". 

Maybe we could get Oriental Land Management to buy Disneyland and run it the way it should be run. The Japanese love Disneyland so much, maybe they could make it right again.
-

A.

Thanks for your note Bruce - and especially for understanding we don't make all the bad news around here, we just pass it on.

Eventually everything they are doing is going to reach a point where the public won't tolerate it anymore - and my personal feeling is that they are seeing just how far they can go in the name of saving each and every dime.

It's important to note that in all the crowing they've done so far this year [in press releases and earnings announcements] about how well the parks are doing - that the increased numbers are NOT from higher attendance, but are being generated from major cutbacks and increased prices.

It can be a lethal combination for any business if it is growth starved for too long. 

-

Q.

Leon writes: Hello Al, I have been a "everyday reader" of your site for over a year now and I really like what you and your fellow writers do. Let me get to my question to make this short since I know you are very busy.

All my life as far back as I can remember I grew up with Disney and Disneyland. I would go at lease 20 or so times a year with my family when I lived in California. And for most of my young adult life I have wanted to be a Disney Imagineer, but now with all the cut backs and such my dream has faded away before my eyes. 

No longer do Imagineers have creative control or respect they deserve and that hurts me to see and hear what has happen to them and the park. 

Over the past month I have been thinking about building my own park. Now I know that sounds crazy, especially since I am only 24 and no real business know how but I have always believed that if you set your mind to it you can do anything. 

Well I now live in Vegas and over the past couple of years I have heard rumors about Disney, Paramount and a few others looking at building a park out here. However they have all fallen through because of poor planning on there part. 

My question ( I know I said I would get to it quickly) is this, Do you think a theme park in Vegas would work? Would Californian's come out here, like [people from Las Vegas[ do with Disneyland, and visit a Theme Park?

Now the problem I found with Disney and others is that they think it needs to be on the Las Vegas Strip, well I feel if you put it there it will fail. I think it should go between California / Nevada state line and Vegas, with Monorail access from Vegas and State Line to the park and back.

Could you ask your fellow writers and maybe even your readers what they think? I would like to know before I really get into this. Anything at all even just your input would be most appreciated. I have a love for this industry and would like to bring back the ideas of Walt Disney.
-

A.

Leon, first thanks for the kind words.

As far as a theme park in Las Vegas - two things make it hard to do: 1] the weather is just not all that favorable for an outdoor park, Las Vegas is after all, in a desert, (and a domed park may be too small to make enough money and provide enough attractions) and 2] Steve Wynn and a few other visionaries sort of did try the theme park concept out there and pretty much have backed away from it. [Must have been the sight of all those strollers in the casinos I guess...  ;)]

There are LOTS of other locations in the states that will accommodate Disney style theme parks - and Disney itself is now seriously considering building more regional parks to increase their cash flow. Would this be a good idea for them? I don't pretend to know - but if I were running things, I'd want to keep the two resorts unique and fresh, not just duplicate cheaper versions of them everywhere else and eventually dry up the business they pull in.

Let's see if fellow MousePlaneteer Scott L Jordan - who is a former Imagineer / current writer for us on THIS OLD PARK - comes up with any more on this for you.

Meanwhile another reader writes...

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Q.

Slick writes: There are rampant rumors that Disney is buying up huge chunks of land in the Houston, Texas area. The local paper and news stations have both reported this. 

I know many years ago they tried to buy a bunch of land in New Braunfels but it got out that it was Disney buying it, people had a fit and they went away. 

Although I love traveling to both coasts to go to Disneyland and WDW, I would so love to have a park closer to home. I'm in the Dallas area. Have you heard, read, or seen anything on a possible Mid-America park??

Thanks in advance.
A Texas Disney Fan

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A.

Expect more Disney parks soon. Although sadly I would imagine they will be of the lower California Adventure type of quality.

Sadly I think [at least under the current regime] that the days of exciting new and former Disney quality parks are over. 

-

Q.

Skye writes: Just thought you might like to read the Cracker-Jack message the Mouse sent me in response to my "NO RONALD IN DISNEYLAND" email:

Hello! I am a Premium Annual Passport Holder, and just heard that you may be putting a MCDONALDS where the Harbour Galley used to be.... PLEASE DON'T DO IT!!! I, along with thousands of other Disney Fans, come to the park to GET AWAY from reality and the outside world. By putting a MCDONALDS in the park, you will cheapen Disneyland, commercialize it. I can go to a McDonalds anytime, anywhere. I come to Disneyland for the new and exciting experiences....if you put a MCDONALDS in the park it would make Disneyland "just another theme park". This would be a GRAVE mistake!!!!!

From: Disney Online Guest Services <guest.mail@online.disney.com>

Dear Skye:

Thank you for your recent correspondence with the Disneyland Resort. We are very appreciative of feedback from our Guests, as it assists us in our ongoing attempts to maintain our high standards and fine reputation.

We are concerned that you feel an addition of a McDonald's restaurant would not be in keeping with the Disney tradition. In keeping with our philosophy of making Disneyland exciting and ever changing, we are continually evaluating our operation, changing some existing offerings and developing new features to reflect progress and to maintain the interest of our visitors. 

Corporate sponsorships of attractions, shops, and restaurants have been a vital part of Disneyland since the Park opened in 1955. Walt Disney himself personally invited many sponsors to contribute to the atmosphere of the Park. 

In our dedication to providing a quality show, attention to detail is a key element. This includes preserving the unique theming in each area of the Park. We are sure you will agree our Imagineers have an outstanding track record of incorporating these partnerships while upholding our high standards. We have forwarded your comments to our Corporate Alliances Department so that they will be aware of your remarks.

Walt Disney stated, "Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world." In that spirit, we will continue to make additions and changes to the Magic Kingdom, all with the goal in mind to keep the Disneyland experience new, fresh and exciting. As diverse as the 10 - 12 million visitors are who come to Disneyland each year, so are the reactions and opinions that we learn about. While we realize that it is impossible to please everyone at all times with the decisions that are made, it is always our goal to provide a quality "show" for our Guests.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. We hope that you will have the opportunity to visit the Magic Kingdom soon and that our attractions and entertainment will delight you in every way.

Sincerely,

Stacey Dalton
Disneyland Resort
Guest Communications

A.

In other words, "do you want fries with that?" ;)

Thanks for writing Skye - even if they won't listen right now the feedback from folks is important. Customers should always speak up - even if it is Disney. 

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Q.

Kate writes: Firstly, thanks for all the info! You're site's a fantastic resource and, as a frequent visitor to the park (about every five weeks or so), I've found all sorts of great things I never would have otherwise.

Secondly, *dramatic pause* I am a survivor. You see, we were on the island, trying to get a way from the hustle and bustle of the er, city. It was about time to head back for dinner when, alas! No boats! No rafts! But seriously, I would like to commend the CM's for keeping level heads, keeping the crowd from getting too upset (although, you know there are always a few that just HAVE to get back.) 

All in all, it was an interesting experience - one of the more unique stories I'll have to tell about Disneyland. When we finally got back to the dock on the other side, there were CM's handing out the get-out-of-line-free passes, which certainly didn't hurt.

Keep up the good work, Al, there are those of us out here who couldn't live without you!
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A.

You made my day Kate, thanks! Nice to know they handed out those passes too - that's a good way to let folks know they did care. I agree with you about the CMs - they do really help make up for all their bosses dumb mistakes.

Now they just need to maintain those darn things...  I do so hate the taste of rats...  ;) 
 

Al's quick tip for the week: You can't always believe what you read on newsgroups! Here on MousePlanet we offer a park shopping service called MouseShoppe. Adrienne Vincent- Phoenix runs it, and does a terrific job of tracking down park merchandise for people who just can't make it out to Anaheim or Orlando. 

It's important to note that even with her costs taken into account - it is STILL CHEAPER to order from her rather than just calling the park, despite what some people would have you believe. It turns out that Disney's delivery charges are what makes them so expensive -- you'll actually save money by ordering via MouseShoppe, with the added benefits of getting items personalized and such, which they do not offer via their mail order service. [Also, credit card acceptance is now on-line - thank you all for waiting for this.]

Check it out - you may find something you like there.
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Ask Al™:

Submitting a question is easy, just write to me at alweho@aol.com and put the following in the subject header: Ask Al!  That way I know to be on the lookout for them.

When making a submission, try to keep in mind what other readers may find of interest, and also see if you can keep it to subject matter of Disneyland. The questions / letters with the broadest appeal and best relation to this site's subject matter will be the ones highest on the list to answer.  Do also read though the questions already submitted, so you won't repeat anything.

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